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TV Review: Supernatural – “Freaks and Geeks”

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, given last week’s stellar episode, “Freaks and Geeks” this week is a much more pedestrian installment. Not every week can be outstanding, and this episode is by no means terrible. It passes enjoyably enough, especially if you don’t examine the premise too carefully. The trio of young stars are more engaging than the forgettable actors in “Bitten,” and it never gets old seeing the gentler side of Dean that interacting with kids bring out in him. Sam, though, has little to do than affirm he really truly is unhappy in his current life. He must get tired of Krissy finding him tied to a chair.

Sam with Krissy, Josephine and AidenI like when Supernatural builds up its world. For most series on network TV, killing off a beloved character is a daring move seldom made. In this series, it’s par for the course. So I enjoyed seeing Krissy Chambers of “Adventures in Babysitting” again. The role of sassy teen is a hard one to keep on the right side of annoying, but Madison McLaughlin has the advantage of working with Jensen Ackles, who finds chemistry with all his co-stars.

Dean has always had a rapport with children. He is both in touch with his own inner child and the protective older brother, a combination to which most kids respond. Watching Dean try to handle a teenage female version of himself is amusing and rather sweet. The other two kids are not as well developed as Krissy, but they both do the little that is asked of them.

The main villain in a cardigan is well played, but guessing the plot is far too easy. Victor has lost his own family to a wendigo, and his way of dealing with the grief is to decide to make super hunters. He gives a vampire free roaming rights if he makes vampires to order. The vampire’s job is to kill the families of the teenage kids Victor decides are the cream of the crop. He’s already succeeded with three: smart Josephine, fast Aiden, and natural leader Krissy.

After giving each a reason to hunt, Victor gathers them together in a family unit and gives them both training and homework schedules, as they maintain a “normal” life while killing vampires. It’s all shades of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

But even on Buffy, the slayer paid a huge price for her ability to hunt the big bad. On Supernatural, hunters have their own society because their life puts any civilians in their lives in danger. Not only did Dean have to face this with Lisa and Ben, Sam learned to his horror Jess’s death was just a step in the demon’s plans for him. I’m not quite sure why Sam is so interested by Victor’s plan for the kids, even before the man revealed how deeply disturbed he was. When Dean told his brother earlier in the season he couldn’t have a foot in either world because it would get him killed, Sam didn’t disagree.

Jensen Ackles and Jared PadaleckiBut Sam does seem to like the idea of young hunters growing up together, dispatching monsters at night and doing homework by day. He seems to be drawn by the idea of a home base, of participating in teenage rites of passage. Though both Winchesters did go to school, they moved constantly, making them perpetually the new kids, the outsiders. Krissy and her friends, it seems to Sam, can be a real part of their communities.

Can they, really? Buffy examined the difficulties of living a double life, dealing with a different set of problems from the average kid and occasionally losing someone dear because of those problems. Buffy did not date successfully in high school. She had great difficulty keeping up with homework. She lost her mother because of her job. And Supernatural’s world is grimmer in that regard than Buffy’s was. It’s no accident Victor’s focus is on the hunter side of his plan, not the normal life.

That plan doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny, unfortunately. Hunters are routinely brought into the life through tragedy. Most of them have a reason to hunt. Victor seems to think current hunters still aren’t very good, though how he can say that talking to the best hunters around, themselves sons of the best hunter of his age, is puzzling. Garth is hardly the best example of a contemporary hunter, and even Garth has his strengths. Gordon, Tamara and her husband, Rufus—we’ve seen several examples of very effective hunters.

Victor seems to think putting kids in teams and training them young is the genius of his plan, giving them enough of a family and social life they won’t face the isolated life most hunters do. And Sam’s intrigued. But Victor has never recovered from his own loss and is in fact mentally ill. His fatherly façade hides a cold blooded killer, manipulating his young charges in ways that are worse than facing a monster outright. Sam’s had enough experience with loss himself he should be more suspicious of a world where he could have his cake and eat it, too. There’s always a price to pay for whatever road we take.

Clearly, Sam has not in his heart chosen to be back in his hunting life with Dean. The Men of Letters background has not given him a better fit into the family business. He’s still searching for a way to live some kind of normal life. But I’m puzzled what that life looks like to Sam. Is what he is missing a way to take part in community while still hunting? If he could have a day job and hunt at night, he’d be happy? How does he see his loved ones ever being safe if he’s an active hunter?

Sam should know even retiring is difficult for a hunter, never mind trying to live a double life.  Ellen went off the road when she had Jo, and she still ended up losing everyone she held dear.  Krissy’s dad tried to retire and his former life came and got him, anyway. Dean had to face he had exposed his family to a terrible fate when he came to stay.

Dean seems to think closing the gates of hell is the answer, and certainly removing demons would alleviate some problems. But it wouldn’t take care of all Eve’s children, who are very capable of death and destruction in their own right. A djinn almost got Dean, twice. Even angels can be destructive to people. Hunting is never going to be safe.

I’m curious where the writers are going with Sam. The Batcave could offer a home base, but it doesn’t give the boys any access to a normal community, which seems to be what Sam is craving. Would he really want to raise kids in the bunker to be hunters? It still seems to me Sam will have to choose which life he wants to lead, and I hope he does so sooner rather than later.

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