As a Supernatural fan, the past two seasons haven’t been very kind. Speaking only for myself, my patience has been through a grueling test. Come the end of the seventh season, it had just about run out. I know that long running shows evolve, they aren’t going to be the same, but for some reason I haven’t been as entertained. Season six was a giant reboot. It seems like season eight is going through its own reboot. At some point, a fan just has to look at an episode and see if there’s any entertainment value left. In season seven, there was very little entertainment value. It was mostly just pain, seeing characters I’ve grown and loved all this time just become caricatures of themselves. Season eight so far has given us very little to ease that frustration, even if the tone of the episodes have been better.
However, when sitting down for “Bitten” last night, I knew watching it would require a HUGE perspective adjustment. I didn’t go into this thinking I was a Supernatural episode. I was thinking “Ghostfacers.” We were seeing the other side. I loved "Ghostfacers" but I still went into this one with extremely low expectations. When I let that perception take over and judged the episode solely on its merits, what resulted was something quite extraordinary. It was a great hour of television.
The story is really heartbreaking, and probably all too common in these monster stories that we never get to see. These are young kids with dreams, just getting started with their lives. I was able to easily sympathize and relate. It’s amazing how one variable, someone in a gang of friends turns into a monster, can unravel a circle so quickly. The one weak link, Brian’s infatuation with his best friend’s girl, his failure to understand their love and his own identity, led to a very tragic string of events. Plus it happened so quickly. Isn’t it amazing how fast life events can turn? It’s a very common theme in movies and TV, but put it into this realm, it really plays out differently, doesn’t it?
Just like with “Girl With The Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo,” Thompson was given the latitude to build other characters and work them into the fold of this “Supernatural” universe. They fit, and the execution couldn’t have been handled better. Show the victim’s POV, starting off with their normal lives and build slowly to the grizzly results. It’s the other side of the Sam and Dean story, and seeing Sam and Dean do the FBI thing from an outsider’s eyes was fascinating. It’s a wonder this hasn’t happened yet in eight seasons. Michael, Brian, and Kate figured out pretty quickly that these weren’t Feds. Dean does say “awesome” a lot, doesn’t he? The office romance line too cracked me up. These kids got it and they are only watching these guys for the first time.
“Bitten” was not only a storytelling masterpiece, but a technical one as well. Directing anything with handheld cameras for a network television show is not as easy as it looks. There’s a scripted story there that has to look random. Thomas J. Wright captured so much heart, drama, and action yet made it look like it was done by two kids with cameras.
The ending scene though killed me. Sam and Dean deciding to let Kate go, showing her walking away to start her new life, all to the very haunting song of “What’s the Matter?” by Milo Greene (@akeim gets huge credit for letting me know the song title), it all capped off this sad tale perfectly. She has another chance, despite everything. She won’t be hunted for who she is. At least not now.
I could go into a lot of details, but let’s put it this way, I was engrossed. The story captivated me up to the very end. I’m not one to do comparisons to films like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, or Paranormal Activity, because I haven’t seen any of those films. I’m left to judge the episode at face value. At the end, I was as touched by what happened, just like Sam and Dean. Kate did deserve a chance. She hadn’t killed yet. She had a plan. I think this blends in perfectly into Benny’s story next week.
But What About…
I’ve read the complaints about the episode. It’s okay, I know these episodes aren’t for everyone. I remember how “Ghostfacers” was polarizing. One phrase I constantly read a lot every week now is, “I’ve lost faith in the writers.” For me, most of these writers never had my faith, and have failed miserably to earn my graces so far. While early last year I was giving benefit of the doubt, by now I see a particular writer’s name and silently go “Oh man, this is going to suck.” I won’t name names, but take Ben Edlund and Jeremy Carver off the list you’re left with everyone else.
One writer did stand out among the bunch last year, and now Robbie Thompson has been elevated up to the Ben Edlund rung for me. Amazingly, he really hasn’t had a strong character development test. All of his episodes have been more action oriented, telling different kinds of stories. Still, if he’s proven one thing, he’s the best when it comes to episode pacing. I have never been bored by one of his hours. He knows his storytelling and how to unfold something amazing. “Bitten” was no exception.
When telling such a tragic story, wouldn’t it be better to see it from another set of people? Last year, Supernatural’s answer to great television was killing off Bobby Singer, a character whose death makes me extremely bitter to this day. He was killed off just so they could do a great episode. That ended up playing very badly when they chose to bring him back later as a ghost, just extending our pain. I can’t think of a character I miss more this season. I think “Bitten” is really great television too, and I’m not walking away from it with massive scars. I’m just thoroughly entertained. I’m proud that the show yet again went for something different and pulled it off perfectly.
As a fan, I want to enjoy my show again. I need weeks like this to let go of all the baggage from this show and take something for what it is. It’s refreshing. It’s fun. It’s something I don’t want every week. The fact remains though, one reason Supernatural has survived this long is because it’s never been afraid to take risks. They’re not going to stop now because fans want to spend hours speculating why Sam is being written this way or why Dean is being written this way and why can’t this happen or why can’t that happen. I’m just as guilty as anyone for raising questions about the show, and sometimes digging into those kind of details hurts perspective. It prevents one from enjoying rare gems like this. I’m glad I decided to enjoy this episode instead of pouring through it for continuity and character development issues. Either you liked it or you didn’t. I don’t have to get deep on this one.
Sure, I question why they did this in episode four, when we’re dying for more answers about Sam, Dean, and even Castiel, but again that’s a perspective shift. Leaving all those questions behind and judging this as a pure standalone makes it work. “Bitten” may have been better received by fans if they had chosen to do it later in the season, but that goes back to judging what we’re given. As long as I don’t try and tie this episode into any type of continuity or mytharc, it’s a great one.
My overall Grade for “Bitten” is an A, the first one of the season for me. Thank you Mr. Thompson. Now it’s Ben Edlund’s turn. Come next week, we can all go back to status quo, and hopefully come out of it satisfied. At least seeing the name “Edlund” tells me it’s not going to suck.
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