Supernatural meta, reviews & fic recs

Dean’s Story Arc: Fairies and Vampires, Oh My!

Dean attacked by vampire

In the early seasons of Supernatural, Kripke did a fairly good job of following through on Dean’s emotional and narrative story arc. Dean started out idolizing his father and his slow realization that John was not the perfect hero to be modeling himself after to his disillusionment and final acceptance that John was human and fallible but “did the best he could.” He was the reluctant hero who took control of his fate and used his free will to save the world and himself while allowing his brother to finally sacrifice himself.  But there has been an increasing inability to follow through on Dean’s story arcs as the series has gone on, I think.

It happens first when Dean comes back from Hell in S4 tormented by what he did there. We learn that he was tortured for 30 years, and having finally broke on the rack, he became Alastair’s apprentice and tortured souls himself. That’s a major plot point that was dropped in On the Head of Pin, Castiel asked Dean to torture his torturer Alastair. Dean tells Castiel, “You ask me to open that door and walk through it, you will not like what walks back out.” Of course, he did as Castiel asked and tortured Alastair. I know I’m not the only one who kept waiting for that to be followed through on. It never was.

The same kind of set happened in S8 when Dean supposedly returned from Purgatory with PTSD, which after a couple scenes referencing it was never illustrated again. It could help explain some of Dean’s harsh treatment toward Sam in the first half of the season instead of him just looking to many fans like a jerk.

But I’m more disappointed by the failure to pick up Dean’s narrative story arc in S8. There were two major missed opportunities that baffle me. I’ll start first with the fairy storyline because it is the lesser of those. In Clap Your Hands If You Believe (6.09), Dean was abducted by fairies and taken to the realm of the fae. There was a suggestion, inappropriately humorous, that he was physically violated. I don’t think that is true because when we see him reappear in the corn field he is in a fighting stance with his weapons in hand. When he tells Sam about his abduction, he tells him that he simply started firing on his abductors and they seemed surprised like no one had ever done that. The implication, I think, is that they simply returned him; although, there was a time jump. After being returned to our universe, he was able to see fairies. He had a connection to the fae.

Dean abducted

In LARP and the Real Girl however, there is no indication that Dean has or ever had a connection with the fae. Here Dean was making connections with Charlie who ends up with a fairy lover, but there’s no suggestion that he was in any way different or special to them. Really? Not even a hint? One line? Was there something in that ep that I missed?

My bigger problem though is with the Benny storyline. Vampires have had a long run on Supernatural starting with the nest that John and the boys take out in Dean Man’s Blood (1.20), and then in Bloodlust (2.03) we meet Lenore, the vampire leader who doesn’t drink human blood, and Gordon Walker, the hunter who tries to seduce Dean away from Sam with his own brand of poison. Bloodlust is such an important episode in the evolution of Sam and Dean’s relationship. Dean begins to see that Sam balances him and can keep him from becoming the kind of human monster that Gordon had become. Sam showed Dean that there were shades of gray with monsters as there are with humans. Believing that Sam will become a monster, Gordon later vows to kill Sam. He returns in Fresh Blood (3.07) as a full-blown monster, himself a vampire, and Sam kills him to protect Dean during a fight.

Vampires later become a major motif in S6 and into S7, first when Dean is bitten and briefly becomes a vampire in Live Free or Twihard (6.05) and then when the alpha vampire is introduced (6.10-7.22). Lenore makes a re-appearance in Mommy Dearest (6.19) and begs the boys to kill her because Eve is compelling her to feed on humans. Castiel does the dirty work.

Vampires appear in eight episodes prior to S8 and play a major role in the examination of what makes a monster – that gray area that Sam and Dean initially discuss in Bloodlust. Lenore established the idea that monsters too could have free will, and the alpha vampire becomes a well-established character as well – not just a monster, but a calculating individual. Like Lenore he exhibits free will. Vampires as established on Supernatural are perhaps the most human of monsters.

So when S8 introduced Benny, I thought that the established mythology, the boys’ history with them, particularly Dean’s history, would be utilized. I couldn’t have been more wrong. What a shame. Benny was given a significant backstory and storyline that was unconnected to the alpha vampire, which okay, I can live with that. But the fact that Dean having himself been a vampire, however briefly, was never hinted at was a major failing because perhaps part of Dean’s “brotherhood” with Benny wasn’t about Purgatory at all. Maybe Dean empathized with Benny because he had felt the power of that hunger and he understood the strength of will it took to not give in to it.

And Sam, too, how might that history have affected his feelings about Benny? Are we to assume that Sam remembers that he, as soulless!Sam, allowed Dean to be turned into a vampire? He has to at least know about it. Is that not on his list of things to feel guilty about? Why didn’t Dean throw that specifically in his face as on of the times that Sam let him down? Was Sam at all worried that there might be some trace left of that taint in Dean’s blood that was influencing him to befriend the vampire? Why was none of this explored or even hinted at?

I realize that Supernatural has at best 23 episodes a season in which to cover the major story arc, but the fact is those episodes could be better utilized than they are. Fewer throw away humor scenes and more narrative/character development would go a long way. But from where I sit, I think the answer has more to do with Carver choosing to ignore S6-7 as much as possible than anything else. That’s inexcusable. While both of those seasons had their weaknesses, especially 7, there were some strong episodes and important narrative and character development. It seems to me that the only convincing way to have Sam not look for Dean while he was in Purgatory is by pretending that S6-7 never happened. It also explains why Dean’s S8 storyline was in no way connected back to his history with vampires and fairies.

What do you guys think?

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7 responses

  1. Vampires, or a least the idea of them, also are a significant part of Sam and Dean’s relationship in s4. When Sam is found out to be drinking blood, Dean says to his face that “if I didn’t know you, I would wanna hunt you”, and in the changed phone message Dean calls Sam a vampire directly.

    While I’m not sure the writers remember this history (I’ve kinda stopped giving them too much credit canon-wise), I think it plays nicely into Sam’s distress in Sacrifice, where he notes that Dean was seemingly casting him aside for an actual vampire.

    October 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    • Thank you for mentioning that! I agree completely, and this is one of the things that bothered me about those missed opportunities. I don’t think that we can expect the writers as individuals to remember everything, but they are a team and if a certain storyline or monster is going to be used, they should talk about the history of those monsters on the show and consider the implications of that. It just comes across as sloppy writing not to draw those threads together.

      October 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm

  2. Great observations here. I find it weird that for a show that does do a lot of continuity (hexbags and tattoos for Kevin & his mother for example), they totally forget a lot of continuity when it really matters.

    October 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    • Exactly, and it’s unfortunate. The narrative could be so much richer if they’d keep history in mind when developing knew storylines.

      October 2, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      • I would really like Dean to return to being a PA after he gives up hunting.

        October 2, 2013 at 2:52 pm

        • I know, right? He was so happy being a PA, and that would really be tying things together. 😉

          October 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm

  3. Pingback: Supernatural Season 4: “The Monster at the End of This Book” | The Collective

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