It’s been almost two months since we last had an episode of Supernatural. The first half of the season concluded with an exciting showdown between the angels, the demons, and the Winchesters. Unfortunately, that kind of excitement was nowhere to be seen this week with “Family Remains.”
The episode started off promisingly enough. Okay, it actually looked like a generic haunted house movie (a family moves into a new home to give themselves a fresh start, ghost images show up in the window, etc). But giving the generic haunted house movie a Supernatural twist had potential.
It is pretty uncommon for people to see through the Winchesters’ various con-personas, and when they do, it’s usually far enough into the episode that it doesn’t matter all that much. So it was also an intriguing development when the Carters almost immediately realized that the Winchesters weren’t really with the county. How would they manage to protect the family when the family knew they weren’t who they claimed? It would have been a nice obstacle to overcome, but instead the “ghost” attacked as soon as the Winchesters got back to the house and there was no longer a need to lie about their identity anyway.
The biggest problem with the episode was directly tied to its twist; namely, that it wasn’t a ghost they were dealing with, but rather a woman who had been locked in the basement her whole life (and later, her brother). There were lots of things you could easily explain away with a ghost: the locked doors, the power outages, communicating with Danny, the slashed tires, the emptied out trunk, the written warnings. However, it’s far harder to explain these things when they are being carried out by a couple of humans who have been locked away their whole lives and seem to run on little more than animal instinct.
I’m willing to buy that they picked up spoken language over the years. They obviously had to have at least limited interaction with their father, and they could probably hear the TV through the walls. So it’s at least conceivable they would pick up speech. When we saw them on-screen, we were never given the slightest indication they were capable of speech, but the girl did communicate with Danny off-screen. I’m willing to buy that, even if it’s a bit iffy.
The written language, on the other hand, seems far less likely. Even if they had access to books, there would be no way for them to connect the written language to the spoken language without assistance. And somehow, I doubt daddy spent a lot of time in the basement teaching his kids to read and write. Yet somehow they were able to write messages on the walls.
The other things are even less likely. These two have been locked in the basement their whole lives. They probably never even saw cars in their lifetime. Yet somehow when they did see them, they not only knew the purpose of the car, they were able to figure out that slashing the tires would keep the cars from being used. Oh, and they somehow knew what a trunk was, and how to pick the lock to empty it out.
The kids also somehow figured out advanced techniques for trapping their targets (like locking the doors) and learned all about fuse boxes.
The whole last minute extra twist of the girl having a brother was lame as well. Apparently, the only reason for this brother (who was apparently unmentioned in Rebecca’s diary) to exist is so that the Winchesters would be otherwise occupied and Brian could be the one to save his wife and daughter. It would have been a powerful moment had we cared about the Carver family in the slightest.
I also thought it was strange that there wasn’t any attempt to capture the two alive once it became clear that they were dealing with real live humans. Sure they seemed largely devoid of their humanity, but that was hardly their fault. And it’s at least possible they could have been rehabilitated, given the opportunity. And yet, nobody even talked about trying to capture them alive.
Most of these problems could have easily been fixed if it had been the ghosts of these two kids haunting the house. Ghosts can have knowledge of things they wouldn’t have known about in their mortal life. And, while they would still be blameless for their condition, there wouldn’t be any need to worry about capturing them alive. You still would have had more or less the same situation, and you still could have had the episode end with the same conversation between Sam and Dean.
That conversation at the end was one of the lone high-points of the episode. We already knew that Dean felt he had a lot to atone for after his stint in hell, but to learn he actually grew to enjoy torturing people gives his drive from redemption a little more weight. That scene was a powerful ending to a weak episode.
“Family Remains” was a pretty lousy episode to kick off the second half of the season. Fortunately, it was largely a self-contained episode; it’s badness shouldn’t spill over into future episodes.
Trevor MacKay is the sci-fi/horror/fantasy/cheesy/random geeky stuff guy. If something is geeky and/or unbelievably cheesy, he’s there.
Tags: ghosts, Supernatural