Seven Things About Supernatural: 12x06 - “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox”
So apparently we need to take everyone down to the Hot Topical for Supernatural merch. How do you get this many hunters together and only one of them has anti-possession mojo?
(Also, someone please notify our hunting team that ice is solid water. Oh, and I don’t care how much character that Pentacle of Mars has, nobody has time to draw a fucking scorpion in ashes with a scoop.)
- So this whole ep is beautiful, but I’m really taken with the way the show handled the exposition required to make an story centered around a dead stranger work: Mary tying up loose ends, Asa being inspired to take up the hunter’s mantle, the montage of his life, and the abrupt, terrible shock of his death. It’s exquisite storytelling, done in minutes, and damn. Just damn.
I smiled at the ways Asa’s unique, smiled at the ways he’s like Dean, was warmed by his determination and joy at the work, even though it’s difficult and scary, loved the way he wrote to Mary, who only exists to him as the hunter who saved him, and as a blurry Polaroid from 1980.
It’s so smart, because it shows us that not all hunters have traumatic loss origin stories, reiterates that hunters bear a special responsibility to hunt because someone has to, and places Mary – who is retiring and doesn’t want her kids to hunt – into the position of being Asa’s inspiration to become a hunter.
- And hey, let’s look at Mary in this ep. She passed the work down to Asa, even if she didn’t intend to or realize it, just like she did with her sons, and then Asa dies on a hunt not long after she returns not only to life generally but the life. In her scene with Asa, she is already Dean’s mother, but she also mothers Asa before sending him back inside by helping straighten up his hair and clothes.
When Loraine confronts her in the kitchen about her role in Asa’s choice to hunt, some of that is mother v. mother conflict. Loraine is Asa’s rightful mother, who brought him up and stuck around, while Mary is mythic, a Mother of Hunters, whose influence was so much stronger. They ultimately reconcile – which, holy chickens, is a personal manifestation of the overall reconciliation of Mythic Mary with actual Mary – but I think we can agree that Mary’s crisis mid-ep is pretty justified.
She didn’t ask to be this person. She tried to be the opposite. And yet, like Sam points out, it’s an inextricable part of who they are.
(Also, can we take a moment to stand in awe of the scene where Sam and Mary are talking over Asa’s body and Randy’s blood drips down from the ceiling onto his face? Because holy shit, this is a terrible, shared horror, and I’m not sure Jael could have known, or orchestrated it so perfectly. When it happened, though? Holy fucking fuck.)
- The inclusion of Jody in this story is wonderful – calling the boys out on – but particularly great because she’s such a crucial bridge for the boys.
She’s the reason they attend Asa’s wake. They’re a relatively isolated pair – John kept them separate, they were hunted for a while, etc. – but they care about her and want to support her. She helps bridge the emotional gap for them as an informal maternal figure who is now adjacent to their actual mother. She’s also a bit of a bridge for Mary toward the boys at the end, helping complete the circle.
All of the character stuff – the way she’s like FUCK YEAH NETFLIX AND BOOZE, her whole you stink/here eat this thing with the boys, confirmation that her life without them is increasingly interesting/full, Sam outing Dean’s hentai habit, etc. – is also fantastic, and Kim Rhodes was fucking fantastic with red eyes.
Also, how is Jody getting home?! She rode in with the boys. Please tell me they all go to breakfast together.
- So Sam and Dean are surprised that people tell stories about them, but uh, guys, there are whole books about you.
(Gods, can you imagine some random hunter stumbling across the books? Can you imagine them finding the fan fiction? Oh, and did we mention Dean killed Hitler? We did? Because that happened.)
So yeah, 12x06 adds hunter lore as another layer to the story within a story within a story thing that the show has. We’ve got reality prime, created by but ultimately independent from Chuck. We’ve got the books, which exist in tandem but aren’t 100% in synch. We’ve got myriad forms of in-show fan reaction/interpretation. And, just to be difficult, we have the implication that show canon itself isn’t quite accurate given differences in the way Sam and Dean speak and act in the reality show footage in 3x13 (and possibly even the student film/video letter left by Kate in 8x04).
I have to wonder what the hunter lore about the Winchesters is like. It seems like we’ve come a long way from like Gordon Walker, Kubrick, and Creedy, moving on from “let’s murder them in their beds” to “let’s be awkward at Sam about Lucifer.” It’s another big part of bringing them into a new place as characters, and I like it.
(Bucky, on the other hand, is fucked.)
- One of the things I especially liked about this ep is that Loraine didn’t turn out to be the big bad. I went in expecting a Ten Little Murder Victims story – the Clue ep that isn’t The Clue Ep, so to speak – with the Wronged Party acting out revenge in a fit of psychotic grief.
We still got something in that vein – a locked house with a killer inside – but the way it plays out is so much more satisfying than another variation on a bad old trope about predatory women. It’s so much smarter the way it plays out with Jael, the even more obvious big bad, being…well, more or less an attendee. A disruptive, murderous attendee with a score to settle, but an attendee nonetheless.
- Billie. BILLIE. She’s such a great antagonist, and Lisa Berry is amazing, and I was very concerned at the end when she tries to collect Mary as payment for letting Dean into the Fox family home through the warding.
Actually, I’m still kind of concerned, because owing Billie is probably not going to be great in the longer term, even if she was bound by the rules not to just collect the Winchester Of Her Choice without their consent.
Then again, she really just needs to be patient. It’s not like she won’t get to collect all of them eventually…
- I’m really enjoying this longer arc of Mary processing on her own terms, and how difficult it is for Dean. He’s still pretty heavily locked into (toxic) ideas that John taught him about how families work, and so Mary’s independence is terribly hard for him to process.
He’s afraid, he hurts, and it’s not a terribly good or productive look on him, not least because there’s no good way for Mary to answer to him. On some level he’s still trying to be proprietary about Mary, but now that she is living and real he can’t be in charge of her memory. He’s so used to hanging on to her that when she needs to be a person, he loses it.
Jody’s talk with him at the door is so important. She’s someone who has lost family and would take them back in a heartbeat, but it can never be the same as it was. She speaks directly to his fear and makes sure to leave the door open.
We’re seeing him get better about this, but we also see him have one of his old, bad dark moments about the hunting life ending in violent death, so we know the work is still in progress. I’m glad it is taking a long time, because when he gets there it will mean something.
Mary is also modeling how to process things a an individual, which is pretty remarkable in terms of parental influence on both of the boys. Her actions are difficult for Dean, but they’re entirely healthy and reasonable, and I love that she makes her own choices without caving.
Bonus Thing: Holy crap, I think this may be one of the few episodes with near-equal gender representation. Our active players are Sam, Dean, Max, Bucky, Elvis, and Loraine, Mary, Alicia, Billie, and Jody. Jael takes a body of each.
Randy and Asa skew the totals, but Randy dies early and Asa is…well, he’s pretty much dead for the action of the ep.
Bonus Thing: I love Max and Alicia Banes so much. I want them to come back. I want them in on Wayward Daughters. I want to read a dozen books about them. Also, I think Max was coming on to Sam before Elvis interrupted them to ask awkward fanboy questions, and this delights me.
Bonus Thing: Between the bacon and the “I’m fine,” Dean and Mary are so related. It’s neat, too, the reversal that’s happening with Sam having to play voice of reason/peacemaker between them after Dean had to do that with Sam and John. Bacon is the Winchester olive branch.