In 'Live Free or Twihard,' Dean channels his inner vampire, but it's Sam who scares us

By Sandra Gonzalez
March 31, 2015 at 04:48 PM EDT
Jack Rowand/The CW
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Just as Dean had his suspicions, we knew right from the beginning of the new season that there was something off about Sam — something unsettling — after he mysteriously returned from hell. But after several weeks of giving him the benefit of the doubt, I have officially placed New Sam on the Things I Dislike Strongly list, right between “socially awkward moments” and “that feeling after one too many purple nurples.”

In six years, the boys have intentionally and unintentionally hurt each other many times. Some of it has was in good humor (prank wars!) and the rest was a result of possession, but tonight was a whole new level of betrayal. It was not just a cold act, but one so uncharacteristic that it sent chills down my spine in a way I haven’t felt since season 2’s  “Born Under a Bad Sign,” when possessed Sam told Jo, “My daddy shot your daddy in the head.”

Before we get into any deeper into that, let’s take a look at the episode as a whole.

This week was an ode to the vampire culture, from the silly and sensational to the more serious mythology within the Supernatural world. The episode’s opening, which had a 17-year-old Twi-tween type lusting after (and dying at the hands of) a dark-haired, broody bloodsucker, set the tone for what was seemingly a slightly campier episode; but even before the halfway point, we learned it was, in fact, a truly dark one.

It all started with Dean and Sam looking into the mysterious disappearances of local teenage girls. More specifically, Sam was looking into the disappearances at a police station while Dean was outside making plans for a visit with Lisa. We were led to believe it had been a while since they saw each other, and they were feeling every bit of the time. It was a sweet scene. So much so that I felt Lisa (and/or Dean) was within a hair’s distance of closing their phone call with “I love you.” Neither did.

The boys’ trail eventually took them to the house of the latest victim, a girl named (wait for it…) Kristen (a.k.a. Bat-S–t Crazy Teen). Sam, who apparently has a knack for sniffing out teen girls’ computer hiding spaces, was all business and immediately started dipping into the victim’s pre-disappearance activities, while Dean mostly snooped for his own pleasure and marveled at the girls’ vast collection of vampire paraphernalia. (Frankly, I think they would have been less disturbed to find actual drug paraphernalia in the teen’s room.)

Eventually Sam cracked the code. (Password: Pattinson. I can’t mock this. I have one password that is padackles, but I swear that I made it as a joke.) We found out that the missing girls had been cruising the net for some vampire lovin’ and were getting lured by real vampires. (Would this make Sam and Dean the Stone Phillips in this equation?)

The boys headed to The Black Rose, a seedy hang out for the living dead, the soon-to-be dead, and the dead to mainstream society. There, Dean ever-so-briefly tried to get sentimental, asking “When was the last time we had a beer together?” but stone-cold New Sam wouldn’t have it and stayed focused on their task at hand. When they spotted their target vamps, Dean trailed “Bieber” while Sam took “Effron.” Moreover, Dean continued to prove my theory that there was actually a Tiger Beat stuffed inside all those Busty Asian Beauties mags we’ve seen him reading over the years.

NEXT: A shocking, heartbreaking act of betrayal.

Sam beheaded his target with the speed of a thousand ‘roidy hunters, and Dean found out that Biebs was actually a vampire impostor, complete with plastic fangs and body glitter. Dean released him on his own shame, but soon found himself being hauled across the dark alley and into a pile of trash by a real vampire.

Sam came running into the alley as this was taking place. Just as quickly as he appeared to pick up the pace to help Dean, he suddenly stopped in his tracks. (Insert loud, possibly profane exclamations of displeasure here.) Instead of helping Dean escape, he watched as his brother was fed the blood of a vampire — the first step in the vampire transformation process.

There is so much to say about this scene, and I’m curious what everyone’s take on it is. We’re likely to find out Sam’s motivations next week, but in the actual moment, my heart broke a little and my spine tingled, particularly when Sam smirked at the scene before him. Whatever his reasons for standing idly by (and there is really no excuse in my book), my concern lies with Sam as a character.

In season 4, we saw Sam at (what we believed at the time to be) his very worst: Addicted to demon blood. His mood had been altered, and he was turning into a monster. But he came back from it; he redeemed himself. After seeing this, I’m not sure if he can come back and earn a place in my good graces. If it does happen, it will only be after some major gestures of brotherly love. I know in the back of my mind that this isn’t normal Sam, but at this point, I’m almost hoping it isn’t Sam at all. It would just be easier to accept his actions if that detachment was there. Thoughts?

Whoa! How’s that for digression? Hello, main subject. Welcome back.

So, after Sam saw the deed was done, he piped up and half-heartedly fought the vampire, who escaped by scaling a wall. Dean, meanwhile, sat on the ground, dazed by the realization that he was in major trouble.

Back at the hotel, Dean’s transformation had begun. Lights burned his brain. Sounds seemed louder than they were. And he was cranky. (Essentially, imagine a hangover, then multiply it times FML. Yeah, that’s about right.)

Naturally, Sam had called Grandpa Campbell for help. (He had also called earlier with concerns about the vampire’s plan, since they were killing victims and also robbing bloodmobiles.) Dean insisted that once their Gramps arrived, that he would be killed, but Sam told him to calm down. Then a thought struck Dean: Sam was too calm. The transformation had made Dean’s hearing acute, and he noticed that Sam’s heartbeat was calm and relaxed. Dean knew that Sam was up to something.

NEXT: One of the scariest montages in Supernatural history.

Needing time to ponder — and escape — Dean and his baby fangs went to the bathroom (because vampires pee), leaving Sam to worry about where he had gone. Dean had taken off to Lisa’s because he had wanted to say goodbye and explain why he couldn’t let his world come into hers anymore (“[My life] is ugly, and it’s violent,” he told her.) It’s a good thing he eventually got the goodbye part into his speech because it very well might be the last time we see Lisa and Ben for a while — considering he almost attacked them. (p.s. Did the first sighting of Dean’s fangs scare the living crap out of anyone else?)

Meanwhile, Gramps showed up to the hotel and scolded Sam for letting Dean get away. From the shadows, a deep, smokey-voiced Dean emerged and shot sexy eye daggers through the TV screen. Um, and he told Samuel that he knew he had come to kill him. But then grandpa dropped a bomb: There was a cure, but there were two kickers. One, Dean couldn’t feed, not one drop of human blood, or it wouldn’t work. Two, they’d need the blood of the vampire who turned Dean to complete the recipe. (Get it? The Campbell’s recipe. I liked that.)

So Dean headed to the nest solo, and grandpa ripped into Sam, telling Sam that he had told him about the cure “months ago.” “That’s strange because if you had known, it’d be almost like you let him get turned, get a man on the inside, help us find that alpha vamp we’ve been looking for?” he said.

Seeing Samuel come down on Sam like this made me feel better about trusting the old man. Sure, we know he’s still up to something. (Remember how he captured those shifters a few episodes back?) But we also know that if he’s giving Sam the third degree, he can’t be all bad, right?

At the nest, Dean quickly infiltrated and discovered that the new recruits weren’t killing people but drinking the stolen blood instead. He also learned that the recruiters were charged with luring more recruits. They were slowly building an army for the Alpha.

Just as Dean was about to hit the vamp who turned him (who we learned was named Boris) with the syringe of dead man’s blood, he accidentally let a drop prematurely fall to the floor, tipping off the vampire to his plan. Just as Boris was about to rip into Dean for the bold — and stupid — act, he was saved by the Alpha. Rather, Dean and the rest were lured into sleep by him. If that’s just a preview of the Alpha Vamp’s powers, color me tickled.

Speaking of previews, the montage that followed was easily one of the scariest I’ve seen on the show in six years and was strikingly cinematic. Creepy dolls, blood tea parties, Shining-esque vampire twins, cell mutation, scary undertaker-type man. Every element you needed to guarantee a nightmare or two was there. It was terrifying, fantastic, and unexpected.

NEXT: Some thoughts on this season’s consistently solid acting (and Jensen Ackles’ fascinating eyelashes).

Frankly, that small scene was exactly what the entire vampire Alpha plot line needed. It added a layer of cryptic mythology that we’re free to digest and ponder. If it’s any indication as to where the season is headed, I’m thrilled. It’s darker and taps into the horror roots of the Supernatural story, which really seems like the natural direction if we’re exploring monster origins.

Not that we got to see the Alpha Vampire in this episode. I’m sure they’re saving that for later. What we did see was Dean kick some major vampire butt — maybe 15 vampires. It had been a while since we saw major carnage like that. Sam and Samuel popped into the nest just in time to see Dean with his boot on Boris’ head. Um, eeew.

With Boris’ blood, Samuel was able to whip up the cure, which made Dean projectile vomit black goo and briefly turn into scary, purple-eyed monster Dean. It was gratuitously disgusting, which of course means it was awesome. But Dean also flashed back to his short time as a half-vampire, and in doing so, he saw the scene in the alley where Sam didn’t help him escape Boris. When he came to, his trust in Sam had rightfully wavered. And we’re left to wonder, how quickly will Dean and Sam’s relationship get worse before it gets better? Or will it get better at all?

So, readers, here’s what else we’re left to ponder: Do we trust grandpa a little bit more? Do you think Sam can be redeemed? Do you think the montage had greater meaning? If so, what? And, in general, what did you think of the episode?

On a different but related note, does it amaze you how well Jared Padalecki plays evil/New Sam? Actually, hasn’t the acting in general been especially on-point across the board this season? And least importantly, are you constantly fascinated by Jensen Ackles’ curly eyelashes when they are shown in mega close-ups?

QUOTEABLES

“Hey, ice cream comes in lots of flavors, Sam.” — Dean

“These aren’t vampires, man. These are douchebags.” — Dean

“That’s just uncomfortable.” — Sam, looking at a victim’s vampire desktop.

“What is he so bummed out about?” — Dean

“He’s watching her sleep. How is that not rapey?” — Dean

“These chicks are just throwing themselves at you. All you have to do is — I don’t know — write bad poetry.” — Sam

“Think she wears all that rubber to the beach?” — Dean

“All right, MmmBop your way out of here.” — Dean

“News flash, Mr. Wizard: Vampires Pee.” — Dean

“These stupid little brats are so horny they’ve reinvented us as Prince Charming with a Volvo.” — Boris

For more Supernatural ponderings, hit me up on Twitter: @EWSandraG

LOVE TO TALK ABOUT TELEVISION? Then don’t miss this week’s TV Insiders podcast! Annie Barrett, Dalton Ross, Michael Ausiello, Michael Slezak, Missy Schwartz, and our resident TV critic Ken Tucker weigh in on the best show on television right now, and dish the latest happenings on Project Runway, Survivor, and Dancing With the Stars. Click here to download the TV Insiders podcast to your MP3 player, or listen to an embedded version below!

Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki star as the Winchester brothers, hellbent on battling the paranormal forces of evil.
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