We've had some fascinating female characters in this show, but only Ruby and Bela endured for more than one episode. Inspired by elle's latest article, I felt compelled to take a closer look at one of the show's most misunderstood and most hated characters, 'the so-called Bela Talbot'.
I know that it's season five time now, and Bela got ripped to pieces by hellhounds way more than a year ago, but somehow I haven't been able to forget her, because my attitude towards her has changed. For me, one way to pull through a hiatus is watching older seasons of Supernatural. Getting to know Bela has been a mixed experience and my emotions stretched from admiration to loathing to compassion.
Yes, she betrayed the brothers. She almost got them killed a few times. She stole one of their most valuable possessions, the colt. She put a psychopathic hunter on their trail.
She also got Dean to wear a tux and proposed 'angry sex' which left the elder Winchester, who is rarely at a loss for words, speechless and slightly unsettled. (Without her, Dean would probably never have had that fantastic James Bond moment.)
She made Sam slip into a wet dream about her that got him drooling and resulted in Dean teasing him about his 'happy noises', and when Bela entered the room shortly after Sam woke up, judging from his awkward and embarrassed reaction, the dream's lingering effect kept him on his chair (instead of getting up, as the Winchesters usually do when a lady enters a room, yes, despite of their on-the-road existence, they are well-mannered) and a sweet, but weird expression on his face.
The brothers' reactions to her show a variety of emotions the early, slightly horny attitude as they meet her at the restaurant, their acknowledgement of her guts and her style, their appreciation of her assistance to help Bobby, and, of course, annoyance and hostility not unlike what I feel about her.
But there is more to that remarkable woman. She's not only the bad gal. If she is a villain, then (to paraphrase her) she is a great villain.
When Bela came into the story, I instantly liked her. She had style. She was lovely and smart and eloquent. I was a bit sceptical at first, I need to admit, but she won my interest when she introduced herself as 'a great thief'. A woman of confidence, it seemed, probably selfish and matter-of-fact. Strong enough to outfox the boys, with a preference for silk sheets stuffed with money and Louis Vuitton luggage. Now, knowing the show, I was sure that Bela would not be a one-dimensional character. And she wasn't.
She brought a lot of problems to planet Winchester, and Lauren Cohan took a wonderfully multi-faceted approach to the role. You never really knew what she was going to do next. You certainly did not expect her to shoot Sam I found this hard to take in: I wanted to like her, but shooting one of our dear Winchesters was a bit too much (even more as a shoulder hit can actually do a lot of damage).
And she was not afraid of them. Or at least did not show it. In any case, she was reckless enough to toy with Dean's impala.
Early on, though, it became very clear that that entire I-couldn't-give-a-damn attitude was nothing but a neatly crafted front she used to protect herself. Beneath the cool exterior of the 'skinny stuck-up English girl' was another woman who was afraid, insecure, damaged and lonely.
Those parts flared up in tiny moments for instance when she came to the boys for help after seeing the ghost ship in Red Sky At Morning and paying them for their assistance, or when she realized she actually almost got the brothers killed after sending Gordon after them in Fresh Blood .
Even then, before we knew her history, I wondered what happened to you, girl? There are no friends, only a cat, there is no lover, just many quite psychotic clients and ghosts who answer to your quija boardâ€¦ No one lives like that for no reason.
That somehow moved me. A woman who was beautiful, obviously well educated and highly intelligent had not become a classy thief out of boredom. I kept thinking what was she so afraid of to reveal about herself that she put such an effort into hiding it? When you meet people that do that in real life, typically you discover a sad story behind the intentionally dazzling mask.
Bela's perhaps I should rather say: Abbie's story is such a tragic tale. Her parents 'were lovely people' her description of her folks dripping with irony.
They were everything but that her father abused her (presumably sexually, judging from her younger self's dreaded expression, had she received beatings alone, her reaction would have probably been slightly different) for years (a girl will not agree to kill her parents after a single incident).
And her mother? Why did Abbie decide that her mom needed to die, too? Only two logical reasons come to mind: either her mother did approve (as, shockingly, not few mothers actually do when they are afraid of losing their husbands if they exposed their doing) or her mom ignored signs of her child's distress and thus the situation completely (in a sense children do, perhaps: if I don't see him, he doesn't see me either). In any case, she did not protect her daughter.
Abbie needed to get away, and the demon offered her a tempting deal. I don't think the fourteen year old girl was able to comprehend the consequences in the moment she said yes. I can't hold this against her she had been living in hell, created by humans. Anything was better than that. Even killing her parents.
When you look at what abuse does to a child (and to the grown-up that child becomes), an action like that seems entirely justified. In my mind I strip those people of their humanity. Not even animals do that.
So, the girl got rich. Slowly, it must have dawned on her what going to hell in ten years time actually meant. Once she truly realized what was coming to her, her mind started working, and eventually she became Bela Talbot. Or Mina Chandler. Or Bela Lugosi, etc.
She became a thief specializing in occult objects, and my guess is that she was hoping to find anything, some mojo, some weapon, whatever, to get rid of that deal. In order to succeed in this personal mission, she burned off her fingerprints and became a master of con. The money she inherited and earned with theft, she probably used on research, bribery, blackmail. Anything to save herself.
In a way, she was a mirror for the brothers and she confronted them with issues they usually did not like deal with: 'Being a hunter is so much more noble? Bunch of obsessed, revenge-driven sociopaths trying to save a world that can't be saved?... We're all going to hell, Dean, might as well enjoy the ride.' The lady has a point. Revenge had been at the centre of Papa Winchester's world. And he would have done anything to find Mary's killer. And one season later, Sam was ready to do just about anything to save his brother and stop the apocalypse.
I don't think Bela started out as 'an awful person'. But years of abuse and hellhound threat can change a human being's personality. She's able to adapt to an environment easily, yet is very narcissistic. She shows a sociopath streak, but is prepared to help Bobby. She's quicksilver.
Given the circumstances, she did whatever she could to survive. When you know you're going to hell in ten years you cannot allow yourself to get close to anybody. Sentimentalities are painful.
Dean distanced himself from the one closest to him, Sam, and he had only one year to face. Imagine what it means to stare down the pit for ten years. There is plenty of time to feel remorse, regret or plain hate. It will eat away at anyone.
I'm trying to understand Bela's character, here, not to justify her actions. In the end, she was willing to kill the Winchesters in cold blood to get out of her deal. She was desperate, already suffering from hallucinations and probably scared to hell.
Dean was right had she told them about her fate early on, the brothers would have in all likelihood done anything humanly possible to save her. That's part of their nature.
But Bela, after teaching herself not to trust anyone, couldn't muster up the faith to confide in Sam and Dean. And she died as she had lived for about ten years alone, scared and despised.
I don't *completely* loathe the Bela character (not that I wasn't rooting for the hellhounds!) precisely because of how Supernatural composes their characters. As you point out, there's a complexity that's peeled away layer by thin layer, and I would wager than most anyone would feel sympathy for young Abbie. How could they not? Desperate times, desperate measures and all that.
We try to understand why someone would want to be a suicide bomber, here, we try to understand how abuse would drive someone into being such a cold-blooded person. Some may think that perhaps an actress with better chemistry would have made a difference (though Bad Day still smokes, and she's a big part of that, hell, I'm one of the few that probably doesn't loathe Red Sky), or if she had been a more overtly intricate part of the mythology (the Colt business notwithstanding ). Maybe people are simply mad because she was a match for Sam and Dean at times and, like the demons, used their inherent humanity against them, and that's a horribly convoluted paragraph, yikes.
Would any of us have tried to save her in 3.6? I don't know, but then again they're certainly better men than I.
I always felt she was more like Dean and Sam than either of them would like to admit, and it would crack me up on those occasions when she got the best of them--Dean was used to turning on the charm, Sam to appealing to people's inner goodness, and both didn't quite know what to do with a girl that didn't really work on (see Dean's reaction when she shoots Sam).
And, as strange as this might sound, I loved the fact that I DIDN'T like Bela. Yes, I just said I adored the character, but I wouldn't want to hang out with her in real life. She was an antagonist (unlike Jo), though she was still one you could sympathize, as she wasn't completely without humanity.
I never had a complete hate on for her up until she thought she had murdered both the boys in the motel room. Then I was actually cheering a bit when the hell hounds were coming for her, along with a smidgen of pity.
Didn't appreciate her shooting Sam either, although as she claimed she was a great shot, I presume she knew where to shoot that would do the least damage. At least I like to think so. I think Loren did a great job portraying her complex persona.
I was able to forgive her a lot as she did get Dean in a tuxedo and made him hyperventilate for his baby. The strange effect she had on Sam was amusing for sure.
There was so much hate on the boards in season 3 for Bela and also Ruby that it made it depressing to read the boards. That's why I searched for different places that discussed the series and found my way here to a much better climate. So glad I did!
I also enjoyed Katie Cassidy's portrayal of Ruby. She was confrontational and feisty and very attractive. Wish she could have returned for season 4. The confrontations between her and Dean somehow meant a lot more than they subsequently did in season 4. Gen was okay, but Katie was exceptional. IMO!
I do enjoy going back and watching Bela's arc, and the writers did an excellent job of weaving the character's personal story so that all the pieces came together and in the end, going back and watching it with the knowledge of what's to come, is a lot of fun, and very revealing.
Lauren Cohan was a terrific actress and frankly I would have loved to see her more for her talent (like Nicki Aycox) is undeniable. (IMHO)
Jas, thanks for yet another great piece!
Randal, impersonating Sam, are we?
I liked Red Sky At Morning, actually, mostly because of Ellen Geer, whoâ€™s a lovely and sweet, witty lady (I met her once, long ago), and I was happy to see her again, and she gave Sam such a hard time, loved thatâ€¦
Josie, Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re not alone, and yes, I also thought, Lauren Cohan was enjoyable in the role. I like it when someone manages to evoke discussions or debates. Takes skill.
Bevie, Itâ€™s great you found your way hereâ€¦ Itâ€™s true for me as well. Throughout season three I wasnâ€™t really aware of the hate towards Bela or Ruby, as I had refrained from reading most boards for obvious reasons. Later I learned about the hostility toward those charactersâ€¦ perhaps Randal is right â€“ people might have hated her (and Ruby) because she was able to match the Winchesters (and didnâ€™t fall for their charms)â€¦?
Elle2, in the official companion to the show, Kripkeâ€™s is quoted : â€˜People watch the show for Sam and Dean, and a character who makes them feel like idiots is not a character that people are going to warm up to. Had we figured it out in time, I think we could have made Bela workâ€™ and he confirmed heâ€™d work with her again â€˜in a heartbeatâ€™. Itâ€™s a shame she doesnâ€™t seem to get invited/signed up to conventions. It would be great to ask her a thing or two about her experiences with the character.
Even though Kripke hasnâ€™t said anything about bringing her back â€“ in this universe everything is possible. I wouldnâ€™t mind meeting Bela again (she could make it out of hell, hey, Crowley, how about some help??)
Thanks so much, Jas
Thanks for the article.
Here I thought I was the only one that didnâ€™t mind the Bella character.
I thought she was a great adversary to the guys.
I was usually ticked off when she got the upper hand on them, but I found her entertaining.
And she did have some scruples.
In â€˜Red Skyâ€™ she did pay Sam and Dean for saving her, when she didnâ€™t have to.
In â€˜Flesh Bloodâ€™ she did call back Dean to let him know where they could find Gordon.
Now Dean did threaten to kill her, but she still didnâ€™t have to help them out.
That said I'd love her to swarm back up the greasy pole and start making the boy's lives even more difficult so consider that seconded, Jas ... ( She could come back as an Alligator if the actress is busy ... )
You know, Karen, I wouldnâ€™t have minded if the creative team had found a way to make Belaâ€™s character work, give her more to do, I understand the difficulties here, though. She was a worthy adversary, I like a gutsy womanâ€¦ and, as I said, I learned to feel compassion towards her.
Suze, Iâ€™m just trying to picture an alligator with Louis Vuitton shoesâ€¦ If she came back as some termite, even, sheâ€™d probably do it with the posh style weâ€™ve seen her displayâ€¦ Iâ€™m sickâ€¦
Best always, Jas
I liked Bella, I didn't like that she make the boys look like idiots every time (once would been more than enough) but I liked her, very troubled and trying to hide it (a therapeutic would have a field day with her), character I always tough that if she had had the chance she had potential to be a good acquisition to the show. I liked the boys reaction to her, being Dean's reaction in Red Sky when he find out that she had his baby towed (and Sam's reaction to Dean) my favorite.
And, on a shallow note :roll::, she did convince the boys to put on a tux, just for that she got extra points from me!
Dany, haven't seen your comment earlier... Shame on me... WEll, I'm not sure about that field day... But I would certainly love to help her deal with her demons... I loved Dean's panic attack after his baby was gone...
Hey, shallow... I'm there with you - the guys look marvellous in a tux.
You mention something about her wanting to help Bobby, but that turned out to be a scam; her sole connection to him was that he had sold her something she needed in Flagstaff. She only gave the brothers the dream root because she knew they had the Colt and she went there to steal it. She didn't care about helping Bobby.
Loved your article. You are spot-on about Bela. She pretty much deserved what she got, but she was a class act all the way!