In the twelfth episode of the first season of Supernatural, Sam takes drastic measures to save Dean, which inadvertently brings them to another hunt. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
WELL, THAT WAS JUST GREAT. Seriously! There’s a lot here to like, and it really feels like Supernatural is starting to figure itself out and find a voice. CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS.
The Cold Open
I don’t know what a rawhead is (I’ve never heard of that legend), but I definitely don’t want to meet one ever. I love that the opening of “Faith” suggests that there are plenty of cases the Winchesters take that we don’t ever see, that they’re on this constant road trip to save lives. It’s here that we meet a monster that ultimately has nothing to do with the rest of the episode aside from normalizing the idea that this is what the Winchester brothers do every day. Instead, it’s Dean’s near-death by electrocution that is the focus of “Faith,” and it’s a shocking and grim start to an episode that is constantly strange and difficult.
Sam’s Dedication and Worldbuilding
I can’t forget that the action in this episode was born of Sam’s desire to save Dean, no matter the cost. At least, that’s what we think is happening. When the brothers pull up to a tent revivalist church, we’re initially led to think that Sam is desperate to save Dean, so he’ll try any possible solution to his brother’s heart problem. That doesn’t make Sam’s love for Dean any less genuine, for the record. But it does create a fascinating predicament for Dean: How much does he believe? Dean is quick to call Roy Le Grange’s faith healing bullshit, but Sam points out that they believe in ghosts, spirits, specters, monstersâ€¦ everything that most people call bullshit, too. So where do they draw the line? Why is it possible that the world is full of evil things, but not the chance of a genuinely good miracle?
And I think that ties in with a very interesting exploration of what exactly it means to exist in this fictional universe. As Dean is conveniently called upon to be healed by La Grange, we have to start asking questions: Is there a God in this universe? Are all religions true in their own right? I mean, Supernatural posits that all the legends and myths of the world are real, that their beasts and spirits and traditions have real-world consequences, and that the people routinely written off as ridiculous and silly were right all along. So, how far does that extend? I mean, I jokingly asked during “Faith” if there was a Satan, and now I can’t escape the thought. Could that be real here? What about Jesus??? Are traditional American legends about Christianity true as well?
Of course, Sam’s seemingly miraculous healing is complicated by the appearance of that strange thing in a suit that hangs over La Grange’s shoulder during the healing. Then, when Sam discovers that a swimmer died of the same heart ailment that Dean had at the exact moment he was healed, everything is suddenly SUPER AWFUL AND AWKWARD. Roy La Grange is trading lives. So, we’ve got a faith healer dealing in some dark magic who is using said magic to bolster his own reputation in this community. That’s not necessarily surprising, and it fits fairly well within the trope as far as what I’ve seen from other shows or films that have tackled this story. But oh god, the writers don’t make this easy for the Winchesters or the audience, either.
One Life For Another
So, a bit of a correction. Richard Matheson’s short story “Button, Button” was what became The Box. But there’s a moral element to “Faith” that I found very similar: Is saving a life while ending another fair? Most of this struggle is personified in Layla Rourke, played perfectly by Julie Benz (MY QUEEN I MISS YOU SO MUCH). Her mother is desperate for Roy to choose her to be healed, even going so far as to insult Dean for returning to Roy after being healed. However, it hits Dean a little too close to home. I really feel like this is the first time we’ve seen such blatant evidence that Dean isn’t perfectly happy with himself. At least twice in “Faith,” he vocalizes the idea that he wasn’t worth saving. I wouldn’t call it jarring, but it’s certainly kind of new. Why does he feel this way? Is there something in his backstory that I don’t know about yet?
This struggle is an intimate aspect of his behavior within this episode. It’s not just that he feels wrong taking Layla’s healing from her; it’s that he feels she deserved it more. On top of this, the writers craft this uncomfortable scenario so that the boys can truly navigate the moral difficulty of their job. They can’t always save everyone, and in this case, by stopping La Grange’s healing, they’re dooming someone to die. So what are they supposed to do? Does it count as playing God by taking hope away from someone else?
I touched on this with Sam initially, since I thought that the faith healer plot was meant to demonstrate his desperation to save his brother. I don’t necessarily think I’m wrong; instead, it’s just a lot more layered and complex than that. Truly, desperation is at the heart of this story. Sam is desperate to save Dean. Mrs. Rourke is desperate to save her daughter. And Sue-Ann was so desperate to prevent her husband from dying that she used black magic to cheat death literally. But Sue-Ann’s desperation turned into something much more horrifying (and far less sympathetic): a desire to play God. Which is fascinating, since Dean and Sam struggle with that exact same conundrum! Once Sue-Ann realizes the power dark magic holds, she wields it for her own purposes, namely being A REALLY HUGE BIGOT. It’s not exactly the most surprising twist to her character ever, though I admit to being totally floored by the reveal that Roy La Grange had nothing to do with the deaths.
Oh god, wait, can we talk about Roy? Because holy shit his ending is so sad! The guy seriously believed he had this gift, so that means everything he said in the episode WAS THE TRUTH FROM HIS PERSPECTIVE. He has no idea what his wife did, and given that Sam and Dean just up and leave at the end, HE WILL NEVER KNOW WHY HIS POWERS DISAPPEARED ON THE SAME NIGHT THAT HIS WIFE DIED. He’s going to be crushed forever. Wow, thanks for that, writers. THANKS A LOT.
And yet, there is closure to be found in “Faith.” Y’all, Sam and Dean are too much. Sam is able to recognize how disturbed his brother is, and so he asks Layla to come to their hotel room so that he can give his brother closure. Brothers. And as much as this is about comforting Dean, it’s also about Layla coming to terms with her own impending death. She gets closure as well.
Wow, y’all, this show has already given me too many feelings. These last four episodes have been GREAT.
The video commission for “Faith” can be downloaded right here.
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Yes! This was definitely one of my season one favorites. The absolute highlight of this episode is Julie Benz being flawless. Defiance fans where are you at?!? I liked that the show added a bit of Southern Baptist spark, seeing as most of the show can seem so wholly Canadian. Plus, this is the first time we really see the boys deal with religion, or faith rather. They use holy water, perform exorcisms, but they don’t really see it as help from a higher power, but rather means to an end. They don’t question why these methods work; they just do. They’re just bullets in a mystery gun. I’m kind of glad the Winchester’s aren’t inherently religious but I enjoy seeing them explore the possibilities of it.