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Review: Supernatural, Season 4, Episode 17: It’s a Terrible Life – Part I

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It’s been awhile, I know – but I’m stretching the new episodes as long as I can. I know, from fan forums and emails from friends that the upcoming episodes are amazing; since I have another couple of months before Season 4 comes out on DVD, and even more time until Season 5 is out… I’m taking my time!

Supernatural’s ‘It’s a Terrible Life’ (Season 4, Episode 17) was probably one of the most hilarious episodes of Supernatural to date.

Seeing Dean as a high-powered Wall Street type, worried about his weight and on the Master Cleanse? The French cuffed shirt, the Prius and the salad, the fact that Dean thought Sam was hitting on him in the elevator, that Sam and Dean went on the Ghostfacer website to get help on hunting ghosts…Absolutely hilarious. Seriously, I laughed so hard during the opening sequence that my neighbours probably thought I was watching The Office or something, certainly not Supernatural!

My personal favourite line in this episode:

Dean: You don’t want to fight ghosts without health insurance!

Of course, the Winchester brothers saved the day – don’t they always? – but not before twisting our heads with a little bit of philosophical mumbo-jumbo: are we born to fulfill certain destinies, or does the combination of our genetic background, our family’s influence and our social context mould us into becoming who we are?

There are a lot of philosophical debates that can inspire (and feed) such a debate, so I thought to bring a more scientific perspective to the debate: the research done on identical twins raised apart.

The premise is pretty simple: if a person’s destiny is determined by your genes, then two people with identical genes will grow up following the same path. If a person’s destiny is determined by the influence of family and social context, then identical twins raised in different families would follow in the path of those around them.

University of Minnesota psychologist Thomas Bouchard and his team led a very interesting research – and, to be honest, I thought about it as soon as the episode started and I saw Dean in his French cuffs – in which they followed-up on twins who were raised separately to see what happened to them. The research, launched in 1979, found that the behaviours, personalities & social attitudes the twins displayed were very often very alike, even when they were raised in radically different environment.

Consider the evidence: the case of Oskar Stohr and Jack Yufe. “At first, they appeared to be a textbook case of the primacy of culture in forming individuals — just the opposite of the Lewis-Springer pair. Separated from his twin six months after their birth in Trinidad, Oskar was brought up Catholic in Germany and joined the Hitler Youth. Jack stayed behind in the Caribbean, was raised a Jew and lived for a time in Israel. Yet despite the stark contrast of their lives, when the twins were reunited in their fifth decade they had similar speech and thought patterns, similar gaits, a taste for spicy foods and common peculiarities such as flushing the toilet before they used it.” (complete article can be found here).

The conclusion drawn is that the similarities between twins – who tend to be around 80% the same – are partly the product of similar upbringing, but are mostly due to their identical sets of genes.

Where does that leave Sam & Dean? Well for one, it means that they have to come back for Season 5, which means that, at least for now, they aren’t going to be killed ;). It also means that, in a way, they can’t run from their destiny, so they might stop running, turn around and face it. For what monster is worse than the one hidden in the closet or under the bed?

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