Every year, there's Valentine's Day, and every Valentine's Day, I try and figure out how to deal with my life. Because the worst thing about V-Day isn't the crap candy or the constant social reminders that you're supposed to be fulfilling your part in the grand social scheme; the worst thing is that you have to have a response. Whether you're dating or you're single, there's this weird obligation to feel something, to be happy or sarcastic or bitter or horny or whatever. And after a while, once you get the jokes out of the way, it gets hard not to hit whatever's at the bottom of your soul, just waiting there till you run out of distractions. After a while, you have to take a long, hard look at what you really love. What you really want. What you really hunger for. Who the hell wants that kind of stress?
That may have been emo, I can never tell. If it was, in my defense, I suspect tonight's "My Bloody Valentine" was pretty emo, which is not exactly new territory for the show. We got another script by Ben Edlund, for whom I've waxed my share of rhapsodic, and the Winchesters and Cass got to face down another of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Sam struggled with his demon blood addiction, Dean struggled with his broken insides, and Cass struggled with his vessel's sudden and insatiable yen for red meat. Also, two people ate each other while they were trying to have sex, and another guy drowned in a fryer vat. Regardless of how familiar some elements of "Valentine" were, it worked, because if it gave us a slightly clearer concept of Lucifer's great plan (honestly, I'm just delighted to know he's doing something out there), and it used the Sam and Dean misery in a way that has potential to actually affect story changes. And there was more disturbing gore than we've seen on the show in a while, and that just makes me happy. (Also wincing. That biting thing! Gah. It'd be a tough Craigslist ad to write, for sure.)(I kind of want to make a joke here about the cannibal in… Germany?.. who hooked up with a guy who wanted to be eaten, but that might be in poor taste.)(Heh.)
The episode title and the preview from last week did a decent job of providing us with our first red herring; it turns out Cupid is actually just a big group of uncomfortably friendly naked guys who join together the couples that Heaven wants to mate. Initially, Cass thinks that a rogue Cupid is causing people to go overboard with their warm fuzzy feelings, but it's actually the Horseman, Famine, who's causing all the problems. Which means the scene we get of the Winchesters and Cass interrogating a very huggy cherub isn't hugely important for plot purposes, but it was definitely funny, and I also liked the subtle, creepy mark it left on the show's mythology. We're all familiar by now with the idea that the angels aren't all that much better than the demons, but the fact that Heaven is, essentially, breeding the bloodlines it wants to see continue really brings the whole cattle/cowboys relationship into focus. Obviously Ma and Pa Winchester were brought together on purpose. What does it mean, though, that they didn't get along before a Cupid gave them some internal scar tissue? By all accounts, their marriage was a happy one. Could Heaven really have our best interests in mind after all?
Still, the most important development tonight came out of Famine's junkie inspirations. Sam going back on the wagon was probably inevitable, but what kept it from being too depressing was that he still managed to retain some level of moral choice at the end. One of the highlights of last season was that it was difficult to be sure, right up till the end, if the demon blood addiction was a complete evil. Given the level of threats these guys face, having an extra edge might save more lives down the line. Once Ruby revealed herself, that ambiguity got dropped. While there was no question in "Valentine" that Sam's blood-sucking was a good thing, having him use the power he got from his weakness to defeat Famine was satisfying, both for the character and on a plot-level. Horror so often relies on inevitability that those few times someone can subvert expectations are, well, really freakin' sweet.
Plus, it gave a slightly different spin on Dean and Sam's relationship. The series has played up the tension between the two for a while, with Dean not trusting Sam and Sam being pissed at being treated like a child. But tonight, when Dean had his little break-down, it wasn't him being disappointed in his brother, it was him having no hope left in anything because of the way his brother was being used. If Supernatural wants to keep playing the depression blues, they're going to need to clarify it, and not just by having Sam and Dean repeat the same conversation they always have. They need to make the despair specific, and have it rooted, as tonight's was, in the real fear that Dean could, in his desperation, give in and become Michael's vessel. The misery on the show needs to feel like it's progressing towards something in order for it to mean anything. "Valentine" lacked the punch that the show's best episodes are capable of, but it made its point, and moved the pieces around, in a smart, compelling way.
- According to Sam, Dean calls Valentine's Day, "Unattached Drifter Christmas."
- "This is… their handshake." "I don't like it." "No one likes it."
- I think Cass and Batman should have a "appearing out of nowhere, disappearing mid-sentence" contest.
- In case you're not up on your body count films, My Bloody Valentine is the title of a pretty good 1981 slasher. It was remade (in 3-D!) in 2009, starring—Jensen Ackles.