Supernatural season 8 episode 4 review: Bitten

Review Caroline Preece 27 Oct 2012 - 10:03

This week's episode seemed like it could've come from a much earlier season of the show - here's Caroline's review...

Supernatural has made a pledge this year to get back to basics, and they’ve kept their promise with ‘Bitten’. As an episode you might have expected in season two or three, where lived experimental efforts like ‘Ghostfacers’, it seems more than a little out of place in the darker, more lumbering show that now exists. That said, it’s a valiant effort to change the channel on a series that has been far too concerned with its own mythology for far too long. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t, and I’m sure it’ll split aggressive fan opinion right down the middle.

We enter the episode with Sam and Dean at the tail-end of a case. They find a blood-splattered room and a video with the caption, “this should have never ended this way”. From this point, we’re looking at things from the perspective of three college students, filming their lives at first for fun and then to track the mystical happenings in their lives. Michael, Brian, and Kate all watch in horror as the former is bitten by a werewolf. Fans of Supernatural are obviously more clued up than the characters, and we get to watch him transition, creating chaos and a complete loss of control.

The episode is shot and constructed in exactly the same way of this year’s found-footage thriller, Chronicle, and this both helps and hinders the story. Chronicle was a good movie, and thus anything trying to pay homage with inevitably capture some of the same magic, but a lot of it feels forced and negatively familiar, as if the writers would prefer if we hadn’t seen the original. Michael and Brian are almost exactly the same of the two main protagonists in Chronicle, but a rushed structure (the last act, especially, is chaotic) and some dodgy acting means that it just can’t compare.

This is how Supernatural got its start, of course, with the first season consisting almost entirely of movie homage delivered with varying degrees of success. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this when it’s done right, and I’d declare ‘Bitten’ a successful attempt at changing things up. It’s strangely placed in the episode order, however, and the structure means that we don’t get much Sam and Dean at all. When we’re just getting to know them again, complete with a new dynamic and individual demons to take care of, it maybe wasn’t the best time to take a holiday from normal. 

That said, Supernatural used to be a lovely surprise every week, with smart and different (often innovative) episodes delivered consecutively across a few seasons. For me, and I’m aware it won’t be the same for everyone, this hasn’t been the case for the last couple of years, and I’m glad of any attempt to recapture that pace again. Like ‘Ghostfacers’ or plenty of other episodes, this week will almost definitely have its haters, but it certainly makes a change from going over the same old issues with the same old characters week after week. I’d like the series to be split between brilliant one-offs and mythology-rich epics more seamlessly, and I reckon this episode does half of the job.

Obviously, we all love Sam and Dean, and would have liked to see a little more of them here, but the change of perspective briefly shed a new light to the show and its main characters. Seeing their exchanges through someone else’s camera lens felt like we were intruding on their most private moments, despite the fact that we do that and more every week. It might have been better to include more of the brothers within the action, or stop the found-footage format half-way through, but doing it this way added some grim reality to things.

Like ‘Heart’, also dealing with a werewolf, we’re led to question the brothers' ‘kill first, investigate later’ attitude, and forced to sympathise with the monsters for once. Anything different at this point is a return to normalcy for a show that’s designed to surprise and unseat its audience, and ‘Bitten’ was an hour that’ll probably end up of people’s best and worst lists.

Read Caroline's review of last week's episode, Heartache, here.

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