Supernatural, S8 Ep4 – Bitten

Sam and Dean being filmed by Kate and Brian at crime scene

This latest episode, another Monster of the Week, was better than last week’s, but still not on the list of episodes I’ll watch over and over again.  I think a major improvement over last week was that we got to see more character development of the people involved with the monster plot-line instead of a cardboard cutout villain.  In fact, we got more than the usual development of the monster because this episode was from the point of view of three college students who get drawn into the supernatural world, and we got to see how a monster is really made.

Brian filming Michael with Kate sitting on desk

Could you move a little to the left?  I want better lighting while you yell at me.

This was a found footage episode, but not in the same vein as “Ghostfacers.”  This has the shaky cam and brief cameos of the Winchester bros, but it’s dark instead of ridiculous.  I don’t care much for shaky cam and even with the excuse that one of the main characters was trying to film a movie, the plausibility of everyone using a camera all the time, including picking them up to get close ups during emotional scenes, really stretches my suspension of disbelief.  I think that’s probably the main reason why this episode isn’t on my favorites list.  Everyone had a camera ready to film all the time, including Scott, the annoying rival of our doomed trio of college students.  Not to mention the obvious zoom in on the professor’s pin, which you just knew was going to be important later becauseof the zoom.  And then, at the end, I really couldn’t believe what happened: If you had just watched the person you loved get killed by someone you thought was a friend, was physically assaulted by said friend and forcibly turned into a creature of the night, and then ripped that person apart into a bloody mess on the wall, would you really take the time after all that to edit together an explanatory video, culled from days of constant footage, for the hunters that are going to come kill you?  That sounds like a lot of time and effort for something done during what had to have been an intense and disturbing period of time for Kate.  I didn’t buy it and that took away from the emotional impact that the video was meant to have.

Sam and Dean at a restaurant

Why does everyone assume that they’re dating? They just like to stare passionately into each other’s eyes like normal brothers do.

Despite that, I still liked the episode.  I liked getting to see the case from the other side instead of from Sam and Dean’s point of view.  The trio of friends in this episode, Michael, his buddy Brain, and Michael’s girlfriend Kate, had great chemistry together and I found myself pulled into their lives.  I liked getting to know these three people, and I especially enjoyed seeing how everything starts to fall apart when Michael gets bitten and changes.  I love when we get an insight into the monster’s psyche, which is probably why I didn’t care much for last week’s because it was all just pasted on.  But my favorite thing about getting to see things from an outside point of view was getting to see their interpretation of Sam and Dean. S tarsky and Hutch?  Workplace romance vibe?  No one slashes Sam and Dean quite like the writers of the show.  (And notice that at the end of the episode, the one thing Dean takes umbrage with isn’t the implication that his relationship with his brother leads everyone to assume they’re gay–as it has been since season one–but that Kate thought he used the word “awesome” too much.)  Seriously, though, I do like getting the outsider’s perspective on these boys because, come on, how weird would it be to have two FBI agents talking about Mayan gods as a suspect?

Michael shifting into a werewolf

I’m changing into a monster!  Let me keep this camera steady while my entire life devolves into chaos!

Now the monster of the week this time around was one that we’ve encountered before: werewolves.  Supernatural seems to like using werewolves for emotional see-it-from-the-monster’s-point-of-view stories because the first time we encountered them Sam fell in love with one.  And that’s why I’m surprised Sam and Dean didn’t figure out what it was at first (and, okay, maybe I’ve been watching too much Teen Wolf, but how can these college kids not realize that a bite that heals quickly and results in super strength clearly means werewolf?).  But I suppose having just come off of a case involving ripped out hearts via Mayan Holy Sports Power could throw them off their game, not to mention the fact that the attack occurred outside of the full moon. Which leads us to a new revelation in the world of monsters: a werewolf with a pedigree.  Apparently, werewolves turned up to four generations from pureblood (i.e. the alpha) are less feral and have more control over the change.  Pretty cool, huh?  Though that means that the professor, our original werewolf in this story, would have to have been either first or second generation in order for Kate to fit within the fourth generation rule.  Otherwise, this story would have had a different ending. There also seemed to be an attempt at some sort of allegory via the comparison to Lord of the Flies.  Brian, the nerdy character, said that he didn’t want to be Piggy, he wanted to be Ralph, and that was why he wanted the bite.  Now, let me dust off my English major and distant memories of reading that book in high school and lay a literary smack down on Brian’s fantasy.  Piggy was the intellectual, rational voice on the island and Ralph was the elected leader.  Piggy was a nerd, like Brian, but he was trying to cling to society and civilization.  Ralph followed Piggy’s advice because Piggy, loser though he may have been, was wise and Ralph looked to him for guidance.  Ralph didn’t seek power at first, he was elected to it.  Brian here is not acting like Ralph.  He’s acting more like Jack, the kid who turns savage and leads the rival faction on the island, the barbaric group of boys who’ve given into their base instincts.  Jack represents the darkness lurking within humanity, kind of like Brian does here. Michael might have been bitten first, but Brian becomes the real monster of this episode.  He clearly needed to read that book more carefully.  Oh, the pitfalls of improper literary analysis!

Dean blue steeling in thought

You don’t want your life in this man’s hands.  Just look at that blue steel!

And now for my last trick: Dean wants to give Kate, the last and newest werewolf of the group, a chance?  Really?  This is Dean Winchester we’re talking about.  The same man who killed Sam’s old friend, Amy, just a couple years ago because she was a monster, her relationship with Sam be damned.  Also, the same man who just came back from purgatory, a place with a monster-killing ambiance that he described as “pure.”  However, Amy had started killing humans (but only to save her son), and that was why Dean had killed her.  Kate hadn’t hurt any humans yet (fellow werewolves on the other hand…).  Plus, Dean himself teamed up with Benny the vampire while in purgatory, so maybe it’s not completely out of the blue for Dean to let Kate go.  And maybe her video explanation and plea for compassion worked on him after all.  Sam went through his own problems and for a long time every other episode liked to parallel his personal issues with those of the monsters he hunted, so maybe Dean could see a bit of Sam in her.  Or, perhaps he felt a bit of kinship with her of his own.  She didn’t choose to become what she was, she was forced into it like Dean was forced into hunting, into purgatory.  The episode showed that true monsters can be human–Brian’s path to crazy town started because he was in love with his best friend’s girl–so maybe Dean saw himself in Kate, saw what he had been forced to become in purgatory, and he gave her a second chance like he hoped to get one himself. All in all, not a bad episode.  It could have been better, but it was still a lot of fun and I didn’t get too nauseated from the shaky cam.  What more could you ask for?  Next week, on Halloween, we move from werewolves on campus to vampires on boats in “Blood Brother,” where we get to see more of Dean’s purgatory buddy Benny in a jaunty hat. Benny the vampire, featuring Jaunty Hat