Mark Watches ‘Supernatural’: S08E02 – What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?

In the second episode of the eighth season of Supernatural, Kevin insists on checking in with his mother, who quickly becomes ONE OF THE BEST CHARACTERS IN THE WHOLE SHOW. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of racial stereotypes and consent.

This is such a strange episode in hindsight, and I’m kinda perfectly okay with that? Just… who knew we’d end up at an auction of supernatural and mystical objects? The cold open didn’t hint at this, and I kept expecting that man – Mr. Vili – to show up and be this episode’s villain. NO. NOPE. Instead, this episode tracks the Tran family pretty much exclusively from beginning to end, and goddamn, it was so satisfying to watch.

I know that’s in a large part because of Lauren Tom’s portrayal of Ms. Tran. I was SO PLEASED that she was deliberately written to upend the stereotypes we might assume of her. (Though I don’t think that gives the writers credence to make jokes of a neologism that a lot of Asian Americans consider a slur. Seriously, don’t call Asian mom’s “tiger moms,” y’all. Don’t!) There are hints spread throughout this script that suggest that Ms. Tran has an entire life that she’s never shared with her son. What was her first tattoo? Who is Kevin’s real father? Why does she so effortlessly slip into this world? Perhaps that is the most compelling thing about this; Ms. Tran learns of demons and Crowley and the plot to capture her son, and she immediately signs up for it. She’s ready to go mere seconds after Sam and Dean explain the stakes to her. And all along the way, she never once is reluctant to do what she sees as necessary to protect her son. She’ll threaten a pawnshop owner, and then she’ll give up her own soul in order to save Kevin. That doesn’t mean these choices are made without fear or sadness; she’s clearly upset at the thought of selling her soul, but she does it anyway.

However, we’re tricked by the show into believing this was going to be a whole lot sillier than it ultimately turned out to be. (Once again, the collective “we” is the only way to make this sound like I’m not the only one who was lulled into a false sense of security by all this. Allow me this moment.) When Beau showed up, eager to invite Kevin to Plutus’s auction, I felt like the episode had suddenly leapt into a different realm. It’s a jarring change in tone, namely because the assortment of characters and items seems so comical. da Vinci’s notebook? MJÖLNIR??? And then the bidding starts, and what the hell show am I watching? But I like that this signifies how completely out of their element the Winchesters are here. Dwarven gold as currency? The moon as currency? The finger of Ymir, the frost giant? (I half expected ice giants from Discworld to be mentioned.)

But I think that Dean is specifically out of his element for an entirely different reason. It’s upsetting to see all the signs that Dean is having a difficult time viewing the world through a lens of normalcy. After spending so much time in Purgatory, he’s more quick to violence than he’s ever been before. That’s not exactly a new development for him, and I think you could recognize that aspect of him long before this. But there seems to be a distinct lack of a filter; there’s no reluctance; there’s no sense for context or sense of moderation. Violence is the only answer, even when it comes to someone like Ms. Tran. It just makes sense to him to kill her, just like he killed Eunice in an earlier scene.

It’s difficult watching this because we all know that Dean Winchester and guilt go hand in hand, and all the glimpses of Purgatory suggest that he did something really bad there. Teaming up with Benny? Well, that might be child’s play to LEAVING CASTIEL BEHIND. Whether that’s intentional or accidental, it’s haunting Dean, and he’s lying to everyone about it. How much of that is because he’s convinced that hunting in Purgatory is more “pure”? How much did he enjoy the visceral nature of that place? How much will Benny play in this development? I don’t think it was accidental that this episode showed us Kevin’s angry rejection of Dean. Kevin doesn’t want to become collateral damage. He doesn’t want to be a stepping stone for whatever plan Dean has, and I think it’s fair that he views Dean’s actions through this lens. Dean was going to kill his mom in order to kill Crowley! We understand what a huge moment it is for Crowley to possess someone. (That was the first time we’d ever seen it, right?) And it’s not like Kevin doubts the importance of stopping Crowley, either. But his mother is not a price he’s willing to pay. (Which breaks my heart because then I can’t stop thinking about how Ms. Tran was willing to pay the price of her own soul in order to save him and I CAN’T DEAL WITH THESE CHARACTERS.)

So now the Winchesters have no tablet, they don’t have the Prophet on their side, and they’re at worse than square one. It’s entirely possible that Crowley will destroy the Word of God, right? And then what? Will this whole plan have to be abandoned?

I’M UPSET, Y’ALL. I feel like they’re all worse off than they were one episode ago, especially the Trans, now that Ms. Tran appears to have been horribly traumatized by the ordeal. WHY MUST I FEEL SUCH PAIN?

The video for “What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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