Supernatural S1E11: Scarecrow

by thethreepennyguignol

Scarecrow really serves to underline where the strengths of Supernatural, thus far, lie.

That’s all I could think while I was watching the next episode in my Grand Supernatural Season One Bisexual Rewatch of Thirst for All Winchester Men Except Sam. Following on from the excellent monster-of-the-week that is Asylum, Scarecrow had to switch things up a bit – which it does by separating the Winchester brothers, as Sam takes off to find their father and Dean deals with some folk-horror fuckery in Burkitsville, Indiana (and if, like me, you’re trying to remember why that town sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same name of the one where the fucking unbelievably great The Blair Witch Project is set).

Which is good news, in a lot of ways, for Dean, and for Jensen Ackles as a whole. Look, I’m not convinced that Jensen Ackles is any sort of incredible actor or anything, but God, what he brings to this role is just right on every level. The phone call from their father at the start, where Dean goes from hopeful son to good little soldier in a matter of seconds after getting orders from John, is so subtle but so imbued with meaning and feeling. And then, Dean is dealing with a small-town folk horror story, as the residents of a rural village sacrifice tourists to a (very creepy, actually) Scarecrow creature to keep their crops thriving and their eczema at bay or whatever, is a perfect showcase for just how easily Ackles slips into my pussy the leading man role. To call it charm or charisma is an understatement: Dean Winchester is one of the only characters I’ve ever really understood the obsessive fandom about, and it’s all about what Jensen Ackles brings to the performance. There’s depth, but there’s also a presence that is almost unmatched in genre television.

And splitting him up from Jared Padalecki just serves to underline that. Dean could lead this show by himself, and I would still watch it – yeah, the Winchester brother conflict and relationship is a wonderful part of the show at this point, but pulling them apart and giving Dean such a fun and juicy plot serves as a reminder of just how well he can make it work.

And…well, Jared Padalecki can’t. I don’t think J-Pads is a bad actor, nor do I think that Sam is a bad character, but Jared Stanislavski he is not. He spends most of this episode hanging around a bus station with Meg (Nicki Aycox, as one of the show’s first Extremely Problematic Recurring Female Characters), doing the sad-puppy eyes and murmuring dramatically, and it’s just…boring. Why would I want to be here, with Sam, when I could be fighting scythe-wielding scarecrows with the most poundable man on the planet? This episode seems set up to explore the strengths of each Winchester brother individually, but all it really serves to pull off is a reminder that one of them is expendable when it comes to the quality of the show. To me, at least.

Anyway. To our big three questions: one, John Winchester as the villain. Look, I do find it very funny that the show seems so unwilling to show his entire face at once this episode, because Jeffery Dean Morgan can only act with one quadrant of his head at a time, but I also really like that John is the spark that lights to division between the brothers in Scarecrow. For this entire season, he’s consistently been a dividing force, never giving Dean and Sam what they both want and need. Even if his reasons are justifiable to him, they are still obscured by the show, and all we’re seeing is the fallout. He’s the one causing the problems here.

As for the re-interpretation of classic folklore – I’m not sure this episode does much to re-think things, given that the Monster of the Week plot is split down the middle with Sam sighing near public transport, but I still really enjoy it. I’m really into how these last few episodes have stepped up the horror aspects of the show, with this scarecrow villain being genuinely freaky, even if stopping by the Cigarette-Smoking-Man’s university office is a little obvious.

My main takeaway from Scarecrow is just how brilliant Jensen Ackles is, though, and just how well the show would survive if he was the only one leading it. I think as Supernatural continues the Winchester brother’s relationship grows to be a more impressive part of the show, but right now, I’m entirely Team Dean.

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(header image via Screen Rant)