SPN 10.15: “The Things They Carried” Review
Supernatural returned from a short hiatus on a new night, Wednesday, with an episode penned by Jenny Klein. “The Things They Carried” saw the return of Cole Trenton who, at the beginning of the season, was set on killing Dean to avenge his father’s death but got a lesson in getting his ass whooped as well Monsters 101. Also returning, was a season six monster – the Kahn worm. For my money, the Kahn worm is perhaps the creepiest, most horrific monster the series has seen. If you don’t understand why, just Google parasites.
As for Cole, I’m not going to lie. He’s rubbed me the wrong way from day one. His arrogance and swagger were somewhat understandable in “Reichenbach” and “Girls, Girls, Girls,” but after those humbling experiences, he should have had dialed it back. Now, it comes across as some kind of compensation, little man syndrome or something – and he does look little compared to Sam and Dean. In addition, his over-familiarity with the “Sammy” and “Deano” annoys me every time. Sam established with Gordon Walker in season two that no one calls him Sammy but Dean. Sure, there’s a lot of water under the bridge since then, but no one, not even Bobby, called him Sammy except Dean. And Deano Is what Meg called Dean back when she was their sworn enemy. So Deano should hardly have fond connections for Dean.
The boys ran into Cole while on an investigation of a murder at an army base in which a soldier was drained of blood and the marrow sucked from her bones. Sam and Dean discover that Cole’s best friend Kit is the next focus of the Winchester’s investigation and insists on helping them in an attempt to save his friend. Cole does appear to be developing as a character. He’s coming to appreciate the job that Dean and Sam do and the fact that they get no recognition for it. At least soldiers get medals for the horrific jobs they perform. It’s a theme that was established early on in the series that often victims don’t even thank the boys because they are forced to kill a loved one. Cole acknowledged that Dean did what he had to do when he killed Cole’s father.
Cole: I get it, why you did it, Dean. My dad wasn’t my dad anymore. If I go down that same road, I want you to do that to me, too.
Dean: That road? That means giving up. If that’s where you think you’re headed, you’ve got it ass backwards. You’re going to fight harder than you ever have, you understand?
That’s big talk from a guy who’s given up, and I wonder why Dean isn’t giving himself that lecture or why isn’t Sam? But here’s the bigger problem. Much as I liked “The Things They Carried” as a monster of the week episode, how did it really play into Dean’s story arc? He didn’t appear to be struggling with the affects of the Mark of Cain at all. There was no evidence in his behavior that he’s going dark or fighting some urge to do violence. He was nothing but restrained when Cole attacked him. The Mark of Cain is conveniently absent when it isn’t the focus just as Hallucifer’s torment of Sam was in season seven.
Sam, of course, has not given up on Dean. He’s continued to research and look for a means to rid Dean of the Mark of Cain. Dean knew it and finally called him on it when they were in the Impala: “When we work a case, there’s that point where we have to face the truth. Right? Even if we don’t like it. Well, truth is there’s no way around this. [holds up arm] We saw what happened with Cain, okay? I’m not happy about it, but I got to move on. So I’m gonna keep doing what we do while I still can, and I’d like you to be there with me.” Throughout Dean’s little speech, Sam had that stubborn set to his jaw that we haven’t seen for awhile. It was clear that while Dean may have given up, Sam wasn’t about to.
While Dean stayed with Cole after he was infected with the Kahn worm, Sam went off in search of Kit. He went to Kit’s home where he found the former soldier now raging Kahn worm host attempting to transfer the Kahn worm to his wife Jemma. Sam knocked him out and tied him up, which was a refreshing reversal of how far too many episodes progress. Meanwhile, having failed to shock the Kahn worm out of Cole, Dean had resorted to rapid dehydration since the worms need moisture to survive. Sam was dubious about the success of the plan.
Dean: You got a better idea?
Sam: Yeah, I do, actually, Dean. We know how to end this.
Dean: Yeah, Plan B for bullet. We’re not quite there yet, so just hold tight.
This exchange was a nice reminder that while Sam is a sympathetic person, he’s a hunter first. He knows the job and accepts that sometimes people have to get hurt, some have to die, for the greater good. These two storylines – Dean with Cole and Sam with Jemma – circle back around to the end when the boys were left alone after Cole thanked Dean and expressed the hope to never see them again.
Sam was visibly upset and regretful at having to kill Kit. At first it seemed contrary to the hunter who had talked to Dean on the phone, but after Kit’s death, Sam watched Jemma cradle her dead husband in her arms. That is what upset Sam. He empathized with her pain and loss. While trying to sweat the Kahn worm out, Cole recognized an unwanted kinship with his father.
Cole: My dad, he got something inside him too, right? You think this is what he felt like when he turned?
Dean: Maybe. I mean, he was human before he was…a monster.
Perhaps this exchange was meant to hint at what we aren’t actually seeing is going on with Dean. At the very least, it speaks to his fears. The fates of Cole and Kit were entirely different and illustrated the hope and fear that Sam and Dean are experiencing. In the end, Dean heard Sam’s sorrow and regret at having to kill Kit and responded with the only reassurance he was capable of, “You know you can do everything right, and even still sometimes, the guy dies.” That had to be gutting for Sam to hear. Even Sam’s best might not be enough. Dean was absolving him of responsibility.
In “Faith,” Dean asked, “You’re not gonna to let me die in peace, are you?” and Sam responded, “I’m not going to let you die, period.” Dean has to know that Sam won’t give up and that if anyone has the brains, the heart, and the determination to save him, it’s Sam. The question now is just how far will Sam be willing to go to prove Dean wrong about his fate?