Sunday, March 5, 2017

Supernatural, Season 12, Episode 14: The Raid

Last week Mary told Sam and Dean about the Men of Letters – this continues this week with her also revealing the truth behind the disastrous mission against Remiel which nearly got Castiel killed and did kill a fellow Hunter. Between siding with the Men of Letters after they tortured Sam and Dean and then this the brothers are pissed. Sam may be willing to stay silent and let it go (because he’s Sam), but Dean is not

We also see how much Mary really doesn’t know Dean. Like when she pours out how tortured she is by the hunter who died and Dean just replied “good.” Did she expect Dean to be moved by a protestation of guilt and anguish? Because a) no-one has done guilt wallowing like Dean and b) Dean is not now and has never been a forgiving person nor one who especially gives a damn about redemption

He also has epic mummy and daddy issues so drags out another issue on the table – when Mary returned from the dead she said she needed space. Understandable – but then she went hunting. Suggesting that the only thing she actually needed space from was her sons. She says it isn’t like that but it kind of is – and it’s not unreasonable. Being expected to play mother to two adult men who you previously knew as a small child and a baby – one of which has parental issues out the wazoo – is a big ask for anyone. As we can see by Dean wanting, again, for Mary to be mother

And she tells him – awesomely, that while she is their mother that’s not all she is. Which is an excellent point to make: she’s her own person with her own life, goals, and ambitions

But there are more complexities from that. Dean calls Mary Mary, acknowledging that she’s more than just his mother which is about time. But the flip side to that is, when taking Mary as a peer, she’s a woman with no history with Sam and Dean, who has given them no reason to trust her and has just betrayed them pretty epicly twice over: she’s more than just their mother but at the same time the only reason she got a pass for these actions is because she IS their mother. Dean kicks her out for choosing the Men of Letters over them – which is what I’d expect him to do with any Hunter.

My prediction? Mary will continue to ally with the Men of Letters until they betray her or, more likely, Dean and Sam. She will then rally to the support of them and die in the process. Sooner or later.

This episode really drags up both the strength and the flaws of the British Men of Letters.

Mary manages to lure Sam to the Men of Letter’s base with, well, a lie. This is a habit of hers. There she shows off all the shinies, introduces them to some of Mitch’s disposable flunkies and reveals some of both the shiny toys they as well as how successful they’ve been – the Men of Letters have almost driven vampires in the North West of the US to extinction. It’s impressive

What they haven’t managed to do is impress many American hunters, especially not particularly skilled ones – that’s why they’re so eager to get the Winchesters on board since they have such an epic reputation. They have a plan to finally finish off the last nest before moving to the rest of the vampires

That last nest is currently being hit by Arthur Ketch – and Dean. Yes Dean decided to go on board with Arthur on a mission after he turned up with whiskey and an offer for a mission. We’ve already seen a frustrated and angry Dean demand a mission from Sam – because he needs to hit something. Arthur nicely peels back the truth of this: he’s a killer, the Men of Letter’s Wetwork man, he needs to kill, craves killing and the Men of Letters give him a nice acceptable vent for his serial killer tendencies… and Dean needs that as well.

The show has never flinched away from the truth that Dean is damaged but rarely this starkly.

But when they arrive at the nest, it’s empty

Because the Alpha vampire has shown up and he is Not Happy with the Men of Letter’s campaign against his children and leads the remaining vampires in the region against their base… which is shockingly undefended

No, not shockingly, unbelievably. We’ve already established that the Men of Letters have pretty much warded and trapped every inch of the UK, but the best they can do with this base is metal doors with hand print scanners? That’s it? I call shenanigans.  They also keep all their weapons in one place, no stashes anywhere else…

None of the Men of Letter’s present have combat experience… again, shenanigans. I get that this is supposed to point out that, with Britain being so safe, a lot of the Men of Letters outside of Arthur Ketch don’t actually have any kind of front line combat experience. Ok. I expect a lack of expertise or common expertise – but one fighter for their whole operation? Particularly since we saw Toni and her minion earlier in the season both clearly able to fight.

The vampires tear through all the extras, including the woman with three PHDs who Arthur dismissed as a servant earlier so there’s no chance of her rising up and putting him in his place. In fact her ineffectiveness pretty much serves more as a validation of his dismissal.

In the end it’s Sam and Mary that manage to stop the attack- and kill the Alpha vampire with the Colt (revealing another of Mary’s lies) since Sam has the recipe to make more bullets (the Colt was useless without Sam’s knowledge).

In the aftermath, Mick is shaken by the loss of life while Arthur is brutally dismissive of him – death is all part of the fight and the only reason Mick has been shielded from that is his “ivory tower.” But Sam has decided he wants in on the Men of Letters – while Dean and Mary have a reconciliation as Dean concedes Mary has a right to her own life

Ok, I’m annoyed because this raised several interesting points and themes then handled them clumsily

Like the idea that the Men of Letters growth outside of the UK (who the Alpha vampire is content to write-off) is throwing down the gauntlet to powerful forces – like the Alpha Vampire – who the Men of Letters are clearly unprepared to deal with. Sam and him even talk around it – the idea that POLICING the supernatural is somewhat accepted by these great powers, but wide scale extinction is not. Can we have some discussion around the backlash the Men of Letters are provoking? Because that’s interesting – especially if you look for “monsters” who are not so simply dismissed as monsters.

Or the idea that the Men of Letters lack serious front line experience – or how they’re so dependent on their own infallible tech/intelligence that they don’t have back up plans are have any contingencies in place at all. I mean, Sam is saying “we killed the Alpha vampire, we can make a difference” but that was nothing to do with the Men of Letters. It was pretty much proof that the Men of Letters wouldn’t be making a difference

Or Mary and Dean – great I love the reconciliation over the idea she’s an adult, more than a mother and has the right to make her own choices. But siding with people who tortured Sam and Dean? Lying to them and manipulating them over and over again? What about the revelation that even when she said she was going to come clean to them she STILL didn’t tell them about the Colt after risking their lives to claim it? She’s free to make her own choices – but her own choices is to be a manipulative liar quite willing to say whatever she has to to point the Winchester brothers however she wants. That’s not an issue of autonomy, that’s an issue of a toxic relationship