Mark Watches ‘Supernatural’: S08E04 – Bitten

In the fourth episode of the eighth season of Supernatural, Sam and Dean track a creature killing people in a small town. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural and laugh because that is the most deliberately vague summary I’ve ever written for this show.

Trigger Warning: For body horror/gore.

“Bitten” exists within a landscape of horror tropes, and that’s why it’s so surprising to me that I ended up liking it as much as I did. I don’t think that Robbie Thompson’s script aims to be all that original, at least not at first. The found footage narrative device is overwhelmingly popular, so much so that it’s actually hard to come up with a version of this format that feels new. I’d say that The Blair Witch Project and Cannibal Holocaust (maybe even Man Bites Dog???) were the first popular attempts at found footage films. I’ve enjoyed a number of them over the years. I still think [REC] is one of the scariest films I’ve seen; I enjoyed Cloverfield for what it was, though my experience of watching it in a packed theater full of very vocal people heightened how much fun I had with it; I think Chronicle, which “Beaten” borrows from, is a BRILLIANT movie that justifies this style.

But the horror genre is saturated with this form of storytelling, so much so that it often appears in films where it’s not actually needed or it’s a detriment to the film as a whole. So how does Supernatural choose to differentiate itself from what’s already out there? Initially, I don’t think “Bitten” does. From the Blair Witch-style chase through the woods, to the perspective that’s reminiscent of “X-Cops” and “Hungry” from The X-Files’ seventh season, to the storyline that’s a huge reference to Chronicle’s exploration of teenage superpowers, this episode is a mish-mash of things that already exist. Hell, Brian’s characterization here as the socially awkward and jealous member of the trio mirrors Andrew’s arc in Chronicle fairly closely.

Still, it was interesting to be dropped into an in media res story that began with so much blood; it was a treat to see Sam and Dean from the perspective of an outsider. Thankfully, the show doesn’t keep the mystery of the murders in this town a secret for very long, and I’d argue that this had to unfold this way so that we’d get a chance to see how Michael, Brian, and Kate cope with the changes in their lives and their bodies. At times, this examination felt a little superficial. I think that this episode stuck so closely to the tropes of human transformation that I wasn’t really surprised by the developments. I knew that Michael would eventually be unable to control what he was becoming or his hunger. I figured that Kate would stay in denial the longest, and I knew that all the hints of Brian’s jealousy were going to come back to play a prominent part of the story. Plus, it’s always a little difficult to watch found footage because there are times where it’s impossible to ignore how ridiculous the concept is. There were a few moments here where I thought it was absolutely absurd for anyone to be filming themselves, but these kind of stories ask you to accept that someone’s going to film every minute detail.

It’s when the entire group spies on Dean and Sam, learning of pureblood werewolves, that this episode starts to take a fascinating turn. I liked that the script committed to the werewolf aspect early enough that Michael, Brian, and Kate could no longer deny that this was their reality. But it’s through Brian that we see how his sense of inadequacy and entitlement leads him to make utterly terrible decisions, ones that the episode clearly paints as wrong. There’s nothing romantic about what Brian does here, and I appreciate that. He thinks he is protecting Kate, and even if he was, he’s doing it to steal her from Michael. It’s such an incredible shift in the dynamic of characterization because we’ve spent most of the episode thinking that Michael is kind of a jerk, one who is being protected by his foolish girlfriend. But when Brian willingly confronts Professor Ludensky, he does so to benefit himself. Ultimately, does he care about Michael? Does it even matter if Michael is off the hook? Or was Brian’s plan to win over Kate through some absurd display of alpha behavior?

I’d argue it’s far more of the second reason than the first, which is why I was totally convinced that Kate and Michael were the dead bodies that Dean and Sam found in the beginning of the episode. Who else could it be? Enraged by the way he was treated (as well as his perception that he was the “Piggy” of the group), Brian probably killed his best friends in a fit of rage. But oh my god, I was so wrong. The transformation of Kate is one of the most satisfying things this show has done in a while because in the end, Kate rejects Brian. She rejects his awful romanticism and his gross infatuation with her, and SHE SHREDS HIM TO BITS. It turns out that she was the one to leave the video behind, explaining how everything came about.

And in another shocking turn, Dean agrees with Sam to let Kate live her life. It’s true that she took out Brian, but she also didn’t feed on him, which means it’s possible for her to resist ever killing another human. I totally expected this episode to end with Sam and Dean tracking her down and killing her, but instead, they go for the second chance. They allow Kate to try, and by gods, it’s such a satisfying end to a mega-messed up story. I honestly did not anticipate this ending, and now I want (at least) a ton of fanfiction about what Kate does out in the world. It’s so intriguing to me??? (Other headcanon, though I have a tiny, tiny suspicion this isn’t a headcanon: Dean let Kate live because he let Benny live. Could this be a tiny, subtle hint to the fact that he is viewing monsters differently? OH, THIS IS SO SATISFYING TO ME.)

Bravo, Supernatural. That could have been so typical, but the final act totally changed how I felt about it.

The video for “Bitten” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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