In the third episode of the seventh season of Supernatural, DEAN, NO. NO. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of mental health/ableism, body horror
I’m so upset. I AM SO UPSET.
Previously, on Supernatural
This is such a neat way to resolve an episode cliffhanger! While the Leviathan threat certainly hangs over “The Girl Next Door,” it’s not the main focus of the story. But it still matters. I’m impressed by how frightening the Leviathans are in just the last couple episode, but it’s also clear that they’re meant to be more intimidating than expected. Their very design is upsetting. How do you beat them if they act like shapeshifters do? How can you identify them short of cutting or stabbing every person you meet? Even then, we learn that as other hunters have come across Leviathans, they too have discovered just how invulnerable they are. So even if the Winchesters or Bobby were able to devise a test to determine who is and is not a Leviathan, what do you do then?
Run away, I guess. WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO.
On top of the unbearable tension these creatures inspire, it’s also clear that they are organized as hell. (Organized as purgatory? Okay, that sounds terrible.) I definitely balked at that moment where one of the Leviathans phoned Edgar to inform him that he’d tracked down the Winchesters’ alias. It seemed so absurd until I thought about how quickly the Leviathans had already organized themselves. In the span of a day, they’d taken over Sioux Falls General Hospital, so why was it so ridiculous that they’d quietly spread all over the country in three weeks? Their ability to communicate and cooperate with one another is probably why they were so viciously destructive in the first place. (As I said on video, I also found it hilarious that someone finally figured out Dean’s naming pattern and history.) It’s only going to get worse, and that’s not me saying that for the sake of it. The Leviathans have no apparent weakness, they’re organized, and they can spread rapidly. They’re dangerously close to catching the Winchesters, and there’s no reason for them to keep any of them alive. Castiel is gone, so no deus ex Cas either.
THIS IS FRIGHTENING. Shoutout to this episode giving Dean a broken leg and forcing him to deal with it instead of magically getting rid of it, though.
In hindsight, it feels pretty certain to me that this episode is about trust. It centers on the relationship Sam once had with Amy Pond (ha!) nearly half his lifetime ago, but the ramifications of it in the present time are just as important. While Sam figures out whether he can trust Amy again, Dean is busy figuring out if he can trust his own brother.
I didn’t need this show to shower me with heartbreak again, but here it is: UTTER UNFAIRNESS. Through flashbacks, we learn why Sam left Dean behind in the present time to track down a case. What’s important is that we see glimpses of Sam’s past with Amy, a kitsune, so that we understand how he’s dealing with his own mental state. Again, I’m so pleased that this episode shows Sam coping with a mental illness in a way that respects his journey and his process. It’s not often that you even see coping mechanisms on television, you know? Again, I’m not saying this is perfect representation, but I find it powerful to see Sam openly acknowledging that he’s still hallucinating and that he’s got a process that helps him deal with it. Not everyone has access to professional help, and I’m definitely experienced with having to come up with my own coping mechanisms to get through the day.
It’s on top of this difficult journey that Sam’s past then reminds him of how long he’s been on this path. When he recognizes an old case in a newspaper headline, he’s forced to examine whether or not he still trusts Amy, who once saved his life. But isn’t this just as much about Sam? Doesn’t he want to know if Amy was able to change or if her nature dictated the rest of her life? His suspicion is that Amy couldn’t escape being a kitsune, and it has disturbing implications for himself, too.
Just… y’all, that scene where Amy and Sam bond about their weird families, their lack of certainty, their frightening parents… it’s not okay. For the briefest of moments, those two kids felt a connection with one another that was undeniable, one that was based on a shared experience, EXCEPT IT WAS FROM OPPOSITE ENDS OF THE SAME EXPERIENCE. (Must Sam always fall for monsters and women who end up dead??? Oh my god, Supernatural, WHAT.) They were both freaks who were destined to be opposed to one another. And yet, Sam protected Amy from bullies, and then Amy protected Sam from her own mother. SHE KILLED HER OWN MOTHER TO PROTECT SOMEONE SHE ONLY KNEW FOR ONE DAY. While that might seem ludicrous out of context, there was some hint that Amy was capable of this. She’d told Sam that she was certain her mother was not a good person, and we got a chance to see how ruthless she was. She viewed all people as food. I imagine that this is one of the big reasons why Amy avoided killing anyone for such a long time. She refused to be like her mother, and what little we see of her relationship with her son appeared to demonstrate that she really was nothing like her mother.
Still, it’s a complicated issue because Amy was killing people to save her son. She made judgments on a person’s worth, using that to justify her actions, and that’s… disturbing. But in the end, Sam chose to trust her and her word. He chose to believe that this wouldn’t happen again, that she’d live the rest of her life without killing once more. Like I said earlier, that’s paralleled with Sam’s own internal struggle, so it’s easy to read this as Sam choosing to place faith in himself as well. He wants to so badly believe that he’ll be fine, that he’ll be able to one day move past his hallucinations.
Unfortunately, there’s yet another parallel story going on beside this one. Dean also has to consider whether or not he trusts his own brother. It’s not exactly surprising that Dean doesn’t believe what Sam says, but that doesn’t make it any less distressing to watch. Dean is constantly upset when his brother doesn’t tell him the truth, but then he does this thing where he doesn’t exactly make himself easy to talk to. He’s not a naturally empathetic person as Sam is, and he’s not quick to trust either. Hell, I’d say that what happens in “The Girl Next Door” is a fine example of the many differences between these two characters, both the good and the bad. In Dean’s case, he’s challenged by Sam’s need to take care of things on his own. And while I would suggest that Dean totally understands Sam’s reasoning here – it’s Sam’s mess, and Sam needs to take care of it himself – he’s not that sympathetic when it comes to Sam’s decision to spare Amy’s life.
So what’s at work here? I say that it’s Dean’s belief that the other shoe has to drop. He’s convinced when talking to Bobby that it’s only a matter of time before Sam does something terrible. He’s certain that Sam’s hiding some awful secret, and if he doesn’t stop Sam, that secret will have terrible consequences for everyone.
Except that isn’t really what’s happening here, is it? Well, as far as we can tell, Sam’s telling the truth. He’s still hallucinating, and he’s still using his injured hand to pull him back to reality. There’s nothing else here to suggest that there’s another shoe to drop. But Dean is too stubborn to see it any other way, and all of Sam’s behavior appears to be confirmation of his own theory. Which I get! It certainly isn’t helping matters that Sam is secretly slipping away to do shit on his own, but the guy’s an adult. He can handle this shit on his own, you know? And it’s really upsetting to learn just how much Dean does not trust Sam. It’s hard not to read that into Dean’s behavior at the end of “The Girl Next Door.” He hunts down Amy and kills her – seconds before her son arrives!!! – because he doesn’t believe she can ever change. While I admit that Amy’s case is a lot more complicated than Sam, I still think the subtext to that act is Dean’s refusal to believe that Sam can change.
It’s sad. REALLY REALLY SAD. Ugh, why does this show make me feel these things, y’all? U G H.
The video for “The Girl Next Door” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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