[SPN] Won’t Get Fooled Again

Supernatural has put itself in a weird position this season.  By “weird,” of course, I mean not “weird” at all: far too common, in fact, with this television season becoming something of a breaking point regarding the treatment of LGBTQ characters on television.  As a slew of recent deaths on shows like Empire, The Magicians, Jane the Virgin and, perhaps most visibly The 100, has grown into a significant discussion of the toxic “bury your gays” trope, calls have gone out for TV writers and spearheads to sign the “Lexa Pledge,” a promise not to use LGBT characters as fridge fodder, ratings ploys, baiting tactics, or sensation but rather treat these characters, well, as characters.

It’s perhaps because all of this is occurring, and extremely visible, that I find what Supernatural is doing right now to be so peculiar.

I think we all remember the last time Supernatural ran truly afoul of its fans.  No, not Charlie — no no, not those awful sexist episodes all through 9 and 10, either.  No, not the general blathering nonsense that was most of the last two seasons.  Think earlier, back to 9×03 and the nastiness that was Guy Bee and others calling Destiel fans “delusional.”  Season 8 brought us a strange transformation in Dean and Castiel’s relationship to go along with a new series head.  Coming out of purgatory, having lost Cas and presuming him dead, Dean was destitute.  He began to see Castiel in windows and on the side of the road in a direct parallel to Sam and his long-fridged girlfriend, Jessica.  He was moody, staring into middle distance to remember Purgatory and his time with Castiel.  Ultimately, we discover he wanted so badly to believe Castiel wouldn’t leave him that he changed his own memories.  When Castiel returns he’s being controlled by the angels — but Dean is so desperate he refuses to see it until the moment Castiel is standing above him holding a knife, when Dean’s shaky admission that he “needs” Cas breaks the spell and Heaven’s connection over a celestial body.   Later on, we’re shown Dean & Cas in a bar, waiting on a cupid, when a television near them directs and shoots a ‘bow’ at them.  Moments later, the cupid arrives and works her love connection, on the only two other men at the bar.

The point of this is: S8 felt like it was building to something.  And then S9 aired, and Castiel had sex with his angel-sister, and we were told we were deluded for inventing things.  For seeing parallels where there were none.

(It’s the pleats… the pleats in the pants. It’s an optical illusion. I was just about to take them back… to the pants store. Oh this is embarrassing.)

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[SPN] 11×17 “Red Meat:” It’s About Sam, But It’s Not

[discussion of suicide attempt below]

So I wasn’t going to write a full review of this episode – and this isn’t a review, per se.  More, rambling meta.  But I’ve seen quite a bit in the way of mixed emotions about this episode.  For a variety of reasons, but the one concern that I keep coming back to is the idea that the episode was a step back for Sam and Dean — that it reduced their world to the Sam-n-Dean Show again by portraying a world in which the Winchesters don’t know how to exist without each other.  Now, I can’t fully speak to that, because in terms of characterization I remain of the mind that there is a large extent to which Sam and Dean will always be in each others pockets.  But I absolutely did not see this episode as a reaffirmation of Sam and Dean as existing in an insular bubble of two, nor did I see it as a step back in terms of Dean (or Sam) valuing the other relationships in their lives (is anyone alive to have a relationship with?).  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Whereas past episodes that have touched on the theme of “with you or not at all” have treated a World Without Sam as end-game in its own right, Red Meat represented the culmination of weeks’ worth of Dean’s mental and emotional deterioration, largely the result of his own feelings of helplessness in the face of the Darkness and (more significantly, or at least, more immediately pressed on) the loss of Castiel. In many ways, the fact that Dean’s reckless call for Billie/loosely veiled suicide attempt was staged as it was, as the final result of an ongoing build-up rather than the result of a single, fatal action, demonstrates exactly how much Dean has changed — and Sam, whose focus through the entire episode remained Dean and his (physical and emotional) safety.

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