Sam joins the British Men of Letters, but it took a lot of vampire slaying to get there. In what is probably the most interesting episode in terms of pitting the Winchesters and the British Men of Letters against each other so far this season, “The Raid” offers a fascinating look at their two ideologies by allowing each a fair amount of screen time. This allotment gives each view point time to make its case, and in turn, sway our main characters in either direction.
Even though Sam ultimately accepts Mick’s offer, both sides — American hunters and the BMOL — were stripped bare and forced into action when the Alpha vampire made his return. The BMOL may have all the fancy gadgets and the brain power of 100 Harvard graduates, but when it comes to the nit and grit of it all, they work solely behind the scenes, never actually getting their hands dirty. This becomes clear when the BMOL’s plan to eradicate all the vampires backfires when the remaining vamps attack the BMOL’s current base, and the BMOL have no contingencies. At this point, Sam and Mary, the epitome of the American hunters, take over and fight off as many vampires as they can. While Sam and Mary are largely responsible for saving everyone, the climax of the episode shows teamwork when its Mick, Sam, and Mary versus the Alpha vampire. In the end, the Alpha dies, and there’s something to be said about that. In fact, that seems to be Sam’s selling point — the BMOL may have royally screwed this operation up, but it resulted in the death of the big bad father of all vampires himself. At the same time, I feel it’s been made clear to Mick the Winchesters know a little something about something, while the BMOL kind of, well, don’t. Some amount of respect was gained in this episode. To what degree and how long it will last remains to be seen.
Dean wasn’t in on a whole lot of the action this time around. Instead, he returns to old vices to bury his feelings over his mother’s presumed betrayal. He goes for some drinks, but not before he gets in a dig at Sam as well — stop playing the mediator, Dean tells Sam, and pick a side. “The Raid” begins where last week left off, but it’s got a different vibe. Originally, I perceived Mary’s conversation with the brothers to be just that — a conversation. Instead, this week’s opening scene felt more representative of early Supernatural, wherein the brothers would argue but not really talk. Dean mostly just spouts off varying degrees of “you lied to us!” and “you’re supposed to be our mom!” which isn’t entirely fair to Mary considering she hasn’t been a mom for 30 some odd years. Dean refuses to listen and then kicks Mary out of the Men of Letters bunker. Sam, to his credit, was pretty quiet during the exchange, and while he did tell Mary she should go, his soft-spoken plea felt more like he was asking for some time and space for everyone to cool down, whereas Dean’s proclamation felt more final.
Without telling Dean, Sam decides to meet Mary and hear what she has to say. He shows up at the BMOL’s American base — a nice set up of electronic door codes, bright white hallways, and TV monitoring systems, and yet, they’re still “roughing it” — and Mary gives him the official tour. While they deal with the vampire problem, the BMOL’s assassin Arthur Ketch shows up at the Winchester’s Men of Letters bunker to recruit Dean. Ketch bribes him with Scotch and they sit down for a chat. It was during this scene I realized something about this season. All this time, it seemed the BMOL would be the main villain of season 12, with Crowley and Lucifer as the B story villains (“B story” sounds like I’m discrediting those characters, so let’s go with parallel “A story” instead), but really, it’s Arthur Ketch. The main villain isn’t an organization from across the pond, it’s a singular person. Ketch has a lot of power, and it’s expressed in the apathetic way he tells Dean he doesn’t really care if the Winchesters join their fight. The only reason Ketch is doing this is for himself because he likes killing things. Killing supernatural beings is just a way to avoid a murder conviction. Arthur Ketch isn’t just a villain, he’s a bad guy, and he equates himself with Dean, who also enjoys killing things. The two team up to raid the rest of the vampire nest, only to discover one lone vampire. Ketch wants to torture the info about where the other vamps are out of her, while Dean promises he’ll make her death quick if she tells them what they want to know. While the audience may see the difference between Ketch and Dean, the moment is too subtle, and the idea already cemented in Dean’s head for it to register with him. I’m afraid with a bottle of good Scotch and a seemingly innocent conversation, Arthur Ketch has managed to get Dean on his side.
By episode’s end, Sam has promised Mick he’ll work on recruiting his brother, while Mary and Dean reconcile over their differences. After hearing Mary might be in trouble, Dean realizes he could lose her all over again, and so decides to forgive her. I’m not a huge fan of this reconciliation. Dean never once agreed to see things from Mary’s perspective. His only reason for reuniting is that he didn’t want her dead. There’s a big difference there, and it ultimately doesn’t accomplish anything. Maybe we’ll get that conversation down the line, but here it feels disingenuous to Mary and to Dean, a slight to their differing ideals and perspectives. To hear each other out, now that could solve a lot problems in half the time.
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.