Who knew that silly, sad sack Martin had such potential to go so thoroughly off the rails? The last time we saw Martin was in Season 5’s “Sam, Interrupted” when a lot of lip service was paid to the fact that the dude was a great hunter—even though he was borderline useless for most of the episode. Some of that missing confidence (and competence) showed through in “Citizen Fang,” Supernatural’s mid-season finale, when Justifiably Paranoid Sam teamed up with Overly Paranoid Martin to track Dean’s Vampire BFF Benny in Carencro, Louisiana. Benny was working in a gumbo shack, dead bodies kept turning up with their throats ripped out, and we got a shot of Benny burying a body. The evidence was certainly on the incriminating side, as far as Sam and Martin were concerned, but Dean pleaded for a few hours to do a little bit of investigating on his own, and even though Sam and Martin were all geared up for a witch hunt (well, vamp hunt), Sam managed to pull his head out of his ass for half a second and allow it. Of course, none of that mattered when Dean returned to exonerate Benny and no one believed him anyway but it’s the thought that counts? I guess?
By the end of “Citizen Fang,” every single principle character who appeared in the episode had indulged in some level of shady business and general dickishness. Little mistakes and wrongs snowballed into full-blown disaster and while once again, the Winchester brothers appear to be on the outs, this time it feels sincere, timely, and appropriate. They aren’t fighting about Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, fate, or their responsibility (or lack thereof) to save the universe. This is about trust.
I know, I know. “But we’ve DONE the trust thing a bazillion times!”
We sure have, but it’s always been on a broader, much more epic scale. Will Sam get high on demon blood and make a playdate with Lucifer? Can Dean be trusted not to run off and let Michael wear him to the apoca-prom? The worst-case scenario for each possible betrayal had far-reaching effects, well beyond the scope of Dean and Sam. “Citizen Fang,” however, was a much smaller and personal story. While crazy hunter Martin and Benny the Formerly Friendly Vampire added supernatural fun to the mix, the core conflict between Dean and Sam as we head into the holiday hiatus has less to do with monsters and more to do with everyday human stuf, just amplified. No one is right and no one is wrong. Even Benny, who killed a guy, was forced into an impossible situation that left him with little choice but to either defend himself and his family, or literally lay down and die.
So let’s start with contestant numero uno: Sam Winchester, and contestant number one-and-a-half, Martin. Sam recruited Martin to tail Benny in secret because he was convinced that Benny would act on his biological vampire imperative and eat ALL the people. Sam wasn’t wrong to be concerned even though I thought that his justification to Dean was a bit flawed. Admittedly, he might have done better with an argument that didn’t hinge entirely on “BUT HE’S A VAMPIRE.” It’s not like he and Dean haven’t encountered “vegetarian” vampires before. Plus they let that werewolf broad go in Supernatural’s ode to motion sickness and neither of them knew her well enough to really trust her.
Still, one could argue that Sam sees Dean making the sort of mistakes with Benny that he made back in the day with Ruby and we all know how receptive he was to Dean’s interference that time around, right? What we have here is a classic role-reversal.
However, that brings us to contestants two and three, Dean and Benny. Unlike the Ruby situation where Dean was absolutely correct that Ruby was playing Sam and manipulating him in the name of the glory of Satan, Sam was, initially, wrong about Benny. Another vampire, Desmond, got wind of Benny’s return and wanted to recruit Benny to his nest. The trail of bodies was his way of saying, “I like you. We should go on a murder spree. P.S. Attendance is mandatory.”
Up until that delightful death fake-out at the end of the episode, Benny hadn’t given Dean a reason not to trust him—which he eagerly pointed out to Sam when Sam and Martin rejected his defense of Benny as emotionally blinded blah blah. Ouch, bro. Would you like some more salt to rub in Sam’s gaping emo-kid wounds?
“Must be nice to have finally found someone after all these years.” Oh, okay, so we’re going to do the bitter resentment thing on both sides of sibling pond. I don’t mind that at all, actually. I like Sam. I like Dean. I don’t want to take sides. I’m pretty happy just to watch this whole familial mess play out.
So, Martin punched Dean in the face. He and Sam decided to go chop Benny’s head off anyway, but in mid-hunt, Sam got a mysterious text message from Amelia asking for help and sounding rather desperate about the whole thing. Without so much as an explanation, he left “mostly okay” Martin on his own in the middle of the hunt, stole his car, and headed for Texas. Meanwhile, Dean had done the Houdini thing back at the hotel and met up with Benny to take on Desmond, which they swiftly did in a rather anti-climactic showdown at one of Supernatural’s stock empty warehouses. Up came the red flags. So many red flags. I actually ran out of them by the end of this episode.
Red Flag #1: Benny looked a little hungry while Dean bled all over the place after his tussle with Desmond. Have we seen him actively long for blood in the past, or is this like Sam’s demon blood thing where it’s a completely irrelevant plot point until circumstances call for it to be relevant again?
Red Flag #2: Martin proceeded to derail completely after Sam stranded him in the middle of Vampire Country. He sounded pretty unbalanced during his conversation with Dean where Dean told him to leave Benny alone and stop hunting altogether. Even though I kind of figured out where he was going to end up once Elizabeth’s connection to Benny was revealed, Martin’s phone call to Benny was actually quite scary.
Red Flag #3: Amelia looked pretty freaking fine, sipping beer with formerly dead Don, for someone who only a few scenes earlier had appeared to send Sam a cry for help.
Of all the dick moves prevalent in “Citizen Fang,” Dean’s manipulation of Sam through Amelia certainly took a huge chunk of the resentment cake, if only because the amount of preparation required to execute it revealed a level of calculating pre-meditation that is pretty horrifying coming from the guy who likes to wave the trust card in the air every freaking chance he gets. Dean went into Sam’s cell phone at some point this season when Sam wasn’t present and changed the phone number listed as Amelia’s to one of the Winchesters' burner phones. He then sent Sam a text message from that phone, wholly intending for Sam to panic and abandon the hunt to go “save” Amelia. Considering both of their personal histories with the women they've cared about and Sam’s own issues with trust and losing everyone he has ever held dear, that was really awful. That was so awful that I’m not even sure how I should take it. Was it a moment of out-of-characterness—the writers sacrificing Dean as we know him in the name of DRAMA? Or was it a sign of a newer, darker-er Dean Winchester—a natural progression for a character who, at times, is barely recognizable as the womanizing, pie-loving, annoying big-brother type of the earlier seasons?
I don’t know. I just don’t know—though I can’t wait to find out.
If it was a moment of character assassination, it was a very good moment. Jensen Ackles doesn’t get to play the “bad guy” very often even though we know that he has the chops to make Dean very scary when the need arises. From 2014 Dean to Purgatory Dean to the fact that even Default Dean, for all of his occasional bouts of self-righteousness, has occasionally revealed that he thinks of himself as a sort of monster—Dean has some darkness in him. Come out and play, darkness! ILU.
Speaking of good guys doing bad things, Benny fell off the wagon and he fell hard. Mostly Okay Martin, after a quick name-change to So NOT Okay Martin, went back to the gumbo shack to take Benny’s great-granddaughter, Liz, hostage. He was going to kill him a vampire whether that vampire was a homicidal maniac or not, dammit.
There was no way for that scene not to end badly. If Martin had killed Elizabeth, there would have been guilt-tripping and blood baths and angst. If Martin had killed up-until-that-point-innocent Benny, there would have been angst (and again, NICE fake-out, show. You’re two for two with me!). However, the extent of Benny’s relapse hasn’t yet been made clear. He killed Martin, and I’m thinking that the fact that he left his traumatized kin sitting in the blood-soaked aftermath of his rampage speaks to his apparent mindset, but we just don’t know. Certainly, he was justified in defending himself and Lizzie. His good guy/bad guy status can’t really be confirmed until we see what he’s doing with himself when we come back in January, though if I were him, I’d go after Sam and his ladyfriend since Sam’s paranoid employ of Martin was the big catalyst that blew up his happy little life on the bayou. And okay, and I’m desperate for the Amelia story to stop being boring, especially since our cliffhanger left those two in mid-reunion. Ugh.
– Dean: “You sent ‘mostly okay’ Martin to tail Benny?” I’m not sure why, but that one made both me and the fiance completely lose it, and he doesn’t even particularly like this show.
– “Sometimes it’s not easy to see things for what they are.” OMG was that an actual SEGUE into Sam Winchester’s stroke-induced flashbacks? Also, again with the taunting, show. You can’t give me a line like that and NOT follow up with a demon or a shapeshifter or something COOL.
– Speaking of Sam’s Stepford Life, we learned that his mysterious sneaking-out-the-door thing from the season premiere was because he felt bad about banging a dude’s wife when he ended up being less dead, less evil, and less un-dead than everyone initially thought. He left so that Amelia wouldn’t have to choose between him and her husband. Really? That’s IT? Half a season of the most amazingly boring flashbacks I have EVER seen on television and THAT’S IT?
Handy Dandy Mid-season Questionnaire
1. Dean’s pre-meditated manipulation: Out-of-character or a long time coming?
2. What do you think Benny is up to? Has he gone full bad guy?
3. Obligatory Sam and Amelia question: Free form! Give me your thoughts. I want to know who Jared Padalecki pissed off in the writers room to get stuck with this mind-numbing snoozefest.