Below, I repeat a few of my observations on the episode, as shared during the live tweet party. One comment summed it up best for me, though: “This ep has so many layers/parallels, it is almost impossible to ID them all. Fabulous writing.”
Why did I say that? First, there were references and parallels to what was happening in the brothers' lives:
Jody: “I’ve been fooling myself to think I could ignore [grief]” Sam know this truth. Dean tries to ignore grief anyway.
There was also foreshadowing of what was to yet happen to Mark of Cain!Dean:
“Choice, and consequences. Funny to hear Dean say that.”The dialogue, humor and storytelling was vintage Supernatural, reminding us of all what had come before:
“There’s that MoC look on Dean’s face. Very specific.”
Alex: “I made my choice”. She chose monsters? Or just to not feel all the pain/guilt anymore? The latter I think. Same as Dean.
“The “I’m fine” answer. Seems we’ve heard that from both boys quite a bit…and it’s never true.”
Mama: “Motherhood ain’t just about blood.” Reminded me of Bobby just then. Family don’t end with blood. Wonder if it was meant to be an intentional call-back to that line.
There were several strong, female characters:
“Love that Jody held her ground against the boys, in defense of Alex. Mother’s instinct or non-tainted view of life?”There were great monster-of-the-week moments woven throughout the plot, making the story context work:
“Also love that Alex held her ground with Mama, and explained her true feelings. Boys need to learn from both these girls.”
"Really nice of Jody to still call the vamps “family”, recognizing Alex’s feelings, instead of dehumanizing them as monsters."
"I don’t know. If I knew vamps were after me, I’m not sure I would go to a lonely cabin in the dark woods."
"Didn’t mind this creep getting eaten. Such a perv."
Lastly, the production quality was simply outstanding: (although commenting on it got me into a bit of a conundrum…):
"Look at the lighting. All these house scenes have fabulous lighting by Serge Ladouceur."Now what am I supposed to say to that??
To which Guy Norman Bee (a long-time, very talented director of Supernatural episodes) replied, “That man is an artist.”
My Response: “This episode especially was a work of art. Supernatural is very lucky to have him.”
Guy (the director of 9.22 “Stairway to Heaven”): “Which one? Was it better than “Stairway to a Heaven” Hahaha!"
I considered stalling (“I don’t know. I’ll look again in a few weeks when STH reairs”),
or snarky replies (“Why yes, I thought this episode was particularly stunning”)
and non-committal replies (“Let me get back to you on that”).
After a few seconds of brain-racing panic, I finally decided on honesty and said “Now you are trying to get me in trouble! His work, & yours, is always impeccable! We are luck[y] to have u both!”
I’ll leave you with that, and the additional observation that I think the other writers and show runner Jeremy Carver also recognized this work of art, judging by the spoilers that have leaked about season 10.
Tweets (and other Random Thoughts):
· It makes one wonder... how DID Jody know that was a vampire or does she just behead people that enter jail all the time?
[Nightsky’s Tweet: “How did the sheriff know it was a vamp from behind?” Some viewers similarly commented. Anyone see or hear anything that explained it? If not, I like Nate’s explanation!]
· BANTER! It's like they remember when this show had a bit of fun and joy.
[Gerry’s tweet: “Nice little touch of brotherly banter – so needed at this point.]
· Alex would have been abducted around the time of S2 of the show... takes ya back doesn't it?
· "Man, Sam. '06, remember when we first ran into Gordon?"
· In a lot of ways this episode is like a pseudo-sequel to Emily's story:
Emily in 7.22 "There Will Be Blood"
· "Sam, what did we do with our stash of vamptonite?" "I thought you had it." "No I left it with you."
· They need to do a vampire hippie commune: where some humans raise cattle & stuff for vamps to eat. Or maybe not just humans, but werewolves: they get the organs and vamps get the blood.
· "This is useless against vampires." "Yeah but it's great against [list of other monsters]."
· I wonder how Annie's "family" of vamps survived the corn syrup ordeal from the end of S7? They feed Alex organic only?
· Hey a woodchipper! That beats everything! I admit, if I was a hunter I'd be tempted to use the woodchipper for interrogation purposes.
· And the phone's on vibrate, THAT FEATURE IS GOING TO KILL SO MANY GUEST STARS!
· Seriously if that girl is losing some blood I'm impressed she didn't sleep a lot sooner.
· I'm also surprised hunters don't bother with tasers when dealing with Vamps or some more mortal threats.
· CLOTHESLINE! And that Jody is why they didn't let you be running back on the football team.
· "Before she was in braces". Hey... that is a good point, how ARE her teeth so straight after growing up vamp?
· Dean's arguments here are actually how I wish they'd done the MoC drama this season. It's a nice subtle touch.
· Those syringes... they really need to be redesigned.
· Like a tranq gun or something. At times I'm surprised the most common hunter killer isn't gangrene.
· Dean's all like, "I've got a murder boner right now, who wants it?"
· Hmm... I should do that hashtag: #MoC1liners
· Sam you should have been able to take that gun away.
· You know if the MoC makes it hard for Dean to sleep... how is he being knocked out? (did I point this out before?)
· "Tapped this keg?" There's so much wrong with that.
· Compare contrast Dean's decapitation to Sam's of vamp!Gordon.
· "Jody? She's in this episode? Oh sh..."
[Nightsky’s tweet: “Dean had completely forgotten about Jody. That’s scary.”]
· "Hey Jody, getting that XP feels good doesn't it? Some more upstairs if you want to try leveling up."
· There's some irony that Sam/Dean's "you were enjoying it too much" conversation neither side is really wrong.
· "What? Frank is alive? But he was a non villainous guest star. WITH SPEAKING LINES! How is he still alive!"
· [Alex: I'm hot...I'll just be cold again in a second. It's part of the cure, I guess."] Is she going through the cure or menopause? #toosoon?
What the heck was this??? How could anyone not notice the continuity gaff of a lock of Sam’s hair moving between cuts? Ugh. WORST. EPISODE. EVAR!
Of course I’m totally joking, I marked this as my top pick of the season and I still stand by it mostly because it still is the most “Supernatural-ly” episode of the season. There’s moments of banter! Likable, and memorable, guest stars! They actually SAVE someone!
See, while I obviously like the brothers (do you think I picked this last name for my internet moniker for no reason?) it is the world building of SPN that I’ve always had a slight preference for. It’s why the SPN:RPG was THE first roleplaying guide book I ever owned (even though I’ve played other RPGs, I always borrowed books), why I’d actually like to see more spinoffs and do silly fan fic projects. (It’s also why nothing sends me into a more apocalyptic rage than continuity gaffs.) Hence, why I loved this episode so much. See when we first joined the show, there was a sense of this world always having existed, and we (through the protagonists) are seeing and experiencing things that have gone on before we saw them, and will continue after we’ve left. Yet think of that line early in the episode: the girl was taken in 2006, 8 years ago. That would mean she was kidnapped in late season 1/early season 2. This is an event that has happened while we, the audience, have been a part of that world. Yet we didn’t know about it till now! It’s a subtle touch that clues us in that there is a wider world out there beyond Sam & Dean, that there are more stories and adventures out there. (you ever wonder if hunters in other countries are stopping their own apocalypses?) Yes I might have wished for some reference to the climax of S7 but that can be handwaved easily and a remembrance of the cure revealed in S6 is even better.
Of course the acting is good in this episode with everybody convincing us that these are real people. Even better was that this episodes provided so many examples of showing something rather than telling it. For example the mid-point conversation between Sam, Dean, and Jody on what to do about the girl. Dean acts too willingly, too eager to justify killing her, and Sam’s quick double take on it reminds us that this isn’t normal (which we might have forgotten after some of these episodes). I’d say Dean overpowering the vampire might be another hint that the MoC is changing him but the show has been kind of inconsistent as far as strength goes. (I’m still not sure if his ability to beat up Gadreel in the previous episode was a deliberate clue by the writers or just because they forgot that feature of angels.) The other best feature is that the discussion at the end… doesn’t have a clear answer. Did Dean enjoy the kill any more than he has in the past? Considering the depression issues Dean’s had in S7, S8… actually just considering his depression issues isn’t it nice to have him enjoy SOMETHING for once? Yet Sam has a point, they probably shouldn’t let bloodlust consume them, they should keep some professional distance from the work. From the perspective and within that scene, there’s no easy or immediate answer (though in retrospect we can see that Sam “wins” this one). That, THAT is what I’ve been looking for and wanting from the show the last season or two.
If you know anything about medicine this episode is a laugh (“keg is tapped?” if Sam’s out of blood that means he’s dead) but SPN’s always had that as a “feature” so we just laugh and move on. Yet ultimately, everything about this episode just felt like a return to the original form, to what made SPN, Supernatural. This episode could easily fit into S1 or S2 (some might say it did the first time) and proves why I’m so hard on the show sometimes: Because when they actually put in the effort, we get some great television. Here’s hoping they bring this A-game (pun intended) to S10.
My takeaway: I tend to approach suspiciously when I spy a Winchester-light episode on the horizon. I sit down every week to watch the Winchester boys and their terrible life, so any substitutes have to earn their way into my heart. Some episodes fail to engage me (“Bloodlines,” “Bitten”) and others turn into favourites (“Ghostfacers,” “The Man Who Would Be King”). The key is using the theme and characters to examine the Winchesters even when they are not the focus. Robert Berens’ “Alex Annie Alexis Ann” does exactly that, using Kim Rhodes’ beautifully expressive face to invite us into a meditation on grief, identity and shifting perspectives.
The story opens with a Supernatural staple: family drama over roles to be played. Alex is running from her place in the family, and her brother comes to bring her back into the fold, scolding her for turning her back on her kin, especially her mother. It’s all very shades of season one Sam.
But Berens doesn’t just point out the parallel—he uses it to show how complicated these dynamics and identities are. We’ve come a long way from season one’s classification of monster, not least because Sam came close to fitting a hunter’s definition. Here too we have Dean trying to fit Alex into a black and white category, while Jody looks past the label to see the girl. And that not only continues the show’s definition of monster as monstrous by deed, not birth, it foreshadows Dean’s own fall from humanity. He’s going to need someone to look at him with the same loving and clear eyes to see his soul, however twisted. Alex can be read as both Sam and Dean, embodying the shifting perspectives in the narrative.
Berens draws parallels throughout the story, shining a light on the series’ central themes and taking a close look in particular at grief. Grief has been a constant since Mary burned on the ceiling. Every important character deals with loss, and none more so than Sam and Dean. Alex revives Jody’s memories of her lost family, even though she’s been running from them, hiding her grief under work. We feel for Jody—but the parallel points out that Sam and especially Dean have been doing the same. The brothers need to process all the many losses they’ve suffered, not use their job to push the emotions away. Pushing each other away is not going to help that process.
Berens takes a close look at Sam and Dean’s bond through Alex’s bond with her vampire mother. Mama’s love is ferocious and in some ways selfish. Jody points out to the vampire she is using this stolen child to fill the hole her own child’s death created. Mama points out Jody is doing the same, framing unconditional love as causing pain and havoc to everyone in the vicinity of it. And there’s an argument to be made Dean’s love for Sam has done the same.
But I don’t think Berens leaves the exploration there. He has Jody acknowledge the dark side of love, the way it wants to control the loved object to avoid pain. But he picks up on Castiel’s words to Dean earlier in the season, when he said motivations do matter. Jody’s motivations are different than mama’s, though both are rooted in loss. Mama wants to save Alex from feeling human emotions like grief by turning her into a vampire. Jody offers to help Alex through her pain by staying at her side, giving her whatever comfort she can through her presence and her care. The parallel this time is to “Swan Song” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” Neither brother left the other alone out there.
I think the Winchesters’ bond has both the dark and light shades we see in “Alex Annie Alexis Ann.” Love can hurt and be selfish. It can also heal and be unselfish and in Supernatural, it’s the healing aspect of love that is privileged in the end. This episode ends with Jody and Alex finding ways to heal each other, which I think is meant to foreshadow that Sam and Dean will find a way to do the same. Leaving each other alone has never been the way to solve any problems, personal or professional. They need to find a way to acknowledge their losses without triggering a defensive reaction. I think “Alex Annie Alexis Ann” is a very hopeful episode in this very dark universe, as we see Jody dare to care about this lost child, who opens her heart in return. Love is the strongest force in Supernatural.
A love fest all around! What are your thoughts on the episode? Did you love it as much as we did? What about the characters, the parallels, the messages?
All of our original reviews can be found in the Episode Guide.
These and many other screencaps can be found in our Photo Gallery.
Screencaps courtesy of www.homeofthenutty.com.