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MISSOURI: John Winchester, I could just slap you. Why won't you go talk to your children?
JOHN: I want to. You have no idea how much I wanna see 'em. But I can't. Not yet. Not until I know the truth.
 
Quite a wrinkle.
 
The island hopping continues in Asylum, this time by phone where Caleb, Jefferson nor Pastor Jim has heard anything about the whereabouts of John Winchester. But they presume he's alive, for yet another set of coordinates comes in, and by the end of the episode, they know for sure.
 
1.11: The Episode We Make Contact
 
Seems you prophesized all of this would end
Were you burned away when the sun rose again?
- Alice In Chains, When the Sun Rose Again
 
JOHN: Look, we don't have time for this. This is bigger than you think, they're everywhere.
Even us talking right now, it's not safe.
SAM: No. Alright? No way.
DEAN: Give me the phone.
JOHN: I have given you an order. Now, you stop following me and you do your job.
You understand me?

 
Their ultimate goal, the reason that Dean came to get Sam in the first place, was surprisingly burned away by the object of their search himself, dissension growing out of the ash. The range of sibling conflict is wide, from such battles eventually resolved like that of Orlando and Oliver in Shakespeare's As You Like It, to more disastrous fare like Richard I and John Lackland, The Iliad's Hector and Paris, or, among the worst, the quarrel between Eteocles and Polynices over the Theban kingship leading to open warfare. Hell, even the bitterness between Ray and Dave Davies was a hallmark over the career of The Kinks. Sam nearly snuffing out his brother's life in When the Levee Breaks à la Cain or Romulus is something else entirely, but thankfully at this point in the tale, we're not quite sinking into those tenebrous depths, for in the very next episode, it isn't John who comes to Dean's aid, but his brother.
 
We have met the enemy and she is, hey, I know you!

"but then someone made him rash,
so that he sailed away to sandy Pylos
to hear news of his father. Now the suitors
lie in ambush on his homeward track"
- Eumaios the swineherd to a disguised Odysseus, The Odyssey, book XIV
 
Aside: Is it me, or could we consider the Benders as this story's Laestrygonians? Tastes like chicken.
 
Meg is a certainly a complex character, an amalgamation of multiple traditions (femme fatale, devoted child, skilled soldier). The trap cited above was for Telemachus, whereas the trap here was for the father, with the sons as bait, the crucial difference being that the forces of evil in The Odyssey presumed that Ithaca's king was dead. Meg knows that John is not. With her demonic powers and aptitude in summoning magic, she could be seen as this story's Circe, a sorceress who was daughter of the Sun, the god Helios. There's another inversion at play for, though she is a daughter (of a sort) as we later learn, she is not the offspring of light, but of darkness, of the Black Sun, that alchemical, and later, Jungian, symbol of misery, rot and death.
 
Her "father" is no less than Azazel, who in 1 Enoch 8:1-3, "taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all colouring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways." One could say the mirror image of another teacher/pupil relationship, John Winchester and his sons, and observe the flowering element of corruption, the mortificatio of the Black Sun in the persons of Sam, Andy, Ava, Jake, and so on.
 
But is Meg pure, undiluted, nihilistic darkness? "I'm doing this for the same reasons you do what you do. Loyalty. Love." Like the Greek gods, the demons have their own desires (alright, mostly destructive) and foibles and personality traits, save for the endless cavalcade of subdemon number threes. Witness Casey the bartender and even Ruby, for after her two-year deception culminating in the coming of Lucifer - the ultimate suitor(s) who wished to take control of this worthy kingdom, that of humanity - she wasn't about to throw Sam to the side as the discarded means to an end, but sincerely felt that he deserved his reward. Contrast such sentiment with Meg who, even in season five, wishes for the Winchesters' destruction.
 
And we certainly can't ignore one further inversion, the sexual interplay not between sorceress and hero, but sorceress and son, Meg and Sam. Good thing they didn't bump uglies or we'd have a second Antichrist running around. Or crawling, at any rate, though I imagine he or she could throw a mean tantrum.
 
Back in ancient Greece, Odysseus returned home in disguise, whereas John reunited with Sam and Dean moving stealthily in shadow. The three of them together, this is their home and this is all it will ever be, wherever they may roam. But how can this abstract abode be protected? Of course, through other classic tropes that Supernatural uses to great effect, the quest within the Quest and foreshadowing:
 
JOHN: It knows I'm close. It knows I'm gonna kill it. Not just exorcise it or send it back to hell.
Actually kill it.
DEAN: How?
JOHN: I'm workin' on that.
 
We don't see the fruits of John's labors until Dead Man's Blood, but like Perseus collecting the head of the Gorgon, Beren retrieving a Silmaril from Morgoth's Iron Crown or Thor stealing back his hammer from the giant Thrym, these mini-quests serve to propel the narrative forward or foreshadow events to come, as we also see in Sigemund's mead hall tale within Beowulf. The long-term problem for the brothers, both personally and within the wider range of the war is foreshadowed as well:
 

Comments  

Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-18 19:48
I’m singing your praises, Randal – this is fantastic!

The Odyssey is one of my all-time favourite books, and that you decided to connect it to this show is, well, extraordinary. Or, well, you didn’t even have to find a connotation; it was always there, as you wonderfully point out.

So many of the great pieces of world literature have drawn from antique writers, and Homer provided the world with archetypes in abundance. He is to be found in Tolkien’s books, the Arthurian legends, I guess almost every European legend or myth has some kind of root in Homer’s works (and there is Ovid, Euripides, well, many others), and some poets needed to paraphrase the works of old and compose fabulous poetry, like Tennyson with ‘Ulysses’†¦

I do agree with your assumption that every piece of literature might hold a different meaning for different people, based on personal experiences or preferences or… or…, but the almost divine quality of immortal words will never be diminished. Which is a very hopeful thought.

Would you really compare John’s memory of Mary to Odysseus’ brush with Calypso? She was ordered to let him go by Hermes (who acted on behalf of the Gods’ council, if memory serves), John, however, did not seem to be ever free of remembering Mary’s horrific death. How could he? No one who experiences something like that will ever be free. Not entirely.

Thank you so much for this! Loved every line of it. This time *your* words brought an old dream of mine back to mind – to get to Turkey one day and to sit down where Troy used to stand and read the Illiad where it all happened… and I’m sure, if the Gods allow, that it will happen….

Love, Jas
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2009-12-18 20:56
WOW, Randal...this is great. I love the Odyssey, but never compared it to Supernatural. It’s fitting...the Odyssey is a classic and so is Supernatural. ;-)

I can tell you really had fun doing this. So much work too. Thanks so much.
Freebird
# Freebird 2009-12-18 20:56
"I see the bad moon a-rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin'
I see bad times today
Don't go around tonight
Well, it's bound to take your life
There's a bad moon on the rise
I hear hurricanes a-blowing
I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers over flowing
I hear the voice of rage and ruin
Hope you got your things together
Hope you are quite prepared to die
Looks like we're in for nasty weather
One eye is taken for an eye"

Creedence Clearwater Revival's song was the closing song for the Season 1 finale, remember, when that truck hit the Impala with Sam, Dean and John in it? Watching the story develope, this particular scene and song come to my mind quite often, and I can't help thinking that it is a landmark of the Winchester myth arc. Bad moon rising? From that point on, definitely.

Thanks, Randal, for this wonderful review! It's amazing to see how the same story can be presented in so many ways during different times of human history and civilization.
Gotta read Homer again, it's been a while.
Lara
Suze
# Suze 2009-12-19 06:51
Randal, you are a git. Sneaky Odysseus was always my favourite out of all the warmongering gung-ho greek hoards and now you've gone and tied him in with my love-to-loath man Big J in a more than slightly convincing fashion so I'll have to have a rethink and give myself brain strain. Curse you for a smarty-pants swot. ;-)

Jas, there's not much left of Troy now but it's well worth a look if you can time yourself to miss the coach-born multitudes ... Stand on the ruins and look out over the Dardinelle straits and shiver ...
Randal
# Randal 2009-12-19 07:18
alice, thanks for adding the screen caps. Nice break for the readers wading through such rambling text. 8-)

Jas, thanks, and don't forget nigh unreadable stuff like Joyce (he's alright, but some of those linguistic inventions put a strain on my eyeballs.)

You're 100% correct that Odysseus (thanks to the reason you laid out) did escape Calypso, whereas he'll never get over Mary's death and hey I *did* say it wasn't point-by-point ;-) - poetic license, right?) but I think there is a shared sense of imprisonment. And I wonder, given the intervention of the 'gods,' both in ancient Greece and Supernatural, if John wasn't 'rewarded' at the end of 2.22 with a trip to those fields of the lord that Castiel spoke about, and perhaps a reunion with Mary, a return, at last, to home. At least we can hope so.

Speaking of hope, I hope you get to see Priam's town, and if you do, make sure you take LOTS of pictures for us, especially us stuck across the pond. 8-)

sablegreen, thanks, and it was indeed enjoyable to put together, but I wondered if I wasn't just blowing smoke out of my ass, another case of "Marxist Readings Of Chaucer." :D

Freebird, that was the perfect choice of song, and completely foreshadows the bleakness that lay ahead. I watch that finale now and it still moves, Sam's in the middle of his speech - BLAM!

As Jas said, there's an immortal quality, and their universality is why we love and retell them to ourselves.

pete, thanks, I think the show is worthy of such analysis, but to me, it's never strictly, I don't know, 'scholarly.' There's such a visceral quality to what Kripke & Co. have created. It's so human.

Suze, HA! That certainly wasn't my intention - or was it? ;-) No, John is still a bit of an ass, and made some parental choices that a few of us wouldn't have, but he loved his kids, kids who just might end up better than their pop, which is what all us parents want for our own.

Be glad John wasn't not Goya's Saturn. ;-)

As for Troy, you've been? How close can one get, given the archaeological digs (which I assume are still going on - didn't they start back up in the 1980s?)
Suze
# Suze 2009-12-19 09:57
Yeah, back in the mid '80's ( '86, I think ... Brain scrambled by interviening eons of abuse ... :oops: ) There were a few trenches but nothing keeping you from climbing all over everything and fantasising wildly, it's a big site but the actual city seems really small compared to what we term a city now and there's not much left above ground ... Still go though, let your imagination fill in the blanks ...
Bevie
# Bevie 2009-12-19 14:51
Speechless here with admiration Randal!

Haven't read the actual Odyssey, but remember the kiddie version. Fascinating analysis as usual. Bravo!
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-19 20:18
Hey Randal and Suze, well, to my chagrin I won’t be able to go to ‘Troy’ anytime soon. All the money I save for vacation will flow into my US-trip next year....

But according to a friend who’s been to Turkey, they made a huge tourist attraction of it, you know, horse and all… Lucky Suze, having trodden the paths of old… I wouldn’t care, actually, if there was nothing to be seen. To stand on that ground alone where Hector and Achilles fought, where Aeneas had his hour… oh that would be enough to fill in the blanks…

Went to Tintagel last year (basically we did an Arthur-tour, visiting many places from the legends, even found dosmary pool), and the experience was intense and rewarding. There is magic in life, indeed.

Randal, I know you said your piece was not to be a point-to-pointâ €¦ I just love to challenge you once in a while a bit. ;-)I mean that nicely, though, you know I do. And, ahem, I confess I’m not exactly a fan of Joyce. But I do love Tennyson… Ah, Tennyson…

Guys, grrrrrr, it’s even colder tonight. -21 C (how much is that in Fahrenheit?)… I need to stock up that hot chocolates and socks…. A little sympathy, please?

freezing, but kicking Jas
Randal
# Randal 2009-12-20 05:42
suze, didn't think there'd be much left of Troy (or Troy II or VIa or however many there are) besides an army of archaeologists with farmer's tans. ;-) But oh, to see those lands anyway.

Bevie, thanks! There's a kiddie version? Man, now I'm wishing that Shel Silverstein did one, that would've been groovy.

Jas, bah, go to Troy, nothing to see here besides Wal-Marts. 8-)

Please, challenge me, tell me when I'm full of shit, which is probably often! And I'm certainly with you on the Tennyson. And Swinburne, and Browning and a bunch of others who probably didn't rewrite ancient Greece either, ha!

-6°F or thereabouts? Which is, F-ING COLD. Stay warm!
Suze
# Suze 2009-12-21 04:31
Poor Jas, only -2ish here which is bad enough! Tintagel's awesome ... It's just down the road from my sister, fantasic place, just don't wear high heels!

Randal, there's loads of good stuff in Turkey ... Lots of Roman bits and bobs and Ephesus, which is well worth a look ... Parts of Istambul are straight out of Shehezerade too. You guys have given me itchy feet! ( probably an improvement on frozen feet, though ... :lol: )
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-21 11:24
Suze and Randal, thanks for the consoling words, they drove the cold away, well, a bit, it’s a few degrees warmer now….much obliged….

Randal, I’m not interested in Wal-Marts, so I don’t care how many of those will try to capture my attention… Initial plans were to take a road trip along the Pacific coast (don’t try to tell me that’s not beautiful), but our plans have changed. So, I’ll be going to the con in March (and, frankly, I’m so damn curious about the whole thing and I haven’t looked forward to do so crazy a thing for a long time) and then to the capital, visit a couple of friends and see the sights (my hotel is in walking distance from the Smithsonian and various libraries, come on!).

Challenges coming up, as soon as I deem them necessary, don’t worry… hehehe….

What, Suze, your sister lives nearby Tintagel?! Oh, sigh, I’m having a heart attack. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in a long time, and it’s magical (had an experience there I’d file under ‘paranormal†™).
And you’re right – it was wise to leave those heels at home… (how did you know I wear those, anyway?)

Couldn’t the writers think of some ancient Greek ghost or whatnot and send the brothers over the Atlantic to investigate? I bet Jared and Jensen would welcome the warm weather, the great food and all those nice folks… (just don’t go swimming, guys,… sharks,…)

The cold is slowly freezing away my brain cells, all I’m coming up is nonsense…. (btw: itchy feet are far better than frozen ones, believe me, right now I’m doing studies on the matter)

Crazy, Jas
Randal
# Randal 2009-12-21 13:31
Suze, freezing feet? That's what giant moon boots are for. ;-)

Ah, Sheherezade, always makes me think of Rimsky-Korsakov . I could listen to that all day.

Jas, don't worry, America has some lovely bits, but you know how it is when you live somewhere. Every place that isn't home always seems more exotic and magical.

Hmm, given that the apocalypse is planet wide, I'm sure Vancouver could easily pass for various European cities. Of course, they'd have to take the TGV instead of the Impala.
Supernarttu
# Supernarttu 2009-12-21 17:44
Krhm. Allow me to form my own intelligent quip:

WOW. 'nuff said :-)
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-21 18:20
Well, if the TGV comes in black... 8-)
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-21 18:29
Randal, you're right - other places than home often seem more exotic or magical... Now, I somehow couldn't accept that, so I found a couple of places that meet those qualities (here it's a Celtic grave mound and the five hundred year old oak growing next to it, and a moor where I like to go for a run) - when I wish to travel to Troy (since I've read your article again and again felt transported to an ancient world mingling with Midwestern US), but cannot, for whatever reasons, then the mind must provide opportunities - even if it was to cook a Turkish meal... well, who said you couldn't visit a place or time culinarily?
Thanks again for this article. I'm going to read HOmer again as soon as I have him unpacked (I know it's a sacrilege that he is still in some box, but, you know, working hours...)
:-) Jas
Hayley McCuan
# Hayley McCuan 2009-12-26 17:58
Hey, I 'm writing a report for school and I need to pick a t.v. or movie that relates to the Odyssey. I picked Supernatural as my choice-- and I need to write 3 ways on how it relates to the Odyssey.. so I was hoping you could help me out?? You know so much about them both.. obviously.
elenaM
# elenaM 2010-01-01 22:08
Even Dean's read the Odyssey! I hadn't, though-- til now. Another great article, Randal.