In the nineteenth episode of the eleventh season of Supernatural, HOT DAMN, WHAT AN AWESOME EPISODE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent issues and queerbaiting. (Though not in a negative sense; this episode avoids it completely, but I do talk about the history of it.)
Nancy Won, PLEASE WRITE MORE SCRIPTS FOR THIS SHOW THANKS.
There is a whole lot to like here beyond the obvious thing (I LITERALLY CANNOT BELIEVE THIS HAPPENED, I AM GOING TO SHOUT ABOUT IT A LOT), and I do want to give “The Chitters” credit where it is due. I honestly think that the Bisaan are one of the best-conceived monsters in the show’s history, especially since the mythology around them mimics the actual behavior of cicadas. (Well, specific kinds, not all of them.) And cicadas have long featured in mythological storytelling, so it’s kind of shocking to me that it took nearly eleven years for Supernatural to tackle a story like this.
And lord, DO THEY EVER TACKLE IT. In the video for this episode, I spoke about how sound can accent a horror film for me. I know plenty of people who can’t watch The Grudge because of that sound the thing makes. I remember how unsettled I was by the screeching and shrieking in The Thing because it truly sounded like something from another world. Even in thrillers like No Country for Old Men, the use of silence (or the absence of soundtracks) can play a huge part in an effectively tense sequence. Whomever designed the buzzing monstrosity in this episode deserves an award because NO. I’LL PASS. THAT SOUND IS AWFUL. Bravo for it, but NOOOOOOO.
The same goes with the design for the bisaan. The tragedy of these monsters is made worse because they all wear human suits. And while the humans slowly become very inhuman through the transformation, we never truly see them in a state that is terribly far removed from their original one. I think the show could have shown us one of those naked, hairless creatures, but I found it way more effective to have bisaan who still looked human doing all the killing. Jesse’s breakdown at the end of the episode means more to me if these things still look like people, you know? I believe it conveys the point better!
Brotherly Love and Revenge
Much like some of the best Supernatural episodes, “The Chitters” finds a way to draw parallels between the Winchesters and the episodic characters. Is there anything groundbreaking here? Not really. The love between brothers and the perils of revenge have long featured in the show in various forms, so I admit that as much as I’m going to tell you how much I loved this, I can’t claim the show is necessarily doing anything new. For me, the dynamic of Sam and Dean talking to a married couple – who are both hunters – added a new angle to this conversation. These two men have committed to hunting for a unique reason, yes, but they’re also committed to each other. That provides a conflict we’ve not quite seen before, you know?
Yet Jesse understands how the love for a brother can motivate someone to do things they never thought possible. He’s been on the trail of the bisaan for TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS, y’all. 27!!!! THAT IS A GREAT DEAL OF TIME TO DEVOTE TO AVENGING YOUR BROTHER’S DEATH. So it’s easy to understand why this would resonate with Sam, both because he would be just as dedicated and because he might still feel guilt over not avenging Dean’s death a few years prior. As for Dean himself? Well, his time with Cesar involves a reflection on revenge, something Dean knows VERY INTIMATELY. When hasn’t revenge been part of Dean’s motivation? Who else knows of the cost of letting anger take you over? Who else knows better than Dean that getting revenge doesn’t mean that you get over what hurt you in the first place?
IT’S TOO MUCH.
Jesse and Cesar
Again, there’s a lot to like here. The scenes in the mine were genuinely spooky, the bisaan were terrifying, and all the emotional beats were reminiscent of the sort of storytelling we used to get more often from Supernatural. But during the cold open, Won’s casual reveal that Jesse was gay shocked me. The show did that in the premiere, too, but Supernatural has also had a pretty terrible record for LGBTQ characterization. MUST I REMIND EVERYONE OF “Dark Dynasty”? (You’d probably prefer I not do so.) So, my headspace was different while watching “The Chitters.” As soon as Jesse spoke about being excited that a boy kissed him (!!!!!), my first thought was, “So, when’s he going to die?”
He didn’t die in the cold open. Then, we meet Jesse and his super-mega-hot husband, Cesar, and my next thought was: “Oh my god, PLEASE DON’T LET EITHER OF THEM DIE.” Sad and cynical, sure. I admit that. But Supernatural isn’t the only show to treat their LGBTQ characters poorly, so I kind of always brace for the inevitable.
I initially saw that joke where Dean commented on Jesse and Cesar’s bickering as kind of tasteless, but only because I was already preparing for one of them to die. In hindsight? It’s actually a clever way of calling attention to the long-running gag of people confusing the Winchesters for a married couple. Why is it clever? BECAUSE ACTUAL GAY PEOPLE EXIST IN THE JOKE. The joke is, “Oh, you thought they argued like an old married couple? SURPRISE, THEY ARE A COUPLE, DEAL WITH THAT HOMOPHOBES.”
Y’all, they lived. They lived, they got their own story, they got closure, they got to be physically affectionate on screen, and Nancy Won’s script ends with Jesse and Cesar literally getting their happy ending. I have no clue if Won intended this as a commentary on what always happens with gay characters (THIS SHOW INCLUDED), but it is so refreshing that this happens. It is a bit sad that something as basic as this can thrill and excite me, but you know what? I will take a victory where I can get one.
Also, holy shit. Cesar is perhaps the hottest character in the whole show, WOW, I WAS NOT READY.
The video for “The Chitters” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!