The Morning After
Welcome back to Supernatural Threads! After a three week mid-season hiatus, Sam and Dean are once again Saving People and Hunting Things. In this week’s hunt, they were joined by two amateurs, or to be more generous, hunters in training, Mick and Claire.
Curiously, in the Producer’s Preview video, Andrew Dabb called Claire a “fan favorite”. That surprised me in that I see a very mixed reaction to Claire from fans. Part of the fandom seems to really like her while another, very vocal faction really can’t stand her. They see her as whiny, reckless and disrespectfully sassy. Frankly, those are fairly accurate assessments of her behavior yet I’m in the group that likes her. Mind you, I don’t envy Jody’s job of trying to reign in or channel Claire’s willfulness, but having been raised in multiple homes, the foster system and on the streets, I don’t think her lone wolf (apropos pun) defenses are unreasonable. I see the underlying good in Claire and think her strength and confidence is a refreshing change from the clueless, hapless female victims and associated family members that Sam and Dean usually swoop in and save.
“Ladies Drink Free” also continued season 12’s pattern of studying and developing supporting characters. Claire came to further understand the extended family support structure present in her life and Mick ventured outside the isolation of his “ivory tower”. He felt the guilt of looking into a young girl’s eyes as she died at his hand, heard the wails of her grieving mother, then faced the terror of being in the same room with a turning werewolf. His and Claire’s personal journeys during this hunt were both extremely emotional. Their emotion was, I believe, the point.
Soullessness and Saving People, Hunting Things
Fear was the most obvious emotion that was studied in this hunt. Both Mick and Claire had to face their fears, a struggle that was foreshadowed by Hayden’s feigned or real fear in the woods. Mick was the first to give voice to the theme:
Mick: It usually takes more than a fright to put your average werewolf off his supper.
Later in the hospital, he referred to a reaction to fear:
Hayden: Where’s my mom?
Mick: Your mom’s just outside. Just gonna take a quick look to make sure you’re OK. Brave girl.
Although trembling and clearly terrorized by the threat of three separate werewolf attacks, Mick still pushed through his fear and managed to function. In contrast, when faced with the possibility of having to “control herself” for a few days a month when a full moon would drive her to a blood lust, Claire was too afraid to try. Rather than recognizing the strength she had called upon to survive alone against formidable human and supernatural challenges for most of her life, she chose to crumble, fearing that her teenage impulses would overpower her reason. Reminiscent of Madison’s decision in season 2’s “Heart” so many years ago, Claire chose to die rather than risk hurting anyone she cared for.
Claire: Maybe some people can control this, but I can barely keep it together on a good day. So if there’s any chance I could hurt Jody or Alex or anyone, I’d rather die.
Granted, choosing a selfless death takes courage, and perhaps her decision was meant to repeat how many people have been willing to sacrifice their lives for others, but choosing to fight through a difficult obstacle also takes courage. I believe her offer of sacrifice was intended to be brave but it didn’t strike me that way. I was profoundly disappointed that our young, female hunter was portrayed as a quitter instead of a fighter and the British “soulless” bureaucrat a coward when he was dealing with a massive war of conscience and personal peril that he had never before experienced. Perhaps that was meant to highlight the courage Sam and Dean (and Castiel) have had to find to overcome both their immense, terrorizing personal demons and their overwhelming foes but I prefer their strong characters be surrounded by other strong, deserving characters.
Compassion was also an emotion that separated the BMoL from our heroes in this episode.
Dean: What did you do to her?
Mick: I did what needed to be done. Last night, I injected her with silver nitrate…. I had orders.
Dean: You had a choice.
Mick: Did I? Killing monsters is what we do or maybe palling around with demons and witches, you’ve forgotten.
Dean: Don’t tell me how to do my job!... We gave her a second chance, because it was the right thing to do.
Mick: Well that’s your luxury. We have a code.
Mick’s confrontation with Dean emphasized the dispassionate rules under which the BMoL function. Learning that Mick had killed the young girl in the hospital was enough of a violation of Sam and Dean’s principles to prompt Sam to rethink this alliance with the BMoL:
Sam: You killed a kid. We’re not angry. We’re done!
In the Threads Analysis of “Regarding Dean”, I formally recognized soullessness as a repeated theme in several season 12 stores (“Asa Fox”, “Lily Sunder” and “Regarding Dean” to name a few). At the time, I speculated that a soul was ominously being hinted as the price someone would have to pay for redemption or saving lives. Given the strong emotional content of “Ladies Drink Free”, especially the emotional conflict Mick experienced trying to reconcile his dispassionate kill-all-monsters training with the compassion the brothers have learned to extend to some situations, I now propose that soullessness is not so much foreshadowing a literal condition of a person but rather is a commentary on the BMoL’s approach to hunting. They believe that freed of emotional conflict, their approach is more effective. Indeed, Sam once admitted that his soulless self was a more efficient, effective hunter than his flawed human self. It seems this android vs human, merciless vs merciful, black and white vs grey dilemma is being revisited.
Dean: Here’s a little tip. Things aren’t just black and white out here.
After Ketch murdered Magda, the psychic, abused girl, we all knew this philosophical divide between the BMoL and Sam, Dean and Castiel would climax in both Mick and Mr. Ketch being convinced of the Winchester Way or risk the BMoL becoming an enemy that had to be stopped. From the previews, it appears that climax is going to happen next week.
The very first words of the episode referred to this thread:
Hayden: You’re calling me a liar? Seriously?
Brother Ben: Yeah. Seriously. You’re so busted.
Hayden was targeted partially because of sneaking around and keeping secrets:
Claire: The girl Hayden – her story about what happened the night of the attack? One big lie.
Later in the hospital, her mom reminded us of truth versus lies:
Mom: I’m just glad the FBI is here. Not those crazies (a reference to the Insanity thread).
Mom: Big Foot Truthers. Calling. Sending emails…. Like I said, crazy.
So in this case, lies killed Hayden and almost killed Claire. Claire lied to her “mom”, telling Jody she was visiting colleges instead of being on a dangerous hunt. Sam confronting Claire on her lies was what pushed her to walk away on her own, eventually leading to her being attacked.
Sam: Why are you lying to her? You need to tell her the truth.
So both girls became victims not only because their own lies put them in danger but also because of someone catching them in the lie. How do you think that will play out in the bigger story? Who will be pushed away and start to act recklessly on their own because others find out their secrets? Mick and Ketch are both being secretive and the BMoL organization is built on secrecy. Could they be cut off from its help, or could they together with Mary, Sam, Dean and Cas be isolated when the BMoL secret is revealed? What are your theories?
Certainly it made Jody’s life happier and easier not knowing the truth but Sam knew that one needs to own their decisions and be honest with those you love. In the end, Claire “came clean” (to quote a sub-thread proposed by xoferew in the “Heaven and Hell” Threads comments) to her mom. While initially painful for all involved, it now opens the possibility of help and support when needed.
Mick also tried to make his life easier by keeping Hayden’s execution secret. He was afraid of Sam and Dean’s reactions, even though in the end the kill was in self-defense. If he had been honest from the beginning about finding the bite on the girl’s arm, though, they may have insisted on trying the plasma cure earlier and the girl would have had that slim chance of being saved. Now knowing the strength of their convictions to saving people, Mick is still harboring the secret of Ketch killing Magda and the black ops agents and soldiers.
Mick did let the brothers in on a BMoL’s “secret” magic school, though.
Mick: The Kendrix School. It’s where the BMoLs train their operatives. It’s like our…
Mick: Exactly. Kendrix has the largest collection of occult lore in the world.
That school just deepens the mystery surrounding the BMoLs. It also centralizes occult lore in one place, for its possible destruction if indeed there is a “big bad” running the BMoL. I still believe that this emphasis on secrets is foreshadowing a monumental secret behind the BMoL organization. Do you perceive additional, more immediate meanings or interpretations in this thread?
Another pattern within season 12 has been the introduction of new hunter, angel, demon and now monster canon. Conveniently, the BMoL studied a possible cure for Lycanthropy. With Madison, the boys tested the rumor recorded in John’s journal that killing the sire freed their offspring of the curse. That obviously didn’t work. The Campbells found a cure for turning into a vampire, which worked nicely to save Dean, but this is the first time a cure for Lycanthropy has been confirmed. The odds are slim but at least it worked in this once case to save Claire. While the cure is another weapon in Sam and Dean’s arsenal to save people, even those who are monsters, the point of this save I believe was more about weakening the BMoL’s argument that all monsters should be dealt with unilaterally, without taking the time to pursue other options - educate, mitigate or isolate.
Grief, Mothers and their Children
Even though both Mary and Rowena were entirely absent from this episode (not even a peripheral mention), the thread of mothers’ emotional ties to their children was kept active through Jody’s relationship with Claire, plus the grieving mother in the hospital.
Sam to Mick: Wait. Let us. Talking to a grieving family is harder than you think.
That poor woman lost her son suddenly and violently and while grieving him, also lost her daughter. Her gut-wrenching scream upon finding her dead daughter sent shivers through me. It’s worth noting that, just as with the MacLeods and the Winchesters, the father is absent from this family unit. The mother is left alone to navigate relationships with her children and to bear the pain of grief alone.
Ben: Stop hounding mom about buying us a car, right? She’s doing the best she can.
The implication was that “mom” was a single parent, struggling with finances and rebellious children, “doing the best she can”. I have to wonder if sympathy for this mom is meant to spill over to Mary.
Growing Old and the Passage of Time
Mick: Monks like Martin Luther are among the earliest hunters. He even wrote parts of that book you’re holding.
Sam: What? This lore dates back to the 16th century?
Mick: yeah. Well in Europe everything is old, although we do have our fair share of new tricks for dealing with wolves - sulfate gas, silver nitrate lethal injection… Thanks to that fancy crap, Britain’s last werewolf outbreak was in the 20’s.
The passage of time has been a frequent thread throughout this season, referenced through flashbacks to decades if not century old events, the ravages of old age, the preferences of being tired and wanting to rest in peace when old (Ramiel and AlphaVamp) or simply the use of the word “old”. I have theorized that this emphasis on the extreme past is setting up the revelation that the “old men” who run the BMoLs includes an ancient Prince of Hell. The thread makes sense in that context.
I don’t remember an episode that so overtly called attention to Sam or Dean’s ages, though. Do you? Obviously the younger generation, i.e. Claire and co, sees those over 30 as “old” and she wasn’t shy at all about bringing that to their attention:
Claire: Sam, no offense but who do you think the kids are gonna wanna talk to? Me or some old skeezer?
Beyond the real life purpose of courting a younger audience (at the risk of alienating the older audience),
Dean: yeah, I’d lie if I served underage girls too.
Connor: What are you, her dad?
… I don’t see an advantage to making Sam and Dean look old. Experienced, mature, wiser – sure, but why old? When they are by themselves (which is more and more rare these days), they just look to me like the brothers they always were. I don’t see them as over-the-hill or ready for retirement, but next to Claire, I have to admit they aged in my eyes. What is the benefit of doing that? I fully expect a spin-off is being planned and it will involve younger hunters, but why denigrate Sam and Dean in the process?
Sam and Dean were reunited with Claire for their common investigation of the werewolf case. A few weeks ago, Mary was reunited with Wally to pursue the Ramiel case. Asa Fox’s wake reunited several hunters to mourn their lost friend, but is the American hunting world really that small? Is the continued presence of monsters in America more of a resource problem than a strategy problem? If there were more hunters, would monster genocide be forthcoming? I’m not suggesting this is the purpose of the thread – more likely it is just an echo of Mary’s reunion with her boys – but could a secondary purpose be to show that the Americans really could use more powerful weapons, magic and an organized tactical plan because they’ll never have the numbers necessary to win the war?
Curiously, Claire was not reunited with Jody at the end. The child remains apart from the parent, just as Sam and Dean remain apart from Mary.
Animals vs. Humans
Hayden: Ever had a Moscow Mule?... You hear that?
Brother: Yeah. They’re called animals.
As with the hellhounds, werewolves were a literal presentation of the animal vs. human thread. We’ve maintained that the symbolism is more of the animals’ unthinking, soulless survival instinct (i.e. BMoL) vs. the humans’ thinking, caring, adapting response (i.e. Sam and Dean) in the broader hunting approach debate. Is it possible, though, that a literal animalistic monster is being foreshadowed? Surely not Lucifer’s baby, and I doubt it would be Asmodeus, but maybe there’s some other insidious monster in the brothers’ future? I don’t see any strong evidence of this. Mostly we’ve seen humans acting as animals (“American Nightmare”, “The One”, etc) but have you seen any hints otherwise?
Right vs Wrong, Good vs. Evil
The words Right/Wrong and Good/Bad were again used repeatedly in casual conversation throughout the episode. There are too many to list here, but listen for them.
I enjoyed “Ladies Drink Free”. The acting by Adam Fergus and Kathryn Newton rose to the challenge of their characters’ journeys, supporting the excellent performances by Jared and Jensen. It was a monster-of-the-week episode, and I missed both Jody and Castiel in Claire’s story, but the dynamics worked. Focusing on one plotline allowed the hunt to play out in more detail and four hunters were more than enough.
It put Sam and Dean in teaching roles, while simultaneously introducing a school for Hunters/Men of Letters. Like Harry Potter (which was mentioned), Charmed and so many other magic stories that end with the heroes teaching the next generation, one option for the series’ future was hinted. If the show continues to position our boys as “old”, they may be needing those rocking chairs sooner than we think.
Prior Episode details confirmed with http://www.supernaturalwiki.com/
Non-CW screencaps courtesy of http://www.homeofthenutty.com.
[Note: this week neither the transcription site nor the screencapping sites had posted their work on this episode at the time I published]