Saturday, November 19, 2016

Supernatural, Season 12, Episode 6: Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox

This week we have a brief look at Hunter culture. And I feel kind of like this has been a missed opportunity for this series – because the Winchesters have always been so separated from the greater Hunter collective.

The prequel to this episode is Mary way back in her Hunter day saving a boy from a werewolf

That boy was Asa Fox. And over the years Asa became a hunter, a pretty legendary hunter known to all

Until he died on the hunt.

Now to the present when the Winchesters drop in on Jody!

JODY! Ok I have complex feelings about Jody. On the one side she’s awesome, she’s fun, she’s competent and complex and capable and has a life outside of the Winchesters (something she made abundantly clear in this episode with the amount they didn’t know about her). She’s an excellent character

On the other hand, she’s on Supernatural so every episode she appears I wonder if THIS will be the one where she dies tragically and Dean gets to pull out his very-well-practiced-tragic-manpain-face (one day it’s going to freeze like that). Note that I didn’t put a conditional in that sentence. I am 90% sure that one episode Jody will definitely die for tragedy, we’re talking when, not it.

I also feel sometimes that Jody is the reaction, the token. Many people, myself included, have criticised Supernatural for being an extremely male show (and white and straight) with most the female (and LGBT and POC) characters being dead. Jody’s (and crew) once-per-season appearance feels like a desperate token to dismiss all of that.

So the brother’s stop in at Jody and while there she hears that Asa died. Since Jody’s apparently been helping any hunters who passed through the area and had a fling with Asa she decides to go to the wake in Canada – along with Dean and Sam

There is a whole hunter community – but Dean and Sam have never really been a part of it because their dad considered it trouble.

They arrive at Lorraine, Asa’s mother’s house, full of hunters drinking and partying and drinking and it’s a nice little snapshot of hunters and their funerary processes as they all play catch up, share stories (Asa is legendary – but the Winchesters cause more of a stir because they’re THE legends). This again makes me think that I’d really like to have seen more of the Winchesters in Hunter society. Long into the night until only a few hunters are left.

And then Mary arrives which shows that despite the last two episodes Dean is NOT over her leaving them. But it does allow Jody to weigh in and, as ever, she has some excellent words of wisdom. She’s lost family, she’d love to see them again – but she recognises how scary that is. How frightening it is to realise you’ve changed a lot since you last saw your deceased loved ones, or how they may have changed – basically how this whole idyllic reunion may just so terrible fall apart. Jody, as ever, has a lot of excellent advice.

Mary also has issues with Lorraine, Asa’s mother. After all, Mary was the one who inspired Asa to hunt. Mary is the reason why Asa never had a wife or family and ended up dying young Lorraine is not a fan.

Into all this we have a murder of one of the hunters. A crossroad Demon with a bit of a grudge decides to go on a murder spree through the wake because Asa really pissed him off. There’s lots of suspicion as everyone accuses everyone else of being possessed and a few more extras are killed. There’s a tense moment when it looks like Jody’s day has finally arrived – but she’s spared after possessed Jody manages to force a confession from Bucky, one of the hunters. The demon itself is banished because when you’ve got a house full of hunters you get exorcisms in stereo. And, I’m pretty sure that exorcisms in the past were WAAAAY hard than just chanting a couple of stanzas. But, hey, it’s been entire seasons since the Winchesters exorcised demons rather than stabbing them so maybe there’s been an upgrade since then

Bucky was the one who killed Asa, it turns out. They had an argument because they’d gone off hunting and Bucky worried that the lack of weapons meant they weren’t ready (uh-huh that sounds quite wise). So they thought – and Bucky pushed Asa who hit his head and accidently died

I don’t know it seems somehow more tragic that this legendary hunter was killed because he hit his head.

In response the collected hunters decide to punish him by… shunning and shaming. They will tell every hunter they know what Bucky did. He will forever be shamed and in a society that lives on stories, that values your reputation, your history: where gathered Hunters share stories and revere the legends among them. And where word of mouth deictates how trustworthy you are, and where life and death can rely on whether other hunters believe you’ve got your back? That would be immense. That’s an epic punishment. That speaks volumes about hunter culture and values and society

And it would have been so much more epic if Sam and Dean had been part of this culture more than just a little over the years

As an aside to this, we have Billie the Reaper dropping in because she really wishes that dead people would stay dead. And now we have Mary – and my gods the Winchesters piss her off! She offers Mary a ticket back to paradise and hits the nail on the head about how completely out of place Mary is. She doesn’t fit, she isn’t comfortable and really isn’t happy with her resurrection.

Despite throwing all that out on the carpet so we can truly see what Mary is feeling, she still decides to stay. But not with the brothers, not yet.

This episode feeds really nicely with the ongoing theme of this season: what it means and what it costs to be a Hunter. Mary, after all, was a hunter but then tried to quit when she met John. And still ended up dying and still ended up with her family hunting. We see, this episode, Dean making it clear to a disturbed Sam that he fully expects to die in the Hunt. Dean, who was always more immersed in the Hunting life, has long accepted that he will die young and violently – because that’s what it means to be a hunter. Hunters don’t have normal lives or families, they don’t live long and they can’t really escape the job either

But while that’s a rather bleak message that raises up quite often in Supernatural (the many many many times Sam has tried to lead a normal life, after all), there’s also a counter message here: and not just about all the people they save (the martyrdom narrative). The Hunters have a community. Asa had children – it may not be in the traditional stay-at-home-family, but Lorraine has hunting grandkids. There’s a whole hunter community with traditions and customs and affection

I’ll admit that when this episode started we were going to see lots of dick waving and antler fighting between the Hunters and Sam and Dean as Sam and Dean prove they’re the hunter-ist hunters of them all. I’m really glad we didn’t see that and, instead, we see their society which I’d really like to see more of. And I really wish we’d have seen more of this. I get it, the Winchesters didn’t play a lot with Hunter community – but they’ve dabbled. We’ve seen the Road house back in the day and we had Bobby with his hunter connections. And these should have still been there with one of the eightygazillion apocalypses. It’s a missed opportunity