john moloch

Seven Things About Supernatural: 12x18 - The Memory Remains

I haven’t had an opportunity to do a rewatch yet – life stuff, tax stuff, etc. – but I want to get some things written before they go out of my head.  So.

  1. Three big things are going on with Dean this ep: Cas being missing, Dean’s  behavior as the holder of the Colt, and Dean’s hookup with Carmen.

    We know that Dean is stressed with Cas being MIA.  This is two episodes straight where we know he’s making calls, and he makes it clear to Sam that he’s been trying to track Cas through the usual channels – his phone, police and hospitals, etc. – to no avail.  It bothers him.  He’s not okay.  This is an active stressor for Dean.  When Dean is stressed out in one area, he tends to turn up the volume on other behaviors in other areas.  The boy’s got coping mechanisms for days, generally manifesting in violence, substance use, erratic behavior, and recreational sex.

    The situation with the Colt might well be the simplest thing happening with him in this ep.  He has the Colt and he’s practically fucking doting on it: maintaining it while he talks with Sam, carrying it as his regular weapon, etc. It makes good sense that he’s keeping it close with Dagon in play, but I feel like it’s more than that.  Holding the Colt means holding something that makes him more powerful.  It simplifies things.  He doesn’t have to think as much when he’s got that in hand.  Given that he’s already stressed, this is welcome.  

    And then there’s Carmen, the waitress with a familiar name (2x20, his djinn-induced dream girlfriend) with whom he blows off some steam in an easy, brother-ditching hookup.  There’s nothing to critique about recreational sex – people have it, it’s fun, blah, blah, blah – and it’s been a part of Dean’s character for most of the show that hookups of opportunity are a part of his lifestyle.  What’s interesting about it is the timing: Dean’s out of balance with Cas missing and the temptations inherent in holding the Colt.  

    Mindless hookups of opportunity aren’t just satisfying in their own right (which again, I’m going to allow that they are) when they’re also compensating for another unmet need, or relieving stress.  Dean and sex, Dean and drink, Dean and burgers?  Pursuit of pleasure to compensate for pain is Dean’s real lifestyle choice.  That the thing is satisfying in its own right is immaterial when there’s a pattern, and there is.
  2. I’d be curious how intentional it was on John Bring’s part to bring in a metric fuckton of callbacks to other episodes.  There were shades of the Benders and the Stynes, as well as the community in Scarecrow.  Shades of law enforcement handwaving from The Chitters.  There was an outsider brother (Andy’s brother Ansem in 2x05, Adam Milligan) trying to get his due.  There was the taxidermy thing (direct 9x05, but also 7x17 and 3x13 if you squint), Carmen’s name, Game of Thrones references (various episodes from S9 on).  And, of course, the carving of initials onto the bunker table which…
  3. …brings me to an uncomfortable thing in that there’s a lot of talk about legacy and endings, passing things on, and the bunker itself.  I know I’m not the only one looking at this and wondering a) if they’re starting to set the pieces in place for a path to endgame, and b) worried about the Bunker’s continued existence, but…yeah.  Those two things.  At an extremely high volume.
  4. One of the big factors in my concern for the Bunker is, obviously, the BMoL home invasion party.  Which, wow.  Massive violation on an extraordinary scale.  And worrying in terms of the Winchesters maintaining a home base beyond S12.  I wouldn’t call it unexpected – this is really just escalation from Ketch bringing liquor and Mick showing up uninvited with the unwelcome news that all chapter house keys work on all chapter houses – but it’s ugly. 

    Two interesting things about this:
    - Ketch steals a photo
    - Dean shit-talks Ketch after the phone call at the table he and Sam just marked.

    This suggests to me that Dean, without even seeing the rest of the Bunker or having an opportunity to discover the missing photo, has an inkling that something is Wrong.  Because that bike?  He liked that bike earlier in the season.      
  5. It’s also a penny dropping for me about the nature of Ketch’s particular flavors of monstrousness, and his relationship with Lady Toni.  Arthur Ketch isn’t just someone groomed to violence.  He’s got obsessive behaviors that his training can’t compensate for.  He’s fixating on Mary enough that he broke the single cardinal rule of the operation he was staging: leave no trace.  He’s fixating on Mary, and given how dangerous he is as an individual, I think we can assume that any kind of pathological attachment is absolutely a flag for other forms of potential violence incoming.
  6. Going back to the premise of the episode, I did really enjoy the idea of a company town with a bit of nasty local lore, all of it with requisite “just the way things are” logical explanation.  

    Like, how many small towns have weird folklore?  And how much of it is genuine weird and how much of it is people being fucked up in unexpected or unpredictable ways?  

    We’ve also got someone at the heart of a nasty family legacy – “hunting people, killing them, the family business” – taking responsibility for it.  That makes me worry in whole other ways about, say, Mary.
  7. For once, my “watching while Pagan” moment was less about squirming at the show getting it super wrong, and more about pointing out one of the many, many reasons Carthage must be destroyed.  

Bonus Thing: 
Okay, but seriously.  Carthage must be destroyed. 

Moloch Winchester (12x18)

Continuing the theme of the haunting of S12 by the monstrous psychic figure of the father

(see )

John Bring’s episode weaves that theme with deft fingers, into its MotW disguise. 

We open with two young men, Jared and Darren, watching a bunch of other young folk (hetero) making out round a fire in the woods. They are solo. Jared isn’t into it. 

The Sheriff tells us that Jared “fell down the stairs a lot, if you know what I mean”. He was beaten by his Dad, until “the guy stroked out”.

Darren smokes a lot of weed. 

These kids are Sam and Dean mirrors part I (a lonely childhood, one of them not hetero, getting beaten by Dad, getting high…)

Pete and Barry the Sheriff (half brothers) make mirrors part II (one trying to break free of the “family business” and one trying to roll with it). 

And the “goat-dude with a name like a pirate”, the monster in the basement? It’s not Black Bill, who Sam thinks may be a Satyr feasting on the meat of his victims after an orgy of lust. It’s Moloch, goat-headed god, to whom in the Bible, children are sacrificed. Black Bill is merely the surface shadow, servant of the god (an explicit mirroring to alert us to all the others which lurk beneath). 

The Sheriff’s basement, where the god lives, demanding to be fed with blood, represents the psychic depths of the Winchesters’ family history. The Winchesters were children sacrificed on the altar of their father’s revenge quest.

“My family, we got a secret….” says the Sheriff.

“Hunting people, killing them, the family business….” says Pete his (half) brother. 

The “family business” John Winchester raised his kids in, is a hungry monster, demanding sacrifice. Living as hunters the Winchesters are lonely, feeding “the life” with the blood of the supernatural creatures they kill, wondering whether they will be forgotten when they are dead. 

The MotW link with their childhood is made explicit. We see them carve their initials into the table at the bunker, just as we see their child-selves in flash-back do the same to the Impala. John’s Impala. 

John Winchester is everywhere.

Dean, trapped in the meat-locker at the plant, is stalked (haunted) by Moloch (John). We catch his growl, a glimpse of his cloven hands, his horns, but we never clearly see him. The beast-ghost in the psychic machine. 

Sam shoots Moloch with the Colt, a symbolic dramatic irony. John’s mirror (John’s ghost) slain with the very weapon of his obsession (the one he hunted for so long to kill Azaezel with). Sam frees Dean from the oppressive pursuit of Moloch, just as Sam’s (much earlier) rebellion against their Dad finally ignited an answering rebellion in Dean.   

Now Ketch, who is sleeping with Mary (standing in the place of John Winchester) fingers Dean’s treasured photograph of his mother before her death (holding him as a child). Ketch is the menacing presence now. He has Sam and Dean’s death warrants signed by the BMOL. He is coming for them. He is mirror Moloch, mirror John. 

Not for nothing is the episode titled The Memory Remains. Ostensibly the memory of the horrible acts committed by the Sheriff’s family to feed Moloch (which the Sheriff himself tries to atone for), but beneath the surface, the memory of the childhood Sam and Dean endured, the beast-monster in their psychic basement - a memory still not fully spoken between them.