Supernatural Re-Watch: “Faith” and the Dumber Than Dean Award

I promise I’ll post something other than photos and Supernatural analysis eventually. 😛 My brain’s a little wrung out from revision, so right now I’m just kind of coasting along, recovering.

Also — speaking of a wrung-out brain — ignore what I said last post about discussing “Scarecrow” some more. I managed to get my wires crossed, and mashed “Scarecrow” and “Shadow” together in my head. (They’re both one word starting with S, and they both have Meg, okay? And I don’t have much functioning grey matter at the moment.)

Instead, we will talk about “Faith” and the Dumber Than Dean Award.

I’m pretty sure “Faith” is the episode that inaugurated this award, though we didn’t actually identify the award as a Thing until later.

For those who don’t remember or haven’t seen the episode, it starts off with a prologue in medias res, where Sam and Dean are down in a basement rescuing some kids from a creature that isn’t vulnerable to bullets. Dean shoots a stun gun at the thing, but misses, so Sam tosses his own to Dean and takes the kids to safety. Dean gets knocked down and then, at the last second when the creature is running at him, fires and hits. Except that he’s lying in a puddle — the same puddle the creature is standing in — which means he electrocutes himself, too. Credit sequence, and when we come back, a hospital doctor is telling Sam that Dean’s had the equivalent of a massive heart attack, and could basically kick the bucket at any moment.

The Dumber Than Dean Award is given to the character in an episode of Supernatural who makes you yell “Aaaaaaaugh, no!!!!” at the screen because they just did something incredibly bone-headed. We gave out this award quite frequently. (Sometimes Dean won it, and then we were all sad for him.) Which makes it sound like the show is full of people being stupid, but actually, most of the situations were like this one: bone-headed, yes, but plausible. I mean, let’s face it; if you spend your life running around hunting monsters, all it takes is one mistake to get yourself killed. This could easily be how Dean’s life ends. (It would be, if it weren’t for the plot of the episode.) So while I’m yelling “Aaaaaaaugh, no!!!!” at the screen, I’m not yelling at the writers. I absolutely believe Dean would commit that error.

So far as I can recall, that was the general pattern of the award. It wasn’t OOC stupidity (to borrow a term from RPGs); it wasn’t given out when the characters did something dumb because the plot required it. In fact, I remember relatively few instances of Idiot Plots, though I may find more as I re-watch. Instead it was awarded to the characters when, out of carelessness or lack of information or the natural consequence of their psychological flaws, they did something which made total sense to them and was totally, totally wrong for the situation.

We eventually started giving out a corollary prize: the Smarter Than Dean Award. This went to the character in a given episode who did something that made you go “huh, that was really clever!” I mentioned before that sometimes the show manages neat bits of narrative jiujitsu; many of those got the Smarter Than Dean Award. When a character puts the pieces together faster than you expect, or comes up with a nifty solution, or sees through a trick when the usual shape of the story leads you to expect that they’re going to fall for it, they get the Smarter Than Dean Award. (Sometimes Dean won this one, and then we were all very proud of him.)

Bonus entertainment points for any episode where the same character wins both awards. 😛 (Especially if it’s Dean.)

A few other comments on “Faith”: I think they do a reasonably good job of handling the issue of Dean’s salvation coming at somebody else’s expense, within the confines of an episodic structure that means the next ep can’t be all about the fallout. It’s certainly part and parcel of a running motif around Dean’s death; we’ve already had “Skin” and the shapeshifter dying while wearing his face, plus “Asylum” where Sam pulls the trigger on him, and in the near future we get “Nightmare” with the vision of Dean being shot and killed and “The Benders” with the reference to Dean being legally dead. That, of course, only ramps up in later seasons. I don’t remember whether Dean ever explicitly references this incident again, but I feel like his dialogue is at least written in a fashion consistent with the notion that he remembers he’s living on stolen time, and that other people who deserved to be saved weren’t.

Man, though, it’s odd seeing Julie Benz as a tragic Lifetime Movie character, when I mostly know her as Darla from Angel. 😛

I think “Faith” is one of the few episodes from S1 that really struck me as memorable on a first watching. Not brilliant, but it carried the right amount of character significance to hit my particular buttons. (“Asylum” is another one, because I’m a sucker for plot devices that cause characters to start expressing issues they normally want to keep hidden.) As mentioned above, it also fits into a larger thematic picture, though that doesn’t become apparent for a while. If the first season is mostly B to B-plus episodes, this one would get a B-plus.

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