In the eighteenth episode of the first season of Supernatural, this show is RUDE about FEELINGS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
GOD, THIS WAS SECRETLY ANOTHER EPISODE ABOUT DADDY ISSUES AND BROTHERLY LOVE AND GODDAMN IT, STOP DOING THIS TO ME. Y’all, I thought I understood why Dean was taking this case so personally, and then that fucking flashback proved me wrong and I have had it with this show giving me emotions.
All right, so I’m being a little ridiculous. It is what I do. I thought I had this show figured out! Every time there’s one of those standard “Previously on…” segments, we usually get a monster-of-the-week unconnected from the larger narrative. So, to be fair, I WAS TRICKED. “Something Wicked” started off fairly standard: a creepy thing happens, John sends his sons to investigate, and the creepy thing is based on some existing legend or myth, and WOW NOPE WHY IS THAT HAPPENING, THESE FLASHBACKS ARE NOT OKAY. Also, hello Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a leather jacket.
That’s a different point which I WILL NOT DISCUSS JUST YET. This is another creepy story, not the least of which is due to the fact that the shtriga specifically targets children. Oh, and it can hide in plain sight as an “innocuous” human, which is 10000% not fair. I did like that the writers destroyed the trope of the witch hiding as an old woman, for the record. That was a neat red herring. Anyway, the bulk of this episode is not about uncovering a mystery, much like “Hell House” was. From the get-go, we know the shtriga is causing the illnesses in the children of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, so this largely is a matter of how Dean and Sam are going to stop it.
Instead, the show focuses on what this case means for Dean. Initially, I thought the deliberate parallels drawn between Michael and Dean were simply meant to explain why Dean was taking this so seriously. He clearly identified with Michael; through flashbacks, we learn how John often depended on his son to take care of Sam, which still manifests in the present, too. Dean knows what it’s like to take care of a little brother, to grow up with only one parent, and to have responsibilities that other kids might not have for years to come. Though I must say that the expectations that John Winchester had for Dean are clearly more absurd than what the vast majority of kids go through. It made me a little sad to see how quickly Dean was to blame himself for what happened all those years ago. He was a kid! And at the same time, it’s easy to see why Dean has become who he is and why he’s so serious about this family. It’s all he knew. Well, not just that, but his love for John and Sam is genuine, too, so he felt personally responsible for the welfare of his family.
However, it wasn’t the whole story. See, I chalked up Dean’s memory of how to defeat a shtriga to the value of said memory. Disappointing his father was a huge defining moment for his character, so it makes sense that he’d remember many of the details around it. YEAH. NO. NO. SAM WAS ONCE ATTACKED BY A SHTRIGA. In fact, that whole case that John eventually abandoned came to a terrible end because Dean left Sam alone in the hotel room. Again, I think that Dean is ruthlessly hard on himself for seeking out some entertainment while he’s left alone for DAYS. He was put into a situation where he had to essentially raise Sam, feed him, take care of him, all that sort of stuff.
And yet, Dean needs the closure that this case will provide, which puts John’s “assignment” into a new context. Perhaps John gave this to Dean specifically so that Dean could finally close the book on this monster, so that Dean doesn’t have to feel like his mistake that night will send more children to their graves. That doesn’t negate the parallels between Michael and Dean, either. In fact, it heightens them. Dean is willing to do anything to protect his brother, and Michael ultimately reveals that he, too, is willing to do the same.
Y’ALL, THAT FINAL SCENE IS FUCKED UP. I don’t know, going into the bait sequence, I wasn’t terrified until I realized just what this meant for Michael. He had to lay there and act helpless while that thing got within inches of his face. He essentially had to stare death in the face. AS A CHILD. And I think it gets even worse when Michael has to watch in horror as the shtriga feeds on Sam mere feet away from his bed. Not okay. NOT OKAY.
Even with a happy ending of sorts, “Something Wicked” reminds us that, like Sam and Dean, some children lose their innocence and naïveté early in their lives. That kid is going to have to live with the memory of that night, much like the memory of the shtriga’s attack on Sam will be forever burned within Dean’s mind. Michael doesn’t get to ever go back to a world where that doesn’t exist.
Neither do Sam or Dean, no matter how much they wish they could.
THANKS FOR THE FEELINGS, SUPERNATURAL.
The video commission for “Something Wicked” can be downloaded right here.
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