Supernatural’s last episode before its six-week hiatus was nothing short of underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong; the episode was, in itself, fantastic. It wasn’t just a filler; it brought in another Apocalypse-related figure, i.e. our second Horseman of the Apocalypse, Famine. However, only die-hard fans will be left wanting more, and anxiously counting down the days leading up to the next new episode (mark March 24 on your calendar, everyone!).
In “My Bloody Valentine” (a nod to Jensen Ackles’ movie of the same name), the Winchester brothers visit a small town to investigating a gruesome double murder, as a couple end up a great date by eating each other up. Yes, you read that right. Upon further investigation, the brothers, with the help of Castiel, figure out that Cupid might have been a little too enthusiastic with his arrow, infusing said couple with a little too much love for one another. Speaking of which, congratulations, Supernatural team — this is the first episode that managed to gross me out.
But it soon comes to light that Cupid (who isn’t as cute as Valentine’s Day cards portray him to be, by the way) isn’t the one at fault, but rather another Horseman of the Apocalypse has ridden into town: Famine. And this one is far nastier, in many senses, than War: a creepy, weak old man with an irritatingly high-pitched voice (excellent casting choice, by the way), he imbues the air with hunger — for food, for love, for sex, for attention, for drugs — and, once the people literally overdose on whatever it is that they hunger, Famine feeds on their souls. Delightful.
I’m sure that all die-hard fans freaked out as soon as they heard Famine was in town; I immediately started looking for signs that Sam’s thirst was starting to pipe up again, and it did. I won’t say unfortunately, because if it weren’t for Sam’s high on demon blood, I don’t think Dean and Castiel would have gotten out of this alive.
Castiel also felt the effect of Famine’s influence, as Jimmy’s hunger for red meat makes Castiel eat White Castle burgers like there is no tomorrow, which makes him lose focus on his mission to get to Famine. It was rather amusing watching Castiel be so human; I don’t think I’ll ever be able to drive by a White Castle without remembering his grin while eating a burger and his proclamation that “this… this makes me happy!”
Character development was heavy throughout the episode. First there was Castiel, who turned out to be less impassive than we would have ever thought him to be. Seeing him on the floor of the diner, eating red meat raw, just like the other patrons at the diner had been eating away at food, was rather tough. If an angel can fall prey to Famine, it really doesn’t bode well.
Another interesting character development was that of Sam; although knowing Dean is still a little sensitive over the whole demon blood thing, he doesn’t wait too long before admitting to Dean that he is hungering for demon blood. It also bodes well that Dean didn’t flip out. The tying down of Sam ‘real good’ without any big drama was also indicative of the maturity in the relationship between the two brothers.
Of course the most interesting character development was Dean’s. More specifically, his reaction – or rather, non-reaction – to Famine was curious:
Dean: So this your trick? Making people cuckoo for cocoa puffs?
Famine: Doesn’t take much. Hardly a push. Ah, America, all you can eat, all the time, consume, consume, consume, a swarm of locusts in stretch pants. Yet you’re all still starving because hunger doesn’t just come from the body, but it also comes from the soul!
Dean: Funny, it doesn’t seem to be coming from mine.
Famine: Yes, I noticed that. Have you wondered why that is? How you could even walk in my presence?
Dean: I’d like to think it’s because of my strength in character.
Famine: I disagree [touches Dean]. Yes, I see. That’s one deep dark nothing you got there, Dean. Can’t fill it. Can’t. Not with food, or drink. Not even with sex!
Dean: You’re so full of crap.
Famine: Oh, you can smirk, and joke, and lie to your brother, lie to yourself, but not to me! I can see inside you, Dean. And I can see how broken you are, how defeated, you can’t win, and you know it, but you just keep fighting, just keep going through the motions. You’re not hungry, Dean, because inside, you’re already dead.
Trust a Horseman of the Apocalypse to make the worst of any situation. Although I think that in this case, he did us all a favour. After all, we have known for some time that Dean is being meticulously broken into a million pieces, but his charming nature and cocky attitude helped him fool himself and those around him (although Sam, especially with his newfound maturity, has probably not been fooled at all, especially since he asked Dean, “Are we going to talk about what’s been up with you lately or not?”). Dean has known for awhile that he is in a dark place, and that it was only getting worse, but like a frog in a slowly heated pot of water, he was staying there as it was suffocating him to death. Perhaps Famine making him face the facts head on is exactly the jolt that Dean needs to get out of his funk.
It isn’t surprising that, after everything that happened, Dean has been left feeling hollow and empty. From having the responsibility of raising a younger brother thrust at him from a young age while not having the stability of a home or the loving presence of a mother, to never feeling good enough for a father devastated by his beloved wife’s death, it almost feels like Dean has been carrying around this ‘deep dark nothing’ for quite some time. And while he was able to deny it (more or less) for quite some time and, more specifically, for the last five years, Famine seems to have forced Dean into facing the reality that, however hard he has tried, nothing has filled that deep dark pit of despair.
On a related side note, did anyone else wonder how long Sam had been standing there, how much he heard of what Famine said to Dean, and if he is going to bring it up post-hiatus, in episode 15? I certainly hope so, because Sam and Dean – however cliché and ridiculous it might sound – well, they complete each other, in that they each have strengths that the other lacks, and, as mentioned in previous reviews, they work best when they work together. So perhaps the healing of both – and, ultimately, a successful face-off with Lucifer – would depend on each helping the other to heal.
The ending was quite interesting for many reasons, and is the cliff-hanger that will leave die-hard fans salivating but leave newcomers shrugging with mild indifference. Dean and Castiel are guarding Sam while he goes yet again through demon blood detox, but this time, Dean doesn’t have anger to shield him from the pain of hearing his brother suffering. Castiel senses Dean’s anguish – or did he just notice the bottle of whiskey Dean is downing like water? – but after his encounter with Famine, Dean is left to face his hollowness which, however fantastic he is, neither Castiel nor anyone or anything else can fill. He steps out for some time to think; the anguish becomes all the more palpable, Dean puts away the bottle of whiskey and raises his eyes in supplication: “Please… I can’t… I need some help. Please.”
The fan forums went CRAZY. So crazy that my computer couldn’t keep up. It was insane. And while most people assumed this meant Dean had finally accepted that there is a God and that He is going to help, a relative few mentioned that they thought Dean was actually asking John and Mary Winchester for help.
Whoever Dean was asking help from, this moment had obviously been planned for the last two seasons by the Supernatural team. The meticulous deconstruction of Dean Winchester’s wall of self-preservation has been going on for awhile, and while it’s hard to watch (crazy how much of an emotional connection one can make with a fictional character, isn’t it?), it’s an essential part of the plot.
I don’t know if Dean is ready yet to turn to God, quite honestly, and I don’t know if the Supernatural team is ready and willing to take the risk of turning Dean into a religious, God-oriented character. After all, much of the fascination with Dean is his internal battle between objectively knowing that there is a God and yet subjectively bringing up every single argument in the book against His very existence. And I don’t think that, come the end of the hiatus, Dean is suddenty going to be a believer; it wouldn’t make any sense with regard to some of the strongly worded comments he has made about God in the last four and a half years. However, it will definitely make Dean open to considering other approaches to dealing with the situation, including looking for other angels to join the battle or, perhaps, joining Castiel in finding God. Last season ended with Lucifer coming out of hell; perhaps this season will end with God coming down to earth.
And as described below, I have more than one reason to think that God coming down to earth is the inevitable conclusion of season five.
Initially, I thought, like everyone else, that Famine was just another Horseman of the Apocalypse. His portrayal was really creepy – the idea of the helpless yet powerful old man is one that has recently made the rounds in a series of cartoons depicting powerful world bankers amidst the recession, making the character more apt than ever. Is Famine really an agent of destruction, foretelling the apocalypse, or is he something else? The question bodes a little theological discussion. There are two references in the Bible to the horsemen that I know of.
The first one is in Revelation 6:2-8, and starts like this: “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he wen forth conquering, and to conquer”. This implies that War is the second Horseman, not the first one, and Famine is the third one, not the second one. The fourth one is Death, and the first one (the one referred to in the citation above) is interpreted as either Pestilence, Evil (in the form of the Antichrist) or as something altogether different, i.e. Righteousness, Christ Himself or The Holy Spirit (theologians explain the contrast between this ‘good’ horseman and the other three evil ones as the advance of the gospel preceding and foretelling the Apocalypse).
The second reference is in Zechariah 6:2-3: “In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses; And in the third chariot white horses: and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses”. This seems to be the order that the horsemen in Supernatural have appeared, which (if they are sticking to Scripture) would imply that they are not, in fact horsemen. For the horsemen that Zechariah sees are sentries rather than agents of destruction: “the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.”
Could it be, then, that rather than to bode the apocalypse, the Supernatural team is telling us that God is coming? Ooh, exciting!
And on a less spiritual level, I wonder what kind of car the next two Horsemen are going to drive? And what is a ‘grisled and bay’ car going to look like?
All in all, “My Bloody Valentine” was a great episode, albeit perhaps not the best choice just before a six-week hiatus. The question at the end of the episode will keep fans wondering if, upon the return of the show, Dean will continue breaking apart, or if he will be like a phoenix rising from the ashes of his former self to be stronger than ever. In a way, Sam has been through that himself, sinking into demon blood addiction after Dean’s death at the end of season three, and he has come back stronger than he used to be. Many fans have been grumbling about how odd it is that Sam and Dean’s relationship seems to have switched in the last season; while before, Dean would be leading the charge, he had been taking a backseat throughout season five.
A visit on various fan forums seems to indicate that the fans are quite divided about the turn that season five has taken. After “My Bloody Valentine” aired, even more have been grumbling that if the price to pay to have a season six is to be strung along for many more episodes before the Lucifer vs. Winchesters showdown, it just might not be worth it.
I beg to differ. The level of storytelling has reached a new height; so has the level of character development. The pieces are being placed on the chessboard one by one, and we are given clues from which, if we were patient enough, we could probably predict what is going to happen in the next couple of episodes. After all, what is going on does make perfect sense, and while many fans were left confused at the seeming 180 degrees both Winchesters have made in the last year and a half, it seems to me that this very reversal makes them all the more realistic. I challenged a couple such fans to think of where they were a year ago today. A few didn’t remember, but a couple happened to be avid journal writers. And after poring over last year’s entries, they came to realise just how much they had changed in the span of one year. And nothing close to what happened to the Winchesters happened to them. Only then did they realise that yes, people can change a lot in the relatively short span of a year.
And to those fans who are complaining that ‘nothing is happening’, I’d like to share another thought: a lot is still happening, but the nature of what is happening has changed. There are fewer quips and one-liners because Dean is, as Famine mentioned, empty. He is going to have to fill up again before we see that again. There are still supernatural occurrences that the boys are fighting (true to the beginning of the season, when Dean tells Sam that they should go down fighting, taking down as many of these things as they can on their way out). And Sam’s strength is coming from his overcoming some hard things, namely his addiction to demon blood.
My advice to Supernatural fans? Stop telling the team where to go, and appreciate where we are being taken. It’s far more intricate than any of us realises, and I’m certain that if we could get a Scripture expert involved in this discussion, it could lead us to some very interesting answers.
In the meanwhile, a couple of nods need to be given out. First, to the Supernatural team, who has quite the way of giving their own nod to many holidays, like Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas, without quite going too deep into it. I like the fact that they are treating their audience like intelligent beings that do not need to be crumb-fed every bit of information.
Second, although we have come to expect it of them, it still begs to mentioned that both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki were awesome, the former for his heartbreaking scene at the end, and the latter for his seamless transition from maturing, level-headed little brother to demon blood-hungry Sasquatch.
First published here on Blogcritics.