Love, Loss and Protective Big Brothers – Supernatural ‘The Chitters’
It’s always interesting to me when reaction to a Supernatural episode isn’t unanimous. In my little corner of the internet, the vast majority of fans were squeeful about ‘The Chitters’. I wasn’t expecting to love it – the preview made it seem like a MotW episode, which are sometimes awesome and sometimes so so. But from the very first frame, I ended up leaning in toward my television, literally on the edge of my seat. Not because it was a bite-your-fingernails-and-tear-your-heart-out-simultaneously roller coaster ride like ‘Red Meat’, but because I was invested in the characters I was watching. And I don’t just mean Sam and Dean.
Nancy Won did something that usually only happens for me with fanfiction – she created guest characters (I almost said original characters, because I’m totally in fanfic mode) who I CARED about. That happens in the best of fanfic (and all kinds of fic, but fanfiction authors do it oh so well), but it doesn’t often happen in 42 minutes of a television show that has to concentrate on its main cast and story line. That first scene, of Jesse and his big brother Matty going fishing, talking and teasing like brothers do, grabbed me by the heartstrings. I had to lean in the first time because I thought I heard “he”, then actually did a double take as Jesse said ‘we finally kissed’ and then I probably gaped for a minute because YOU GO SHOW. Just like Charlie, Jesse’s sexuality is something you realize slowly, organically instead of dramatically. There’s an acknowledgement of the heartbreaking reality of prejudice and stigma and bullying, and there’s the gift of a protective big brother who will do anything for his little brother – including sell his precious coin collection to get them out of there and his little brother somewhere safe.
Even without the obvious parallel to Sam and Dean, this scene would have grabbed me by the heart. The parallel only made it more powerful. And then, the second I’m basking in all these lovely brother feels, the kids separate and I’m suddenly going “Nonononononono!” Because I care about these characters and this is Supernatural!
Sure enough, Matty is taken, his little brother screaming his name as he runs after him and tries to save him to no avail.
God damn this Show. Five minutes in and I’m already reaching for the tissues – and we haven’t even seen Sam and Dean yet!
I didn’t know who had written the episode going in, so I scrambled to find out during the first commercials, so I could send Nancy Won telepathic messages of adoration (since she doesn’t have a twitter).
Back from commercials, and there’s my favorite set of brothers, Sam and Dean. Dean is the one who’s researching for a change, and Sam gets to admonish him for not getting some rest in a lovely turn around. It’s always a bit clunky when episodes keep having to start out with “well, we can’t rescue Cas right now, so…” but I suppose that’s what would happen. It’s not like any of us would forget that Cas is captured by Amara though, Show. The boys jump in the car and head out to do some saving people, hunting things, and I get happy just watching – that image of the Impala and her boys speeding down the road is so iconic, it just makes me smile every time. When it comes to this Show? I’m easy.
We also get another sassy smart female sheriff (with strikingly beautiful eyes).
Kandyse McClure also had some great scenes with Jensen in Dark Angel btw. The Winchesters are in Colorado, so Dean gets to say ‘a trippin’ trip’ so that’s all good. The boys split up and Dean gets the story from the hapless young woman witness. She tells him that the monster might have been a man or a woman because not only did it not have any hair, but it didn’t have a…
Dean: A penis?
With a bit of Jensen Texas twang no less.
Dean also gets to come up with a name for the MotW, which we all know he relishes. This one is Junkless, because no way will Dean not let that be its defining feature. I love Sam’s exasperated “is that really what we’re going with here?” and Dean’s affirmative shrug.
We also get an amazing brotherly teasing scene, with Dean perched jauntily on Sam’s desk in his well-fitting suit, teasing Sam about being a sinner and a rebel for his college weed smoking days. Sam’s indignation and Dean’s obvious pleasure in teasing his brother are just delicious.
Predictably, Sam comes back with : You’re an idiot.
Winchester for “But I love you anyway.”
Me too, Sam. Me too.
The boys pay a visit to Etta Fraser (April Telek, a Supernatural alum), who flirts with Sam and delights in talking about “diddling” and orgies. Both Etta and Dean seem to thoroughly enjoy Sam getting flustered by all the flirtatious attention.
And then the boys split up again, which is never a good idea. Dean heads into the beautiful Vancouver woods, which are so striking as a background for any adventures, Colorado or elsewhere. Show goes into horror movie mode for a bit – Libby standing there shaking and chittering was absolutely terrifying! And then, sure enough, Dean is bowled over and nearly gets taken down by the monster. Cesar (Hugo Ateo) and Jesse (Lee Rumohr) to the rescue!
Two other hunters who clearly know their stuff. They share a beer with Dean and Sam, bickering in a very familiar way.
Dean: (laughing) You guys fight just like brothers. Almost as bad as us.
Cesar: Well, it’s more like an old married couple.
Dean: (right, just like…. *3, 2, 1…light bulb*)
Dean has an “Oh!” moment and then that’s that.
Dean: So what’s it like, settling down with another hunter?
Fandom ships of all sorts: Ummmm.
But the truth is, Sam and Dean do fight just like an old married couple. In fact, it’s been described just that way by both Bobby and Charlie in the past. I don’t dare hope for a happy ending for Sam and Dean, but I do love me some future fic of retired hunters in rocking chairs on the porch…
Several articles praised Supernatural this week for being quietly progressive – in this episode, an interracial gay couple are hunters and heroes, presented without judgment or comment. And they survive! A few episodes ago, a lesbian couple and their daughter also left the episode still breathing. The song that’s playing in the bar scene in this episode is “Things Have Changed” and I wonder if that’s a bit of meta commentary on Show changing too.
Side note: There’s a moment in the bar when Sam walks in and says “Nothing in the alley” to Dean and slaps him on the chest to punctuate that comment. It was such a Jared gesture – he often slaps Jensen like that to make a point when they’re at a con. It made me smile, a little character bleed or vice versa.
Side note 2: When we chatted with First AD Kevin Parks a few weeks ago, he mentioned that his beautiful Samoyed Kuma would be having a walk-on appearance in an upcoming episode. Did you spot him?
The stories come together as we find out that Jesse is the little kid who lost his big brother all those years ago.
Jesse: One of them took my brother.
The camera shows Sam and Dean’s expressions as that sinks in, both of them hit hard by that possibility. There’s nothing worse, for a Winchester. They get it.
The hunter pairs split up, which I usually don’t like, but in this case it gives us the opportunity for some wonderful dialogue. Cesar and Dean go in search of the burrow while Sam and Jesse pay a visit to the retired sheriff. In the Impala, we get a surprisingly serious conversation between Dean and Cesar about loss and revenge and hunting. And love. How people get into hunting. The toll loss takes on people, and how that toll never disappears completely.
Dean: It’s hard to watch someone you love go through that, isn’t it?
He knows. What it did to Dad, what it did to Sam. What it did to him. He knows.
I really liked the scenes between Dean and Cesar. They worked together as a team, and they seemed to understand each other. You get the feeling they are both men of great strength and great emotionality.
The conversation between Sam and Jesse was just as serious and just as well done. Two little brothers, and they relate out of that commonality and the commonality of loss. Jesse tells Sam about the day he lost his brother, how he searched frantically for Matty, calling for him, finally finding him – and the shock and horror of seeing his brother’s eyes flash green, of knowing he wasn’t human.
Boy, can Sam Winchester ever relate to that!
Jesse: They (the town) didn’t accept a lot of things. But Matty did. He was a great big brother.
The camera cuts to Sam, lost in his own thoughts, thinking of Dean. It made me tear up, just seeing the expression on Sam’s face, how completely he understands how Jesse must have felt.
Then we get another memorable character in the old Sheriff. Instead of the one dimensional bad guy I was expecting, we get a broken old man who also lost the only person he loved – his daughter. His heartbreaking story, brilliantly acted, really got to me. It was another vivid reminder of what loss can do to someone – what Sam and Dean are constantly facing. Jesse is enraged that the sheriff refused to believe him, letting the rest of the town call him a liar, when he too knew there were monsters.
Jesse: I never got over what I lost that day – the one person I loved the most.
A primary theme of Supernatural from the beginning. (And one we’ve heard several times this season, explicitly). The impact of loss and trauma, alongside the power of love and courage.
Sam clearly understands how Jesse feels, but I think he understands the older man’s breakdown too. There was that time Sam lost his brother and broke, running away to hide with a dog and an equally broken vet.
Sam and Jesse head to the old mine to find the bisaan. Cesar and Dean are already there.
Some people felt that this episode was sort of slow paced, but for me, there was a constant tension simply because I CARED so damn much. Cesar and Dean walk through the woods, a gorgeous scene by Serge Ladouceur as their flashlight beams cut through the darkness. I was back to screaming NONONONONONO as they found the mine and went inside, sure that Cesar was going to die.
We’re back to horror movie scary, Dean and Cesar in the dark mine hunting monsters by flashlight. Cesar holds his own though, and then we have Dean finding the bodies of the women, monster babies wriggling inside their corpses (did I mention horror movie?). The camera pans around Dean staring at the bodies and AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH BEHIND YOU DEAN! Good thing he’s such an effing badass – he decapitates the thing with a goddamn shovel! Dayum.
Jesse and Sam catch up, and I’m still biting my nails because in horror movies it’s never that easy, so I was convinced that another wave of bisaan was going to come and kill Jesse when he went in alone. Instead we get an unexpectedly tender – and agonizingly heartbreaking – scene, as Jesse finds his brother’s body after all these years.
The parallels had been drawn well enough that I couldn’t help but think of Sam and Dean, and all the times they’ve held each other’s lifeless bodies and sobbed, broken. Lee Rumohr did a fabulous job throughout of portraying Jesse, and here he outdid himself. His broken exclamations, full of shock and sadness, rang so true.
Jesse: Oh jeez…I found Matty…oh jeez…
He pulls out the leather wallet and the coin that was going to be the brothers’ ticket to a better life, and I pulled out the box of tissues once again.
Behind him, Sam and Dean look as emotional as I feel and I know they too are thinking of all those times.
And who didn’t have amulet feels at that moment??
There’s a hunter’s funeral at the end, some closure for Jesse. Two pairs of hunters, there for each other, dealing with the loss that is so much a part of what they do.
Sam confides in Dean about how terrified he was as a kid every time Dean left to hunt with Dad, certain that something had happened to him, that he wouldn’t come back.
Sam: I tried to figure out what to do…. But I was just lost.
Dean: We came back though, every time.
He hears Sam, though. It’s just a few lines, but it’s such a poignant glimpse into the Winchesters’ childhood, and their relationship over all these many years. I cherish those, every time.
The Winchesters consider asking for Cesar and Jesse’s help. Then Cesar and Jesse reveal that they’re now going to retire, raise horses on the ranch they bought. Unless of course the Winchesters need saving?
Dean says no, and Sam looks over at him, instantly understanding.
Sam: Couldn’t do it, huh?
Dean: Nah, it didn’t feel right.
Sam: Two hunters who make it to the finish line…
Dean: Yeah, you leave that alone.
The Impala drives off, leaving me to wonder if Sam and Dean could make it too.
Oh, Show. Why do you make me care so damn much?
Ps – Don’t stop.
Also, can Nancy Won please stick around. Like, forever?
This episode worked in the way I enjoy so much, letting us see Sam and Dean in parallel with other characters. I love the insights we get, and the mirrors the brothers get of themselves and each other. I’m guessing it also works as a bit of foreshadowing. Loss? Revenge? The love of a brother (or sister)? We know something bad is coming, and these episodes that remind us of the redeeming power of love and the devastating power of loss just put me more on edge. Who’s going to come hold my hand through the finale???
Thanks to @kayb625 for the caps!
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