You know how a couple of reviews back I ranted about how I hate vampire stories in Supernatural? Well, “Bloodlust” is the exception. This is an artfully crafted episode from the most epic Supernatural writer, Sera Gamble. There are so many layers in this latest Winchester brothers' adventure, aka storytelling at it’s finest. It reminds me why I love this season so much.
Overall, “Bloodlust” is a continuation of the brotherly drama from the previous episode, but better. For me, the brotherly issues were more fleshed out in this hour. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t so distracted by such a choppy plot and multiple new random characters. Both brothers are still hurting and still trying to get back into the swing of things, but Dean is spiraling out of control and Sam has made his primary focus to save Dean from himself.
Back in Black
Before we dig into all that though, at least one Winchester has been healed. Welcome back Baby! To this day, I get chills and a huge smile on my face watching the rebuilt, all shiny and new Baby rolling down the road to “Back in Black,” essentially her theme song. Her owner smugly beaming with pride, not at all displeased that they have 300 more miles to their destination. It’s fangirl and fanboy candy and we are munching!
But yeah, was that opening going to lull us into a false sense of security, make us think that everything would be hunky dory with the brothers now? Yeah, we know what show we watch. Not quite.
This is one of the first episodes to dig into the whole “black vs. white” mentality when it comes to monsters. The question of what is truly “evil” was well explored in this story of vampires who weren’t killing people, but were hunted anyway just because of what they were. It rings true in these times of real life racism and bigotry. The real monster ended up being the intolerant hunter, not the vampires, which went against everything Dean had been taught his entire life. In these confusing times for him emotionally, trying to navigate such murky moral waters became that more complicated for him.
This episode is well remembered for the introduction of one of the series' more iconic guest characters, Gordon Walker. Supernatural was graced with a brilliant actor in Sterling K. Brown, and it’s kind of obvious considering the huge success this guy has had since. He’s a star of a big TV show (“This is Us”), and an Emmy and Golden Globe winner. Good thing Supernatural saw early what this guy had to offer, right?
But yeah, Gordon Walker was bad news. He was ruthless and focused in that ruthlessness. Fangs were bad, and they had to die just because of what they were. He even killed his own sister who was turned into a vampire. He was a good hunter, but he was not a “good” hunter.
Ellen: Yeah, and Hannibal Lecter's a good psychiatrist. Look, he is dangerous to everyone and everything around him. If he's working on a job, you boys just let him handle it and you move on.
What’s remarkable was with so many things happening in this episode, all the rich themes and events blended together perfectly. We got sympathetic monsters with Eli and Lenore, ones we actually feel sorry for in the end. We got some fun Sam and Dean antics, like interviewing the Sheriff about cattle mutilations as reporters for “Weekly World News.” We got a real scary ass hunter that proves to be a very big foe later.
Pop Psychology of Two Grieving Brothers in Not Enough Space
The episode title is another one of those clever double meanings. Who really has the bloodlust, the hunter or the monster? Dean is a freaking mess. He just didn’t want to kill the vampires, he wanted to brutally slay them, and he got his wish thanks to a chance encounter with a fang and an available chainsaw. This episode delivered a very deep, realistic portrayal of Dean and how consumed with grief he is. Fear and pain drive his acts of violence and in those situations he lacks control.
Dean was so out of control with rage he even punched Sam when Sam tried to talk some sense into him. He eventually listened, and essentially thanked Sam for pulling him back at the end, but that gorgeous ending shot of him standing over Baby was definitely not an “all is well” message. More pain is coming.
Sam isn’t right either. He deals with his pain by withdrawing and burying himself in his work. He wasn’t in a very social mood, but then again his moral compass doesn’t let him celebrate monster kills with sociopaths. Not yet anyway. He’s internalizing his feelings, which is typical Sam, but his grief gets overshadowed plenty when Dean is acting out.
Dean isn’t talking to Sam yet. That point was made clear when Dean opened up to Gordon about how he wasn’t coping. It makes sense to me that Dean would open up to a perfect stranger rather than Sam. He really needed to get all that off his chest and felt a stranger would relate as opposed to Sam, but it was a pretty sad illustration of how much Dean is tailspinning and doesn’t know how to deal with it.
Dean: He was just one of those guys. Took some terrible beatings, just kept coming. So you're always thinking to yourself, he's indestructible. He'll always be around, nothing can kill my dad. Then just like that he's gone. I can't talk about this to Sammy. You know, I gotta keep my game face on. But, uh, the truth is I'm not handling it very well. Feel like I have this -
Gordon: Hole inside you? And it just gets bigger and bigger and darker and darker? Good. You can use it. Keeps you hungry. Trust me. There's plenty out there needs killing, and this'll help you do it. Dean, it's not a crime to need your job.
The difference between Dean and Gordon though is Dean has Sam as his moral guide, preventing him from drawing and acting on those sharp lines between good and evil.
Dean: What part of 'vampires' don't you understand, Sam? If it's supernatural, we kill it, end of story. That's our job.
Sam: No, Dean, that is not our job. Our job is hunting evil. And if these things aren't killing people, they're not evil!
Dean: Of course they're killing people, that's what they do. They're all the same, Sam. They're not human, okay? We have to exterminate every last one of them.
Sam: No, Dean, I don't think so, all right? Not this time.
No, the brothers aren’t in the sharing their true feelings stage yet. They’re both trying to work their way through this case without losing their minds. Lucky for Dean, Sam got to play his conscience when he was flying off the rails this time. He saved his brother from corrupting his soul, for now anyway. As it’s been shown multiple times before in the show, Sam and Dean keep each other human.
Fun Behind the Scenes Fact
This is the episode when Jared broke his wrist. It was the fight scene in the motel room. He didn’t know it was broken until filming had already started for the next episode, “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.” He had to wear a soft cast and remove it during shooting, and couldn't get the hard cast until they wrote in his injury at the end of the episode. He was in a cast from 2.05 (“Simon Said”) to 2.11 (“Playthings).
This was Ty Olsson’s first episode for Supernatural, playing the vampire Eli. He would later have a recurring role as Benny the vampire in season eight. I guess he does vampires pretty well. He was strong in this one even though the role was small.
I was sad that they brought back Lenore, who was awesomely played by Amber Benson in this episode, in season six just to kill her. The latter seasons had a nasty habit of doing that to early series fan favorites. At least death by angel was not the worst way to go.
Overall grade, A. I adore that this episode embraced a shocking “show, don’t tell” aspect of Dean’s behavior. It really delivered the right message that he is not in a good place right now. That was always one of Sera Gamble’s strengths in her scripts (Ben Edlund being the other writer gifted at show, don’t tell). A true Sera Gamble achievement under the strong storytelling direction of Robert Singer.
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