By Paula R. Stiles
[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]
Tagline: Dean gets a call to go help Benny with some personal business – of the vampire variety.
Recap: Recap of Amelia, Benny, Castiel, Kevin and his mom.
Cut to Now in Eagle Harbor, Washington, a dock on the waterfront at night on Puget Sound. A man dressed in a pink shirt, sweater and smoking jacket, rather like The Great Gatsby, is walking briskly down the dock when he hears his name, ‘Quentin,’ called out. He turns as Benny steps out behind him. Quentin is shocked to see Benny alive again and Benny jovially allows that this might be confusing to him. After all, Quentin held down Benny’s legs when “the Old Man” had “Sorrento” kill him. After Benny demands to know where this Old Man is, Quentin mocks Benny, saying that just because he crawled out of the butthole of the universe, he’s not the boss of Quentin, oh, no.
Boy, Quentin sure got over his shock and awe awful fast. Never fails to amaze me how stupid and ignorant every single other character this season is a total moron about Purgatory. It’s the worst possible prison in the SPNverse. It’s almost impossible to get into or out of. Leviathans came out of it. But hey, it’s no big deal if you encounter someone who just escaped from it!
Anyhoo, when Quentin says he’s going to bring Benny to the Old Man – after he cuts off his hands and feet, Benny says he was kinda hoping Quentin would be stubborn and brings out what looks like a Filipino bolo. He waves it suggestively. Not even when two sinister men in black leather jackets come out behind him is he bothered. He notes that even if he dies, he knows where he’s bound and whom he’ll see there. He punctuates this with whacking off Quentin’s head as soon as Quentin shows his vampire teeth.
Cue title cards.
Cut to Enid, Oregon, also at night. The brothers arrive at a motel room where they apparently expected to find Kevin Tran. But it seems he has fooled them for the second time (as Dean points out). Sam whines that Kevin is now better at credit card fraud than two brothers who have been doing it all their lives because he was in “Advanced Placement.” This is almost as stupid as expecting a Leviathan that has been in Purgatory for billions of years to be able to track credit card trails, or to give a rat’s ass about building up a herd of humans instead of, you know, just chowing down. But movin’ on….
Sam whines some more that Dean scared Kevin off by trying to murder his mother. Dean points out that Crowley was inside her at the time, so collateral damage. Nobody has mentioned yet that the brothers might still have Kevin if Sam hadn’t abandoned him for a year. I think this salient fact should be mentioned every single time Sam whines about the situation with Kevin and tries to blame it on Dean.
Dean gets a call. After testily saying he can’t hear and has no bars on the phone, he goes outside, where he says, “Benny?”
Cut to Benny, who has a mangled right leg and right arm after his fight, and is surrounded by three dead vampires separated from their heads. When he admits how many he took on, Dean asks if he’s “crazy.” Meanwhile, Sam is snooping at the window, wondering whom Dean is talking to. Oh, God forbid Dean have secrets from Sammy….
Benny begs Dean for help as “a last favor,” saying he can find temporary shelter in a nearby fuel barge that he thinks he can just about crawl to. Cut to Dean packing, while Sam throws a titanic hissy fit (beer in hand) over Dean’s leaving. Sam uses the excuse that they’re looking for Kevin and the tablet. Dean sees right through this and points out that they can’t find Kevin right now because Kevin does not want to be found. So, nothing will be taken away from the Great Tablet Hunt if he takes a “personal day.”
Sam follows him out to the parking lot, still in full rant mode, but Dean’s not buying the guilt Sam’s trying to sell. After he points out that adults take days off, he also points out that he is only taking a day – and that Sam took an entire year. Well, thank God somebody finally brought that up. With Sam effectively shut up for about five seconds, Dean gets in the car and drives away. Just like that.
In the car, Dean has a flashback to Purgatory (yaaayy). In it, Dean and Benny are fighting literally back to back with several vampires (There’s a subliminal flash when Dean taps Benny on the shoulder), while Benny whistles Edvard Grieg’s Opus 46, “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” You know, the one made so famous by the killer in M (1931) whistling it when he’s stalking his victims. It also appears to be used in (or very popular with the fans of) the famous Lovecraftian video game, Silent Hill.
This work is worthy of one of my infamous historical asides here (Skip ahead if that bores you). It’s incidental music for Act Two of the Henrik Ibsen play, Peer Gynt. In the sequence, the title character arrives at the Hall of the Mountain King, who is a troll, with a woman who claims to be the King’s daughter. He is invited to marry her, but eventually declines. However, it turns out that he accidentally created a child with her in his head and the King asks him if there really is any difference between a man and a troll? Enraged that he has “bewitched” the King’s daughter, the troll courtiers attack Peer Gynt at the frenetic climax of the song in a cannibalistic frenzy.
Now, I trust you can see there are some parallels here. Purgatory is a nightmarish place, another world, just like the Hall of the Mountain King that Peer Gynt visits in a dream (or is it a dream?). Dean’s flashbacks put him right back there, like daymares. Both the Purgatory scene and the scene in Peer Gynt involve violent attack by monsters. And this entire episode reflects the Troll King’s philosophical question: “What is the difference between troll and man?” Just replace “troll” with “vampire.” Not sure where the pregnancy thing comes in, but perhaps we could see Dean “birthing” Benny back to the world as reflecting that, too.
Oh, wait, you’re thinking. That aside was relevant, after all. Yes, me hearties, it was.
Back in the motel, Sam is researching Kevin’s whereabouts, but also “concerned, not stalking” Amelia. He turns around when he hears a rattling. Some totally wasted horror-movie foreshadowing later, he discovers it’s a rusty ceiling fan. He then has one of those boring-ass, golden-light flashbacks to his past year. In it, he’s talking to Amelia’s assistant (actually, it turns out to be the kid running the motel, but damned if that’s clear), whose father is apparently sick. Sam acts five times as solicitous about this as he hasn’t bothered to do even once for his own brother since Dean got back, even thuogh the kid is giving him a hard time about the dog. You know, the dog that Sam brings in with him and that he’s apparently taking care of now. Noticing the air conditioning unit is wonky, he offers to fix it. Seems Sam and Kevin have gone to the same School of Unlikely Skill Sets in the past year. In the present, he fixes the ceiling fan.
Cut to daytime and the docks we saw in the teaser. Dean pulls up beside Benny’s pickup and looks in the driver’s side. Then he goes to the back of the camper shell and opens it up, looking as if he knows what he’s looking for. Picking a blue cooler from the selection of a couple of duffel bags, he opens it, sees bags of AB negative blood, shakes his head in disgust, and takes it with him. As he goes along the dock to a large shed, he calls to Benny, but gets no answer. He doesn’t look too thrilled about going down a narrow stairway into a dark hold, but he does it, anyway. Down the hall, he sees Benny, bloody and mangled. He goes to him and opens up the cooler.
Later, Benny comes out of a bathroom in what looks like the office upstairs, after having cleaned himself up. He looks great compared to before (In fact, he has a rosy, human glow that is disturbing when you consider what he is). Dean is astonished. It’s still daylight. Perhaps only a few hours have passed. And Benny had been “double-hamstrung.” Benny states that all it takes is a little blood and anything short of amputation is quickly curable. He then shakes Dean’s hand and calls him “brother.”
Dean probes about what Benny is getting himself all mangled up over. Benny tries to brush it off, saying that Dean has already “saved the day.” Dean is not put off, so Benny, rather grumpily, says that Dean’s loyalty (“that ‘friend’ thing”) is a pain in the ass.
Cue another Purgatory flashback. This one comes right on the heels of the previous flashback. It’s the end of the fight. Dean and Benny are cleaning up when Castiel strolls onto the scene, killing a monster almost casually with angel fire. Benny notes that Castiel can be useful, but he is a “magnet” for other monsters. Dean notes that Benny previously complained that his “humanity” was a similar problem. Benny casually agrees, “That, too.” Dean does a doubletake.
As he approaches the other two, Castiel muses on the philosophical permutations of killing a “monster in Monster Heaven.” Where does the soul go? I’m rather pleased one of the writers finally asked this obvious question. It doesn’t have to be definitively answered (not everything in life is), but it should be asked by someone in the story, if we’re going to have monster soul slaughter worthy of a first-person-shooter video game.
Benny and Castiel proceed to bicker and Dean looks disgusted (Dean always gets caught in the middle). He tells them to knock it off.
Despite not liking Benny, Castiel agrees with him that it’s a bad idea for a “seraph” to travel with them. He says that it’s “strategically” a bad idea to travel with him across Purgatory and he’s not even sure he’ll be able to leave because he’s an angel.
Benny infodumps for the audience that Dean, as a live human, is an irritant to the entire realm of Purgatory. Purgatory wants nothing more than to spit him out. Benny has also theorized that he might be able to leave attached to Dean because he was once human, as well, though is now a monster. But Castiel was never human. Of course, he was never a monster, either, but neither Benny nor Castiel thinks of that one (or that Castiel is “wearing” a human vessel).
Either way, Dean refuses to leave anyone behind. And since he’s the “rocket” that’s going to get everyone out of Purgatory, the one with the “plan,” he gets the final say. Benny admits he feels “uncomfortable” with this, even though there’s nothing he can do about it.
Cut back to the present, where Benny admits this feature of Dean’s personality is now a plus rather than a minus. Benny rather reluctantly admits that Quentin was a member of his nest. He’s hunting down his Maker (the Old Man), to kill him. It turns out his Maker killed him before and he wants revenge.
Back at the motel, Sam sits outside with the laptop and watches a bug zapper do its work. It’s still night. While ominous music plays, Sam is distracted by a woman in a bathrobe getting ice from an ice machine. Don’t worry. Absolutely nothing is coming of this save another drippy flashback in sunflower colors. Sam is fixing the ice machine in the vet’s place. Why is there an ice machine at the vet’s? Okay, so this must be the motel where Sam is staying, because the kid tells him there’s a place out back where he can fix the sink. But then the sink turns out to be in Amelia’s motel room. Seems she’s staying in the same motel as Sam.
Well, that’s not confusing at all. [/sarcasm]
Coming in to find Sam taking her sink apart to repair it, Amelia immediately flips out and starts ranting at him. I was willing to give her a pass in her first scene in the season premiere as perhaps not meeting Sam under the best circumstances, but damn, woman. Get that stick out of your butt.
Note that there’s a half-opened bottle of booze on the counter. The hard stuff, too. Seems Amelia really loves her cheap scotch.
Mercifully, we cut back to Dean and Benny, after dark. Benny is saying that Quentin was a “favorite” of his maker, just like Benny. When Dean finds Quentin’s notebook in it, with odd names like “Age of Aquarius” crossed out next to times, Benny explains they’re ships -yachts. Dean correctly guesses the times are launch times. Benny adds that the boats never reach their destinations. They are hijacked on the high seas. These vampires are also pirates. Dean immediately coins the term “vampirates” (Benny doesn’t understand where Dean would have got that, even though Dean thinks it’s obvious) They stake out their prey, relay the info to a small fleet at sea, board the boat, feed, and burn and sink it.
After rather surreptitiously pocketing the money from Quentin’s wallet (Ah, Dean, always the consummate thief and scavenger), Dean finds a utility bill for “Prentiss Island.” Benny knows the place very well.
Later that night in the car, on their way to the island, Dean asks Benny why his Maker would have killed him if he was the “Old Man’s” favorite. While slurping on more blood to build up his strength (which makes Dean uncomfortable), Benny explains that becoming a vampire is like “being reborn.” The nest is everything. Even more so, his Maker was a “jealous god” who kept his children isolated from humans and out at sea.
Benny grew dissatisfied with that life and uneasy with the idea of killing humans to survive. He doesn’t seem to have been consciously aware of this until he met a woman, Andrea, who was a Greek heiress on a yacht targeted by the nest. Instead of calling in her boat’s position to his nest, Benny fled with her (hence the Greek fisherman’s cap and other clothing that he wears). He fell in love. Dean makes a joke about Fabio, but Benny is quite serious. Andrea reawakened his dormant humanity.
Unfortunately, Benny did not take into account how his Maker would react. After he and Andrea settled in Louisiana (a former part of the huge French colony of Quebec, and including New Orleans, which began its existence as a refuge for pirates), they came home one night to find the whole nest waiting for them. Benny was pinned down and beheaded, while his Maker ripped out Andrea’s throat. That was the last thing Benny saw before he went to Purgatory.
Upon hearing this, Dean accurately pegs Benny’s goal as “payback.” Well, Dean would know all about that. Benny just tells him that the docks they’re looking for are up ahead and they ought to be able to find a small boat to take to the island.
There follows a beautiful night scene of the two of them in a dinghy, approaching the island past the remains of an old pier. I like the way Dean is sitting on the prow as they come in, so that he can jump off and immediately moor the boat, and how he looks around while Benny steers the boat, looking for enemies.
As they near the house through the woods, Dean starts to text Sam, “Hunting vamps – nest on Prentiss Island…not alone.” But then he changes his mind and erases it when Benny says about their hunt, “Remind you of anything?” I think he means hunting in Purgatory.
As they pull out their machetes, Benny talks about how unreal it is being back (Well, he was down there for 50 years). He asks Dean how he “deals with it,” being back in the world. Dean grows uneasy and impatient with such crazy talk. He tells Benny that he has “been down that rabbit hole” before and there is no good to it. This world is real and it’s best to hang on to that.
This conversation is quite similar to the one where Dean talks Sam down in the warehouse in “Hello Cruel World.” Like that conversation, it very strongly implies that Dean has been dissociative to the point of psychosis in the past, long enough that he needed to find a way out of it. Whether he is okay now is a very open-ended question because he wouldn’t be so impatient if he were secure in his own sanity. And he never does answer Benny’s question about whether the world feels real to him now.
Cut to an exterior shot of a mansion (with a creepy swirl of night fog on the left-hand side). Benny and Dean sneak inside. It’s kind of nice to watch Jensen Ackles and Ty Olsson move like that, especially since Olsson has years of martial arts experience.
Anyhoo, Dean warns Benny that they have to keep moving, but Benny is quickly distracted and ensnared by memories, sparked first by his Maker’s harpsichord (indicating the Old Man goes back at least to the 18th century) and then by a photo of a young woman with dark hair that he finds on the harpsichord. He exclaims softly in horror, then looks up as a door opens above, to see that woman coming slowly down the stairs. Her eyes are wide in recognition and astonishment. She speaks his name. He says her name out loud, too: “Andrea.” His lost love.
At that moment, other vampires come into the room, both behind Benny and from behind Andrea, and he is knocked out and beaten. Hiding just outside the room and holding his beloved blade Purgatory, an exasperated Dean growls, “Idiot!”
Benny wakes up to find himself handcuffed to a chair. A man he identifies as the aforementioned Sorrento has him by the neck with his own Purgatory blade. Andrea stands, arms folded, nearby. Her face is…inscrutable. When Benny asks her if the Old Man turned her, she nods, tight-lipped, and he closes his eyes in pain. I like this actress. She’s beautiful in a dark, very non-blonde way, and she has an air of subtlety and subtext about her.
Meanwhile, Dean is sneaking through what look like the endless hallways of the mansion. Suddenly, his phone, which is on vibrate, buzzes (Why do people do this? Turn the damned ringer off in situations like that). It’s Sam. Dean hangs up without answering, stating, “I’m a little busy right now.” He hears footsteps and ducks out of sight.
The vampire he heard hears or senses Dean, but, when he looks down the hallway, he sees nothing. So, he walks on. Dean then comes out of the room he had ducked into. Back at the motel, Sam hangs up and goes back to cyberstalking Amelia, who is in Kermit, Texas and is almost three years older than Sam, according to her driver’s license.
Cue another perky flashback. This time, Amelia is accusing Sam of stalking her because he’s fixing her sink. When she asks why he’s doing that (Um…motels do send people in to fix sinks, dear), he points out that she’s got a zillion limes shoved down her disposal (and a bunch more in her groceries). Ew.
Sam mentions that he was sent out back to fix her sink by Everett, the kid who is working at the motel. He’s helping him while his father is sick. Amelia, despite having lived at the motel for the past three months, has no clue who Everett is. Nice. She proceeds to be a complete bitch for no good reason, practically accusing Sam of being a serial killer (again, for no good reason), until he finally leaves. And this flashback mercifully ends.
In the present, Sam gets a call back from an impatient Dean, who asks what Sam wants and says he’s in the middle of cleaning out a vampire nest, “but it went a little sideways on me.” I can’t imagine why Dean would do something as dumb as calling Sam back while still in the mansion, but I really can’t imagine why Sam would then start yelling at him over the phone about it. If Sam wants his brother dead that badly, he should just do it himself.
Dean insists he’s with a friend (not Garth) and isn’t alone, to which Sam stupidly and cruelly replies, “You don’t have any friends. All your friends are dead!” I resist the urge to reach into the screen and bitchslap Sam into a coma.
Back in the music room, Andrea orders Sorrento to go tell their Maker that they have Benny. Reluctantly, Sorrento obeys. Benny doesn’t miss that Andrea is in charge and comments on it. Andrea coolly replies that the Maker has come to rely on her over Sorrento over the years. When Benny snarks that “sleeping with God has got to have its perks,” Andrea backhands him and calmly agrees. Then she orders the other two vampires in the room to go make sure that the Maker “has everything he needs.”
As soon as they leave, she approaches Benny’s chair, grabs him by his shirt…and tenderly caresses him, engaging in a long, passionate clinch that he returns. It was all an act on her part. She still loves him and had heard he had returned. The rumor brought her “hope” again. We find out that she knew he was a vampire even before she was turned and chose him, anyway. She reassures him that she knows he never lied to her.
Benny asks why the Old Man turned her, why she stayed with him and his nest, afterward. She doesn’t know the answer to the first question because she woke up drinking from him and that’s all she remembers. For the second, she admits that she fell prey, like every other new vampire not named ‘Dean Winchester,’ to the call of blood and was unable to leave before it was too late. Benny admits that he understands what she’s saying, since the same thing happened to him.
She then pulls out a long knife and sticks it in his coat, putting the keys to his cuffs in his hand. She says that Benny has “come back from the grave,” proving that the Maker is no god and not invincible. She’s sure that the “Old Man” is afraid of Benny, but nobody else, including her, can take him on. Only Benny can.
Benny sadly reminds her that he has come to destroy the entire nest and their piratical business, not just to kill the Maker. She appears to agree. Then she steps aside as Sorrento and the others come back inside.
Meanwhile, Dean is dealing with Sam, who is yelling at him over speakerphone about how it’s nice Dean has friends and all, now, and Sam will be happy to buy whoever it is a beer, but what business did Dean have, running off to clean out a vampire nest without Sam? I dunno, Sam. Could be Dean sees you as something of a liability on a hunt these days. I know I sure do.
I have no idea why Dean doesn’t just hang up on Sam, or at least take it off speakerphone. It’s a decidedly Dumb on Cue moment. Anyhoo, Dean says he’s already texted Sam his location. Finally irritated with Sam to the point of almost hanging up on him, Dean leaves the phone in a fruit bowl to let Sam’s yelling distract a vampirate. Dean then comes up behind his prey and beheads him. Somehow, this ends up in the phone being smashed. I’m as relieved as Sam is irate at being hung up on (Why wouldn’t he be, you know, worried about the sudden loss of connection? Dean’s in the middle of a vampire nest).
The situation now seems under control on Dean’s end but not for long. Just as he’s grabbing the body to hide it, Dean’s surprised by another vampire. Cut to commercial.
Moving on to Benny being brought before the Maker. The Maker is a very metrosexual little fellow in J. Crew. He snottily looks Benny up and down and asks how Benny rose from the dead. At least he shows genuine curiosity about that. Benny corrects him about going to Hell. He says his final destination was “right next door, as far as I can tell.” And he’s happy to show the Maker the way.
The Maker trades sarcastic dialogue with Sorrento (who appears to be carrying Benny’s bolo, or something like it) about how he “cried like the biggest, ugliest baby” (referencing the film, Serenity, I bet) after having Benny killed and greatly regretted it. Sorrento then claims that’s why the Maker turned Andrea and the Maker smirks that Sorrento is mad about that because she supplanted him.
The truth comes out when Benny questions the Maker directly on the subject. He wanted even further revenge on Benny, so he turned Andrea, denying her any chance of peace or Heaven. There is also a hint of the Maker using her to replace Benny, though that’s not said outright. He only says that he “wanted something to remember you by.” Benny closes his eyes in pain.
In another part of the house, two more vampires (one of them the guy who came down the stairs past Andrea) see one of their brethren dead on the floor and another being dragged around the corner. They pelt after the unseen killer, only to be beheaded offscreen. Dean then appears from around the corner, with a bloody stone blade, looking slightly breathless. That’s four so far this episode for him. And two at once – wow! Purgatory is like Popeye’s spinach!
Cue another Purgatory flashback. Dean is questioning why Benny would value human life. Benny points out that humans kill a whole lot of other humans than any vampire ever did and Castiel backs him up on that, at least “statistically speaking.” It turns out Dean is (understandably) nervous about bringing a vampire back topside and Benny is arguing a case for being a veggie vamp to alleviate his concerns. He says that he was drinking bagged blood for quite a while before he was killed.
This conversation, as it devolves once again into Benny complaining that Castiel will get them killed and Dean insisting he’s not leaving anybody behind, is interrupted by a warning from Castiel. Leviathans are near. Dean asks if Castiel can fly away, but Castiel replies that they’re too close, already. I like the idea of this here, where the Leviathans are like eagles in the sky, Castiel is like a smaller hawk that they’re hunting, and Dean and Benny are like foxes or even wolves on the ground. Castiel instructs the other two to run.
Cut back to the present, with Dean going downstairs, then Sam at the motel, boosting a car. Sadly, this leads to yet another boring Amelia flashback. While out on a walk, Sam’s dog (still named ‘Dog’), runs in through Amelia’s open door to sit on her. Sam, chagrined, runs in after him. For someone who’s all paranoid about people in her house, Amelia sure doesn’t worry too much about hanging out with her door wide open.
Also, notice how every single one of these flashbacks so far occurs on a bright sunny day?
Amelia snaps at Sam about whether he’s taking care of the dog and and why hasn’t he named the dog, yet? Sam says he hasn’t thought of a name and yes, the dog is getting its meds. He compliments her on her surgical treatment of the dog and asks why she thinks he’s creepy. It all boils down to his buying stuff from Army Navy stores, which she thinks only White Supremacists and serial killers do (though she does seem to have noticed he’s a drifter, somehow, between drinking tea and draining all those beer bottles lying about). Hey, ’cause that’s not mindlessly judgemental at all!
I have a horrible, sneaking suspicion that Amelia is being portrayed as such a horrendous and unfair bitch so that we’ll feel sorry for Sam and not notice what a jackass he’s being to his brother. Fail on both counts, show. I think she’s a bitch to Sam and I think he’s being a jackass to his brother.
Sam does call her on her attitude, at least enough to point out that she’s a drifter, too, living out of a motel, and that she has no one. She admits to this, saying she did have someone, once, but no longer. She notices that Sam knows how that feels, too.
Cut to the present day and Sam trying to call Dean again, while driving in his boosted car.
Back at the mansion on Prentiss Island, Benny’s Maker is still pontificating. He says he’s “tired” of it all. Benny then asks why the Old Man wouldn’t let him go and his Maker insists that he never does let anything go. Benny asks, if that’s true, why does he have so little after having lived so long? The Maker insists insouciantly that he has the sea and Andrea. Benny begs to differ on Andrea. Unlocking his cuffs with the key Andrea gave him, he shows his free hands to his Maker.
Vindicated in his hatred and contempt of Andrea, Sorrento attacks Benny (on the Old Man’s unspoken command) with super vampire speed and a snarl. Easily dodging his enemy’s blade, Benny disarms him, smacks him into a cabinet, snaps the cuffs on his hand and stomps on them, yanking Sorrento to his knees (There’s some nice stuntwork and stagefighting in this one). Impressed in spite of himself, Sorrento asks how Benny got so good at fighting. Benny says he’s had a lot of practice. Then he whacks off Sorrento’s head.
The Maker pretends not to be impressed (I get they’re going for a Vampire Lestat vibe here, but I’m not feeling the dialogue or the actor – or something). He says that Benny is right. He’s been around for a long, long time and there is nothing new under the sun. He calls the universe “a pyramid of despair.” When Benny notes that’s “cold,” the Maker admits that he is “evil after all. At least I have that to keep me cold at night.” He claims that Benny always thought too much, that this was his downfall. Hmm, considering thinking outside the box got Benny out of Purgatory, I’m pretty sure the Old Man’s wrong on that one.
Benny quotes Socrates about not living an unexamined life, the Maker mocks it, and Benny, fed up, slams him into a similar cabinet to the one he smashed Sorrento into. Snickering, the Old Man is down, but insists he’s not beaten. He’ll take the satisfaction of this kill away from Benny by refusing to fight him. Shrugging, Benny shows him Andrea’s knife and says he can now show the Old Man “something new, a whole new world.”
Cut to Andrea, waiting by the harpsichord. Benny enters the room. He lays the bloody knife on the harpsichord and declares that their Maker is dead. Yeah, this is as annoying as not showing the death of Dean’s Maker in “Live Free or Twihard,” but it does seem pretty clear the Maker is dead. Benny has no reason whatsoever to lie and even if he did leave the Old Man alive, Dean would have finished the old goat off, himself.
Now, this next part is quite important – Benny smiles at Andrea and holds out his hand to take hers. He says, let’s go. It’s over. The idea is that they will go off into the sunset together, wherever they like. He still loves her, and the story indicates that her loyalty and love will be rewarded. The fact that she is a vampire now, too, is not important to him.
But then Andrea shows how she has truly changed as a vampire. She is no longer the sweet old Andrea with fangs. She is not even an older Andrea with fangs. She has become a predator, an enthusiastic pirate who wants to continue the operation, to continue preying on innocents like what she once was.
This leaves Benny in despair. He reminds her that he came with the purpose of destroying the entire nest and its piratical operation in honor of her memory. When Andrea insists that she’s standing right in front of him, he mournfully states that no, what he loved was “snuffed out a long time ago by monsters like me.”
Growing angry, she steps away from him, out of his sphere of protection. She asks him if he thinks he is better than she is. He says, “I think we’re all damned.” At this, she loses her temper and shows her fangs. Only then does Dean come out of the shadows behind her and stab her in the back. As she looks down in pain and shock, he pulls out the blade and then lops off her head. Benny makes no move to stop him, only stands there and looks sad. They exchange a look, Benny grieving, Dean panting and exasperated.
This is a curious moment. It could have gone very badly (as in, right down the rabbit hole of misogyny), but it works. Benny knows what he brought into the nest when he brought Dean. Dean is a human Hunter, a predator of monsters. Benny knows perfectly well that when he brought Dean with him, Dean would burn down the house around him while Benny was taking care of his personal business. Dean was there for one reason only – to destroy a nest of vampires.
If she had been willing to quit the operation, it’s likely Benny would have been able to at least win Andrea a reprieve. Dean might have stayed his hand long enough to see if Andrea could live on a blood-bag diet, too. But once she stated her intention of continuing to prey on humans, Andrea was as good as dead. Dean could not – would not – allow a monster to continue killing and eating humans. In fact, this entire episode, this entire story, fits into the series and Dean’s story by showing what Dean’s new boundaries are regarding monsters. They may be more flexible now, but they’ve hardly disappeared. Be a predator; get killed.
Afterward, as they get the boat to return to the mainland, Benny asks Dean why he did it. Why did Dean keep his promise and actually bring Benny back when he could have “drained my soul into any culvert and no one would have been the wiser”? Realizing that Benny is slipping into despair, Dean fiercely asks him if he’s “good” (He never does answer Benny’s question, perhaps because he considers it beneath him). Benny replies that he doesn’t know what he is, anymore. Which makes sense, considering he’s a vampire back from Purgatory, whose best friend, a human, just whacked off his lost love’s head in front of him. I’d be confused, too.
Dean then has a final flashback to Purgatory. He, Benny and Castiel are running from the Leviathans when the Leviathans blast in like a couple of missiles, leaving craters in the ground and looking like Matrix guardians (or angels) in black suits (and ten times as awesome as they looked for most of season seven).
The first Leviathan, in the shape of a man, lands between Dean and the others, separating them. Ignoring the other two, he goes after Dean (Yes, remember that – Dean is their first target). The second one, looking like a woman, lands on the other side and attacks Castiel. Dean takes on the first Leviathan alone and successfully whacks off its head. The second knocks Castiel down and shows its teeth (The way the Leviathans and the vampires show their teeth in this episode is very similar in that both are signals of an attack). Benny, distracted by wanting to go to Dean’s aid, turns and sees Castiel’s plight. He whacks off the second Leviathan’s head, saving Castiel. He then gives a shocked Castiel a hand up. Dean, watching, is impressed.
Back to the present. As they arrive at the mainland dock, Sam is waiting for them, looking pissy. Sam’s demeanor turns uncertain when Benny arrives and Dean looks wary. The other penny drops when Benny steps forward to introduce himself and shakes Sam’s hand. Presumably because vampires are cold and dead-feeling, that’s why Sam’s expression then changes to horror and rage. Looking over at Dean, he starts to go for his knife (which Benny notices), but stops when Dean shakes his head, almost imperceptibly. Benny notes, “I can see you two have a lot to talk about” and walks away. The episode ends on Sam huffing and puffing in outrage, while Dean just looks tired.
Review: Like the previous episode, “Blood Brothers,” too, is an episode about a side character – a new one, to boot. However, unlike last week’s “Bitten,” “Blood Brothers” works very well. It’s also better than the last Halloween episode the show had, season four’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester.” It shows a new side to both Sam and Dean (not a very flattering one for Sam) while introducing and resolving Benny’s backstory. It also shows that Ben Edlund has regained his mojo after the past two seasons and has listened to the fans who complained about the reflexive misogyny (yay!). No more PMS, menstruation, fat chick, or menopause jokes, thank God.
On top of that, we got some actual historical research (with a clever angle on the perennial image of the undead pirate). And, of course, there is the stellar, crackling bromance chemistry between newcomer Ty Olsson and Jensen Ackles. I was not too sure about this one going into it (The idea of “vampirates” sounds stupid out of context and Edlund has written his stinkers), but it was an entertaining forty-plus minutes and I thoroughly enjoyed it (with one exception, but I’ll get to that in a bit). Definitely a welcome change from “Bitten.”
I’m reminded that Ben Edlund likes to do backstory episodes for recurring characters and usually does them very well. “Malleus Maleficarum” was the only episode where I liked Ruby and thought she worked (Contrast this with Gamble’s awful, cliched backstory for Bela in “Time Is on My Side” and you can see this isn’t an easy thing to do). As for “The Man Who Would Be King,” I found myself really wishing the focus on Castiel, his past as an angel, and his relationship with Dean had been given much better and cleaner coverage in season six. If the rest of season six had been like that episode, it would have been a much better, more coherent season.
I noted last time that episodes with guest characters can be good for various reasons, one of those being when the lead characters get to play a side role they normally wouldn’t get to play. In this one, Benny is the emo Hero on a vengeance quest. Dean is his practical, psychopathic sidekick who has his back, even as he snarks away about Benny’s “idiotic” falling in love.
An interesting aspect of this is that, unlike what some fans (and Sam) have complained, Dean is quite clear-eyed about Benny. Dean is not impressed by Benny’s love story. He thinks Benny was a fool to bail on his Maker like that and believe there would be no consequences. Of course there would be consequences – after all, Dean has been a vampire, too. And he has already slaughtered the entire nest he was forcibly inducted into. Dean does not romanticize Benny or Benny’s backstory at all. He does what he does out of loyalty and friendship. He is not fooled by Benny. He chooses to help Benny because of their friendship in Purgatory.
Dean is portrayed as easily as capable of violence and taking care of himself as Benny, if not more so. This is remarkable. Not only are vampires portrayed in the episode as possessing superspeed and strength, but Benny is portrayed as even faster and stronger than his Maker and old nest, due to his time in Purgatory. But who kills most of the nest, including Benny’s old flame, while Benny is settling old scores with his Maker? Dean.
This strikes me as subtle foreshadowing about Dean, not unlike how Ruby’s backstory in “Malleus Maleficarum” could be seen as foreshadowing for Dean’s deal. Or even Sam’s eventual corruption. But even more so, Benny here is a foreshadowing of a revelation about Dean (because the writers aren’t ready yet to show us that stuff about Dean). Benny has been significantly altered by Purgatory. He is more than any other vampire on earth, now, with the possible exception of the Alpha. It therefore follows that Dean (and Castiel, if/when he gets out) is more than any other human Hunter on earth, too. I mean, Dean is taking out vampires right and left this episode. In one scene, he’s caught dragging off a body by two vampires, takes them both on at once – and wins. Wow.
It also therefore follows that Benny’s talk about how earth doesn’t feel real after Purgatory also applies to Dean, no matter how much Dean may dodge the issue. And am I the only one who finds it ominous that one of Dean’s big flashback scenes in Purgatory, fighting with Benny, included Benny whistling “In the Hall of the Mountain King”? That’s always struck me as a singularly ominous song. Nothing good can come of a character whistling that song, folks.
It appears that not only Benny and Dean are upgraded in Purgatory. Castiel mentions being a seraph in this episode. Seraphs have not yet been mentioned by name before now, but Zachariah’s self-description in “Dark Side of the Moon” identified him as one. It is, of course, difficult to say what this means, precisely, since the show has screwed traditional angelology six ways to Sunday for years, but seraphim and cherubim in traditional lore are quite powerful angels (This is also possibly a nod to Thomas Sniegoski’s Remy Chandler novels). And in the show, Zachariah was portrayed as upper-middle management, somewhere between ordinary angels like Castiel and archangels in power. So, has Castiel had a power upgrade? And when did it occur?
I had to chuckle a little at Sam’s wanting to kill Benny at the end. Sam is still an ordinary human, as far as we know, and Benny is now a supervamp. If anybody’s going to be able to kill Benny, I don’t think it’ll be Sam. Or any other Hunter who isn’t Dean.
And we still don’t know whose funeral Benny was at in the season premiere.
I liked Andrea. I was sad to see her killed off, but it made sense to me (though it’s really annoying when the show only brings back or keeps alive the badly written female characters that are played by actresses WHO CAN’T ACT). The fridging trope of her death motivating Benny was neatly subverted in her being turned into a vampire, instead. Her continued loyalty to him and love for him also subverted the usual twist on this (that the woman survived because she was faithless) and her toughness and rising through the ranks subverted her original Damsel in Distress troping.
The actress, Athena Karkanis, even managed to convey the gravitas of Andrea being nearly a century old, despite looking to be in her twenties. This mitigated somewhat the rather creepy May-September vibe going on between her and Benny. I was also quite happy to see that Andrea was not dressed in the usual, completely-inappropriate-for-the-character, CW slut gear. Instead, she was dressed like an Audrey Hepburn or a Lauren Bacall (keeping in mind it’s well-known Bacall is no lover of boating) – in other words, the way you would expect a rich European woman from the 50s and early 60s to dress.
Her death eventually resulted from her embracing the vampire life a little too hard and, more importantly, refusing to give it up. So, Benny stood by while death in the form of Dean Winchester took her from behind. Poor guy. And here, all this time, he’d thought she was in Heaven. Nope, not exactly.
Unfortunately for Andrea, while this was an episode that centered around Benny, he was still only a guest star. There’s already a tragic lost love subplot going on (Sam and Amelia) with one of the leads, so Benny’s backstory had to be resolved with finality in this episode, kind of like how Bobby’s wife had to be dead, already, in “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” Too bad, ’cause I liked Andrea a hella lot better than Amelia, and Karkanis actually looked and acted the part of a Greek heiress (However cliched that may be, it’s new to the show), as opposed to, say, Ruby, who came across like a Valley Girl rather than a half-millennium-old European witch. But who knows? Maybe Benny can find a way to resurrect her.
I laughed right out loud at Dean’s exasperation at Sam when Sam was yelling at him in the beginning about taking off. “Did you have a stroke?” came off with the same head bob as “My boobs” from the Pilot, but without the smartass grin, and Jensen Ackles’ sarcastic delivery through the entire scene was hilarious, ending with the sarcasm shading into genuine anger as Dean lost his patience with Sam.
I thought the scene and Sam’s moping afterward really showed up the differences in the brothers’ growth curves over the years. Dean no longer needs Sam. He just wants him around. Sam, meanwhile, still needs Dean, but, like any 18-year-old, has to declare how grown-up and independent he is as every juncture. Which means that he really isn’t.
Sam’s reactions to Dean taking off seem both accurate to a certain extent (He’s always been kinda like that. He’s just more unapologetically like he’s always been this season, with no additives of false niceness, than before) and also problematical in that they are not the least bit heroic or mature. Also, nothing against the actress because it’s really down to the writing, but the drippy flashbacks with Amelia the drunken vet are incredibly boring (and wow, what a bitch!).
What is especially bizarre is how Sam doesn’t question them or the fact that he essentially bailed on everyone and everything (including Dean, whose fate was unknown to Sam, and Kevin, who really needed Sam and could easily have been helped). T’ain’t no big thing to him. There is something really wrong with that. As tired as I am of Sam Done Come Back Wrong, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, because surely, such unabashed narcissism and general asshattery cannot continue for the entire season as Sam proves impervious to any appeals to loyalty, responsibility, or just plain human decency.
I liked Guy Bee’s direction, overall. He seems to be settling into a Supernatural-specific groove, now, and kept the pace going fast, despite the many flashbacks. There were also some nice nautical touches without actually setting the episode on a pirate vessel.
However, I was not entirely thrilled with the writing or direction or something of Sam’s scenes at the motel. Sam sits around moping, things start to look a bit sinister, he has a drippy flashback in which nothing dramatic occurs…and we return to the present, only for more nothing to occur. Um, show, have we forgotten what genre this is? This is not Dawson’s Creek. Really.
Speaking of waiting for the other shoe to drop, I found the Purgatory flashbacks striking in that they appear straightforward, but there are almost-subliminal flashes, especially during the killing scenes, that remind us we are not in Kansas, anymore, Toto. Purgatory is not earth. Let me repeat that because it’s important: Purgatory is not earth.
What does this mean? Well, for a start, not-earth often means that experiences are not what they seem, are even completely subjective. It also means that there could even be different experiences from different people about the same event that are very different – yet are both true. It could be that Purgatory (much like what we saw of Heaven) is a lot like Schrodinger’s Cat – both dead and alive at precisely the same time.
Or maybe Dean’s just going bonkers. Then again, maybe both things are true. There’s a lot of ambiguity going on this season and I’m trying not to take anything at face value.
Dean [to Sam as he packs]: You mind if I take the Toblerone?
Sam: What does that mean, “personal”?
Dean: Did you have a stroke? Vocabulary? “Personal”! As in, my own grownup, personal – I dunno – crap!
Dean: Dude, you were double-hamstrung!
Benny: Yeah, well, a little rest, half a cooler full of AB negative, most wounds short of an amputation’ll mend up. Vampirically speaking.
Dean: Benny, what’s going on?
Benny: You and that whole ‘friend’ thing, man.
Benny: Well, I gotta admit – the angel’s got his strong points – but holy hell if he ain’t a magnet.
Dean: Well, before we found Cas, you said it was my humanity that was drawing too much attention.
Benny: Yeah, that, too.
Castiel: It does present a curious curl in the metaphysics, doesn’t it? If you murder a monster in Monster Heaven, where does it go?
Benny: You take away the fangs and the fun, I was born human, too.
Dean [to Benny]: Listen to me, you undead blood junkie: I’m the one with the mojo; I’m the one with the plan. [to Castiel] Cas, we’re gonna shove your ass back through the eye of that needle if it kills all three of us.
Benny: Why’d you stay with him? With them?
Andrea: You remember what it’s like, at first. Everything resets. Life is blood. That’s all. And whoever gives it to you.
Benny: I know. It’s complicated.
Benny: I drink blood. I don’t drink people.
Benny: You shoulda let me go.
The Maker: But Benny, I don’t let things go.
Benny: Really. You live so long, why is it you have so little? Nothin’ but a beat-up harpsichord and a nest of hyenas.
The Maker: I have the sea. And I have Andrea.
Benny: No. You don’t have her. [unlocks his handcuffs and shows his free hands] At least that much I know.
Andrea: You think you’re better than me?
Benny: I think we’re all damned.
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