Last week, "Supernatural" took a big artistic risk with "Bitten," the found-footage episode that delved into the very short lives of three co-eds turned werewolves with the two leads rack up scant minutes of airtime. For this blogger, the risk was worth it. This week, "Supernatural" took another gamble by wading into the back-story Dean's ally in Purgatory—a vampire named Benny—and unfortunately, it went bust. It's a shame, especially since this episode aired on Halloween and didn't contain a single jump-out-of-your-skin scare that “Supernatural” has mastered.
For years, I've always wanted "Supernatural" (and any other procedural-esque show) to abandon the weekly case and flesh out the drama in the character's lives, and this week, the show obliged, dropping the monster-of-the-week to pick up the mythology of a missing Kevin Tran and the tablet that could rid the world of demons. Dean and Sam squabbled like an old married couple as they realized that their in-the-wind prophet, and his mad hacking skills had sent them on a wild goose chase to Enid, Oregon. Like any married couple, they have no problem dredging up past transgressions, ya know, like that time Dean tried to slit Mama Tran's throat. "I was trying to kill Crowley, who happened to be wearing Kevin's mother at the time, there's a difference," Dean boasted as if his entire hunting career was not based on an evil thing killing his mother.
The argument ended when he got a phone call with what appeared to be a lousy connection. He muttered something about "not enough bars," and headed outside to talk to Benny. Or what was left of him. As we saw in the cold open, Benny, gunning for payback against his maker and The Old Man who killed him, had taken on a gang of vampires, and while he had won, he'd been hacked up like a Thanksgiving turkey during the fight. He needed Dean's help, and Dean went running. Sam was understandably miffed, not because Dean was leaving, but because of his flimsy "a friend needs help" explanation coupled with his secret phone call. "Last I counted you took a year off from the job. I need a day." Dean will be pulling that card in Season 17.
I can't say that I have enjoyed Dean's thorny disposition this season even though I understand it. I miss my happy-go-snarky, womanizing badass who used to love hunting, clowning on his brother and his kickass car, and was occasionally prone to tearful, heartbreaking monologues. But Purgatory has changed Dean from a guy who liked to save lives to a warrior who covets the violence of the hunt and the kill as the beautifully and viscerally shot slo-mo battle scenes illustrated with profound gravity. Through it all, Benny's at his back with a their hand-made weapons and reassuring touch and some haunting whistling.
Benny was a mess, but it was nothing a few quarts of AB- couldn't cure. He debriefed Dean on his mission to kill his maker and murderer, the utterly dependent dynamics of a nest and how they used to feed of one-percenters' who took their yachts too far from the country club docks. They were "vampirates." I'm not sure if that's ridiculously ingenious or the product of too many hours in the writers' room. Dean, who seems to be jonesing for a fight like Sam used to yearn for demon blood, forced his way into the revenge mission.
This is where the episode falters. Even though Ty Olsson as Benny reminds me of Russell Crowe in "Cinderella Man" and he plays him with such a methodical realism and Big Easy swagger that I want to sit on the veranda and eat gumbo with him, I don't care about his character except for how it relates to Dean. I don't care about Andrea, the greek siren who put the wind in his sails until the Old Man found out that he defected from the nest for her, offed him and turned her. I do, however, care that Dean didn’t gank Benny for daring to slurp blood in his car and that he lets the vampire call him “brother” more than his own name, and that Dean dove headfirst in the world’s sloppiest ambush with one weapon when they arrived with an entire arsenal.
The rest of the episode disintegrates into a lot of old-timey speechifying between a hogtied Benny and Andrea and then Benny and the Old Man, who actually has the face of a teen heartthrob. It’s actually kind of cathartic when Benny starts breaking things with it.