In the eighth episode of the fourth season of Supernatural, I DON’T KNOW HOW TO SUMMARIZE THIS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For mention of suicide and for discussion of issues surrounding consent.
How? HOW DID THIS COME TO BE? HOW IS THIS THE SAME SHOW THAT GAVE ME “NO REST FOR THE WICKED”? And yet, it’s undeniable that episodes like this are cut from the same cloth as some of the more harrowing moments on Supernatural. I had a very vivid realization right around the time the Winchesters found that bit of fur at the liquor store: this show thrives on poking fun at or parodying both horror films and police procedurals. I’ve picked up quite a number of moments where the writers are clearly twisting horror tropes, but it’s taken me three full seasons of this show to realize how much Supernatural relies on making fun of procedurals. How many times have the Winchesters relied on the trope of flashing a badge to get away with questioning someone? How many times have we experienced cases that are seemingly impossible to solve? Hell, I’d even propose that Supernatural relies on poking fun at existing supernatural/sci-fi procedurals, including The X-Files.
It’s with this Ben Edlund and Lou Bollo sprint into the land of the surreal, and there’s no doubt in my mind that I will never forget this episode. It’s like Edlund and Bollo decided to come up with a case that would leave the Winchesters absolutely speechless. How do you shock two characters who have seen some of the most hellish things imaginable? (Of course, Dean’s seen actual Hell, and I’ll get to sobbing over that later.) How do you surprise people who have experienced the horrifying and the weird for years of their lives?
This is how you do it. Until the hunter claims to have been attacked by Bigfoot, this seemed like another ghost tale, albeit a strange one. I mean… a polite if overbearing ghost? It was weird, but not that weird, particularly by Winchester standards. Right? But if we operate under the assertion that in the Supernatural world, Bigfoot is definitely a hoax, then how do you explain the tracks? It had to be a joke! But then they find a patch of fur left behind at the scene of some destructive theft, and then they watch as a little girl delivers a box of porn and liquor to a house, and I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND. This… wasn’t possible? It could not have been possible. And let’s say that Bigfoot was real! (I can’t believe i just typed that sentence.) The liquor and porn doesn’t make sense. Is Bigfoot nineteen-years-old? Is Bigfoot Dean? Is this little girl housing Bigfoot? Even when that seemed to be the case, this goddamn show had the biggest surprise yet waiting behind Audrey’s bedroom door.
I suppose that the video accompanying this episode is the only way to properly describe what this experience was like for me, because there are no words that can do it justice. There aren’t! And just like the Winchesters, I was left without anything to say. Bigfoot wasn’t the mythical creature, it was Audrey’s teddy bear, who had been wished into existence AND WAS CURRENTLY IN THE MIDST OF A DRUNKEN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS. That is a thing this episode gave me: a gigantic teddy bear, sobbing at the news while pondering why it was brought to life. And this:
TEDDY BEAR: It is a terrible world. Why am I here?
AUDREY: For tea parties!
TEDDY BEAR: Tea parties? Is that all there is?
HOW IS THIS HAPPENING? HOW???
From here, “Wishful Thinking” operates a lot like Stephen King’s Needful Things, in the sense that the wishing well in #1 Lucky Chin’s operates as the cause of increasing chaos in Concrete, Washington. Well, technically, it’s the coin that is responsible for this all, and technically, Wes Mondale set events in motion by being the first to use the coin in a wishing well. That it was in #1 Lucky Chin’s was merely because that’s where Wes used it. It’s through Wes that the writers explore a not-very-funny set of themes. What happens when people get exactly what they want? How often are our fantasies skewed in our own minds? Wes Mondale is very typically written as a Nice Guy, the kind of man who may very well be lonely and eager for someone to like him, but who believes he is entitled to a woman enjoying his company. His wish for Hope to love him more than anything comes true very literally, and what we see play out on the screen is incredibly disturbing. Thankfully, it’s not played for laughs because there’s nothing funny about it. She values Wes more than everything: her life, her happiness, her own willpower, and even Sam’s life. (COULD THIS SHOW STOP KILLING DEAN AND SAM, THANKS.) And her scenes with Wes in his house are just… UGH. NO. NOPE. And you know what? Wes wants to pretend that he deserves this, that it is his right to be happy, but YOU CAN TOTALLY TELL THAT HE KNOWS THIS IS WRONG IN THOSE SCENES. He is clearly aware that Hope can’t choose to love him, that she acts in complete contradiction to her own desires, and that this is wrong. So yeah, NO WAY do I feel EVEN A LITTLE BIT BAD about him or his choice because so many things go wrong because of Wes. That little kid nearly kills Dean. The “being” or whatever it is within Audrey’s teddy bear tries to commit suicide out of despair, only to find out IT CAN’T DIE. (And what a surreal image that was, y’all.)
I’m glad, then, that Wes doesn’t get what he wants at the end of this. I think that would have completely destroyed the point of this whole episode. Which also has some nice moments! Like Dean helping that kid ensure that his bullies would never bother him again, which is just about the sweetest thing Dean Winchester has ever done. I LOVE IT FOREVER AND EVER. But this theme – of the unfairness of life – is a main feature of the other plot in “Wishful Thinking.” At the end of this episode, Sam does not get what he wants, and there’s nothing more heartbreaking than that scene on the dock. Spawned by Uriel’s urging in “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester,” Sam pressures Dean into admitting that he does remember his time in Hell. The audience knows that Dean is lying and is avoiding the truth, but to what extent? Are his dreams the only flashes of memory that he has of Hell?
I get why Sam wants Dean to talk this through with him, and goddamn, Sam really is wonderful and supportive of his brother. (If a little pushy; this is obviously extremely upsetting to Dean, so it makes sense that he’d respond poorly to Sam’s insistence.) But what Dean does here – admit that he remembers all of his time in Hell, and then refuse to talk to Sam about it – is both for his own safety and Sam’s. I mean, first of all, how do you even tell another person about this sort of experience? It’s not hard to imagine that Dean’s experience there felt like it lasted years, maybe even decades. And I’m certain that things were done to Dean that are indescribable and horrific. Why relate that to Sam? Won’t it hurt him too? It’s a way for Dean to mitigate Sam’s own pain, sure, and it’s a way for Dean to avoid reliving his experience in Hell, despite that he relives it in his head. I saw it as yet another demonstration of Dean’s desire to protect his brother, but I think it’s also important to note that Dean insists that Sam won’t understand. It’s impossible for Sam to empathize with his brother because it’s an experience that Sam doesn’t have at all. And I don’t blame Dean for wanting to avoid the inevitable heartbreak that would bring, you know? Because I don’t see how Sam could ever understand this, and that’s uncomfortable to admit, but it’s Dean’s choice. It’s what Dean thinks is best for the both of them.
And wow, this episode went to a DARK PLACE at the end. STOP DOING THIS TO ME, SHOW.
The video for “Wishful Thinking” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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