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Supernatural 9.19 "Alex Annie Alexis Ann" Review: More Than Blood

    This week’s episode of Supernatural, “Alex Annie Alexis Ann,” was written by Robert Berens and directed by Stefan Pleszczynski. This is Berens third episode for the show and Pleszczynski’s first. Pleszczynski’s other credits include Being Human, showrunner Jeremy Carver’s previous show, Flashpoint, and 18 to Life. While this episode arguably has the stupidest title ever for the series, it does feature the return of Sheriff Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) and for that, I can forgive it just about anything. Rhodes turns in her usual outstanding performance, leaving me wondering why she hasn’t been snatched up to headline her own show. Somebody call somebody. I need to see this actor more than a handful of times a season!

    The delight of seeing Sheriff Mills aside, how does this episode reflect on the journey of the brothers? It’s also a mark of how much beloved Sheriff Mills is that I’ve seen very little bemoaning of how little of the brothers we saw in this episode. I found it curious that this episode airs a week before the planted spinoff “Bloodlines.” There a great many fans who were lobbying to see the likes of Rhodes and last week’s guest star Richard Speight Jr be the stars of a spinoff. I think the powers that be are going to find that rather than placating viewers, these two episodes are simply going to act as a contrast and what might have been, leading to more dissatisfaction with the spinoff – unless they really knock it out of the park.

    While the episode didn’t deal with either the angel or demon storylines directly, it does give us some further insight into how the Mark of Cain is influencing Dean (Jensen Ackles). It also focuses on family and what we do for family – a constant theme in the series. We see Alex (Katherine Ramdeen) finally give in to Mama (Ashley Crow) and let herself be turned because as she tells Jody at the end of the episode, “I couldn’t disappoint her again. I’ve got enough to be ashamed about.” While we know that these were Sam’s (Jared Padalecki) feelings at the end of last season, these have been a constant for Dean since at least season two if not his childhood – think season one’s “Something Wicked.”

    There’s a very interesting parallel that can be drawn between acquiring the mark and being turned as a vamp. We are that Dean himself was almost turned in “Live Free or Twihard” and that’s where they learned about the cure. The cure involves consuming the blood of the one who turned you – and a bunch of other disgusting things – but it only works if you haven’t already fed on human blood. Dean fought hard not to drink anyone and therefore was able to become human again. I believe that giving in to his bloodlust last week was the same as drinking human blood.

    Mama tells Alex that she can take away her pain. She tells Alex, “These things you’ve been feeling. All the guilt and suffering. Those are human feelings.” Guilt and suffering has plagued Dean as long as we’ve known him. When he kills Connor (Reilly Dolman – last seen in “After School Special” if he seemed familiar), Dean tells him, “Look at me, Bitch!” He wants to watch Connor as he dies – he savors it rather than feeling anything else. Dean also seems to have gained significantly in strength. He should never have been able to best a vampire in a test of strength like that unless the Mark is giving him that strength.

    At the end of the episode, Sam calls Dean on enjoying the kill just a little too much. Dean responds that he’s just doing his job, killing things that need killing. He says it’s not a crime to take pleasure in your work. However, even while Dean has always been more willing to kill than Sam – think Amy Pond from “The Girl Next Door” – his willingness to put Annie on the chopping block seems extreme given that she’s still a human. Yet, we’ve already seen him take the life of a human this season in “THINMAN.” Sam doesn’t argue very strenuously against Dean’s willingness to kill Annie, but when Jody asks if Annie is on the kill list, Sam says that’s not what they’re saying. Yet Dean immediately clarifies that they are going on a clean up, not a rescue. Jody tells them that they’ll have to go through her to get to Annie, however. At the house, Dean tells her that it’s a raid and clearing the nest takes priority – Annie is second.

    The episode also focuses on family ties. Mama strikes a familiar chord with Supernatural viewers when she tells Jody that “being a mother is about more than blood.” How many times did Bobby insist that family didn’t end with blood. While Sam and Dean are related by blood, Dean isn’t really Sam’s parent though he sees himself – and we are meant to see him – in that role. Mama tells Alex that she was selfish in not turning Alex because she wanted to watch her grow up. She also tells her that she could never hurt her. Alex tells Mama that she ran because she couldn’t take the blood and screams or the guilt anymore. Does this sound eerily familiar to anyone else? Dean has always been selfish in not wanting to let Sam go. Sam wanted to let go of his guilt. Dean also never wanted to hurt Sam but was willing to do anything to take away his pain.

    Jody calls Mama on why she changed Annie’s name to Alex – it was so that she could fill the hole left by the loss of the real Alex, Mama’s daughter who had died. She tells her, “you still feel that loss, the pain like a stone in your gut that hurts just a little less when she’s near.” In an eerie parallel, Mama beats Jody, who hurt her baby, while Dean fights Connor, who’s almost killed Sam. Anyone who hurts their kids is going to be punished.

    Jody is also fighting to protect Annie and her humanity. Jodie is self aware enough to recognize her own attempts to shore up the hole within herself. She admits that she made bad decisions because of that. She’s been trying to bury her grief, using work, church, and even dating. We’ve seen Dean try to do the same things using hunting, women, and alcohol as far back as season two’s “Bloodlust.”

     Does all this mean we are simply re-hashing already much worn territory? I think Berens takes us farther, and I point to the final scene. Jody tells Annie that she’ll be there for her, but acknowledges that she can’t know what Annie’s been through; she says, “no one can understand what you’ve been through or lost.” This is completely untrue – Jody has also been through a similar trauma of losing her family and feeling guilt over it. Annie recognizes this and tells her “You can.” Only Sam and Dean can fully understand what the other has been through and hope to fill the holes that exist within both of them. Yes, we’ve been there before, but I’m still hopeful that the brothers will finally acknowledge that only they can help each other. That said, bringing Dean back from embracing the Mark of Cain may be a tall order.

    I would be very remiss indeed if I didn’t highlight some of the spectacular work done by Rhodes in this episode. She is so clearly present in every scene and brings Jody so fully to life it would be impossible not to like this character. She’s also one of the most kickass women on television – she takes her lumps just like the boys, but she’s also smart and a good leader, protecting her men and knowing their weaknesses. I loved her saying she couldn’t ask her men to go on vamp duty and that Frank was still scared from the barn episode of The Walking Dead (season two for those of you not in the know – 2 years ago). FYI if you aren’t watching The Walking Dead, run, don’t walk to find it!

    I loved watching Jody tease out the evidence, even while hanging from the ceiling. But her most powerful scenes were with Annie and then with Mama. We see her struggle with her own grief and against lashing out as Annie tries to keep her at arm’s length by lashing out at her. Both Ramdeen and Crow are great in the episode, and it’s always nice to see powerful women performances on the show. I loved Jody standing up to the brothers and how they are quietly proud of her having taken Cody (Jarrett Knowles) out all on her own. In a reflection of the familial theme, Sam even jokes, “they grow up so quickly.” So once again, please, more Sheriff Mills – and enough of killing off the great characters. It really isn’t helping ratchet up the tension anymore, it’s just pissing us off.

    This was a strong episode even though it didn’t do a lot to move the season arc along, it did move the brother’s arc. With only four more episodes left in the season – and I’m actually considering next week a throw away as it will invariably almost entirely background for the possible spinoff rather than information on the season arc – we are getting short on time to fully realize those major arcs. It feels like those last three episodes are going to have to be over-full to bring us any kind of resolution and also plant the seeds for next the next season.

    What did you think of the episode? Did you enjoy seeing Sheriff Mills again? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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