The Hunger That Consumes And The Hunger That Extinguishes

Last night's Supernatural, called "My Bloody Valentine," was an ode to desire. You know, the kind of desire that makes you eat your lover's face, and jam twinkies into your gullet with a toilet brush.

What, you thought there'd be sweetness on Valentine's Day for Sammy and Dean? In an episode penned by maniac of the macabre Ben Edlund? Of course you didn't. And what starts as a blood-soaked disaster involving a dimwitted cupid quickly becomes something a lot more hellish.

The episode begins with a series of bizarre love crimes. A prim couple on a first date are suddenly stricken with lust for each other that goes so deep that they literally eat one another to death. Another couple wants to be together so much that texting every few seconds isn't enough - they have to murder anyone (including a snarky boss) who stands between them and constant companionship. When the Winchesters arrive on the scene, they begin to suspect - as we do - that some kind of love mania is at work. This seems like a certainty when they find that the victims' hearts are marked with the angelic brand of a cupid, which Castiel helpfully identifies as essentially a low-class angel.

The Hunger That Consumes And The Hunger That Extinguishes

Unfortunately, when they finally conjure up their local cupid at a meat market bar, it turns out that he's not the bad guy. In fact, he's a ditzy, chubby guy in underwear who bursts into tears when they accuse him of going rogue and murdering his marks. After a lot of patting and processing, they let the cupid go - but not before he reveals that the boys' parents were pushed into love by a cupid with "orders straight from the top." This is just further confirmation of what we've known for a while: Sam and Dean are the product of a very deep plan brewing in Heaven and Hell.

When the next dead body shows up at the morgue, it's obvious something a lot deeper than love curses is afoot. The new victim is a guy who lost a lot of weight after getting a stomach band. But suddenly he went on a twinkie binge, first bursting his band, and then finally shoving twinkies into himself with a toilet brush. Meanwhile, the guy who runs the morgue has started drinking again, and (you guessed it) drinks himself to death in one night. And even Castiel is getting strange urges - he keeps eating White Castle hamburgers, which were apparently a special weakness of his vessel Jimmy.

The Hunger That Consumes And The Hunger That Extinguishes

We've got another Horseman of the Apocalypse on our hands. This time, it's Famine, and he's a decrepit, wheelchair-bound old man whose minions drive him around in a black SUV. I love the way that Famine affects people in this episode, crawling inside their various desires and pushing them into acts that involve an extreme, self-extinguishing form of consumption. Unlike War, who made people fight each other in a fairly simple way, Famine is a subtle and many-faceted curse. He works indirectly, sending his minions to gather up the souls of people who've consumed themselves to death. Stashed in attache cases, the souls will feed Famine so that he can work his way across the country.

Despite this mass epidemic of desire, Dean is unaffected. In fact, as Famine's gnawing horror spreads over the town, Dean stops wanting to eat burgers and decides not to go out prowling for desperate ladies on Valentine's eve. It's as if Famine awakens his sense of moderation. Unfortunately that's not the case for Sam, who is craving demon blood in a major way - especially after cutting up one of Famine's demons and getting a little otherworldly blood on his knife. So Dean takes the burger-chowing Castiel with him to the Famine showdown. If he works anything like War did, all they have to do is cut a ring off his finger and he'll head out of town.

When Dean finally finds Famine, however, things are a little . . . complicated. Castiel is helpless to stop himself from eating raw hamburger, and Dean is helpless to stop Famine from explaining the dark terribleness that prevents Dean from feeling hunger.

After this Edlundy speech, Famine finally sneers at Dean, "You don't feel hunger because inside you are already dead." What can this mean? Obviously part of it is Famine just trying to fuck with Dean's head. But of course Dean has already been dead, and lived for years in Hell before the angels pulled him out. Plus he's heading into a battle that may extinguish him, body and soul. So is he some kind of angelic zombie? Have the awfulness of his life and future destroyed the part of him that hungers? Or, as Dean says semi-sarcastically, does he just have such strength of character that he can resist Famine's temptations? It would make some sense that a human bred to be the vessel of an angel might have a defense against bad megadesires - though of course he wasn't able to resist War.

The Hunger That Consumes And The Hunger That Extinguishes

We're unable to get to the bottom of this mystery, however, because Sam shows up and unleashes his demon blood-enhanced powers. See, while Dean was learning all about consumer culture from a Horseman of the Apocalypse, Sam got attacked by a couple of Famine's minions back at the hotel room. And of course he drank their blood. So now he's in badass mode. Luckily Sam's able to resist his urges long enough to make the rest of Famine's tasty minions barf up their demons. And then, when Famine sucks those demons down, Sam is able to suck them back out again in a pretty awesome scene.

So they've defeated Famine for now, depriving him of the souls he wanted to eat and keeping him enfeebled. But he'll be back. And we've still got Pestilence and Death to meet. (We sort of almost met Death, but Lucifer couldn't quite raise him.) As the episode ends, Dean is taking a breather while Sam detoxes from the demon blood. He's feeling about as grim as it's possible to feel. He faces the sky and says plaintively, "I need some help." Is he calling on God? On Michael? Either way, it's bad news.

I like the way Dean is developing into the empty puppet of God this season, his desires cored out of him by bad times and his looming appointment with meatsackery. I was left wondering whether that emptiness Famine sensed in Dean wasn't deadness, but instead the yawning hole that Michael is supposed to fill.