In the fifth episode of the seventh season of Supernatural, the heavens rang forth and uttered, “And let there be Maggie and Don Stark.” Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For gore, body horror.
I know that it’s undeniable for me to separate some of my reaction to this episode from the obvious association: OH MY GOD IT’S SPIKE AND CORDELIA AS WITCHES. That is a very important thing. THESE ARE VERY IMPORTANT ACTORS. THIS IS A VITAL MOMENT IN MY DEVELOPMENT AS A HUMAN. But I do want to cast my utter ridiculous reaction to the wind and focus on what was so fun and compelling about “Shut Up, Dr. Phil.” Because there’s more here than the casting alone!
So let me have this moment:
JAMES MARSTERS AND CHARISMA CARPENTER ARE REUNITED ON THIS SHOW AND THEY ARE SO PERFECT FOR THESE CHARACTERS AND I WASN’T READY AND I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE REACTION I HAD TO THEIR NAMES IN THE CREDITS AND EVERYTHING IS SO BEAUTIFUL
Ahem. That should suffice.
Let’s start with one thing that made this episode a blast: there’s a deliberate misdirect in this episode, since it seemed pretty damned obvious that Maggie Stark, who was a witch, was getting revenge on her husband after he had an affair. I bought it because… well, I do this a lot. I have to start accepting that, don’t I? I fall for things so hard. IT’S A THING I DO. But even though I did believe that Maggie was witch, I was aware that the pieces didn’t add up. Why all the other people? Wouldn’t killing Wendy be enough? What piece was I missing? WHY DID MAGGIE REFERENCE HUNTERS TO HER HUSBAND AT ONE POINT? WHY WAS JENNIFER A TARGET IF SHE NEVER SLEPT WITH HER BOSS?
I was so convinced that he knew he had married a witch that I never once considered the other explanation. So bravo, Supernatural, for concealing Don Stark’s true identity from me. That made this so much fun.
You know, it was very easy to forget how fucked up this episode was when you focus on the closing sequence of scenes. Someone died by dryer; another was killed via a ghostly nail gun in a port-o-potty; Jennifer ate a beating heart in a cupcake. (My theory: that was her own heart, hence her coughing up blood.) And poor Sue was murdered just because she supported Maggie! It’s really awful, but I think it needed to be awful for the end to come around. We had to understand that these two had been in a relationship for centuries and that they’d let their insecurities and fears build up to a point where openly murdering people was even an option. The Starks did not seem like a fickle, miscalculating set of witches, and I imagine that they’ve survived as long as they have because they’ve been more careful than most other witches.
So why risk that all with a war like this? Why act so that everyone will start to look at them suspiciously? I think that speaks to their desperation. They had to have buried an unreal amount of hostility towards one another over the years in order for them to risk being the center of attention like this. As they take out this out on one another, it consistently escalates until… well, we get what happens here. It’s certainly funny, then, that Sam and Dean are given a task that’s wholly new to them: counseling their hunt. Jared and Jensen play that big confrontation with wide eyes and exaggerated gestures, and it’s so comically perfect because we can tell they largely have no idea what they’re doing. And that includes Sam! While he’s always been more willing to talk about his emotional well-being, it’s not like he’s ever had to do that with 800-year-old witches. WHO HAS?
“Shut Up, Dr. Phil” is so alarming to watch because Sam and Dean never have the upper hand. Not once in this episode are they ever a step ahead of the witches, and by the end of all of this, the Starks are still on top. This NEVER HAPPENS. Especially given what Dean did to Amy in “The Girl Next Door,” I found it even more shocking that the Starks survived. But I saw this as an incredible subtext to what was unfolding onscreen: the Winchesters finally knew when they were beat. There was no chance here that they’d ever defeat the Starks, they’d gotten them to agree to stop killing people, and then Don casually saves their life. Twice. I guess Dean can make an exception to his monster-killing rule, since he doesn’t even try to stop the Starks.
Dean’s Lack of Therapy
I think this is the most blatant the show has ever been in terms of portraying Dean’s flaws, and by gods, y’all, IT’S SO FASCINATING. (By “fascinating,” I also mean, “utterly soul-crushing.) It’s undeniable that Dean’s being a hypocrite, and I feel like that’s fairly explicit within the text itself. We know he’s lying, he knows he’s lying, SAM KNOWS HE’S LYING, and it’s just… sad. It really is a sad thing to watch because Dean is falling back on the same pattern again. I normally would say that Dean doesn’t have issues with trusting Sam, but I think that might actually not be the case here. I think Dean is worried that Sam can’t empathize with him anymore. Maybe that’s not quite on the mark here, but it’s clear that Dean feels distanced from Sam because Sam is finally feeling good about his life. That chasm is there, and Dean truly believes he can’t bridge the gap at all. So he openly lies to his brother, despite that he’s spent entire episodes in the past yelling at Sam for lying to him.
I’d like to think that Sam’s insistence that Dean needs to open up would work for him, but I don’t even know if that’s possible at this point. What Dean’s going through is increasingly complex, so much so that I think I’ll need to see more of his development this season before I could even pinpoint what’s going on with him. Like I said in the last review, I’m hesitant to assign a label to Dean’s behavior at this point. But the guy is in a bad place, unable to be truthful to the one person who genuinely cares about him. I wonder if Dean would open up to Cas if Cas were still alive. (Christ, he’s really dead, isn’t he? I’m going to have to start accepting that, too. I thought there’d be some big twist and we’d find out he’s actually alive, but… goddamn, he’s gone. UGH I HAVEN’T EVEN DEALT WITH THAT YET.) Of course, I imagine that Dean wouldn’t be as down as he is if Cas were still alive; we know from the flashes in the cold open that Dean’s still haunted by Cas’s death amongst ABOUT A TRILLION OTHER THINGS.
Oh god, despite that I picked up on the deliberate way this episode was drawing our attention to the Leviathan pursuing Sam and Dean, I was still surprised by his ambush at the end of the episode. BUT NOW THEY HAVE A LIVING LEVIATHAN IN THEIR POSSESSION. I imagine they’ll have to start testing it for weaknesses. Unfortunately, I don’t think Don’s spell is a clue, since it’s temporary and probably inhibits any living creature.
I’M SO EXCITED TO SEE WHAT’S NEXT.
One More Time
Sorry not sorry.
SPIKE AND CORDELIA. JAMES MARSTERS AND CHARISMA CARPENTER. I didn’t know I needed this in my life. But now I do.
The video for “Shut Up, Dr. Phil” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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