Mark Watches ‘Supernatural’: S01E11 – Scarecrow

In the eleventh episode of the first season of Supernatural, ANGST EVERY SECOND and BAD DECISIONS EVERY OTHER SECOND and ONE SUPER UNFAIR ENDING. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.

It’s like this show suddenly woke up and realized it could be super entertaining and full of emotions? Seriously, both monster-of-the-week episodes since “Home” are chock full of continuity and serialization while allowing the boys to discover another horror in good ol’ America. This time it’s in a town that is part American Gods, part “The Lottery,” and part The Village. AND IT’S ALL FUCKED UP. OH MY GOD THIS IS SO DISTURBING.

Before we get to that, though, we have to talk about daddy issues, because this episode is EXPLODING WITH THEM. As a resident Daddy Issue Haver, “Scarecrow” surprisingly deals with this issue super well. And I say “surprisingly” because the last time Sam and Dean argued about their father, the script came down heavily on Dean’s side, and it left me feeling weird about what the writers intended for me to feel about Sam. “Scarecrow” is a much more balanced take on John Winchester, though, and I think that’s also because the main plot deals with the dichotomous ways in which family can help or harm us. This isn’t about proving how Dean’s dedication to his father is honorable. It’s about how Dean and Sam come to appreciate their individual experiences with a man who is, admittedly, kind of not around to help them sort it out anyway.

We start off with where “Asylum” left off, and John Winchester is frustratingly vague about why Sam and Dean can’t come help him fight the demon that took Mary Winchester and Jess. And there was that weird line about something being everywhere? What? As mind-blowing as this scene was because JOHN SPOKE TO HIS SONS OMG, I actually think it was a brilliant way of demonstrating how the Winchesters viewed their father. Sam is quick to volunteer himself to help out, but he wants to do it on his terms. Obviously, there’s a key difference here, which is that Sam wants revenge. That’s why he brings up Jess’s death and (very rudely) claims that Dean’s pain isn’t as valid because it’s not as fresh as his.

But then I looked at Dean during that phone call scene, and holy god. Did you see how quickly he obeyed John, how Jensen Ackles makes Dean look like a little boy who has just gotten scolded? The thing is, both these brothers want their father’s validation; it’s just that Dean is the more obvious of the two. But Sam is on the same page here, even if he doesn’t want to admit it. I know I pick on Dean for being so stereotypically macho, but that doesn’t mean that Sam is exempt from it. I’d say his whole tantrum here about not helping out the people of Burkitsville really is selfish in a specific context, and leaving Dean in the middle of the night to hitchhike to California is about the dudeliest thing Sam’s done so far. It’s so stubborn! Hell, both of these doofuses are pretty damn stubborn, and it’s one of the reasons they separate from one another so easily.

Seriously, though, I didn’t expect Sam and Dean to split up so early into the show, and the writers handle it well. We’re given a set of stories happening in parallel as Sam bonds with a young woman hitchhiking to California as Dean deals with NOPE. SO MUCH NOPE. Honestly, I didn’t think that Sam and Meg’s story was part of anything that would continue beyond “Scarecrow.” I loved the idea that Sam coincidentally met someone who would understand running away from family in search of independence. Hell, it actually makes sense that while hitchhiking, this would occur, you know? (I just need to point out that the fact that all of this seems so innocuous and perfect is precisely why I should have suspected that something else was going on, but no, I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.) Even when Sam did return to Dean’s side to save him, the writers didn’t invalidate Sam’s feelings. It was perfectly reasonable for him to feel like he needed to go on his own journey!

Dean, meanwhile, finds out just how much he’s grown to need Sam. As he figures out that the people of Burkitsville are really fucking creepy, he then discovers that he’s nowhere near as charming as Sam can be. That whole scene in Scotty’s with the next victims is RIDICULOUS. It’s so awkward! It’s not lost on me that shortly after this, Dean and Sam are speaking on the phone about what’s happened. Can I just imagine that they both couldn’t resist not speaking for another day? Yes, this is fine. Is it also fine for me to assume that the only reason Dean got captured was because he didn’t have his brother with him? I don’t mean that he’s not capable of taking care of himself. Clearly, he did that for years without Sam. But I think that after spending six months with him, he just got used to him being around. Maybe he subconsciously planned to have Sam with him because I’m going to create these emotions, canon be damned.

So, yeah, there is so much goddamn angst and emotion in “Scarecrow” to talk about, but I do want to talk about the titular monster itself. Again, the writers take a very basic idea – creepy animated scarecrow – and then mix it with a bit of Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, combine it with the myth of immigrants bringing their gods to America, and then add a healthy dose of extremely fucked up self-preservation from an entire town. One of the most pervasively creepy things about “Scarecrow” is how the people of Burkitsville are so ready to wipe their hands of responsibility when faced with the moral implications of what they’ve done. They are quick to say that they didn’t commit murder, despite that nearly every citizen of this tiny town has done something every year to guarantee that a couple dies violently at the hands of Vanir. (Er… dies by the hook of Vanir, I should say.) And when Emily and Dean are the only obvious choices for sacrifices, they put on a show to make it seem like they’re really sorry! And you know, maybe Emily’s aunt and uncle were upset, but that’s only because their victims finally had a face, a name, and meaning in their life. I couldn’t feel sorry for them! I could not muster up an ounce of sympathy for these horrifying assholes who felt entitled to an existence that was so decidedly inhuman. They wanted to live without bad things in their life ever.

Granted, I’m not building a case to say that the writers wanted us to feel sympathy for them. That’s hardly the case. I mean, Emily’s aunt and uncle are dragged to their deaths and everyone just stands around and lets it happen. Dean and Sam are both like PEACE OUT LET’S COME BACK IN THE MORNING. So, clearly, we’re not meant to feel bad for them. It’s just that their behavior is so jarring and disturbing, you know? And if it wasn’t for Dean, they’d continue doing this for… shit, decades. Centuries! Who knows? But those good ol’ Winchester boys were there to do what their father wanted them to do: save lives from evil. In this case, the humans involved were probably more evil than the monster itself.

So, the Winchester separation of season one is over, and I love the way it was handled. Both characters have come to understand one another better. Dean gets that Sam has a desire to be independent; Sam understands that Dean is the only family he truly has left that does support them. For the time being, then, it’s best that they get through this together.


The video commission for “Scarecrow” can be downloaded right here.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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