In the seventh episode of the sixth season of Supernatural, get it??? The episode title is a pun and it has multiple meanings and I’m latching on to this because I’m ruined. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
You know, I didn’t expect a resolution of sorts this quickly. When the cold open finally gave us the answer to Sam’s bizarre behavior, I figured that we’d go at least another four or five episodes before finding out why Sam didn’t have a soul. (OH MY GOD, WHAT.) But nope! In the span of forty-odd minutes, we get a ton of answers, a ton of angst, and an absolutely fascinating direction for the sixth season of this show.
I seriously loved this episode, y’all.
Let’s start at the beginning, because HOLY SHIT. I think I assumed a couple of things about Castiel going into this show and this season, and it’s been interesting to see how those expectations are either met or challenged. I definitely thought that Cas was in Supernatural a lot more than he actually is. He’s more like a frequent guest than anything else. I think that, in terms of screen time, we’ve actually seen more of Bobby since the beginning of season four than we’ve ever seen Cas. But even in this season, I thought that the civil war in Heaven would be the main serialized arc. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though I’m actually way into the fact that there are two serialized stories at work here. I think we’ve still got to keep the civil war, the holy weapons, and Balthazar in mind, and that’s what the cold open provides. It reminds us that this is not over for Castiel. (Which makes me wonder if this will ever converge with the Crowley plot. It could! I shall prepare myself for this, and it won’t matter because let’s be real. I can’t prepare myself for this show.)
For now, though, Cas is off to fight his war, and he’s left Dean and Sam with a bombshell: SAM DOESN’T HAVE A SOUL. Oh. Oh. How did I not think of that? I’m actually interested to see how this show handles that because you better believe I’m going to compare it to Buffy and Angel. IT’LL HAPPEN. And for now, there’s a much more explicit demonstration of the difference: an utter lack of emotion in Sam. It’s weird to watch because Sam is normally such an emotive person, and the reveal here has made me re-think the previous six episodes. Shit, even this season’s premiere gave us a muted version of Sam, and I knew that something was off and felt wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. OH GOD, SO MUCH OF THE PAST MAKES SENSE NOW.
So what now? “Family Matters” addresses the complicated nature of family for Dean, who has to deal with a resurrected brother without a soul and a resurrected grandfather (who he never met before!) who is determined to remain in control. It’s a horribly complicated situation, one that’s actually a bit too familiar when it comes to Sam. I had flashbacks to Sam’s demon blood addiction during this episode, and I imagine Dean went through something familiar. Once more, he had to look after his younger brother because of something done to him. I wouldn’t say that Dean seemed all that empathetic of Sam, but that’s kind of par for the course at this point. Dean hasn’t always been the most understanding kind of person, which is why it’s so unfathomable to him in the first place that Sam has suddenly become so uncaring.
On top of that, this nightmare has, once again, resurrected the longstanding trust issues between Dean and Sam, and I will admit that I do wish that for once, we wouldn’t have to deal with this. It’s about the only recurring theme here that I’m not totally interested in. Oh, I like how “Family Matters” explores the trust issues between the Campbells and Dean! That’s wonderful, and I have A LOT TO SAY ABOUT IT in a minute. But at this point, I just feel bad for Sam, because he keeps having this shit done to him, and it always pulls him and Dean apart. I mean, part of that friction (a large part, really) is due to EVERYONE LYING TO DEAN. THAT DOESN’T HELP AT ALL.
That’s why I was thankful that the show had Sam choose Dean over Samuel. It allows the episode to explore the Campbell family dynamics and how Dean copes with the awkwardness between him and this group of people who Sam has bonded with. It’s always been clear to me why Dean has has resented the Campbell’s, and I’m glad that the script for “Family Matters” spelled it out for us: Dean doesn’t know these people. And that’s important because it explains why Dean’s commitment to family doesn’t really apply in this sense. I think that’s because the Campbells are family in name only. Sure, there’s a history there, and I don’t believe Dean wants to disrespect that. But that history happened years before his time. On top of that, he didn’t spend a year with Samuel like Sam did, so it’s hard for Dean to default to Samuel when he has no reason to trust him, especially not when Samuel is so secretive all the time.
Nothing exhibits that secretive behavior more than the scene where Dean witnesses the aftermath of the attack on the Alpha vampire. I mean, seriously, WHY WOULD YOU TRUST SAMUEL AFTER THAT? Even I couldn’t justify what I saw: they were all lying to Dean openly, they didn’t care to bring him into their little circle of trust, and Sam was willing to go along with them. WHY? WHAT WAS SO IMPORTANT? Yeah, once Sam said that Samuel was interrogating these creatures, I was convinced something awful was happening. WHY? WHY WOULD HE NEED TO DO THAT? Look, I couldn’t believe that this was just for general information. Samuel needed a specific purpose behind an interrogation, or he’d never get anything worth using.
Anyway, let’s all take a moment to praise Rick Worthy, who is UNREAL here in “Family Matters.” What is with Supernatural finding these brilliant character actors for small parts? I WANT SO MUCH MORE OF RICK WORTHY AS THE ALPHA VAMPIRE. Please? Please? He’s chilling here, and watching him taunt the Winchesters is too entertaining. He absolutely stole the show in this episode! Plus: FIRST VAMPIRE. EVER. Oh my god, who created the vampires??? Is that something we’ll explore in the future? Because yes please.
However, let me be honest here. In no way was I even remotely prepared for the Alpha Vampire to actually give answers. In no way was I actually prepared for him to reveal that Samuel Campbell was LOOKING FOR PURGATORY. In no way was I ready for this show to reveal that PURGATORY WAS REAL. LIKE… HOW. HOW DOES THIS SHOW KEEP DOING THIS TO ME. I’m sitting here, all concerned about Sam’s soul, and BAM. Just kidding, you’ve got yet another huge thing to worry about.
Lord, I still had no idea.
Crowley. CROWLEY. There is no way I could have guessed that he was the one pulling the strings, but all the clues were there. This opens up the show to such a fascinating dynamic, since, for the time being, Dean and Sam have to work for a demon. AND A DEMON WHO IS SUPER CLEVER AND WHO HAS SHOWN CAN’T BE TRUSTED. (And who is endlessly entertaining, you know it’s true.) But christ, look at the way Gwen stares at Samuel! Look at Sam’s face during the whole reveal! Oh my god, there is so much that can be done with this, and I have no idea where this is going next, but HUNTING ALPHAS. GIVING THEM TO CROWLEY. A WAR OVER PURGATORY. Shit, y’all, what did Samuel want? What’s he getting out of this? Are Sam and Dean going to tell Cas about this? (Does Cas just know what’s going on if the Winchesters know it? Probably.) Is the deal that Sam gets his soul back once Crowley gets Purgatory? Does anyone actually believe that Crowley will hand over Sam’s soul? NO. NO ONE.
Holy shit, what an episode. I’m overwhelmed!
The video for “Family Matters” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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