Last night's Supernatural included one emblematic moment of Dean Winchester badassery that is bound to be immortalized in GIFs and T-shirts forever. "Look at me, Bitch!" And yet, the show also used that moment to talk about how Dean is becoming a monster. Something that happens when you spend too much time around them.
"Alex Annie Alexis Ann" was a pretty well done monster-of-the-week episode that managed to find a new spin on the perennial question of how long you can hunt monsters before you become a monster yourself. This is especially pertinent right about now because Dean's got the Mark of Cain turning him a bit bloodthirsty, but it's also relevant when the show's been on the air for nine years and we're seeing these once-puppyish young hunters become grizzled and cynical.
This time around, we get into the stare-into-the-abyss-and-it-stares-back, fight-monsters-and-you-become-one dilemma by a different route: the main character of this episode is arguably Sheriff Jody Mills, the only remaining recurring female character on the show. She's caught between the Winchesters, who have become monstrous in their cold-blooded pursuit of creatures, and a teenage girl named either Ann or Alex, who was raised by vampires.
On the one side, the Winchesters see Ann/Alex as just another monster to be put down, even before they find out she was serving as a "lure" and helping her nest of vampires hunt humans. Not surprisingly, Dean, who has a running theme this season of enjoying murder and not quite seeing a distinction between killing demons and killing people any more, is the most ready to consider putting Ann/Alex on "the list." But Sam more or less backs Dean up.
On the other side, Ann/Alex has gone native after so long living with vamps and helping them to feed. She ran away from them because she was sick of all the bloodshed and killing, but she doesn't seem to recognize Jody as belonging to the same species as her. She's fully vampire-identified, even though her vampire "Mama" never actually turned her. And she seems almost dissociated in her inability to comprehend or engage with real human emotions.
Not surprisingly, the episode's crux depends on whether Jody can reach this girl in time to save her — and to save herself from being consumed to complete Alex's long-delayed transformation into a vampire.
I was bracing myself for this episode to kill off Jody, who always seems to have a blurry expiration date stamped on her forehead every time she appears. In that scenario, the episode could easily have turned into a cautionary tale about trying to save monsters and losing yourself. Especially when we see Jody foolishly going into the basement by herself instead of waiting for the Winchesters (who are foolishly getting themselves caught around the same time.)
But Jody does manage to reach Alex in time — by figuring out the riddle of her name, and getting at the knot of why these vampires have a human daughter in the first place. They lost someone else a long time ago, named Alex, and just grabbed this girl as a replacement. They don't love her for her, they love her for the hole in their lives that she fills. In order to put her finger on that, Jody admit that she, too, has been using Alex to fill a hole left by her dead family.
But once Alex has lost her entire family (thanks to Jody and the Winchesters) then she and Jody are finally on the same level — they're both grieving and alone. When Jody tells Alex that nobody can understand what Alex has been through, Alex responds: "You can."
So maybe grief, and acknowledging our loss instead of just trying to cover over it, is what saves us from becoming monsters? Food for thought, anyway. Interestingly, nobody mentions Bobby in this episode, although he's alluded a few times.