This week, I’ve been musing about family dramas. There are many great examples of the genre in television, films, and novels. I wanted to review an episode of Supernatural that had some poignant family drama, so I picked the premiere episode of season five. This episode has incredible drama between our favorite brothers and also has the evil machinations of my favorite bad angel Zachariah and his family.
The Road So Far
Lucifer has risen, Ruby’s dead, Lilith’s dead, Cas finally decides to join the humans against his angelic family, Bobbie tells Dean to not act like John, Dean comes through to help his little brother at the end, and Sam’s sorry. Like…really, really, sorry.
Do you know that Sam is really sorry? If you can’t tell, just look at his woeful and forlorn face the entire episode. Luckily, some unknown force took the boys away from Lucifer and deposited them on an airplane. It looked for a moment like the plane was going to crash, but then suddenly the boys are in a vehicle and are speeding down the highway. Things are tense, both inside the car and out. On the radio, disasters are reported. There are tornados and a successful test of North Korean nuclear …yikes. The boys go to Chuck’s house, find out that Cas is dead, Zachariah shows up, Dean’s defiant, Bobbie gets possessed (and quite mean), but in the end Castiel saves Sam and Dean from Zachariah. There are also two new characters introduced: Tragic Nick and Yecky Becky Rosen.
This is one of the best openers, ever. Like the pilot, it’s so jam-packed with action, emotions, twisty plot, and great acting that it seems more like a mini-movie than a one-hour show. The brother’s pain as they try to move forward from the devastating rifts of last season is just awful, yet mesmerizing to watch. Zachariah has a starring role in their pain as he tries with all his considerable might to persuade Dean to help him win the upcoming apocalypse.
Zachariah is my favorite bad-boy. He has extraordinary powers and doesn’t worry about anyone, especially those pesky humans. He wants Paradise on Earth and he doesn’t care how many humans might die. Zachariah, played by the awesome Kurt Fuller, is in some of the best episodes of season’s four and five. I’d love to review each one. Kurt Fuller is well over six feet tall, balding, and brilliant. Kurt gives every line a sinister, yet gleeful energy. I’m so glad that we got to have his talents on Supernatural.
After the emotional reunion of Sam and Dean at the end of season four, one might expect that they are now willing to work together and mend some much demolished fences. Nope, not completely. Dean’s trying, but he’s clearly fraying at the seams. He’s okay, as long as Sam doesn’t try to apologize or explain why he did what he thought that he had to do. Sammy’s sorry! Okay? Dean’s trying to act like he’s dealing with his brother’s actions, but he isn’t.
Dean just wants to find Cas, so they drive to Chuck’s house. The place is in a shambles and as the boys carefully move through the silent house, Chuck suddenly lunges out and tries to play Whack-A-Mole with Sam’s head – with a plunger, no less.
Sam: “Geez, oww!”
Chuck: “You’re okay!"
Sam: “Well, my head hurts."
I love that scene and also when Chuck pulls a bloody molar from his hair and explains that Cas exploded like a water balloon full of chunky soup. Dean’s standing in the background with an aggrieved look on his face as Chuck describes Sam’s eyes going black as he killed Lilith. Sam utters another sad little line, “I didn’t know,” and the dismal day continues. It’s so awful to watch Sam’s sorrow and guilt as Dean’s clearly fighting to keep his emotions in check.
Of course, Zach shows up to rub salt into the boys’ wounds:
“We let it happen, we didn’t start anything – right, Sammy?”
“You couldn’t stop your brother, Dean. Like it or not, it’s apocalypse now.”
“He’s an angel, dems the rules!”
The dialog in this episode is superb, even when it’s breaking our hearts. This is the first time that the boys learn that Lucifer needs a meat-suit. Dean’s so strong and unfaltering, though. He’s not giving in to Zachariah and stares him down as he blasts him away from them with a blood sigil.
In a melancholy moment, Sam is proud of the hex bags that he made and shows them to Dean, but then he looks pitiful as he has to say that Ruby taught him how to make them. That’s so sad, but it does make Dean reach out a little, as he asks Sam if he’s still jonesing for demon blood. That’s not a very nice way of putting it, but at least he asked. Sam feels all cleaned up and just when he’s on the verge of acting not unhappy again, Dean won’t let him try to apologize, once more. Dean’s getting angry that Sam keeps bringing up things that he just doesn’t want to talk about, right now. It must hurt to be so angry with the brother that he loves. Dean’s feeling betrayed by recent events and he needs to keep a lid on his feelings, because he doesn’t know the ways that he might lash out. I can see Dean struggling to stay calm, and it’s not pretty.
What’s also not pretty is the story of Nick. Mark Pellegrino makes his first appearance on our show as a grieving survivor of a family tragedy. Nick isn’t doing very well after the home invasion that took the life of his wife and baby. Gruesome images of blood flowing from a crib and Nick’s bloody wife are haunting him. Lucifer needs a meat-suit and he tells Nick that he’s a very powerful vessel and since God doesn’t care that his family was murdered, Lucifer would give him justice and peace. Lucifer says that he doesn’t lie, but I don’t know how peaceful it would be as Lucifer’s vessel. Nevertheless, Nick says yes and we get a wonderful addition on Supernatural. Oh, the good times ahead!
It’s probably also time to talk about Becky Rosen as played by Emily Perkins. (Ha, Emily is vertically challenged, so Sam's face can't be in the same shot.) Did you know that Emily played Beverly Marsh in the TV adaptation of Stephen King's IT back in the day? Anyhow, Becky is a controversial character. She isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I didn't like what she was writing about, eww, but then maybe I just can relate to her in other ways. She’s dorky, unpopular, desperate to belong somewhere, and she always seems to wind up alone again, naturally. I just forgive her mistakes and admire her enthusiasm, I guess. The message that she brings to Sam and Dean is fun. She tells them that Michael’s sword is in a castle on a hill made of 42 dogs. Right.
That reminds me of Jumping Jack Flash where Whoopi Goldberg’s character has to give her clue to her contact:
“It’s stupid, I know – Dogs barking, can’t fly without umbrella.”
Or this from High Road to China:
“The Oxen are slow, but the Earth is patient.”
I enjoy sayings that seem profound, but really make little sense, don’t you? Also, I love it when Becky cannot keep her hand from touching Sam. I can definitely see why. Here is her ideal of the perfect man standing right in front of her. At least she provides some levity and Sam worship in the middle of all of the Sam sadness.
Sam: “Becky, uh, can you quit touching me?”
Becky: “No.” (Heavy sigh.)
It is pretty funny the way that “Carver Edlund” called her up on her computer and reminiscent of Galaxy Quest – she said exuberantly, “It’s all real, I knew it!” Becky’s not totally out of touch with reality, she’d just like the world to be like one of her favorite books. I can relate to that, as well.
Where was I in the story? Oh yes, now we get the saddest Sammy face of all time in the unhappy visit of Bobby to the boys' motel. Sam hugs him hard, but watch out, big guy. After some quiet moments of research, Sam and Bobby have their worst, most awful, pathetic, and traumatic scene that I can think of. Sam tells Bobby that everything is all his fault and instead of compassion, Sam gets blasted by Bobby’s anger as he tells Sam to lose his number. Sam’s eyes are filling with tears, as are mine, when he barely can talk back to Bobby and say that he’s going to go do some research somewhere else. Dean doesn’t say a word. I’m wondering if he’s agreeing with Bobby in some way. I’m sure he thinks that Sam was reckless and stupid, too. The poor kicked puppy walks out the door and I’m mad at both Bobby and Dean.
Now, before any assumptions are made, let me state this: I love Sam, Dean, and Bobby. In their fictional world (or is it?) they are subjected to great stresses and extraordinary situations. I get upset with any bone-headed action from any character that hurts another, but I also try to see all sides of their issues and forgive. I also don’t know how to stay mad at a fictional character when it’s the writer that I really should be upset with. Not that I’m putting down any writer…aw heck, you get the point. I’m also not assuming that any assumptions are being made because that would be presumptuous of me. Peace, love, and rock-n-roll. That’s my motto.
Man, I need to stop getting side-tracked. There’s redemption for Bobby as we find out that he’s been possessed by a demon in Meg's crew, so it wasn’t really him saying those terrible things to Sam. Bobby even stabs himself with the knife, rather than hurt Dean. Aww. Dean gets thrown around the room in spectacular fashion, as Sam comes back from his side researching trip (and a good long cry, I’d presume). Is it wrong of me to laugh as Sam gets hit in the face with a large yellow telephone? Poor guy! Hit by a plunger and a telephone all in one terrible, no-good day. Dean pulls the knife out of Bobby (Isn’t that wrong? I think you’re supposed to leave the object IN that is puncturing someone… or maybe that’s just for rounder objects - like tree branches), and stabs the attacking demon with it. Meg just smokes out, of course. Hey, hello (and goodbye) to Meg, too!
After poor Bobby finally makes it to the hospital, Sam and Dean go to John’s storage place that Dean figured out was the place where the clue led them. Castle Storage is at 42 Rover Hill, get it? We certainly do get it, as Zachariah and Friends also quickly arrive at the storage unit. I love this utterance of Dean’s:
“Oh, thank God, the Angels are here.”
Also mind-boggling is the realization that Dean is Michael’s Sword. Choirs of angels sing (in my imagination) and Dean looks dazed. He’s been chosen! Nope, says our Dean - he’s passing on a life as an angel condom. Zachariah isn’t in the mood for any more jokes, though. He points his gun finger at Dean but doesn’t stop there as he then points in Sam’s direction. There’s a bang, some crunching sounds, manly yelling, and Sam goes down with two broken legs. Ouchy momma, that would hurt! Dean’s getting angry, but Zack’s not done. He’s also getting angry that Dean won’t comply, so with just a look, Dean’s suddenly suffering from stage four stomach cancer. The fun’s not over yet, though. Zach (and me) wonder how Sam will do without any lungs. Am I a crummy person to be enjoying this so much? I’m scrutinizing Dean’s reactions to all this, and even pause the show many times to see if I can catch Dean looking at, or turning toward Sam, but there isn’t much of that here. Dean might be in emotional over-load right now, plus he’s pretty sick, but when Cas flashes in and fights Zach’s angel buddies it looks like Sam is lying on the floor gasping like a guppy while no one is paying much attention to him. I am, Sam! Anyway, as Sam is now lying motionless (sorry, hard to let that go), Cas tells Zachariah to put the boys back together again and make like a tree and leave. Cas is nice and strong, here. He intimidates Zack with the fact that he’s now alive and who knows who is on his side? Zachariah disappears and the boys are now fine (and alive, thankfully).
I love that whole scene and just have minor quibbles about the reactions of Dean to his brother just basically dying behind him. Dean’s not in the best mind-set, though. We do get to see Cas carve protective sigils on the boy’s ribs, with just a touch, and it’s good to get Cas back again, even though he leaves quickly without much explanation.
The last scene is another bummer of a scene. Dean’s done pretending that everything’s all right. He’s a tad too pessimistic, in my view, as he says that things will never be right and that their relationship can’t ever be what it once was. Sam is breaking my heart as he says that he’d give anything to take it all back. Dean knows Sam is sorry, but the trust is broken between them. Okay, why do I love this episode when there are so many wretched emotions to process? As soon as I scrape together the money to go see a psychologist, I’ll let you know. I’m now going to inform you about some of my favorite fictional family dramas. I left off television shows because that would be another three pages.
Random Great Family Dramas
Gone with the Wind (1936) by Margaret Mitchell – I loved the movie when I was young, but it wasn’t until much later that I actually read the book. I was amazed to find out that it’s even better than the movie. Did you know that Scarlett had more than one child? Or that in the middle section of the novel, when Scarlett returns to Tara, it features more drama with her sisters, their choices, struggles to feed themselves, and to survive? I didn’t either until I read this awesome novel.
Jubilee Trail (1950) by Gwen Bristow – My mother gave me this book to read when I was thirteen, or so. I’ve read it dozens of times since then. It tells the story of Garnet, who leaves her hometown of New York to travel to her new home in California with the husband that she barely knows. It’s the mid-19th Century and Mexico still owns much of the West. This story is a wonderful history lesson, pioneer travelogue (remind me to never cross the desert to California in a covered wagon), and a gut-wrenching, heart-breaking journey from girl to woman. I think that something fascinating happens on every page, I kid you not.
The Poisonwood Bible (1998) by Barbara Kingsolver – Why isn’t this a movie, already? It’s only one of the most engrossing novels that I’ve ever read. It’s told in the multiple voices of the Price Family, who are transplanted to the Belgium Congo in 1959. Each voice is unique to that family member and they are all fabulous. Mama Price gets a turn, but she’s probably the hardest one to figure out. She let her husband take her and her daughters to a very dangerous place, but she doesn’t seem to want to take the blame for much of what happens to her family. Every one of the four daughters of Missionary Nathan Price have a lot to say about their new home. Rachel hates it, Leah loves it, Adah tolerates it, and little Ruth May just wants to explore and experience everything. This novel makes me laugh out loud and cry buckets of tears. It’s outstanding.
Colony (2002) by Anne Rivers Siddons – This is the type of novel that I love. It starts at the beginning of a sweet courtship and then just goes on and on. I love the fact that we get to meet Maude when she’s a young, innocent woman and then we get to experience all the wonders that her life holds - all the way to her grandchildren’s start in life. The things that Maude must deal with: in her marriage, children, and community in her family’s summer retreat in Maine…it’s just an excellent story.
Every Last One (2010) by Anna Quindlen – Don’t read this one if you don’t like a good cry. The lovely world of the Latham Family is about to be shattered in unimaginable ways. It’s a sad story, but it’s also a tale of love and survival. It’s very well-written and thought-provoking.
A Map of the World (1994) by Jane Hamilton – Another amazing story of families dealing with a terrible tragedy. Is it worse to be the one to lose a child, or to be the one whose inattention lets your best friend’s child die? The heartbreaking thing about this situation is that Alice is the lucky one. Her children are fine, but how far will Alice go to prove (to herself, mostly) that she feels badly about her friend’s child? The agony of both mothers is palpable and so real…it’s just an amazing novel. Can they forgive each other and themselves, or is that not even possible?
A Simple Plan (1993) by Scott Smith – I’m not a big fan of the movie version, but I love this novel. A small-town, ordinary family find a large bag of cash. Leave it alone! - is what I want to scream at them when this utterly brilliant novel begins. I was completely immersed in this story, right from page one. The words on the page disappear as I fall through the hole in the paper to live this story with them. Their small, dusty town and small, ordinary lives are completely real. I don’t even know how to really describe how I feel when I read this twisty, spell-binding story. I want them to have a happy ending, so badly. I’m so afraid for them, with every miss-step they take. There aren’t many novels that paint such a complete mind-picture with every phrase, it’s just astonishingly good.
We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves (2013) by Karen Joy Fowler – A very long title for a very good book. A family deals with a lost sister, runaway brother, and broken family dreams. There is a wonderful twist in this book that was spoiled for me, but it’s really hard to write about this amazing story without giving the twist away. It’s still wonderful, regardless. This is another novel where the characters and the situations they face are real and engrossing.
Vorkosigan Saga (1986-2016) by Lois McMaster Bujold – Yes, you read that right, we are talking about thirty years of books and great storytelling. Don’t be daunted, though, just start with the first book – Shards of Honor. It starts an amazing space opera that has fast-paced action, real emotions, tragedy, romance, laughs, royal intrigue, and great assorted characters. Cordelia Naismith just wants to serve her planet and advance her career. She wasn’t looking to fall in love with a brooding hero from another planet, get involved with incomprehensible politics and assassinations, or raise a child with extraordinary powers of will and persuasion. Every book is marvelous and the story of the Vorkosigan Family is the most satisfying family drama, that’s also a space opera, that I’ve ever read.
The Blind Side (2009) – This film with Sandra Bullock is such a great story. I laugh, I cry, I want to adopt a giant child…it’s just got so much heart and Sandra is amazing in it.
Running on Empty (1988) – If you remember this one, then you get an extra cookie. Christine Lahti, Judd Hirsch, and River Phoenix star in this story of a family on the run from the sixties. I feel so badly for their oldest son, who only wants to have a normal life, but doesn’t want to have to leave his family behind, forever. The last scene just makes me sob and then I decimate a whole box of tissues.
The Impossible (2012) – Talk about sobbing, oh my. In this fiim, a family goes through so much as they celebrate Christmas in Thailand during the devastating tsunami in 2004. It’s really a miracle that even their small boys survived, but so many didn’t. “I’m at the beach.” Okay, I’m crying again.
Why is family drama so compelling? Is it easier to cry for someone else or find joy with other families than it is our own? I’ll have to ask my imaginary psychologist that question. I don’t think that anyone’s family is perfect, though I’ve seen some that seem that way. My family wasn’t perfect. I have an older sister that I haven’t seen or spoken to for twenty years or so due to her falling out with our parents. I also have an older brother that I haven’t seen for the last decade. My family isn’t into reunions, I guess. I have another older sister that I only speak to when I must be polite. She hurt me emotionally in ways that would take too long to explain, when I was a teenager. My other older brother (brain-damaged from a cracked skull when he was four) drove me crazy when we were kids and usually does that now. He’s great, but wants to tell me the same things over and over. It's just hard to stay patient with him. I’m pretty patient with my autistic daughter - she and I are simpatico, most times. I usually know what she wants with minimal gestures and utterances.
Who has the perfect family out there (anyone?) and what family dramas (besides Supernatural) do you love? I have this picture on a magnet on my fridge. The lady in the picture even looks like my mom when she was younger - red, curly hair and all. Not dissing my mom - she did the best she could with seven children and limited emotional stability.
Till next time
image courtesy of onsizzle.com