Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Five Cents: The Bloody Mess of 'Supernatural's' "Bitten"...

So here's the thing...I recap Supernatural for Celebuzz now, but I am limited by format and word count over there, and I often find myself with extra thoughts about the episodes that I try to express on Twitter but often get taken out of context or simply misinterpreted because I am much worse limited over there.

Anyway, here's the thing: I truly didn't hate "Bitten", but I felt like it was a back-door pilot for some other new genre show, rather that an episode in the eighth season of a show I have come to know and love so well. Now, I applaud that they wanted to do something different and take a risk-- and I am impressed by the fact that after eight years they found something that actually was different and risky-- but I think about stand alone episodes, and I have specific criteria for them. 

If stand alone episodes have absolutely no point in furthering the overall season arc or mythology, they theoretically could be picked up and moved at any point in the season, and it wouldn't matter. They don't inform anything, and nothing is changed by them. In a nutshell, that is kind of my problem with stand alone episodes in general: I pretty much always consider them filler and could skip them and not feel too badly about it. That's just me. With "Bitten", though, I realized that if this particular stand alone had actually come at the end of the season, I would have been pissed.

It has nothing to do with the fact that the guest stars were the central characters in the episode. I actually quite enjoyed the different perspective in that way. The character dynamics set up with these strangers were unique and dynamic enough to draw me in. The "found footage" aspect certainly winked at the crappy horror movies being released a dime a dozen today, and having one of those characters actually want to capitalize and simply get his fifteen minutes helped make it more plausible that all of these random things would be caught on camera. Personally, I thought all of that was well-executed, especially when you started to see the parallels between Mike and Brian and Sam and Dean, but I don't think it fit easily into the world Supernatural worked so hard to create. If anything, it felt like another, lesser show that was trying to capitalize on Supernatural's fandom by inviting those characters to cross-over into it. If I just shut off my brain and went along for the ride with "Bitten", it was a fun, very well shot episode. 

But I don't like television that wants me to shut off my brain, and I never felt Supernatural was that. Again, it didn't feel like something Supernatural would do, and by the end of the episode, when two of three were dead, and the third, in  my opinion, should have been hunted down and made dead, I had this feeling of "Why should I care about the perspective at all?" In the truest sense of the word, that perspective did not matter because these people weren't around to let their experiences resonate with them and potentially alter their behavior.

Yes, yes, I know Kate walked away from the situation vowing to never kill anything human, and words are nice, but actions will speak louder. I have this feeling we will never physically see Kate again, and I think that would be a mistake. In order for this episode to have impact at all, she has to pop back up-- whether its because she slips up and Sam and Dean have to make good and hunt her down (like he told Amy's son he would come for him, by the way), or if they just happen to stumble on her and it's an "I'll be damned" moment of her actually living an "apple pie life" with a terrible thing inside of her. 

To say I'm rooting for the former would be an understatement. Admittedly, I think it was absolutely ridiculous for Sam and Dean to let her life, but for the fact that it was the end of the episode, and the writers had to wrap it up because next week would be onto something bigger, better, and actually mythology driven. 

Sam and Dean have been down this road before. They have made the same exact choice before. There was no need to see them repeat themselves unnecessarily. That was my biggest problem with this episode by far: it felt like filler for filler's sake, and it felt sloppy at that. For one thing, the entire episode was based around the fact that this girl left behind a laptop, with a carefully edited video that I don't know how she even had the time to finish, by the way, to explain what she and her friends did to each other. She could have just took off with the footage. Or burned it. But she didn't. If that was supposed to be some kind of grand statement that she was remorseful-- that she wasn't a sociopath who would get drunk on her new strength and power like her pal Brian-- it got a little lost in the fact that it was basically a final act, procedural trope expository reveal. Neither Sam nor Dean made that point when they decided to let her go anyway, so for an audience member to have to read it between the lines means the audience member is grasping at something to make the whole scenario logical.

That's also something typical procedurals do: wrap up everything neatly at the end with a "confession." Please, so many people (Kate included) would get away with their crimes if they just keep their mouths shut. And one of the reasons I always liked Supernatural was because it was smarter than that. These guys never proclaimed to be the best hunters, but through their actions and ability to ascertain what the things were they were fighting and how to stop them every time, the show made the case that they were the best, special, the chosen ones. There's nothing special about being handed the answers. It's hard to feel good about that-- as a cop, a hunter, or a viewer.

Furthermore, Dean came back from Purgatory such a hardened soldier, it seems that much more likely he would let this stranger go without a second thought. It would have made much more sense if he had gotten a call from Benny at that point and got distracted or felt pulled to his new brother or even knew for sure the guy was in trouble and wanted to choose him over hunting down this new thing. That would have been complex, emotional, and set up an internal tug-of-war for the guy. But that didn't happen.

Even in stand alone episodes, Sam and Dean's actions, interactions, or overall relationship evolve. The decisions they make have repercussions on them later, even if just with the way they look at each other because of said decisions. If anything, Kate's purpose seemed solely to cushion the blow for when Sam learns that Dean not only let Benny live but was responsible for bringing him back in general (Benny earned Dean's trust and loyalty, though, and therefore deserves the courtesy; Kate did not). But we didn't need a whole episode of nonsense first. After all, Dean and Sam were in surprise agreement about Kate here, so it didn't even serve to drive the point home that they have changed after a year apart.


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