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Death to the suitors, part two
 
We are introduced to Bobby, yet another Promethean figure that gifts the brothers their second vital weapon against the demon world, the devil's trap.
 
While Circe didn't wish Odysseus destroyed by the machinations of Poseidon and the seas and creatures he controlled, and Meg certainly desires the Winchesters dead (witness her dismissal of ‘the master plan' while possessing Sam in Born Under a Bad Sign), both are crucial to future events. Circe directed Odysseus to Hades for knowledge, and Meg, admittedly under the influence of the devil's trap and some choice Latin, reveals that John isn't dead, and we discover further information after the successful exorcism.
 
The brothers use this information and weaponry to recapture their father, their home, even inventing their own Trojan horse, firefighters' outfits. And though blood is shed, and Sam's jaw is pummeled longer than he'd like, their father has been rescued and now all that remains after regrouping is to find the demon and kill it.
 
Oops.
 
SAM: I wanna know why. Why'd you do it?
JOHN: You mean, why'd I kill Mommy and pretty little Jess?
SAM: Yeah.
JOHN: You know, I never told you this, but Sam was gonna ask her to marry him. Been shopping for rings and everything. [to SAM] You wanna know why? Because they got in the way.
SAM: In the way of what?
JOHN: My plans for you, Sammy...you, and all the children like you.
 
vlcsnap 00092

Azazel proves himself a master of emotional manipulator, sticking red-hot pins in all their weakest points, channeling Mercury towards Aeneas (for was Dido not in the way of his destiny of founding the Roman state?) and though Dean is able to muster a retaliatory quip, he's no match for the demon's power, nor is Sam a match for the power of home, passing up a chance to fulfill the Quest because he couldn't stand to be the murderer of his father, no matter the gain, no matter the notion of some greater good, expressed by Dean far in the future (or the past, as it were):
 
JOHN: I'm surprised at you, Sammy. Why didn't you kill it? I thought we saw eye to eye on this—killing this demon comes first. Before me, before everything.
SAM: No, sir. Not before everything. Look, we still have the Colt. We still have the one bullet left. We just have to start over, all right, I mean, we already found the demon. 
 
And Sam comes full circle, sharing the evolved feelings of his brother, that nothing is more important than home, which now consists of three hospitalized bodies and a totaled Impala. Unlike The Odyssey, where the goddess Athena helps Odysseus and the families of the slain suitors reach reconciliation, that isn't obviously the case here. Told you that Supernatural isn't prone to happy endings.
 
Epilogue
 
In my time of dying, want nobody to mourn
All I want for you to do is take my body home
- Led Zeppelin, In My Time of Dying
 
AZAZEL: It's very unseemly, making deals with devils. How do I know this isn't just another trick?
JOHN: It's no trick. I will give you the Colt and the bullet. But you gotta help Dean. You gotta bring him back.
AZAZEL: Why, John, you're a sentimentalist. If only your boys knew how much their daddy loved them.
 
Even the demons, the 'gods,' recognize his cunning ,his willingness to sacrifice for his family, for home.
 
John isn't the only heroic father to have ended up in hell, for Odysseus made such an appearance in Dante's Inferno. In Canto XXVI, Ulysses is found in the Eighth Circle for the sin of fraud, deception, having tricked Achilles back into the war. Now, he was certainly there in order for Dante to patriotically contrast his wanderlust as being fueled by a thirst for knowledge compared to that of Aeneas who only did so in order to found the Roman state (did not John do what he did for his patria?), but there's also the angle of John himself having committed such a sin of fraud:
 
AZAZEL: You know the truth, right? About Sammy and the other children?
JOHN: Yeah. I've known for a while.
AZAZEL: But Sam doesn't, does he? You've been playing dumb.
 
There is evidence from the fragmentary Epic Cycle that Telegonus, Odysseus' son by Circe, unwittingly killed his father, so on one level, one could say that Dean 'killed' John, but like Brunnhilde in Wagner's Gotterdammerung who immolates herself with the Ring in order to end its curse, he's willing to give up his nearly twenty-five year obsession to save his son, defiant, like the title character of Byron's Manfred, to the last, "Old man! 'tis not so difficult to die." The spirits may not have taken his soul whereas the demon receives John's, but he never falters in hell.
 
Whether he faltered on earth is another question for another essay.
 
Oh I shall soone despaire, when I doe see
That thou lov'st mankind well, yet wilt'not chuse me,
And Satan hates mee, yet is loth to lose mee.
- John Donne, Holy Sonnets, II
 
The Real Epilogue Or, Being the Conclusion Of This Essay
 
'Tis a dangerous proposition interpreting such creations through an anachronistic lens, and I'm certainly not saying that season one of Supernatural is a paint-by-numbers, carbon copy of The Odyssey, but it's my belief that each of us brings to any work of art our own unique perception, our own influences. A word in a poem may have been placed there by the author for an entirely different reason than that which strikes our fancy, leading us to others realms of emotion than what the author had originally drawn upon. Or, more appropriately for the show, think of one of the numerous classic rock songs. For some, they might conjure up particular memories; carry an emotional weight beyond its intended use. So for those, their appreciation and sympathy for the show is going to be a shade different from someone else, at variance with the creators. But this never diminishes the creation itself, only that we enjoy its power in a different light. To this observer, even if placed subconsciously, there are many parallels that exist between Supernatural and The Odyssey (or any number of legends and literary works), but how could there not be, when both tales feature world-spanning drama and epic heroes?

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.