Supernatural "Bitten" Review: Motion Sickness Masterpiece Theater

Supernatural S08E04: “Bitten”

I suspect there will be mixed reactions to “Bitten,” somewhere along the divisive lines drawn by Season 3's “Ghostfacers.” The big complaint with “Ghostfacers” was that it lacked Sam and Dean and emphasized minor characters and guest actors and if you hated that approach then, you probably hated it in "Bitten." However, I freaking LOVED “Ghostfacers” and I’m a dork for “found footage” movies, motion sickness and all, so I really dug “Bitten.”

Dean and Sam walked into the gory aftermath of what appeared to be a horrific supernatural murder in a house shared by three college students, Brian, Kate, and Mike. HOORAY FOR GORE. That was some high-quality gore. First-rate. Really. Good gore and grainy handheld footage just push all of my Halloween buttons. (Maybe they should have saved this one for next week?) Unlike so many Supernatural episodes, “Bitten” was actually frightening in the psychological sense, rather than in the OMG WEREWOLVES sense. It was scary the way (literary-nod-of-the-week) Lord of the Flies is scary: When the game of life changes, people can be pretty awful to each other.

Now, again, if you didn’t care about the three non-regular characters and you only tuned in for your weekly Winchester fill, watching the formerly tight trio of friends utterly self-destruct once super werewolf powers were introduced to their lives might not have broken your heart into a million itty-bitty pieces like their story was intended to. It’s cool. The tough thing about an episode like “Bitten,” where the standard episode format is thrown out the window, is that it can be a very good hour of television while still failing to entertain fans of the series who (rightfully) have certain expectations when they tune in every Wednesday night.

I want to move forward. I want to know what happened to Castiel. I want the Benny situation to blow up like we all know that it eventually will. I want to find the Tran family. Poor Dumb Brian reported that Sam and Dean “talked about” their year apart, but it would have been nice to witness what was probably a doozy of a chat. And hey, I’m shallow—Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are pretty and I like to look at them and there wasn’t much opportunity to do so during their limited screentime this week. These are the factors that worked against “Bitten” and perhaps inhibited it from claiming a spot among the Great Hours in Supernatural History, but they didn’t stop it from being a great episode of television in general.

So, we had the gore, we had the Winchesters, and we needed our monster(s). Someone had the foresight to leave a Post-It on a laptop with “Play Me” clearly instructing the brothers what to do, and with the click of a mouse we met our three future werewolves/corpses. I immediately liked them. They were dorks. Supernatural doesn’t have a great track record with its on-screen treatment of nerds, losers, and social rejects, but Brian, Mike, and Kate somehow managed to avoid becoming the butts of jokes. Brian, the president of the AV Club, sought to make a great film and began aimlessly shooting scenes of their campus with his BFF, the infinitely-cooler-but-still-nice Mike. Their filmmaking caught the attention of wannabe environmentalist/lawyer Kate... who hooked up with Mike, moved in, and promptly (though unintentionally) demoted Brian to third-wheel status. Brian had concluded that he was the Piggy to Mike’s Ralph a long time ago, so while the not-a-rejection rejection hurt, it didn’t exactly send him into a homicidal rage either. Yet.

Long story short, the roommates' English professor was a purebred werewolf who had once trained himself to survive on animals rather than humans. Unfortunately, he fell off the wagon, ate a student’s heart, and—knowing that hunters would be after him in no time—decided to turn perpetual class-snoozer Mike into a werewolf and set up Mike take the fall for him. Unlike our previous encounter with werewolves in Season 2, where Sam Winchester Death Peen Victim #12657, Madison, had no control over her change, these purebred werewolves were a different breed. Closer in relation to the alpha, they could change into their werewolf selves at will and survive without consuming human hearts if they tried hard enough. They also inherited super strength that wasn’t reliant upon being in wolf form. If you could avoid eating your neighbor, it wasn’t a bad deal at all and Brian immediately wanted in on the action.

Brian tracked Mike’s change to their English teacher and blackmailed the educator into biting him as well. Sam and Dean swept in shortly thereafter to smite Dr. Fuzzball and Brian thought that meant he and Mike were off the hook and could go back to being besties... except, well, there was still Kate in the middle, and Sam noticed Brian’s Candid Camera set-up in the corner of the professor’s office, so it was only a matter of time before the Winchesters found him too. Brian and Mike fought. Brian killed Mike. Brian turned Kate in hopes of making her his werewolf bride. Kate killed Brian, and it was Kate who finished the film and left the note for Dean and Sam before hitting the road with a plea that they let her go and a promise that she wouldn’t harm any humans. “This should have never ended this way.” GROUP HUG, YOU GUYS.

Supernatural has touched on the stories behind its “monsters” in the past, particularly the ones that were, in a way, victims themselves. Madison, Jack from “Metamorphosis,” the bully ghost in “After School Special,” and even, sometimes, Sam and Dean. But outside of Sam and Dean, we’ve never really seen the full "what it's like to be a monster" experience. We've always assumed that it was a terrible experience, but the guest-star has barrier always acted as a protective buffer. Madison’s fate was terrible, but it was made clear in “Heart” that her death ultimately hurt Sam the most and, to date, we haven't seen or heard about her again. Her story didn’t resonate in quite the same way as that of Kate, Brian, and Mike.

But something in their story certainly hit Dean, who we know has struggled with concerns over his “monster” status in the past, particularly after his time as a torturer in Hell. Earlier this season we discussed the way his experiences in Hell could've influenced the aftermath of his time in Purgatory, how Dean became a torturer to avoid being tormented himself, but never actually embraced the role the way he seemingly did in Purgatory. The Dean who returned from Hell saw himself as a monstrous torturer and hated the role. So far, we’ve been led to believe that Dean once again embraced his crueler tendencies in Purgatory, but this time, came back pretty okay with what he did and who he became... and he lives with it.

Okay, so I was fully expecting Dean to be dead-set on hunting Kate down despite her intentions to live a good life and clearly, so was Sam. She’s a monster. Monsters are bad. End of discussion—unless we’re talking about Eleanor. But I think Dean saw a little bit of himself in Kate. When he came back from Hell and saw himself as a monster, he thought that negated his right to call himself a hero. The Dean who came back from Purgatory has certainly grown and matured and now, much like werewolf newbie Katie, I think he understands that deep down inside, monsters are people too.

Case Notes

1. Is it just me or were there some definite Being Human vibes in “Bitten”? Three monsters living together—one embracing his power, one loathing it, and a chick stuck in the middle. Jeremy Carver, your influence is showing!

2. “Clear eyes, clogged arteries: can’t lose.” I see what you did there, Supernatural. Cute.

3. Totally caught the opening credits playing at the end. Clever. I like clever. Keep it up.

4. Kate on the tracks at sunset with the emo kid music was a gorgeous closing shot. GORGEOUS.

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