ashkiryn: (bamf mat cauthon)
[personal profile] ashkiryn
Such a glorious episode, isn't it, and fraught with Winchester brother angst. It's also, I think, the first episode since "Wendigo" that puts emphasis on all that rage that is at times central to Sam's character. And unless if you count "Bloody Mary", it's also the first time that we're shown a...shall we say, darker Sam, or at least a Sam that is lacking his empathy filter, which is also something we'll see rear its head again, particularly in season 6.

This episode, I'll state for the record, was written by Richard Hatem, and this is the last episode that he'll write for Supernatural. He also wrote "Phantom Traveler", and it's interesting to me that both of his episodes carried themes of possession in them. Hmm.


This episode was rife with parallels, and many eyebrow-raising moments on this watch-through, now that I was paying attention to catch them.

(Like Dean's comment about "Don't ask, don't tell." ...Really, Dean. Really. His projecting here is actually a lot more interesting than one might think at a superficial glance. In this case, he'd be comparing any of his homosexual leanings to Sam's psychic powers, which even now, before they know it's a result of demon blood, Dean views as disturbing and wrong. And both reactions are caused by John. Hmm.)

We've also got a parallel between the two mysterious phone messages received by each brother in the episode. Towards the beginning, Dean receives a text message from an unknown number, giving him coordinates, at which there is a job, and Dean immediately accepts is as being his father and is prepared to follow the orders given to him, no questions asked, whereas Sam is completely skeptical, even with the possibility that they might find their dad at the job. Which they don't.

Compare this to later in the episode, when Sam gets a call from "Dean", telling him to go down into the basement of the asylum, because "Dean" is being attacked and needs help---and Sam doesn't question the validity of this call AT ALL. And of course, he doesn't find Dean down in the basement at all; and when the real Dean goes down after him, he doesn't really find Sam there either, only a somewhat possessed Sam.

I'm having a hard time believing that the parallel isn't intentional, but as to what conclusions we're supposed to draw from that comparison between John and Ellicott---I honestly don't know. I guess I only have speculation. You know, maybe it's that John encourages Sam to embrace his rage and thirst for vengeance, to put killing Azazel before absolutely everything else, which is kind of similar to Ellicott's "intense rage therapy". The rage therapy comes from a place of good intentions, and is meant to help the patients channel all of that rage OUT of themselves---but it doesn't work. It only makes the patients worse, and ends with them lashing out and essentially destroying their lives completely. Ellicott may have died and become the ghost of his former self, but he still carried on with what was probably his life's work, unable to let go until Dean purified him with fire. In the same way, you could argue that John Winchester died with his wife on the ceiling that night, and that his ghost, John the Hunter, carried on with the work he thought needed to be done, and it's only after he goes to Hell for Dean, and then gets out, that he comes to find any kind of peace. Seems legit to me, anyway.

And of course, as Sam gets lost in the rage of John/Ellicott's therapy, which ironically was supposed to cure that rage, Dean is there to save him. Dean starts to get whammied by Ellicott too, but he manages to fight through it to still set the bones on fire, and honestly, as sad as it is, it seems to me that it all the rage therapy would have done to Dean was make him hate himself even more than he already does, which seems impossible, but Dean seems to excel at reaching new heights of self-loathing.

In any case, this parallel between Ellicott and John seems to be subliminally preparing us that John isn't the best figure to try to emulate.

Also, Kat is amazing, and I'm glad that she's the one who got to wield the shotgun, and that she transforms over the course of the episode from being the whiny, simpering girlfriend, and into this badass who's done taking shit from the pathetic boyfriend, and who becomes the one to dictate the terms of their relationship. In a way, it's kind of reminiscent of how Dean comes into his own, and is able to shove aside his father's biases and terms of existence. In both cases, it is a beautiful thing to witness. All of this character parallel is nicely suggested in the moment when they echo each other in this episode.

I suppose there's also a parallel of sorts between Sam and Gavin---both are approached by the spirits of girls, and freak out (though in different ways), and both are ignorant and forge ahead and basically don't pay any attention to Dean's traumas/Kat's rightful reservations, and just go about doing what they want to do.

I know that Sam doesn't really remember the circumstances that led Dean to being even more traumatized in his childhood, and that basically cemented in his head that he must follow John's orders or Sam would die. But fuck, I wish Sam would just take even two minutes to think that maybe there's a goddamn reason for Dean's behavior, or spare even just a bit of his brainpower into possibly trying to understand the position Dean is coming from. But noooooooo.

Also, it breaks my goddamned heart that, at the end of the episode, Dean so very clearly doesn't believe that Sam didn't mean anything that he said in the asylum. And it kills me that he fucking EXPECTED Sam to take the opportunity to try and shoot him with real bullets, and that Dean probably really would rather die than have his brother hate him. And this is the first episode where I've really noted Dean blowing off Sam's attempt to talk about it.

I guess it kind of goes with how, earlier in the episode, they cut away from the therapy session, so we didn't get to see Sam talk about how he really feels about his brother.

Another cool detail I'll note here: the room that Kat gets locked in, and within which she is forced to confront the ghost of a patient, had the sign "Examination" over it. Quite interesting, that. Being that that's where she's forced into seeing and examining her own mettle and overcomes her fear of the ghost.

And I think this is the first time that Sam's nose bleeds, which happens significantly and often later in the series.

Anyway, I think the last thing I wanted to talk about was our glimpse of Sam with no filters, and how dark and terrifying he is. Because the scariest thing, and like we see demonstrated in season 6 with Soulless!Sam, is that this person is Sam, no matter how much he tries to deny it, and what we're getting then and now, is the verbalization of the kinds of thoughts that Sam has all of the time. And Sam with no filters is actually quite a terrifying person.

Another thought I just had---it seems to me that, apart from Dean's identifying the corresponding pages in John's journal and reading Ellicott's reports, Sam's the one who does all of the research in the episode. I suppose it goes back to what Sam himself says, in a way: Sam says that he has a mind of his own, and so of course he's the one who gets research from the outside sources, and leaving Dean to deal with their dad's journal; and given that Ellicott is John's parallel, it's also appropriate that Dean is the one to read his logbook. It's again appropriate that Sam talks to Ellicott's son, James Ellicott, who is also a parallel to Sam, the kind of person that Sam wants to be: successful, with plenty of merits and degrees, and who's able to make people open up and share their feelings with him (which is what Sam wishes to do with Dean at the end of the episode, remember).

I suppose that there's potential symbolism behind this particular asylum being chosen, the Roosevelt---possibly either for Teddy or FDR (honestly, both men put me in mind of Bobby: Teddy with his, "Walk softly and carry a big stick," and his being a hunter, and FDR for being in a wheelchair and still getting shit done in the time of crisis and his fireside chats...). But I'm not gonna explore it much at this time, at least.



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