On each other’s nerves,
Brothers miss the biggest clue:
Tricksters breed mischief.
Tall Tales brought hilarious relief from the crushing weight of guilt, grief, fear, and foreboding that has characterized the second season of Supernatural up to this point. Like first season’s Hell House, this episode brought a shot of lightness with a chaser of belly laughs, and yet had a serious core. It offered a much needed breather before we enter the home stretch of Supernatural’s sophomore season, when everything promises to get darker yet.
Writer John Shiban reprised a narrative device he used before to good effect in The X-Files to have the
Confronting a series of bizarre events on a college campus ranging from a haunt-inspired suicide to an alien abduction to a death at the jaws of a sewer-dwelling alligator, Sam and Dean found their own internal squabbles getting in the way of solving the mysteries, until Bobby pointed out that their very divisions were a clue to the perpetrator: a Trickster, a demigod along the lines of Loki, Anansi, or Coyote, playing pranks on the arrogant with sometimes deadly consequences, and diverting the hunters by distracting them from the target. Confronting the Trickster, Dean in particular felt reluctance at having to take out a somewhat kindred soul, but worked in harmony with Sam and Bobby to get the job done … or so they thought. Not for nothing did Bobby call the Trickster a demigod; it should be no surprise that a force that old and seasoned and fond of jokes should have seen the hunt coming, and found both a way to trick the hunters and the humor to let them survive thinking they succeeded.
Given that the Trickster legends usually involve the Trickster teaching pointed lessons through its pranks, it also shouldn’t be a surprise that there was a serious core beneath all the jokes and the humor of the brothers’ exaggerated views of each others’ perceived faults. We’ve seen them get exasperated with each other before, although never quite to the extent on display in Tall Tales. We’ve seen Sam bothered by Dean’s drinking and fondness for one-night stands – just think of the bar scenes in such episodes as Shadow, The Benders, and Provenance, to name a few, and his total surprise in Route 666 to learn that Dean had ever gone out with any woman more than once. We’ve seen Dean irritated by Sam’s need to control the situation going all the way back to the library research scene in the pilot, and being offensively defensive whenever Sam rode his righteous high horse and accused Dean of not being serious enough about the core mission of going after their dad and the demon – think of the beginnings of Dead in the Water, Devil’s Trap, and Everybody Loves a Clown, for example.
These two can hurt each other with an accuracy and viciousness of which no one else is capable. In Tall Tales, they learned a valuable lesson about how their own weaknesses concerning each other could be used against them. Their resentments were cleverly magnified and choreographed through judicious additions – the missing laptop and the deflated Impala tires – to blind them to the real adversary. Their only saving graces were the presence of Bobby to untangle the knot, and the Trickster truly being more fond of and amused by them than desirous of making them an object lesson like the philandering professor, the arrogant frat boy, and the greedy animal researcher. I would submit that what saved the brothers was that, despite all the petty sniping between them, they do genuinely love and care for each other, and didn’t need to learn that lesson any more strongly than they already have.
There were far too many good lines to recount, and since I’m very late to the party this time – the real world having been very much an interference in the more enjoyable pastimes of life – I’m not going to list them off, because I’m sure that everyone else has gotten to them before me. However, I particularly enjoyed Dean’s comment that the fates meted out to the various victims of the Trickster’s pranks were poetic justice, and that, given the nature of the pranks, the poetry involved was of the debased limerick variety. That was almost enough to make me change from my customary haiku episode summary to a limerick one – but only almost.
Still, that could provide us with a new challenge to occupy the time until the next new episode, Roadkill, airs on 15 March: Supernatural limericks! Anyone have any contributions to provide? Keep ‘em clean!
There once were two brothers from
Who made like proverbial asses:
Accusing each other,
They clean failed to wonder
What weapons their brotherhood hands us.
There once were two brothers from
Whose pranks brought our laughter in torrents.
But their danger is clear
And costs us all dearIn fear of their new arrest warrants.