Supernatural 4.13 "After School Special"
The boys investigate a particularly interesting case at one of their old high schools which had an incident where a girl murdered another student, however claims that she was possessed. Posing as employees at the school, they uncover that instead of demon possession like they typically suspect it's a malicious spirit who is very pissed off, possessing the outcasts and kids who are picked on by bullies. This brings up memories for Sam as he remembers what it was like back in high school, which wasn't a picnic for either of them.
The angry spirit in question was a boy naked Dirk, who picked on Sam and other kids, and is getting his revenge after having died at eighteen from the pressures of school. The twist comes that while Dirk was cruel to other kids, other kids had been cruel to him. The Winchesters have to find a way to destroy his spirit before he kills more people, and Sam comes to terms with who he was and how he turned out.
The episode focuses on the pasts of Sam and Dean and how while growing up as hunters have different ways of funtioning, and gives the audience a morality lesson in humanity versus the true evils of the world.
The Winchester Brothers: Shifting differences and similarities of the past and present
Another episode that isn't necessarily about the mytharc of the season, which is what I've been kind of waiting for, but nevertheless the hunting-job episodes provide something or other for us to evaluate and determine. "After School Special" was definitely a morality tale at best, given from the title, but in that Supernatural-esque manner finds a way to integrate that to who the brothers were and how they turned out. Call me soft, but I enjoy these flashback episodes. They are few and rare and I do like them scattered throughout the seasons for specific purposes, and it's interesting seeing who the boys were back then and compare it to who they are now in the present, since we've only gotten descriptions of what growing up was like, traveling around with John, going on jobs and hunts and whatnot.
It also gives us a chance to see how they managed to blend into the normal social scene despite never having a chance to settle down and actually having that normalcy that so many have and take for granted. It's clearly shown between Dean and Sam as they experience their school days differently from beginning to end.
Take Sam for example, who at first you'd suspect being bullied and picked on in which he kind of was, but it's apparent that he could hold his own. He even challenged the bully when he was defending his new friend, Barry, from being picked on. He was just holding back because he didn't want to be seen as "the weird kid" or "freak", which I'm still puzzled about that. How does defending yourself from a bully make you a freak? In the end we see that he chose to fight back, using his skillful hunter-fighting knowledge obviously taught to him by his father and possibly Dean too. Sammy was seen as a hero, although it didn't do well for Dirk's life ahead of him, but Sam was more or less seen as that "big man on campus" for taking out the school bully.
Then there's young Dean, whose behavior has Dean Winchester written all over it. He's witty and sarcastic, seen as the "bad boy" type at the school, is a charmer and definitely a womanizer, and he does everything in his power to protect his little brother. All of this we've known about Dean, so it's not surprising to see that during his high school years. However, the ending is what grabbed my attention, and places more hurt on Dean's character because what the girl was saying to him is...painfully true, though it shouldn't have been said that harshly.
It's interesting seeing the turnaround of their roles; Sam who was picked on or seen as either invisible or the small kid is the hero whereas Dean's "big man on campus" status turns sour as his esteem is knocked down even further. It's also interesting to see their attitudes towards this kind of normalcy and seeing how they adapt to those kinds of surroundings. It's obvious that Sam wants the normal life, wants out of the family business and in fact because of his high school teacher he started thinking about a future outside of hunting, whereas Dean relishes in it because...well, that's all he's known, and he thinks there's nothing else for him. Which is why his attitude in the beginning was more laidback and he was chillaxing and started getting antsy when they overstayed their welcome longer than usual, he wasn't used to being in one place for very long to start adapting and getting acquainted with these people he will probably never see again. It's the same with the girls (and I'm starting to think he's stream of womanizing started because that's the only kind of normal and comfort he'll find away from that family business, and yeah being the suave kind of bad boy helped that, which also helped with the multiple kind of choosing because hey, in the life they lead, who knows what'll happen tomorrow).
It makes me wonder what would've happened had Dean had a teacher or mentor like Sam had back in high school, would he have changed? Would his self-esteem have been boosted a little because of someone taking an interest in his future, not seeing him as pitiful or sad or lonely and thinking that's all there is to him? So many what ifs and yet never knowing how it would've gone, or how Dean would've changed.
Horrors of High School: The Reality of Teenagers and Social Roles
It's a known fact. Kids are nasty and cruel, sometimes without realizing it.
For most of us, high school was never a pleasant place to be, and anyone who says otherwise is either lying or had extremely good fortune with having a horror-free high school experience. Everyone was the victim of something horrible during those four years (sometimes six going from junior high through high school), and like this episode stated even sometimes we're unaware of it but we were all most likely also doing some terrorizing and bullying unconsciously, if only to unleash our emotions or what's holding us back from things we're afraid to admit openly.
It's not really shocking news, since those that do bullying have their own issues, just like everyone else. Nobody is pure evil and does all that for shits and giggles. There's a reason behind it, and while we might not think so at the time it's important we take all that into account. I remember watching Bowling for Columbine and even remembered the news coverage for the shootings when it actually happened, and the news reports say that these students were monsters and evil individuals. True their actions were monstrous but they weren't actually evil kids; they just had things so repressed that they finally snapped and decided to take out their frustrations in the only way they saw fit and would cause many to stop and listen, even if in fear for their lives. Does it excuse their behavior? Absolutely not. But not every kid goes to school thinking "well let's see, who am I going to terrorize today?" There's always something else behind why they do it. In this episode Dirk had been the bully, but he also was the victim because he had a weakness that caused him to recoil and taking out his emotions in some unhealthy way.
Sam had been the victim, but he was also the perp just like Dirk. Everyone has their own story, has their own motives and their own pain and issues -- it's worse for teenagers, because sometimes we don't know how to express our feelings or even deal with it in a healthy way that can be resolved. I bet we all look back now and cringe at some of the things we did, because that's life. We get passed those immature things, and that's what Sam was saying. High school and being a teenager was hell, but there's more to life than just that, and if we handle ourselves right we can get through it which can help us overcome more of those obstacles later on.
So yes, while not a mytharc episode definitely worth thinking about in terms of how we are as humans and the differences between humanity and pure evil, because we're all flawed but somehow, manage to get through these things sometimes. It's what separates us from other creatures in this world.
Memorable Moments from the Episode:
++ Was anyone else expected wee!Sammy to somehow use his psychic powers on Dirk? I mean, the way he was almost so over-confident on taking him down despite his size, and how the camera focused on his eyes when he was challenging Dirk. I don't know, I guess I was hoping for some hints to his psychicness or something without him realizing it. But heh, whatever. That fight, of course, was worth it even though it did leave me feeling kinda eh about Sammy becoming the "hero" of the story.
++ Dean + gym teacher shorts + sweat headband + whistle = lolarious shit. "This whistle makes me their GOD!" LOL
++ Also the whole thing with him being the gym teacher and the dodgeball made me lol, even though yes dodgeball IS a particuarly dangerous game played, with the added kids being mean and hormonal and having grudges and just, yeah.
++ Despite what anyone else says, I did like the young actor chosen to play young!Dean. I thought he did a great job mimicking the way of Jensen's facial work, the way he clenched his jaw and carried himself, add the leather jacket and the similar clothes that's the way Dean Winchester would've looked and acted at that age. I found it believable, anyway.
++ I'll keep saying it, if Dean and Chuck Bass ever met....
++ Slut!coughing. Yeah, that never happened but I reiterate what I said before, the stereotypical of jocks/cheerleaders/popular kids stuff is getting old. Those kinds of kids were never the means ones in my school. IDK.
++ School violence, ah good times. /sarcasm
++ I really enjoyed the way this episode was filmed, from the brightly colored flashbacks to the present day dark grittiness, the camera angles and even integrating those flashbacks and present day in memories. Very creative way of storytelling and making it relevent to what's happening.
++ Awww, Sam's teacher. I liked him, and if only I had someone like that for me during high school.
++ I felt so bad for Dean. STOP HURTING HIM SHOW, SRSLY! IT'S TIME TO HEAL THE HEAL, GIVE HIM A BREAK FOR GOODNESS SAKES!
++ I liked the ending, and how when Sam went to visit his old teacher and when he asked whether Sam was happy with his life. I really liked how they left it unanswered, because we all know what he's thinking and how he feels, whether things should and could be better for him, hence his mindset of "cutting off the head of the snake" with Lilith. Idealist Sammy, and how life can be simpler without her and the Apocalypse and his damn demon blood and those powers of his. We all know, and I'm surprised fans are whining because he didn't answer. Things are better left unsaid because it would be redundant since we know.
Overall: Enjoyable episode, nothing spectacular in terms of moving the mytharc of the season forward, but I did like what this episode had to offer. I liked seeing the pasts of Sam and Dean, seeing what got them to this point in their lives, as we only know of their struggles with hunting but never with their social lives...or attempting to, anyway. Yeah, it was obvious with the moral story and the after school special stuff, but I thought it was a nice episode nonetheless.