A lot of you faithful readers had more to say about my last line of last week's Supernatural recap than anything else I commented on within the episode. It was because I pointed out that the Winchesters "really are in this only together." Hunting has always been a solitary way of life, and as bleak as this makes it seem, attachments are always liabilities. "Freaks and Geeks," at the outset, seemed like it was going to make a case for a different way, but as Dean (Jensen Ackles) would say, something didn't smell right about a "hunting school" from the jump.
Dean and Sam (Jared Padalecki) caught a case of a savage death in a popular necking spot in the woods (only an old guy like Dean would call it necking, though, right?), and when they arrived in town, Dean was shocked and saddened to see little Krissy Chambers (guest star Madison McLaughlin) not quite all grown up and caught on security footage as part of a pubescent trio that took the thing down.
The episode itself allowed the audience to only see a little bit of Krissy without the boys, to get a sense of what her life was like and not even why. I couldn't help but wonder why we didn't see her at her weird foster home for young hunters without the Winchesters on her heels. I suspect it was because if we were allowed inside those walls without them, the hair on our necks would have been standing up with no one to call for help. In getting to know how Krissy worked, though, she certainly seemed to be the future of hunting, with her Sam-would-approve tech gadgets and Dean-would-approve gun-handling. The POV camera work from her team was exactly how-- and how much-- "Bitten" should have done it earlier in the season and pretty much rendered that episode further useless. But I digress.
The Winchesters tracked Krissy to a hotel where she and her friends were preparing for their next kill. Though we caught him in a room with a young woman bound on the bed, after he bolted through a window, he actually begged for his life, rather than bared his vamp teeth at the young hunter who wanted to lob off his head for killing her entire family months earlier. It was then that it was apparent these kids were on each on a personal revenge mission, and this guy was only number two. They still had to find the vampire that killed Krissy's dad, and since she was the most skilled-- and seemingly most emotionless-- it was bound to be a doozy.
But any good Supernatural fan knows the rules about revenge kills. They are often sloppy and never fully satisfying. So when Krissy took the boys back to her new home to meet her surrogate father figure and teacher Victor (Adrian Hough), it baffled me that he was claiming revenge was exactly what would set these kids up right for a future in hunting. He was convinced that they would feel so good about getting the thing that got their families they would go on to greatness. But I couldn't wonder why they'd want to. They're not all martyrs like Dean and Sam. For most people, the act of revenge is the final act. You complete it, and you can move on with your life. Victor would lose his brood, his surrogate children, in what was sure to be just as painful (but in a different way) as losing his own children to a wendigo.
By the way, I loved the throwback references to earlier things that we saw Sam and Dean hunt down in the first seasons of the show. Wendigo was just one.
Anyway, Dean had the same funny feeling I did about Victor and his ways, and it wasn't just about wanting these kids to have regular, normal lives. He saw a suspicious hoodie-wearing man (did they end up in Starling City!?) in a blue van parked outside the hotel, and Sam ended up seeing the same thing at the house. Victor was feeding these kids lines of crap about who really killed their parents so they could hunt down easy kills and get self-esteem boosts for being so good at their new jobs they managed to take down what they perceived to be the scariest monster of them all. But Victor was working with a vampire-- the real one who had killed all of their families at his urging-- and he decided to keep playing that revenge card as much as possible. He planned to have the vamp kill Sam, and then he would spin a story about how the remainder of the nest came looking for the kids for their own revenge. It was convoluted, but that's what happens when people get emotional. They don't make much sense.
Dean had already intercepted the kids from killing the third planted vamp, and he told them of his suspicions, so by the time they were back in the house, there wasn't a lot of "he said/he said" trying to decide who was telling the truth. They turned on Victor pretty quickly, but the kicker really wasn't what he was really up to at all. Instead it was their response-- well, namely Krissy's-- to the remaining players. The vampire who hadn't actually killed Krissy's dad was still a vampire, and the kids wanted to kill her because they saw a black and white monster. Dean actually talked them down (perhaps drawing on his own recent partnership with a vampire for internal inspiration, even if he didn't try to explain it to them aloud) to impart the most valuable lesson a new hunter could learn: it's not about killing people; it's about saving them.
Through Victor, they were coming at things from the wrong side of the business, focused on the blood lust and the "taking down of bad guys." They had a plan in place for saving live, human victims, like the girl they found tied up in the hotel room, but it was mechanical, robotic, more of a task to get through until they could get to the good stuff. They were getting their adrenaline off their kills. And really, that's just as bad as the monsters who get high off their own kills.
The lesson must have really stuck because faced with the truth about Victor, Krissy was content to let him crap himself thinking she was going to kill him, rather than actually kill him. She knew he wanted a family and that leaving him in his house to live alone would be worse than putting a bullet in his head. I had a brief thought of "but he'll just try again with new kids" because you know you never turn your back on the killer in the horror movie because even with gunshot or stab wounds or being lit on fire, he will get up and come after you one last time. But Victor didn't. When he reached for his gun, it was to take his own life, and I found that extremely unsatisfying. I've argued against revenge kills in this show so many times, but I didn't like that the bad guy retained control all the way to the end with this one.
I would be lying if I said the thought I had about this episode long after it ended wasn't about Krissy and her two friends and what kind of a life they'd go onto now. They've each been through something terrible but attained amazing skills since. Victor said it himself: they are athletes and scholars. But most importantly, they're going to do the impossible and stick with each other. We haven't seen any other hunters be successful at that. They either drop out of each others' lives for such long periods of time due to being on the road and hunts that when they return, they don't even know if they'll find their former buddies alive-- or they actually do just die on each other. I would love to see some kind of web series spin-off where Krissy and Co. don't go looking for monsters, as she promised, but they find them, as they always do, and they manage to kick a little bit more ass.
The neat and tidy wrap-up at the end of the episode, in which Dean pointed out that this episode actually does tie-into closing the gates of hell felt like a direct raspberry to anyone who would bemoan another one-off so late in the season. But he also verbalized a point we should have all been thinking with any one-off this season: the Winchesters may only be in the big picture stuff together, but it all trickles down, and everyone they've ever even encountered are affected. Some worse than others, obviously. Krissy more than most because she not only knows what's out there but has the capabilities to do something about them. They've been saving one person at a time, but soon they'll have a chance to save the entire population-- forever. One tablet is sure to beget another. And assuming Sam survives the first set of trials, maybe he and Sam will alternate on the next ones. Sure, those who have been touched by something evil already will never forget, but they will be able to truly move on. The Winchesters (hopefully and especially) included.