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Supernatural Fodder

Supernatural: Shifter Subtleties

This may have seemed like just a pretty tense stand-alone episode, but there are some character subtleties going on here.

This job takes its toll

One major theme in this episode is the toll this job takes on the hunters. Actually, this has been a bit of a recurring theme this season, as we've seen what hunting did to Gordon, Ellen, and Jo, in addition to the Winchesters. The writers bring it front and center in this episode.

First, there's poor Ronald. The man was a great sacrificial supporting character (I still like the term "redshirt"). He was sympathetic, heroic, and somewhat funny. All those things made you root for the guy, and you cared when he was gunned down.

But his death also brought out a couple of points about this supernatural underworld in the series.

First, the average person is better off not knowing about it. Most people would never be affected directly by the supernatural. And as Sam says, Ronald is better off not knowing, not just because of the fear, but because the knowledge would endanger his life (and it did).

Second, the danger to hunters is not just the prey, it's also the authorities. Really, this is just a reinforcement of that idea. We saw it in "Skin," we saw it in, "The Usual Suspects," and we saw it in "Hunted," when Gordon is arrested for a crime he didn't... uh, well, actually, he did commit. But he was doing his job when he killed, at least in his mind.

Then there are the more subtle issues. Did you notice how quickly Sam and Dean are able to move on after Ronald's death? I think that's showing the emotional toll hunting takes. In the heat of action, there's no time for mourning. We may see some angst and recriminations this week, but in the bank, there was no time for that. The lack of emotion was reinforced when Sam and Dean have to make a decision on which Sheri to kill. Dean doesn't hesitate - he just picks, and he's not disturbed at all to find out he might have been wrong.

Upping the ante

This was a tense episode (and there weren't even any endangered children!). Let's dissect it a bit to see why.

To start, tthere was a real danger to the Winchesters. The danger wasn't to their life (I doubt anyone believed one of the Winchesters would be shot by SWAT), but to their mission. They could have been caught, imprisoned, and their entire mission derailed. Not to mention the possibility that one of them might have been captured, with the other staying free. That would have put a whole new set of wrinkles in the plot.

Then there was Ronald. Highly sympathetic character that you knew was in danger.

There was the danger that the shifter could escape. This was a clear possibility because previous episodes have shown that the brothers are not always successful ("Dead in the Water" is the first one that comes to mind).

As if that wasn't enough, the writers had to add the time factor. You just felt like time was running shorter and shorter for the Winchesters as the SWAT team prepared, and the shifter kept escaping.

On deck

So this week's episode is about angels. Or is it? I predicted some months back that we'd see more "good" spirits. Will this episode show us the ultimate good spirit?

I don't know, but I'm anxious to see where the writers take us next. They've stepped it up so far this year.

Plus, this is the first episode in February sweeps.

Posted by Miller on January 30, 2007 6:41 AM
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