Thursday, April 24, 2014

Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 19: Alex Annie Alexis Ann

Time for the random opening slaughter – a police man drags a woman into a cell then goes out to answer another all. Because there’s no-one else around, he leaves the woman alone. A man, apparently someone she was trying to avoid, arrives to tell her how “we” will always find her (hey, this is a vampire episode? In quite a few modern vampire novels that counts as a declaration of eternal love, not a scary threat). But Sherriff Jody Mills appears – with an axe. One decapitated vampire.

She calls in Sam and Dean who inspect her dead vampire (confirming, yes, it’s a vampire) and joke around at how quickly Jody’s learned to become a hunter. The problem is that the girl Jody saved (who didn’t say thank you; really girl, where were you raised? Shameful these modern monster victims) makes it clear there’s a whole nest of vampires.

Time to question her and beyond recognising them as Hunters she just keeps silent with surly eyes. (They mention the lack of thank you too. Really, if you can’t manage a fruit basket a nice card would suffice, I’m sure Ms. Manners covered being rescued from vampires). Jody gets a DNA check on her – she’s Annie Jones, raised by her now dead granny and missing for 8 years and, judging by her multiple neck scars, it looks like Annie has been with the vampires for some time. They suspect Stockholm Syndrome.

They talk to her and she insists her name is Alex and she considers the vampires to be her family, including the dead vampire, Cody. They try to convince her, drawing on the fact she did try to run – but she’s also scared “Momma” will kill her.

So the plan is for Dean and Sam to go to the small town in Nebraska Annie fled from to check for possible sites for a vampire nest, while Jody heads to her cabin with Annie to hide from any more vampire hunters. Yes, she’s going alone – but bringing in more cops will just make them fodder for the vampires. Annie is a very unfun houseguest and Jody subtly shows us some of the pain she feels over her dead family.

In this little town, a vampire, Connor, and his fellows intimidate a woman who sold Annie the bus ticket. And we see Momma, and presumably the ticket seller’s death.

Sam and Dean seem to find the place some vampires are squatting with black out windows – and a vampire putting a human body in a woodchipper (now who’s going to have to clean that?) Questioning the vampire they learn the whole vampire family was turned by “Momma” except “little sister” Alexis who was just to special to turn, much to the annoyance of captured vampire. And while Annie/Alexis/Alex has been having a teenaged rebellion stage, she’s also been acting as bait to get her family victims. The vampire thinks she’s as dangerous and blood thirsty as any of them

Dean calls Jody who doesn’t answer her phone, but so far Annie’s done nothing more threatening than go to sleep in Jody’s son’s old room and enquire after her dead grandmother.

Meanwhile the vampires arrive at the police station. Putting together the recent victims of the vampires, Sam and Dean realise they know Annie got a bus ticket and where she went – they ring Jody again to pass on the warning – but the vampires have arrived at the cabin.

Dean and Sam set off, but it’s too late, Alex/Annie is kidnapped and Jody left unconscious. Sam and Dean arrive and try to leave her behind while they take on the nest – Jody’s not having that, she is rescuing the child under her protection. Dean points out what Annie/Alex did for the vampires and Jody angrily argues back that a) she was forced and b) she’s a kid. Sam and Dean are both very muchj on the side of lumping Alex/Annie with the vampires. Jody insists on going with and shooting any Winchester who tries to hurt the girl.

At the vampire nest, Momma lectures Alex on all the trouble she’s caused – but insists she’d never hurt her and is very maternal. Alex says she loves Momma, but the killing is eating her up, her conscience can’t take it – Momma decides the solution is to turn Alex.

The hunters arrive and move through the house – splitting up, naturally. Leading to them all being captured – Jody after she finds that Alex has “chosen Momma” and has a bitten neck and blood on her lips.

Of course the vampires want to feed on the hunters and decide to take a very very very long time doing that, with lots of tying up, exposition and threats rather than, y’know, just killing everyone. That would be against the villain code! It’s also in the Winchester rule book – any Winchester knocked unconscious must be tied to a chair and lightly slapped and ranted at until they escape.

Momma and Jody snarl back and forth about motherhood ending with Momma breaking Jody’s leg.

Upstairs the vampires didn’t even bother to tie up Dean (tying up Winchesters is kind of like trying to restrain Houdini) and combat breaks out, while Jody makes a breakthrough. She realises Momma changed Annie’s name to Alex as a surrogate for her own lost daughter (in the same way that Jody connected to Annie/Alex because of her own dead family); Jodie uses Momma’s grief against her and gets beaten up for it.

Dean kills the vampires, out muscling one (I’m going to put this down to the Mark of Cain or the vampires being very very young) and generally being a ruthless badass. He goes to rescue Jody, but she doesn’t need it. After hearing what Jody had to say, Alex/Annie grabs the dead man’s blood (a paralytic to vampires) and injects it into Momma’s back. Momma gasps a “how could you?!” before Jody beheads the vampire.

Aftermath – Sam is concerned that Dean was rather sadistic in killing the vampires – he enjoyed it. Dean refuses to consider it. And Sam and Dean talk to Jody about how she was right about Annie/Alex but she concedes she was acting at least partly on her buried grief.

Jody helps Annie/Alex through the curse, which is an unpleasant experience and Annie explains why she said yes to Momma – her desperation not to disappoint; and they bond over their mutual grief and losses.

I like Jody – I like that her character arch has slowly developed in the very very very (far too) few episodes we’ve seen her in. We’ve seen her lose, we’ve seen the pain of that loss, we’ve seen her imperilled and we’ve seen her fight back – and finally we’ve reached the fight back stage. I liked that while she certainly turned to Dean and Sam for help, she didn’t turn to them to take over nor did she allow herself to be sidelined. She may not travel, but she is a Hunter in her own right in many ways, a novice Hunter, maybe, but a Hunter. And even as a novice she’s not going to just accept Sam and Dean’s authority – or their jadedness. Nor did she need rescuing, ultimately it was (rather indirectly) through her own actions that she was saved. I’m hoping this is an obligatory episode drop to remind us who she is so she can continue to be a not-close-to-regular part of the show.

We have some more hints of the Mark of Cain being baaaad. More interestingly we have a little look, or nod to, Sam and Dean’s decaying morality (which was already kind of frayed), especially Sam who has, generally, been less inclined to go quite as dark as Dean. Gone are the days when exorcism was the aim of fighting demons long ago, but this season has also brought occasions when the Winchesters have killed people. Sure, there’s a self-defence element and yes, the people were murderers. But there’s no angst, guilt or sadness there – nor any real pretence of trying to find a way that would spare them. This episode openly acknowledged that in the starkest terms – Alex is a human monster, so Alex dies. I’m wondering how far the show will run with that – because it really is crossing something of a line for them that they’ve largely skirted around for the past

Of course, the worst thing they could do is completely ignore it – or make it a moment about Jody’s compassion rather than also seeing where the Winchesters have reached in their own moral road.

The episode itself was fairly blah and fairly predictable (who didn’t predict Alex siding with Jody and saving her?) With standard unconscious-and-tied-to-chair scenes and no real plot twists. But I can forgive that if it is being used to showcase both Jody and the brothers’ descent.