In the fifteenth episode of the seventh season of Supernatural, Sam and Dean are drawn back to an old case when it appears a demon has somehow resurfaced from Hell. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of serial killers, alcoholism, PTSD/trauma, gore/body horror.
THIS EPISODE WAS TOO MUCH WHAT THE HELL.
Revisiting the Past
There are a number of ways to look at what happens in “Repo Man,” as well as at least two or three different story threads weaved throughout this episode, so let’s start with the most obvious one. While past cases have come back to haunt the Winchesters, and while we’ve also seen characters from long ago return to the screen (hello, Lucifer!), this truly felt like the first examination of what it was like to be a victim from one of these cases. It’s something that’s completely brushed over by the narrative of this show because of the nature of how it’s framed. Since we’re always following the Winchesters as they move from city-to-city across America, it means we never see the fallout. We rarely revisit old characters to see how they’re doing or how they’ve changed since their paths crossed with the Winchesters. And even when we have? I think you could state that they’ve mostly been able to get on with their lives in their own way. (Hell, until her son is kidnapped, isn’t that precisely what Nora Havelock does?)
So what’s interesting to me about how the first half of “Repo Man” is framed is that the show gives an idea what it might be like to cross the Winchesters and not really turn out all that well. The portrait of Jeffrey that we get (and it’s important to call it that for ~reasons~) is one that shows us how much his life changed since being possessed. Is he in the worst place imaginable? No, not at all, and I did appreciate, even given the big twist, that Jeffrey’s support group was not played as a joke. He turned to alcohol when he couldn’t cope with the reality of his life anymore, and those people – particularly Al – helped him gain control of his life. (OH, THE TRAGIC IRONY, I CAN’T DEAL WITH IT.)
Unless you get into hunting, there’s simply nothing for victims of supernatural violence to help them through what they’ve experienced. (Let me take this time to recommend the stunning novella, We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory, which has a simple set-up: What if five survivors of horror movie scenarios did group therapy? You’re welcome.) That means that some of them are not going to cope with their trauma well. Now, I had this huge thing I was gonna write about Jeffrey’s story and how sad it made me and I fell for this and GODDAMN IT.
This isn’t the first time the show has featured real human evil as the “antagonist,” but the twist halfway through “Repo Man” is particularly heartbreaking because we have to accept that we fell for Jeffrey’s act. (I fell for it. I’m including y’all in a collective “we” because, once again, it makes me feel like a better person.) But it is new to see a demon possession as a catalyst for something that was already within a person. Jeffrey was not a victim here; no, he always wanted to kill all those women, and the demon that possessed him was what made him confident enough to do it. I wrongly assumed that Jeffrey was possessed in the present time, but this is so much worse than possession. Jeffrey was a goddamn serial killer, and he wanted to bring that demon back to willingly be possessed.
This is so fucked up. SO FUCKED UP. Y’all, he cut off Nora’s son’s ear OUT OF SPITE. What the hell.
I retroactively feel even sadder about Sam Winchester. While we saw Sam’s struggle with his Hell-ish hallucinations earlier this season, most of the time, we just have to iamgine what Sam’s going through. This episode does not allow us that luxury anymore, and now we get a fuller look at exactly what Sam’s been going through this season.
AND IT’S SO AWFUL. While it’s nice that Mark Pellegrino is in this episode, I just… CAN SAM GET A BREAK? PLEASE? It’s not just that he’s seeing Lucifer every waking minute. Dealing with a hallucination that acts like an attention-starved child is annoying, sure, but then we find out that the hallucinations manifests in glimpses of Hell. LIKE, THAT SCENE IN THE LIBRARY IS ONE OF THE LEAST OKAY THINGS IN THE ENTIRE SUPERNATURAL UNIVERSE. And this is what Sam’s been dealing with for months. M O N T H S. He’s been seeing violent images. He’s been tempted with a version of his subconscious, and that might be the worst part of this.
Isn’t it, though? Lucifer helps Sam work through the case he’s on; that’s undeniable. But it’s not actually Lucifer but a part of Sam’s subconscious. When we find out that Sam’s ignored his hallucinations for months, it’s right at the time when his hallucination tempts him the most. Sam’s loneliness works against him, and he eventually caves to Lucifer, and IT’S SO WEIRD TO WATCH. It’s a jarring experience because I had to constantly remind myself that this wasn’t a physical manifestation of Lucifer. And yet? That doesn’t mean that this didn’t have physical ramifications. We see how Sam’s reliance on pain to bring him back to reality has slowly eroded, so much so that by the end of “Repo Man,” it’s shown to not work anymore. So how will Sam ground himself? How is he going to deal with an ever-present Lucifer?
Lord, I just realized that when Dean eventually finds out what’s happening with his brother, he’s going to react poorly. He is! IT CAN’T END WELL. I don’t even know how Sam can get help. Is this a supernatural malady, or is this specifically a mental issue? Could therapy help him? WHY AREN’T THERE THERAPISTS FOR HUNTERS? When will Sam Winchester be left alone?
The video for “Repo Man” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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