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Supernatural: "Life Free Or Twihard"

Illustration for article titled iSupernatural/i: Life Free Or Twihard
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I miss vampires sometimes. They were never my favorite monster (I'm not generally threatened by men in capes), but at least there was a time when they were actual monsters. There was a long time when everyone blamed Anne Rice for ruining the breed—her Vampire Chronicles gave us a world full of moping, self-absorbed blood-suckers who wiled away eternity bemoaning their fate. As mopey and romanticized as her vamps were, though, at least Rice never trafficked in the kind of regressive sexual politicking you find in the Twilight series. Stephenie Meyer's idiotic, weirdly compelling books reduce fanged fiends into some kind of twisted romantic ideal, a stalker who's all devotion and brooding good looks, and if he does happen to stare at you a little too long, well he is awfully pretty, so what's the harm?

The vampires on Supernatural have always been nasty, thank goodness, and on tonight's "Love Free or Twihard," the Winchesters finally get a full view of the modern gothic obsession. It ain't pretty, but it is pretty hilarious, at least at first. I'm starting to think that, stripped of the weight of the last two seasons of the show, this current run has a chance of being one of the best things the show has ever done, and "Twihard" goes a long way towards strengthening my suspicions. It's an episode that starts off hilarious, then gets creepy, then gets action-packed, then gets a little sad. That's a big gamut to run, and unlike last week, there aren't any false beats. The only real criticism I have is that the story doesn't feel complete just yet, but since that's by design, I wouldn't say it's a huge problem.


The cold open is such a direct nod to the Twilight aesthetic that it barely counts as parody. A sensitive girl meets with an attractive, brooding young man; they talk about her poetry, and he's supportive of her artistic endeavors, but when she accidentally pricks herself with a pin, the young man has to excuse himself at the sight of her blood; then he comes back and tell her the truth, showing her his fangs; she's totally into it, they go back to his place. That's when Boris shows up. Boris isn't really in the Meyer's worldview. He's chubby, in his thirties, and his hair is greasy. So the girl understandably freaks out, and the young man and Boris move in. It's a funny scene that gets unpleasant at the end, and in a few minutes, manages to point up just how stupid all this Team Edward crap really is: if a guy spends half his time around you telling you he can't be with you because he's too dangerous, that doesn't make him a good guy. (Helpful tip: a good guy would just not stay around you. Or even better, he wouldn't be dangerous in the first place.)

All of this is just a set-up for Sam and Dean searching the girl's room—a room filled with Meyer's-inspired vampire paraphernalia. Lot's of good quotes here, and at first it looks like we've got our set-up for the rest of the episode. Which we sort of do, but things don't go as planned. The Winchesters stake out the bar where the girl met her kidnapper, and, in the ensuing fights, Dean meets up with Boris, who turns him. While Sam watches, not moving to help, with what might even be a smile on his face.

This episode worked for two big reasons: the jokes were solid and insightful, and there's a lot of weird stuff going on here. The first is easiest to appreciate. I don't think I'll ever get tired of Dean reacting to things—Ackles doesn't really vary his "you gotta be effing kidding me" tone, but that's fine, because it works. The weird stuff, well, you can split that up between plot details which are immediately clear, and hints of trouble down the road. The clear twists? Well, having Boris as the head of a nest of vampires that uses the Meyer's-inspired view of vampires to suck in young women was pretty brilliant. In one quick scene, we get the central flaw at the heart of the Twilight books: they pretend to give women power, but really, it's still the men who are running things. The only autonomy Bella has is deciding which idiot gets to dominate her.

As for the foreshadowing, we get Sam's refusal to help Dean, and we get Dean's creepy dream sequence in the vampire nest. More alpha-based information here: there's an alpha vamp, and he's recruiting. And he's not afraid of hunters anymore. This is all very promising, and while it depends a good deal on how it plays out, it serves its purpose. Sam alone is enough to keep me invested now. While I have nothing against mopey, demon-blood-drinking Sam, this cool, detached version has a lot of potential, and there are so many different things that could be happening with him. "Twihard" wasn't as innovative as "Weekend At Bobby's," but it continues that episode's high standard. This year could've felt like an afterthought, but, missteps aside, it's mostly been about taking chances with the rules. Let's hope that continues.


Stray Observations:

  • The vamp and the victim at the beginning are named Kristen and Robert. Cute.
  • "I can make my own decisions. I'm 17."
  • "These aren't vampires, man. These are douchebags."
  • "Look at this. He's watching her sleep, how is that not rapey?"
  • I skimped a little on the plot summary, but if you missed it: Dean gets turned into a vampire, Samuel has the cure, Dean has to go to the vampire nest to get the blood of the vamp that turned him, he screws up his attack. Then, the Alpha Vamp knocks everyone out, we get the creepy vision, and when Sam wakes up, he cleans house. There's some fun sequences in there with Dean struggling with his new vamp senses, and his attempts to say goodbye to Lisa and Ben probably didn't do much help for those relationships, but that's pretty much it.
  • Interesting that even Samuel is noticing Sam's behaving strangely. I'd assumed whatever was wrong with Sam, Samuel was in on it.
  • I actually did a write up on Twilight last year. Check it out, if you're interested.

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