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.
- 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.
- 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…
- …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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Okay, but seriously. Carthage must be destroyed.