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16 February 2010 @ 08:28 pm
5.14 My Bloody Valentine: Where Is Your Hunger?  
5.14 My Bloody Valentine: Where Is Your Hunger?
Famine’s hunger kills:
Overdose on what you crave,
Or be dead inside. 
Episode Summary
A shy young couple sharing a chaste goodnight kiss outside the girl’s apartment after their first date were overcome by passion and happily ate each other to death inside. Investigating, Sam found no demonic or ghost signs at the site, and at the coroner’s, Dean found only the inexplicable physical evidence of the couple having gorged themselves to death. With the day ending and no fresh leads to pursue, Sam returned to the motel carrying his fast food dinner and planning to check a few files on the laptop. He encouraged Dean to take off on his usual Valentine’s Day celebration, but Dean expressed no interest in bars full of lonely women, instead settling back in to work and dismissing Sam’s concern about his uncharacteristic behavior.
Elsewhere in town, two young businessmen were working late into the evening on a project. Project leader Brad chided his coworker Jim for constantly checking his phone for messages from the girl he’d met and become obsessed with less than a week earlier. When the woman, Janice, showed up at the office, distraught and demanding that Jim not choose work over her, Brad joked about Jim being whipped, and Janice pulled out a gun and killed him. Observing things always got in the way of them being together all the time, bemoaning even the need to sleep, Jim suggested a way they could stay together forever, and shot them both.
Investigating this second double homicide/suicide, the brothers both went to the coroner’s office late that night. On the way in, Sam’s attention was caught by a man leaving with a briefcase; he smelled something that unsettled him. Noticing his distraction, Dean asked if he was okay, and Sam said he was fine, turning his attention back to the matter at hand. Friendly doctor Corman gave agents Marley and Cliff his keys on the way out, noting that he’d finished the autopsies, sent the samples off for toxicology screens, and removed and refrigerated all the internal organs. Examining the evidence, Dean teasingly offered Sam a heart, and Sam realized both hearts bore what looked like matching Enochian sigils. Dean summoned Castiel, who confirmed the organs bore marks of union indicating the people were intended to mate. Castiel said the marks were placed by a lower order of angel, a cherub third class, and said there were dozens of them all over the world, the origin of human myths of Cupid. He concluded a cupid had gone rogue and was killing the people he marked.
To catch the cupid, the brothers and Castiel staked out a lounge Castiel identified as exactly the kind of garden the cupid would come to pollinate. A waitress brought the brothers dinner – a salad for Sam and a burger and fries for Dean – but Dean set his food aside, saying he wasn’t hungry, and Castiel picked up the burger instead, evidencing hunger the angel had never shown before. At that same moment, however, Castiel observed the cupid was present, although the brothers saw nothing other than a nearby couple suddenly kissing. Telling them to meet him in back, Castiel vanished. In a storeroom at the rear of the restaurant, Castiel said he had the cupid tethered. After chanting a little, he demanded the cupid manifest – and suddenly a plump, naked man hugged Dean from behind, lifting him off his feet. He proceeded to hug Castiel and Sam as well, and Castiel distastefully noted the hugs were a cupid’s handshake. They accused the cupid of causing the deaths, only to see the being dissolve into heartbroken tears professing his innocence, saying he wasn’t responsible for what happened to people after he’d marked them for love. The cupid demanded his brother angel Castiel read his mind, and Castiel realized he was telling the truth. The cupid maintained he was just following Heaven’s orders to make certain people fall in love, to further certain bloodlines like the Winchesters’. Oblivious to the growing fury underlying Dean’s questions, the cupid observed that getting Mary and John to hook up had been a high priority in Heaven because Sam and Dean needed to be born, and while they couldn’t stand each other at first, they were a perfect couple by the time Heaven finished with them. Dean took a swing, hurting his hand far more than the cupid, and the cupid disappeared. Sam asked to talk about what was up with Dean lately, and Dean declined to talk about it.
The next day, Sam answered the coroner’s call in response to their request to know about any other weird cases. The coroner displayed the corpse of a formerly morbidly obese man who had achieved normal weight after gastric bypass surgery, only to have gorged himself to death eating Twinkies, forcing them down his gullet with a toilet brush when he couldn’t swallow any more. Profoundly disturbed by this case on top of the others, Dr. Corman took a swig from a hip flask.
Leaving the office, Sam called Dean to report, noting the victim hadn’t been marked by Cupid but his death was definitely suspicious. Dean reported his own investigations at the police office had disclosed eight suicides and nineteen overdoses since Wednesday, numbers way out of the ordinary. They agreed to meet in ten minutes, but as he hung up his phone, Sam reacted to a twinge like a headache, and as he turned back toward the coroner’s office, he saw the same briefcase-toting man he’d noticed before leaving the place. Preternaturally aware of the man’s footsteps and nose flaring with his scent, Sam got ahead of him and ambushed him in an alley, flinging him up against a wall with the demon-killing knife at his throat and proclaiming he knew what the man was. He cut the man’s cheek with the blade, and demon blood sparked and flared. Sam proclaimed he could smell the demon. The demon called him by name and fought back. Curiously aware of the demon, feeling his own anger and torn by the conflict between his attraction and his distaste, Sam fumbled during the fight, cutting the demon again but proving unable to stop his escape. Looking at the demon blood on his knife blade, he felt the craving for it, but forced himself instead to wipe the blood off instead on a scrap of paper.
Back at the motel, wondering what a demon had to do with what was going on, Dean asked Sam if he was all right, and Sam insisted he’d be fine. The brothers opened the sigil-marked briefcase, releasing a sudden burst of pure white light Castiel identified as a human soul. Eating a hamburger, the angel said it was all starting to make sense, and even his human hunger was a clue that the town was suffering from Famine, the Horseman. Castiel said everyone seemed to be starving for something – sex, attention, drugs, love, food – and Famine made them rabid for it. Castiel noted his hunger indicated Famine had touched his human vessel, Jimmy, stimulating his craving for red meat.
As Castiel quoted the angelic version of Revelation about Famine riding into the land of plenty on a black steed, poisoning the air with his hunger, we saw Famine in the guise of a crippled, elderly man attended by demons arriving at night in a convoy of black SUVs at a Biggerson’s restaurant. All the staff and patrons in the restaurant were immediately overcome by their cravings for food, drink, money, drugs, sex, or violence, maiming and killing themselves without heed for anything but satisfying their overwhelming hunger.
Castiel continued that when Famine was hungry – and he was always hungry, because he was Hunger personified – he had to devour the souls of his victims. Castiel postulated Lucifer had sent demons to care for Famine and feed him to make certain he’d be ready to march across the land, so demons were collecting and bringing to him the souls of people who died from his influence but not in his presence.
The demon Sam had attacked arrived at the restaurant with news of Sam’s presence, and gave Famine the hotel key he’d taken from Sam during their struggle. What Famine truly wanted, however, was the soul of the Twinkie-eater. When the demon confessed to having lost it in the fight, Famine pulled the demon out of its host and ate the demon’s essence instead.
At the motel, Sam retreated to the bathroom and fought silently against his intensifying craving for demon blood, understanding his appetite for it had been stimulated by Famine. Trying to come up with a strategy for defeating Famine, Castiel asked how the brothers had defeated War, and Dean, pulling out the Horseman’s ring, described how War had fled and the people under his spell had woken as if from a dream when he and Sam had cut the ring from War’s hand. Castiel agreed Famine would also have a ring, and Dean advocated hunting him down and chopping it off. When Castiel seemed more interested in his now empty hamburger bag, Dean asked if he’d even tried to stop his sudden craving for ground beef, and Castiel archly maintained he was an angel and could stop any time. Dean called for Sam to hurry up, but Sam said he couldn’t go, reluctantly confessing his hunger and ashamedly admitting fear he couldn’t control it. Dean told Castiel to beam Sam far away, but Castiel said the hunger would just travel with him. Sam told Dean to go cut Famine’s finger off, and Dean accepted the order, but Sam added that Dean had to lock him down but good before he left. Dean handcuffed Sam to the bathroom sink, telling him to hang in there and promising to be back as soon as he could. Sam told him to be careful and to hurry, and Castiel pushed a heavy cabinet across the door as they left.
At the coroner’s office, Dean asked after Dr. Corman, only to learn he had left work in the morning and drunk himself to death after twenty years of sobriety. Touching the corpse, Castiel found the doctor’s soul still present, so Dean set up surveillance to follow whatever briefcase-carrying demon would come to fetch it. In the night, Castiel reappeared in the Impala with yet another burger, observing with a trace of Jimmy’s human delight that they made him very happy. When Dean asked how many he’d had, Castiel gave an offhand estimate in the low hundreds. Castiel asked Dean where his hunger was, noting that Dean alone seemed unaffected by Famine. Dean joked that he scratched his itches for food, drink, sex, and fights whenever they arose, and when Castiel asked if he was claiming to be well adjusted, he denied it, saying he was simply well fed. Further commentary was sidetracked by the departure from the coroner’s of a man in a business suit carrying a briefcase.
Back at the motel, struggling against his bonds and his cravings, Sam heard sounds in the room and called out questioningly to Dean and Castiel, afraid because his cravings hadn’t subsided and he didn’t think their plan had worked because he was still hungry. Two demons sent by Famine opened the door, observing they were forbidden from killing him but might be able to take some pieces. As soon as one demon broke the cuffs on his hands, Sam flung him into the tub and attacked the other demon, slashing her throat and drinking. She screamed for the other to get him off of her, but Sam raised a hand and flung him contemptuously aside with his mind, telling him to wait his turn.
Dean followed the black SUV to the Biggerson’s, seeing more demons guarding the front door. He reviewed the plan with the still-distracted Castiel – having the angel go in with the demon-killing knife to cut off Famine’s ring hand and rendezvous in the parking lot – and Castiel simply disappeared. After a moment, Dean concluded it was taking too long, and grabbed a shotgun and went around the back. Entering through the kitchen, he saw corpses everywhere, and then Castiel kneeling on the restaurant floor with the knife fallen at his side, shoveling raw ground beef into his mouth. Alerted by a reflection, Dean swung on a demon approaching him from behind, but a second one threw him bodily against a metal door, and the two demons hauled him into the main room and the presence of Famine.
Famine observed sarcastically that it didn’t take much to push consumer-driven Americans over the edge, saying that no matter how much they consumed they were still starving because hunger wasn’t just of the body, but of the soul. Curious about how Dean could still be standing in his presence, Famine reached out and touched him, making him twist in pain. Famine told Dean he had a deep, dark nothing inside of him, a hole he couldn’t fill with food, drink, or sex. He told Dean he could lie to his brother and to himself, but not to Famine: he said he could see how broken and defeated Dean was, that he knew he couldn’t win but just kept going through the motions, that he wasn’t hungry because inside he was already dead.
And Sam, having come in the front door with no one noticing, dried blood on his face attesting to his latest meal, ordered Famine to let Dean go. Two of Famine’s demon guards advanced, but Famine stopped them, calling Sam a sweet boy and observing he’d gotten the little snack Famine had sent. Telling Sam that he alone could never die of drinking too much, just as Satan wanted, Famine invited Sam to cut their throats and feed on all the demon guards. Instead, Sam concentrated and pulled all the demons from their host bodies, telling Famine no. Freed by Sam’s move, Dean scooped up the demon-killing knife. With the demon smoke still swirling, Famine said he would have them if Sam didn’t, and he drew all the demon smoke into himself. When Sam tried to use his power again, Famine observed his power wouldn’t work on a Horseman, but Sam countered it would still work on demons, and as Dean watched, paralyzed, he pulled the demons out of Famine not through the Horseman’s mouth, but right out through his skin until they exploded out of his body, evidently killing him. Even with the ring still on Famine’s finger, his power over Castiel was broken.
In the aftermath, Castiel appeared as Dean kept lonely vigil outside Bobby’s panic room, drinking whiskey from the bottle and listening to Sam screaming for help in his withdrawal. Castiel attempted to assure Dean that Sam just needed to get the blood out of his system again and would be fine, but Dean said he needed air and walked out into the wrecking yard. He started to take another drink, but the futility of it made him lower the bottle untouched. Looking up into the night sky, he begged for help. 
Commentary and Meta Analysis
I loved this episode. There were a few false notes, but they were minor – and a minor key was the right one for this particular song, anyway. This was the best brotherhood story we’ve gotten in a long, long time, and I can forgive a lot for that. In this commentary, I’ll explore the brothers’ relationship; the effects of Famine on Sam, Dean, and Castiel, and how each of them dealt with those effects; and the bothersome conundrum of Cupid.
Be My Valentine?
Throughout this episode we saw evidence of just how much the brothers have rebuilt their relationship since the crash and burn of season four’s estrangement. Perhaps it took the sensitization acquired through their separate experiences in Sam, Interrupted and Swap Meat, but both Sam and Dean were acutely aware of each other throughout the events of this episode, each quick to sense and genuinely be concerned when the other seemed off. Sam started it, wondering at Dean’s uncharacteristic apathy about participating in the joys of his favorite “unattached drifter Christmas” holiday. Dean questioned Sam’s sudden distraction in the hallway at the coroner’s office. Sam was astonished at Dean not being hungry in the club, and then worried about the rage that made him assault the cherub. Once they knew demons were involved, after Sam had gotten the briefcase, Dean again asked if he was all right. They worried about each other, and for once didn’t hesitate to express it. Along the way they recovered more comfortable old behaviors, with Dean daring to tease Sam with the bloody heart and both of them speaking in unison.
When Sam realized the threat posed by his hunger, he didn’t try to hide it. Instead, he told Dean the truth, admitting to his situation despite how much it shamed him. Dean’s immediate reaction wasn’t condemnation, but an instruction to Castiel to get Sam far enough away to be safe, beyond the reach of Famine’s influence and the temptation of tasty demons nearby. Learning that wouldn’t work, Sam gave the order for Dean to leave him behind and deal with the mission, and also admitted his fear that he wouldn’t be strong enough to resist on his own by asking to be locked down. He’d been restrained before against his will in When The Levee Breaks and Sam, Interrupted; this time, he gave the orders and surrendered himself to the bonds. Dean, for his part, didn’t like locking him down or leaving him, but did what he had to while telling Sam to hang in there and promising to be as quick as possible.
The confrontation with Famine in the end broke both of them again, but also brought them together. Dean was clearly both saddened and appalled to see Sam hopped up on blood again and was overwhelmed by seeing the blatant demonstration of his power, but he also saw Sam refuse more blood and more power when it was offered. We don’t know how much Sam heard of Famine’s analysis of Dean, but since Sam didn’t simply materialize in the restaurant, he had to have heard at least the end of it, with Famine’s statement that Dean had no hunger because he was already dead inside. I think we’re going to see what Sam does with that after he’s finished drying out again.
Finally, it’s clear to me that Sam volunteered to go the detox route this time, asking or even ordering to be confined in Bobby’s panic room to sweat out the demon blood again. While I’d have liked to have seen it, I think we didn’t get that scene precisely because, in a way, we’d gotten it once already when he told Dean to lock him down in the motel room. Rationally we know from what we saw last time that no one would be safe in the panic room with Sam while demon blood withdrawal hallucinations drove the telekinetic power of his mind. Still, it killed Dean to have to leave him alone. Dean’s utter inability to do anything to help Sam while Sam endured such pain trapped him into helplessness and hopelessness again. Nothing anyone could say could have helped.
Throughout the episode, the brothers functioned as a team again. Their care and love for each other was front and center throughout, and if this episode had nothing else, I would love it for giving us the chance to see that brother love again.  
Slowly But Surely, Everyone In This Town Is Falling Prey To Famine
I would submit that all three of our narrative heroes – including Dean – were affected by Famine beginning shortly after their arrival in the town. If they arrived on Sunday, Valentine’s Day, as suggested by Sam telling Dean that evening to go enjoy the holiday, and the strangeness began to afflict the town on the previous Wednesday, when Dean noticed the beginning in the jump in suicides and ODs, it would seem that Famine’s influence began as an insidious thing, perhaps affecting just those closest to his location or simply – like addicts – those most susceptible to their hungers. His mere proximity in the height of his hunger affected everyone in the restaurant and killed in short order, but the entire town didn’t die. Castiel’s comment about Lucifer sending his demons to protect and feed Famine to ensure he would be ready suggested to me that the more Famine ate, the hungrier and emptier he would become, making him a more and more effective weapon with a steadily longer reach. And that in turn suggested Famine started small because until he really got going, his power didn’t extend very far.
Something implied but not spoken in the episode was coordination among the Horsemen. When the boys released the soul from the briefcase and Castiel said Famine fed on souls, I wondered briefly why those souls hadn’t been taken by Reapers – and then felt punched in the gut by the realization that Death commands Reapers and would have ordered them out of Famine’s way. We haven’t seen Death since Lucifer raised him at the end of Abandon All Hope, but I think we’ve begun to see by implication some of what he’s been up to. And if Famine feeds on souls, what does Death do to them, with the army of Reapers who gather where he appears? I don’t think I really want to know.
Finally, I’m curious about Famine’s unique end. When the brothers faced off against War in Good God, Y’All, the Horseman was convinced he couldn’t be killed. While the focus in the final confrontation scene in this episode was properly on Sam and Dean rather than Famine, it seemed pretty clear that Sam’s gambit killed Famine, since his influence over Castiel evaporated even though the ring was still on his finger. We learned from War that while the Horseman was wearing someone else’s face, he wasn’t in that person’s body – he said the real Roger was rotting in a ditch – so I would suspect that Famine was also in his own substance. War was simply dismissed when his ring was severed from his hand, but Famine’s body remained, without the capacity to breed hunger any more.
I suspect that “death” for a Horseman isn’t a permanent thing, given that they represent primal forces. I also trust that, even thought we didn’t see it, the brothers and Castiel did not leave Famine’s ring behind, knowing it to be a link to his power. I’m betting that bringing Famine back would require whatever full-blown ritual Lucifer used to unleash him in the first place, plus something more since he wasn’t just dismissed, but pretty thoroughly blown up. I sincerely doubt Lucifer was expecting that.
I Think I’m Hungry For It
I think we saw the beginning of Famine’s influence on Sam in Sam’s unnaturally heightened senses of smell and hearing in the hallway at the coroner’s office, with Sam’s peculiar focus on the smell of demon blood and the sound of a demon heart pumping that blood through a body. Famine’s hunger seemed to supercharge Sam’s sensitivity to the presence of demons, triggering a headache when his nose brought demon scent across a street. The first time he passed the demon, I don’t think Sam realized just what it was he smelled and heard; the second time, his realization overran his curiosity about why he could suddenly smell demons when he never had before.
From the moment he realized what was happening to him, during the fight in the alley with the demon, Sam was conflicted. On the one hand, he craved the blood and the power it would bring; on the other, he feared and loathed his addiction and its consequences. I think that internal struggle was what allowed the demon to escape.
The exact parameters of Sam’s powers and demon blood addiction have never been defined. Ruby told him in Lucifer Rising that he never needed the feather to fly, implying his power was innate and independent of the blood. At the same time, however, the level of power he displayed appeared directly proportional to the amount of blood he consumed, and both Anna and Castiel expressed fear about the consequences to Sam’s humanity of ingesting demon blood. The more blood he consumed and the more power he used, the more his eyes showed demon-black, from just the irises during his angry drive in On The Head Of A Pin to both irises and whites during his supreme effort against Lilith in Lucifer Rising.
Favoring the argument that the power is innate were the experiences of all the psychic kids prepared by Azazel, as we saw in Nightmare, Simon Says, and All Hell Breaks Loose. All of them had an initial manifestation of a single ability, whether visions, mind control, super strength, death touch, or telekinesis. From both Ava and Jake, however, we learned that when they gave in to their power and used it as Azazel intended, they unlocked their other potentials virtually effortlessly, no demon blood involved, up to and including Ava exerting control over a lesser demon.
Unlike Ava and Jake, Sam feared and fought against his power until Ruby told him it was the single thing that could save Dean. Dean prevented him from trying anything then – not that Ruby would have allowed it to work, since we now know sending Dean to Hell was an essential part of Azazel’s plan – and when Sam did try, seeking revenge after Dean’s death, he was singularly unsuccessful until he started juicing.
It could be that his dependence on demon blood to unlock the fullness of his power is psychological; that even though he professed to want it after Dean died, he still put up unconscious roadblocks to its expression that stood until he swept away his power-using inhibitions with the intoxication of the blood. It could also be that he needed augmentation because his expression of that power – exorcising demons or even destroying them – wasn’t its intended use, or because the sheer gross horsepower of what he was putting out went beyond what any human body could physically support without demonic – or angelic, as in possession by Lucifer – augmentation. Even with the demon blood in his system, his greatest exertions hurt him: witness the nosebleeds indicating blood vessels ruptured by his efforts.
In any case, it’s indisputable that demon blood is seriously addictive crack producing both physical and psychological dependencies, as evidenced both by the craving stimulated by Famine and by what Sam has experienced in going through full blown cold turkey withdrawal twice now. That he underwent it voluntarily the second time is the greatest proof of his willpower and courage.
I don’t fault Sam for succumbing to the blood craving under the circumstances. Famine’s touch overrode everyone’s strength of will, and without the blood – whether he needed its psychological, physical, or metaphysical support – Sam wouldn’t have been able to fight Famine and his demons effectively. The fullness of his will came out, however, when Famine offered him more blood and more power, and Sam refused. He couldn’t have known that his refusal would provide the very weapon he used to take out the Horseman; he knew only that Dean was afraid, and that giving in further to the craving and the power would have meant giving in to Lucifer and doing what Satan wanted. Instead, he found his strength and did something totally unexpected with it, and then he put the weapon down and walked away from it despite the temptation of holding it to use again and the physical, psychological, and emotional price of letting it go.
I think Sam will emerge from this crucible all the stronger for having been broken and reforged. While he now carries the shame and fear of having succumbed to Famine, he also carries the knowledge that in the crisis, he still said no to Lucifer – and what he did in taking down Famine, a being his power couldn’t directly affect, argues that human ingenuity and strength of will can be wild cards that trump seemingly predestined plans. The danger remains in his knowledge that he could have unimaginable power whenever he wanted, and in the temptation offered by the thought that with that power, he might be able to defeat Lucifer as he defeated Famine, and still retain the humanity to put it down and walk away again, as he did this time.
Maybe he could, but maybe he couldn’t. When an addict thinks he could stop any time he wanted to, he’s usually wrong. The scary thing is, there’s no way to know in advance whether the chance is worth the risk.
I’m An Angel; I Can Stop Any Time I Want
Castiel’s sudden fascination with ground beef was a callback to our meeting with Jimmy, his vessel, in The Rapture, when Jimmy passionately devoured hamburgers with gusto. We had never seen Castiel eat and learned from Jimmy that he never did. Castiel maintained Jimmy’s human body and healed its injuries without the need for food or water, but Jimmy craved food and drink with starving intensity as soon as the angel was gone. I had wondered since learning of Castiel’s death and resurrection in Sympathy For The Devil whether Jimmy had been reconstituted in his body along with the angel; from this episode, it would seem the answer to that is yes, since it was Jimmy’s craving that Famine touched.
I think we learned something else potentially vital from that experience. Like many addicts and substance abusers, Castiel maintained he could stop at any time because of who and what he was; he assumed his angelic nature was beyond Famine’s control. Despite that assertion, however, Castiel was unable to control his body’s hunger, and when in Famine’s presence, was reduced to eating raw beef like the dog Famine called him, with no thought of his mission or of the danger to the Winchesters. I think that could mean either of two things. It could suggest that because Castiel is cut off from Heaven, he has become susceptible to forces that couldn’t normally touch an angel. Alternatively, this could be the first suggestion we’ve ever seen that an angel’s vessel could potentially override the angel riding him. Jimmy’s hunger, unnaturally stimulated by Famine, was a primal human drive that overpowered Castiel’s control. Having seen that, I have to wonder whether it may be possible for a human vessel with a sufficiently strong personal drive to take the reins back from an angel and reassert human control even after saying yes. That could be a game-changer no one has expected, including the angels themselves.
That’s One Deep Dark Nothing You’ve Got There
I think Famine’s effect on Dean was demonstrated by Dean’s absolute lack of hunger right from the start, including his lack of interest in trolling through bars for sex. Dean is justly famous for his physical appetites and we’ve seen him indulge them frequently; the sudden absence of those appetites argued, as Sam feared, that something was drastically wrong.
However, I think Famine was wrong in his assessment of why Dean wasn’t hungry. He was absolutely right in commenting on how broken Dean is, how he doesn’t actually believe he can win but bulls on anyway, going through the motions by rote without hope or conviction. Dean indicated as much himself at the very end of Sympathy For The Devil when he told Sam his pep talk about beating both Michael and Lucifer had nothing behind it. I just said a bunch of crap for Bobby’s benefit. I mean, I’ll fight. I’ll fight to the last man, but let’s at least be honest. We don’t stand a snowball’s chance, and you know that. Hell, you of all people know that.
Famine was also right in observing the emptiness in Dean couldn’t be filled by food, drink, or sex. Where I believe he went wrong, though, was in asserting Dean had no hunger because the emptiness within him indicated he was already dead inside. If Dean were truly dead inside, he wouldn’t hurt so much. He wants desperately not to feel the pain any more, but the agony just keeps increasing with every loss and every perceived failure.
I think what Dean hungers for is something Famine couldn’t even recognize:  peace. Freedom from pain, freedom from duty, freedom from guilt, freedom from fear. Dean has been fighting all his life with the stakes always increasing and the price always rising. He’s already lost more than he can bear, but there’s always more he could still lose, starting with the rest of the people he loves. He wants it to end, he wants it to stop – but he can’t stop, not while he’s alive and there are people who still need saving, not when he knows how badly he failed them already when he broke in Hell. Even knowing he can’t save them all, he can’t let go of trying. He gets up in the morning because he can’t not get up.
I think Dean was the very first of our heroes infected by Famine precisely because he’s the most broken, the most desperately hungry in his soul. I think his infection manifested as lack of normal hunger precisely because in his depression he already knew in his heart none of the normal anodynes would work. Food, booze, sex – none of them offered more than temporary and incomplete surcease, and because they were ultimately futile against the enormity of the void of which Famine’s touch had made him acutely aware, they offered no attraction at all, not even for the small joys and brief escapes he had always sought from them. They weren’t what he was hungry for.
A long time ago, Amelia Earhart wrote, Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace. The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things; knows not the livid loneliness of fear.  Dean knows the livid loneliness of fear all too well, and he’s been paying the price for peace in the coin of his courage all his life, without ever attaining it. That, I think, is the emptiness at his core, a hunger that couldn’t be filled by anything but continuing to stand and fight, even without hope.
By the end of this particular adventure, Dean was as utterly broken as a man could be and still live. He has never believed in God. To the best of my recollection, he’s only truly acknowledged the potential for God three times: when he was inspired by Layla’s belief in Faith, when he prayed in desperation for help in The Monster At The End Of This Book, and in his impassioned, despairing plea at the end of this episode. That the only hope he has left is help from a God in whom he doesn’t even believe is a measure of how truly empty of resources he is; his soul has been stripped bare.
I don’t know where he will go from here or how he’ll keep walking, but I know that he will despite his growing brittleness.
It’s what a Winchester does.
Certain Bloodlines, Certain Destinies
My biggest problem with this episode was Cupid. When we first met Castiel in the beginning of season four, he was very clear about angels not having walked the earth since the time of Christ. Learning from him and the cupid now that there are dozens of lesser angels who have been flitting about the world all along arranging human passions to suit the hierarchy of Heaven cheapened that and called Castiel’s veracity into question.
My reaction to the cupid’s pronouncement that Heaven tweaked John and Mary into being the perfect couple despite themselves in order to bring about the births of Sam and Dean is exactly the same as Dean’s. I suppose some of my outrage is the violence all of this does to the very concept of free will. This is even more of a violation than Azazel dosing Sam with demon blood as a baby to affect his development; Sam had no choice over being given that power, but he had every choice in what he did with it. Being roofied by an angel and constrained to fall in love – obsessive love, no less – with no opportunity to refuse is an abomination in my sight. And while it’s perfectly in character for someone like Zachariah to use that power if available to bring about his vision of the new world order, the existence of that soul-distorting and thus inherently corrupt power in Heaven contradicts to me the very concept of Heaven. I could accept angels choosing evil – after all, that ball started rolling with Lucifer – so while I abhorred Zachariah and Uriel, I understood them. Cupid I don’t understand, not in any heavenly context.
I was also very unclear on the cupid’s physical manifestation upon command. Were we to understand that low-level cherubs were so weak and mundane that their own forms could have real physical substance and would cause no damage to mortals who perceived them, or was that body a vessel? We know humans couldn’t bear the sight of Castiel’s true angelic form, forcing him to work through a vessel. We learned from Uriel in The Song Remains The Same that angels were forbidden to walk the earth, much less take a vessel. Were the cupids exempt from those hands-off rules, or considered so powerless within the heavenly host that they were dismissed as being of no account and weren’t even counted within the tally of “angels?”
I laughed at the absurdities of the cupid when he was first introduced, but grew more and more dissatisfied with his entire concept as the scene progressed, and will do my best to forget him as the story continues.
Production Notes
I love Ben Edlund as a writer. No one else possesses exactly his touch for mixing off-the-wall insanity and gross-out violence and humor with true soul-ripping agony. The dough he kneads sometimes has lumpy spots – Cupid, in this case – but leavened with performances like the ones we saw here from Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, and Misha Collins, it bakes up into a tasty loaf with a lot of substance. And nuts.
I thought Mike Rohl did a lovely job with the direction on this, although I cringe to think what the first cut must have looked like, since we know the censors must have taken out some of the grossest violence. What survived in the aired episode doubtless made Eric “My Favorite Scene Was The Hand In The Garbage Disposal” Kripke rub his hands in gleeful delight even as it squicked me out. I’m certain the writers, directors, and art department, actively aided and abetted by the editors, have a standing competition going on who can win the most Gore And Ick Awards. This episode’s ravenous lovers and burning hands fry cook were right up there with Home's garbage disposal and the table saw in The Kids Are Alright. I also laughed out loud at how adroitly the scene with Cupid was shot both to emphasize that Cupid was naked – Jensen’s take on Dean’s repelled but helpless fascination was hilarious – and to block things (literally!) so the other actors always kept the scene decent. I also loved the way Rohl always quietly established Dean being alone and then revealed Castiel as having arrived. It was particularly effective in the last paired scene, when we saw Dean drinking alone and then saw Castiel abruptly and silently standing by the panic room door, because that shot was accomplished with no cuts, just a smooth and carefully synchronized movement of the camera and the actor. The touch of having Dean’s and Castiel’s “hamburglar” hotel room conversation play out as the audible backdrop to Sam confronting himself in the mirror and struggling with what to do was a great choice, especially as Castiel maintained that he was an angel and could stop anytime he wanted. That was a chilling counterpoint to Sam’s inner fight.
The only scene I really had trouble with for both direction and scripted action was the final confrontation with Famine. Even given the state of his shock and dismay, it didn’t make sense to me that Dean, the consummate hunter, would simply stand there with a knife in his hand and not cut off Famine’s ring. I understand that for Dean, seeing Sam exerting his blood-borne power couldn’t simply be viewed as providing a distraction, and there was a morbid fascination in watching Sam exploding demons out of Famine’s belly, but his hunter instincts run so much on autopilot that to have him just standing there violated reason. Perhaps the intent was to demonstrate that Sam actually killed Famine, since his power over Castiel was broken even though the ring was still on his hand, but there was enough ambiguity in how that scene came across as shot and edited that I was really bothered by it. And I want to see the brothers’ growing collection of Horseman rings.
I was also a little troubled with Sam’s dried blood beard in that scene. Okay, Famine needed a visual cue to be certain Sam had snacked on his opportune demons, and it instantly dismissed any doubts Dean might have harbored on that score as well, but it just didn’t track with fastidious Sam and his whole shame over drinking the blood in the first place. Wiping his mouth even halfway decently wouldn’t have left that much of a stain behind; it seemed a bit of director and makeup department overkill to me.
A minor but constantly irritating plot point is how the demons got to Sam in the first place. Don’t the brothers ever stop to lay salt lines around their rooms any more, or scrawl devil’s traps under rugs by the door? Or could a demon huff and puff and blow a salt line apart, given time, the same way they could flip up a rug and break a devil’s trap they weren’t already caught in?
Enough nitpicking. I thought both Jared and Jensen delivered masterful performances here, particularly Jared’s Sam confronting himself in the mirror and resolving to admit the truth to Dean, and then suffering through the fight against his cravings and saying no to Famine; and Jensen’s Dean, too thoroughly broken even to bother with uselessly trying to get drunk, choking on a prayer for help to a God in which he doesn’t believe. I loved the way they played so comfortably off each other throughout the episode, reinforcing the impression of the brothers being closer again than they’ve been since before Dean died, and the way they handled all the conflicting emotions – shame, fear, sadness, hurt, achievement, resignation – in the aftermath of Sam winning the battle with his powers. Heartbreaking all the way around.
I also liked Misha’s portrayal of Castiel turned into a burger addict. My favorite moment was the brief glimpse of Jimmy in Castiel’s comment about the hamburgers making him very happy; for just that flashing instant of a smile, we saw Jimmy, even as the rest of the time, we saw Castiel. I wonder if this small addiction experience will help Castiel to better understand and appreciate Sam.
I enjoyed the guest cast as well, particularly repeat player Jay Brazeau as Dr. Corman (remember him as the excitable crime aficionado librarian in season one’s Provenance?), who came across as delightfully three-dimensional despite very brief screen time; Lex Medlin as Cupid, who captured a hilarious blend of innocence, simpleness, and enthusiasm that I could applaud even though I thought the concept of the cherubs fell flat; and James Otis as Famine, who chewed the scenery a little but was most appropriately creepy as the embodiment of arrogant hunger.
Composer Chris Lennertz and the sound crew get some happy cheers as well. The heartbeat theme incorporated into the underscore during Sam’s one-sided fight with the snack demons was perfect for the moment, and played on the sound highlights brought in during Sam’s earlier demon encounters in this episode to help us experience Sam’s altered senses, since smell-o-vision wasn’t available. For some reason, the sound of blood dripping from the heart in Castiel’s hand in the autopsy room made me chuckle appreciatively, where the earlier sound effects from the gorging couple sold the scene so well, combined with those chewy visuals, that my own gorge rose. Ewww! Gross-out accomplished, guys. Finally, having the sound of wings that normally accompanies Castiel’s appearances blend into the crackling of his latest bag of burgers when he appeared in the car with Dean was inspired.
I laughed about the show’s continuity landing us in Denny’s – excuse me, Biggerson’s – again, reprising the restaurant chain established in Bad Day At Black Rock. Good one, guys! And the title callout to Jensen’s horror movie last year was too obvious not to use. All the Valentine’s touches throughout – as well as the stellar use of blood spray leading into this season’s bloody title card – were beautifully executed by the design and effects crews. The visual effects people get a special nod for Sam’s eyes reflecting in the bloody knife in the alley: that was chilling!
Every time we think the brothers have hit bottom, we’ve learned there’s always farther to fall and more to lose. But we’ve also seen them pick themselves up and soldier on despite it all, and that’s what makes them heroes.
Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace. Carry on, my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done, lay your weary head to rest, don’t you cry no more.


And yes, I'm celebrating the news of the season six renewal!  And if you haven't seen this yet, please by all means drop in on part one of the lovely interview the ladies of Fangasm have up with Director of Photography Serge Ladouceur: it's full of tasty tidbits with no spoilers, and I can't wait to read part two!

ETA:  I am emphatically NOT freaking out over the word that Eric Kripke is handing showrunner reins to Sera Gamble. I don't see Eric ever abandoning his beloved firstborn, even as he attends to other offspring. He's clearly been heavily involved in the development of the season six storyline already, and I expect him (and Robert Singer) to stay involved on the creative end with production oversight, albeit from a higher altitude. But not being showrunner means he could play with the really fun stuff (writing, directing) without having to pull out his thinning hair over budget battles and daily comments from network suits. Sera's been with him from season one, and she collaborates really well with others on the creative team: she shares his vision. I'll do some season six speculation in a separate post Real Soon Now, I promise.
Current Mood: ecstaticecstatic
Current Music: "Carry On, Wayward Son" by Kansas
Melcoltshot_1 on February 17th, 2010 02:43 am (UTC)
Gosh, I love your reviews. I was kinda bugged by Cupid too -- I put it down to BE needing absurdity so much that he can't help himself. And I suppose technically the Cupids aren't 'walking' the earth -- they're flitting invisibly about creating stalkers . . . I mean . . . ;) What made it ironic and poignant was that the obsession that turned John into a hunter and forged his sons into the men who are thwarting the whole destiny plan was wrought by an arrogant heaven. Once again proving that free will must make a difference -- otherwise, why the need to manipulate 'destiny' SOOOO much?
I was not bothered by the lack of salt and devil's traps. The Winchesters are still hidden from heaven and hell by hex bags and the symbols on their ribs. There was no reason for them to think that demons would be able to find Sam. He obviously didn't miss his room key -- he was preoccupied by his growing hunger.
I agree with you about my poor Dean. If he was truly 'dead inside' he wouldn't be hurting. I wonder if he literally left a part of himself in hell -- I have this image of Dean's soul in a jar on Alistair's mantle -- and how they will go about recovering that vital bit of his humanity.
Anyway, everybody just really knocked it out of the park with this episode.
historylover29historylover29 on February 17th, 2010 04:02 am (UTC)
I wrote a one-shot about that last scene, from Dean's POV. Because I agree that Famine is right--he's broken, about to hit rock bottom (if he hasn't already hit it. Which, this show is going to make sure that he's not there yet), but he's far from dead inside. There is no way he can pray like that if he's dead inside. But, he did leave a part of himself in Hell.

The story was OK, but the acting but it over-the-top one of my favorite episodes. However, I'm not in a rush to rewatch it. Because that was the most gorey, grotesque, gross episodes I've ever seen. And I'm not usually that squicked out by that kind of stuff. But, that was disgusting!

As I said, if it wasn't for the acting (Jensen blew me away in that last scene), I wouldn't like this episode nearly as much.

yourlibrarianyourlibrarian on February 17th, 2010 05:47 am (UTC)
To the best of my recollection, he’s only truly acknowledged the potential for God three times

I think there was a fourth, when he grabbed the Bible in YF.

Wiping his mouth even halfway decently wouldn’t have left that much of a stain behind; it seemed a bit of director and makeup department overkill to me.

That's a good point, but I think one could argue that Sam had run into (and fed from) a demon more recently. After all, how did Sam find them? And so relatively quickly? My guess is the demon who waited his turn teleported him (after all, that was their mission) and was then killed.

Don’t the brothers ever stop to lay salt lines around their rooms any more, or scrawl devil’s traps under rugs by the door?

What about simply locking their doors? I just snorted at the motel room key the demon presented. Given that the motels they stay in never seem to have self-locking doors and they never seem to actually use a key, it's little surprise that Sam never missed it.

So Sera will be showrunning? It doesn't worry me because Kripke will be less involved, but it does concern me because she and Edlund remain the show's strongest writers. She'll have a lot less time for that in the new position and so far I haven't been that impressed by the newer writers they've brought in. In another respect, in an industry with so few women writing or producing, it's good that there will be one more.
Zazzazreil on February 17th, 2010 05:58 am (UTC)
First thanks for the link to the interview. I actually have that site bookmarked but I forget to check it.

Also I don't mind Sera as show runner even if Kripke and Singer did leave, I generally like her vision a lot. She is one of my favorite writers and I would trust her with our show

Now on to your review ^_^

Zazzazreil on February 17th, 2010 06:37 am (UTC)
Oh man yes thinking about Death is terrifying. Anything that needs a Nazi type atrocity to raise - shudder. On TWOP they joke about Death burning his way through America, killing off the population of one state at a time but it may be closer to the truth than we can imagine

Hmmm I guess I just thought Famine's ring was removed by Dean off screen, after Sam injured him enough that temporarily he was down for the count. I wasn't sure that Famine didn't do something to him to make him, hesitate but I agree I thought Dean should have been more proactive. I suspect part of my view is because my interpretation of the rings is strongly influenced by Tolkien for I always have felt that the rings were the real horsemen and the bearers ^_~ were the true horses.

I still think the effect of the Demon blood on Sam was psychological and spiritual rather than physical. He probably doesn't need it but in eschewing Demon blood, he also turned away from those powers and probably never even tried after Ruby told him that he never needed the feather fearing were it would lead. In this episode since he already drank the blood he might as well use the power that he has been conditioned to believe comes with it. I think the blood has been having a negative effect on him ever since he was a child, making him more prone to anger and arrogance, two traits that would place his soul in harmony with Lucifer

Love your comments about Jimmy, that would be an intriguing twist, but I think I still want Sam and Dean to just say NO

Lovely description of Dean's real hunger and emptiness, little different from where my thoughts first went. My first thought is that what Famine was reading was depression, the really bad suicidal kind. Its something that you can fight through but it really does feels like an empty hole, and though sometimes there can be a reason for the feeling of emptiness there does not have to be. Watching Dean no longer having a taste for the little pleasures, followed by Famine's comment and his ending speech, was like watching someone who suffers from depression really hit rock bottom and finally accept that they need help.

I so totally agree with you on Cupid. I mean in epi 1 or 2 of season 4 Castiel said Angels had not been down to earth in 2000 years! Ok he didn't know about Anna and Gabe breaking the rule or how he would be sent back in time but Cupids seem like part of the regular hierarchy of heaven. I would liked it better if Cupids were just a spirit who had a job like life affirming affirming version of a reaper. That would give the Supernatural world a yin yang balance and would avoid all the questions about how the heck did the Cupid get a vessel that fast etc

Yup squickiest episode ever!

noirbabalonnoirbabalon on February 17th, 2010 07:16 am (UTC)
Really enjoyed your view on 5.14. You raised a number of issues that I had concerns about ie Castiel's vessel Jimmy reasserting control, Dean's frozen moment during Sam's exorcising of Famine and the 2nd Horseman's unsatisfying and inconclusive ending, as well as the cupidity of throwing to the wolves the plot thread of destiny vs freewill.

I can't imagine that the creative time truly desire to end that plot thread especially after making such an issue of it at the end of 5.13 but Cupid's statements regarding Mary and John seemed so clumsy and fumbling. I almost want to argue that the lower order of the cupid's misunderstood their directives. Angels at any level of their hierarchy seem to have no understanding or tolerance for Free Will and it's practice by humans.

Your suggestion regarding the Reapers (Death is their leader) was not something that I had considered. It answers some of the questions I had about the lack of them when the demons were collecting souls to feed Famine.

However your comment ...and Jensen’s Dean, too thoroughly broken even to bother with uselessly trying to get drunk, choking on a prayer for help to a God in which he doesn’t believe... caused me to remember my initial thought on seeing this scene. It made me think of Dean's phone call to John at the beginning of "Home" where he begs for his help, that he needs his help, and the emotion and fear that he felt at that time.

John, for Dean, was a god during his formative and early adult life. John may have become more human in the last couple of years as Dean discovered more about himself and his fathers past, (remember the revelations in "Jump the Shark" for instance) but given Dean's exposure to a younger, less damaged John in "The Song Remains the Same", he may have gained an insight into the strength of the man and how that strength supported him. As a consequence I considered Dean may have been asking for help from John. With no expectation of it but the desperate need to seek it.

Maybe not too far fetched if you consider God as the Father?

What a wicked way to bring JDM back if it were so...but I have no hope that this will be the case ::sigh::

Of course another interpretation would be that he is simply asking help of anyone who will listen and can provide.

A great analysis/critique as usual. Thank you! :-)
chatchien: butterflies hatchatchien on February 17th, 2010 07:19 am (UTC)
And if Famine feeds on souls, what does Death do to them, with the army of Reapers who gather where he appears?

Didn't Tessa tell Dean in Death Takes a Holiday that she just gathered souls? That she didn't know what happened to them after the gathering. What happened to the Twinkie Man's soul when Sam and Dean freed it?

The exact parameters of Sam’s powers and demon blood addiction have never been defined.

Even with his demon blood, Sam could use the Banishing Angel Sigil. Although, didn't Sam's blood sparkle or glow when he banished Anna from the garage in The Song Remains the Same? Demons can't banish Angels on their own, can they?

I think Dean was the very first of our heroes infected by Famine precisely because he’s the most broken, the most desperately hungry in his soul.

That is a different and interesting take on it.

Dean has been to Hell and back. And had his soul harvesting interrupted by a Demon (or was Azazael an angel). Maybe something happened to his soul in the process.

I noticed that War's ring was a band of gold. Famine's ring looked like a class ring with a black stone in it and Enochian? symbols decorating the ring's setting. And I thought that Famine's steed was his black wheelchair. :-)

Enjoyed your thoughts on the episode.
(Anonymous) on February 17th, 2010 08:07 am (UTC)
Odd idea
I don't think this will happen - but the brothers now have two rings. If the collected all four? They would control the Apocolype. SO the question is - what 4 persons would wear the rings?
Dean =Famine ( Remembering that true starvation actually ends hunger)
Sam = War (Superconflicted character.)
Castiel = Death (He has technically 'died' - unique for an angel)
Gabriel = Pestilance (He's a pest - at least )
What would that do to the endgame?
(Anonymous) on February 17th, 2010 07:38 pm (UTC)
I questioned that statement about angels walking the earth too. Cherubs are angels but if you have read a few theological texts on angels, and maybe throw in a little Sunday school catechism, there are all these different classes and levels of angels, from those closest to God in proximity like the ones with extra faces and wings(Thrones I think), and cherubs are on the low end of the spectrum, a world away from the Archangels like Gabriel and Michael. I'm not sure but I believe there is a class of angels above them as well. I'd like to know what research was used by the writers.

Also I think Jimmy has had some influence on Castiel. His attitude towards Sam is very differnt than it was when they first met. He seemed almost indifferent to Sam's presence in the beginning and seemed to except him only because Sam happens to be with Dean. In this episode, especially at the end, he seemed to show a level of understanding and compassion for Sam that I'd never seen him show before.(Look at the expression on his face as he talks to Dean about Sam.) Maybe his experience with Famine gave him some new insight into whatever Sam was going through but I like to think that it's something that's been building up all season. He has been spending the majority of his time with Dean but I find it hard to believe he would not have developed stronger feelings for Sam other than the indifference he initially displayed for Sam at the beginning of season 4.
chiiyo86chiiyo86 on February 17th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
This was the grossest episode ever - I could barely watch this first scene. But all the brotherly stuff was lovely (and they did that adorable talking-in-unison again!). :) And I'm so proud of Sam for how hard he resisted!

and then felt punched in the gut by the realization that Death commands Reapers and would have ordered them out of Famine’s way.

Ooooh, very interesting idea. I didn't think about that at all, but it makes a lot of sense.

I agree with your theory about Dean's hunger - there was a lot of insistence on his complete lack of hunger for anything, and we know that at least in last episode he still had erotic dreams. But he's already stated that he wished he didn't feel anything - so that's what happened.

About what Cupid said concerning John and Mary, I was disturbed too, but I think it really depend on how far goes a cupid's influence. Does he really force people to fall madly in love without any choice at all, or does he take care only of the first attraction? In that last case, it wouldn't be any different from other phenomenons influencing attraction between people - like pheromones. I don't think that pure free will really exists anyway, and especially not in the matter of love. Isn't the helplessness in the face of love a theme in a lot love stories? Anyway, I've decided not to be too upset by it. :)
andromakhe001andromakhe001 on February 17th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
. I wonder if he literally left a part of himself in hell

He can't have, the only thing in Hell was his soul and that is what Castiel gripped tight and pulled from Perdition. So Dean's soul came out of Hell because it was the only thing in Hell to bring back. :D I think it's metaphorical(unless it's something to do with letting Michael in)

This isn't anything new, it was talked about Dream A Little Dream. It's been mentioned other times. I'd say more likely it comes not from any part being left in Hell. It comes from a lifetime of almost unimaginable stress and a stolen childhood. One of the saddest psychological symptoms of the kids(and the adults they often grow into) who "don't have a childhood" is that they feel empty inside. In one essay by a psychologist I read it was actually described just it was in DALDOM(made me wonder if the writer read the same essay:)), the part about looking in the mirror and hating what he saw, about being empty, about having nothing of his own, etc. It's why despite not leaving any bruises and broken bones, it's considered one of the more damaging forms of child neglect.

Add onto that, all the other stuff Dean has been through, like 40 years of Hell which led to starting the Apocalypse - it's pretty easy to see why Dean would feel like he's got a "deep dark nothing" inside. Of course he does, but there has always been a disconnect in Dean between who he is and who he thinks he is--he always tends to see himself as worse than he is and that he has less in himself than he does have.

Dean's probably suffering from depression. I don't think Famine did affect him, except psychologically. He saw just what became of "Team Free Will" when Cas can't do anything but chow down on meat and Sam comes in jonesing to use his power. It's power that Sam craves and once Famine was out of the game so to speak, just like Castiel's hunger came to an end, so did Sam's jones for the power. Because "wait your turn" and the the way he sounded when he told Famine what he was about to do to me was Sam power tripping, not "resisting".

Dean's hunger, even for "nothingness" or peace just wasn't portrayed in the same sort of way the others were. It didn't improve afterwards either. I think Dean was(and is) depressed, and I think it had nothing to do with Famine having a physical effect. It was because he, not long before, got to meet his parents again, because he met Michael for the first time and it was not a positive experience(look at the way he looks and sounds when Michael says he's going to wipe Mary and John's memories of this).

I don't think they would have had both Castiel and Famine point out that Dean wasn't affected(so guys on opposite teams saying the same thing), if Dean was affected.
(Anonymous) on February 17th, 2010 11:52 pm (UTC)
Dear Mary! This is brilliant, as usual, I agree with every single word, thank you so much!

“I think what Dean hungers for is something Famine couldn’t even recognize: peace.” - YES!!! Exactly! Food, booze, sex - they just weren’t what he was hungry for. I love you for pointing this out, and I knew you would.

I hated the whole idea with Cupid for the very same reasons. It’s true, his pronouncement that they tweaked John and Mary into being the perfect couple despite themselves is nothing but an abomination. This is something I cannot accept. Mary and John have been the embodiment of true love for me. And for Dean and Sam as well, I’m sure. Such love is what God is all about, and that’s why Dean and Sam have such a strong, unbreakable bond, because the love they were born from keeps on living in them. Too melodramatic, I know, but I like to believe it. So I will do my best to forget about Cupid too.

And thank you so very, very much for your comment about Kripke stepping down as showrunner. ‘Cause when I first heard this news, I WAS freaked out - to put it mildly. But now, thanks to you, I am feeling way better, and I think I’m getting my hope and faith back. Really can’t wait for your season six speculation, please, do it!! Once again, thank you! What would we do without you?! :)

Sorry for my English…

Love, Vicky
seesmooshrunseesmooshrun on February 18th, 2010 07:51 am (UTC)
You gave me much to think about in your assessment of how Famine affected Dean. Put a spin on it I hadn't seen. I will have to ponder that, thanks.

And I too had a problem with the cupid, a different one: why would Dean, the "consummate hunter" as you called him, not let his hunter instincts kick in while being hugged? I mean, they were waiting in an alley for a rogue and possibly very dangerous angelic being. When Cupid appears behind Dean and grabs him in a bear hug, Dean barely even struggles, let alone toss him or kick his ass. The scene was played too much for comic effect and too little for realistic character reaction.

Oh, but the rest of the episode made up for it. And yay for Season 6!!
and all I hear is silence and all I feel is tiredathenaswirls on February 19th, 2010 02:18 am (UTC)
Hi :)

I usually lurk, but I just wanted to pop in and say how much I like your review.

I really like and agree with your thoughts on Dean's reaction to famine. I hadn't thought about it before you mentioned. His reactions were as telling as Sam's blood craving.

I was yelling at the screen for Dean to 'get the bloody ring already' the entire time Sam was distracting Famine. I'm glad I'm not the only one that bugged. Speaking of which, do you know why Dean no longer wears his ring or bracelet? I haven't seen either for several episodes. Has me really curious.

Again, really dig your reviews!
immie_8immie_8 on February 19th, 2010 03:34 am (UTC)
Evening Professor!

This was the first episode that I've ever had to fastforward through the teaser. Those people eating each other was just too gross! UGH! *shudders* Well done, Ben Edlund.

So far, Edlund is 3 for 3 with me this season. Loved, loved, loved, loved, loved this episode. I adored Sam's admission that he was craving blood, and the steps he took to try and protect himself (and others) from what could happen if he gave into what he craved. Cas was wonderful, too. Loved how he tried to comfort Dean at the end. And that cell phone scene was HILARIOUS!!! I do hope that the Sam-Cas side of things gets further developed as time goes on. (As nice as it is taht Cas now considers Sam a friend, I wish we'd have gotten a little more on-screen development of that friendship.) Never, IMO, have there been two characters who have so much in common and who could be so good in learning lessons from each other.

I have to admit that at the end, there, Den really scared me. I was petrified that he was going to give in and say yes, but his plea at the end just crushed my heart. Dean's so obviously tired and out of hope, and yet he continues to fight, and it just breaks my heart. How he gets up in the morning, indeed! *sniffles*

I actually think that the reason that Dean wasn't affected was because Famine couldn't give Dean what he truly was hungry for: hope. As much as Dean longs for peace, IMO, what he really needs right now is hope. Right now it must seem like whatever he does, it all ends up the same. He defeats Lucifer, and Michael and the angels make Earth a "paradise"; he doesn't defeat Lucifer and the world ends up like it did in The End; he says yes, the same scenario as defeating Lucifer occurs, he continues to say no and the best he can hope for is trying to make a best of the broken world he saw in The End. I can't imagine that Dean sees any light at the end of the tunnel he staring down.

Cupid I don’t understand, not in any heavenly context.

Cupid for all his power over human emotions seems naive. He seems to have a sort of one track mind that believes there's nothing wrong with making people fall in love because love is the best thing in the whole universe. Of all the types of angels we've met so far, I'd say that Cupid seems to be the most simple minded and probably the easiest for angels like Zach to manipulate.

I also like to think that despite what Cupid said that Mary and John's love wasn't just the result of some Heavenly hocus-pocus, but that Cupid's interference was just a catalyst. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but the idea that John and Mary didn't truly love each other out of choice is just too heartbreaking for me to consider.

Take care everyone,

tabbytabby333 on February 19th, 2010 04:05 am (UTC)
I'm one of the few who doesn't think Jimmy is there with Castiel. For Castiel to succumb to a human thing like addiction without the influence of a human presence would be far more telling about just how far he has fallen. His joy at the taste of the burger also very human and indicative of his step away from being an angel. His will be a more effective story if what he experiences in the coming epsiodes is all him and we see just what it means for an angel to live as a human and be in close association with the Winchesters.
arafel979 on February 20th, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
Hey Mary!
After a great start to this season, extreme disappointment beginning with 5.05, has lessened my desire to comment in many of my old, familiar haunts this season, but with these last four, I think I am finally seeing a ray of hope. While many are happy that the brothers are just back together hunting, I have never felt the bond was really and truly re-forged "better and stronger"-not yet, anyway. And it has cast a pall on the entire season for me. But, as I said with these last four(and especially this one), I finally have some hope that we might get what EK promised us in regards to the broken brother bond-that they will both come out of it "stronger and better, but also older, wiser, and sadder".

“Remarkably patronizing concern. Duly noted.”

IMO, this scene, and this last line specifically, let us know without a doubt that the words they exchanged in Sex and Violence last season have not been forgotten by the writers nor swept under the rug-especially and most importantly, as far as Dean is concerned. I like that the guys are working their way back to each other and this ep so wonderfully showed that they still love each other and that they fear and worry for each other and that Dean still feels immense responsibility for Sam-both for all that has already happened to him and for what still might happen to him. BUT...he has also not forgotten that Sam simply can't handle the truth of ALL the weight that Dean has had to carry in the past and all that he has yet to carry. And it doesn't matter to Dean that Sam voices his concern. Through this one little sentence, again IMO, Dean's unresolved and unspoken feelings of anger and hurt that were left in the wake of Sam's actions from last season and his words, too(specifically the Boo hoo and the weak/cowardly comments from S&V), are still there-buried deep, as we all know is Dean's way of dealing-but still very much there. And this time they are not going to go away or stay buried. They must somehow be brought out into the light of day. Dean, IMO, sees Sam's concern as only lip service-and, again strictly MO, justifiably so. I feel with everything that's in me, that this simply HAS to come out-but luckily, after wondering for half the season, I now believe that it's going to. I'm not sure how, but I would not be at all surprised if in an upcoming episode, DEAN'S thoughts/feelings on the relationship will be revealed to us, as Sam's were in Fallen Idols. I DO hope with all hope that it will be better written than that one, though. :-) The scene when Dean clocked "stupid cupid"-hee!-only reinforced this feeling for me. After all this time together, Sam really should have known why his brother would have gotten so angry there, IMO. That he had no clue only emphasized that he sees only what's on the surface with Dean and doesn't give what's going on inside his brother much thought at all. And Dean's "not" wanting to talk about it with Sam(and again Sam's NOT understanding the why of this, also), again IMO, speaks to all kinds of buried anger and hurt within Dean concerning Sam. I'm glad that we are in no way done with the mending yet. I want them back together in a way that's better for BOTH of them. And for letting us know that through his script, I am most, MOST grateful to Ben Edlund in this one! I love that in that last sentence he also allowed Dean some intelligence, too. Edlund is very intelligent, economical, macho, and pointed in his dialogue-and I think that's why he has become known as the best "Dean" writer on the show. And I thought he did great with everyone's characterization in MBV.

arafel979 on February 20th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
P2-too many characters-it figures! :-)

My other thought concerns Ruby's "feather to fly" comment. I always thought she meant herself there. That Sam didn't need HER to access the powers. All he had to do was make the choice to drink the blood. She just laid that option/choice out for him, and he made the "right" choice from the demon's perspective. I can't see how the YED could have known that all those children would have psychic abilities 10 years before they were all born. And I think it would be bit too much of a credibility stretch, even for this show, if the writers were to ask us to accept that. I guess we'll see, though. I really kind of hope that that is the last we'll ever see of the powers; or if EK somehow feels like he has to bring them back, I would hope that he would at least keep them evil in origin. And lest we forget, in the episode Faith, misguided actions/good intentions that were also based in evil DID wind up aiding in a good cause, thus proving one of the greatest themes of this show-God works in mysterious ways. This would work much better for me, if Kripke insists on making Sam his Luke Skywalker.
I saw the magical hand scene as Sam being able to resist the temptation of the blood, but not the temptation of the power that it brought. Why else would they have Dean standing there with the knife. And while some think he "froze" or was "paralyzed", I just didn't see that. He even at one point, looked from the knife to Sam in a very considering-type way. What was he considering, though? There are a number of possibilities, but clearly seeing how the power affected Sam(ALL of it, not just what lead up to his obtaining it, but also how he acted while under it's influence, the nosebleed, and Sam's remorse and shame afterwards-and like you I think Sam asked to be de-toxed this time-and then the horror of de-tox, itself-and this after he and Sam had been through it once already)broke Dean down to the point of that last unbelievably moving and desperate scene in the junkyard...*sigh*...Goddess, the Manpain there...
It's always good to read your words! Hope to be visiting you again after the hiatus!

rgnyc on February 21st, 2010 03:08 am (UTC)
Awesome review!
Wow! I so appreciate your detailed comments! Your post is like a luscious desert to enjoy after a satisfying meal--I mean episode--of Supernatural. The show is so good it seems to bring out the creativity in others. I don't have anything to add but just wanted to say thanks for the thought provoking discussion. I am glad I can watch the repeats on TNT and the DVDs I have of seasons 3 and 4 to hold me over until March 24th! Cheers, -RG
elenamil on February 21st, 2010 05:46 am (UTC)
Hi! Thank you for another wonderful commentary--they're so thoughtful and insightful. I'm mostly a lurky type here, but thought I'd chime in for a change--for the most part I found myself in agreement with your interpretation. Cupid didn't bother me quite as much, probably because he was so appealing--but I do agree that what he said about John and Mary's relationship was rather disturbing and didn't seem to quite fit with the show's history especially after last week... The Cupids' presence contradicting Castiel's comments regarding angelic presence didn't trouble me especially either, I just figured he considered cherubs such a low order that they didn't count... I'll have to go back to that S4 ep and see exactly what he said.

Really enjoyed your take on Dean--his plea really echoed back to "Monster at the End of this Book" for me, which not too many seem to be talking about, I've seen rather more comparisons to his call in Home. I'll just add this-- Dean's not dead inside, but he sure looks like he's finally crossing over into actual clinical depression. Check out the symptoms: Sleep disturbance, feelings of guilt/worthlessness/hopelessness, loss of appetite and for sure anhedonia. I really wanted to give him a hug and an SSRI prescription at the end of this ep! Not that he'd take either one. Oh, Dean.

As for Sam, again loved your take on it. The exact role the demon blood plays remains mysterious, but it does somehow seem to function in removing his inhibitions to the use of his powers. Nice point about the other psychic kids, how they really came into their powers when they finally gave in, stopped fighting it.

However, I'm inclined to agree with arafel with regard to Sam's ability to resist Famine at the diner. His hunger was so uncontrollable at the motel, why wouldn't it escalate in Famine's presence? He did seem to struggle, and a deep resistance to caving to Lucifer's wishes no doubt helped, but i think the real reason is that Sam's not really hungry for the blood--he's hungry for the power he associates with it. In a sense he does give in to his hunger, by exercising that power (not that he had much choice in the situation). And I think Dean on some level understands that, adding to his horror at the situation. So, I didn't find his ability to say no all that reassuring.

Just my two cents worth. Again, thanks for the commentary, and for your fanfic-- I'm usually a little wary of fanfic but loved your pieces-- Do you write original fiction or poetry as well? The early Impala stories are pretty close... Anyway, hoping for more!
sophie_deangirlsophie_deangirl on February 21st, 2010 09:03 pm (UTC)
On the same page!
As always, you were spot on and as always I love that we're on the same page! You saw great things that I missed especially your observations with Sam. Of course, being the DeanGirl that I am, you totally got me with your points about Dean and his soul. My fave was this:

"I think what Dean hungers for is something Famine couldn’t even recognize:  peace. Freedom from pain, freedom from duty, freedom from guilt, freedom from fear. Dean has been fighting all his life with the stakes always increasing and the price always rising. He’s already lost more than he can bear, but there’s always more he could still lose, starting with the rest of the people he loves. He wants it to end, he wants it to stop – but he can’t stop, not while he’s alive and there are people who still need saving, not when he knows how badly he failed them already when he broke in Hell. Even knowing he can’t save them all, he can’t let go of trying. He gets up in the morning because he can’t not get up."

I totally agree and love that about Dean!!! He's hero because of that. Great job as always.
nitewomannitewoman on February 22nd, 2010 06:57 am (UTC)
Re: On the same page!
I just found your journal, so this is my first time posting
Great review and many different ideas to consider, most of which I agree with.
This was the grossest episode from SPN but that didn’t bother me. I can just envision Sara and Ben gleefully laughing their heads off that they got away with that scene. Sara has stated she loves the gore.

Awesome episode. Jensen, Jared & Misha hit it out of the galaxy again. Sad Sam had to give in to his addiction, but I believe Sam was the only one who could stop Famine. Fugly dude and creepy, loved that depiction.

I thought someone has to be unaffected otherwise how would this situation be resolved? It was a surprise Sam all juiced up on demon blood would be the one to defeat Famine or send him somewhere. Great to see Sam be the one to fix this.

"What I got the most out of this episode was Dean seeing Sam’s powers in full force. He’s never seen Sam that way before. Even though he knew that Sam was powerful enough to kill Lilith, he really didn’t understand how dangerous Sam was until he saw him here. It really shook Dean to the core."
Really liked the what you said here about Dean seeing Sam in demon blood power.

"I think Sam will emerge from this crucible all the stronger for having been broken and reforged. While he now carries the shame and fear of having succumbed to Famine, he also carries the knowledge that in the crisis, he still said no to Lucifer – and what he did in taking down Famine, a being his power couldn’t directly affect, argues that human ingenuity and strength of will can be wild cards that trump seemingly predestined plans.
So agree with your comments on Sam."
It didn’t make sense to me that Dean, the consummate hunter, would simply stand there with a knife in his hand and not cut off Famine’s ring.
That whole scene with Dean and Famine did not make any sense. I think someone left a part of the scene on the cutting room floor.
Where did Famine go, what happened to him, is he dead (don’t think so) did Dean get the ring? Yes I believe he did just would have been nice to see that.

Dean listening to Sam going through detox again, just cruel. Dean defeated, alone, lost and out of answers and can't do it alone asks God for help - gut wrenching. Dean’s depression has really kicked in but he’s not at the bottom yet, but not far from it.

That's why Dean's soul is just misplaced in Dean's mind cause he can't forgive himself for what he has done, for all the people he’s let down or have died etc. As a beautiful poem says "when you only see one set of footprints in the sand that is when God is carrying you. When Dean gets the help he desperately needs that is when he will start to see he has to forgive and God will give him all the strength and power he needs. The same goes for Sam. I believe that Sam and Dean will say no!

As for Cupid well I won’t go there, pretending it never happened.

Dean: “Remarkably patronizing concern. Duly noted.”
Simple comeback to Sam that shows how broken the brothers relationship still is. Major complaint this hasn’t be addressed enough. I have hope it will be back the end of the season.

Six week hiatus….just not sure I can last till the end of the season without going running to the nuthouse!
zofia27: Sadzofia27 on February 23rd, 2010 02:38 am (UTC)
I love reading your reviews!!

For the most part I agree with everything you said. I do want to post a counter to Cupid's comment that they worked hard to get Mary and John together. All this talk about there not really being free will kinda supports that this might have been how they got together. Destiny and all that. Also, I'm not that familiar with Cupid lore but it seems like they're always bring couples together that don't necessary declare their love for each other at first. If they already liked it each then there would be no need for a Cupid. Just a thought.

The demons being able to get to Sam in the hotel room? The hex bags were supposed to protect them from discovery. Maybe they thought they didn't need salt or a devil's trap if they couldn't be found.

On first viewing I also wondered at Dean's inactivity while Sam dealt with Famine. I actually yelled at the TV "What're standing there for Dean! Get the knife and cut the ring off!!" Then on second viewing I started wondering if Dean was waiting to see what Sam would do. Would he give in to his powers or would he be able to control them and remain his Sammy? Just a thought that crossed my mind. Or maybe the intent just didn't translate clearly on film.

Also...there was another Dean/God moment. Someone mentioned in the comments Dean reaching for the Bible in Yellow Fever. He also talked about maybe witnessing the hand of God at work at the end of Houses of the Holy. So a total of 5.

As for the performances? Jared and Jensen just blew me away. I'm so glad that they were acting more like brothers and Sam trusting Dean to tell him about his renewed urge for blood. The last scenes with Dean having to listen to Sam's screams and then pleading for help did me in...though I'm wondering if the "help" will come in the form of Michael taking over his body.