In the seventh episode of the seventh season of Supernatural (HOLY ALLITERATION), The Winchesters try to solve a vicious set of murders in the most psychic town in America. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For talk of gendered slurs and queerbaiting.
Y’ALL. I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW.
THIS IS A REAL PLACE. It’s real! Which makes that whole bit in the video about me believing a place like this could exists a whole lot sillier than I thought possible. HEY, I TRIED. I seriously try to avoid Googling things so I don’t get accidentally spoiled, but I couldn’t remember how Lily Dale was spelled, and LO AND BEHOLD, I found out it’s not just a real city, but it also apparently has the highest psychics per capita in the United States.
But even if this wasn’t a real place, I think the premise and setting for this episode is BRILLIANT. It’s always interesting to me to see how Supernatural interacts with the real world, since it’s not an entirely fantastical setting. Yes, the supernatural is real, but it’s still our world, and much of what is in it is also in this fictional universe. Like Lily Dale, the Fox sisters, and the Campbell “brothers,” there are real things in this episode. But what was most compelling to me was the intersection of the real and the imagined. What makes this such a complicated case, as Sam points out, is there really is magic in the world. Sam himself was once psychic and telekinetic, so it’s possible that in a community of Spiritualists and mediums, there’s the real deal.
Plus, the Winchesters have a fascinating sense of disbelief because of their experiences. They’ve seen some ridiculous shit over the past six and half seasons, so it’s always funny to me that they do have skepticism regarding other supernatural phenomenon. But it works so well here, both as a setting and a means to befuddle the audience as to the true identity of the spirit and the murderer. Y’all, that hippie restaurant was too real. I have eaten at a restaurant here in the Bay Area where every item on the menu was an actual affirmation. So if you want something like a vegan BLT sandwich, you had to tell your server, “I Am Revitalized.” THAT WAS THE NAME OF IT. Oh my god, and it was so terrible on top of that. It was not worth the public humiliation I felt.
Supernatural got too real for me.
The story here is clever, for the most part, and you can always tell something’s deeply wrong when the Winchesters are burning bones with fifteen minutes left in the episode. Even before that, there’s some creepy and disturbing shit in “The Mentalists.” The deaths are NOT EVEN REMOTELY OKAY. (I’m still really upset by Camille’s death.) I will never recover from that quick cut where Margaret Fox was revealed to be at the window. WHY DOES THAT CREEP ME OUT SO MUCH? And the eventual motivation that’s revealed is ridiculous, but it’s grounded in something we don’t see much on this show. Jimmy couldn’t pay his rent. Which got me thinking about how long it’s been since we’ve seen Dean or Sam try to make money. What happened to that subplot? Didn’t they have to get rid of all their cards to shed their old aliases?
That’s not really important to me as a viewer, though. Jimmy’s main justification is this wretched sense of entitlement that he shared with Margaret Fox. They were real psychics amidst a ton of fakes who were more popular and made more money simply because they were entertaining. Of course, it’s a bogus reason to commit murder (I’M STILL UPSET BY CAMILLE, THAT WAS SO MESSED UP), and that’s especially so once you learn how Camille and Melanie used honest-to-god readings of personalities and body language to give advice. They knew they were bullshit mediums, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t take their job or their advice seriously.
Jimmy Tomorrow sucks. Good riddance.
Dean / Sam
Okay, so I have FEELINGS. f e e l i n g s. Let me start off by being a broken record. Until Supernatural has regularly featured queer or gay characters, they’re not allowed to make gay jokes or jokes about characters seeming gay. If I was President of All Television, I would make this illegal. I understand the joke that at this point, the Winchesters are a dysfunctional marriage. But the constant jabs in the script that point this out feel like both an insult to fanfiction writers and gay people. The show is clearly aware of the fandom, and it’s like they’re reminding us how GAY they keep writing all these pairings, and then they immediately follow that up with a snicker and another reminder that we’ll never actually get anything like this. Why call attention to it? Why make the joke about the Campbells (who were very real) being a cover for a gay relationship when you know that this is meant to call attention to Wincest? Again, if there were a regular assortment of gay characters on this show, I honestly would care a lot, lot less. But this show is so painfully straight all the time, and this kind of stuff draws even more attention to it.
Then, there’s Dean. Who… ugh. UGH. There’s so much to unpack here. First, the gendered slur is just so egregious and unnecessary that I wonder how the hell it ever got into a script. Dean, are you seriously denigrating Sam for being emotional (and associating him with a sexist slur that heavily implies that he’s being like a woman) WHILE BEING INCREDIBLY EMOTIONAL? Look, this is not something I realized all on my own, and it was feminists in my life who had to point out that this behavior is INCREDIBLY COMMON. We men will paint women as emotional as if men are logical computers who don’t ever react poorly to anything. Of course, this ignores men reacting to sports. And other women. And their parents. And anyone who tells them that they’re actually highly emotional as well. Seriously, go tell a guy who calls women “overly emotional” that their reaction was overly emotional, and you will see exactly how fragile our egos are.
But let’s, for the sake of discussing this, put aside the slur. What bothered me so much about the scene is that Sam was justifiably furious at Dean – DEAN EVEN ADMITS SO – and then the show finds a way to make Sam feel like shit for being mad in the first place. Like, I find it super manipulative that Dean treats his brother in this way because he reverses the dynamic of this disagreement in a disturbing way. Dean is the one who fucked up here. The problem is not that Sam could not kill his friend. It’s that Dean killed Sam’s friend and then lied about it. And the whole line about Sam not being stable feels like such a huge low blow for Dean, too!
And yet? Sam gets called a “b***h,” and at the end of the episode, he is the one apologizing to Dean, and HOW THE HELL IS THIS HAPPENING? The most crushing thing about this is that this is actually perfectly in character for Sam Winchester. He is easily the most forgiving character on this show, and he can accept differences and disagreements so much better than his brother can. There’s a history of him getting over his anger towards Dean exponentially faster than the reverse. And goddamn, I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS ABOUT THAT AS WELL. He’s a more empathetic person, and the final scene shows us that he’s constantly trying to see things through someone else’s eyes. That’s why he couldn’t kill Amy; he empathized with her. That’s why he’s decided to get along with and forgive his brother; he understands Dean’s morals.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased that they’re back together as hunters. I just wish Sam would be given just a bit more credit than the narrative gives him.
The video for “The Mentalists” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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