Sex and Violence – Supernatural s4e14
In the fourteenth episode of the fourth season of Supernatural, a kind of sub-par episode turns into a massive Nope-fest. Intrigued? Adam Benson comes home late from work, to be met by his wife Vicki, making his dinner and teasing him about being late. Adam responds angrily. Vicki then tells him she has accepted an invitation to a friend’s birthday on Saturday. Adam is again angry, and this time he picks up a meat tenderizer and kills her.
Disguised as FBI agents, Sam and Dean visit Adam, who is deeply remorseful and eventually confesses he was deeply in love with a stripper called Jasmine. Adam knows nothing about Jasmine other than that she worked at a club called the Honey Wagon.
This is definitely uncomfortable to watch, too, though I don’t know if that was intentional. From the cold open, we’re presented with images that are not at all recognizable as supernatural. Men beat and kill their wives all the time, and until we find out about the siren and the “drug” that compels them, there’s nothing here to suggest that what we’re seeing is anything other than violence born of misogyny. It’s a case of unfortunate implications, which is one reason why it took me so long for this episode to truly grab me. I know I’m a dude, but even I could see the male gaze all over this thing in terms of how it was filmed, where it was set, and how the use of the strippers went meant largely to act as this vague antagonistic force without ever getting any characterization at all. So yeah. Up until the big reveal about Nick Munroe (and what he compels the Winchesters to do), I was kind of bored by this episode?
Sam visits Dr. Cara Roberts, a doctor who conducted the autopsy on the victims, and took blood samples from the accused. She tells Sam that the men had high levels of oxytocin in their blood, a hormone associated with being in love. Dean and Sam visit the Honey Wagon, where each of the men had fallen for a different stripper. Information from Bobby indicates that they may be dealing with a siren, a creature known from Greek mythology, who disguises itself as the perfect mate to lure men. At the club Lenny Bristol is enamored with a stripper called Belle. They return to his home, where Lenny cares for his invalid mother. After making love, Belle tells Lenny they can be together forever if he kills his mother, which he does.
Dean and Nick watch Cara arrive at a club. Dean describes, as Sam did with Cara, a version of the poisoning theory, that maybe it is something in the Siren’s saliva, as he and Nick share a hip flask. Nick reveals it is indeed in the saliva, and that he has just poisoned Dean as they shared a drink. Nick is the Siren – and he tells Dean that he can’t trust Sam and needs to get him out of the way so he can be the perfect brother that Dean wants.
So, when Nick reveals himself as the siren (HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS OH MY GOD NICK FIT THE PROFILE SO PERFECTLY), he pits Dean and Sam against one another in a fight over himself. Now, there’s a sneaky little queer subtext to a man making other men fight one another to the death for him that’s kind of a neat re-telling of the Siren myth. But it’s an unaddressed subtext. Actually, it was also kind of confusing why the Siren acted as he did? I got the sense that he fed on devotion and euphoria, but it wasn’t outright stated, or I just missed it. ANYWAY. I suppose it’s not important because FIGHTING. SO. MUCH. FIGHTING. Dean gets the better of Sam and is about to swing at him with a fire axe, when Bobby appears and stabs him with a dagger. He then uses the dagger with Dean’s infected blood on it to stab the Siren. It dies, and we see its true hideous form revealed. The spell is broken. The next day Bobby bids farewell to the boys, and they both uneasily apologize for their harsh words, claiming they had no lasting effect.
While the physical fight was certainly a trip to watch, I was COMPLETELY MESSED UP by what these two said to each other. THEY CAN’T TAKE IT BACK. And I can already see that they’re both going to repeat the same thing to one another in the future: that they didn’t mean it, that the siren made them say that, but… is that really the truth? Because I’m pretty certain that what both these guys say to each other isn’t far from how they really feel. We know Dean’s suspicious of Sam and Ruby! BUT I DID NOT KNOW THAT SAM FEELS LIKE DEAN ISN’T A GOOD ENOUGH HUNTER TO TRACK DOWN LILITH, OR THAT HE BELIEVES DEAN IS HOLDING HIM BACK. I don’t want that to be true, but???? It probably is????
In hindsight, though, there is a lot here that’s completely re-contextualized by the ending. The biggest thing, obviously, is Dr. Roberts’ flirting with Sam. So, this is actually the first time in a while that Sam doesn’t have sex with a supernatural creature??? Also, Dr. Roberts is ALIVE AT THE END OF THE EPISODE. I DID NOT EXPECT THIS. Maybe the show is deliberately toying with our expectations on this one, but still, it was a shocker. That meant that her pursuit of Sam was genuine and not under dubious consent! HEY, THAT’S WONDERFUL.
What was most intriguing about this episode to me was how Nick Munroe used his power to bring out the unspoken tension between Sam and Dean, which comes to a head here in the WORST POSSIBLE WAY. So much of Dean’s characterization involves his reluctance to ever speak honestly about his emotional well-being. Despite that he has made strides towards being more honest with Sam, they both have unresolved issues surrounding their trust with one another. Though, let’s be real, most of that comes from Dean, who continues to mistrust Sam because SAM IS TERRIBLE AT HIDING SECRETS. He’s so clearly doing something else.