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Supernatural Has an Extremist Problem

Et tu, Sammy?

MaryAnn Sleasman

The British Men of Letters were recruiting hard on this week's episode of Supernatural, and while Mary's (Samantha Smith) commitment to the cause may have ever-so-briefly wavered after Dean (Jensen Ackles) gave her a stern talking-to, and a vampire invasion may have slaughtered half the B-MOL's staff, Sam (Jared Padalecki) inexplicably decided to get on the genocide train and even promised to give Dean a nudge in the right direction.

OK, I shouldn't say "inexplicably." Sam was the Winchester son who walked away from hunting, after all. He did it repeatedly over the years and certainly seemed to take to "normal" a little more effortlessly than Dean ever did. Sam has been clinging hard to the whole "hunter destiny" mindset for the last several seasons as proof of being over the allure of the civilian world.

The discovery of the Men of Letters has always appeared to be Sam's natural place in the hunting world. Even though I personally have a hard time buying his sudden willingness to join up with the kill-all-the-monsters-just-because-they're-monsters crowd, I guess we can let this slide. A little. For now. Maybe Sam has some ulterior motives for throwing his rock salt in with the people who gruesomely tortured him, almost got Castiel (Misha Collins) killed, are clearly using his mother, and spent a portion of the first half of this season following him around to slaughter any slightly-not-human entities he and Dean decided to let live/(We're not letting their murder of that poor psychic chick from the fundie family that kept her locked in their basement slide, are we?)

Supernatural reminds us that families are awful.

There has to be something more to Sam's motives than mommy issues and a bunch of cool magic bombs.Supernatural has spent 12 seasons showing us that monsters are people too, and that sometimes humans are the worst monsters of all. The show doesn't get to turn around now and decide that wiping out every nocturnal blood-sucker in the lower-48 is the endgame. By B-MOL logic, Sam, Dean, and Mary themselves should be salted and burned purely for their refusal to stay dead, and let's not forget that time Sam let Satan take the wheel; and that time Dean was an actual demon; and that time Dean was a vampire; or that time Sam had psychic murder powers from Hell, went on a bad demon blood trip, or walked around without a soul, sexing and killing everything up and down the East Coast for about a year.

Jared Padalecki and Samantha Smith, Supernatural​
Diyah Pera, Diyah Pera/The CW

We haven't even talked about all the monsters the show has given us over the years who ditched tradition to lead relatively non-monstrous lives. Amy (RIP) and Eleanor (RIP) and Benny (RIP) and yes, fine, we can argue that those particular monsters ended up on the wrong side of a machete because, despite their efforts, they did stray from their paths and rack up a body count. But there were also severe extenuating circumstances that essentially forced Benny, Amy, and Eleanor into survival mode. Theirs are deaths that are still debated among fans. They are generally considered tragedies.

Supernatural proves there's no going back for Castiel.

I have to believe that there's more to Sam's motives with the Men of Letters than meets the eye, because to take his new allegiance at face value is to turn my back on 12 seasons of world-building, character development, and culture.

For all their foibles, Sam and Dean Winchester have grown to be voices of reason and compassion in the hunter community. Even during his mission to the vampire base, Dean was obviously disturbed by the brutality of the operation. His promise to make not-Eleanor's death quick in exchange for information about their ranks felt hollow and desperate. Not-Eleanor herself seemed too Eleanor-esque for those scenes to be an accident. She accepted the human blood reluctantly. She didn't join the others on their assault on the British Men of Letters. For all we know, she could have been one of those "vegetarian vampires" the show occasionally introduces. I think it was clear that Dean had that thought too.

I'm not particularly looking forward to the family fallout when Dean finds out that Mary and Sam are apparently drinking the B-MOL Kool-Aid, but I am excited for this storyline because it forces Supernatural to do some large-scale soul-searching. Extremism can be alluring. The British Men of Letters are selling a world without monsters and that's very appealing, especially to an audience who has lost so much at the mercy of monsters. But on a series that has shown us over and over again that not all monsters have fangs, to paint their masterpiece with such a wide brush and such broad strokes is dangerous and, in its own way, absolutely monstrous.

Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)