Supernatural 10.15 – The Things They Carried
by Mieke Trudeau
“I’m gonna keep doing what we do while I still can, and I’d like you to be there with me.”
This first episode back after hiatus, directed by the legendary John Badham (Saturday Night Fever, Wargames), had a lovely old school vibe. Full of darkness, washed out colors and plenty of gore, it reminded me of some of the earlier seasons of Supernatural. Add to that a great montage of monsters of yore in the opening segment and I was reminded of how much I sometimes miss the horror element in the more recent seasons of the show.
The story brings back our favorite Marine, Cole Trenton (Travis Aaron Wade) and even though his connection to one of the victims is a little coincidental, his presence isn’t too contrived and out-of-place, because of the military theme of the episode. Cole may in fact have anticipated the Winchesters showing up, since the gruesome murder/suicide on a North Carolina army base has all the earmarks of a case worthy of a hunt. He is not too eager to have Sam and Dean there however, because his old buddy and fellow soldier Kit Verson (Richard de Klerk) may be next. Kit is starting to behave just as strangely as his now dead special ops teammate and the boys warn Cole that Kit may not be Kit anymore.
Cole proves to be helpful to Sam and Dean when he is able to find out that both soldiers were on a special rescue mission in Iraq and may have brought something monstrous back with them. After Kit goes off the deep end by not only murdering a Gas-n-Sip clerk but also drinking his blood, Cole stubbornly goes after his friend alone, hoping to prevent the “Machete Brothers” from carrying out their final solution. He ends up swallowing a regurgitated Kahn worm for his trouble, just as Sam and Dean storm in. The creature is a mutated version of the worm the boys encountered in S6.16 And Then There Were None. It is exhibiting the same murderous mind control powers, but it enters its host through the mouth, rather than the ear and it makes its victims extremely thirsty.
Sam goes after Kit and Dean stays with Cole to try to rid him of this monster. They are able to starve the parasite of the liquid it requires from its host just in time to save Cole, but it is too late for poor Kit. Sam has no choice but to put him out of his misery.
As in many MOTW episodes, parallels run rampant, but in writer Jenny Klein‘s hands they were a little subtler this time than they have been in some other scripts. Dean tells Cole to not give up and to keep fighting this monster within even though Cole begs Dean to put him down, as he once did Cole’s father. Sam tells Kit’s wife that the man she loves is no longer there and may be beyond saving, yet Sam is devastated when he has no choice but to put Kit down.
The boys are in this together but they are also keeping secrets from each other. Dean has not told Sam of Cain’s warning that this can only end with Dean killing his brother, as Cain killed Abel. In turn, Sam is trying to hide from Dean that he is not giving up on finding a cure for the Mark, even though Dean once again asks him to stop looking. Even though it is a little jarring to see Dean so seemingly put together and stoic after the devastation of his confrontation with Cain, it is clear that he sees no good ending to his ordeal. The realization that even Cain could not control the Mark, has made Dean lose hope. He fully expects to die, although it is still not clear who or what could accomplish that. Since Dean is a ticking time bomb, I am a little puzzled as to why they think it is a good idea to once again separate. I get the purpose within the plot of the episode, but after Sam’s tearful declaration at the end of The Executioner’s Song that Dean is in trouble, it seems almost cavalier to put Dean in these volatile situations on his own. Judging by Sam’s reluctance to go hunting at all, and by the devastation on Sam’s face when at the end of the episode Dean declares that Kit’s death is not on him, that “You can do everything right, and sometimes the guy still dies”, we see in Sam’s eyes the realization that perhaps it will take something more than “doing everything right” to save his brother.
I enjoyed the episode quite a bit. I loved that it was scary and gross and that the monster was a return of an old favorite. The cinematography and the choices made by John Badham added depth and atmosphere and the VFX team outdid itself once again. I also appreciated that the story was grounded in the sad truth of how our military vets and families suffer without much help upon their return from deployment, adding deeper meaning to the story, beyond Supernatural’s own experience with PTSD. I was also reminded that it was this episode, as it dealt with themes of depression and suicide, that inspired Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester) to launch his successful and now concluded “Always Keep Fighting” t-shirt campaign. Jenny Klein tweeted about her own personal connection to the story and urged people to donate to causes that support our returning troops (links at the end of this article).
Less successful was the fact that this episode could have been placed pretty much anywhere in the last half of the season without making much of a difference to the overall arc. We often get stuck in a placeholder position in these MOTW episodes and this one was no different. However, I felt a little let down, as we are getting so close to the end of the season and this episode was the one we waited for all hiatus long after leaving the Winchesters in such an emotional state in The Executioner’s Song. On the one hand, some elements of the season 10 arc have been discarded much too quickly (Demon!Dean and his anticlimactic cure) and some are moving at a snail’s pace, bordering on tedious (I don’t think you’ll find a solution for the Mark of Cain through endless googling, Sam). Also, please stop making the best hunters on the planet so bad at their jobs! Both boys probably know by now how to properly tie up their foes, thank you very much. And I liked the return of Cole and his new understanding of the hunting world, but I’m sorry Kung Fu Grip, only Dean gets to call Sam, Sammy.
Next week promises another MOTW episode. Here’s hoping that it will give us a little more progress and connection. I am eagerly waiting to see where Sam will go to save his brother. We have been teased some darkness and we certainly saw the seeds of his desperation planted in The Things They Carried. Did you see any foreshadowing of things to come? Tell us your thoughts below!
To support veterans and to donate, visit these organizations as suggested by Jenny Klein:
Fisher House and DAV Charitable Service Trust
To continue to support the organizations benefiting from Jared’s campaign:
TWLOHA (To Write Love On Her Arms) and Wounded Warrior Project
I wanted to address the nickname controversy. I thought maybe you could help me get this out there to the fandom so that fans can better understand the reasoning behind it.
I write this with the utmost respect towards the fans. If I created a character that they do not like the
As a Marine there are so many thing we are trained to do in times of war and combat. It is also very common for military men to give friends and enemies nicknames. It is a strong character choice to identify the people whom you are talking to with nicknames. There are so many reasons as to why one would do this but in the case of Cole and Supernatural, the reason behind Sammy Boy & Deano very simply put; Cole has been tracking Dean his entire life. This is a man he had witnessed killed his father and until it was revealed that his father was a monster Cole had only one agenda and that was to revenge his fathers death. Upon capturing Sam, Cole would call Sam, “Sammy Boy” for two psychological reasons.
The first reason is to make Sam feel comfortable, as if they were pals and by giving Sam a nickname it would make a weaker beat down Sam feel more at ease with giving information that Cole needed to find Dean.
The second reason and this applies to when he meets Dean is nicknames can be use to be degrading, hence the several names that Dean calls Cole aka “Kungfoo Grip or Sparky”
So when Cole first meets Dean two things happen, one he wants to degrade the man who killed his father before he kills him. Death is a release and there is peace in it. Words sting more and are more painful than death because you have to live with them so he wants to hurt Dean in any way he can prior to killing him. (or thinking he was going to kill him lol)
Also, Dean has been his primary focus for 1/2 of his life. So he feels like he knows him. Hence the way he does his hair and even speaks like him. You must study, learn and become your prey before you can kill it. So Cole feels close to Dean hence close enough to give him a nickname.
And we all know that once nicknames are given then they stay with you the rest of your life, so even if Cole and Sam were to become best friends, he would still use those names. No longer to degrade or harm but now out of love and respect.
As you all may have read recently the tweets between Jared and I about Stockholm Syndrome. It is a very real thing and because Sam, Dean & Cole have all now bled together and if history tells us anything, once men go to war they either come back dead, bitter enemies or friends. Hell the first time I met my best friend of 30 years when we were 10 the first thing we did was slug it out.
So all in all, I have heard and seen so many comments about giving the boys nicknames, but when you have been an actor for 15 years and you are asked to come on a show as big as Supernatural, you need to make strong character choices. This is not Travis Aaron Wade calling Sam and Dean Winchester nicknames. I would not dare. I have so much respect for this show, its creators, writers and the two men that been the face of this show for 10 years! Hell I am in disbelief that I am even writing this now and saying that I am forever a part of this show and the Winchesters story line. Its why I don’t watch shows I audition for because I as well become a fan and a fan would never call Dean & Sam Winchester “Sammy Boy & Deano” BUT Cole Trenton would and he has and its now part of history so you don’t have to like it but you are going to have to live with it because it was exactly what the character would do and I am very fortunate to be working with incredible writers that are so intelligent and specific they allowed me to use it.
To close out, I want each and every fan to know that it is an honor to be a part of Supernatural. This has been an experience. If you look at the 4 episodes that I have shot, I hope you can all see the amount of hard work and care that I put into Cole Trenton. I wanted to give you all a character that you could love, hate or be confused about? lol The writers have done an incredible job with this characters arc so far and I knowing them a bit, its just a tip of the iceberg. I have no idea what is next but I can tell you this much, I have come to love the character of Cole Trenton, The boys, the cast and crew and the entire production of Supernatural. Thank you for welcoming me to this very special family. You have my word that I will always put this show and the fans first before my own needs. Its what military men do and if Cole Trenton is called upon again I will honor the writers, creators and the fans of this show with nothing short of my very best.
First of all, thank you so much for reading this article, Travis, and for giving us such insight into your thoughts behind the creation of the Cole character. Also thank you for becoming such a graceful and humble part of the Supernatural world, both in show and fandom. As a critic, a viewer and a fan, rest assured that I understand the purpose of the nicknames Cole gives Sam and Dean. The choice makes perfect sense in the context of Cole’s backstory and his agenda with both boys. I may not be speaking for all of fandom, but I don’t think that anyone will see any of it as a sign of disrespect from you, Travis, as an actor and a human being. I think that the response from fans, especially to the use of “Sammy”, is perhaps because there is a lot of sentiment behind that name and it carries some historical weight. It is a special nickname that in the series’ history, had been reserved for use by Dean as an expression of their special bond. I really appreciate your in depth story behind the creation of your character and how much thought and personal experience you poured into Cole. It really adds to our experience as viewers and your efforts made this episode have a lot of additional depth. I am grateful to hopefully have provided you with a way to get your words out to the fandom. We would love the opportunity to speak with you more about Cole, your experience with the Supernatural fandom, your charities and anything else you have going on.
Thanks again for responding!
I am confused. Why does Dean think he is going to die? The ONLY thing that can kill him is another person with the MOC and the Blade.Only Dean was able to kill Cain. Dean is pretty much immortal at this point. He knows this (at least he should) Sam doesn’t-but Dean does. So I think Dean’s upset more about the so called inevitability of him killing Sam-not he himself dying. That wouldn’t/doesn’t make sense.
Thanks for reading and commenting Kris! I have been confused about this all along too. The immortality question has not really been adressed, I think. Dean has asked Cas to put him out of his misery when the time comes, but as we saw, Cas was powerless against Cain. I’m not sure who or what can kill Dean at this point. Except Cain of course, and I am not so convinced he is actually dead. I think Dean has given up hope that there is either a cure or a way to live with the Mark peacefully, but if he is concerned that he will go off the deep end again and will kill Sam, perhaps carrying on hunting as if nothing is wrong is not the best solution either. I think we do know that he would die before hurting Sam, but how that would play out? I can see this going a lot of different ways, I guess we will have to wait and see! What do you think?