“Fallen Idols” Review
By Amanda Rebholz
When it was first announced that Paris Hilton would be guest-starring on an upcoming episode of ‘Supernatural’, some people railed and protested and whined, others laughed and said ‘What?!’, and others just sat there and did a Castiel-like headtilt as they tried to figure out the WHY of such an occurence. I myself was in the third camp; I’m not an outright ‘hater’ of Paris, but I’ve never been a fan, and I wasn’t impressed with the idea of her appearing on a show I care so much about. However, I have a lot of faith in the insane creative team behind the show, so I waited it out and watched tonight’s episode with my judgments reserved.
Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed and my faith was well-founded.
First off, I’d like to say that Ben Edlund is a genius. The mind that brought us the six-foot-tall manically-depressed teddy bear has now given us a homicidal Abraham Lincoln, a cannibalistic Gandhi, and a demonic Paris Hilton. I’d like to buy a day pass to just hang out inside Ben’s head and see where these concepts come from, and moreover, what else is lurking between his ears. More impressive than the fact that he comes up with this stuff is the fact that the other crew members on the show are completely on board and they all embrace the insanity and somehow make it work in a way that keeps the audience both laughing but interested; it’s not a cheesy gimmick, it’s not a hokey plot device or a way to get viewers. They brought Paris on as an actual character with a back-story, albeit a somewhat weak one.
However, my bet is not that people tuned in to see Paris. Fans were most excited about the return to the tried-and-true Monster of the Week formulaic episode, which was what carried the first and second season and created the plethora of rabid fans the show now has. For so long we have been caught up in the war between Heaven and Hell, the ulterior motives of various characters, the subplots and continuity and “Oh my GOD!” revelations the show has given us; we’ve forgotten the simple pleasures of seeing them salt and burn something’s remains, or pry an unusual case out of a bumbling detective’s hands, or even just enjoy the simple ‘Did he really just say that?’ looks they send each other while a hysterical witness is recounting their tale. This week gave us back that element to the show, and took it to the next level, because for the first time, we saw the dynamic of Dean and Sam and how it actually plays out.
In the first two seasons, fans were new enough to the brothers that we accepted The Way Things Were; Dean drove the Impala because it was his car, he picked the music because it was ‘house rules’, he chose the food because he was the one using the stolen credit cards and hustling pool for the cash. Sam did research because he enjoyed it and was rarely seen without his laptop. Dean took the lead because he was the older brother and the more seasoned hunter, the one with the more developed sense of right and wrong. Sam was the sensitive person usually either left to deal with the victims or tied up to be used as a sacrifice for something. However, as the show progressed and we saw them gradually shift to show their versatility, we began to see their resentment toward each other in small doses.
Dean’s sense of protectiveness over Sam began to wane toward downright possessiveness; he was so fanatical about guarding Sam and following their father’s orders that he forgot to take into account his brother’s feelings. Sam was pretty much introduced as a sidekick; later when he began to venture off on his own, making his own decisions, it was the Achilles’ heel that Ruby found and manipulated: He could be stronger than Dean. For the first time in his life, he’d be able to do something better than Dean, something Dean wasn’t able to do. And because Sam felt so undermined and underappreciated by his brother, he allowed himself to believe it. At that point, they stopped being a team, even though they continued to travel together and work together. The divide was tangible, and in the final episodes of Season Four, the damage seemed irreparable.
This was the first episode where we saw Sam actually communicate with his brother about this issue; before there have been tantrums, and monologues, and awkward attempts at heart-to-hearts which were cut short by Dean’s defensive tactics, but never before has Sammy just laid something out so nakedly and shown his own vulnerability. He has always been second fiddle to Dean, and Dean has always been there to rescue him or get him out of trouble. While this could be regarded as Dean always having his back (and undoubtedly this is how Dean himself sees it), Sam takes it as Dean smothering him and refusing to let him make his own decisions. In this way, Sam has developed a sort of resentment for his brother that rivals the one he once had for John Winchester; when John laid down the law, that was that, and the boys were forbidden to question or disobey. When Dean tried that tactic with him in this episode (“You’re not the one driving this boat”), Sam put down his foot and made himself heard. And for once, Dean actually listened and seemed to absorb what was being said to him; he didn’t cut Sam off, he didn’t roll his eyes and walk away, and he didn’t do anything at the time. He just let it sink in, and later, when he had had time to process it, he approached Sam about it in a very calm, diplomatic manner, apologized for his own role in the Apocalypse (about damn time!), and promised to treat Sam with respect from that point on.
While there are some who claim they miss “old Dean and Sam” from the earlier seasons in light of all of the recent tension, I can only say that in retrospect, while funny and charismatic, the brothers’ chemistry was not healthy. They died for each other, they sacrificed everyone and everything for each other, and they didn’t have any sort of grasp on perspective when it came to one anothers’ well-being. They were dangerously co-dependent and every villain in every season knew it and used it to their advantage. So perhaps now, with their self-imposed ‘fresh start’ and with Dean’s vow to change and Sam’s desire to grow up, they will begin a new life together as an actual team instead of a leader/sidekick scenario.
That said, this episode managed to be as meaningful and promising as all of that while still offering us the concept of a demonic Paris Hilton in a cocktail dress, sharpening her nails with an ancient iron scythe. And that, fellow Supernatural fans, is why week after week we tune in, and why #InKripkeWeTrust.