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Supernatural - Episode 9.19 - 'Alex Annie Alexis Ann' Review

I think we just got our first Sam-centric episode this season. Yes, on the surface it appeared to have more Jody focus than Sam focus, and you have to be very familiar with Sam’s history and dig a little to see the connections, but the whole episode was written as a parallel to Sam’s role in his family and his struggles with the codependence of his and Dean's relationship.

Like in the earlier episode Purge, we saw a parallel-heavy case, in this instance brought to Sam and Dean’s attention when their old friend Sheriff Jody Mills calls them about a girl she suspects ran away from vampires. It doesn’t take long before the anvils start dropping with the similarities between the girl, who goes by Alex now but who was Annie before she was kidnapped eight years earlier, and Sam. Alex has now come to think of the vampires as her family, but she’s not really one of them. Her family hunts humans, and she helps them by luring humans into traps for them to feed on and kill. But she feels guilt about it because she was never fully turned, and tries to escape her vampire family.

Sam has always felt on some level like a monster. We learned back in season 5 never felt like he fit in with his family either (Lucifer referred to Dean and John as Sam’s foster family in Swan Song), and on at least one occasion, ran away from home. Whereas Alex was a human living in a family of vampires that hunted humans, and on a basic level identified with humans even though she loved and felt guilt over her family, Sam instinctively understood that he was a monster (because of the demon blood), living with a family of humans who hunted monsters, often over-identified with the monsters, and has been plagued with guilt.

Shifting Perspectives

The episode, written by Robert Berens, tells this story through shifting perspectives. Although not seen through Sam’s eyes, the story starts by being told with parallels to how Sam sees his family situation, and how he felt like his own individuality was held hostage by his family who forced their bloody, hunting way of life onto him, and would always come after him whenever he tried to break free. I have to admit, I cracked up laughing both time watching this scene, thinking about the characters of Sam and Dean saying these lines:

Sam: “Okay, you care about them, but Alex, there’s a reason you decided to ran away.”
Alex: “It was time. To move on and get out on my own.”
Dean: “And how do you think that decision is going to sit with the rest of the nest? One of them already pursued you. You think when the rest of them find out that you left, they’re just going to shrug and cut their losses?”
Sam: “You lived with them for years. They’ve tasted your blood. They have your scent down cold. How far can you run, and for how long?"
Dean: “You didn’t think this out, did you? What would happen? Who might get hurt? Your brother, for one.”

Sam: “You’ve got two options – them or you.”

And then we get Dean’s perspective on Alex/Sam. He often vacillates between feeling protective of his brother, admiring his brother, and resenting him. Here he is speaking with Alex’s foster big brother:

Dean: “Vamps, they kidnap kids, well, (pulls out knife) I’m going to enjoy putting you down.
Dale/Vamp: “Of course, I knew this was about Alexis. I warned Momma that girl would screw everything up for us one day.
Sam: “Momma, as in one vamp turned you all?”
Dale/Vamp: “Well, all of us but little sis. She was too good to turn. Momma couldn’t bring herself to, no matter what we said, no matter how bad Alexis got.”
Dean: “Bad?”
Dale/Vamp: “Let me guess, you never had a teenage sister. Dragging her heels. Whining. Near constant about everything,  but more and more about the blood, like she’s somehow above it. Like she’s better than us cause she don’t feed on people.”
Dean: “She is better than you, you dumb ass!”
Dale/Vamp: “Her moping. That teenage crisis of conscience crap. It’s annoying as hell, but it’s just an act. When the chips are down, she’ll always choose us over humans.”

What’s interesting here is that when the perspective shifts for the second time to the final third portion of the episode, with the focus on Jody’s motherly perspective, both Sam and Dean seem to agree that Alex is too far gone and can’t be saved. I’m not surprised to hear this from Dean. Part of him has judged Sam harshly for quite a long while, at least on a subconscious level if not a conscious one. I struggled with Sam reaching this conclusion though, in part because the series has a long history of Sam and Dean being in similar situations – with a monster as a proxy for Sam – and Dean wanting to put the monster down and Sam wanting to save it. Maybe this is about where Sam is now – dreams of his normal life beaten out him and convinced that he will never be free from the monster part of him. It was sad to see that Sam didn’t even put up a fight in Alex’s defense.

There’s a symbolic scene were Sam is captured by the vampire family, tied up, and being drained of his blood – the demon blood being the thing that always separated Sam from the Winchesters and a primary source of his individuality. Like Sam being drained of his blood, Alex also chooses to give up her the physical part of her individuality and be turned into a vampire.

The final part is mostly focused on Jody, motherhood, and actions of the two mothers (Jody and the vampire mother) who are both filling the void of losing of a child by mothering Alex. But even though the focus is more on Jody, Alex’s point of view is Sam's. Alex tells Jody, “When momma offered, I just, couldn’t disappoint her again. I have enough to be ashamed of as it. Jody, I’ve done things.” These statements mirror many of Sam’s own comments – his guilt about things he has done and his feelings of being a disappointment to his family.

My initial reaction to the Jody insertion at this point in the season was that the timing was wrong.  Jody's loss happened four or five seasons ago, and we're in the final five episodes of the season. But reflecting more, the Sam/Dean conflict needs some resolution. And the choice of bringing in Jody for this is interesting.  Bobby played a surrogate father figure, mostly to Dean, throughout his run on the series. As Jody started to reappear in guest slots, she was initially paired with Bobby and seen by some as a potential mother figure to Sam and Dean. She’s had more interaction with Sam than Dean, and I wonder if what we saw in this episode – Jody through her mothering instincts being the person who can see through the family dysfunction in Alex’s life and save her – might be set-up for what is to come with Sam. This episode seemed to make that point that Sam is too far gone to do what he once did - which was break away from his family on his own.  Jody might be in a position to help Sam reconnect with the his independent spirit he once had that seems to have become deeply repressed over the years – the repression starting with Jess’s murder and incrementally growing with everything else that has happened to him since.

I’ve been critical lately of the lack of Sam point of view and connections to understanding Sam now with what has happened in his past. This episode was a good start in addressing some of those issues. The final test will be seeing what, if anything, comes out of it. Insight and parallels are all well and good, but there needs to be progression in the development of the characters.

Nitpicks

A final point - I had a few nitpicks about the continuity of the episode (minor, really, but we wouldn’t be Supernatural fans if we didn’t nitpick):

- When I saw the vamp with the rifle in Sam’s back, my first reaction, is “We have this!” In season 2, Jo put a rifle in about the same place in Dean’s back. Dean replied she shouldn’t so that, because he can do this - and then he did a swivel thing and got the rifle away from her. Since Sam has been hunting with Dean for what must be close to 20 years now, if Dean knows how to get out of that situation, it’s certain Sam does too. And that was a memorable scene.
- The vamp mother tells Alex that her guilt and feelings of humanity will drop away once she’s turned. This contradicts the portrayal of Benny the good vampire from last season and Lenore, who had retained their guilt and moral compass long after they were turned.
- Why did the vamp not know Sam was close enough to hit him with a shovel when vamps have super hearing, and I think super smell?

So what did you think of the episode?  There was also development with the Dean/Mark of Cain story too, which I didn't get into here because I'm sure it will become more of a focus in upcoming episodes.

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