Hunting has a premise that makes it seem rather simple: supernatural creatures killing humans must be stopped. In theory it's easy to understand and do. In practice, however, it becomes apparent that there is much more to it than that. It's dangerous, deadly, and often much more complex underneath the surface. A job may not always be what it appears or the lore might not always be accurate. Hunting isn't always all about brawn---it also takes great intelligence to complete successfully.
Most of all, it isn't nearly as black and white as one is led to think.
In "Freaks and Geeks," we see two very different approaches to hunting.
One is very black and white---and very naÃ¯ve. Their style is forged in revenge and anger. The hunters in this group are very young and highly inexperienced. This causes them to make mistakes---at times high cost ones to not only themselves but potentially to the hunting community at large. They are cocky and their youth gives them a feeling of being indestructible. Due to their greenness, they also are unable to understand how wrong this hunt feels. They miss little details, little clues that could tip them off to what's really going on.
The other group is an elite pair---highly experienced and knowledgeable about hunting, various monsters, and methods to kill them. Their track record speaks for them, loud and clear. They know what feels right and wrong. They are highly skilled with weapons and tactics. They know how dangerous the hunt can truly be---and that any one of them can be their last. They are aware of the sacrifice that comes with this life---and have no desire to see children being sucked into it. They are also aware of how grey the hunt can be. It isn't always as simple as the monster being the villain. There is often more going on. Most of all, they know when to kill and when to show mercy. It is what makes them elite.
These two groups end up clashing in a shared hunt. It allows us to see and understand just why one is a novice group and the other is elite. It also gives us the opportunity to explore why hunters hunt at all---and how doing it for the wrong reasons can be more dangerous than the hunt itself.
The novice group, including Krissy Chambers from "Adventures in Babysitting," is systematically hunting a vampire nest. They are trying to acquire revenge for their slain family members. They believe that in doing this they will find satisfaction---but all it will do is kick up their blood lust and get them in deeper trouble. Their emotional distress also allows for them to be highly susceptible to manipulation.
They have a mentor, Victor Rogers, that has gathered them together. He is the one teaching them how to hunt and structuring their lives. On the surface, he seems like a stable figure. He is keeping them focused on not just the hunt, but their schooling. Victor has put in place rules and acts more like a father than a hunter. They share meals and are expected to get along---not as a hunting group, but as a family.
But it is a lie.
The other group---the elite group---is none other than Sam and Dean Winchester. They have been drawn to the case and are proceeding with their separate investigation. It takes no time for them to realize that there is much more than vampires going on in this town. Dean spots Krissy in the video of a group of teenagers beheading a vampire. Quickly, he gets the authorities to quit searching for them. The brothers must find Krissy and her group---and fast before more damage can be done.
The brothers quickly follow Krissy and her hunting party to a motel where they have set up their base of operation. It's not a half bad set up---a laptop set up with footage tracking their quarry and each person has their own tasks---but it is still sloppy. It's easy for anyone to find the group if they know anything about hunting. Krissy is stunned when the door is broken into and on the other side is none other than Sam and Dean. She exclaims, "I paid cash everywhere," but Dean retorts that it was easy for him to put it together. He says, "Only two hotels in a 20 mile radius, and we paid cash too, just more."
Krissy had paid cash---to a clerk that was just as easily bought by Dean. In her exchange with the clerk, we can see just how cocky she can be. She bluffs her way past him with her money, claiming to be 25 years old. The clerk doesn't buy it, but he lets her pass in order to pocket her money. To Krissy, it must have seemed as if she had pulled a fast one on an ignorant adult---and the feat in turn inflates her ego. Unfortunately, it prevents her from knowing just how in over her head she really is.
Now that novice and elite have clashed, there is still a hunt in progress to deal with. Krissy realizes that her partners, Aiden and Josephine are in trouble, and they rush to their aid. The vampire jumps out the window to escape, with all the hunters on his trail. Krissy shoots the vampire with a dart of dead man's blood, stopping it in its tracks. The vampire is afraid and frantic. He is disorientated and claims his innocence profusely. Josephine is furious and believe he killed her family. Before they can stop her, she beheads the vampire viciously.
But it smells all wrong. There's little details that are off about it---details that Sam and Dean pick up on and the novice group does not. The mysterious blue van and the vampire's behavior are two major clues that something isn't right with this hunt. As they say, sometimes it is the devil in the details---and here they can make or break the case.
Dean tells Krissy, "Hunting isn't all about killing and revenge."
It is a hard learned lesson---one that is continually being relearned by all hunters.
Upon arrival at Victor's house, Sam and Dean are shocked by its hominess and by Victor's treatment of the novice hunters. He and Josephine share an exchange in which he asks, "What do we always say?" Josephine replies, "Move on but never forget." It seems, on the surface, like good advice. But much like everything about this case it isn't quite what it seems. There is just something off about it---and his subsequent exchanges with both Aiden and Krissy.
Here, it's not about skills or knowledge. Instead, it's about instincts. These novices don't pick up on what's off about Victor---but Sam and Dean's honed instincts instantly perk up. They sense something isn't quite right about this picture. This overtly fatherly exterior Victor exudes doesn't soothe the brothers the way it does Krissy and her group. Instead, it makes them want to dig deeper, investigate what's going on beneath the surface and find out the truth.
Sam asks, "So these kids go to school like school school, real school?" It just doesn't add up for Sam and Dean---and Victor's response, "I think a balanced approach is best, don't you?" just makes them more concerned about the risks for these teenagers.
Hunting, after all, isn't child's play. Sam and Dean may have been raised by their father into the life, but they know that it is dangerous. Their brushes with near death as children---especially at the hands of the Shtriga---proves that it can be too costly. They also know that this supposed "balanced approach" doesn't always work out. Somehow, the life always creeps into everything. If Victor isn't careful, it can be what gets these teenagers killed.
As Victor starts listing off their hunting network, finishing with Bobby being a "barely functional alcoholic" Dean's hackles raise even further. They might have had some suspicions about Victor's intentions for the novice group, but his assessment of their allies makes them dislike him outright. Victor might have some valid arguments about those he listed---Martin wasn't exactly sane, after all---but the brothers can tell that he's not as stable as he wants people to believe. In fact, they're going to learn that he's outright delusional.
Dean determines the only way to keep the novice group safe is to do the hunt for them.
Yet another clue bothers the Winchesters about this hunt: the girl tied in the vampire's hotel room. Something about it didn't quite fit. Sure, vampires have been known to restrain their victims, but that's not what's off here. It seemed way to easy of a find for the teenagers---her being there almost seemed too convenient. It's another example of how they, as elite hunters, know what to look for, to look deeper into the case, and to never take things on the surface.
Dean questions her about her experience, only to find out that the vampire, Jimmy Day, was a recently returned Afghanistan veteran. He couldn't have killed Josephine's family. He wasn't even in the country to do it. It's another element to this case---one that the novice group just would not think to explore---that makes it seem even more suspicious. There is something else going on here than a nest of vampires.
The blue van is another. The victim also tells Dean that a blue van pulled up next to her and a "guy with a hoodie asked for directions." The next thing she remembered was waking in the hotel with Jimmy. It doesn't add up. Krissy and her group hadn't noticed it when they chased down Jimmy the night before. If that wasn't Jimmy's van, then who owns it? It's a crucial detail that can break the case wide open---one that Krissy and her group missed entirely---but Sam and Dean picked up on immediately.
Meanwhile, Sam is left behind with Victor and the group, finding a whirlwind of activity as the teenagers rush out the door to school. It takes him aback a bit, but Sam doesn't lose focus. He still has to figure out Victor's angle. To do that, Sam has to get him to open up. It's not hard. Victor tells Sam that he lost his family to a wendigo. It's a big clue as to what might be going on here, and Sam puts it together. He asks, "Is that why you're doing this, taking all these kids in?"
Victor has created a version of hunting out of grief---and it is twisted. He is adopting children that have experienced a loss to the supernatural. It is his way of replacing those he lost. It's a huge red flag that there's much more going on beneath the surface of this case. It seems that this group has been brought together by happenstance---but as we listen to Victor talk we sense that Sam is mulling this over---wondering if there isn't more to the story.
To add to Sam's alarm, Victor pulls the group from school because he has a new target: the vampire that killed Krissy's father. As they look over the evidence, Sam spots little details that don't add up. It seems fabricated, too much of a coincidence. Before he can convince Krissy to slow down and think it through, she rushes out the door with Josephine and Aiden, bent on getting revenge.
Dean tells Sam that Jimmy had only been turned within the month. Josephine's family had been killed three months ago. It means that he was innocent---just as he claimed. It also makes the brothers worry about why these vampires have crossed paths with the novice group. There's only one constant: Victor. As the brothers share their findings, they realize that their instincts are spot on---that they can't trust him or what is happening in this case. Dean sums it up by quipping, "Yeah, I never trust a guy who wears a sweater. "
The blue van is parked outside and Sam points it out to Victor---leading them to hunt its driver.
Even though Sam doesn't trust Victor---he has to work with him in order to get to the bottom of things. Unfortunately for him, Victor has started to realize that he's being found out, and he has to do everything he must to stop Sam from turning the teenagers against him. They may be novices and easy to fool, but Victor isn't. He knows exactly what he's doing and knows when the jig is up. If he can get Sam out in the park, he can outnumber Sam with his partner---the man in the hoodie. Just as Sam is about to discover him, Victor knocks him out so they can take him to the house.
Meanwhile, Dean heads to the lodge the man in the hoodie is known to have visited. There he makes another disturbing discovery: another newborn vampire. She is struggling with bright lights and sounds---and her teeth drops. Dean can recognize her agony, having experienced it himself. He knows she's no killer nor is she even aware of what is happening to her. Before he can assess her further, the novice group arrives, guns trained on him.
They pose absolutely no threat to him. Dean is nonplussed that they have guns drawn, but tries to convince them they've got the wrong vampire. Aiden tells Dean that Jimmy had to be a liar, but Dean retorts, "Vampires don't beg for their lives. They attack."
Tired of having their guns on him, Dean quickly disarms them. They are shocked by his quick movement---and for the first time realize they might just be in over their heads. Now that they're willing to listen, he tells them about the cure---the same one that once cured him.
He says, teaching them perhaps their most important lesson, "Hunting is always about killing."
It would seem that Krissy takes this lesson to heart. After he convinces the group to take the newborn vampire with him back to Victor's they walk in to find Sam tied to a chair and the man in the hoodie---a vampire---waiting. They are all stunned, questioning if Victor knows him. Instantly their trust in him shatters---along with what remaining innocence they may have had.
No longer wearing his fatherly facade, Victor tells them that he had their families killed so that they would become hunters. He says that he had to "do something hard" to bring them together so he could turn them into the next generation. They are to replace his lost family and to help in the fight against the wars with the monsters.
Victor has been misguided all along, and he accuses Sam of poisoning their minds. The only one doing that has been Victor all along. He has created a novice group of hunters that do not realize the actual risks they are taking or the trouble they could bring home. He sees them as opportunity---and it is his twisted grief that allows him to justify his actions. He has---and through him they too---have been hunting for all the wrong reasons.
Now that he's been exposed, he turns on the group, having his vampire partner take Aiden hostage. They're going to leave and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it.
But he's wrong again. Krissy fires more dead man's blood darts---this time into the vampire's eyes---and stands in Victor's way. She trains a gun on him and corners him. Dean pleads with her not to do this, stating "we don't kill people," but that doesn't stop the young hunter from pulling the trigger.
No bullet fires. Instead it clicks to the next chamber and the next and the next. Krissy doesn't intend to kill Victor. Aiden asks if they're going to just let him live and Krissy replies, "yeah, all alone with himself." It's a terrible punishment for the crime he's committed.
Krissy still has much to learn, but she's absolutely right when she tells Victor that he didn't teach her everything she knows. Two elite hunters---and her father---also had a hand. The Winchesters taught her sometimes not killing is also the answer. Sometimes showing mercy is the answer---as it is with the newborn vampire they can now cure.
Some of the mistakes this group made in this episode, Sam and Dean have made in the past themselves. In "Bloodlust," Dean quickly falls under Gordon Walker's spell, taking him on as mentor briefly. He attacks a group of vampires without thinking about the case---not thinking about the grey area. The brothers have also gotten caught by the law a few times by making various mistakes, exposing themselves and hunting almost at the same time.
Yet, it's these mistakes---and their takeaways that make Sam and Dean who and what they are: elite. They have learned the most valuable lessons of their craft from those mistakes. They know who to kill and why---and who to show mercy to. They know that they must be careful and be smarter every case. It's not all shoot and kill. There is much strategy in hunting and only those who learn it survive to hunt again.
Sometimes it's by showing mercy that a hunter survives.
Megan Danso played Josephine Barnes. We can sense in her performance that Josephine is an overachiever---especially in her approach to the victim tied in the hotel room and later her constant studying at home. Danso gives Josephine a tough edge, however, showing that she's nonplusssed by Aiden's inept courtship of Krissy. We see her pull out the emotions when confronted with the vampire she believes killed her family, and Danso makes us feel bad for her and the vampire her character wrongly kills. Both are victims here---and it in the performances that we pick up on that best. She also connects well with both DiMarco and McLaughlin, making the trio mesh well, even if they are novices as hunters.
Adam DiMarco played a cocky Aiden. He very much fit the typical teenage boy"”crushing on a girl, enjoying the sport of hunting, and being lazy about chores. DiMarco made sure we saw that Aiden liked Krissy, but went out of his way to antagonize her. Once Dean arrives on the scene to talk to Krissy, DiMarco plays up Aiden's jealousy. It exposes his insecurities surrounding Krissy. Before, he is playful and amused at her deflections. After, he becomes protective. Yet, his jealousy also makes him careless. DiMarco shows that best in the scene where Aiden holds a gun on Dean. He thinks he can take Dean and brushes off his command to lay down arms only to be shocked by how quickly Dean disarms him. DiMarco also pulls on our sympathies for Aiden when we see the group confront Victor. He shows his character's outrage at Victor's plan---that he had their families killed for no reason. DiMarco made Aiden believable.
Adrian Hough presents Victor Rogers. Through his body language and carriage, we know not to trust him. We can tell that something is off in little tell tales---and yet we just don't know quite why right away. Hough makes Victor seem on the surface like a good man trying to help these children through their loss by empowering them---and giving them discipline in attending school or cleaning their rooms---but just underneath we can tell that it is largely an act. It seems a bit too forced or rehearsed at times---especially when Victor chides Aiden about cleaning his room. Hough makes us uneasy with Victor in that way, making us question his motives. Once Victor is exposed, we see Hough drop the friendly facade and reveal that he is misguided and manipulative in more ways than one. He shows us in his tone of voice and body language that he believes what he says---we know he will stand by his convictions. As we learn about the loss of his family, Hough shows us that Victor is grieving for them in all the wrong ways. It lends Victor a moment of sympathy---but only briefly. We see Victor break down completely after Krissy points an unloaded gun at him and pulls the trigger repeatedly. Hough shows us in flinches as each piece falls away. Afterward, Hough presents a broken and tragic man. He has had everything stripped away in this moment, and his only recourse is to end it by his own hand. Victor may have been more the monster than the vampire he hired, but in the end it is his human failings that ruined him. Hough made that very clear in his performance.
Madison McLaughlin reprises the young and tenacious Krissy Chambers. She shows that Krissy is in that awkward stage between girlhood and womanhood---and sometimes those lines blur. McLaughlin also gives Krissy a much harder edge here. There is a coldness in her body language and interaction with others---but it is largely a mask. Krissy wants to be a tough hunter and to take revenge for her father---but she also wants to be like an ordinary girl and be with a boy. McLaughlin makes it a point to show us that Krissy struggles with both the embarrassment of this fact and the fear of rejection in her behavior towards DiMarco's Aiden. Krissy has also bitten off more than she can chew---and McLaughlin makes sure to convey that, too. Krissy is far too cavalier in her hunting style at times, setting herself and her team up to be caught. She is young and green---and McLaughlin shows that Krissy has much growing up to do if she is serious about pursuing hunting in any fashion. McLaughlin's best scenes here are with Ackles as Dean and Krissy seem to connect, especially at the end. There's an endearing quality about their interactions here. Krissy is a tough girl and McLaughlin makes us see that---but she is still a young girl trying to navigate the world. The only way she can do that is if she grows up---without hunting.
Jensen Ackles plays a concerned Dean well here. In the beginning of the episode, he is concerned about Sam and his health---even though he plays it down by teasing his brother. It is played well by Ackles, drawing smiles at the playful exchange. As the case progresses, Ackles has Dean shift his concern from his brother onto Krissy and her group. Ackles works well with Padalecki in this episode, even when their characters are apart. We see them in synch throughout the whole case, highlighting their aspect of the story well. Ackles also shows us Dean's ability to sympathize with those victimized by this situation best when he confronts the newborn vampire. Even though he has to first demand answers from her, we see in slight body language and facial expressions Ackles convey that Dean knows the truth about her. In the scene confronting Victor, we see Dean try to reason with a highly emotional Krissy, trying to stop her from killing another human being. Ackles has good chemistry with McLaughlin, especially in the final scene. There's a sweetness in his approach to the scene that makes it endearing.
Jared Padalecki connects as Sam well in this episode. We sense that he works best when his character is on the same page as his brother. Padalecki shows that best in little ways. Sam goes with his brother in the police station, even though he isn't sure why his brother is pulling all the stops on his FBI persona. He subtly shifts his face to be as harsh. He also shows Sam's concern well about the young hunters and what is going on with Victor. Padalecki shows that Sam is intelligent as he follows the clues that are laid before him. Once Victor has been exposed, Sam has no problem becoming cold---and Padalecki puts it all into his voice, making it steel, especially when he tells Krissy's group that Victor's working with the vampire. Yet, Padalecki also makes sure we see Sam's hope. He thinks it possible they might have a good life despite the situation. It's not just in his words or his voice---we see it in Padalecki's softened facial expressions---especially when he says at the end, "Maybe they won't be the only ones."
Best Lines of the Week:
Sam: Eat me, Dean.
Dean: No. She'll kill you.
Dean: I'm really not that old.
It looks like next week a Winchester is going to Hell---Again.