Several Mornings After
Usually “Threads” is the first review published each week after a new Supernatural episode airs. This past week, however, I had a long weekend off (two family birthdays!) so Alice and Wednesday were able to jump ahead of me in the rotation.
By now, you’ve probably read their reviews and know that neither of them liked “The One You’ve Been Waiting For”. Alice covered several aspects of the episode she didn’t think worked as intended while Wednesday focused more attention on the unfortunate timing of this particular storyline. I agree with their observations, particularly Wednesday’s distaste for the episode’s subject matter.
Some of the timing of this story was certainly out of the control of the Supernatural producers (i.e. the horrific parallel with the US elections). I do not blame them at all for the intensely emotional resonance many viewers felt from the events earlier in the week. The airing on the exact anniversary of the Kristallnacht uprising against German Jews (and the episode’s fight scene prominently involved shattering glass), and on the eve of American, Australian, Canadian and maybe some other nations’ holidays to honor their fallen veterans certainly was foreseeable, however. Maybe the placement was intentional to call attention to WWII atrocities? If so, their strategy worked. Still, Dean's "I killed Hitler" seemed insensitive. It’s a mystery why no one in Supernatural’s entire management chain didn’t stop stop that particular faux pas, or maybe they just underestimated fans’ regard for history. In either case, I don’t think the blame falls on the shoulders of Meredith Glynn, the new writer who was assigned this timeslot. If we move past the timing and the subject, unfortunately the episode still fell short of Supernatural’s high standards. There was a basic mis-match between the serious opening of back room deals that led to immilated victims and the satirical middle and ending that were more nonsensical than funny. Again, the more experienced writers on the team didn’t see the problems here? It doesn’t seem that they had Meredith’s back in this case.
There are many fans who did enjoy the show, though. To give their opinion a voice and to show that fans still have faith in what Meredith may be able to do in the future, I won’t belabor what both Alice and Wednesday skillfully listed as the flaws and concerns with the plot. Rather, "Threads" will examine the dialog for seasonal themes and plot foreshadowing as usual. Through that lens, “The One You’ve Been Waiting For” has a great deal to offer.
(Insane) Parents and their Children
We were introduced to Christoph by a short but informative exchange with an older man,
Commandant: Idiot! We need her alive!
Christoph: “I’m Sorry, Father.”
Those few words spoke volumes about the subjugation of son to father, and the lack of respect of father to son. Christoph’s character was established only in relationship to his parent.
Christoph next appeared when he kidnapped Ellie. With the exception of only the one sentence he said to her, Christoph’s dialog immediately reiterated that his entire identity as a character and as a person was defined by his parent:
Christoph: Father, yes I have her…You know, I try with you, I really do, but you expect me to be a mind reader and it’s exhausting. Father, I gotta go.
Dean: Family drama’s a bitch, aint’ it?
While Christoph talking back to his father seemed out of character given the obvious authoritarian dynamic between them, his retort hinted that he tired of his place in the family’s regime and might be ready to exercise his free will and defect. When Christoph’s dialog resumed, there was only a one sentence interlude before Christoph again mentioned his father:
It belongs to my father. Commandant Nauhaus. Thule High Command. Ranking Officer.
Christoph’s constant references to his father continued, punctuated later by Dean’s greeting to the dad’s vessel:
Well if it isn’t father of the year.
The commandant’s dialog was also splattered with references to his familial relationship:
You are supposed to be my heir. Instead, you’re an inconceivable disappointment.
Eventually, the commandant callously ordered his lieutenant to kill Christoph. This is eerily reminiscent of last week when an insane parent tried to kill both, and succeeded in killing one, of her children. Perhaps significantly, it was the son who was killed last week and a son who was almost killed this week. Taken one way, that is ominous foreshadowing for the two Winchester boys given their parent’s sudden reinsertion into their lives. Taken more hopefully, these examples are stark contrasts to the loving relationship Mary will develop with her sons. What do you think?
The repetition of the insanity theme was also interesting. Once Hitler’s reincarnation took control of the Commandant, it was clear that both were completely insane. The ridiculous orders, actions, hugging and cackling of the former dictator were so farcical, they initially blinded me to their purpose. Viewed in isolation, they doom this episode to an embarrassing comedic failure. Considered together with the insane mom last week, and the ghost in the wall dad from "Mamma Mia" (who was driven insane when his daughter was killed) and we have a thread of insane parents too prominent to be ignored. I think it’s time to start theorizing as to its possible purpose. Ideas anyone?
In addition to the episode’s saturation of father/son references, Ellie’s relationship with her parents was also central to the plot. She learned that she was adopted and that the people she considered her parents had been lying to her for her whole life about her lineage. In the show’s epilogue, she seemed to have graciously (and rather suddenly) forgiven her mom:
I should probably call my mom. You can only run for so long, you know?
A mom who keeps a hugely significant truth from her child but is almost instantly forgiven is a veiled parallel to Mary. Because of her untimely death, she didn’t have a chance to tell Sam or Dean about her demon deal that sealed Sam’s fate (although I doubt that would have ever been the topic of any future dinner conversations). Ellie’s love, or maybe need, for her family superseded her anger and shock, perhaps providing an example of children forgiving mistakes by well-intentioned parents. Her healthier family dynamic also further highlighted the ludicrous situation in the Nauhaus family, who were eerily reminiscent of the Steins.
Throughout the episode, Germany was also referred to as the “Fatherland”. It is a historically accurate yet thematically convenient reminder of the parenting thread.
The Thules’ signature weapon, spontaneous combustion, confirmed that burning flesh is a recurring theme in season 12. Sam and Dean also reminded us that burning is the only way to effectively kill a Thule, a fact repeated in the epilogue by Ellie:
We just burned a pile of dead Nazi zombie bodies, one of which I killed, so maybe, like, third worst day ever.
(THAT was a funny line by the way.)
The swastika from the watch was also branded into the intended vessel for the fuhrer, further confirming the importance of this thread. Until now, I hadn’t realized that the British Men of Letters also are branded with a tattoo that warns of their loyalties. Is the anti-possession tattoo going to be needed again? Where is this branding thread headed?
Humans versus Animals
The investigation into the death of one of the immolated victims provided the first opportunity to reiterate the human versus animal theme. The officer observed about the one-night-stand guy,
By the time we got there, he was ash and bone. What does that to a human being?
I find it interesting that he didn’t say “do that to a person”. Depending on the officer’s intent, which wasn’t precisely clear, the use of “human being” implies that society holds either some minimal standards on how humans should be treated or a mistaken notion of the indestructability of the human body. Given their immortality, or rather resurrection from the dead, the Thule are supernatural entities, an affront to the natural order of things. Perhaps their reprise in the series is meant to remind us that Mary is also a resurrected being? The Thule live elongated lives due to “blood magic”, similar to Rowena’s use of magic perhaps. A key difference is that Mary was wrongfully killed by the supernatural and resurrected by a member of the divine family that created humanity, so maybe they have the right to make the ‘natural order of things” whatever they want it to be? For that matter, Sam, Dean and Castiel fit into that same category! Does that give all of them more of bonafide license to Lazarus’ fate than humans who refuse to die? An interesting ideological issue to ponder, especially given the British Men of Letters’ merciless view of things.
The flipside of the theme, a reference to people being nothing more than food for animals, was introduced into the episode by Hitler:
Take the rest of her blood, then give her to the dogs.
But Fuhrer, we have no dogs.
Then get some! I love doggies. Woof, Woof, Woof.
I shall very much enjoy introducing them to my new dogs.
Was it also a coincidence that the common German name Wolfgang was used for one of the Thule goons?
While the Thule have supernaturally prolonged lives, they are still human beings. As with last week’s plot, the point was made again this week that humans are just as much of a threat to the world as the supernatural. Evil can take many forms. A season or two back (I think it was season 10 sometime after the good/evil Charlie episode. Maybe the finale?), I remember writing a breakthrough "Threads" discussion on the Winchester family mission changing to “Hunting Evil” versus “Hunting Things”. The dialog of that episode differentiated that the brothers hunt evil, not the supernatural. Over the years, Sam and Dean have learned that some supernatural beings are good and deserving of mercy, while some human beings are inherently evil and need to be exterminated. This is obviously the fundamental chasm between the mission of our heroes and the British Men of Letters.
Saving People, Hunting Things
Once again, Sam defined the job of hunting in this episode:
There are things out there that shouldn’t exist. Bad things. We kill ‘em. It’s kind of our job.
Ellie’s reaction? “This is insane.”
That’s a perfectly reasonable reaction to what had happened to her that day and what the guys in suits were trying to get her to believe, but it curiously foreshadowed the insanity we would later see exhibited by a resurrected Hitler in the Commandant father’s body.
The episode also reminded us of Mary’s decision to “run” away from her boys. Christoph said to Ellie:
Seems as though this running is a thing for you.
Then Dean said to Ellie:
There are times when you run and there are times when you stand and fight. Now is one of those times when you fight.
Once Ellie was recaptured, Dean reiterated,
Isn’t running a whole thing with her?
Lastly, at the end of the crisis when Christoph was released, Sam told him,
Our advice? Run.
The season is examining Mary’s decision to run instead of standing with her boys to fight both the problems in the world and the problems they face as a family. Ellie was an avatar for Mary. Since as an audience we are unable to see what’s happening with Mary, we witnessed Ellie’s journey through the “fight or flight” shock of suddenly facing the supernatural. Perhaps Dean’s recognition that “now is the time to fight” foreshadowed Mary’s return to hunting.
- Aaron, you were missed. You deserved to be in on the destruction of the Thule High Command. Rest assured, you are not forgotten. Your brief inclusion in the hunt at least is hope that you will be included again in the future.
- This episode was one of the most visually bland episodes in the Supernatural series. The warehouse was grey and bleak, the airplane hangar was white and barren. Ellie's clothes were pastels that blended together and there was an sudden outbreak of men in nondiscript suits. Light blue, which usually symbolizes peace and tranquility, was everywhere. The scenes that were filled with color were of disturbing images such as swastikas and Nazi uniforms, which I refuse to reproduce here. One of the most visually complex shots was in the antique store, which I used to begin the article. It is filled with mirrors, glass, stained glass and crystals (which made me wonder if the timing to Kristallnacht was recognized). Has anyone read or have any theories on the cinematic choices of this episode? It was noticeable enough to be worthy of some thought.
Even though “The One You’ve Been Waiting For” didn’t succeed in many areas for many fans, it was still rich in the thematic underpinnings of the season. It advanced several threads and confirmed others, so it’s place in the season may turn out to be more significant than initially thought. In the past, it’s been the lighter, seemingly throw-away episodes that have held the keys to the season’s puzzles. What new insights might this episode now hold for you?
Transcript confirmed with http://transcripts.foreverdreaming.org/