Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Supernatural episode “American Nightmare.” If you haven’t watched it yet, jump into the Impala and drive away.
The Winchesters are down to a party of two again. With Mary gone and taking some time for herself to get used to not being dead, Sam and Dean got back to the family business. (It’s how I’d cope, so I don’t fault them.) “American Nightmare” revisited one of the more horrifying monsters in Supernatural: humans.
The brothers have faced vampires, werewolves, the Darkness, and many other creatures that take human life in the years they’ve been hunting things. I expect a certain level of cruelty and violence from those beings. But when a human is actually the villain, it’s harder to digest. The Winchesters have encountered some terrible specimens of our race over the past 11+ years, and they added a name to the list with the new episode.
They’re brought to the scene by the usual, a death no one can explain. The victim, Olivia, had stigmata and a flayed back, and her brain had been turned into mush. Though Dean suspected a coworker had her eyes on the victim’s job, another person fell prey to the strange affliction and died. And he didn’t have any connection to the suspect.
Olivia’s job did lead the Winchesters to what they would eventually learn was the source of the problem. Olivia worked in Child Protective Services and had her eye on a devout religious family living off the grid. They were so dedcated to their beliefs they even shunned hospital care for their sick daughter, leading her to pass away. (Hence the attention from Child Protective Services.)
Sam and Dean dressed in their preppy Sunday best to visit the family, the Petersons. Though they were all kind, it was apparent something was off. Of course, the “Then” segment before the episode hinted at someone having psychic abilities (those segments are cool because they show how dots connect over the series, but they’re also a li’l spoilery), and it seemed likely one of the Petersons was the psychic. The boys didn’t uncover anything explicit, but Sam raised his eyebrow at Mrs. Peterson. He lost his temper with her “everything is God’s will” attitude, which was especially surprising after he’d just scolded Dean for being a dick. Then again, look at what he’s seen. He’s literally BFFs with God. He knows how the world works and knows the Petersons should have taken their kid to the hospital.
But wait! There’s a twist. The Petersons’ dead daughter, Magda, actually wasn’t dead. In fact, she’s the psychic. Okay, it may have been telegraphed and pretty obvious, but the knowledge didn’t make the reveal about Magda’s circumstances any less disturbing. The whole family knew Magda was locked in the basement. Mrs. Peterson was the one making Magda punish herself for her “sins,” but Mr. Peterson excused her behavior by saying she was doing God’s work. The son was the only one who raised an eyebrow.
While Sam was nosing around the Petersons’ property looking for Magda’s bones, he happened to be in the right place at the right time to hear Elijah talk to his dad about Magda. He took the conveniently dropped information and found the imprisoned girl, but he got knocked out by Elijah and thrown in the basement with Magda for his trouble.
Of course, she wasn’t at all evil. She didn’t know what her powers were about and believed all the bull her mother fed her about having the devil inside her. Her mother had spent years hiding Magda away and treating her like an untouchable. It sort of reminded me of Frozen. Instead of helping Magda deal with her powers and learn to control them, they went to the opposite extreme. They locked her up and also convinced her she was evil and made her flog her own back to punish herself. That’s what manifested upon the victims. Magda was trying to reach out to them for help and inadvertently caused their deaths. I’d argue Mrs. Peterson was more responsible than Magda.
And she got worse! When Sam tried to explain Magda’s abilities, Mrs. Peterson decided the entire family was going to die together. She dumped rat poison into their dinner. Her actions led to the death of her husband and son, and she got carted away. Ugh. Humans can be awful.
But when it seemed like Magda was safe and in the clear, Mr. Ketch of the British Men of Letters caught up with her and killed her. He said he was cleaning up the Winchesters’ mess. Magda was only a teen. If they’re willing to kill in cold blood without leaving any wiggle room, how are they any different from monsters? I imagine we’ll be asking the question a lot as the season progresses.
What did you think of this case of the week story? Are you feeling nervous about the British Men of Letters? Tell me in the comments.
Images: The CW
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