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Thoughts on 8x05 - Blood Brother

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This episode was by and large a relaxing, time filler type episode - it allowed everyone to take a breath, process what we know and laid some ground work for the coming weeks. And I enjoyed it. Like some earlier episodes such Home or Provenance, it was a good episode that can be viewed almost independent of the big-picture plot arc. This was one of those episodes that could have easily been a flashback installment, and in a way it was except that the flashbacks gave us brand new information.


Now, I'm not going to dive into the debates about whether or not this character is being overlooked or that character's history is being whitewashed to suit the writer's agenda. What I will say is this: as far as unveiling information and storylines goes the slow and steady approach that we seem to be neck deep in right now is working well for me. The way both Sam and Dean's respective years are being unraveled feels thoughtful and informative and not at all rushed as this type of thing has been handled in the past. These stories could easily be told in one episode flashbacks or emotional monologues but instead each foot forward is carefully considered before being placed, or at least that's how it seems to me. What's more is that season eight does feel like a genuine renewal of "Supernatural": it has a new energy, new maturity to the boys and an overall lighter atmosphere. Again this is not to say I didn't like past seasons simply that I'm enjoying the fresh air breezing into the world of Winchester and the less dejected attitude it's imbuing into the series (in my opinion).

Okay, that out of the way let's get right down to what worked and what didn't work about Blood Brother:

Purgatory

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The purgatory flashbacks gave us a new understanding of Dean's relationship with Benny and how they ended up being such decent friends, despite that whole vampire-hunter dynamic. At first we witness Benny trying to convince Dean to leave Cas behind because he's too much of a beacon to the baddies but Dean's not having any of it. If there is one thing we know about Dean absolutely it's that his sense of loyalty knows no bounds, particularly when Sam isn't around (because when Sam's there, Dean's loyalty goes as far as it can until it risks his brother). Here we have Dean clutching to Cas' presence and swearing he'd rather not leave than leave without Castiel. Even the angel struggled with this sentiment and the illogical nature of it. Nevertheless the three trudged on only to be ambushed by leviathan later on. And in this fight we see the moment Benny moved from "convenient ally" category to something more for Dean: he saved Castiel's life, unprompted and unmotivated to do so. Benny could have simply let the leviathan devour Cas and ended all the problems related to Cas tagging along and it would have been done through no fault of Benny's so Dean couldn't punish him by not taking him across state lines, so to speak. In spite of that we watch Benny slice the leviathan head off.

This says a lot about Benny to me, particularly that he sees value in life beyond its specific use to his own ends. We learn later that like Lenore, Benny learned to stop feeding on humans long ago. This too added a new dimension to the character because it's not a promise to Dean that keeps Benny from snacking on the "Happy Meals with legs" but rather a decision he made years before. All of these discoveries about Benny in this episode gave me much more faith in the character than I had on that first encounter. I'm eager to explore his relationship to the boys further, in particular how he'll interact with Sam.

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Finally, we saw how Benny and Dean operate as a fluid, silent and efficient machine when fighting. They tagged on another, communicated silently and generally functioned like a well oiled machine. Even without detailed verbal explanation it's becoming clear how much trust and reliance existed (and still exists) between Benny and Dean in Purgatory. They really react to one another like brothers in arms.

Normalville

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Sam's flashbacks this episode also gave us some information, this time more about his relationship with Amelia. First of all, unlike Benny, nothing I saw in the flashbacks made me like this character more or trust her for that matter. Amelia seems just a tad judgmental and presumptive for my liking: Sam where's casual clothes like denim and flannel which automatically makes him a creepy drifter? Okay. We also see Sam in the flashbacks as a man without a purpose "“ he's on the lookout for something to occupy his time and in fact, was looking for people to connect with. Sam got to know the motel family well enough to be familiar with their problems and to offer his help too. This is very much like Sam, he's a friendly guy always willing to lend an ear and a hand if he can. In one way or another, he was probably glad the dog gave him something to occupy his focus and a reason to hang around. We still don't know at this point what prompted Sam to not pursue Dean and we may never get an actual scene where he considers his options. For me, knowing the Winchester history with pursuing disappeared family members is enough knowledge to understand how Sam may have come to that decision.

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What I really enjoyed about the flashbacks was the look it gave us into Sam's head and his character at that point in time. He's just lost his brother (and about everyone else too) after having a series of trauma-filled events, including being ridden by Lucifer, visiting Hell and losing his soul. Where we're at now is a sort of new status-quo in the world "“ same old usual beasties as before without Heaven and/or Hell knocking at the door either. Sam has the quiet opportunity to heal, and he seems to be healing (this is my honest opinion, which I know will be challenged, but please play nice). This Sam is gentle, attentive and helpful. Yes, he was these things all along but this time there is not an added tension that comes with knowing there's a ghost or ghoul and that's how you're helping. Sam finally has the chance to be a real boy "“ he can help the family by doing some handyman work around the motel because the father is sick. He can be a caretaker to the dog. He can have conversations about real things, using (I presume anyways) his real name and not an alias. Yes, Sam can take a breath or two and maybe even start to relax. At least, this is was I saw in Sam during the flashbacks. For that matter, it's a lot of what I'm seeing in the present-day Sam except with the added element of confidence that Sam in the flashbacks doesn't quite seem to have fully.

So, Flashback Sam was something light and despite Amelia, who was too snappy for me and who is bound to have some story meant to garner audience sympathy eventually, I liked these parts of the episodes. Even the flashback lighting was bright and softer, in keeping with the birthday scene earlier. Despite missing his brother, Sam had the opportunity to be happy and ordinary during the last year; and he took it.

Vampirates and Lost Loves

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We learned a lot about Benny in this episode, particularly where he comes from. It's clear that Benny is quite old and for a long time was your typical evil vampire. Until he fell in love. Benny seems to be somewhere between Sam and Dean: he's quiet and practical, thoughtful and smart, quick witted and a good with a blade too.

My initial read on Benny is he's a good guy, generally. In particular, it was the way he didn't try and stop Dean from killing Andrea. Benny knew and accepted that she was not the woman he loved all those years ago and that she couldn't be allowed to live now because she was dangerous and not a non-human eater like he was. It was also telling how Benny offered his hand to Sam and recognized that the brothers needed space to talk without being asked. These are markers of a perceptive and respectful friend, who's likely heard a lot about Sam over the past year.

Deception and Days Off

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In the present, Sam and Dean are hot on Kevin's trail in Enid, Oregon. At least as hot as he'll let them get and it's starting to get to the boys the way small annoyances can, that he keeps evading them so surely. This leads to a short discussion about killing Kevin's mom (or trying to) while Crowley was where her. So far this season there have been some interesting allusions and/or outright references to where this type of thing falls on the moral spectrum. I can't help but wonder if this will become a more prominent focus later this season. "The Winchester Holy Grail Shut the Gates of Hell Forever" case gets sidelined when Dean steps out to help Benny, leaving Sam wondering where he's going and who he's going to help. The entire motel exchange was done really well. It's obvious that both boys are tired and also that neither is really used to explaining themselves, not anymore. Dean wants to offer this vague explanation and hopes Sam will take it without question, which of course he doesn't.

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In the end, Sam's face says it all: Dean has serious explaining to do. I am very much looking forward to this discussion next week.

Final Thoughts

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As a transitory, information episode this worked. Blood Brother had the markings of a decent episode of "Supernatural": key information, brother moments, some carnage and action and on the whole plot advancement. The writing here felt tight overall, as usual I enjoyed the acting but in particular the nuances of the flashback versus present day versions of the characters as well as the new recurring characters. This was a good episode and one I will certainly enjoy as a rewatch.

What did you think, fellow viewers?

 

Comments  

sweetondean
# sweetondean 2012-11-05 06:24
I enjoyed this episode too Elle. It was chocked full of information and I enjoyed having a little bit more of the mystery unfold. This slow burn really works for me.

I also thought the flashbacks in this episode were particularly good, not just in how they informed some of the character history and motivation but how they were integrated, which was the most seamless of the season.

I'm looking forward to where Dean's defiant face and Sam's angry face takes us in the next episode. I'm glad Benny is out in the open at least!
BeccaB
# BeccaB 2012-11-05 07:53
Thanks Elle for you insightful review. I really enjoyed this episode and can't seem to stop watching it. At every rematch I learn something new ( maybe because EVERYONE MUMBLES).

I was thinking back to the first episode where Sam was leaving Amelia in the night. Maybe we should be giving her some slack for her secretive and guarded attitude. Because, maybe, the mystery shadow man was actually watching her and not Sam at all. Just a thought.

Anyway, I'm loving how this season, with maybe one or even one-and-a-half exceptions, is unfolding layer by layer. And I am enjoying reading everyone ops on this sight.
percysowner
# percysowner 2012-11-05 08:29
I thought this episode was well written and worked on many levels. I am becoming annoyed by the retconning of how various monsters work. We had the new breed of werewolf last episode, that the boys suddenly discovered after looking at every source on werewolves to save Madison, and now the vampires that could smell you and have your scent for life from Dead Man's Blood and the vampire ability to hear your heartbeat way across the room from Live Free or Twi Hard suddenly don't exist, just so Dean can go around killing vamps because they don't know he is there. I'm not wild about previously established canon suddenly being changed to suit on story.

I think the show has established Benny as a legitimately good guy and is deliberately showing Amelia in a negative light and that bothers me for reasons that I will take to the Sam thread.

I do think you are right that we will never see when Sam made the decision to not look for Dean.

I have had negative feelings about how Sam and his story and emotional POV are being handled and they continue in this episode.
Bamboo24
# Bamboo24 2012-11-06 00:50
Regarding the monsters, I think it's entirely plausible that the boys have more information now than they back when Madison came on-screen. I mean, come on, she was pre-Apocalypse - they weren't even really using Bobby as a resource back then, and his vast wealth of books and lore opened up whole new worlds of knowledge for them.

Alternatively, there was that whole monster shake-up during S6 - new monsters showed up with the arrival of Eve on the scene - and it was also canon that weird stuff was happening with monsters, like the Japanese monster showing up in Bobby's backyard in "WAB". So, I think the canon is flexible in this area, as it should be (within limits, of course - I don't think they've crossed any lines they can't come back from). I don't consider adding a new facet to the lore the same as abolishing what was already established. It's more like an addendum than revisionist history. To use an metaphor - I liken it to branches on a tree. The show may add hundreds of branches of varying sizes, so long as they don't yank out any roots. Besides, I think it behooves the show to keep being creative in this area - if we've already learned all there is to know about these various monsters, then there'd be no story to tell.
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2012-11-05 12:56
I have a new motto for Sam: Helping people, fixing things, the family business! :lol: He's really good at it. I am liking Sam this season despite what a lot of fans are saying. He feels more gentle to me, okay he's always been a gentle giant, but you get my drift. I love the contrast between Sam's rosy coloured flashbacks and Dean's super cold ones. Very nice touch. These brothers are so in tune with each other (despite the secrets) that just one look and the other brother knows exactly what to do. That scene at the end was so good.
Bevie
# Bevie 2012-11-05 17:19
I enjoyed your review and agree with you about Sam so far this season. I'm loving Sammy right now and am really looking forward to more of his story up to the present.

The dialogue between the boys is also great, especially in this episode. The bickering is something I've always enjoyed as a brotherly thing they do. It never lessens the love between them IMO. Sammy desperate to get to Dean just shows how he can never be "normal" and leave Dean to hunt alone, no matter how much he yearns for it. They love each other. Unhealthy or not, that is the way it is! The silent communication is awesome indeed!

Yes, Dean has some 'splainin' to do next episode. Should be fascinating!

Loving this season so far! :P
Trucklady
# Trucklady 2012-11-05 23:23
Great review Elle. I'm with you on all aspects. I think the integration of the FB into certain scenes was just flawless and very strategically placed. I've loved Benny from the beginning and this episode just made me love him even more. I also noticed the way Benny and Dean interacted like a well oiled machine in Purgatory. They had each others back and really worked well together.

Benny scored even more points with me when he saved Cas's life from the Liviathan attack. Like you stated, he could have very well just gotten rid of the beacon that was leading every big bad to them but knowing how Dean felt about Cas, that would not have gotten him the free ride out of Purgatory. It was so sad that he had to lose the love of his life a second time. He was so ready to live a normal life, too bad the vamp power went to her head. Oh that's right, Dean took care of that! I'm sorry poor taste....guess I better stop now. Exhaustion is setting in and I'm gonna get silly here soon.

I'm loving this new format so kudos to the admins for trying something new.

I am equally excited to see how the conversation is going to go between Sam and Dean after that over-the-top final 2 minutes. Those two can speak volumes without saying a word. The last two minutes of the show there were only three lines spoken and they were all Benny but the unspoken words was pages and pages of dialog between Dean and Sam.

This early FB of Amelia makes we curious how they ever made it to living together. She is just carrying so much baggage that flows over to Sam everytime she sees him. I try to give her the benefit of the doubt since there will be a time this will all make sense since Sam ends up with her for awhile but she just is not that likable of a person right now.

I love the Sam FB seeing him as the friendly, helpful person he is. Even with all his pain he found ways to move on and push through all that. Who knew he was such a handyman? It's not like he had a whole lot of time to fix things while they were always traveling from one town to another. It's the little things, right? :lol:
eilf
# eilf 2012-11-05 23:35
You know if it does nothing else at all the Sam FB scenes mean we get to see Sam smile! He has a sweet smile, we do NOT see it enough. :D
Naomi Maggiora
# Naomi Maggiora 2012-11-06 22:14
Great review. I agree with your analysis. I am really looking forward to this week's episode and the conversation between Dean and Sam about their last year. The more I see of Benny, the more I like him. And it is nice to see Sam smile and be the sweet Sam of seasons 1-2. Dean is much more mature and harder this season, which is to be expected after his year in Purgatory. And I agree that the lighting and atmosphere between Sam's year and Dean's year is very telling. The writing this season has been amazing and the boys' acting just keep getting better & better-they really bring Dean and Sam to life. And Ty Olsson adds a lot to the show this season. Hope he hangs around a while. Glad to see Garth will be back this week-hope he is in more episodes also.