Supernatural Send-off: 'The Benders' remains one of the show's greatest twists
For Supernatural's final seven weeks, EW will be looking back at specific episodes or stories that made an impact during the series' 15 seasons. This week, we're talking about "The Benders."
Supernatural exists in a world where angels rock trench coats, demons roam freely, and that thing in your kids closet? It really is a monster. It's a world where two dudes in flannel, with a trunk full of weapons and a few allies, can save us from it all. That's all to say that, though Supernatural is rooted in reality — and specifically the familial relationship between Sam and Dean — it often lives in the fantastical. As a recent season 15 episode pointed out, Sam and Dean don't do normal. They don't get colds. Their car doesn't break down. Unless, of course, God is mad at them. Because, oh yeah, they know God.
Back in Supernatural's first season, as audiences were just getting to know what the show was all about, they watched episode after episode of Sam and Dean Winchester battling the things that go bump in the night. They took out Bloody Mary, the Hook Man, a Reaper. They took out the things that kids nightmares are made of. But, in episode 15 of the season, they took out the thing that adults' nightmares are made of.
In arguably one of the series' darkest hours, Sam is kidnapped and Dean, naturally, snaps into detective mode. He needs to figure out what "thing" took his brother so that he can grab his holy water or his silver bullets and kill it. But it's not that simple. Or rather, it's more simple than that. As the episode goes on, it becomes apparent that Sam and Dean are dealing with their scariest adversary yet: humans. As Dean says in the episode, "Demons I get. People are crazy."
Building a show in its first season means laying the foundation for what viewers can expect. And after 14 episodes of Sam and Dean battling ghosts, gods, and shapeshifters, "The Benders" felt like a punch to the gut. Because for Sam and Dean, and for those of us living in the real world, crazy people are 10x scarier than the idea of a wendigo or a vampire.
Not only was "The Benders" a great, unexpected twist as far as the story went, but it created a precedent for the show to not only be real when it needed to be but to be shockingly real — almost too real. Plus, if Sam and Dean had to worry about monsters AND monstrous people, that opened up the world of the show.
That's not to say that crazy people became a staple of the series. They always played that card sparingly, but "The Benders" remains the best use of it. Not only because it was the first, but because it's also just a beautifully executed, incredibly creepy episode.
Over the years, it's easy to argue that the show's biggest swings have more to do with God and the like, but I'd say throwing such a terrifyingly human episode into the mix early on was a pretty big swing — and one that paid off (and still haunts my dreams every now and then).
Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki star as the Winchester brothers, hellbent on battling the paranormal forces of evil.