In the ninth episode of the ninth season of Supernatural, no nopes left. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to yell at Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For talk of race/representation, gore/blood.
I hate this episode. I hate it so much because until it becomes practically unforgivable in its awfulness, it’s so fucking good. This is the episode I’ve been waiting for all season, one that advanced the angel storyline in a way that felt significant and haunting. Castiel’s plot was disturbing and heartbreaking, and there’s a lot of potential left here that I hope the show will get into. We get a greater sense of the chaos left in the wake of the angels being expelled from Heaven, and it’s done so well. Angel wars for power! Metatron realizing he’s lonely and cutting deals to rebuild Heaven! Y E S to all of these things!
I’m sure there are good stories to be told here. That’s what has kept me interested in Supernatural as long as it has. Even if I don’t necessarily like everything I’m seeing in a season, I still find something of worth and value. The show certainly changed after season five, but I’m not one of those people who believe that it’s all for the worse. I mean: CHARLIE. Do I need to say anything more??? (Okay, then: Castiel’s journey; Castiel’s moral quandaries and being held accountable for them; Sheriff Jody Mills; Dorothy/Charlie as the ship I will die on; Benny; Purgatory.) The show has entertained me and frustrated me since the very beginning, and that hasn’t changed.
But I left one specific thing out of that parenthetical list on purpose. Look, I don’t feel like I’ve been all that forgiving of Supernatural, especially in these later seasons. I believe that I’ve done an okay job of explaining the myriad of shit that they’ve got to stop doing. (List #2 for this review: Dean’s disgusting Asian porn fetish; ruining dogs at every opportunity; the constant sexualization/objectification of women; refusing to keep most women or people of color and combinations thereof alive for more than a few episodes; the misogynistic language; the utter disrespect for anyone with a mental illness; QUEERBAITING, GOOD GOD.) So I don’t think it’s at all surprising that I’m upset by the end of “Holy Terror.” At the same time? I need to explain why, even though it may seem obvious to most of you, or even if it’s repeating what a contingent of fandom has already said. (I don’t believe that I am being unique with my commentary on this show; I’m well aware that I may just be repeating what others concluded years ago.)
Kevin Tran was killed for other characters.
That is the root of my problem with this episode, and it’s through this that you can see why this is such an egregious issue. Given that Supernatural is a show set in a country with a deeply diverse population, it’s always telling when most of the cast is white. Here, that’s even more obvious, especially when so few recurring characters of color get to survive. Sure, it’s in the fabric of this show that people die horrible deaths all the time, but I find it incredibly lazy to rely so wholly on that idea that you can’t change it after nine years. And so I was excited that Kevin Tran began to take part in the mythology of Supernatural, that a character like him could contribute to the story in significant ways.
Up to a point. I’ve not been secretive about the fact that I felt like the writers were ignoring him and not giving him any substantial plots in the second half of season eight or at all in season nine. He showed up, he provided exposition or temporary conflicts, and then he was folded into the background like he was every time he made an appearance. This feels even more absurd than usual because then, instead of actually giving him his own stories, the writers started openly acknowledging within the script that Dean and Sam (mostly Dean) were just using Kevin for their own ends. This is so frustrating because this criticism could EASILY be leveled at the staff of writers, too! You know what this reminded me of? Star Trek. Every time that show had one of their characters parrot that whole bit about how their was no oppression on Earth anymore, and yet, I’d be watching some of the most racist/sexist garbage in the universe play out in the main plot.
That’s not how character development works.
Where is Kevin’s development here? When you cast someone as talented and dynamic as Osric Chau, why not give him more to work with? How does any of this make sense in the context of his character? Kevin’s role is so deliberately passive in this episode, and all the spark of his character is gone here, which makes it all the more easy for Gadreel. But is that the only justification for what we see here? Unfortunately, that’s exactly what this feels like. Kevin exists here for other characters. He is here to provide a threat to Metatron and, by that extension, Gadreel. He is here to provide a chance for Dean to feel guilt. And he is here to shock viewers, to make them realize how “real” this angel threat is, and that’s it. There’s no loving send off for Kevin; there is no chance to reflect on his character’s contribution to Supernatural as a whole; there is nothing here to suggest to anyone who might have tuned in to “Holy Terror” without seeing the other episodes that Kevin Tran was a longtime character. Is there a value in killing off a character like Kevin Tran? Sure, if your show is more interested in the surprise than the substance. There’s no substance to Kevin’s death aside from what it can provide to everyone else who is still alive.
So let me spell it out: treating one of the only people of color on this show like a pawn to further the stories of solely white characters is fucked up. I can’t unsee it. This feels so blatant to me, as if Kevin’s story didn’t matter anymore. I kept worrying that this show would do this, and they found a way to do it A BILLION TIMES WORSE THAN I EXPECTED. We didn’t even find out if his mother is truly still alive. He’s just dead and gone, and it’s awful.
I hate this episode.
The video for “Holy Terror” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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