Who knew this would be a two-parter? I didnâ€™t. Then again the first part was a bit of a blend of my thoughts, to be furthered here, and its own standalone piece. Since my creative title naming thingy is a little haywire, I decided to simply make this a part two, the theme carries if nothing else.
I actually started some of this back when I was writing my thoughts on Jump The Shark. I cut a lot out of that review simply because I couldnâ€™t get it to fit in very well, so here it is, dredged up with other stuff thrown in and you have an article. Good thing I donâ€™t get paid to do this, Iâ€™d go hungry.
Narcissus, it was your comment at the end of Is Sam Winchester Too Stupid to Live that got me thinking along the lines for this part of the article when you asked to hear/read my thoughts on ghouls. So thanks to you (and I am smiling and waving when I write that) this article has come to life. Thank you.
Here we goâ€¦
In what is now Part I of this two-part article I explored whether Sam and Dean were, in fact, evil because theyâ€™d taken the lives of humans. I donâ€™t believe theyâ€™re evil; they do have heavy, heavy burdens to carry. Iâ€™ve never killed anyone, thankfully, whether by accident, purpose or in the course of serving my country. I am aware that when officers of the law and soldiers end up taking a life it is a horrific burden and takes significant counsel, guidance, soul-searching and more to ever come to grips with that action. For me, I am blessedly innocent in this arena. Iâ€™ve had some close calls with my car with someone darting out or when I dozed (and that was terribly scary) but fortunately I have no experience to form this article, so this is purely my random thoughts.
Who or what is the evil in the realm of Supernatural? Are the remnants, spirits or ghosts evil? My memory of the 82 episodes weâ€™ve been treated to thus far rarely shows us ghosts or spirits as evil. Most are lost souls, frightened, alone, doomed either by their own choices in life or by horrific things done to them or by sheer fear of what lay on the other side that by the time we see them â€˜dealtâ€™ with by the boys, they arenâ€™t so much evil as they are tortured and confused.
What about some of the creatures, Wendigos, Shapeshifters, Vampires, Werewolves, and oh, yes, Ghouls? Are they evil? Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m going to explore now.
We only saw the wendigo once and while it was killing people its purpose was survival, hard to call it evil when itâ€™s simply doing what it needs to survive. Doesnâ€™t mean Iâ€™m going to serve myself up on a platter for its snacking pleasure, however, still itâ€™s hard for me to call it evil.
Shapeshifters, weâ€™ve seen them several times, are they evil? I think so. Skin, clearly showed us a creature indulging in torture and murder, Nightshifter gave us one who lusted after material things and clearly was not above killing, and while the shapeshifter in Monster Movie was perhaps the most realized, he too was a killer, with love as his motivation. All the shapeshifters weâ€™ve seen are willing to kill be it for pleasure, money or love.
Vampires and Werewolves, I group these two together for in each instance it takes one to make another one. These get a little harder to pigeon-hole, are they evil, are they murderers or are they simply (simply?) trying to survive? I doubt Iâ€™d have such an open-mind to these creatures if it was not for the lovely Lenore and the equally lovely Madison; Iâ€™d also add Dixon from Fresh Blood here. When we first meet vampires in Dead Manâ€™s Blood I have no sympathy for them; they take normal humans and either kill them or turn them into soulless, lifeless beings known as vampires. Vampires while espousing a familial togetherness kill humans and/or expand their family. I grant you that these are basic instincts, eat for survival, procreate (in a sense) for survival so it could be argued that they are only doing what they need to do to survive, however their survival is at the cost of human life and liberty which puts them in the category of a Wendigo although it is apparent there is an alternative, as Lenore and her â€˜familyâ€™ displayed quite courageously.
As for werewolves Iâ€™ll admit to less of an understanding of who and what they are simply because we only had glimpses of them and those glimpses consisted of seeing them kill. In their human form they had no awareness of their other selves so werewolves remain an unknown to me as far as motivation other than surface appearances which were either to kill those that were a threat or turn those they were attracted to being the other. Sam got off lightly here, he could have been turned. Perhaps Madison, like Gordon, had a stronger sense of self and remained true in some part of her consciousness so that she fled from Sam after their night of *ahem* passion rather than turning him. Gordon for his part maintained a sense of self despite killing a human presumably to slake his bloodlust, so like Lenore and Madison he showed that there is an ability to overcome the â€˜animalâ€™ inside.
Ghouls areâ€¦well, ghoulish. Iâ€™m fascinated by their monologue in Jump The Shark, bloody and gruesome as it was, because there are some interesting points there to explore. Adam/ghoul wondered if Sam really knew what the word monster meant â€“ Iâ€™d say Sam has a more thorough knowledge of it by the end of Lucifer Rising having danced so close to the dark side and perhaps even tangoed a bit on the other side. To me the interesting point in Jump the Shark, at least along the good vs. evil lines, is what makes one good and what makes one evil? Now weâ€™re getting to where this article can either really thrill me or run right off the tracks, perhaps I can straddle that line with a good old-fashioned ramble, Iâ€™m good at those *begins counting heads nodding in agreementâ€¦this could take a while*
Iâ€™m going to suggest that werewolves and vampires and wendigos are more creatures intent on survival, granted their survival comes at the cost of someoneâ€™s life or freedom so they are not going to make my BFF list, much less my Christmas list, but I find it hard to paint someone or something as evil simply because it seeks to survive; the shapeshifter Iâ€™ve decided is evil since its intent seems to be greed, lust and murder. Ghouls get grouped into the former category rather than the later and I actually find them quite sympathetic, at least the ones we met. Gruesome and disgusting as they may be, they are very similar to our beloved Winchesters and by some cruel twist of fate, were it not for a Winchester, these ghouls might never have turned from their normal way of life. Like the Winchesters, the ghouls were changed by an outside force that acted upon them that force upon the ghouls was none other than John Winchester.
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Itâ€™s a timeless question and one that can have you go in circles until you throw up and fall down or both â€“ try not to fall in your puke thatâ€™s just gross.
The ghouls Adam and Kate posed a theory that I still grapple with, were they monsters because they survived on decaying flesh? Hmm, Iâ€™ve got to say no. We may not like vultures and other such scavengers but hey, they survive by eating that which is already dead and rotting â€“ and provide a valuable public service, for free. Donâ€™t know about you but I donâ€™t see people signing up to be carrion cleaner uppers, for free. So ghouls eat the flesh of dead people, gross yes â€“ makes me even more happy Iâ€™m a fan of cremation and so are my loved ones â€“ but if theyâ€™re not killing anyone or anything, whereâ€™s the harm?
So, what caused them to alter and begin going for â€˜fresh meatâ€™? Ah, hereâ€™s where things get dicey, what changed them? Tragedy. Adam and Kate ghoulsâ€™ father was killed, by none other than John Winchester, this started Adam and Kate down a path of grief and despair and a burning hunger for revenge that ultimately led them to seeking to quench their desire for revenge on the very people that had caused them their grief; along the way the real Adam and Kate Milligan became victims. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Letâ€™s see if I can find out which came first, the chicken or the egg. John killed Kateâ€™s and Adamâ€™s (ghouls that is) father thus making John the evil force in their lives. Now, why did John hunt things that go bump in the night, as well as ghouls? Oh, yeah, because something killed his wife. John, grief-stricken, embarks on a journey of revenge as well as a desire to protect his sons once he realizes the extent of the evil in the world and along the way he hunts and kills everything he perceives as evil, which is everything supernatural. Johnâ€™s grief and focus on revenge leads him to setting another family on a path eerily similar to his own.
I wonder what would have happened had John had a bit more discernment in his focus, kill those things that are a danger to others rather than everything he found to be supernatural. Sam may have gone off the rails in Season 4 but he was quite accurate back in Season 2â€™s Bloodlust, Lenore and her group was not hurting anyone and thus did not deserve to be hunted. Perhaps if John had thought that through a bit the real Adam and Kate Milligan would still be alive, as would the ghoul family.
What goes around comes around
For better or for worse John is dead by the time the real Adam and Kate meet their horrific fates at the hands of the ghouls who likely would have never bothered with Adam and Kate had it not been for the actions of John Winchester in the first place. Also, (to further give me a headache) Adam and Kate would have never been in the place of danger they were in had it not been for Johnâ€™s determination to kill everything supernatural out there, he would never have met Kate, never have fathered Adam thus Kate would have had a different life than the one we learned about and Adamâ€¦well, he wouldnâ€™t be at least not as we met him (or didnâ€™t ). The ghouls would have gone on eating rotting flesh (yes, thatâ€™s still disturbing because while none of my loved ones are buried â€˜in the fleshâ€™ many others are and I have some level of compassion on their behalfâ€¦and itâ€™s still truly disgusting)
So, does this make John evil because he killed the daddy ghoul thus starting that family down their road of tragedy? Well, in the eyes of the ghouls, yes. But in mine, no. Perhaps thatâ€™s because I have such a soft spot for John Winchester that I canâ€™t see clearly, â€˜tis possible. I find it interesting that there is (or was) a very strong fandom viewpoint that John Winchester is this horrible character. I donâ€™t believe that to be true. When we first meet John we get the briefest glimpse of this happily married man and proud daddy. After that we get nothing but the hard edges of John Winchester, heâ€™s gone without notice, he sends cryptic messages, doesnâ€™t come when Dean is dying, wonâ€™t talk to his sons when theyâ€™re back in Lawrence, appears briefly in Shadow for a quick reconciliation (and no doubt to support but doesnâ€™t get involved, rather hangs back watching the trap unfold) and then, at the death of a colleague he comes quickly â€“ to the somewhat stunned amazement (and perhaps disillusionment) of his sons that he came for Elkinâ€™s death but not for other occasions of emotional or physical pain.
John is an enigma for much of Season 2 and even Season 3. We get glimpses through the lens of Sam and Dean, Deanâ€™s grief over his fatherâ€™s selfish and selfless sacrifice and Samâ€™s grief which turns him fully into a hunter. Season 3 offers a glance of a proud father through the storage shed of goodies including a soccer trophy and a homemade sawed off shotgun but Season 4 offers up some true gems, some of them shocking. Not only do we learn that John was the kind of man to buy a seemingly hung over stranger a cup of coffee but he was willing to buy a VW van purely for the love of a woman, Mary. We see a happy, innocent, friendly, eager man with his whole life ahead of him.
To further show us that we donâ€™t know who or what John Winchester was we get treated to a completely unexpected aspect of this hardened hunter, he had a second chance at happiness and he grabbed it, much as a drowning person would grab a floating twig in an effort to save themselves; John gave in to his loneliness by being with a woman and in that act fathered a son. Knowing there was no way he could fully be that boyâ€™s father he did the best he could and split his life. No doubt when he was with Adam he was imagining Sam and Dean while with Sam and Dean he was likely thankful that Adam remained clueless of all that evil in the world.
I wonder now ,with the hindsight of In The Beginning as well as Jump The Shark, if those who hold the opinion that John is a horrible father have changed at all, I hope so.
So what is evil? Are ghouls, humans, wendigos, shapeshifters or spirits evil? Do evil beings become evil by birth, by event, by destiny, by choice? Once something or someone has become evil, can they be turned back? And once again, who defines evil?
Weâ€™ve seen Lenore prove that that which is â€˜evilâ€™ or at the very least â€˜unnaturalâ€™ can redeem itself through choices â€“ perhaps the better word is change itself. We saw Gordon who was clearly evil as a human â€“ with his unflinching focus on Sam Winchester must die â€“ still had aspects of integrity as he planned to kill himself after â€˜ridding the world of Sam Winchester.â€™ Weâ€™ve seen humans turned from happy family men into intent hunters (John Winchester), weâ€™ve seen other humans turned from happy family men to discerning hunters (Bobby Singer). Weâ€™ve seen ghouls making their way through scavenging flesh to killing fresh meat due to grief. Who made who the monster and who gets to define, ultimately, what a monster is?
I donâ€™t have any easy answers and perhaps thatâ€™s bestâ€¦perhaps thatâ€™s just another fantastic layer achieved by Supernatural, questions upon questions.
What did come first, the chicken or the egg? Were ghouls evil because in their grief they chose revenge; if you answer yes, youâ€™d best rethink your love for all things Winchester. If you find yourself grappling with the question, strap in for Season 5, me thinks there will be a lot of struggling with that question by both Sam and Dean. Both have a lot to atone for, not just the lives theyâ€™ve taken but the choices theyâ€™ve made, as well as the ones to come. Iâ€™m loving the look of Season 5.
Thanks for reading.