Supernatural, Season 8, Episode 4: “Bitten”
Written by Robbie Thompson
Directed by Thomas J. Wright
Airs Wednesdays at 9pm (ET) on CW
Supernatural is a show that has never shied away from acknowledging its horror trendsetters or contemporaries, with perhaps the most obvious example being Season 4’s homage to classic horror, “Monster Movie”. With nods to everything from Bela Lugosi to Twilight, the one thing the show had yet to touch on was the newest wave in horror films, found footage. A nod to this kind of movie would be difficult for the show, as neither Dean nor Sam have a propensity for carrying around cameras, making a secondary character’s presence necessary, which is always an iffy proposition. The writers, however, determine an effective workaround for this problem by taking the focus off the Winchester brothers and putting it instead on the victims of the crime being investigated. The result is an effective, unexpectedly poignant tale of horror that doesn’t suffer from the reduction of familiar faces.
It is fascinating to watch the three college students try to piece together what is happening around them. Earlier episodes of this season highlighted how jarring the Winchesters’ world is to someone who finds themselves unexpectedly thrown into it, but this episode explores that idea further by giving none of the involved individuals a guide of any sort that could help them understand what is happening. Watching people who are otherwise unaware of supernatural forces try to stumble their way through the ups and downs of being exposed to it drives home the horror associated with something even as relatively simple as a werewolf transition. It may seem tame when compared to trying to stop Lucifer or killing a Leviathan, but is nonetheless something that not many people can cope with, especially if they’re unaware of it. The contrasting reactions of Michael and Bryan to the werewolf bite is also an interesting study in “civilian” reactions to supernatural entities and brings up an interesting point that the episode unfortunately doesn’t delve into very deeply.
Another interesting aspect of the episode is watching the Winchester brothers through a new set of eyes. How Michael, Bryan, and Kate react to their presence is both amusing and intriguing. It’s rare that we get a glimpse of how the brothers are perceived by the townsfolk they interact with, and even rarer that we get a look at how the creatures they’re hunting view the brothers, which makes the perspective of both Michael and Bryan a very interesting one. Villains and targets have, on more than one occasion, escaped from the Winchesters’ net and watching the indirect interactions of the main three individuals with the brothers provides some insight into how that happens. It’s something that the show has previously never provided and it adds an extra layer of perspective to the week-to-week hunting that Sam and Dean do, illustrating the victims who fall prey to, and are shaped by, good and evil intentions. The show has never shied away from painting both those who hunt and those who are hunted in complex moral shades of grey and Kate promises to be another worthy addition to the ongoing debate on whether or not monsters should be killed, or even what constitutes a monster. It will be interesting to see if she makes a return appearance on the show and, if she does, what capacity it is in.
Overall, this is a very strong standalone episode. The characters are easy to get emotionally invested in and the horror is very effective, with the director wisely choosing to forego jump scare tactics in favour of longer, drawn out terror. The story itself is compelling and rings true throughout and the exploration through the eyes of the people directly affected by the werewolf is a good way to tell this story again without questioning why the Winchesters, who are now familiar with werewolves to the extent that even regular viewers of the show can spot the tell-tales signs of an attack, don’t take care of it within the first five minutes. Brit Sheridan, in particular, is very good as Kate and is very clearly the star of the episode. While the overarching season plot is not addressed this episode, effective and well-done standalones such as this one are always a welcome change of pace and it’ll be worth tuning in next week simply to see if the bar for standalone quality set this episode can be cleared.