I’m beginning to think there’s a conspiracy here. I share reviewing duties for Supernatural with fellow Geekiary writer Tami (I love you bb) this season, but while she gets all the amazing episodes, I’m left with the duds that are either boring or make me rage for paragraphs on end.
“Love Hurts,” like the last two episodes I’ve reviewed, leaves much to be desired. It wasn’t terrible, per se, but it wasn’t extremely squee worthy either.
Let’s go over the last few episodes we’ve reviewed here. We’ve had the amazing Wayward Daughters episode Don’t You Forget About Me, and the riveting The Devil’s In The Details, which I was happily cheering on and squeeing about on Twitter. However, when it’s my turn up to bat for review I get the plot hole riddled O Brother Where Art Though? and the episode that gave me horrible flashbacks to the time Castiel disintegrated into a puddle of black goo in a lake. So here I am with “Love Hurts”, stuck once more complaining about feminism (is anyone surprised?) and once more frustrated at the lack of engaging plot. Readers have noticed my recent proclivity for negativity and this reputation for being upset in my reviews is hanging over my head like a dark rain cloud. But hey, what are ya gonna do? My time to squee will come with the roundtable, I suppose. I’ll be able to judge a larger body of work and not be stuck with whatever episode lands on my plate.
Not everything in “Love Hurts” was disappointing. In a cathartic attempt to remind myself why I stick with this show through thick and thin, let’s talk about what was amazing. Right off the bat we’re given a wonderful reminder that some of the best one off episodes from the entire show revolve around the holidays. The Halloween episodes, Christmas episode, and “Unattached Drifter Christmas” episodes have typically been an absolute delight. They’ve been both isolated Monster-of-the-Week plots as well as stories that tied into the overall Myth Arc. These stories rarely leave me disappointed. It was quite a promising start to the episode, which is why the kind of lackluster middle and even more startling characterization later on was so surprising.
The talk at the end of the episode was also a highlight for me. It laid out on the table everything that’s been bothering me about Amara and the unusual magnetic pull between her and Dean. It’s not consensual at all, and a lot of fans have been extremely uncomfortable with it for quite some time. The fact that the non-consent issue had been somewhat played as ‘hot’ until now (excluding the obvious discomfort from Dean (thank you for the incredible acting Jensen!)) had been quite appalling. Having it pointed out in an obvious way that this is actually quite gross was a relief. Will this change much of how this non-consensual attraction is played up going forward? I’m not sure. I guess we’ll just have to sit tight and see what happens.
And lets be real, the absolute best moment was Dean winning rock-paper-scissors. Like really, that face alone saved the middle parts of the episode from being completely boring. Once again, thank you Jensen Ackles. I need that face giffed and posted all across the Internet.
Much of my disappointment with “Love Hurts” comes down to two main issues. The first issue is that it was a self contained Monster-of-the-Week episode, which isn’t usually my cup of tea. There’s a large contingent of fans out there who enjoy these episodes as it brings it back to the roots of the show, but there’s a lot of us who are much more interested in the Myth Arc episodes. If you prefer the show to center around just the Winchesters and not any of the secondary characters or ongoing plot, then these self contained episodes are probably an absolute delight for you. I think it’s fairly obvious by now that I’m not one of those people. I prefer a more fleshed out cast and the ongoing storyline that integrates them into the Winchester’s lives.
But beyond my tendency to not be interested in MOTW episodes, “Love Hurts” did one major thing that upset me; it damaged my interpretation of the core of Sam’s character. I’ve always pictured Sam as a feminist, even having a head-canon that perhaps him and Jess took some women’s studies classes back in college together. I’m not quite sure where this head-canon came about, but it’s been with me for years. I feel like his relationship with women has always been respectful and understanding, but then we get him muttering “well, you’re practically a feminist” when the witch goes on a rant about killing cheating men. Really? (Edit: A reader had a completely different interpretation of this line that makes me feel a lot better about the episode. Read the comments below!) Equating a murderous witch with feminism? That was a pretty intentional jab there, and they were using the character I felt had a particularly strong understanding of gender equality (not that Dean doesn’t, but he’s often written by some of the writers with a ‘frat boy’ outlook on gender… much to my chagrin).
Am I taking that one line too personally? Probably. But after the incredibly female positive episode last week and Eileen earlier this season, this felt like it was sliding back a bit. The show can be male-focused without actively insulting women. The active fandom is majorly female powered, so it seems moments like that are biting the hands that feed them. The “casual viewer” demographics may be a bit more equal when it comes to gender, but those of us who go to cons, create transformative works, and rally around the show in online spaces tend to slant heavily female. So why can’t this show, even though the protagonists are men, at least respect their female viewership on a consistent basis? They throw us a Wayward Daughters bone, then insult feminists the very next episode. What’s up with that?
One wonders why someone such as myself, who is so focused on representation, sticks with a show that has (arguably) straight male protagonists. There are many layers to what I like about Supernatural. I enjoy the mythology and the secondary characters. I enjoy the take on classic monsters and the spinning of common religious themes. I enjoy the design, the music, and the atmosphere. I enjoy the characters for the most part, but they do often dip into territory that frustrates me. It’s because of my love of this show that I get so charged up over simple things, like a simple throw away line about feminism. Someday when this show ends I’ll look back over the full body of the work, not just episodes like “Love Hurts,” and evaluate whether sticking through the frustration was worth all the amazing moments. While I’m stuck in the middle of it as it’s still churning out new materials, I’m committed to seeing it through. I’m too invested in the parts of the show that I love and even these slip ups aren’t enough to tip the scale. But it’d feel like an even worse crime to let them go without commenting. I love the show too much to ignore it.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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