The Morning After
Well, that didn’t take long! After voicing my hesitations about Carlos’ over–the-top hippie vibe seen in The Winchesters previews, he showed us a more sensitive side in the series’ “Pilot”, giving me hope that there was depth beneath his bell bottom, beaded jewelry façade. This week, Carlos totally stole the show. If John was the big hit of The Winchesters “Pilot” (which was fans' and my consensus), Carlos was the star of “Teach Your Children Well“. Not only were his one-liner comments priceless, but Jojo Fleites delivered them with a flare that perfectly entwined sincerity, authenticity and humor.
To Lata: You are deeply weird and starting to concern me.
A commune you say? [with a delicious anticipation that totally sold the line!]
You mean literally the only metal I don't have in my van… I pride myself on carrying quality weaponry, not cheap garbage made out of... pennies.
Ha! Years later (1982), pennies had to be reconstituted out of zinc because it got too expensive to make them out of copper! Superb callback to the 70s!
Okay, so how do we kill her? A one-two punch of some DDT and a pair of garden shears?
DDT wasn’t outlawed until 1972, and it was still a common reference for a gardening cure-all.
Carlos’ purple and white fringe outfit was a masterpiece! I would SO have worn that, and felt like the height of fashion!
Ada was the second big character presence in this episode. I loved her sensitivity to Millie. As another connection to Henry, I hope Millie and Ada develop a friendship that brings comfort and understanding about Henry to Millie, and insight on his father to John. Ada’s skills (ala Bobby Singer) while staying behind to dig into the Men of Letters clubhouse was a tantalizing tangent that kept alive John’s/Henry’s story and the MoL’s role in vanquishing the Akrida while the gang chased down Mary/Samuel’s hunt for the monsters’ portal location.
Ada’s exploration of the bunker’s - sorry, clubhouse’s - secret rooms and her vision quest was chilling. I was literally on the edge of my seat in fear, anticipating a monster grab. It gave her a respectable role in the gang, and a substantive part in the story. With its fabulous lighting and superb directing by John Showalter, it was the second best scene in the episode (we’ll talk about the absolute best scene later)!
Finding Dad, aka “Dad’s on a hunting trip and hasn’t been seen…”
Young adults being yanked all over the country, by a father who leaves them surreptitious messages about hunts he wants them to pursue, perfectly parallels the opening episodes of Supernatural. Like older John did to Sam and Dean, Mary’s dad is dictating the path of the kids’ quest.
John: So what about those shells?
Mary: My dad always covers his tracks. There's no way he would leave these behind if he wasn't trying to send me a message. It's a news story. A father said his kid Barry Smith went missing in Topeka, Kansas due to mysterious circumstances. My dad must be there, and he wants us to meet him.
Sam and Dean’s first stop on their trek to find their dad was a place where they knew he had been investigating disappearances. Not finding John there, they vanquished the ghost of the woman in white and moved on to coordinates he left them in his journal. There they cleaned up unfinished business with a wendigo, but again, they didn’t find their dad. Hunt after hunt, they continued “saving people, hunting things” – racking up “wins” as Mary, and before (after?) her, Dean said – while looking for their father.
Maybe it’s a veteran hunter’s instinct, or maybe it’s a strategy handed down through the generations, but older John and Samuel both employed the tactic of leading their hunter progeny to cases via a trail of bread crumbs. Both dads left enough clues at the scenes of their hunts for their kids to follow them, but not enough to reveal the overarching evil they were chasing. Adult John left his son and hunting partner behind to pursue the yellow-eyed demon. Samuel left his hunting family behind to pursue the Akrida. Both fathers wanted to protect their family from a monster they sensed was so overwhelming, so overarching in its long term plan to eliminate humanity, they had to face it alone. Samuel and older John believed enough in their kids to have them continue the family business of killing monsters that threatened an isolated, small number of victims, but either they couldn’t bear the risk or didn’t feel their children were ready to face a monstrous evil that posed a threat that spanned generations and could wipe out all of humanity.
Carlos: Come on, Mary. Your dad came here for the same reason that we did... To find the Men of Letters files and talk about our good friend, the Akrida. Remember them and their little plan to take over our world?
Mary: Yeah and whatever he found must've made him think that this is connected to them.
Carlos: Or he just wants us off his tail.
Mary: He needs help, and we're going to Topeka to find him.
So Mary’s story is familiar to us. Blind obedience. I’m betting we could find quotes when Dean was equally, fiercely, driven by a combined fear of losing and letting down his father.
Carlos: So you're just making decisions for everyone now.
Mary: I'm following in my father's footsteps.
Carlos: Which means you don't listen like he never listened.
Mary: I'm doing whatever it takes to find him, so who's with me?
But John’s story is familiar to us, too.
My dad left me that letter because he wanted me to follow in his footsteps, but I don't know how.
Unlike Mary, young John did not learn his family’s business of protecting the world from monsters. A letter, an address, a key, a bunker of paranormal objects, a woman familiar with the occult, and his mom’s warnings are all clues on John’s journey to learn about his dad and his Men of Letters legacy. Unlike Mary, though, John never knew his family’s secret. That has led him to some deeply rooted insecurities.
Shedding the Past… but aren’t they too old for Teen Angst?
In the series pilot, John was repeatedly told to “leave the past behind.” He rejected this advice, deciding that his future was dictated by discovering his father’s past. John felt inexplicably defined by the father he barely knew.
Commune leader: Breaking free from tyranny. Everyone that's controlling you. Shedding your past like a skin. Especially the people who hurt you. For me, it was Sister Bernadette at St. Nicholas' orphanage. But for most people, it's their parents.
Really? First of all, the trope of nuns being mean is tiresome. Well, yes, okay, some were tyrannical in the 60s and 70s but singling out an orphanage caregiver was just too stereotypically trite for me. By association, the monster’s believability was similarly tainted then, at least at first. I was better able to separate the parenting overreach metaphor from the monster’s sprawling branches after a while.
Then John’s rebellion against his mother didn’t ring true for a son who had just returned home after 2 years.
John: We make quite the pair, huh? You can't find one of your parents. I can't seem to get my mom off my back.
Mary: Wow. What she said really got under your skin, huh?
John: What got under my skin is... I wonder if she's right. What if I'm not cut out to be hunter?
Mary: John, I already told you. You just need time.
John: Right. It's my life, not hers.
However, I imagine after facing the horrors of war on your own, thousands of miles away from the comforts of family, one would understandably reject mothering. Millie took away John’s bottle of beer last week, saying he was still her underage kid with daddy issues. My only frame of reference to John’s situation is returning home from college. After handling the pressures of school, housing, and functioning as an adult on my own for 4 years, house rules seemed completely inappropriate and archaic. Considering that, both Millie and John should realistically have transitional conflict. Maybe I assumed they had a deeper bond after their “Americana” themed talk last week.
Mary’s has almost the exact opposite problem as John. After living under the strict oversight of her father both at home and at “work”, Mary is striking out on her own for the first time. Her response of mimicking her father and barking orders was really annoying, though, and I wasn’t the one receiving the drill sergeant routine!
Carlos: It's about you and everyone. You can't keep treating people like your dad, the front man who ignores the rest of the band. You need to listen.
Mary: Well, I don't have time for that, especially when there's a monster out there putting people in danger.
Carlos: Your dad never listened to you, right? And how did that make you feel? You keep Samuel up on this pedestal, but it's time to take him down, Mare. Take a page from what everyone in this commune is talking about and embrace the kind of leader you can be without him.
We were warned that parent/child independence would be the moral of the story by Dean’s narration:
Dean: The ties that bind a family together can be complicated. Parents raise you, teach you what's right and wrong, and in some instances, how to kill monsters. But no matter who you are, there comes a time when you have to break from them and make your own way. And if you're not careful, things can get pretty ugly.
As with Supernatural, the monster hunt echoed the lessons the hunters needed to learn. In this case, children breaking out from the shadows of their parents.
Latika: Her name is La Tunda. According to lore, she was a real woman once. A controlling and abusive mother who kept her children trapped in her home deep in the woods, until one day they tried to escape by hobbling her. She caught them and she punished them for their disobedience by... chopping them up and using their remains to feed her flower garden. The children's remains imbued La Tunda's flowers with dark magic and an insatiable thirst for blood, so they transformed La Tunda into a monster to keep them fed. Now, she preys on other disobedient children like her own and listens for them in the woods.
Carlos: Barry said he told his girlfriend that he was gonna stand up to his dad before he was taken and Clyde did the same thing with Sister Bernadette.
Mary: And so did John.
Whether righteous disobedience or healthy, age-appropriate rebellion, the message of shedding the tyranny of authority figures was a bit heavy. It was a harsh contrast to the John and Mary we met last week, two young adults who loved their families so much, they were willing to drop everything to save them and/or be like them.
Getting to Know John and Mary
Ada: Look, Henry and I just work together. He had his secrets, he made his mistakes. But John... John is open in a way that Henry just never was. And I suspect that part of him comes from you.
After the pilot’s touching introduction to John as an open, caring individual with battle scars and abandonment issues, I struggled to reconcile the character exposition we were given this week. His conversation with the visage of his mother revealed his doubts about himself and his father’s faith in him, but John’s self-realization backtracked a bit, attempting to once again present him as a sensitive young man…
La Tunda: You're still just the helpless little boy whose father left because he didn't believe in you.
John: I just need to believe in myself.
… and loving son.
I thought that I was angry at you for not believing in me, but I wasn't. Okay, I was... I was angry at Dad, and I did what I always do, which is... I took out on you what I can't take out on him. I'm sorry.
Mary also realized that her dictatorial ways were based in fear, and weren’t working out well for the group. Like John, she also apologized for her behavior.
This is all my fault. I should've just listened to both of you. I just... I just really thought my dad was gonna be out here and when I realized he wasn't, I just wanted to close the case and move on. I'm sorry.
Honestly, John and Mary’s family and friends were being quite gracious to accept their apologies. Getting to know themselves and the fears that were driving them was a reasonable explanation, but I would have liked to have seen more emotion rather than having been told about their emotions. The lessons to be learned were obvious and the resulting revelations a bit too stoic. It felt like I was listening to a fairy tale of the wicked witch in the woods and the disobedient children who learned their lesson, rather than feeling for 20 year olds who lost their parents and were trying to find their way in a very complex, dangerous situation.
Still, the CSNY beat was an apropos punctuation mark on the moral of the story.
( Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Teach Your Children" ) ♪ ♪ ♪ You, who are on the road ♪ ♪ Must have a code ♪ ♪ That you can live by ♪ ♪ And so ♪ ♪ Become yourself ♪ ♪ Because the past ♪ ♪ Is just a good bye ♪ ♪ Teach your children well ♪ ♪ Your father's hell ♪ ♪ Did slowly go by ♪ ♪ And feed ♪ ♪ Them on your dreams ♪ ♪ The one they fix ♪ ♪ The one you'll know by ♪ ♪ Don't you ever ask them why ♪ ♪ If they told you, you would cry ♪ ♪ So just look at them and sigh ♪ ♪ And know they love you ♪
I can be patient, as these actors have only known these characters for 2 weeks! They, like we, need time to discover their nuances.
The 70’s, the Age of Aquarius, and Peace Out, Man
I love, love, love “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”! I played the song on repeat on my 45s, and just like Carlos, danced around my bedroom channeling the free spirit it praises! It is one of the theme songs for everything that was happy and hopeful about the flower power movement. Hearing it again brought back a flood of emotional memories that I hadn’t felt in years. One can never get enough of that song, so…
If the best of rock music was Dean’s and Supernatural’s touchstone, I’m loving the groove The Winchesters is finding with Woodstock’s music. John Showalter’s brilliant direction of this sequence tapped into the mood that involuntarily erupts whenever this song is played – peace, happiness, hope and love. The smiles all around was a nice juxtaposition for Mary and John’s intensity.
Carlos: So far all I see is a lot of peace, love, and happiness.
Mary: Okay, tripping the light fantastic is gonna have to wait.
I’m with Carlos on something else as well – Cabaret! Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey! Another favorite soundtrack of mine!
Tell them the story in a way they don’t expect
John: So Clyde's a shapeshifter. Any tips on how to hunt something that can look like anything?
Mary: My dad always taught me this trick. You have to look for their tell. No shapeshifter is perfect, so you have to look for any slip ups in behavior. And if that doesn't work, the part where they're trying to kill you is usually a dead giveaway, so...
What is she talking about?? You tell a shapeshifter by their eyes! They reflect on cameras, videos, computers, etc! How could they get that detail wrong? They said they’re checking canon!
Except…it took me until this morning to realize that they couldn’t use cameras in a hunt in the 70’s because rolls of film had to be completely used up, then developed in a lab, then picked up or mailed back to you a week later. By the time you saw an eye flare from the flash bulb, you’d be dead and the shapeshifter would be long gone.
And Zombies? “Head shots! You kill them with head shots!” I screamed at the kids. Why were they engaging in hand to hand combat with the undead? Except… they did kill them via head wounds, only the kids used knives and pipes instead of shot guns – all with fatal blows to the head.
Unlike John who is learning the hunting business from scratch, we as fans have to unlearn what Sam and Dean taught us about hunting in the 21st century. I wholeheartedly support this show, yet even I am jumping to conclusions and assuming that they’re getting things wrong. It goes back to the article I wrote when the trailer was released, “A New Story Begins (If We Let It)”! We have such ingrained memorization of Supernatural’s canon, our instinct is to call foul on anything that isn’t exactly the same as what we know to be true, except it can’t be the same. Hunting wasn’t the same for Samuel Campbell as is was for Sam and Dean. We have to relearn, or remember, what the world was like 30 years before Sam and Dean started driving down the road in their Impala. Hunters didn’t have the same tools. MoL didn’t have the same knowledge. There was very little technology to help either group hunt their prey. We have to allow this story to enter our minds, without slamming the door on its divergence from our expectations.
Why is the MoL box suddenly not working? Is it a once and done device, like the hand of god power?
Who is the black cloaked figure who is extracting black magic from the La Tunda’s flowers? What are those creepy shadow crawlers who are following her?
Is Betty important?
Will the Jasmine end up protecting Millie?
Any others I missed, maybe some from last week?
The Last Word
John in the passenger seat, in deep thought about his insecurities, about not being good enough to get the job done, then that little smirk when Mary made him laugh. John’s stammering when he compassionately approached the victim’s father. That was our Sam again.
Mary solving her problems by getting on the road to chase clues, ignoring objections that might slow down her hunt. “Hey, Poison Oak!” Sooo Dean!
I’m being magnetically pulled into this story. The direction, lighting and music in this episode were superb.
Carlos, Ada and Latika’s compelling personalities and skills added immensely to this episode. Unlike last week, it was John, Mary and Millie that stumbled a bit in this hunt for me. As they struggled to understand family relationships and individual identities that confused them, I as well was confused, trying to reconcile my first impressions with their developing personalities. Then I realized that the aspects of the story that at first I thought were mistakes are what now intrigue me the most. “Teach Your Children Well” proved to me how different from the original this version of Supernatural is going to be. Instead of competing with the 15 years of canon we cling too, it’s going to expand our knowledge, teaching us more about hunting, more about the MoL, and more about the Campbells and Winchesters. I never looked back on the hippie movement with nostalgia, but these snippets of the past have rekindled emotions of joy and pacifism that I had been taught by society to reject. That, too, is expanding my world. So yes, I want to see more please. Peace.
What did you think of this episode? Please share your thoughts below!
Keep up with Reviews, Photo Galleries and News on The WFB's The Winchesters Page!
Read more of Nightsky's "Threads" reviews, analysis, interviews and light-hearted fun on The Winchesters, Walker and Supernatural, all on Nightsky's Writer's Page!
Transcript courtesy of TV Show Transcripts
Screencaps courtesy of The CW