Mark Watches ‘Supernatural’: S04E17 – It’s a Terrible Life

In the seventeenth episode of the fourth season of Supernatural, I can’t even begin to describe this experience. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.

Trigger Warning: For brief discussion/mention of suicide.

This is not the first time this show has dropped me into a weird and humorous premise before. It’s not the first time the writers have analyzed the very fabric of the show. BUT GODDAMN IT, THIS ONE MYSTIFIED ME UNTIL LITERALLY THE LAST SCENE. I mean, does it technically count as an alternate universe? It seemed like one, but I’d say that ultimately, you can’t really designate it as such. The Winchesters aren’t dropped into an AU; they’re simply stripped of their memories and planted in the real world, albeit one that highlights Dean’s need for hunting. I suppose I have a lot of logistical questions because I don’t know how Zacariah got Dean and Sam planted in the same company at the same time, nor do I get how Dean developed… well, the Dean Smith identity. My brain hurts if I try to think about that, but you know what? It doesn’t really matter to me. I enjoyed a lot of this episode in spite of that. I mean, Dean is pulling some serious Office Space vibes in this episode, which… has a lot of references to Office Space, now that I think of it?

Anyway, let’s get the obvious out of the way. The bulk of the humor and surreality of “It’s a Terrible Life” comes from the juxtaposition between Dean Smith and Dean Winchester. Lattes with rice milk. NPR. A suit and tie. A PRIUS. HE DRIVES A PRIUS. And the changes go on and on, and it was just so weird to see. Of course, I missed out on one huge detail that should have clued me in on what was happening: All of the thematic and personality changes were with Dean, not Sam. It was certainly bizarre to see Sam in tech support, but was he all that different from who he usually was? (Which makes me wonder if he’ll remember this entire experience, too. It’s made pretty clear at the end of this episode that Zachariah kept Dean’s memories of the switch intact, so I assume that’s the case with Sam.) Plus, the title is a clue, isn’t it? This is a super fucked up version of It’s a Wonderful Life.

AND I MEAN SUPER FUCKED UP. The ghost at work here compels people to become workaholics, so much so that if they mess up in any way while working, they become distraught enough to commit suicide. Meanwhile, Sam struggles with the memories of his real life appearing in his dreams, and Dean is completely in denial about experiencing similar things. In some ways, the two versions of Dean aren’t all that different, though, and I thought Dean Smith’s reaction to Sam’s weirdness was pretty spot on for Dean Winchester.

Still, there are lots of reversed dynamics here. Dean does research, Sam is the one who wants to pursue the ghost first, and at one point, Sam is trying to convince Dean to leave a life of stability to become a hunter. (Holy shit, Dean’s lines about all the negative aspects of a life on the road was incredible.) But nothing was more hilarious than Sam and Dean learning about how to hunt BY WATCHING GHOSTFACERS VIDEOS. Where they are being insulted in said videos, for the record!!! What a great way to bring about that cameo, y’all.

The ghost story itself? It’s fairly standard (if a bit bloody) for a Supernatural episode. The Ghostfacers bit further confused me because how could an alternate universe contain both them and references to the Winchesters? The big reveal at the end of this episode… is kind of terrifying? I like the idea that this has to follow “On the Head of a Pin,” since it suggests that Castiel reported back to the angels about what Dean said to him after his confrontation with Alastair. It suggests that Castiel might care about Dean’s emotional well-being. But the execution of this? Yo, Alistair is SO CRUEL ABOUT THIS. I totally get that he wanted to show Dean what a natural he was at hunting, to impart the importance of his life on him, but… dude. DUDE. “Quit whining”???? ALL Y’ALL ANGELS BASICALLY FOUND DEAN WINCHESTER’S MOST HORRIBLE TRIGGER AND MADE HIM REPEATEDLY DO SOMETHING THAT WAS GUARANTEED TO BACKFIRE EMOTIONALLY, AND I’M PRETTY SURE HIM FEELING HOLLOW AND EMPTY AFTER TORTURING ALISTAIR FOR NO GAIN AT ALL DOES NOT COUNT AS “WHINING.” Like???? But you know, it’s actually perfectly in-character for an angel to be completely unable to sympathize with what they’re doing because every angel we’ve seen so far is… well, a jerk. Zachariah counts as one, too, at least in my book. I do think it’ll have some effect on Dean’s outlook, since he clearly preferred who he really was over the fantasy world Zachariah put him in. STILL, THOUGH. THAT WAS SUPER MEAN. The angels are so fucked up, everyone. I NEVER COULD HAVE ANTICIPATED THIS.

The video for “It’s a Terrible Life” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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