Come December, Cleveland is like virtually every other Western city; glowing strings of red, green and gold are threaded through the barren boughs lining downtown streets. Except that here, one also strangely finds two unorthodox troupes of very bright blue huddling around the veterans' memorial and the northwest corner of Public Square. When the dark, sharp air is blended with a breathy mist or a falling web of white, this spectral blue can be beautiful, nearly ethereal purple. In other atmospheric conditions, namely during the day (yes, the lights are often on then; way to save energy, dumbasses), it can come across as tacky as, you guessed it, a Martha Stewart-on-acid Supernatural hotel room. Thus, the unwitting kernel of this rewritten classic.
I ask forgiveness in advance for any technical deficiencies, mais Ã mon avis, in verse, sentiment takes precedence over prosody (the cry of the talentless hack). So, thanks to the writers, producers, crew and cast of Supernatural for making something that has become for me as synonymous with the holidays as A Christmas Story and the loathing of banal family get-togethers. May you all have a groovy whatever, except you, Krampus. Try this bar of Life Buoy.
A Very Supernatural Christmas
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through some house Not a creature was stirring, certainly not a mouse. Something was rumbling down the chimney without care. St. Nick? Hardly, for bloodthirsty hell was now there.
When I last left off profiling the words of wisdom spouted by our intrepid hero those many months ago (dodges flying tomatoes), Dean had just sort of sold his soul to a demon in order to bring Sam back from the dead. Talk about a perspective changer. Dean’s sharp tongued lines went from snarky in season one to edgier in season two, so season three was bound to be different. I would say less Dean’s comments were less “woe is me” and more bravado and smut, all to hide the reality that he was due for “Dean Winchester meet and greet” in Hell and apparently had to learn something known as the “Hellfire Rumba.” That’s right, no more boundaries.
We're obsessed, yes? We clear our schedules for Thursday night (or celebrate when outside events clear them for us). We check in here as often as real life permits and the withdrawal pains of Hellatus demand. We've got the DVDs and the downloads, and rewatch obsessively, sometimes in chronological order to get the benefit of the story arc as it was meant to be seen, sometimes picking out our favourites for some comfort watching. But what about the episodes we skip over, the ones where the DVD is not getting worn out, the ones not bookmarked in the favourites file? The orphan episodes that we don't rewatch, and which don't get much attention in articles here. Let's try to work out why, and maybe even give one or two of them the love and attention they deserve.
Of course, the trouble with this article is that in order to write about the episodes I don't rewatch, I've going to have to rewatch them. I'll think about that one later - I'm sure Jas will have an explanation if I ever make it onto her couch.
Let me clarify that this isn't necessarily about the "worst" episodes. Although they're not at the top of my rewatch list, I'll happily look at Bugs again, or Red Sky at Morning, the two that Chuck would have liked to re-write and which often seem to come up as the most problematic or least favourite episodes. In fact I think Chuck was wrong on Bugs: it is a decent episode until it gets to the showdown in the attic, and has some good development of the brotherly relationship. (It also has Dean in the steam shower. I appreciate the idea of Dean in a steam shower almost as much as Dean must have appreciated being in it, after all those motel rooms with tacky decoration and no doubt worse than tacky plumbing.) And Chuck must have written Red Sky at Morning and then forgotten that his fangirl publisher edited it out of the final lineup: it isn't one of the titles in the row of Supernatural books that are shown in The Monster at the End of This Book.
Inspiration is a wondrous creature â€“ suddenly it raises its head out of nowhere, when you least expect itâ€¦ after watching a couple of old Supernatural episodes, Indeepâ€™s song from the eighties â€“ Last Night a DJ Saved My Life â€“ was played on the radio â€¦ Suddenly words began to form in my head, pounding against my skull to be let out. Youâ€™re the ones who will suffer for it, I guessâ€¦
We know that demons lie, kill, betray and simply screw with the Winchester brothers (and their friends), but are they helpful, too, sometimes? After all, the importance of monsters in the Winchestersâ€™ lives canâ€™t be contradicted. The question is, could we paint some of that significance in a positive color or is it all badâ€¦?
Weâ€™ve had the imbeciles of demons, the almost human ones, and some really cool baddies (Crowley was one of those), and we had â€˜queen-bitchâ€™ Ruby, a former witch, and her boss Lilith who probably wasnâ€™t able to decide whether she preferred a childâ€™s body or that of a comely dental hygienistâ€¦
Demons played crucial roles in several moments in the brothersâ€™ lives. Iâ€™ve been wondering, what would have happened to them if it had not been for demonsâ€¦ or for some of themâ€¦
Paranormal creatures have been foes in a very traditional way (kill â€˜em and leave â€˜em â€“ and in the pre-colt-period exorcism was the method of choice to get rid of them), but they have also been ambiguous beings, even helpful, and sometimes they gave the brothers a glimpse at an alternative life. Angels did that, too.
The Odyssey in a Bottle (â€˜Til the Bottle Gets Busted in a Car Wreck Blues)
Well I roam from town to town, I go through life without a care, And I'm as happy as a clown, With my two fists of iron, but I'm goin' nowhere. - Dion, The Wanderer
Happy as a clown? Boy, does that sound out of place. Try this instead.
He who has tried it knows how cruel is sorrow as a companion to the one who has few beloved friends: the path of exile holds him, not at all twisted gold, a frozen spirit, not the bounty of the earth.
- The Wanderer, anonymous, Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book
That's better. Ready to celebrate the singular thrill of turning in my wretched, poorly-penned research paper, I did what any conscientious partier would do: pour him or herself a nice glass of adult beverage and watch some Supernatural. Sticking with our recent old school theme, I decided to start with the pilot. And then my ever-churning geeky brain confirmed its long-held suspicion: John Winchester and his sons aren't merely obvious examples of Der Wanderer, aren't just experiencing the Quest, they're living in an alternately thick-n-thinly veiled, (very) broadly narrated version of the greatest quest ever told.
The Greatest Story Ever Hulaed
Who hasn't read Homer's Odyssey? If you haven't, seriously, fix that tragic loss right now. I'll wait.
Back? Good. Eric Kripke and the other writers are pretty smart folks, and I can't imagine that such archetypal imagery didn't subconsciously bleed into their work, for they reflect integral threads of the human condition (conflict, love, family, home, death) that have remain unchanged over thousands of years. From the epic of Gilgamesh and Enkidu; Aeneas following his destiny after the fall of Troy; Ariosto's Orlando Furioso; Cervantes' Don Quixote; Captain Ahab forever searching for his white whale; the protagonist of Schubert's moving song cycle Winterreise; Rabelais' Pantagruel and Panurge (Sam and Dean? In some respects, yes!); numerous tales of the Old West such as the novels of Zane Grey; Kerouac's On the Road; any number of blues songs, to television's Kung Fu, the notion of the wanderer, of the quest is as old as civilization itself, and that's what we watch every Thursday at 9 p.m.. "Road show" is merely the latest incarnation of this timeless framework.
One of the mysteries of season 5 has been the question of where Samâ€™s powers have gone. In season 4 we find him quite a formidable force indeed. He re-established the fact that the demon â€˜ray gunâ€™ does not affect him when Samhain uses it in Itâ€™s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester ; an ability which had previously shown up in season 3 in No Rest For The Wicked. He uses his magnificent telekinesis ability to toss Alastair into a tree for attacking Dean in Death Takes A Holiday, and defeat some of the badiest of the bad in season 4 including Samhain in Itâ€™s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester , Alastair in On The Head Of A Pin, and Lilith in Lucifer Rising. (That was the best one of all.)
He could exorcise demons from people with his mind, and leave the human host aliveâ€¦. the most notable host being Amelia, the wife of Casteilâ€™s vessel, Jimmy in Rapture. But there were many others, and Iâ€˜m sure those hosts were very happy Sam was hooked on Rubyâ€™s blood. All in all, Sam did a lot of good with his â€˜darkâ€™ side in season 4.
Since then Sam has shown no powers at all. He has had his legs broken and lungs removed in Sympathy For The Devil, levitated, pinned against a wall (again), and choked in I Believe The Children Are Our Future; strangled by Leshii!Ghandi in Fallen Idol, and held hostage by a witch while Dean died in The Curious Case of Dean Winchester. He also stood by while Dean was levitated, choked, and slammed into few walls also in I Believe The Children Are Our Future; and thrown into a tree by Lucifer in Abandon All Hope ....none of which he allowed in earlier seasons. He let War get the best of him in Good God Yâ€™All , and stood by when hell hounds attacked Dean, Jo and Ellen in Abandon All Hopeâ€¦.not the Sam of season 4. What happened?
Winter Hellatus. Itâ€™s not all bad. This is the time where we all can take a deep breath, sit back, and examine with objectivity the 10 hours of Supernatural season five weâ€™ve been given thus far. Itâ€™s a chance to see the forest from the trees and look at the work as one big mass rather than the week to week nitpicking. So, does this expanded view change what I thought of season five up to now? It all depends on the point of reference.
This season thus far hasnâ€™t been as explosive as season four. There were two reasons why season four came out strong like it did. First, the writerâ€™s strike that shortened season three left plenty to be told in season four. Also, because of the shape of The CW and the mixed messages coming from the bosses, anything beyond season four was in doubt at the time. Doubts that were erased the second â€œLazarus Risingâ€ aired and drew one million viewers more than normal. For a three million viewer show, that jump was too significant to ignore. It proved that more people actually watch this show than the numbers indicate.
That was then though, this is now. The â€œwowâ€ factor that existed from the angel reveal in season four is gone. Not that the storytelling isnâ€™t still strong though. Itâ€™s still superior. But the big surprises and question marks from season four donâ€™t exist in season five. The events have unfolded and the sad reality is Lucifer walks the earth. What plays out here becomes biblical prophecy. Okay, itâ€™s not the bible we know, but as Anna said last season, â€œSame bottom line.â€
but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.â€™
After dealing with the guilt issues of Sam and Dean in another article, I felt compelled to take a closer look at the relationships of the Winchester men. Johnâ€™s role remains a crucial one, even though we havenâ€™t seen him for a long time now. Who was John Winchester? How did he influence his sons and why? What kind of father was he?
John Winchester was, as Dean once stated, â€˜many thingsâ€™: a vietnam survivor, a corporal, a mechanic, a loving husband to a lovely woman, a father to exceptional, intelligent and courageous sons, an obsessed hunter of the supernatural. Although John died in episode one of the second season, he remained a part of this show â€“ appearing every once in a while in conversations, in memories, sometimes in fights and heated discussions. He made it out of hell, as far as we know, after decades of agony that didnâ€™t manage to turn him into a torturer. And only Heaven (and Kripke, I suppose) knows what has and will become of him.
Neglect, invalidation and a missing mother
John was probably one of the most ambivalent figures in the young Winchestersâ€™ lives, and his ability â€“ albeit being dead and somewhat gone â€“ to create an impact on his sons hasnâ€™t changed.
John, while providing the skills imperative for survival, comfort to an extent he considered necessary (while at the same time loading his sons, and Dean in particular), and love as much as he could muster after his own traumatic shock of finding his beloved wife pinned to the ceilingâ€¦ trained his kids to serve his purpose: execute revenge and find the demon responsible. In part he taught them the essential abilities to deal with whatever might lunge at them, in part he moulded them into handy tools to help him hunt down the yellow-eyed demon Azazel. His actions were fuelled by despair, loneliness and confusion after being violently thrown into a paranormal world he had no idea existed.