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8x15 "Man's Best Friend With Benefits" Discussion Thread

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  • 8x15 "Man's Best Friend With Benefits" Discussion Thread

    Knowing that this week’s episode was going to be written by Eugenie Lemming-Ross and Brad Bruckner I went into it with very low expectations as while the duo have proven through episodes such as A Little Slice of Kevin and Of Grave Importance they can write a good episode when given an interesting concept to work with, they’ve also shown through past works such as Route 666 and The Slice Girls they can also badly handle uninspired plots and an episode advertised as being about a man having sex with his dog was not my idea of interesting. Thankfully though the episode more than exceeded my expectations and while not my favourite of the season it was definitely an enjoyable watch to the point I’ve even watched it twice to date.

    To start off on a good note I must say that I adored the scene at the beginning of the episode where Sam and Dean were seen bickering over which was the funnier stooge Shoot or Colonel, it reminded me of a similar bickering argument between the brothers shown in Bobby’s memories in Death’s Door my favourite episode of recent seasons. Beyond that though the Sam and Dean dynamic was my least favourite aspect of the episode as it represented everything that has made me become totally disengaged from their brotherly bond namely the stale nature of the emotional dynamic between the two due to a repeated pattern that has been going on from at least season four. Recent episodes seemed to promise development between the two in this regard with the brothers learning to trust one another again and given a new sense of purpose due to the introduction of the Man of Letter’s mythology and the trials storyline. This episode however has seen them once more regress back in to their usual patterns, Dean shows a lack of faith in Sam and his capabilities in spite of commenting to Benny back in Citizen Fang about how dangerous Sam was and one of the brothers in this case Sam is keeping secrets from the other.

    The writers insistence on repeating this pattern of having the brothers make each other miserable, of keeping secrets and doing things behind each other’s backs again and again without any real development in this sense makes it hard for me to remain emotionally invested in them. Furthermore it makes it hard for me to even understand why they want to remain together beyond a sense of familiarity and duty when we are shown for the most part the brother’s relationship being riddled with distrust and misery. For this viewer at least the other extreme the heartfelt speeches given by Sam and Dean in Trial and Error are not enough, they’re too extreme and read as desperate attempts on the writers part to remind the viewers these two actually do love each other. What would work better for me would be the use of smaller, more every day gestures more scenes like the one shown at the beginning of this episode where the brothers engage in every day sibling rivalry, where they are able to enjoy each other’s company such as the closing scene of Everybody Hates Hitler where the brothers toast each other with a glass of whiskey, maybe reintroduce some of the components of the brothers relationship that made it so fun in the earlier seasons like the prank wars. Until they actually bother to take the brothers relationship somewhere new I’m afraid this viewer is going to remain completely disengaged from their dynamic…

    On the other hand I absolutely adored the side characters introduced in this episode especially Portia. I know a lot of viewers were offended by her as she brought to mind issues such as black slavery. Personally I had no such problems with the character and hope we get to see her again as for me she was the very opposite of a repressed and subservient female which was shown consistently throughout the episode. Firstly there was the way that she interacted with Dean and Sam particularly Dean she was sarcastic, she was witty and more than capable of giving as good as she got proving to be the very opposite of demure. Secondly her entire relationship with James was presented as that between two equals Portia herself certainly considered that to be the case as evident through her explanation to Dean about the bond that forms between familiar and human, and then there was the way that the two interacted with one another. She was not afraid to go behind James back and call the brothers in, she was not afraid to argue back and justify her actions when James found out (incidentally I found her going off in a huff while in dog form absolutely hilarious), during their sexual encounter she was the one to initiate sex and if anything she was the more dominant lover and finally she went against his ‘order’ to stay away and played her part in rescuing James from Spencer. On the other hand I thought that Philippe the white male was the character that showed us what can happen to a familiar when the bond is handled in its most twisted form… He was shown to be forced to take actions he did not want to take namely acting as an eyewitness against James and was then cruelly killed by Spencer who followed this murder by the cold statement “He was always spineless.” With all that taken into consideration I really did not get a racist or sexist vibe from this episode.

    I must confess that I found the case of the week interesting and although I imagine it was not intentional it actually reminded me of Castiel’s main character arc this season. The episode through the words of Dean certainly hits on the theme of free will vs. forced circumstance when he states “Besides Benny, Kate they were forced to be what they are… James chose this” which of course is what makes Castiel’s plight this season so different to season six when he willingly chose to work with Crowley. Even the things that happened to James were very similar to what has been happening to Castiel for instance they have both had their memories interfered with by an outside force making it impossible for them to distinguish between what is real and what is false, and then there was James’ fears that he’d been forced to commit the murders though in James case he was fortunate enough for this to not be the case. This was in fact what happened to Castiel in his last appearance in Torn and Frayed when he was forced by Naomi to kill Samandriel. Although I am most likely reading too much into the case and this parallel was probably not Leming-Russ and Bruckner’s intention I really hope this is a sign that when the brothers find out about Naomi and what she has been doing to Castiel they will work together to free Castiel from her clutches, rather than as I fear having them kill him because of the threat he poses and fear of this being a repeat of past betrayals.

    Some final notes on this episode, between the use of familiars, astral projection and the energy blasts exchanged between Spencer and James in the final scene this episode at times had a rather Charmed like feel to it which probably explains why I liked it so much. One of the most heart breaking moments of this episode was Dean’s words to Sam about the visions Spencer gave him in the impala to hear him talk about the loss of Mary with such pain and regard his torture in hell as “some other crap” in comparison made me just want to hug him. It has been really nice to see in these last few episodes how Dean has never truly gotten over losing Mary at such a young age and then again in Home when she sacrificed her spirit to protect them from the poltergeist haunting their old home. The “that was hot” scene had to be amongst the worst scenes of the episode for me, it wasn’t that I had issues with them finding Portia hot she is a very attractive woman after all, but the way they just blurt that out after she divulges her problems felt as though they were trivializing said problems and Portia as a person and I would not have blamed her if she had chosen to give them a well-deserved smack in the face for their inconsideration. We also got some interesting new trivia about Dean namely that he is allergic to cats, while there was continuity in regards to his dislike of dogs also was I the only one who found the proud grin on his face when Sam praised him for the lack of bestiality jokes and his discomfort at realizing Portia and James had sex adorable? Then of course there was the shot shown of the random stunt guy instead of Jensen when James telekinetically hurled Sam and Dean across the bedroom.

    Overall I have to say I found Man’s Best Friends with Benefits a rather enjoyable episode and it has left me in rather good spirits for watching next week’s Remember the Titans which sounds like it is going to be good.
    Last edited by Bittersweettwit; 23-02-13, 12:24 PM.

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