In the sixth episode of the first season of Supernatural, the Winchesters combat a giant NOPE that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but is still scary as hell. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
All right, let’s split this up so I can attempt to deal with “Skin” in a coherent way that doesn’t involve this review descending into me just shrieking about Dean tearing his skin off like a wet t-shirt. Gah. GAHHHHHHH.
This episode is fucked up and creepy. And while that’s partially dampened by a couple of things I’ll bring up in the second section, I think it’s a neat way to use a familiar horror trope: THE MONSTER CAN BE ANYONE. Any one of us could be infected! Oh, it’s one of my favorites. It’s used in disease thrillers, in monster movies, alien invasion tales, and body horror stories. It’s so fun! And lord, “Skin” purposely fucks with the audience in this really neat way by not revealing the mode by which one person can be in two places at once until nearly halfway through the episode. Initially, this doesn’t even seem like a supernatural case. Just because the cold open reveals that Dean was the one who tied up and tortured that woman doesn’t mean that there’s anything mystical here. Plus, up to a point, all of this could have been explained by positing that Becky was lying to protect her friend Zach. It fits with the theme of friendship and loyalty that’s brought up in this story, so it’s not entirely far-fetched.
And then there’s that sequence where “Zach,” who should be in jail, is watching another house, and then Zach is another person. And NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. It lives in the sewer! Oh my god, have y’all not seen The X-Files yet? NOTHING GOOD LIVES IN THE SEWER. NOTHING EVER. OH MY GOD, YOU ARE LITERALLY FINDING PATCHES OF SKIN THAT THE CREATURE SHED OFF ITS BODY. YOU SHOULD RUN THE OTHER DIRECTION AND NEVER COME BACK.
Of course, they don’t, not only because that would defeat the purpose of the show, but because these are the Winchesters. They seek out danger because they want to eliminate said danger. (Though I would watch the fuck out of a show with a reluctant supernatural detective, y’all. Kind of like Courage the Cowardly Dog meets The X-Files. Can someone get on this? I reserve the right to write it myself if the inspiration strikes me, though.) In this case, though, the writers (JOHN SHIBAN, WHO IS A VETERAN OF THE X-FILES AHHHHH I LOVE HIM SO MUCH) make this about more than just saving humanity from the evil, supernatural weirdness of the world. I admit that every time this show finds a way to make the monster-of-the-week address the dynamics between the Winchesters, I feel all squishy inside. In particular, “Skin” features Dean giving Sam advice about his social life: He shouldn’t have one. I loved the idea that Sam was still keeping in touch with his friends at Stanford because it’s a neat bit of emotional continuity. It shows us that he hasn’t fully committed to the lifestyle that Dean has lived for years.
It’s through Shapeshifter!Dean that Sam learns just how resentful Dean is, though, and I think it’s one of the best things I’ve seen in the past six episodes of this show. Jensen Ackles gives us a hint of what he can do here, and I love it. I WANT MORE. It’s so creepy because it’s how we learn that the shapeshifter doesn’t just assume someone’s appearance; it can literally become them, memories and personality together. So I don’t doubt that what Shapeshifter!Dean says in this episode is the truth. Dean never got to go to college, to build up a network of friends, to have other people to be loyal to aside from his own family. No, he was left to help his father. I’m interested to see if Sam will bring this up in a future episode, too! I mean, it’s kind of a big deal, right?
Oh, right, Shapeshifter!Dean pulled his own skin off. Wow, I had no fucking idea this show was going to be that gory. Bravo, Supernatural, you made me actually turn away in horror.
I feel like a broken record at this point, but I’m bored by Dean’s portrayal as the straightest straight man who was ever straight. It’s not even that this show has no queer characters to counter him! It’s only been six episodes of a show with nearly 200 episodes, so I’m biding my time. It’s just that… god, I want more depth. I cannot even believe I am going to type this, but Dean’s sexuality defines him so much at this point that I just don’t want to hear about it anymore. Oh god, what have I done. That’s usually something I’d say about gay characters, who are often defined by their gayness, except now it’s a straight white dude. what have i become.
I just want more from his character aside from this weird sense that he needs to constantly posture his masculinity. I get it! He’s straight! He doesn’t form connections with people because monsters!
Actually, he doesn’t form connections with women, I should say. He views them as bonuses to his job as a hunter, and the show itself still hasn’t really treated the women as anything more than victims or side characters to push the plot along. What did we learn about Becky here? How did her characterization affect the larger story? If you remove her from the plot, do we essentially have the same story? I’m worried that this pattern isn’t going to be broken for a while, especially since the very nature of the show makes it so that it’s always just Sam and Dean. How do you ever factor in other characters?
While “Skin” is super creepy, it’s also endlessly distracting. Perhaps I’m coming into this show with the wrong mindset, and it’s possible that Supernatural is not the type of show with neatly wrapped mysteries. Maybe all the supernatural things that the boys come across lack closure when it comes to the stories told, and I can accept that, but I’m going to need a bit more confirmation that this is the case. Because y’all, this episode doesn’t make sense. I was with it for so long, trying to guess the shapeshifter’s motives. I tried guessing why it was killing people as their significant others. Little did I know that it didn’t matter. The details surrounding the shapeshifter’s own logic are scant at best, and largely nonexistent. So why the fuck was it killing those people? Was that an entirely separate fetish or murderous desire completely unconnected to its biological ability? Was it just using its shapeshifting power to murder because it wanted to? Is it able to shift into any identity of a person as long as they’re alive? Does it need to see them first? Why kidnap anyone if you can become them without kidnapping them? (Remember, the shapeshifter assumed the identity of the Asian gentleman without holding him hostage.)
I DON’T UNDERSTAND. I DON’T GET IT. And it’s so distracting because “Skin” falls apart once you spend like five seconds thinking about it.
Anyway, I did have a good time watching this episode, flaws and all. So… technically, Dean is dead! That’s kind of convenient for him, isn’t it? Now he doesn’t have to ever pay taxes again! (Why is that the first thing I thought of???) Except… what if he needs to be Dean Winchester? Isn’t he legally dead now? Okay, I need this to be addressed again some time in the future. Thanks.
The video commission for “Skin” can be downloaded right here.
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