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16 March 2007 @ 06:43 pm
2.16 Roadkill: Unfinished Business  

Killer and victim

Haunt each other on a road;

Unfinished business.

 

The twist in Roadkill was clearly Supernatural’s tribute to The Sixth Sense: that Molly, the woman who stopped the brothers on the road begging for help, was herself a ghost, unaware of her own state. The episode structure, revealing near the end that the boys had understood Molly’s nature from the beginning, was beautifully executed, giving an entirely different flavor to all the earlier scenes. Kudos to writer Raelle Tucker and director Charles Beeson. We discovered along with Molly that she had killed a farmer in a car accident, and that the farmer, now an angry spirit, haunted the road on the anniversary of his death, chasing and torturing the ghost of the woman who had killed him. Greeley, the farmer, was bound to earth by revenge, while Molly was equally bound by her love for her husband, and the fear that their last argument in the car just before the accident would be the memory of her that he would carry to his own death. The Winchesters dealt with Greeley in standard fashion, destroying him by burning his bones. Since Molly had already been cremated, however, and was held to her haunting only by her own unfinished business, her release required that she herself decide to let go and move on. Sam bringing Molly to understand and accept her choice was poignant.

 

Even though Roadkill was clearly designed as a stand-alone episode, it continued to carry and advance several of the themes of the Winchester brothers. Dean’s coldness toward Molly was revealed not as callousness, but the manifestation of his loathing for supernatural things. I’m certain that some people will be upset that Dean didn’t convert more fully to Sam’s more accepting attitude after the events of Bloodlust and Houses of the Holy, in both of which he had to expand his worldview beyond the comfort of black and white, but I found his gradual progress here very real. Dean accepted in Bloodlust that things were not as cut-and-dried as John’s training had made him believe, but he also admitted to Sam that he truly hates the things they hunt, and had to act against his every instinct to let Lenore and her vampire family go free. That profound hate and distrust, distilled through years of training and harsh experience, could not be dismissed by a couple of recent exceptions to the rule. His willingness to follow Sam’s lead and accept interacting with Molly rather than trying to find some way to destroy her outright represented another step along the way. That he still felt uncomfortable with her, however, fit perfectly with where Dean is on his personal journey toward the reassessment of his hunter life values.

 

Showing how far Dean has come, however, was that he risked his life for Molly even knowing that she was a ghost. When Greeley had Molly strung up for torture in the cabin, the boys already knew that both of them were ghosts, playing out a scene in which Greeley would earn another annual installment of ultimately unsatisfactory gratification from tormenting the woman who had accidentally killed him, and thus led to the suicide of his wife. The boys could have worked together on opening the grave and salting and burning the bones to destroy Greeley, and since Greeley was visible, they would have been able to confirm that the burning had worked. Instead, while Sam dug, Dean accepted Sam’s call to save Molly. Despite Molly being a spirit, both Sam and Dean in essence accepted that her pain was real. Displaying compassion for a spirit, and drawing fire to himself to prevent more injury to her, spoke volumes for Dean’s learning curve.

 

Sam, in turn, seemed as much to be facing his own fears as counseling Molly. In the cabin, after discovering the Greeley’s photo album and the moving love letter that the farmer had written to his wife, Molly asked what could have turned a good man into the monster that was chasing her. Sam’s compassion for Greeley surprised Molly, but his explanation – Well, they weren’t evil people. You know, a lot of them were good. Just – something happened to them. Something they couldn’t control.  resonated powerfully, given that Sam is afraid that he won’t be able to resist the demon’s plans for him and might himself become a monster. It’s reassuring to find that, despite his fear of and for himself, Sam’s response is still compassion, still the urge to reach out and ease someone else’s pain.

 

Throughout the episode, I was forcibly reminded of In My Time of Dying. Dean doesn’t remember his own out-of-body experience, his own moment of truth to choose between accepting death – letting go of his unfinished business, his need to cling to and protect his family – or becoming a spirit not unlike Molly or Greeley, but the echoes of IMToD were everywhere. In Molly, we saw a variation on the classic “angry spirit.” Molly was frightened and confused, not remembering anything from one year’s appearance to the next, clinging to her need to find her husband, apologize to him, and make clear that she loved him. Molly wasn’t angry, Molly wasn’t deliberately hurting people; but between Molly and Greeley both haunting that road for one night each year, other people were hurt and killed, because they lost control of their cars when their travel intersected with the ghostly pursuit. Unintended consequences of unfinished business. Would Molly have continued to reappear each year, still looking for her husband although no longer pursued by Greeley, if she hadn’t accepted letting go and moving on? We have no way to know. Will Dean ever remember his spiritual journey? We don’t know that, either, but I suspect not.

 

The closing scene, the exchange between the brothers after witnessing Molly’s passage into the light, marks one of the principal differences still between them. Dean accepts that what is, is, and that he’ll find out what happens afterward when he gets there. Dean takes what comes and deals with it, not flavoring it with expectations, and still not assigning any major role to faith. Sam, on the other hand, can’t help but wonder and worry about what the future holds in store, and not just in terms of winding up in heaven or hell. But in Roadkill, Sam seemed to find an offset to the fear that was drowning him in Playthings, that he won’t be able to resist becoming something evil. He is clearly still afraid, but it doesn’t seem quite so overpowering – not when there is hope.

 

After all, as Sam put it, Hope’s kinda the whole point.

 

It certainly is for us.

 
 
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