Supernatural 8.09 Review: The Lies that Bind

SPN Citizen Fang

Supernatural is in the habit of having powerful, game-changing mid-season cliffhangers and ‘Citizen Fang’ was no exception. Usually the mid-season finale packs an emotional gut-punch, but this felt more like an emotional right cross. Many of the Boys issues were brought to a head, and I think this episode left them in a great position to really, finally deal with all the crap that they’ve been sweeping under the rug for the past 7 seasons. Daniel Loflin delivered an emotionally heavy, taut 42 minutes of television that left me yelling at my tv as the credits rolled. This episode marks Loflin’s first solo writing credit on the show, and I must say that he did a fantastic job. I’m beginning to think that he and Andrew Dabb should write separately from now on because their solo outings have been far and away better than their joint efforts. There weren’t many of the pacing problems that usually plague their episodes and the story felt like it unfolded in a fairly organic way. There’s a lot to talk about here, so let’s get to it.

Let’s talk about Amelia first. I can sympathize with the very difficult decision Amelia was confronted with in this episode. Love triangles are never fun because someone always ends up getting hurt. But even so, the flashbacks still didn’t work for me. They felt out of place and slowed down the pace of the episode. I think maybe I would’ve enjoyed the flashbacks more if they weren’t so melodramatic and if I felt like Sam and Amelia had real chemistry. As it stands, I don’t see any spark between them much less a flame. Sam said that Amelia saved him, but how? How did Amelia go from the bitchy vet giving Sam grief about accidentally running over a dog to the woman that Sam wanted to settle down with? That transition has yet to be fully explored and as such, I’m not really invested in that (major) part of Sam’s journey this season. Also, I’m not entirely sure what Don was expecting. As far as Amelia knew, he was dead. Was she supposed to sit around in mourning for the rest of her life? Was she not supposed to grieve for him and move on? For all his talk about wanting to put Amelia’s best interests first, he seemed pretty selfish to me.

Now let’s talk about Benny. I liked Benny when he was first introduced in the season premiere. I fell in deeper like with him after we got some of his backstory in ‘Blood Brother.’ But I fell in love with him in this episode. Benny is the physical manifestation of the conflict that rages in all of us. At his core, he’s a decent guy just trying to find his place in the world. He doesn’t want to make waves for anyone and he wants to have a place he can call home. Those feelings and that nature are in direct conflict with the monster that rages inside him. He works hard to control those urges. He knows that he has to walk a fine line, but he had found people to help him fight the good fight and stay on the straight and narrow. Isn’t that what we all try to do? One of the things I loved about Benny’s conversations with Dean was how completely forthcoming he was. He admitted that it’s not easy to control the thirst, but he fights against it anyway. Many folks have made mention of the act that the Dean/Benny relationship mirrors the Sam/Ruby relationship. In some respects, that’s true. But the primary difference is the honesty of the monster involved. Everything that we’ve seen of Benny thus far has shown that he is on the up and up. He never lied to Dean in Purgatory (as far as we know) and he hasn’t lied since they’ve been out. Ruby, on the other hand, lied to Sam from the get go. And she never stopped lying to him. Benny has proven himself to be exactly what he claims to be. It was heartbreaking to see the pain and resignation on Benny’s face as he offered himself up as a sacrifice to save Elizabeth. Martin taking Elizabeth hostage was particularly cruel because it was more than just getting Benny to come back so he could kill him. After Martin realized that Elizabeth had no idea Benny was a vampire, Martin wanted to make sure he showed her what Benny is. He wanted to kill any hope Benny had of being able to go back to Elizabeth. Martin wasn’t just trying to kill Benny; he was trying to destroy him.

On that topic, I’m not entirely sure that Benny’s the one that killed Martin. The knife that Martin was holding to Elizabeth’s throat was bloody, much bloodier than it would’ve been from the cut Martin gave her. And I couldn’t really tell if those were vamp bite marks or a knife slit on his throat. I think Elizabeth killed Martin to keep him from killing Benny. I’d like to hear what actually went down, but that’s my working theory for now. Martin crossed the line when he took Elizabeth hostage and I got a flashback to Gordon Walker. One of the things I’ve always said about Gordon is that he was a monster long before he got turned into a vampire. The same looks to be true of Martin. He didn’t care that Benny wasn’t hurting anyone. He wanted to kill Benny solely because he is a vampire. That’s not hunting evil. That’s murder. Furthermore, Martin (and Sam) didn’t even consider the possibility that there was another vampire doing the killing. They had already made up their minds that it was Benny, and quite frankly, Dean could’ve brought the other vampire’s head to them on a stick and they wouldn’t have listened. Martin kept saying that the evidence was staring Dean in the face, but the truth of it is, Martin’s evidence was circumstantial at best. It didn’t add up to the person Dean knows Benny to be and it didn’t add up with the life Benny was living when Martin found him in Louisiana. To me, Martin was the true monster here. He’s supposed to protect civilians, not take them hostage and use them as bait. Martin’s bloodlust was just as strong as Benny’s.

Although I believe Elizabeth killed Martin, it presents a rather interesting problem if Benny is the one that killed him. One of the reasons I agreed with Dean killing Amy last season was that she was actually killing people. I understand she had a very good reason for doing so, but she was killing people nonetheless. If Benny killed Martin to save Elizabeth, does that mean he gets a pass? We forgive humans for killing other humans to spare the lives of their loved ones, but does that same excuse apply to monsters? If Benny killed Martin just to save Elizabeth, does that mean that Benny won’t kill again? What about the next time Elizabeth (or someone else Benny cares about) gets into a sticky situation? But does Benny deserve to die because he’s a monster killing a human in self-defense (or, more accurately, in defense of others)? What about when Dean killed Jeffery in S7 ‘Repo Man’? That was to protect others, but Dean gets a pass because it was a human killing a human? I’m conflicted and I think that’s what the Amy situation tried (unsuccessfully) to accomplish last season. This time around though, we have a truly sympathetic, well-fleshed out monster (fantastically portrayed by Ty Olsson) that was put in a no win situation. We were given enough time with Benny to form an opinion about him and understand how he feels and what he thinks. That puts us in Dean’s shoes when it comes to whether to kill Benny or not. It raises a lot of sticky questions and puts the answer solidly in the grey area.

Now let’s talk about Sam. I’m even more confused by Sam now than I have been all season. What follows may sound like Sam-bashing, but I assure you it is not. So please, Samgirls, exercise restraint. Here goes…I do not understand how Sam can be so indignant about Dean trusting Benny and saying that Benny is the only one who has never let him down. That is a true statement from Dean’s perspective. Sam knows that he let Dean down in a massive way when he chose Ruby in S4. He also knows that Dean feels let down by the fact that Sam didn’t search for him at all while he was in Purgatory. While the not looking for him in Purgatory thing is a bit murky at the moment, the Ruby thing is not. Sam had a choice between Dean and Ruby, and Sam chose Ruby. Dean even told him in the S5 premiere that he’d (Sam) had let him down in ways he couldn’t even verbalize. So the fact that Dean feels let down should not come as a great shock to Sam. But that comment wasn’t even about Sam. Not really. Dean was trying to communicate how he feels and why he has so much faith in Benny. I do not understand how Sam took a statement that, quite frankly, was not about him and turned it into an indictment against Dean for saying Benny has never let him down. Sam does not understand the bond Dean and Benny formed, and I don’t think he even wants to understand it. He’s decided that Benny is bad despite all evidence to the contrary.

When Dean tried to tell Sam what happened with Martin, Sam’s response was, “I know what happened.” And that’s the crux of the problem. Sam has decided that he already knows everything he needs to know about Benny. He’s already decided that he knows how and why Dean and Benny forged such a strong bond in Purgatory. He’s already decided that Dean is the one making a mistake here. But how could he know any of that? He wasn’t in Purgatory. And aside from asking Dean what Purgatory was like in the season premiere, Sam hasn’t even talked to Dean about Purgatory. Sam’s mind was totally closed to anything Dean had to say about Benny. That was evident throughout the episode. Sam had Martin tracking Benny, but why not have him track Kate the werewolf? Benny, like Kate, hadn’t killed anyone as far as they knew. Kate was just off into the sunset to try and control her hunger. Why was Benny the priority? This wasn’t about Benny at all. This was about Sam and his lack of faith in Dean. When Sam asked whether Dean was willing to risk innocent lives on his trust in Benny and Dean said yes, that should’ve given Sam pause. Because although he doesn’t know Benny, Sam does know Dean. He knows that Dean doesn’t just hand out his trust and loyalty like Halloween candy. Sam has to know, or rather he SHOULD know, that if Benny has earned this kind of trust from Dean, that Benny isn’t all bad. Sam seems to want to go after Benny more because he’s jealous than because of anything Benny has actually done. Sam is so upset that Dean trusts Benny so much that he can’t see how totally hypocritical he’s being. He was ready to go kill Benny off of Martin’s intel which was lacking in actual facts. Why? How was Crazy Martin more reliable than Dean? Sam was talking about how clouded Dean’s judgment was, but in truth, his judgment was just as clouded. Although I admit it was a low blow for Dean to use Amelia to get Sam to back off for a little bit, I don’t see what else he could’ve done. He tried talking to him; Sam refused to listen. He tried presenting evidence that something else was responsible for the killings; Sam wouldn’t see it. It was either misdirect Sam or Sam was going to kill Benny. I don’t see as Dean had another choice. This was not about Dean choosing Benny over Sam either. This was Dean trying to protect both Sam and Benny.

The true problem here is the total breakdown of communication between these brothers. Laura Prudom over at Huffington Post wrote a fantastic review of this episode (which you can find here) detailing the various communications failures and insecurities that have led the Winchester boys to this point. Sam seems to want Dean to just let it go that he (Sam) has let him (Dean) down in the past. But since Dean has historically pushed his feelings to the side, he can’t just let it go because he hasn’t really dealt with it. One of the primary aspects of Dean’s personality is how hard he takes it when people that he trusts betray him. If it didn’t take Dean so long to trust people and let them in, then I don’t think he’d take it as hard when they disappoint him. It’s especially true in Sam’s case. Sam has been the center of Dean’s universe his whole life. Dean has trusted Sam and stood by him even when Sam had no right to ask Dean to do so. So for Sam to make some of the choices he’s made regarding Dean, it makes sense for Dean to feel let down and abandoned. You can’t count the time that Sam was soulless though because I don’t really count that as being Sam. But Dean is totally justified in feeling let down about Sam choosing Ruby in S4 and about Sam not looking for him while he was in Purgatory. One thing that definitely needs to happen (but probably won’t because it’s not really the Winchester way) is that they need to really talk to and listen to each other. Sam hasn’t really made any effort to try to understand how and why Dean trusts Benny so completely. He just assumes he knows. Dean hasn’t really made any effort to try to understand how and why Amelia means so much to Sam and how his disappearance affected Sam. Both of them are talking without saying anything and they certainly aren’t listening with an open mind. They talk AT each other instead of TO each other which leaves both of them feeling like their voice has not been heard. They never really deal with any of the issues that have snowballed over the years, and that gets us to where we are now. Part of the reason that all of this stuff happened was that Sam didn’t trust Dean’s judgment about Benny. If he hadn’t sent Martin to Louisiana, Benny most likely would’ve handled the rogue vamp and gone about his merry way living quietly with his great-granddaughter. If Dean had trusted Sam a bit more, then maybe he could’ve taken Sam with him when he went to investigate what happened with the killings. Then Sam could’ve seen Benny for himself and he would’ve had more of an opportunity to form his own opinion about him.

My few nitpicks aside, this was a fantastic mid-season finale. It brought all of the issues that have been simmering under the surface to a boil and laid the groundwork for some real growth and maturing in the Boys. I don’t think Sam and Dean are ever going to have the same worldview and I doubt they’re ever going to completely understand each other. But I do think it’s possible for them to get to a place where they respect each other as individuals and learn what they should’ve learned in kindergarten: honesty is the best policy. I am loving S8 thus far and I’m excited to see what Jeremy Carver and Co. have in store for us for the second half of the season. I’m pretty bummed that we have to wait all the way until mid-January to see the fallout from everything that happened in ‘Citizen Fang’ though. Curse you hellatus!

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One thought on “Supernatural 8.09 Review: The Lies that Bind

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