In the fifteenth episode of the tenth season of Supernatural, the Winchesters battle against an evolved form of an old monster. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For body horror, blood/gore, and consent issues.
I had definitely assumed that we would never see Cole again, that his story was over. Which makes sense! He’d realized why Dean had killed his father, so what more was there to tell? Well, I think this episode makes a case for there being at least this final chapter in Cole’s story, and I appreciate it. I don’t think this is the strongest Supernatural episode this season, but it’s solid and consistent throughout.
It’s also REALLY REALLY GROSS, and somehow, after ten years of gore and blood, this episode felt gratuitously disgusting throughout. Of course, the Khan worm itself is like the height of body horror by its nature, and this evolved version of it adds that whole dehydration effect that’s pretty revolting. And yet, “The Things They Carried” is actually fairly intimate for this show, a story that focuses on loss and acceptance, as well as providing a vehicle for a suitable amount of Winchester angst.
In short, Cole works within this story, and not just because he becomes involved in a very personal way. (“Involved.” Heh. That’s so passive! “Cole got involved with the Khan worm.” That sounds like they went on a date, y’all. Oh… oh god. Is someone gonna draw fanart of this? Whatever, still not the weirdest thing I’ve seen come out of this fandom.) Even if you take him out of the third act, I still think there’s a worthy story to be told. Namely? Cole really needed to see what it was that the Winchesters did for their “job” to understand the moral conundrums they frequently found themselves in. Now, that’s not to suggest that this episode does not need Cole’s infection; I actually think that’s the most important part of “The Things They Carried” is the extended sequence in that cabin.
But what does Cole experience before this? Well, he’s initially here to act as an obstacle. He’s here to object to the Winchester’s insistence that Kit needs to be killed. I will admit that I think the writers made this a little unbelievable in one instance. It was a lot easier to sympathize with Cole and with Kit prior to Kit actually killing someone. But after he kills that poor guy in the Gas n Sip, Cole starts to look really, really foolish. And I get that this is entirely unintentional, but the image of a white dude killing a black kid and then having his other white, military friend defend the right for him to live is… it’s uncomfortable. Unintentional, yes, and I wouldn’t dream of arguing that this was done on purpose. But it deflated Cole to me when the story didn’t need it. Once that happened, it would have made much more sense for Cole to realize that Kit wasn’t himself.
Of course, that’s a complicated opinion to have. I’ll admit that. If we also accept that Cole’s stubbornness is an innate part of his character, then the Khan worm’s invasion of Cole acts as the catalyst to his epiphany. He couldn’t understand why Dean and Sam believed that a human life was worth taking in this instance, so the Khan worm invades his body, turning him into something less than human. Yes, Cole does his best to fight off the worm, and it’s actually a great performance from Travis Aaron Wade. It’s compelling and believable. I’m still a little confused as to why Dean never just tied Cole up to begin with as a safety measure OR why he didn’t just keep all the water outside so that he wouldn’t be drinking it in from of the person who would LITERALLY KILL HIM FOR MOISTURE.
But even if we put these details aside, I think that this is a pretty exciting and gnarly little story. You’ve also got all of the horrible parallels to Dean and Sam’s subplot involving the Mark, which is extremely uncomfortable. In this scenario, Sam wonders if Dean represents Kit, the man too far gone and submersed in evil. So much so, that is, that he can’t be saved. I mean, Dean literally says, “Sometimes, you can do everything right but the guy still dies.” HE SAYS THAT TO SAM. Ha. Ha ha. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but jesus christ, that look on Sam’s face is not acceptable. NOT FAIR.
I don’t think we’ll see Cole for the remainder of this season or even next season. This feels like an end for him; he’s got closure on his father, enough that we don’t even really need to know what it was his father became. He became something that wasn’t human, and now, Cole knows what that’s like.
The video for “The Things They Carried” can be downloaded here for $0.99. Also, just now, as I was typing that, I realized the word play in the title. Goddamn it.
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