Supernatural: Why We Were Disappointed with the Latest Episode
Supernatural is my favorite show. Hands down. It has stood the test of time, it has survived the writer strikes and it’s survived network changes. It is now the longest consecutively running genre show. It has a great story line, and great characters. I love the cast, and I love the fandom. But after the latest episode aired on Thursday night – There’s Something About Mary – I honestly felt betrayed by the show that I love. I can say without question that in my time in this fandom, this was one of the worst episodes I have ever seen.
In 12 seasons, we have seen a lot of characters come and go. Characters we love – including the leads themselves – have died and those deaths all hurt. But, with death of Eileen (Shoshannah Stern) I felt more let down by this show than I have in quite some time.
It’s no secret that a large number of Supernatural‘s viewers are women. Women who have been in this fandom for years, many since the pilot episode, and some for only a few seasons. And as a woman, I feel more than ever that female characters are not wanted on this show or in the Supernatural world. They have been written in and out of episodes in ways that did nothing whatsoever to further the plot of that particular episode.
Women, minorities, and LGBTQ characters have long struggled to find their place in Supernatural, and if a character fitting that description were introduced into the show, they were not around for long. With the death of Eileen, we lost not only another female character, but the first deaf hunter to be introduced to the series. She was a strong female character, a hunter and she provided representation for many fans.
Eileen was the creation of fan favorite writer Robbie Thompson. She made her first appearance in Season 11 in the episode Into the Mystic, and fans were excited to see her return in Season 12 to once again fight alongside the Winchesters. Her first appearance this season was in episode 17 where she joined Sam and Dean once again in their search for Kelly Kline. It was announced last week that Shoshannah would be returning for episode 20, and many were excited to have her appear twice in one season. However, moments into this week’s episode, that excitement quickly turned to dismay as Eileen found herself in one of the show’s “cold opens”. Once the initial shock wore off, fans live tweeting the show lit the proverbial torches and with good reason. Her death was brutal. They even went so far as to mute the sound for a time as she was running terrified through the woods to escape the hell hound. Her death was written in a distasteful and dehumanizing way. Her disability was exploited. Her body tossed around like a chew toy.
Eileen was a worldwide trending topic within minutes. Moments later, another hashtag emerged and quickly climbed the rankings to become a world wide trending topic – #FireBuckleming. The hashtag remained a trending topic hours after the East Coast airing of the episode was over. Buckleming – the moniker given to Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner who co wrote this episode – have upset fans on numerous occasions. With the death of yet another fan favorite, the pair have once again stirred outrage in fans by writing a beloved character off the show.
Season 10, episode 21 – Dark Dynasty – is an episode that to this day is a sore spot for many fans due to the death of Charlie Bradbury. Charlie was another character introduced by Robbie Thompson back in Season 7. Charlie – like Eileen – brought her own brand of representation to the show as well because she was an openly gay character. She was also a gamer, geek and fangirl – which along with her sexual orientation, many fans found they related to. Many felt her death was completely unnecessary. Jeremy Carver, a producer for Supernatural was asked about Charlie’s death at San Diego Comic Con – to which he fumbled around for an answer and the fans booed him for it.
I wish I could say that the episode turned around from there. But, it didn’t.
Shortly following Eileen’s death, Sam and Dean go to see Eileen’s body in the morgue. Her grisly wounds on full display for us to get an eye full of. Giving credit to Jared and Jensen who – despite sub par writing this episode – delivered quite a bit of emotion to this scene. However, the writing once again steered away from the situation at hand. Sam was not allowed to mourn his friend. Dean was nearly robotic in his focus on Eileen’s death to the point it seemed like nothing more than a macabre clue in their next case. Eileen was a hunter. She was their friend. And Sam and Dean would have given her the hunter’s burial that she deserved, not left her laying on a metal slab.
As the boys return home, they stop to collect their mail and discover that Eileen had sent them a letter because she suspected that the British Men of Letters were following and monitoring her. One line of this letter jumps out more than even the vital information she was passing along. “I hate to sound all girly.” This line was completely unnecessary and the context in which ‘girly’ was used here to be synonymous with weak was borderline insulting not only to viewers, but to Eileen herself. Eileen was not weak. Charlie and Eileen were strong, intelligent, powerful female characters who were more than tropes, more than placeholders, and more than just stepping stones to further a male dominated plot line.
And if Eileen’s death hadn’t struck enough nerves, Mary is now being brainwashed and guilt tripped by the British Men of Letters. Her identity is being stripped away from her in some form of reprogramming. As if this weren’t bad enough, she is being guilt tripped for things that happened to John and the boys while she was dead. She had no control over what choices they made and the way John raised them after she passed. Mary was a hunter, and she tried to shield her husband and her sons from that life and she should not be blamed or faulted for that. The emotional manipulation and whatever else the British Men of Letters have subjected her to, have driven Mary to her breaking point; she is begging her captor to kill her and when he won’t she tries to kill herself.
This episode – along with so many other things it fell short in – struggled for any real continuity. A sudden loophole developed in Crowley’s plan with the fail safe he had on Lucifer’s vessel. A very convenient and sudden “polarity shift” allowed Lucifer to now not only break free from Crowley’s hold, but turn the King of Hell into a living puppet.
I’d be remiss if I said this episode didn’t have some good moments. I’m a sucker for a good action sequence and Jared and Jensen definitely delivered and reminded us how well Sam and Dean work together in a fight. Arguably, the shoot out with the British Men of Letters was the best scene in this episode. Until Mary shows up – now obviously in the grips of her reprogramming – guns aimed at her own sons. Mary and Mr. Ketch exit the bunker to the sight of pain and disbelief on Sam and Dean’s faces as their mother effectively shuts the door to their grave – also leaving them alone with Toni who earlier this season tortured them. Again, this calls into question exactly what the end game is of Mary’s torture – other than the fact that yet another female character is being used as a pawn and to draw out the emotions of viewers.
The episode closed out with Lucifer standing on a hill, basking in the sunlight as he sets out presumably to find his son. Honestly this scene put me to mind of some sort of bizarre Disney movie.
In season 12 alone we have seen the deaths of marginalized women such as Tasha and Alicia Banes, Dagon, and Billie the Reaper. But tropes surrounding women have been something this show has used since season 1. Mary and Jess were killed off quickly – fueling John and Sam to seek revenge, fueling angst-filled plot lines for seasons. Countless women have come into Sam and Dean’s path as nothing more than “Sexy Lamps” and being in an episode served no purpose. It did nothing to further the plot. They were only there to be gawked at and have tired pick up lines thrown their way. To say that fans are tired of women being treated as props by this show may be a bit of an understatement. Eileen’s death on Thursday was another stark reminder of this fact.
Supernatural has given us so much over the years, but it has also taken a lot as well. In such a large, diverse and passionate fandom, many relate to these characters strongly. They’re written in a way that makes us love with them. We’ve shared their struggles. We’ve cheered them on. We’ve cried when they’ve cried. We have mourned their deaths and their losses. And to lose them is hard. Does this show have it’s flaws? Yes. Will I continue to watch? Yes. Do I still love this show? Yes. Loving something doesn’t mean you always agree with everything that happens. You can be critical of it, and because you love it you want to protect it. Even if it doesn’t always love you back in the way that you want. I will be with Sam and Dean until their journey is over. And I loved every moment that we shared with Eileen on hers.