‘The Winchesters’: Violence is always a choice.

The Winchesters
“The Art of Dying”
November 22, 2022

THEN: “I’m going to find a way to open all the doors that were closed for you.”

NOW

Hunting has a way of changing a person. After a while, right, wrong, good, evil, they all start to look the same. And then it starts to make you wonder, who’s really the monster here—them or me?

Lata is meditating—or at least, trying to meditate—but the racket of John and Carlos arguing sours her peace and centeredness into deep annoyance.

John is on a mission to find the Akrida and their radio tower. The fate of the world is at stake! His friends counsel finding a better balance before he burns himself out—either by joining Lata in her practice or Carlos in a group session with Doctor Z.

The sudden quiet draws Mary out of her room. Is everything okay?

“Is that my robe?”

A telephone rings in Samuel’s office, but it takes Mary a moment to find it. It’s tucked inside a side table—right next to the statue of Michael slaying a serpent. FORESHADOWING! A short time later, Monster Club is in the Swagger Wagon on the way to the caller’s farm.

Mary explains that Tracy Gellar and her mom used to hunt together. She’s like family. The name pings a memory for Carlos, and Mary confirms that yes, Tracy is the hunter who retired. Her call to Samuel’s hunter hotline was prompted by finding another old hunting partner, Darla, mutilated in the barn. Based on Darla’s hunting journal, Tracy believes a werewolf is responsible. Mary says Tracy wants Monster Club to track down the werewolf and kill it.

John asks if they can back up to the part where Tracy retired. What happened to ‘getting out of hunting is next to impossible’? What happened to, “The only thing worse than how it starts for hunters is how it ends?” Mary smiles and agrees that it’s rare … but Tracy did it somehow. Her expression is both wistful and hopeful. She says it’s what made her realize that maybe she could do it, too.

The group arrives at Tracy’s farm and Carlos is immediately taken by its bucolic charm.

“You can grow so much weed out here.”

Tracy pulls up behind them. The bed of her pickup truck is full of wood for Darla’s pyre. She’s happy to see Mary—she calls her Cricket, much to Carlos and Lata’s amusement—but she’s also concerned. She says last she heard, Mary was getting out.

Mary is like, yeah, long story, and makes introductions instead. Tracy welcomes Monster Club by telling them Darla’s body is still in the barn. Make yourselves at home!

Mary isn’t surprised by how shaken her old friend is. Tracy thought hunting and monsters were in her past, “and now it’s splattered over her walls.” Mary sighs and admits to John that she can’t wait for the day when the sight of a dead body affects her the same way.

Carlos comes down from the hayloft with a clue—a claw he found lodged in the ceiling. Lata says the curvature is wrong for a werewolf. Before she can expand on her statement, Tracy comes to the door of the barn. She tells them everything is ready. John doesn’t immediately understand that he’s about to participate in his first hunter’s funeral.

Judy Collins’ cover of “Joan of Arc” plays as John and Carlos place Darla’s body on the ground next to the pyre. Mary holds a cloth and basin of water for Tracy to bathe her friend’s broken and torn body. When she’s done, John and Lata place a clean, white shroud over Darla and raise her onto the platform. Carlos ties the knots on the ropes that bind her body.

Once everything is prepared, Tracy places a knife on Darla’s chest and says her hunt is over.

“You get to rest.”

Leonard Cohen’s song is written as a dialog between Joan of Arc and the fire that consumes her during her execution. The final stanza (that we don’t hear) seems to speak to the tension between Mary’s hope for a different life and the reality of a future that may feel inevitable.

I saw the glory in her eye
Myself I long for love and light
But must it come so cruel
And oh so bright?

That sense of inevitability may explain why John can’t take his eyes off of Mary throughout the entire ritual.

After the funeral, the group keeps hitting research dead ends. John thinks they could be dealing with another unicorn monster drawn to Lawrence. He suggests if they can capture it, they can use its essence to lure out the Akrida. It’s a good idea … except for the part where they still don’t have a way to kill the Akrida.

John’s frustration begins to simmer. Lata offers to take the claw to a contact who specializes in monster identification. Carlos volunteers to drive, hoping this friend lives near a bar.

“All this clean living is starting to make me feel dirty.”

Lata is quiet and pensive on the drive. She asks if Carlos thinks she’s a liability as a hunter. She says being a pacifist and a hunter is like being torn between two worlds. And seeing Darla on the pyre reminded her of what happens when you can’t punch back.

Carlos is nonplussed when they pull up to Needle & Bone taxidermy.

“I thought you said we were looking for a monster expert, not Norman Bates.”

If Carlos needed a drink before, he really needs one now. Lata just tells him to trust her. When proprietor Anton walks out from the back room, Carlos is thunderstruck and rendered virtually speechless by the sight of the handsome man.

Back at the farm, Tracy tells Mary to dish while they’re hanging hex bags in the kitchen. Mary explains that she and her father had one of their “ongoing disagreements” about her leaving hunting. The next day he took off and she hasn’t seen him since. Deanna isn’t exactly in the picture either. Mary is surprised to learn this isn’t the first time her parents have separated. Tracy reminds Mary of the time she came to stay with her in Kalamazoo.

“They were on a break.”

After wondering if John is part of the reason Mary is still in the life, Tracy asks what she wants to do when she gets out.

At this point, the future still seems pretty vague to the young hunter—finish school, maybe go to college …

Mary asks Tracy if she has any regrets about leaving. Tracy says she has one—that she didn’t get out sooner.

Anton quickly IDs the claw as belonging to a soucouyant, a rare vampire witch from the Caribbean. Tracy is stunned by the news. She says she’s hunted soucouyant before—her last hunt.

She and her team—Darla, Rob, and Mac—were in Barbados. Their first night they killed three of the four in a band terrorizing a small town. The last one holed up in its cave. Mac went after it, there was a cave-in and they were both killed. Tracy is certain this is the same soucouyant, back for revenge.

John asks the excellent question—do hex bags and sigils work against soucouyant?

Tracy’s front door explodes open in a resounding, no. The answer would be no. The soucouyant’s hands turn into balls of flame as it attacks. John hoses it down with a fire extinguisher while Mary whacks at it with a fire iron. The monster retreats and John charges after it with the look of a man obsessed.

Mary grabs a machete and follows John outside. She finds him on the ground with the soucouyant doing its best to scoop out his squishy insides. Mary cuts off the witch’s arm and it scurries off into the woods.

Monster Club repair to the relative safety of the Lawrence clubhouse with Tracy in tow. Carlos puts his medic skills to use stitching up the deep laceration in John’s shoulder. In answer to the second of John’s excellent questions—how did the soucouyant get out of the cave—Tracy guesses that her old partner Rob could have freed it.

She tells them Mac never got a hunter’s funeral due to the cave-in, and that never sat right with Rob. With the 10 year anniversary coming up, Rob told her he was going back to Barbados to finally put Mac to rest the right way.

John is like cool, cool. How do we kill it? Beheading or stake to the heart? Cool, cool, don’t threaten him with a good time. Carlos has barely knotted the final suture and John is on his feet, ready to roll out. Mary tells him to pump the brakes—two veteran hunters are already dead and the soucouyant nearly made John a third. It lost an arm and barely flinched and there was no blood trail, so. They’re going to play it safe. Mary says Lata has called Anton in to consult on the arm.

Carlos gasps! Anton is here? He has to change clothes IMMEDIATELY!

John stomps off to go work the heavy bag outside in the alley. Mary eventually follows him out and confronts him about the events of “Masters of War.” She says Carlos told her what happened with Mars Neto. What John did to the god. John can’t look at Mary. He simply says he did what he had to.

Mary suggests that John needs a break from hunting. He sasses back, asking if the coach is benching him. Mary reminds him that this isn’t a game—it’s life or death. She pleads with him to talk to her. She let John walk around inside her head and see everything. Now she needs him to let her in, just a little bit.

John is angry that Mary doesn’t get it—that when they put Darla to rest, all he could see was her. That every moment she spends hunting is another moment she could die. John insists that he will not be the person to wrap her in a white cloth, put a knife in her hand and send her to the afterlife in a blaze of glory.

Ummm, I mean …

John says if pushing himself is the price of getting Mary out of hunting alive, then that’s exactly what he’s going to do.

And if pushing his sons is the price of avenging her death, he’ll do that too.

Mary calls shenanigans. She says Millie told her about John’s compulsion to run towards danger. She tells John not to use her as an excuse to avoid his issues.

In the morgue, Lata uses a bone saw to cut into the soucouyant’s arm after a 20-blade scalpel barely makes a scratch. It immediately begins oozing a thick black goo.

Ectoplasm.

The soucouyant is totally ghost possessed by Mac.

Lata and Mary don’t make the connection until Tracy comes over all squirrelly. So, funny story, the cave-in wasn’t an accident. She says Mac was a troubled soul who eventually became consumed by dark magic.

Things came to a head after the soucouyant hunt.

Fearing that Mac would eventually turn on them, his crew turned on him first. When he went into the cave after the last soucouyant, they blew the entrance with C-4, burying them both alive.

Tracy says they didn’t have a choice. Mary looks like she wants to vomit or punch Tracy or both. Lata bitterly says violence is always a choice.

Mary comes to the crushing realization that her own hopes and dreams have been built on a lie. And then she realizes John still hasn’t joined them.

Because his dumbass has hied himself back to Tracy’s farm to confront the soucouyant on his own.

The big dumb marshmallow gets himself possessed almost immediately. When the others arrive, Mac tells them Tall, Dark, and Angry can’t come to phone right now. Mary tries to get through to her friend, but Mac says John is along for the ride. That’s why Mac possessed him—well that, and he wanted two hands to kill Tracy.

It’s Mac’s little wave to Tracy that makes the moment poetry.

Fight, fight, struggle, fight. Mac gets Tracy by the throat and tells her he’ll at least have the decency to look her in the eye before he takes her last breath. Mary tackles Mac and they fight, fight, struggle, fight again some more.

As Mac tosses Mary around the barn like a rag doll, he says she can’t hurt him. All he’s ever known are clenched fists. There’s nothing she can do to him that he hasn’t already survived.

Mac mojos Mary against the wall and draws a knife from John’s boot. Tracy cocks her gun and draws down on Mac. Mary begs her not to shoot; Tracy says she doesn’t have a choice.

Lata flings herself between Tracy and Mac. She tells Tracy that more violence isn’t the answer … not when you’ve spent a lifetime with it. Not when it’s touched everything you’ve ever had. Lata slowly turns to face Mac. She says his father wasn’t the only one with clenched fists.

Lata doesn’t know Mac, but she knows herself. She says when she was 13 her country was attacked and her father went to war. When he came back he was different. Angry. Violent.

She says it was like the war infected him.

Lata tried to make herself smaller so the violence wouldn’t find her, but it did. It made her feel powerless, until one day it made her feel angry. She says the anger kept growing inside her. She acted on it for years, until she hurt someone, and that’s when she knew she had to make the change.

Lata tells Mac he can keep living in the hurt and the anger and the violence, but it won’t bring him peace.

“Peace has to be chosen.”

Mac says he chose his team, but when he needed them, they turned their back on him. Because it was easier. He looks at Tracy and asks her why she gave up on him. Tracy says she didn’t know how to help him. She was scared.

“I was scared, too.”

Mac says he needed his family by his side. Tracy acknowledges it’s ten years too late, but she’s here now. And she’s so sorry.

It seems to be taking effort now for Mac to sustain his fury. Lata tells him it’s not too late. He can still break the cycle. Mac relents and Mary drops to the ground. He lunges towards Lata with the knife, but he drives the blade into the floor. John’s body stiffens as Mac’s spirit lets go and smokes out.

Mary and Carlos heft John’s unconscious carcass into the van. Mary can only hope the experience knocks some sense into him. It’s given Mary a bit of insight into Tracy, and what it must have felt like when Mac turned on her.

“Hunting sure knows how to make a gal question her morals.”

Tracy says that doesn’t justify what they did to Mac. She has some atoning to do, starting by picking up Darla’s werewolf case. She’ll see where it goes from there. Mary asks if that’s the lesson here—that there’s no escape from hunting. Tracy tells her it’s not that you can’t escape the life, you just can’t escape the decisions you make in that life. Not when you compromise what you believe in.

Tracy is certain that when Mary finally does decide to get out, she’s going to do it the right way.

I mean, she’s going to try.

Back at the morgue, Carlos is teary-eyed as he carries the soucouyant’s arm to the incinerator. Anton touched this dissected arm! Do they really have to destroy it? Yes. It’s gross and it’s been dead far too long for there to be any remaining essence, so. Light ‘er up.

Carlos brings up Lata’s story about her father. He says what she did in the barn was amazing. And she’s right—she’s not a hunter like Mary, or John, or him. They would have killed Mac. Lata helped him.

Lata is dead chuffed by the praise. She clears her throat and pulls a note from her back pocket. A note from Anton. Carlos snatches it away from her. He tells her that it says he’s still got it.

“I guess sometimes not flirting is flirting.”

John groans awake on one of the clubhouse’s velvet couches. Mary offers him a glass of water. “Morning, Sunshine.” John says his memory of the possession is fuzzy, but the fight they had about Neto is clear.

He tells her she’s right about his anger. He thought he’d been able to put it to bed, but the fight with Neto woke it up in a way he wasn’t expecting. He admits he has been using her and hunting as an excuse to avoid his problems. He doesn’t know how to fix it … but he can’t end up like Mac.

Mary takes his hand and promises John that’s not going to happen. Because she still wants to get out of hunting, but it won’t be at his expense. He means too much to her.

And then they kiss. AND THEN THEY KISS. KISS. KISS, DAMMIT!

We end as we began with Lata trying to center herself and meditate. She snaps at the tap on the door, but it’s John coming to thank her for talking Mac down. And asking for her help to find his own way out of the anger and violence. Lata says she started with meditation. Looking inward and focusing on positive things. Breaking the loop of negativity.

John sheepishly asks if she can show him how to do that.

Lata pulls out a pillow for John to sit on and they begin.

Hunting’s not for everyone. You have to be strong, stay sharp, make tough decisions and it’s not easy. But then again, the righteous things never are.

Mary and Carlos burst into the room and Lata demands to know if a girl can get ANY zen around here?? Carlos lays a map out on the desk. There’s an area circled in red. That’s where the radio tower is. They’ve found the Akrida.

The Winchesters airs on The CW and streams at CWTV.com. Whitney is also watching Big Sky airing on ABS and streaming on Hulu. Follow her on Twitter and Mastadon @Watcher_Whitney.

Leave a Reply