Sunday, 28 October 2012

Review - "Supernatural" 8.04 "Bitten"

Well, I think we all knew from the outset that this was an episode that would polarise “Supernatural” fans. It was a different kind of “Supernatural” episode not just in the way it was shot, all on hand held or CTV style cameras, which many don’t like and find difficult to watch, but also in the way it focused on characters outside of the norm, as in, the focus wasn’t on Sam and Dean or any of the secondary leads like Bobby or Castiel in past episodes “Weekend at Bobby’s” and “The Man Who Would Be King” and this wasn’t going to be like “Ghostfacers” because Sam and Dean were well and truly in that episode. This was something different altogether, a different story told a different way. For some of us it worked and for some of us it didn't. 

I went into “Bitten” as I do with any episode, wide open with expectations set to neutral and I have to say, this was one hell of an enjoyable hour of television for me. So I guess, put me in the "it worked" camp. When it finished, I felt proud as punch of this show and the people who make this show. That they have the cojones to give something like this a whirl and pull it off so spectacularly and that they have the cojones to make the show they want to make.

This last bit makes me particularly happy, because I always worry that the creators of this show may be influenced by the likes of me, or you or whomever comment and offer dialogue on “Supernatural.” That they may read some of the commentary on whether Sam is being written this way or that or whether we feel Dean is being all out of character and allow our insights and opinions as viewers to colour and skew the way they choose to tell their story. It’s arrogance on my behalf to think they would of course, but it does give me pause for concern sometimes. Obviously they feel the need to listen to some degree, because if we rampantly hate something, that’s going to reflect badly on the future of the show, but even at this level, it makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I remember Edlund being asked, do they have to listen to the fans and he thought for a moment and said, “No”. His implication as I took it in the context of the question, that they may listen, but they don’t feel they have to. I felt relieved to hear that.

I’ve said this many times, I want the creators of “Supernatural” to be allowed to tell the story they want to tell. They know the end game, I don’t. They know where the mid-season finale is going, where the season is going, how far this arc is going, where these characters need to be and who they need to be for the pay off, I don’t. They’re working to a big picture plan of which I have absolutely no concept. I’m not there with them, working through the structure of a 23-episode season and beyond, so I don’t know. I have to have faith that they know more than I do about their story and about their characters and where all their ducks need to be for everything to unfold and for that reason I give them the time and the respect to allow them to unfold their story as they see fit, even when I find it challenging or disappointing. I think the last couple of seasons have dragged us from pillar to post and it’s made some of us gun-shy. I read it over and over in the comments and I get it, I’m often in the same boat. Some disappointments are hard to let go of, even if you enjoyed the bulk of seasons 6 and 7, which I did. I love this show with a passion, in case you haven’t noticed, so some knocks hit hard. But this is a new season, a fresh start and personally, I’m loving how it’s playing out so far and so I’m happily offering up my trust to allow this, highly creative and talented bunch of people, the time they need to tell their story. After only 4 episodes of a 23-episode season, I think that’s only fair and reasonable. So that’s what I’m choosing to do and crossing my fingers my faith pays off. It usually does. So far, so good.

I thought “Bitten” was a lovely piece of story telling. I found myself sitting up leaning all the way forward at one point and I had one of those moments where you go, “Man, I’m seriously digging this.” By the end, I was dreading seeing what played out in the opening scene. I felt for these kids. I liked them. Michael was adorable and sweet (and a looker), Kate was smart and had a life plan, Brian was insecure and trying to find his place. I liked how normal they all seemed.

I enjoyed seeing the birth of these monsters from their point of view. Their struggle to come to terms with what was happening to their friend and then, inevitably, to all of them. We’ve seen this from the Winchester’s perspective before, when they’ve come across monsters who don’t want to embrace or don’t realise they’re embracing their monster form, like the Rugaru in “Metamorphosis” and Madison in “Heart”. We know that the Winchesters have come across monsters with families; that have been living in society and attempting to curb their monstery ways, but it was good to see this from the inside out, get the monster-eye-view if you will. They were just your average college kids who got caught up in this horrific situation. I’m kind of shocked we haven’t seen this before.

I really dug seeing how the Winchesters appear to the outside world. We’re usually alongside them in the trenches and we’re so used to them and what they do, so this was a fun way to see the brothers. I often think to myself, when they’re having some bizarre conversation in a diner about their latest case, shush, someone's going to hear you and call the cops on your asses! I mean, it’s not like they whisper and they’re always just stepping off to the side and going into some horrific detail about some case with people RIGHT THERE! I remember in the commentary for “In The Beginning” Kripke noting that Dean and Young Mary only walk two steps away from the kid who accidentally sold his soul to the YED and that the kid would be able to hear them talking about demons and the like and he’d be freaking out! Kripke was laughing his ass off! And it’s true! So I was giggling like an idiot when they got caught on camera talking about the Mayan God.

I don’t have a problem with shaky-cam, I quite enjoy it as a film making technique. The only problem I have with it is that it's very rarely perfect. There’s always going to be a moment when you go, umm, where’s that shot coming from? Having said that, I thought “Bitten” as a whole, did a pretty good job on the hand held POV camera concept. It was smart to have Brian install stationary cameras around the rooms to give the director and editors more to play with. There were a couple of times I thought, put the damn camera down, this is getting serious, but then I remembered the people who film themselves caught up in all sorts of terrible disasters and well, some people do that sort of stuff for real! With this style of filmmaking, I think there has to be a degree of suspension of disbelief and I was willing to do that.

What I do think is that this form of story telling allows a fair bit of intimacy. You’re with the characters all the time instead of moving off to different points of action. In that way, I felt like I had a better grasp on these characters than most of the one off characters we meet in “Supernatural” and I appreciated that. The performances were pretty good. I thought Michael and Kate in particular had nice chemistry and I believed in their relationship and I could see that Michael was a good guy and was Brian’s only friend and I could get a vibe on Brian’s dissatisfaction with always being the third wheel. The episode hinged on them being able to carry off the piece and for me, they did. I must admit I really didn’t like when Brian forcibly bit Kate, I know where it was coming from, desperation, misplaced love, fear, anger, but it was way harsh how it went down and I was incredibly pleased she took him out for it. He embraced the monster, he welcomed it inside him and he let it take hold….he had to go.

Which brings me to the Winchesters letting Kate walk. Having to sit through that video, see what they do and the creatures they do it to from the other side, must have been edifying. Monsters have told them, they’ve said that they’re not bad, don’t want to be monsters, that it’s not their fault, not their choice, but seeing it laid out in front of them, seeing these kids getting dragged into their world through no fault of their own, the confusion, the fear and the outcome, had to shift something inside the brothers. They’ve had their doubts before about whether every monster deserves to die, they’ve argued over it many times, but this gave them another perspective.

Is that the reason they let Kate walk? Hmm, I have a feeling Dean was thinking about his association with a certain vampire he brought back from Purgatory when faced with this question. How could he go after Kate, when she says she’s going to keep her nose clean and not do the same with Benny? Dean seemed to mull the whole thing over. Once upon a time, he’d probably shelve the Benny thing, compartmentalise it and still go after Kate, finding some way to rationalise the double standard later. But I think Dean’s changed, Purgatory, his new association, whatever, I saw this as nice growth. Glad to see it Winchester. I’d expect Sam to give her a chance, so his reaction didn’t surprise me. I did notice how quickly he packed up. It was like he wanted to get out of there before his brother changed his mind. Of course, it could've been that Dean was simply moved by the story of these kids, but seeing as where we’re about to go in next week’s episode, I’m pretty sure he was thinking of his toothy friend and this scene was all about setting up a certain meeting and the quandary Dean’s about to find himself in. 

One could sit here and go into the parallels of the story of the three kids having this life of a monster forced upon them and the story of Sam and Dean and the life that they were raised in. Their Apocalyptic destinies, Sam’s demon blood running through his veins and the brother's ongoing struggle to reconcile themselves with their lives, just as Michael and Kate, not so much Brian, were faced with a similar dilemma. Destiny versus free will, freedom to choose your own path and all that. We could look at the song choice, Milo Greene's "What's the Matter" and ponder over the lyric, which seemed to be purposeful in its intent, not just to illustrate what was happening in the relationship between the friends but also what's currently happening in Sam and Dean's relationship, "Do you ever wonder why, We go on and on and on… What's the matter? What's the matter with you lately?" But you know what……I’m just going to take the episode for what it was and enjoy it as a one off. We all need a break from my overly thinky thoughts anyway and I have a feeling next week my thinky thoughts will be in overdrive!           

I must admit, I was a little hesitant to write my review this week, because I’ve seen how vehemently some have disliked this episode, but as I said last week, the wonderful thing about this show is that we all come at it from different angles and take different things away with us. I liked “Bitten”. Actually I liked it a lot. I understand it didn’t blow everyone’s hair back, but that’s because we’re all individuals and like different things. I’m really happy to be a fan of a show that takes risks, that creates such great dialogue, that we feel compelled to discuss for good and bad. I’m so happy that this show exists for me to feel so passionate about it, you know?

Would I want to see this kind of episode regularly, hell no, you know me, I’m a Winchester lovin’ girl and I adore the story of those two men and I am literally champing at the bit for next week’s episode to see more of their story unfold…and because Mr Edlund wrote it….and because I saw some of it being shot! OH MY GOSH! I am so excited for next week’s episode. So no, I don’t want a plethora of episodes like “Bitten” but this was good, I enjoyed it and I praise the team behind this show for pushing the boundaries and our buttons.

Now bring on that Winchester angst!

Thanks for reading… let me know what you think.

Until next time you AWESOME people! Come on, you think I wasn’t going to get an awesome gag in there. Oh Dean….

sweetondean is Chief Editor and Staff Writer for The Winchester Family Business

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this episode. I loved the ending and it made me feel really good afterwards. I like a 'happy ending' and we don't see that a lot in this show.
    I understand why fans didn't like it but I think it needed to be seen - they hunt monsters every week and I think after so many years it was important to see it from their point of view.