Traditionally, in Supernatural, filler episodes are hit or miss affairs. “The Chitters” is definitely a hit.
Nancy Won, the writer of this delightful episode, has only been with the show for a single season so far. However, in that short time, every filler episode she’s been assigned to write has featured fun but deep plots and memorable side characters whom I’ve been delighted to see. It’s a streak of good writing that encourages me and reminds me of Beren‘s first year, and I hope her talent continues to bless the show for however many seasons there are to come.
The episode was set in the woods, and instead of seeing much of the monsters, we mostly saw things from the survivors’ and bystanders’ perspectives. The interesting change of perspective worked well, and was only enhanced by the choice of director. Eduardo Sanchez is most well known for cowriting/co-directing the “hunted by a monster while lost in the woods” first-person perspective piece, The Blair Witch Project. It showed in this episode, which adopted the atmosphere of his previous work, while thankfully leaving the shaky-cam work of the film behind. Although it would have been interesting to see a hunt from a Sam or Dean-eye view, I’m not sure my stomach would have been able to handle it.
The episode was full of metaphors, both in the characters and in the situations that appeared. The hunter Jesse, his brother Mattie, and his husband Cesar were not only interesting characters in their own right, but also served as stand-ins for our three main heroes. Like Dean, Jesse is a reactive hunter, concerned about what happened to his family, heart on his sleeve. Cesar, meanwhile, is calm and concerned mainly about Jesse’s well-being, reminding me strongly of Castiel. Other details included a parent that placed undue pressure on Jesse about the disappearance of his brother, an echo back to John. Jesse blamed himself for failing to save Mattie, similar to Dean far too many times. A few lines in the episode established a 4- or 5-year gap between Jesse and Mattie, similar to Sam and Dean.
Throughout the episode, Jesse dressed in similar style to Dean, while Mattie wore a layered ensemble of shirt, hoodie and tan jacket that could easily have been stolen from Sam’s closet. Cesar was an even more obvious allusion to Cas, as throughout the episode, he had a visible white long-sleeve shirt, navy blue over-shirt, and a dark khaki vest. The colors together was a clear callback to the suit and trench-coat that traditionally clad the Winchester Family Angel. All he was missing was a blue scarf of some kind.
And did you all notice that during the pyre at the end, Cesar places his hand on Jesse’s right shoulder, in the exact same place and angle as the handprint scar that used to be on Dean’s shoulder? Good job, Nancy, for all the references.
The action of the story also seemed to be about double meanings. Throughout the episode, people responded to the changes in their missing loved ones by bringing up excuses or making up stories. A stranger from out of town is dismissed as having drug hallucinations, a missing husband and young lady from a previous round explained away as running away together, Mattie described as being kidnapped by a sexual predator, and the sheriff’s daughter just described as “went away”. When combined by the comments from both Jesse and Mattie about the lack of tolerance in the town, and the odd “orgy-ish” behavior of the monster of the episode, I can’t help but interpret the story as a metaphor of the attempts of people to ignore or explain away their reactions when loved ones turn out something other then they expect. Different sexual orientations than straight is the thing that first comes to mind while watching the episode, but similar reactions of ignoring their existence, making up stories, or blaming other influences could also affect discovering loved ones follow other religions or political affiliations.
When Dean discovers that the young aren’t in eggs, but instead grow inside the women, it creeped me out to no end. The idea of giant glowing worms gestating in the abdominal cavity of the women like a disturbing parody of human pregnancy is a concept I’ve encountered in various genre works before. I can see where they get the idea from, as technically the human embryo is a form of benign parasitic organism, but human beings are built to develop human babies. For those that decide to reproduce, the process is alarming but (generally) survivable, and we’re left with something to love at the end. The worms, especially in this episode, aren’t really concerned with the long-term survival of their hosts, so they don’t bother to either stick to the restrictive biological limits or to adapt the host to fit their own biology. The concept has definite hints of both body horror at the changes that come about in pregnancy and fear of the unknown. As a current non-parent and a woman of childbearing age, the trope is one of the concepts that really disturb me.
On a happier note, I was glad to see a pair of non-stereotyped married gay hunters. This show has been doing much better this season in regards to the inclusion and portrayal of LGBTQ characters, and I was pleased at how everyone in the episode reacted to them and vice versa. It’s nice to know that the hunting community is more diverse and accepting than it has looked in the past.
The lives of the two hunters are a mirror of the lives of the Winchesters. Cesar states in the episode that you never get over an early loss, a concept we know only too well. Much of Dean’s actions are driven by the need to save whatever family member is in trouble, a life-long trait inspired by the early loss of his mother to the monsters. He also states that despite the frequency of Hunters finding and killing the monster that claimed their family members, they never find peace.
The Winchesters are poster children for this concept. If they’d found peace when they killed Azazel, the show would have ended in season 3. Instead, we’ve had 8 more years and counting of ever-larger monsters and problems. So far, the only couple that comes to mind as successfully retiring in peace is Garth and his wife.
I’m highly pleased that they survived to retire. While the odds are clearly not in favor of peace, I do hope it comes to Jesse and Cesar. The more hunters that get successful and peaceful lives, the greater likelihood it’ll come to our heroes. It gives me hope that one day, maybe the Winchesters (and their adopted family members) might one day find their own happy ending. Everyone deserves a little peace.
I tend to look at fillers with a bit of a disappointed air. They’re generally not that fun and they distract from the important arc episodes. Fillers written by Nancy Won, though, are rapidly moving up my must-see list. Her ability to craft fun stories with memorable characters that touch deep subjects make her and her episodes a valuable contribution to Supernatural at large. “The Chitters is definitely going on my must-rewatch list.
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