This week’s episode of Supernatural “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits” was written by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming and directed by John Showalter. It’s pretty much a standalone monster of the week episode. The episode had a few good moments, but overall the pacing was a bit slow and uneven. The episode does touch on a few themes that have come up before, particularly that grey area between good and evil.
Dean (Jensen Ackles) is still concerned about Sam (Jared Padalecki) and the trials. It is a monster of the week episode, so there is a throwaway line about Kevin not even knowing what the next trial is. Dean tries to get Sam to let him tag him out, but Sam is determined to continue with the trials himself. He wants Dean to believe that he can complete the trials. Sam finally tells Dean “It’s not that you don’t trust me, it’s that you can only trust you.” Given the history between the brothers and Dean’s recent experiences in Purgatory, this is fairly understandable.
During the climactic scene, when Spencer messes with their minds, Sam is consumed only with his own memories of Hell, while Dean flashes first to losing his mother and then turns to his own memories of Hell, but Dean’s first thoughts are of letting down his family. This spurs him to tell Sam – using “Sammy” as he always does when his emotions are closest to the surface – that if Sam says he’s good, Dean is with him 100%. Dean completely places his trust in Sam, and Sam returns that trust with a lie, that he is fine, which is underscored by his coughing up blood.
The first scene with the brothers actually underscores that their relationship is finally back on a more even keel for the moment as there is a classic scene with them arguing over the Three Stooges. They’re in town because a cop they worked with on another case, James Frampton (Christian Campbell), texted to ask for their help. However, he’s turned to witchcraft after his involvement with the brothers and it’s actually his familiar, Portia (Mishael Morgan) who texted them. This episode opens up a whole new chapter on witches for the show as we’ve never seen familiars before. There is also a very active witch community that is flying under the radar. Spencer (Curtis Caravaggio) asks James “How do you reconcile what you are with what you do?” The witches live on the fringes of society much as the brothers do.
Portia explains to Dean that a familiar finds the master and they become inseparable. They share an unbreakable bond like a melding of souls, and they would die for each other. In many ways, this sounds like the bond between the brothers. It also sounds like the “profound bond” that Castiel has said he shares with Dean.
Once again, the brothers are faced with a “monster” who may not be a monster. Portia tells them that James has only used witchcraft for good. As they prepare the spell to kill him, Dean says that if they decide he has to die, they can’t hesitate, and Sam responds that James wouldn’t be the first “monster” they’d let go. Dean, however, makes an important distinction when he says that Benny and Kate (the werewolf from “Bitten”) were forced into what they were while James has chosen to be a witch. Dean’s “code” allows for them to live until they’ve proven they can’t be trusted not to kill. That was Dean’s reasoning with the Rugaru in season four and with Amy in season seven.
It turns out that James is being framed by Spencer who is jealous of James and Portia: he’d hoped Portia would choose him as her master. He accuses James of going all “Bella and Edward” and going against the code of the community. Twilight jokes will never cease to be funny on Supernatural. Some of the other humor in the episode was rather jarring. When Portia insists that Dean “lose the ignorant bigotry for two seconds” and give James a shot, Dean responds with “That was incredibly hot.” Rather than the comedic effect that was intended, I found it simply took away from Portia’s speech which I found unfortunate as the speech itself could have been significant. Having Sam then agree that it was hot just prolonged the agony. I also found that Dean trying to wrap his head around Portia having sex with James was also belabored to the point of ceasing to be funny and just being uncomfortable. The one scene that did work for me was the scene while they were waiting for Drexel and Dean asked what came first, the woman or the dog.
In the end, there were some important moments in the episode. The episode also picked up some of the themes we’ve seen before such as when is the line crossed between good and evil. Dean reaffirmed his commitment to family and the brothers would appear to be back on the same page for now, though that seems unlikely to last. I thought that Morgan’s performance as the familiar was excellent. It would have been easy for her to go overboard with dog mannerisms, but she played it perfectly, and her devotion to James was completely believable. In many ways, her relationship with her master is much like Dean’s with Sam – it’s hardly a coincidence that Dean has been labelled as the “attack dog” previously.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below.