First of, the episode before this ("Bitten") was not my cup of tea. I suppose the concept may sound intriguing, but frankly I just couldn't muster enough care for those kids. Plus the camera was shaking so much that I got dizzy watching the show. The only thing that slightly caught my attention was how physically similar the blonde haired kid was to Sam. Coincidence? Or deliberate casting choice? I was left wondering if there was some foreshadowing going on here. I will get back to this later.
In contrast, this week's episode I loved, for the most part.
What Socrates said...
I think his actual quote was: "The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being." But Benny referenced it as "life unconsidered" in rebuffing his maker's taunting that he "considered" too much. If I didn't know this was Ben Edlund's script, the dialog here would have been a giveaway.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Benny's story. Normally I wouldn't give a hoot when show delve into other character's background. But this time, I think it effectively established Benny as a "humanistic monster." A side note: I had no idea Ty Olsson is this good. I've only seen him as Captain Kelly on Battlestar Galactica. While BSG had an impressive cast, Olsson's character was too minor for me to pay him much attention. On Supernatural, Olsson lends his character just the right amount of gravitas, making Benny an interesting addition to the mix.
I liked it very much that Benny turned out as a "thinking" type. He is set up nicely here to contrast against Dean, who mostly goes by instincts. Sam, although portrayed as the more cerebral Winchester, in my opinion tends to worry too much about things related to himself, i.e. his future, his destiny, his ability, his redemption, etc. that it became increasingly harder for me to root for him. It may be too early to conclude that Benny is free of dubious agenda, but I think his genuine appreciation of humanity seen here puts him in the "not evil by choice" category for now.
I've seen arguments made and fingers pointed at the parallel between Dean and Benny's alliance and Sam and Ruby's partnership. But I think the similarities are only superficial. I agree that both Winchester boys were at their most vulnerable when they took to someone who under "normal" circumstance would've been their enemies rather than friends. And it's true that they both fought together with their respective frenemies against their foes. Another side note: Guy Bee directed a terrifically choreographed scene of Dean and Benny fighting and guarding each other's back in Purgatory. Benny's whistle was a really cool touch and paid homage to Hunger Game in my opinion.
However, looking closely at the characters' motivations, I think there's an essential difference in what binds the boys to their strange "bedfellows." Ruby and Benny started out as expedient choices for Sam and Dean, but I believe Dean stuck to Benny out of loyalty, whereas Sam developed a dependency on Ruby and thus allowed her to lead him on the path away from his humanity. Where Dean is concerned, he doesn't give out his loyalty lightly. It's shown that beside his immediate family, he only awarded the few that earned it from him. Therefore I feel Dean and Benny's relationship is tenuous because it depends on whether Benny would prove worthy of Dean's esteem.
I really dig the title of the episode this time because it is loaded with references: Dean and Sam are brothers by bloodline; Dean and Benny are brothers by blood spilled; Benny and his nest mates are brothers by blood consumed. The question is which brotherhood is the strongest? I have no doubt that Sam and Dean's wins by a long shot, but I can't help rooting for Dean and Benny as well. In my ships, Benny will never replace Sam as the one half of my OTP, but I love how Benny's addition shook the dynamics of Sam and Dean in the way Castiel's never did for me.
And boy, it's high time that someone reminded Sam he didn't have a monopoly hold on Dean, because I've been feeling Sam took Dean for granted oftentimes. My biggest fear was Sam wouldn't care much nowadays with his renewed talk of going separate ways. But that was not the case here. It was reassuring to see Sam floored the gas pedal of his car to get to Dean once he realized his brother was in trouble, and Sam's reaction to Dean's new "friend" can be easily interpreted as shock and anger laced with jealousy. I for one enjoy the angst when the brothers' bond is tested, especially by an interesting "interloper".
That being said, I now come to the part of the episode I was not keen on. It's almost shocking how every time Amelia opened her mouth, she came off unbelievably clueless and judgmental to me -- the worst combination a character can have imo. I had a wtf moment when she declared only white supremacists and serial killers buy clothes from army surplus stores. What rock has she been living under, I wondered. And if she thought Sam was so creepy, why did she guilt-trip him to take in a dog that was entrusted in her care? In fact, she came off so unreal that I still think she could be a non-human. I maybe overthinking things, but I noticed when Sam ran into her room after the dog, there were not one but two beer bottles on her coffee table. It didn't look as though she drank both because the bottles were placed across from each other, one close to her, the other close to the chair where a guest might sit. Did she have a visitor just before Sam arrived? Was that why the door to her room was ajar in the first place? I don't discount the possibility this is merely the result of random prop arrangement, but it could also be a subtle clue that the chick was not straight with Sam about herself.
I want to take a moment to go back to what I said at the beginning about foreshadowing: those kids from "Bitten" got themselves messed up real bad because they had a monster amongst them. We know that Dean has alliance with Benny these days, but could there be a monster close to Sam as well? Could Amelia be one, and Sam found out, that's why he left her in the middle of the night? The more I think about it, the more I like this scenario because this would add another layer of indignation on Sam's part when he deals with Dean's relationship with Benny.
Another aspect of this episode I enjoyed is the way it highlighted the boys' abilities. I really loved seeing a return of badass Dean. The rolling heads that bounced like a couple of basketballs were a humorous touch. What can I say? Dean really is bad news for Vampires! Even though Sam's ability can be seen as mundane here, I thought it's interesting that he was shown to be proficient in the skill set normally attributed to Dean. From college boy to handyman, I liked seeing this bit of rounded growth in Sam more than what's been shown of him in the past two seasons tbh. Moreover, at the end, I'm left with a question on how Sam possibly could know what Benny was by a mere handshake. Was this another ability in addition to exorcising demons backward that Sam apparently acquired during Dean's absence? Or was this a hand-waiving moment only? I guess only time would tell.