Supernatural: S13E11 – “Breakdown”

     Hey, everyone, I’m baa-ack! Did you both miss me? (lol) I’m sorry I’ve been missing in action the past few weeks. I have a medical condition that tends to fluctuate with the weather and this Canadian winter has been kicking my ass, hard. Then on top of that, the video card on my computer died on me, so I had to go get that replaced, so it’s been a time, that’s for sure. But I’m here now, and I’m raring to go (and I promise I will catch up…I have all my notes for the review from last week, I just need to type it up on the computer, then I’ll go back for the remaining episodes from the beginning of the season.) So, let’s get this party started, shall we?

The Road So Far:

     Well, this is going to be a Donna-centric episode, so you’ll want to catch up on her episodes: 9.13, 10.08, and 11.07. Then you’ll also want to brush up on the Dean as vampire episode at 6.05. You might also want to brush up on 1.15 for the season 1 callback and for the purposes of this review. Now, seeing as the “Dean gets turned”/Donna episodes took up the majority of the “Then” real estate, I’m guessing Donna Hanscum is in this episode and someone is getting turned into a vampire. Seriously, TV shows sometimes need to trust that their viewers remember stuff (and not even obscure factoid stuff, but played a major part in the plot stuff) about the shows we watch. Supernatural  isn’t the only show that has totally given away an episode plot in the “previously on”’s – it is a medium wide issue – but they also aren’t just a minor offender. They tend to be pretty bad about beating us over the head with every single reference to a shifter, ever, in the “Then” section just because shifters are mentioned in passing in the current episode. Do people seriously need these kinds of reminders? *Sees ”do not use in bathtub” warning on hair dryer, most likely there due to an actual incident…* Okay, never mind. Moving on…

Now:

     I think the opening did a good job of selling the fact that this monster has been killing a lot of people over a lot of years pretty well in a fairly short time. I do think it would have helped if all those newspaper clippings of the victims had included snippets of well-known historical touchstones to reinforce the notion of time passing, but maybe they were trying to avoid the cliche. But things do become cliche for a reason. We’re brought into the present where a young woman is trying to get gas, but is having trouble at the machine and needs to go into the diner to pay. There’s an assorted gathering of likely suspects inside, any of whom could very well be our killer, from the overzealous, bible-thumping preacher to the creepy dude on cash who belongs to the legion of assholes who just want women to smile more and aren’t afraid to tell us at every opportunity. We find out from the cashier (who of course reads it off of her credit card) that this girl is named Hanscum. This must be our “in” to Donna’s appearance and so I’m suddenly afraid for this girl’s safety. On the way back to the car, Donna’s kin runs into yet another potential suspect, the spooky looking guy popping up out of nowhere to offer help. Looks like the pieces are in place and we’ll just have to wait to see which piece plays which role.

    It’s funny (or not, Supernatural set directors are usually pretty awesome at deliberately placing things like this) but with the Y out on the sign it’s now MANN_’S DINER and that really is what we got. a girl alone entering a very male space; from the makeup of the clientele to the attitudes within. We only saw one other female patron in the diner and she was someone who fills a role (truck driver who saw something but didn’t help) usually played by a man, but she also starts the episode fulfilling a more “feminine” role of being berated and kept “down” by a male “religious right”/fundamentalist/evangelical type preacher. Need I say just how much the religious right preaches man’s dominance over women, whose place is in the home serving her man and his offspring? With no say over her own destiny, even over what happens to her own body? Yeah, this place could use a good dose of Sheriff Donna Hanscum! And maybe that truck driver escaping her “female” role here to take on a more “masculine” role is symbolic of the female empowerment that is all over this episode. The women are done with the way the boys are doing things and are taking their own shots at running things. And they do a pretty good job too, even if they may have to pay a price.

     As seemed pretty likely to happen, Donna’s kin is now stranded on the road with a flat tire or rather a pierced tire. (Seriously though, knowing how to change a tire is one of those skills everyone should know how to do! Especially if you drive!) So she tries to flag down a big rig to no avail and so of course this leaves an opening for the bad guy to pop in and grab her.

     Down in the bunker, Sam is sleeping in. Okay, I get we’re supposed to understand that it’s a serious thing because Sam is usually the early riser and, come on,  it’s pancakes! How could he not eat them? It takes Donna’s call to get him up and moving. Donna needs the boys’ help and of course they’re more than willing to go.

    In my review of last week’s episode (which you haven’t seen yet) I talked about how if they were going to make Donna a bigger part of Supernatural or Wayward Sisters, they would have to tone down the Fargo-isms, as they work well in small doses but quickly become the focus to the detriment of the plot and the character over a longer period of time. Well they answered my prayer in this episode where we still got the essential Donna flavour, but the “you betcha”’s didn’t overwhelm. Man, I should ask but not post for things more often.

    When the boys get there, Dean goes into the garage where they’ve got Wendy’s (Donna’s niece’s) car, to get answers. When he does, he runs into some resistance from a real FBI agent. Doug (Donna’s boyfriend) rushes in to assure the agent that Dean is also FBI and it seems likely to turn into butting heads over jurisdiction when Dean makes a smart move and instead of having Agent Clegg call whoever is currently running the Hunters’ phone lines and escalating the turf war, he instead de-escalates the tension. He diffuses the situation by making it personal.(And he totally confuses Doug, who just so happened to be standing nearby during the exchange, in the process) Though I wonder, are there even enough Hunters left right now to have someone running the phones after last year? Between the Men of Letters, British Edition™ killing off a ton of them and a ton more dying during the resulting attack on the Men of Letters, British Edition™ Modular Bunker Playhouse™ , I can’t think of too many Hunters who are still out there. Even without an FBI “higher power” to fall back on, Dean could have pressed for dominance here (we’ve seen him do it before) but he didn’t and I love when we see Dean showing off his skill of being able to read a situation and knowing when to fight and when to capitulate. He knows when to hold them and when to fold them. He knows when to walk away and knows when to run. He never counts his money when he’s sitting at the tab…oh, no, wait…he totally does do that (5.07), sorry, I got carried away there.

I love that when Donna came to help out Jody and the girls in last week’s episode, she told Doug she was going to a family reunion, it seems appropriate. We get another reunion of sorts here as everyone gathers in the garage to get the rundown on the perp. The “Butterfly” – so named for his migration pattern – has apparently been abducting people for 12 years at least. Agent Clegg says he wants to catch this guy he has been hunting for over a decade, so he’s cool with getting help from this quartet of off-duty law-men and -woman.

    So in order to help, the boys head back to the hotel room to hit…the CB radio? Ugh, this is so shoehorned in here just to connect Dean with the truck driver from the diner so he can get the lead there that propels the plot. Never before in the show’s 13 year history have we seen  anyone use a CB radio, but the plot has needs so we get a nice story about how John swore by CB radios to get information from truckers who see a lot. Now, that last part actually makes sense. But only that last part!

    While waiting for someone to get back to them on the radio, Sam is coming down on everything Dean is doing, from the CB radio gambit to the tempting Fate by getting too close to the FBI thing. Dean, in return, points out things we all already know (Sam usually gets up early and didn’t, usually loves pancakes but didn’t eat them…”they’re pancakes!”) in order to REALLY DRIVE IT HOME THAT SAM IS NOT HIMSELF! Great! We just spent the first half of this season with everyone desperately trying to let us know that DEAN WAS SO MUCH WORSE OFF THAN HE HAS EVER BEEN! even if we had little to no actual canonical evidence of that being true outside of their words. Then he was magically cured instantly when Cas came back! Though he still did go on to ABDUCT A GIRL AT GUNPOINT TO MAKE HER DO WHAT HE WANTED AGAINST HER WILL! But that’s all good, we’ve already forgiven and forgotten all of that and we’re now moving on…straight into what is starting off as an identical story arc for brother Sam! Fabulous, can’t wait! Dean tells Sam they’ve just got to put their heads down and fight through what’s in front of them.They will find Jack and Mary and bring them safely back, but right now they need to help Donna. Sam agrees to that at least just as Dean gets a hit on the CB radio. I would hope so after how it was so awkwardly forced into the narrative. If they shoved it in like that for no good reason I’d be pretty upset. So Dean goes to check it out while Sam hangs back in case any new information comes up.

    It seems new info has come up. It appears the preacher has been a naughty boy with a record for lewd behavior (surprise, surprise) and he’s been a suspect before. They were finally able to place him in the same location as one of the victims (Wendy, at the diner) so they picked him up and found Wendy’s bloody shirt in his van. It’s right about now I start suspecting Agent Clegg, as it’s not the preacher, not this early, and if it’s not him the only character that we’ve been introduced to who would have been able to put the shirt in the van is this FBI agent.

At the diner, we find Dean sitting down with the woman who was in the diner during the intro. Turns out she’s a truck driver and she was the one who drove past Wendy on the side of the road. She had good reasons at the time, but now she’s regretting not stopping. I talked about the women having to pay prices to exist in a man’s world and this may be one example. She’s able to “escape” the religious hold of the preacher to take a more “masculine” (powerful) role but keeping to the constraints of that job (keeping on schedule) means she has to drive on by, leaving her fellow women behind. (Or maybe just her more feminine side.) She tells Dean about how the diner has always given her the creeps and how maybe he should do a little more investigating in that direction.

At the precinct, the preacher is having none of the Sam/Agent Clegg questioning party and asks for a lawyer. Donna decides the boys have had their turn and now she deserves her shot. #timesup

    Dean has now dragged Doug into his side of things, asking Doug to get him all of the reports of the illegal incidents at the diner over the years, but there really isn’t much. Doug asks Dean for some information in return. He wants to know if Donna is going to be okay. He says he’s only known her for a few years but lately she’s not been really talking to him, when they used to talk all the time. He’s afraid she’s hiding something. Welp, Doug is perceptive! Dean tells him just to trust Donna and everything will work out. Will it Dean? Will it? This is Supernatural.

We check back in with Donna, who is showing off her mad skills as an interrogator. Yeah, you show them boys just how it’s done!

    Outside of the diner, the spooky window washer pops up, offering to wash Baby’s windows. *GASP* Like Dean would let anyone touch Baby, besides maybe Sam and only if Dean himself wasn’t available due to extreme fatigue, serious injury or death. Yeah, that’s gonna be a hard pass on those windows! But Dean does find out from this guy that the cashier took a shine to Wendy and that after she left, the cashier closed up early and took off after her. A lead!

Back in the pen, rock star Donna is working her magic and she finally breaks the preacher, but unfortunately there was nothing inside after she broke him open. So, they need to work on finding another suspect.

And Dean just happens to have one. Dean works a little magic of his own, roughing up the cashier, Marlon, ya know, like they do in the FBI! Oh Doug, you’re too innocent to hang with Dean. He will corrupt you in a heartbeat! So Marlon shows Dean a website which is running camera footage of  people, alive, but in captivity,  who are having their parts auctioned off to the highest bidder, then having those parts slowly and painfully removed until the captors finally take a part that is needed for sustaining life. Ewww!

Dean clues the rest of the team in and gets them down to the diner. As they question Marlon  further, he gets pretty cheeky about the whole thing. Marlon clearly has some issues, guys. Now even before this, I never bought Marlon as the sole bad guy, or even the boss of a gang. Guys like him who creep on women, telling them to smile in that catcall way, are never brave enough to be the leaders. They need to assert dominance by picking on those they perceive as weaker than them (women) and making them afraid. These are not leaders. But he’s definitely enjoying this. Oh, and yeah, there’s Doug being corrupted by Dean and doing it, ya know, like they do in the FBI.

The gang realizes these auctions aren’t for sick human enjoyment, it’s to provide human meat to monsters. Welp, Doug, werewolf’s out of the bag now. Donna just tells him they’ll talk later. For now, they have to hack the server that is posting the auction to find out where the people are being held. It’s out of Sam’s league, at least not in this time frame, so they have to reach out to Agent Clegg in order to have him get the actual FBI on it.

While they wait for that intel, Donna fills Doug in (briefly) on the hunting world. She only has time for broad strokes though before Dean comes to tell them they have a location and 40 minutes left before Wendy’s auction is finished. When they get there, Sam heads around back while Dean and Donna take the front…along with Doug and Marlon. When Dean secures a defensible spot inside, he and Donna leave Doug to watch a handcuffed Marlon while they go on to clear the building. Good plan, if it weren’t for the fact Marlon just so happens to be a vamp. And not the cows blood drinking kind like Amber Benson (2.3), but a bad one, who won’t let a little thing like handcuffs stand in his way. He breaks out and attacks Doug but instead of killing him or incapacitating him, he instead chooses to turn Doug. Not good. You better not feed, Doug!

Out back, Sam has an unexpected guest. Agent Clegg has shown up, saying that he has chased this Butterfly for over a decade and isn’t about to sit it out at the end. Sam hesitates, probably thinking about how to explain the monsters and killing that may be about to happen. He ultimately gives in though, and allows Agent Clegg to join in. So he turns around to head inside and the Agent takes this opportunity to show his true colours by knocking Sam out and carrying him off. Unlike Sam, I saw that coming.

So, we start doing that thing where we flash between Wendy being ready to be chopped up and Donna and Dean searching the building for her while the same music plays over both. The music is louder with Wendy, where the source is in the room with her, and softer with Dean and Donna as if they are hearing the music as it drifts out of the room and into the rest of the building. Nowadays, 99% of the time they use this technique, it’s to make you think the heroes are closing in on their target when they really aren’t. The music acts the part of the false narrator. So of course there is more action to come and this isn’t where the prisoners are being held. They need a new tactic if they want this to be a surprise.

    Dean and Donna head back to the entrance to find a vampire Doug waiting for them. Wow, that was a quick transition! I buy their explanation that it happens at a different rate for everyone, as it did for Dean and Gordon Walker (3.07), but both of those still took a fair bit of time and the transition was more gradual. Maybe the more innocent you are the quicker the change happens? But then Gordon was no innocent and he changed more quickly than Dean. Maybe it’s related to how much plot necessity is in their blood streams at the time of the attack. That stuff is potent! Doug is rightfully confused and hungry so he tries to bite Donna (No, Doug! Bad Doug!) but Dean gets to him first with a rolled up newspaper syringe full of Dead Man’s Blood. (That just felt like it needs to be capitalized even though it technically doesn’t. Technically correct may be the best kind of correct, but I’ll still go with feels right more often than not. Now where was I? Oh, right – Dead Man’s Blood. Lucky vamps and their 100% effective cure for insomnia! What I wouldn’t give…) So, Doug’s out and Dean sets Donna’s mind at ease by reassuring her that there is a cure, as long as Doug doesn’t feed and they can get their hands on the blood of the vamp who sired him. And look, there he is! Well, that’s handy, as Dean points out! Seriously, why stick around? Baby vamp Doug is down for the count, so he won’t be providing a distraction to the two hunters Marlon is now facing. And of those two hunters, one of them specializes in hunting vampires and the other is DEAN FRICKING WINCHESTER! I wouldn’t take my ENTIRE NEST of vamps up against a lone Dean Winchester, much less face him on my own when Dean has help! But I already figured I was smarter than Marlon and this just proved me right on that count. Oh right, he’s there to tell Dean that the Butterfly has Sam (And…eventually…where the Butterfly is.) Damn, Doug must have infected Marlon with some of that plot necessity! There’s a little “friendly” banter back and forth between Dean and Marlon and Dean calls back to the episode where he himself was turned into a vampire by calling Marlon “Twilight.” Good times! Turns out Marlon is holding a grudge against Dean for playing rough (yes, please!) and Dean is ready to do what it takes to find Sam’s location. Guess it’s time for one epic show…*bang*,,,down. Oh, I guess Donna has different plans! She is killing this vampire she is taking his blood, the only thing up in the air is if he tells them where Sam is for a quick death or if he refuses to tell and she drags it out. Of course he tells them where Butterfly is holding the prisoners.

    On the way, they whip up the cure and feed it to Doug, then leave him to recover in the car as they go in to rescue everyone and take out Butterfly. In the meantime, Clegg is monologuing to Sam, explaining his part in the monster food chain and how he supports vast numbers of monsters who are smart enough to blend in and stay under the radar. He tells Sam to take his estimate of monster numbers and multiply that by 10, maybe even 100, in order to get closer to the actual number. Well they sure have rebounded amazingly well since season 6 when the monsters were complaining about their low numbers even before many more were killed along with most Alphas. They still seemed to have some pretty low numbers just last season, when Ketch (where is he and what is he up to, by the way?) said they killed so many vamps it forced the last remaining Alpha to attack them. Then Sam killed that last Alpha as well. Since the monsters get weaker the further from the Alpha bloodline they get, and there are no more Alphas…guess there may be a crap ton of monsters, but they’ll be as vicious as puppies? Whatever. Clegg also tries to sell Sam on the notion that without him, the monsters would all be out there hungry and hunting on their own, so more people would die? I mean, whether the monsters kill their food or Clegg does, they still need to eat roughly the same amount to survive, so Clegg can’t be saving a whole lot of people…just enough to keep prices high. Also whatever. So Sam isn’t really buying any of this B.S. Clegg tells Sam he knows he is trying to stall, thinking Dean’s coming, but Dean won’t be coming this time. Ha! Right! Because you left A…as in one…single…solitary vampire to take care of Dean and Donna? Oh man, you may have heard of the Winchesters and know them by the type of car they drive, but you really know nothing about them at all. Meet the Winchesters, prepare to die! In order to pass the time until Dean comes, Clegg starts auctioning off Sam’s body parts (for some pretty flattering amounts of money too, from what we see! Well, we can’t all be Dean-girls!)

     Dean and Donna arrive and split up in order to cover more ground. Donna comes across her niece and saves her, killing the…what seems to be human…guarding her. I guess there’s an element of self-defense here, but not much is made of the fact that although they’re feeding monsters, Clegg and his crew seem to be human (outside of Marlon, but he was only a scout.) Fair enough, I guess, I’d slaughter anyone that did that to my niece and really wouldn’t care what…species?…it was.

Sam’s last bit, his heart, is sold off. So it’s time to kill him to harvest the parts but Clegg wasn’t quick enough and Dean of course gets there first. Okay, but seriously, how do people see things like this and not just fall in love immediately? I am completely incapable of understanding that. I mean, look at him there, all confident and serious and in control with his expertise in marksmanship and hunting and just totally unwilling to let anyone harm a single hair on his brother’s head, while every hair on his head is still in perfect order and he’s wearing his nice FBI suit, which, let’s be honest, is no 40’s “Untouchables” suit, but it’ll do, and that JAWLINE tho’..seriously!…mmmmmm…
Supernatural -s13e11 - Breakdown - Questions

    Back at the motel, Doug wakes up after the cure, back to himself physically, but he isn’t quite the same guy he was before. Doug is just not prepared to handle this lifestyle. There is a really adult moment here, where Doug recognizes his own limitations while also recognizing Donna’s need to live beyond his boundaries. He sees that they can no longer share the same path in life. This may be a mature reaction but it is this adult acceptance, the inevitability of it all that makes it so sad. Sometimes you fall in love with people who are just moving in a different direction than you are, which makes maintaining a relationship impossible, even if the relationship itself is perfect. I do have to wonder if this was about clearing Doug out of the way, so to speak, in order for Donna to move in the direction of Wayward Sisters, while giving Doug a better send off than an off-screen break-up and fueling some character development for Donna. I really like that moment though, when Doug acknowledged Donna’s need to fight back and he called her a damn hero. There was a lot of acknowledging women, and Donna specifically, in this episode and I loved every second of it. Donna has come a long way from that self-conscious woman, willing to do anything to lose a few pounds, we first saw in episode 9.13. Yay Donna! You are a damn hero, a big damn hero even! But like the truck driver, Donna is paying a price for existing, even thriving, in a man’s world, and it seems her relationship with Doug is that price. Breaking up is hard to do and Donna needs our sympathy and comfort right now. Too bad she didn’t get any of that from Sam, the guy who would usually be the most sympathetic one in the room. Instead he went with a more Dean style approach with the whole “people who get too close to us end up hurt or dead, this is for the best” spiel. That left Dean to step in with the support. (See, he can do it…he’s just not always the best at it!) So obviously this is more of this episode hammering us over the head with the “Sam’s not okay” clues. Dean brings it up with him again in the Impala on the way back to the bunker and Sam says he’s just speaking truth, that people near them die, like Kaia. Okay, at least one of you has that thought weighing on their minds! Seriously! And Sam only says “she helped us”, not “we forced her out of her life and into that messed up situation AT GUNPOINT! We made her help us and that got her killed!” Yes, she chose to go with Claire into the Bad Place to get Sam and Dean and I won’t take away her agency by ignoring that, yet she would never have been in a position to make that choice if it weren’t for the boys forcing her to be a part of their problems, and they need to own that. At least Dean did apologize for dragging her into that fight back on the boat, but it mostly ignored how he FORCED HER AT GUNPOINT into that fight. Sam weakly protested, but ultimately went along with it and he has not accepted responsibility for that, or any part of it, let alone apologized for anything. Do better boys! Okay, so the recent death has Sam shook. He says he’s not in a dark place, he’s just being realistic…their lives only end one way and it’s not going to be a happy ending. “It ends bad” he says, and that’s where the episode ends as well, on an ominous note. We will have to wait to see if that note will carry forward into the next episode or maybe even into the rest of the season.

That was the episode this week, and it was a pretty decent one for a “monster of the week” that comes just when the seasonal arc is really heating up. It brings in a beloved recurring character, giving her an episode to really shine, yet also undergo some real, heartbreaking, character development. It showed some strong women kicking ass and taking names in a world that doesn’t make it easy for them to do so. It’s a man’s world and they just live in it, so they may succeed, but there will always (always) be a price to pay for that. Another thing I noticed was how the main bad guy may have worked for and made money off of the monsters, but he was all human, calling back to season one’s episode, “The Benders” (1.15) As Dean says in that episode, “demons I get. People are crazy.” Who is worse here? The monsters are just doing what they need to do to survive. I imagine we would look much the same to cows and pigs and various other animals if they were intelligent enough to make TV shows. Is it really the monsters’ fault that they need to eat and human just so happens to be their one and only dietary food source? To my mind, selling out your own kind, not to save yourself (or others even, no matter what Clegg said) but to make money? That to me is so much worse than just having dinner. This episode may have focused on how this is a “MANN_’S” world, but it’s also a white man’s world and I don’t think it was a coincidence that Clegg was a white man who stepped in and instead of having monsters out getting their own food like they always had, now insisted on getting paid for providing them with what they always used to get themselves for free. And I don’t think it was a coincidence that Clegg deliberately restricted that resource (he said they would kill more if he didn’t provide this service) so that it would drive up prices while keeping the monsters on the fringes of what had always been a monster-driven industry. Hmmm. But tell me what you think. Who are the real bad guys in this episode? Humans? Monsters? Just men in general? All right, it’s question time!

The Road Ahead:

  • Does winter suck, or does it suh-uck?
  • I’m finally (FINALLY!) seeing The Last Jedi this Thursday. Other than Porgs (which are everywhere) and a general “women power” and “fight for what you love” vibe, I’ve managed to remain spoiler-free. (Oh, I also know some mra types went on a rant about how awful it was.) How the hell have I managed this? I don’t even know myself, but may need to repeat the feat in the future. TELL ME!
  • How is it the whole world isn’t in love with Dean Winchester?
  • Whose depression will be worse, Sam’s or Dean’s? How will Sam’s be magically cured? With the return of Mary? Seems symmetrical, they lost Cas and Mary, Dean gets cured with Cas, stands to reason Sam would get cured with Mary.
  • Is Jack Michael’s “bitch” (so to speak) right now or vice versa?
  • Have Cas and Luci driven each other around the bend yet? Are they teaming up against Asmodeus?
  • Where the hell IS Ketch?
  • Do you want Donna to take a more active role in Supernatural or Wayward Sisters or both? With or without all the Fargo-isms?
  • Who was the bad guy(s) in this episode?
  • Was Sam the real bad guy for leaving those pancakes uneaten? You tell me.

      Okay, that’s it for this episode, I’m outta here! One note, I’ve discovered voice-to-text on my computer which will help me immensely in getting my notes into a digital format in the future, yay!  On the other hand, it’s not perfect and I do need to do a keyboard edit myself. This leads to a strange conundrum though! I’m Canadian, but my voice-to-text types in American English, so what was dictated has things like color and neighbor. I’m obviously not going to waste a lot of time going through and manually adding u’s to all of the words, but when I’m typing and add a thought or correct a sentence the program got wrong, I will be typing in “Canadian.” So…there may be a mixed spelling bag in my articles from now on. Please don’t feel the need to point it out at every opportunity. Actually, you know what? Do point it out! At least that way I’ll know you are both still reading! (*starts laughing, but it turns into something that sounds more like sobbing*)  Don’t miss next week’s episode when we will find out if Dean ends up being burned to death…*wink, wink* (If you’ve been reading these, you should know what I’m referring to!) Until next time, be good to each other! XO