Supernatural 8.05 Review: The Ties That Bind

Supernatural (The CW)It’s not often that we get a guest-star centric episode on Supernatural. It’s a pity that it took until the middle of season 3 for us to finally get some insight into Bobby’s history (Bobby….*sob*). And it took a while for us to get a Castiel-centric episode as well. This year, the writers are remaking the rules because this was only Benny’s second episode and we’ve already gotten his backstory. That’s a good thing. It’s refreshing, sometimes, to realize that the characters who exist in the Supernatural universe don’t only revolve around Sam and Dean. Obviously the Winchesters are their focal point, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own personalities and stories to tell. One of the amazing things this show has always done was expand the series beyond the brothers. Sure, I want this to be the Sam and Dean show, but I’ve always appreciated the memorable recurring characters who have woven in and out of the Winchesters’ lives. Now, if only we could keep them from dying horrible deaths…..

This week’s episode was not the usual quirky Ben Edlund trip. Then again, Edlund doesn’t always write about fairies or crazy dimension-hopping. He knows how to bring the drama and subtly as well. Will “Blood Brothers” go down in Supernatural history as a hilarious episode like “The French Mistake” or the deeply moving “The Man Who Would be King”? Perhaps not. But it was still a terrific episode that shed some light on a new character, gave us some very interesting flashbacks (the best Sam flashbacks of the season to date) and, perhaps, brought Sam and Dean’s recent troubles to a head.

Call Me, Maybe

When the episode began, the Winchesters were back on the Kevin-tracking trail. Unfortunately, Mr. Advanced Placement was too clever for them and continued to send them on a wild goose chase. That was interrupted when Benny called Dean for a favor and off the elder Winchester went, despite Sam’s questions about him taking a “personal day”.

As it turns out, Benny decided to go after his “maker” after getting out of Purgatory. On a side note, I hate the word “maker”. Maybe because I hail from the Buffy Summers School of Vampirism where I feel like all vampire parents should be referred to as “sires”. Regardless, Benny ran into some trouble when he dropped in on a few old friends and needed Dean to hightail himself to him with a few blood bags.

Dean came running and the wounded vampire was quickly on the mend. But he had a favor to ask of his Purgatory pal: could Dean help him get some revenge on his sire?

I Did It All For Love

Love is often the reason for big choices in the Supernatural universe. John chose to go into hunting because of his love for Mary and his grief over her death. Dean chose to sell his soul because of his love for his brother. Sam was able to momentarily retake his body from Lucifer because of love for Dean.  And it turns out that Benny gave up on killing humans for blood long before he ever went to Purgatory….all for love. The love of a woman named Andrea. Unfortunately for the happy couple, Benny’s sire, Quentin, was not happy about Benny leaving their little family for a woman. So he and his men killed Benny.

Which was how Benny got to Purgatory. Naturally, everyone was shocked when he showed up back on earth. But no one was more surprised than Benny when he and Dean infiltrated Quentin’s house and Benny discovered that Andrea hadn’t been killed, as he thought, but had been turned by Quentin. Benny finally was able to kill his sire and then asked Andrea to run away with him. Unfortunately, she had gotten used to the good life of raiding yachts and that’s when Dean stepped in to kill her. After all, if she wasn’t going to embrace the lighter side of life like Benny did, then she had to go.

Supernatural (The CW)Awk-ward

Benny didn’t immediately kill Dean for killing the woman he used to love but things got awkward rather quickly when Sam showed up after getting a call from Dean about trying to take out a vampire nest. Cue an incredibly tense first meeting between Benny and Sam. Silence reigned this scene which consisted of a subtle hand movement by Sam to reach for a weapon the moment he realized Benny was a vampire and a responding shake of Dean’s head. Benny quickly realized the increase in tension and left the brothers to talk it out.

It’s clear that Sam is floored by Dean’s friendship with a vampire. And he has every right to be. After all, Dean’s spent a lot of time being angry with Sam for his monster friendships, including Ruby and, more recently, Amy. Of course, Dean was right about Ruby, but everything about hindsight is 20/20. I don’t think Sam will ever understand Dean’s relationship with Benny. Not only because it’s an unusual move by Dean, but because he won’t ever be able to understand the bond forged between the two down in Purgatory. And that’s perfectly acceptable. But it would be hypocritical of Dean to simply expect Sam to accept Benny as a fixture in his life and tell him to get over it. So, what I suspect we’ll see is Benny having to prove himself to Sam – assuming he’s a fixture going forward – and for Sam to be doubtful. That being said – and putting the question of Amy aside because she was basically a plot device – Sam is still going to have to learn to tolerate Benny to some degree, just like Dean grudgingly tolerated Ruby. Does Sam need to trust Benny? No. But I think he is going to have to learn to deal with him. At least until we see how this entirely situation plays out.

Supernatural (The CW)The Path Through Purgatory

In addition to the Benny revenge story playing out on earth, we also got additional flashbacks featuring Benny, Dean and Castiel in Purgatory. It appears that Dean’s plea to the angel by the side of that lake got through to Cas, because he joined Dean and Benny on a trek through Purgatory. Unfortunately for them, it soon became clear how much of a monster magnet Castiel was in that dimension. And while it’s clear that Benny isn’t happy about Dean’s angel friend tagging along, he does save his life from a leviathan. Could it be that Benny really is a decent guy?

I’ve been suspicious about Benny since day 1. This episode made me feel some pity for him. It’s clear that a lot of characters on Supernatural understand loss and a desire for revenge. Was the whole “true love” story a bit corny? Sure. Are we really to believe that the love of a good woman will turn a man from a blood-thirsty vampire into an upstanding citizen? Maybe. Does it really matter in the end? Not particularly. I thought Ty Olsson sold Benny’s story quite well and I came out of the episode feeling better towards Benny than I did before. My internal dilemma is that I simply don’t want to trust him, but the truth is that Benny’s given us every reason to trust him. Could he be planning an incredibly elaborate ruse like Ruby did? Perhaps. But we know it’s possible for vampires to be “good”, so to speak. After all, look at Lenore. And isn’t redemption a common theme for this show? If, as fans, we can forgive Sam for going a bit “dark side” in season 4 and forgive Castiel for his actions in seasons 6 and 7, then surely it’s possible for Benny to achieve his own redemption and fight on the good side, even if we weren’t privy to his life as said blood-thirsty vampire.

But do I trust him completely? Not yet. Like Sam, I think I’m going to need some additional convincing.

Handyman by Day, Therapist by…Day

In addition to the Benny storyline, “Blood Brothers” gave us greater insight into Sam’s flashbacks, which is something that has been lacking lately. Sure, Dean’s scenes in Purgatory pack quite the punch and I always enjoy them (not the least because Dean’s ridiculously attractive when he’s slaughtering things, which also makes me worry about my own mental state), but I also really want to understand why Sam has made some of the choices he did over the last year. My biggest question about Sam is why his relationship with Amelia is different from Dean’s stay with Ben and Lisa. Yes, they’re under different circumstances (brother disappearing for deliberate sacrifice vs. accidental side-effet) and the brothers are clearly different when it comes to hunting, but I really want to see why Sam chose a normal life this time around. And, in particular, with this woman.

This week’s flashbacks went back to shortly after Sam hit the dog with his car. The pooch has been recovering with Sam at his motel and Sam’s ability to connect with people landed him a job as the motel’s handyman. One day, while fixing one of the motel rooms’ sinks, he discovers that Amelia is living in the motel. Despite sending the dog home with him, she’s wary of Sam and thinks he might be a stalker/serial killer. But the truth is, they’re not very different. Sam realized that she’s been holing up in the motel for three months and hasn’t really connected with anyone, prompting him to ask whether it’s because she’s all alone. And that’s the moment the two of them see something in each other. They both recognize the loss in the other person and obviously build something from there.

Supernatural (The CW)Amelia’s been a strange character since she joined the show, but that’s just the way the writers have chosen to portray her. She first came across as kind of mean when she met Sam and the dog and then his memory of her with the birthday cake seemed surreal. But it wasn’t until this episode that I really felt something more for this character, although I haven’t been able to connect with her fully yet.  That’s not a critique of the actress, but one of how the writers have chosen to introduce her to us. On the other hand, I can see Sam connecting with her because he sees a part of his own situation in her. In a sense, his connection with Amelia isn’t all that dissimilar from his connection with Ruby between seasons 3 and 4 (with the obvious difference being the fact that Amelia isn’t an evil demon). There too he grabbed on to a woman who offered him something he needed (in Ruby’s case it was an opportunity for revenge for Dean’s death and in Amelia’s case it was a shared sense of understanding about loss). But my big question is, is their relationship built to last? Could this be the woman that Sam really lives with if – one day, by some miracle – he gets out of hunting? Did they build something true and honest out of the terrible losses they both suffered before starting this relationship?

The truth is, we don’t know. I don’t doubt their feelings towards one another, but I am curious as to whether either of them was in the right frame of mind to build a lasting relationship. Is Sam stubbornly clinging to an ideal of a normal life with her because that’s what he wants or does he just want to escape a world where everyone dies? We won’t know the answer to that until we see more flashbacks and – more importantly – see Sam interact with Amelia in the present. Yes, Sam and Dean clearly have some issues to work through right now, but is Sam really willing to permanently give up his brother for Amelia when push comes to shove?

I’m not entirely certain Sam would make that choice. No matter how much he insists that a normal life is what he wants.

Final Thoughts

“Blood Brothers” was a great episode and I’m feeling rather good about this season of Supernatural. In fact, I’ve really enjoyed every episode thus far. If I had but one complaint it’s that I wish we could see more flashbacks, perhaps even one episode devoted to Dean flashbacks and another one to Sam flashbacks. I need to see more about what each of them went through to really understand Dean’s bond with Benny and Sam’s bond with Amelia. In a way, those two characters represent a new “partner” for each of the brothers and they’re far different than a character like Castiel or Bobby because Benny and Amelia will really only “belong” to one brother or the other, whereas Cas and Bobby have been a fundamental part of both brothers’ lives (even if, yes, Cas is closer to Dean – he’s still going to be more of a friend to Sam than Benny will ever likely become).

It looks like the Winchester in-fighting comes to a head next week when the brothers finally air all of their issues with each other. Much in the spirit of the episode “Sex and Violence” (because it seems like one or both of them becomes possessed and takes out their anger on the other) I think we’ll see the long-awaited showdown between Sam and Dean. Which can only be a good thing, because as much as their words can hurt each other, they always seem to do better after they’ve gotten their grievances out of their systems. Watch a preview here for the November 7th episode.

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