Mark Watches ‘Supernatural’: S03E08 – A Very Supernatural Christmas

In the eighth episode of the third season of Supernatural, it’s Christmas! So everything is CLEARLY GOING TO BE PAINFUL FOREVER. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.

Trigger Warning: Just in case, there will be talk of Christmas- and holiday-related stress, depression, and trauma below!

Oh my god why are you doing this to me.

It figures that the first official Supernatural Christmas episode wouldn’t just poke fun at the holiday; it would take the chance to delve into the Winchester’s history and PUNCH US IN THE HEART FOREVER. Let’s talk about the two aspects to “A Very Supernatural Christmas.”

The Main Story

Holy shit, that got SO DARK for a moment! After the silly opening credits, I thought this was going to be a humorous episode full of good fun at the expense of Christmas! And while some of that is here, this soon became about Sam and Dean’s war with an unbearably creepy pair of pagan gods who modeled themselves after the most stereotypically perfect suburban couple in the history of the universe. Like a great deal of Supernatural‘s canon prior to this, the writers borrow from myths and legends surrounding the holiday in question. In this case, we’re initially led to believe that Krampus, a sort of anti-Santa Claus, is punishing the wicked in Ypsilanti, Michigan. It’s not like this would be the first time that a spirit or being went after evildoers, you know? And let’s be real: the first suspect is INCREDIBLY SUSPICIOUS.

This led me to research Santa’s Village, since there was one in Arrowhead near where I grew up. HOLY SHIT, THERE WERE SO MANY OF THEM. I didn’t know they were the first theme park franchises ever. Anyway, I distinctly remember my first – and only! – trip to Santa’s Village as a child. It was a few years before the Lake Arrowhead location closed permanently in 1998, and I very clearly remember how the place felt off to me. It was too saccharine. It was too perfectly themed. And let me tell you: few things are as jarring as spending a warm fall day in a place that’s supposed to be like the North Pole. Plus, the park was already in a decline by the time I went there in 1995, and you could tell that not many people cared about the place. So yeah, that first glimpse of Santa’s Village in the show? OH GOD, A RUSH OF MEMORIES.

So yeah, it was easy to suspect that the Santa was the Krampus, given that he smelled like candy and walked with a limp. But I should have realized that this was too easy. Really, this case wasn’t going to be solved in ten minutes! I definitely enjoyed it, then, when the show switched gears to a pagan god, mostly because the writers clearly had a ball creating the Carrigans. Seriously, THOSE ARE MURDEROUS PAGAN GODS. I love the contrast. I love how surreal it is that they seem to genuinely enjoy all the Christmas paraphernalia set about their house. WHO DID THEY BAKE ALL THOSE TREATS FOR??? THEMSELVES???? Oh my god, the implications of that place are astounding once you think about it. I mean, first I thought that they’d built an entire housing area for the god they were keeping, but making the Carrigans themselves the gods? SO MUCH BETTER. Plus, it directly addresses how Christianity assimilated and stole a lot of pagan traditions, which put their livelihood at risk. (This all seemed like a big reference to American Gods, didn’t it?)

But then the ritual. OH. NO. NO NO NO NO. TAKE IT BACK. I don’t even care that the cuts looked fake or that Dean didn’t actually get his tooth pulled out. They fucking removed a fingernail on camera, and I am done now and forever. Now and forever, I tell you. However, I must admit that as gross and unbearable that sequence was, I’m kind of a fan of the show having the Winchesters kill gods with an actual Christmas tree. What a brilliant little touch, y’all.

The Unending Angst

Unfair. 10000% unfair. As soon as I realized I was watching a Winchester flashback, I thought I was prepared for the onslaught of feelings that this episode would give me, but no. NOPE. The level that this show takes these characters to is not at all good. Look, I’m getting increasingly worried about this season’s endgame because I don’t understand how Dean is going to get out of this. Neither one of them even pursues a solution in this episode, which isn’t to say that they’re both not planning something. Instead, there’s an inevitability hung in the air as these two try to cope with the idea that this might be Dean’s last Christmas.

Of course, the angst is heightened (again, so unfairly) by the flashbacks. In general, I’m a fan of flashbacks as a narrative device, and in particular, these flashbacks really help show us how the dynamic between Sam and Dean that we saw in the first two season came about. Dean always wanted to protect Sam. Initially, he wanted to protect Sam from the knowledge of the world of monsters, which is why he was furious that Sam was so inquisitive. It’s why he was so angry that Sam looked in John’s journal. I imagine that Dean thought he could hide the world of monsters from Sam forever if he could have.

But once Sam discovers the truth, what does Dean try to hide from Sam? John Winchester. Dean steals gifts and sets up a makeshift tree to give the appearance that John actually cared about his sons enough to show up for Christmas. Yeah, I can’t ignore this: the monster Dean tries to protect Sam from? Their own goddamn father. (He’s the Literal Worst, oh my god oh my god.) But Sam isn’t furious with Dean for trying; if anything, Sam looks like he appreciated his brother’s efforts. Still, it perfectly explains why the holidays hold such negative feelings for Sam. And good lord, it was also extremely easy for me to project my own insecurities onto this episode. I’m someone who has holiday-related depressive episodes and trauma centered around Christmas. It has taken me years to be able to enjoy the holiday in any significant way, and that’s all been through careful consideration and with the support of people who know that the holidays aren’t my favorite time of the year. So, yeah, HELLO SAM WINCHESTER, MY BABY, I TOTALLY GET IT.

Which is why it’s also so meaningful to see him try to embrace Christmas in his own way. Even though Sam doesn’t vocalize it completely, I think that he’s kind of joined Dean in appreciating what little time Dean has left on this earth. (OH GOD, DO I HAVE TO KEEP TYPING THAT. MAKE IT STOP.) He doesn’t need to say it, and I took his silence at the end of “A Very Supernatural Christmas” to be a sign that he was too overwhelmed to talk about this with Dean. He just wanted to enjoy the chance to sit and watch football with his brother on Christmas.

No, I’m not crying. NO, NOT AT ALL.

The video for “A Very Supernatural Christmas” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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