“The Journey of Two Brothers”
I’m playing catch up on season four of one of my favorite shows, Supernatural, as episodes of season five stack up on my DVR. As the inheritor to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel brand of television horror, the season opens with the episode Lazarus Rising, with Dean (Jensen Ackles) returning from Hell (reminiscent of one of Buffy’s season cliffhangers and openers). His brother, Sam (Jared Padalecki), recipient of special powers due to the blood of a demon, hadn’t kept his promise to not train his special abilities. Sticking to the formula, the season builds towards the confrontation with the “big bad,” in this case, Lucifer himself.
Caught in the world of angels and demons, the brothers find themselves suddenly aware of the reality of angels—since demons were a given in their world—thus front and center of the battleground of spiritual warfare. In this cosmological battle between good and evil, the angels (Castiel and Uriel) as well as the demons, as spiritual, free moral agents, also make choices and have actions which have consequences in our world. This spiritual aspect to evil takes on a personal dimension in the form of Lucifer, aka, Satan.
“The adversary” is a force not equal to God, not God’s shadow self, nor the demonic-in-Yahweh as some people try to explain him. He would be a created being, the most powerful of the spiritual “principalities and powers,” the highest of what some cultures would call a god. Boyd then takes it one step further: what we see as evil is the collateral damage of humanity and creation being caught in a cosmological battle of spiritual forces. The reality of this war sends the brothers on two different journeys.
“This is your problem, Dean. You have no faith.” –Sam
For Dean, faith is a tricky thing. He becomes a living testimony of how as much as our rational minds demand proof, we can ignore what we’ve seen or intellectualize it away. For example, in three seasons, Dean has fought demons, been to hell, seen the miraculous, the transcendent dimension to our reality intruding upon our normal world quite often. Yet he struggles with the idea that angels exist. Why? Because that would definitively indicate that God also exists. Which raises an entire host of questions he’d rather not wrestle with.
“If there is a God out there, then why me?” –Dean
Like how he doesn’t believe he should be saved. That God would care about him at all, much less send an angel to snatch him from the pit of hell. Or the idea that he has any significance to God at all, much less that God has work for him to do.
“It doesn’t matter what you are. It only matters what you do.” –Sam
Sam has a different set of issues with these smite first, ask questions later, style of angels. He struggles with the thought that he’s simply a nice guy with something evil in him. Like the rest of us, he struggles with his dual nature, his fallen/cursed aspect vs. the man he’s trying to be and knows is capable of being. His powers represent a slippery slope of temptation into sin. Since this dual aspect of himself is something he has to deal with, his goal is to take a curse and make something good out of it. And he’s not alone. He has his brother, his fellow hunters, and other folks who speak into his life. Together they participate in a mission from God, a mission Dei, to help and save people from monsters.
Supernatural is filled with genuine terror moments. This season seems especially taut and focused on character. With Ben Edlund (The Tick, as well as a veteran of Angel and Firefly), Supernatural is easily the best horror and one of the most entertaining shows on television. None of that sparkling vampire crap everyone seems so fond of these days.