“I Believe The children Are Our Future” Review
By Amanda Rebholz
When trying to convince people as to why they should watch ‘Supernatural’, an easy summation involves two handsome actors, hilarious and interesting dialogue, badass special effects, and fun plotlines. While intriguing enough to keep surface fans coming back for more, the meat of the show is the character development, which I’ve touched on before, and which was showcased beautifully in the episode “I Believe The Children Are Our Future”. While the episode began almost in the same vein as “Bedtime Stories”, I was expecting a similar build-up and a potentially similar resolution; I knew this was the ‘Antichrist’ episode, but I didn’t know what that would entail. Kicking the episode off were equal measures of dark humor and cleverness; however, the heart of the episode can be summed up in two words— honesty, and redemption.
If there is one show that specializes in subterfuge and even the most straightforward characters turning to manipulations or lies to make their own agendas a priority, it’s ‘Supernatural’. The angels were basically introduced as self-serving liars, the holy patriarch John Winchester has been revealed as a master manipulator, and the brothers have lied both to each other and themselves, as well as everyone around them, from the pilot episode on. Honesty is often met with derision, condemnation, or a fight; in this way, it’s easy to see why Sam wouldn’t be forthcoming with Dean about his blood-sucking extracurricular activities, or why Dean wouldn’t feel the need to spill his guts about the ones he spilled in Hell to his kid brother. Still, the brothers made a committment to each other in “Fallen Idol” to start fresh and to do things right this time, and as such we’ve already seen maturity on both ends. In this episode in particular, Sam not only owned up to his mistake-filled past, but he took an opportunity to use his own foolishness to help someone else. And Dean took the backseat (figuratively speaking, of course— it IS his Impala!) several times and allowed Sam to take the lead and guide a situation instead of jumping in to take control as he usually does. So far, both Winchesters are keeping up their end of the bargain, and as such, I went an entire episode without wanting to punch either of them on the nose!
In this episode, we are introduced to the character of Jesse, who is a surprisingly vulnerable, sweet, well-intentioned little boy. He is well-adjusted, a good student, intelligent, self-reliant, and independent; he is streetwise enough to ask to examine the brothers’ fake badges, and mature enough to challenge Sam’s assertion that he’s a child. That Jesse happens to be the Antichrist is almost secondary to the fact that he’s a little boy; don’t we, as an audience, see plenty of young Dean and Sam in him as they were shown to us in various flashbacks throughout the season? We see the unwavering loyalty and love to his parents reminiscent of Dean’s faith in his father growing up, and the way Jesse accepts cooking his own meals and taking care of himself as the way things should be. Yet he is sensitive and imaginative, the way Sam was as a kid, and despite his surface maturity, there are several moments (when he asks “What should I do?” of the impending choice he has to make, for example, or when he says “Why’re you telling me this? I’m just a kid!” as a blind denial of the huge decision the brothers have laid in front of him) where he reverts to his true age. This calls to memory the scenes of Sam being petulant about wanting another bowl of cereal even though Dean hadn’t had one yet, or his whining about their father’s extended absences.
Yet when Jesse shows himself to be insecure and very young, it reminds us of the Christmas episode when Sam realizes their father won’t be home for the holiday, and Jesse’s need for honesty and to be treated with respect regardless of his age is similar to Sam’s unquestioning faith in his older brother as they grew up, his knowledge that Dean would never hurt him or allow him to be hurt. Jesse is everything the Winchesters were; the lifestyles may be different and the circumstances most certainly are, but he is a child with a destiny he wants no part of, and a child with the forces of darkness trying to sway him and manipulate him into their own agendas.
And thus, Sam’s first shot at redemption.
There is no undoing the damage Sam’s selfishness and ambition have done; Lucifer walks, and all Hell has broken loose. But Sam is trying; he doesn’t flinch from the demon’s mention of his own mistakes and deceits, and actually flips them to turn it into something positive. Sam’s vulnerability has always been what has made him Sam; even at his most callous, it is his soulful eyes and his appreciation of the ‘gray areas’ in the moral spectrum that allow us to love Sam even when he is doing something we as an audience know is wrong. Sam is now like the rehabilitated drug user who goes around speaking to schoolkids about the dangers of getting high; he has been there, he has taken the power trip, and he has been at the mercy of elements beyond his control. By using his experience and actually learning from it, he has managed to prevent the demons getting their hands on Jesse just yet, and has provided Jesse with something he himself was never given— a choice.
Some may argue that Sam DID have a choice and chose to follow Ruby; I believe that Sam’s role in the Apocalypse was pre-destined. All roads would have led him there eventually, because how could two mortal men derail the intentions of both Heaven and Hell at once? When Sam speaks frankly to Jesse and says, “Our job is to go around finding other kids with special powers”, it’s almost a parallel to the scenes in Season 2 when Azazel was ‘collecting’ his special psychic kids for their Battle Royale to figure out who was to be Lucifer’s vessel. Yet when Lucifer meets Sam for the first time in “Free to Be You and Me”, he says “It was always you, Sam,” which leads us to suspect that this was in fact all predetermined and thus out of the Winchesters’ control. However, when Sam tells Jesse that he has a choice and that no one can make it for him, Sam is actually doing God’s work; one of God’s greatest gifts to man was free will, and ironically enough it’s something that has rarely been offered to Sam or Dean; if it has, it’s always come with a great many strings attached and the knowledge that if they DO choose what they want (which is often the opposite of what the other person is trying to persuade them to do), there will be grave consequences. Jesse, too, has a heavy choice to make, but it is HIS choice, and with the demon and Castiel both placed out of the picture, it was only Jesse and two sympathetic parties who both refused to try and sway his opinion. In this, Sam has taken a great step toward redeeming himself; if he can catch another destined-to-go-darkside soul like his own and prevent it from following in his own mistaken footsteps, then he will have returned some balance to the good soul that is inside him.
The fact that Jesse listens to Sam’s earnest words versus the demon’s manipulations speaks volumes to the phrase “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”; if more characters had shown each other this level of respect and frankness all along, outcomes of most situations would’ve been very different. To a lesser extent, we saw character growth from Castiel tonight; in the past, the angels have shown themselves to be largely unapologetic about acting in the name of their orders or their own sense of righteousness. In this episode, Castiel commands the Winchesters to kill Jesse; when they refuse and he goes to do it himself, he shows great remorse and even offers sympathy and an apology to the boy before attacking him.
Castiel’s humanity is growing every day that he stays on earth with Dean. We’ve seen his sense of humor and self-preservation flourish, his ambition and rebellion stoke into a steadily-burning flame instead of the occasional outburst, and his concept of friendship and loyalty waver from the unconditional, unquestioning rendition he showed his brothers to the more sincere, unbalanced form he shows Dean. Even tonight, when he threw Sam’s past into his face, he says “I cannot take that chance!” Interesting, considering that many times both before and after he was sent back to Heaven for punishment Castiel was one of the angels responsible for allowing Sam to go darkside; he himself opened the door to the panic room to free Sam to break the final seal, and yet he has not revealed that little tidbit of information to either brother yet. His anger and indignation over Sam’s mistakes imply that Castiel was secretly rooting for Sam against his own orders to ensure the Apocalypse came to pass; in the past, Castiel would have destroyed Jesse without taking into account what the Winchesters thought about the act at all. He would’ve viewed him merely as The Antichrist, not an eleven-year-old boy. It appears that ever since Dean convinced Castiel that humanity was worth saving, Cas has developed a bit of a bleeding heart for it; I was, however, hoping for a few more shenanigans involving him as an action figure. GI Cas was pretty great though; all I want to know is, how long until the CW starts selling those to the masses? I could really use one for the dash of my car, he’d look great next to the hula dancing bobblehead.