In the sixth episode of the fourth season of Supernatural, the worst premise I think this show has ever come up with gives us the best thing the show has ever come up with. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
There are three things we need to discuss.
The Ghost Disease
If it weren’t for the way that this was executed, “Yellow Fever” could have gone in such a terrible, hammy direction. When Sam was explaining the “ghost sickness” to Dean, all I could think about was how not-very-good it was. It’s not that I expect this show to avoid camp or horror tropes altogether; I actually think it’s been pretty fun to see how Supernatural deals with creatures or monsters that are common or have been pulled off before. But the way that this is explained is justâ€¦ weird. So, the disease is attracted to people who have used fear as a weapon, so that’s why it only targets certain people, even if many have been exposed to it. I feel like the parameters of this contagion are so vague and nonsensical that if I try to think about it, my brain just hurts. Hasn’t Sam used fear as a weapon in his training with Ruby? Doesn’t he use fear as a weapon in this very episode? Why doesn’t he come down with any symptoms, which presented in Dean fairly quickly after he’s exposed to Frank O’Brien and Sheriff Al Britton? Why the fuck am I analyzing this at all?
But you know what? I am 100% willing to suspend my sense of scientific rigor because what comes from this shaky premise is pure gold.
There is something distinctly magical about watching Dean Winchester act terrified and paranoid of the world around him. The writers brilliant strip him of the Gryffindor-style recklessness that makes him so very Dean, and in the process, we get a glimpse of what Dean might have been like had he not been so fearless most of his life.
And that version of Dean is fucking hilarious. Jensen Ackles takes this idea, and he sprints off into the sunset with it, and it’s probably going to be my favorite performance of his for a long time. He plays Dean as incredibly sincere in this episode, and that’s where a lot of the comedy lies for me. LOOK AT HOW HE DELIVERS THAT LINE ABOUT MAKING A LEFT INTO ONCOMING TRAFFIC. HE IS 100% SERIOUS ABOUT THAT. And really, sincerity plays into the third thing I want to talk about, but we’ll discuss when we get there.
LET’S JUST POINT OUT THE BRILLIANT COMEDIC TIMING OF JENSEN ACKLES:
- DEAN IN THE ROOM OF REPTILES
- DEAN IN THE ROOM OF REPTILES
- “Am I haunted? Am I haunted???“
- EVERY SECOND AT THE SAW MILL. I started to comment on this in the video, but then the thing happened and I’m glad I was devoting my full attention to the screen. So much of Supernatural relies on the Winchesters being completely aware of the pitfalls of doing what they do and ignoring that. They know that walking into abandoned cabins in the middle of the forest is a bad idea. They know that around every corner, something is lurking. THEY KNOW PRECISELY HOW FOOLISH THEIR “JOB” IS. So it was super funny to me to watch Dean openly acknowledge all of this and refuse to go into the saw mill. HE’S AWARE. HE KNOWS THIS IS TERRIBLE.
- The way he proudly clutches the flashlight.
- the cat the cat THE CAT IN THE LOCKER. I think many years ago, I saw a GIF of this scene, because the image of Dean shrieking in terror looked familiar to me.
- BLESS THIS EPISODE FOR THAT CUT WHERE THE CAMERA SHOWS DEAN FLEEING THE SAW MILL. For once, he took my advice to get the fuck out of there.
- The look Dean gives the Yorkie. How Ackles did that with a straight face is beyond me.
This is a treat. It’s a gift, one that shall keep on giving.
What I admire about “Yellow Fever,” though, is the fact that the script respects the distinction between the part of this story that deserves to be a joke and the part that is an honest examination of Dean’s current emotional issues. Watching Dean be terrified of the world around him? That joke by itself is hilarious. But watching him come to terms with the fact that he’s got a clock running out on his life? It’s not funny at all, and “Yellow Fever” addresses that.
It wasn’t until the scene with Luther’s brother that this episode quickly switched gears in terms of tone. Luther’s own backstory â€“ about being tormented by the town for being strange â€“ was pretty sad in and of itself. (Which made me wonder why the writers didn’t touch on the idea of being a freak more with Sam in this episode. Perhaps it was already too crowded of a story.) But when Dean lashed out at Sam after leaving the assisted living home, I really got a sense for how tortured Dean felt over what had happened to them and what their lives have been like. We already know that Dean quietly wished he had a normal life, so watching him aggressively question his life as a hunter was just plain sad.
But then Dean started hallucinating, and this show took us quickly into the realm of THIS USED TO BE FUNNY, which was a place we last visited in “Mystery Spot.” What are Dean’s two greatest fears?
1) Being sent back to Hell, and
2) Watching Sam turn into a demon.
OH OKAY YOU WENT THERE.
It’s distressing to watch because you know Dean’s not going to share that with Sam anytime soon. He’s just not going to do it! I can already tell this is going to be the prime source of conflict between these two this season, and it just makes me long for the truth behind Ruby’s intentions. I’ll so crushed if Dean is right, that Ruby isn’t to be trusted. But at the same time, I also want Sam to have the autonomy of choice, to be able to do what he is able to do to combat evil, even if that means exploiting the powers he has because of his demon blood. Of course, I’m extremely ignorant here, and I don’t even remotely know the full extent of Sam’s powers or what Ruby truly wants to use Sam for. So I’m left feeling even more sad than usual for Dean, because Dean fears the loss of humanity. He fears Sam losing it, and he fears himself losing it. (I wonder if Dean briefly remembered his time in Hell when the hallucination of Lilith prodded him on the issue. Was part of Cas’s retrieval of Dean a complete mind scrub so that he’d forget it?)
So yeah. Funny â€”> not really that funny â€”> devastating at a molecular level. Sounds like yet another episode of Supernatural.
The video for “Yellow Fever” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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