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[lots o’ spoilers ahead]
While this episode was by no means perfect, I’m happy to report my relief when I first watched it that it was not half as boring as the previous one, albeit it ran a trifle long in some spots (it was only about two minutes over the usual time, but some of that dragged a bit). I was also pleased to find, despite some serious flaws in the character’s central conflict, that I rather liked Patience and the actress who played her. This was a very good thing. After “Rising Son,” I was beginning to wonder if it was time to hang it up with this show.
I was also happy to discover that even though this was the first of the lead-up episodes to the backdoor pilot for the new spin-off, Wayward Sisters, it had a fair bit of conflict and action involving Sam and Dean, who each had a storyline this week. Last season suffered greatly from Sam and Dean: Guest Stars in Their Own Show Syndrome. So far this season, that’s been greatly alleviated, at least for Jensen Ackles, who’s not fielding any newborns at home this year.
The funniest (and most reassuring in terms of how the new show will go over with fans) thing is that everyone has a different favorite. They like Claire, but they hate Patience. They like Kaia, but they hate Alex. They think Jody and Donna should be Hunting, but just together and not with any younger charges. Nobody can agree except that a lot of fans have already picked a favorite, if only in relation to at least one other character they feel shouldn’t be on the show. This indicates that fans in general have already got past the initial phase of accepting the overall concept of a group of women Hunting together and mentoring each other. They just can’t agree on which characters they think should be in that group. Considering most fans can’t really agree on liking Sam, Dean, Castiel, Crowley, and so on, even after 13 seasons, that’s a good sign for Wayward Sisters, not bad.
Which is not to say the episode (or even the new show’s franchise concept so far) lacks flaws. Missouri Moseley returns in this one. Remember her? Season one? Kripke-penned “Home”? Let me refresh your memory – she was an African American psychic who fawned over Sam a lot and smacked Dean upside the head for … uh … reasons. Or something. That Missouri.
Now, obviously, there was some unfinished business between her and the Brothers, so you could say she had a reason to come back. Was this addressed? Nope. Sam doesn’t even see Missouri this time round. He’s too busy babysitting Jack for more than a quick phone call, and he and Dean have a fight over just sending Jody to deal with it before Dean goes off to help her. Dean gets no apology or even acknowledgement of any kind from her about her previous treatment of him (though she does commiserate with him on his “recent losses,” which she senses in his mind, so there’s that). In fact, when he makes the logical protest to her staying behind (while there’s a psychic-eating monster on the loose), Missouri’s Inner Bitch comes roaring out. Consider those loose ends still dangling.
Anyway, she’s only there to introduce a younger, prettier psychic, her granddaughter Patience. God forbid the CW have an older, gifted female (let alone an older female PoC) character as a main lead. I didn’t love the way Missouri was fridged to jumpstart the title character’s story.
It bothered me that not only were the two PoC female leads for Wayward Sisters introduced very late in the day, but they were introduced in a fundamentally different way from that of Claire and Alex, who were introduced as victims of the supernatural (like Sam, Dean, Jody and Donna), rather than as essentially supernatural beings (like Patience and Kaia). Also, the CW has an extremely poor track record with PoC female characters with powers, wherein they end up powerful handmaidens to white girls. Bonnie from The Vampire Diaries fairly leaps to mind here.
Not helping is the way Patience’s father, James, is portrayed. It’s one thing to be introduced to the supernatural world in a traumatic way. A lot of people will go straight to denial, initially, as the show has demonstrated many times. But James was raised in the Life. He knows the supernatural exists. Hell, he can even work divination magic. He just wants to stick his head in the sand, even if it gets his mother and daughter killed.
The thing is that if you read between the lines (and remember how Missouri was introduced almost 12 seasons ago), there’s plenty of reason for James to resent his mother. Missouri dragged him along with her on down the road to Hunting supernatural things and it seems pretty clear that it traumatized him. The catalyst for their final estrangement may have been Missouri’s cocky miscalculation about the fate of his wife (Patience’s mother), but it’s clear a lot of bad things happened before that.
But the writing wants us to believe that James is the bad guy here. Since the episode never addresses the stark contrast in how Missouri treated Sam (with powers) and Dean (no powers as far she could see) in season one, it neatly avoids addressing the pretty stark contrast between Missouri’s treatment of James her son (no apparent powers) and Patience her granddaughter (practically a Mary Sue). Missouri is a bigot when it comes to plain, old, ordinary humans. It’s therefore a tad difficult to believe the episode’s portrayal of James – a man old enough to have a teenage daughter and successful enough to be raising her in a safe, nurturing, upper-middle-class environment – as too immature to forgive his saintly mother.
It doesn’t help that the episode is wildly inconsistent in portraying Missouri and Patience’s talents. Dean tells Jody that Missouri can read objects, but what we actually see her do, for the most part, is read minds to a limited extent and foretell the future in blurry images. That’s not reading the past from objects, Show. Reading objects is a different ESP talent.
Also, we’re apparently supposed to get the idea from that that she is able to foretell her and the MOTW’s futures enough to determine that she can’t escape the MOTW, at least not without endangering her family (she specifically sees James, but then talks about Patience to him). How is this even possible when you have two new variables – Dean and Jody – in the equation? That smacks of overly convenient writing. You’d think Missouri would have learned from the mistake she made in predicting the fate of James’ wife/Patience’s mom that her powers are not infallible, but nope.
In addition, the family member who ends up in immediate danger is Patience, not James. Patience is threatened by the MOTW immediately after he kills her grandmother. It seems he was able to kill Missouri, and then zip past Dean and Jody to attack Patience before they could even contact James. I call shenanigans on that timing.
In fact, I call shenanigans on that whole MOTW, but let’s finish talking about Patience’s powers, first. Patience initially has a dream that warns her of both her grandmother’s death and the MOTW’s attack on her later at the school. This dream seems to be a mix of literal precognition (the attack) and metaphor (her grandmother’s ghost warning her). Okay, this is a dream we’re talking about, so a little funky logic is acceptable.
But then, after she’s captured, Patience has a prolonged waking vision of her father, Jody and then Dean being killed, which allows her to warn each of them about the MOTW’s attack. But this is a different kind of precog from what she previously showed and all three types are different from what Missouri had.
This may seem like nitpicking, but if you look at how Sam’s precog was shown in the first two seasons, it’s very consistent and that’s pretty important to the story. He has quick flashes, usually of something fatal happening, accompanied by nasty headaches. If he acts on them, he is usually able to stop the event from happening, though something else bad may happen, instead. Sometimes, he has dreams. Less often, he has waking visions. But they are always the same kind of thing.
Precog and even telepathy are shown similarly for other characters such as Psykids like Ava (in “Hunted”) and Andy (sending Dean a vision in “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1”), and even Chuck in “The Monster at the End of This Book.” We also have a clear origin for these visions. The Psykids apparently get theirs from Azazel, while Chuck gets them from the angels. Yes, I know we later find out Chuck is God, but his conversation with Zachariah at the end of that episode makes it clear the angels are sending him visions. Maybe they’re even sending them to the Psykids. Who knows? But the point is that these visions of the future don’t just pop up out of nowhere.
Missouri and Patience’s visions do, which means they’re much more malleable and “magical” in the sense of being overly convenient writing divorced from the logic of the worldbuilding. The characters don’t have these visions because the visions make sense in the context of the story. They have them just to move the story along.
Now let’s check out the MOTW. Unfortunately, whoever made up the recap spoiled the crap out of the MOTW “surprise” (admittedly, that cat came right out of the bag in the teaser, anyway), which is that the MOTW was a Wraith. I don’t think a Wraith was the right MOTW for what the episode wanted to do and the actor they got was definitely not right to convey what they wanted. Or maybe he was, which kinda makes it worse.
Now, the Wraith’s targeting psychics was fine, as far as it went. We know Wraiths like to feed on a specific kind of human, often a “soft” target that can’t fight back very well. And therein lies the problem. The Wraith we first met in “Sam, Interrupted” in season five was working at a psych hospital, targeting patients. If they weren’t psychotic when they came in, they sure were by the time the Wraith was ready to feed on them. The Wraith possessed a toxin, spread via touch, that made people psychotic. This particular Wraith actually enjoyed the taste of brains under extreme psychological distress and played an Angel of Mercy to get them. Subsequent mentions of them followed a similar pattern.
Aside from targeting those who generally can’t fight back very well (psychics, who are otherwise ordinary humans), the Wraith in “Patience” follows none of these rules. He doesn’t bother to poison or weaken his targets. He simply attacks them and overpowers them.
He doesn’t treat them as food, either. The actor who plays the Wraith plays feeding as a straight-up sexual serial-killing thing, which is not how the Wraith in “Sam, Interrupted” acted. The Wraith in “Patience” attacks women, specifically, and creeps all over them. The Wraith in “Sam, Interrupted” attacked different types of people, which actually made it scarier because it was hard to see a pattern at first, let alone who could be the Wraith. You couldn’t see it coming.
In “Patience,” we know right away. There’s no mystery about it whatsoever, especially since there is no attempt to give any backstory to the MOTW aside from where he got his predilection for psychic brains. It’s all very CW. In a bad way.
And it also means that the Wraith is way overpowered for this type of MOTW. I can see him taking out James, maybe even Jody, if he got lucky. But Dean? On top of the other two? Nope. Not the organized and well-armed way they came in.
Now, if the writers had used an MOTW that was known for being fast and strong, I might buy that. A Vampire or a Shapeshifter or a Djinn I could see. Or if they’d argued that this was the Alpha Wraith, maybe. But as it was, I didn’t buy this particular MOTW, or his ability to fight and evade and take down healthy human prey.
Hell, even Patience was able to break off the Wraith’s stinger (the way Dean did in “Sam, Interrupted,” albeit while barely able to stay upright due to being poisoned). Not exactly an intimidating monster. I just didn’t buy that he could take Dean at full strength, let alone Dean on top of Jody and James. And if the MOTW wasn’t that dangerous, that makes Patience’s precog flashes rather silly and unnecessary to the plot.
I got the impression that we were supposed to have the usual balance of opinions between Sam and Dean this week, where Sam was on one side and Dean on the other, and we were supposed to see both sides as having merit. Which was sort of true if you squinted, but only because the writing kept Telling us Dean’s judgement was off, while actually Showing something a bit different.
For a start, not only is Dean in character for telling Patience at the end to grab as much Normal as she can, but he’s right. Hunting never ends well for the Hunter. As Dean has put it many different ways in the past, “it ends bloody or sad … you’re covered in blood until you’re covered in your own blood.”
So, when Jody tells Patience that Dean’s wrong and that if Patience wants to get into the Life and use her “gift,” she can call her, I just want to suggest that Jody first tell Patience why she lived alone in a big, old, empty house before she took in Claire and Alex. Gee, whatever happened to her husband and son? Patience deserves to hear that story before she makes her decision.
Yes, the supernatural world is the real world on this show. Yes, once you become aware of it, you see it everywhere. Even worse, it becomes aware of you. But step into the shadows, engage too closely, and your projected lifespan drops like a stone.
Dean’s not wrong (neither is James, really). It’s just very hard to get away from the supernatural world once you get plunged into it.
Then there’s Sam’s “training” of Jack. Points, at least, for the show having Sam remember that he used to be psychic, too … sort of. Sam talks about being different when he was younger and worrying about having a “darkness” inside him, that Dean and Castiel helped him fight it, so there’s that. But then Sam proceeds (as he always has) to make it All About Sam and try to push Jack into learning more about his powers, even though it’s really obvious that Jack is afraid to use them.
Now, Jack does mention Dean saying he’s evil, but he also brings up the reasons why Dean feels that way and agrees with them. He did kill his mother by being born. He has hurt people. He has lost control of his powers. He even mentions feeling Asmodeus in his mind, pushing him and coopting his powers, during his attempt to raise the Shedim the previous episode. But what Sam mostly latches onto (as he very belatedly decides to stop pushing Jack) is that Jack is afraid of Dean (despite being physically invulnerable), not that Sam is doing pretty much the same thing to Jack that Asmodeus did and for equally selfish reasons – and that this bothers Jack a whole lot.
When Dean gets back, the hints throughout the episode that all is not well with him (such as Jody holding him back when he starts to ream James out for lying to Patience) come to a head. Sam calls Dean on being so harsh to Jack and threatening him (even though Dean’s been very upfront about that, so it should hardly be a surprise to Sam).
To the writers’ credit, they do have Dean finally calling Sam out right back on Sam’s less-than-altruistic motives for getting Jack to learn how to control his powers, saying that Sam doesn’t really care about Jack. He just wants to use Jack’s powers to get Mary back, using Jack as “an interdimensional can opener.” And there isn’t a whole in this episode that contradicts Dean on that point.
Dean would never come out and say this, but Sam’s example of himself as a person Dean saved in spite of Sam’s being a “freak” is also a poor one – Sam hurt a lot of people because Dean didn’t kill him. Not that the angels and demons would have allowed Sam to stay dead, but still.
In the end, Dean can’t hold back. His barely leashed pain and rage pour out as he yells that he “can’t even look at the kid” because he blames Jack directly for losing Mary and Castiel.
Unfortunately, he does that as Jack is listening nearby (which seems uncharacteristically dumb). This accidentally sparks Jack’s powers as Jack spontaneously tries to do something “good” and also reaches out to his foster daddy, Castiel. In the process, Castiel wakes up someplace dark and weird.
But that’s for next time.
Next: The Big Empty: While trying to figure out who is killing a grief counselor’s patients, the Brothers and Jack end up in family therapy. Meanwhile, Castiel wakes up somewhere dark and strange.
You can find my live recap of “Patience” here.