In the eighth episode of the first season of Supernatural, I HAVE NEVER WITNESSED A BIGGER NOPE IN MY LIFE. OH MY GOD, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO HUMANITY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Look, y’all, it’s not even that I hate bugs. I don’t! I am fascinated by them, I adored them as a kid, and I am definitely the sort of person who squeals with delight when they come across bugs in nature. That’s not what’s so upsetting about “Bugs.” No, it’s the idea of intelligent, revenge-driven swarms that fucks me up, and this episode IS EVERY SINGLE NON-SCIENCE-BASED TROPE INVOLVING BUGS IN A SINGLE EPISODE, AND I CAN’T. Again, I won’t apologize for the display of absurdity in the commission video attached to this. I don’t think I’ve ever been so consistently vocal in a commission before? This is me at my absolute most ridiculous, so at least y’all get that? For real, I can handle a lot of things. I am not the kind of horror fan who turns their face away at gross things! And yet, “Bugs” made me squirm in a way that I don’t normally do.
Given the reaction I received to Tweeting about seeing “Bugs,” I understand that this episode is one of fandom’s least favorite. And I get that. The ending is fucking awful, the first example of truly abysmal writing that is unforgivable by any standard. Then there’s the whole mystical Native American thing? Though I suspect fandom probably had less of an issue with that than other things, but you better believe I’m going to talk about. For me, though, I actually thought this was a decent tale! Daddy issues abound! Sam relates to Matt! The bug infestation is surprisingly not what we think it is! Indigenous cultures getting revenge on white people! There are things to like about this episode, so I ultimately don’t feel as strongly against “Bugs” as the rest of the fandom does.
LET’S GET INTO IT:
I just realized how frequent daddy issues are on this show. Lori had issues with her father. So did Andrea in “Dead in the Water,” Sam’s largely defined by his rejection of his father’s expectations, and Dean reveres his father and what he does. Fathers fuel the character development of a lot of the characters in this show, so it was fascinating to see how Sam identified with Matt’s disapproving father. It’s difficult for Dean to see his father in a less-than-positive light, especially since John Winchester was so instrumental in the development of Dean’s identity. I suspect that Dean and John are strikingly similar in more ways than we’ve seen, most likely due to Dean’s imitation of his role model. But Sam wanted something else from his father, and I can certainly relate to that. I talked openly about my differences with my father while writing about Friday Night Lights, but I think there’s a neat parallel here that I was able to recognize. My father resented the fact that I was not typically masculine and that I was not interested in typically masculine, macho things. I could tell that he was disappointed in me at times, though not for everything. He was proud that I got a full ride into college, and he was proud that I was so independent. It was just always so difficult for him to express that.
It’s fascinating, then, to see how these brothers view their own father. Ultimately, I was a little disappointed that Sam came to agree with Dean about his treatment of John Winchester, though I know this is from my own personal bias more than anything else. Parental validation is a hell of a thing, and it’s painful to experience disappointment like Sam did. I think it’s entirely valid for him not to look upon his father with complete acceptance. So it feels weird that Sam is so willing to apologize because it suggests that he was the one who did everything wrong, which ignores whatever it was that John might have done. But I also recognize that I come to this with a very, very personal bias, so I wouldn’t say this is the same sort of criticism I’ll offer of the writing later in this review.
As for the actual story itself, this is one of the most relentlessly uncomfortable and genuinely frightening things that I’ve ever seen on a television show. The writers toy with our expectations by changing the insect that’s swarming these people at Oasis Plains. How is that possible? I mean, the cold open was awful and terrible because NO FOREVER, but I couldn’t see how this was a supernatural occurrence. Then, we’re given a bit of a red herring in Matt, the teenager obsessed with bugs, since we’re led to suspect that he is controlling all of these insects as a way to work out the angst he feels towards his own father. HELLO, DADDY ISSUES. It still would have fit within the episode! But oh god, the answer is so much worse than that.
I will say that while I have about a thousand billion problems with the whole “Native American curse” trope, I am kinda here for the idea of a plot that involves indigenous cultures getting revenge on the people who exploited them and those who still benefit from the system of power that got them to where they are? The problem is that this is executed in “Bugs” poorly. REALLY POORLY.
Let’s discuss that.
Yeah, don’t fucking do this, white people. This is one of the most egregious uses of the mystical Native American that I’ve ever seen in my life. Literally, Joe White Tree is used here to spout off some ham-fisted crock of bullshit that was clearly invented by white people, and it’s meant as some sort of mystical revenge narrative? Except there is absolutely no depth here, the text doesn’t explore why it’s fucked up to build a development on this land aside from the existence of a curse, and Joe White Tree fades back into irrelevance once the Winchesters are done with him. Also, what’s with this guy just giving up this story with almost no prompting? He decides to talk simply because Sam doesn’t lie? Oh my god, this is so, so horribly written that I can barely be offended since I feel that it doesn’t even deserve the attention that offense brings.
And then… sigh. I don’t even know how the hell the writers thought that we would believe that after spending three or four minutes in the attic, six hours passed in the show. This is, without a doubt, one of the worst endings to any episode of television that I have ever seen. They were attacked for like 7 minutes! How the fuck do you expect me to believe that these people escaped largely unscathed from this? That is bullshit!!! BAD WRITING. BAD WRITING.
I surprisingly did not hate this episode as much as most people do. However, I hope that I live the rest of my life without ever seeing “Bugs” again. Just… no! So much nope that the word doesn’t even look real now that I’ve typed it so many times.
The ridiculous video commission for “Bugs” can be downloaded right here.
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