The Morning After
I’m still reeling from seeing Supernatural’s third episode this season, “The Foundry”. Saturated with mother’s instincts and parental grief, this story was emotionally exhausting. The hunt was about captive children who appealled to a mother to rescue them because she was the only one who sensed their need. Through most of the episode, women of the fandom identified with Mary’s motherly protectiveness of children; men of the fandom saw mothers who will always love their sons, even beyond the grave. The story used the audience's empathy to render us emotionally vulnerable, then suckered punched us with a sudden separation that betrayed the vulnerability we, and the brothers we love, had entrusted to Mary.
During my live tweet of the episode, I commented that Mary had completely won over the Supernatural family. I have been amazed how completely natural it has seemed to have her with her sons, both in the bunker and on hunts. The fandom is fiercely protective of the brothers and their bond, yet we have whole-heartedly accepted Mary into the story. More than that, I know most share my feeling that I actually love having her back. Like Dean, to me the family feels more complete with her around. As a viewer, though, the show seems healed of a painful trauma, a horrible absence I did not realize I felt along with the brothers until it was filled with the loving presence that had been lost. Mary’s rejection of her sons and their idealized dream of a reunited family made them, and us, feel the grief of that hole all over again. In fact, the wound was deepened because this time the separation was of her own free will.
I am stunned and horrified that Mary could hurt her sons in this way. She may not yet know their whole story, but they have clearly told her how much they needed and celebrated her return.
“For me, having you here, fills in the biggest blank.”
That was Sam’s heart wrenching admission of love and need to his mother on their first night in the bunker after their reunion. Dean had previously told her he was “thrilled” she was back and “so damn happy I can’t even stand it”. I understand that she is grieving and people do rather selfish, rash things when they are hurting so much, but I never expected it could override love of the sons who were standing right in front of her.
It doesn’t make any sense at all that she would sacrifice a chance to know the men her sons have become because she grieves the young children she lost. Celebrate what you have instead of giving it all up for something you can’t have!
To not change the brotherly dynamics of the show, I had worried that Mary would stay too long in the story. Now I grieve her leaving. If reunions is indeed a thread of the entire season instead of just the first few episodes (as I had originally suspected), maybe this latest separation is setting us up for a new reunion? I’m afraid I’m not feeling that optimistic. I think we’ve just reached a fork in the road – Mary took one path while the brothers will take the other. I’m sure we’ll see more of her, but never again as a resident in the bunker, and never as a permanent part of the Winchester hunting team. What do you think? Am I too shocked to see this clearly?
A Lot’s Changed
I don’t think I understood the significance of that thread until this episode. So far, something major has changed in each of the first three episodes this season! If that continues, this is going to be a tumultuous season for our emotions!
Mary: Castiel, after you left heaven, when did it start to feel like you fit, like you belonged here?
Castiel: Well, I’m still not sure I do. Mary, you do belong here.
The opening scene was of Mary’s sleepless night, agonizing over the words in her husband’s journal. As Farawayeyes’ review last week discussed, Mary obviously is not at all feeling like she fits into the world that moved on without her.
Her use of the land-line phone instead of the mobile phone highlighted her difficulty with adapting to even the simplest changes. That ended up working to her advantage, though.
The mom: It’s kind of nice. No one talks on the phone anymore, you know?
Mary: I’ve noticed.
Mary cutting her own hair was the first cue, albeit visual instead of overtly in the dialog, that she wouldn’t hesitate to take immediate and drastic action to address things she felt needed to change.
In retrospect, the symbolism of cutting away the old to make way for the new subtly foreshadowed how she would later cut ties with the past that was weighing her down in order to forge a new future.
Dean: There a lot of things that have gone to seed since you were here, but the variety in snack food flavors is not one of them.
In a light-hearted moment, Dean tried to point out the good things that have changed in the past 34 years. Mary’s hair style could surely be counted as one of those positive changes! The snack food did more than give Mary a taste of modern life, though. It highlighted how much Mary is like Dean, or perhaps more appropriately, visa-versa.
Mothers and Their Sons
“The Foundry” intentionally emphasized the connection between Mary and each of her sons. Sam wanted to pamper and cater to his mom, presuming she wouldn’t want cold bacon, calorie-ridden junk food or hard rock. Dean, however, felt a kinship with his mom, sharing a love for these things.
I loved her “hand it over’ gesture to Dean when he proudly introduced her to Chili Lime Jerky. Like him, she reveled in eating “artificial, tingly” junk food. Then to Sam’s surprise, she wanted to blast “Born to be Wild” on the radio. Again, she’s like Dean in her love of rock music. Actually, I feel that music fit her rebellious nature and strong will perfectly. Given what we know about her teen age and young adult years, it feels like a natural theme song for her.
Snack food and music choices weren’t the only things about Mary that surprised Sam. When she announced that she found a case to work, he struggled to catch up to her impulsiveness:
Sam: I thought you were still struggling with even the idea of the Internet?... I thought you weren’t down to hunt in the first place?
Dean: Well, things change, right?
Again, Mary is very much like Dean in being driven by taking decisive, fast action based on instinct. She doesn’t labor over plans or thinking things through. She cut her hair on a whim, rushed into a haunted house alone “on a hunch”, and eventually walked out on her sons without warning (or a packed bag…or food, transportation, money, IDs, a place to stay…or giving them time to come to question or accept her choice. OK, yes. I’m still trying to accept it myself).
Consistent with Sam’s character, Mary’s connection with him was the empathy he had for her feelings. He reached out to her last week with the journal, told her that he knows what she’s going through, and offered her encouragement when she wanted to use the old ways to investigate this new case.
Sam sensed the extent of her conflict. During his talk with Dean over a burning skeleton, he tried to open his brother’s eyes to her struggle. Prophetically, Dean asked:
Can’t we, for once, just not turn everything into a problem? You know, can we, for once, just have one good thing?
As a veteran Supernatural fan, those words should have signaled to me that the bottom was about to drop out from under Sam and Dean, and us.
Sam replied that he knew what his mother was doing because he and Dean had done the same all their lives. He then punctuated the connection between Mary and her boys when he said,
I don’t know, man. Like mother, like sons.
A rather revealing although unexpected peek into Mary’s connection to Sam was her calling out his name first when she was trapped with the ghost.
The little boy was also used to emphasize Mary’s unique bond with Sam. His ghost revived memories of Sam as an infant in trouble, needing her to rescue him. Mary wasn’t able to save Sam but she was determined to save this blond haired, blue eyed boy. Even though both Sam and Dean dismissed her instincts, she reached out to talk to another mother who lost her son to the supernatural. She was able to get the woman to open up to her because they were kindred “spirits”.
Mary: Lucas? I talked to your mommy. She misses you so much.
When the murdering father possessed Mary, Sam and Dean got through to her by appealing to her as a mother. Mary hearing the voices of her sons enabled her to regain control for a few seconds (very reminiscent of Sam’s family memories enabling him to gain control over Lucifer in “Swan Song”). Together, the three of them saved all those children, plus all the future children the vengeful spirit would have harmed. I thought that would have convinced Mary of her usefulness not only in her new world but as a team with her sons. Somehow, it didn’t fall that way. She said the father's grief drove him insane, to the point of killing himself. Did she run because she was afraid the same might happen to her?
When Dean was the most scared and ashamed, he shut out his brother and went on his own. Sam's done the same thing. Like mother, like sons?
In contrast, Crowley had a more pleasant reunion with his mother:
Crowley: So Mother and I had an unfortunate, if not rather embarrassing run-in with Lucifer. You’re just made because you’re only my second choice for a Lucifer hunt team up.
I admit that I wasn’t sold on the Crowley-Castiel team up at first. After the car window shtick, I was afraid they were going to be portrayed as buffoons for comedy relief.
Misha’s delivery of these lines won me over, though:
Castiel: No, actually I think it’s sweet. I thought your motivation was ambition and revenge but now I know you just wanna save your mother.
How funny! They’ve found their place in the plot – and it’s together! That was a welcome change in the show’s direction. A separate team hunting on their own!
As it turned out, though, Rowena didn’t need to be saved. She was able to banish Lucifer and save herself without their help.
She's shown she has power before, but it was usually accompanied with duplicity or idiocy. In another welcome change in a major Supernatural character, she followed her escape with a sincere declaration of allegiance to her son's cause. Crowley didn't seem at all convinced, though.
I'd like to believe he's wrong about mummy and we're through with the whining, conniving Rowena. If so, we should all send Robert Berens a fruit basket!
In the comments to “Stay Calm and Carry On”’s Threads review, Spnlit (and others) pointed out a burning and branding theme seemed to be starting. Wednesday noted that the season’s title card was a brand on flesh. “The Foundry” seemed to confirm that this is going to be a continuing theme. The ghosts burned their hand mark into the arms of their victims. Rowena’s spell was also burned into Lucifer’s chest when she activated it with her hand. Are we imagining something that isn’t intended as a seasonal theme, or is this building up to something significant later in the plotlines?
Saving People, Hunting Things
Obviously, "The Foundry" spent a considerable amount of time focusing on Mary's expectations of how to approach hunting and the new reality of the job. Sam also recognized that Mary was throwing herself into her work to avoid dealing with her issues. She even acknowledged,
I thought hunting, working, would clear my head.
In the end, the Winchester trio was a great team. Would they eventually have gotten into each other's way? I would have liked a chance to find out.
Mending Frayed Threads
Dean: Look, man, Cas healed your s’mores foot, all right? I got Baby back to mint. We’re road ready. And if Mom want to hunt, I say we hunt.
It was great to have a link between the weeks of horrific torture Sam endured, Baby being T-boned again, and the “all’s right with the world” illusion Dean created for himself this week.
- Partridge Family?? Agent Beyonce? I can’t decide how I feel about the all-too-obvious humor. It was consistent with Cas’s naiveté in going out on his own so it made sense that Mary would do the same, but the boys went along with it?
Dean: “Nice Bike.”
- Dean specifically admired a motorcycle while they were gassing up the Impala. The camera then lingered on a shot of the bike. A visual and audio cue of that bike absolutely foreshadows something down the road. I’ve had two thoughts about it. The first is a horrible vision of Dean on the bike, alone - the lone rider without Sam (or Mary). The other thought is much more upbeat. This episode emphasized the similarities between Dean and Mary. What if “Born to be Wild” really is her theme song and she likes bikes just as much as Dean? She’s strong willed and a hunter… What if the show is setting up the sequel with MARY on the bike, hunting, teaming up with Donna and Jody to be the female Supernatural? I really think it could happen!
So much changed in this episode. Some changes were welcome, like the Cas-Crowley team (what do you think of “C2” as a nickname?) and Rowena’s sincerity, but other things that were probably inevitable happened sooner, more drastically or more painfully than I ever imagined. I will never understand how a mother can hurt her children like that. Get over yourself and deal with your issues without dumping more pain on them!
I’ve only scratched the surface of the many layers in Robert Berens’ powerful script. It will surely take all 5 WFB reviewers and a week of commenting to uncover all the nuances. At this point, though, what is your morning-after reaction to the episode and to the threads it contained? Did I miss any? We’ve got a week to recover so let’s get started!
Dialog confirmed courtesy of http://transcripts.foreverdreaming.org/
Screencaps courtesy of http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/