Supernatural has often tried to question whether or not its heroes are, strictly speaking, in the right. Every once in a while, the brothers will encounter a monster who claims to be reformed and uninterested in taking human life. Given that the monsters in the Supernatural universe are generally treated like a different species (I think), it makes sense that at least some of them attempt to avoid being evil. Over time, even the Winchesters have come to accept this. But the show can’t push it too far, because then we would turn on the protagonists in their unending slaughter of thinking, feeling, and moral beings. Asking too many times whether humans could coexist with monsters might make that seem like a more attractive option than just killing them. Thankfully, “Sharp Teeth” turns on the other side of the issue, focused on werewolves who debate over whether or not they should kill humans.
After last week’s surprisingly effective separate Winchesters episode, Sam and Dean discover Garth’s location and converge on him at a hospital. It’s great to have DJ Qualls back on the show, even if he’s a bit underused and given a ton of terrible lines (that he sells anyway). See, Garth got bit and turned into a werewolf a ways back, and he’s joined a family/pack of werewolves who don’t eat humans. I’m not sure how I feel about Garth being a werewolf, though. The marketing for the episode suggested it would be more comedic, which would have been a bit weird in terms of discovering one of the Winchesters’ closest allies had become a monster. But it also would have made sense. Garth is a bit of a throwback to the smaller scope of the first couple of seasons, when hunting down whatever monster was ravaging a town was the most important thing the Winchesters had to do, seasons which were also often a little sillier than the slightly more self-serious stuff we’ve been getting (not this season, of course).
So Sam and Dean give Garth some time to show them that the werewolves aren’t that bad. One of the benefits of Supernatural’s history of addressing these questions is the way it leaves the episode’s conclusion uncertain—there have been enough episodes where the monster really is good that it’s not out of the realm of possibility here. And we’re primed to love Garth, so even if he comes across as a little odd, we (and the Winchesters) should be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
But the Winchesters have been on opposing sides of this issue so often that it’s tough to take a debate about it between them seriously. Sure, Dean is usually the killing type, but after his relationship with Benny last season (one of the best recurring characters in the show’s history), it’s hard to believe that he’s so resistant to the possibility that the werewolves are what they seem to be. Sam himself notes that it wouldn’t be the first time they’d come across a friendly monster. In some respects, to be sure, Dean has made progress: The Dean of the first few seasons would have killed all of the werewolves and asked questions later, making something like “Sharp Teeth” impossible.
Really, the worst thing about the werewolves isn’t that they’re bloodthirsty—it’s that they’re over-the-top religious in a weird way. The image of a pack of werewolves praying and singing together (while Garth wears a sweater vest) is way creepier than a giant lycanthrope could ever hope to be. But when bodies (or a body, really) shows up, there turns out to be a schism within the pack. Some of the werewolves are a part of the pack’s original religion: a cult of Fenris (which is normally written “Fenrir,” I think), the Norse wolf prophesied to kill Odin during Ragnarok. After some capture-and-fight scenes that are close to nonsense even for standalone episodes of Supernatural, we get the big thematic point here: The reemergence of the cult is because of a lost lycanthrope, killed by a hunter, inciting revenge. It would have been great to actually witness some arguments between the factions over whether or not going after hunters was acceptable—not only is the argument between Sam and Dean tired, the revenge camp really does have a point. (Also, if you haven’t been able to tell, I’ve been really into monsters arguing this season.)
The second-biggest problem with “Sharp Teeth” is the pacing. So much of the episode is spent setting up Garth’s transformation and the nature of the pack, the second half is far too quick for comfort. We go from the Winchesters’ skepticism of the pack to the murder scene to all-out Cult Of Fenris insanity in the span of maybe 15 minutes, which isn’t nearly enough time to get a sense for either the divisions among the pack or what it actually means that the werewolves used to worship this god. After the breakneck action of the last two weeks, maybe it makes sense for the season to take a bit of a breather, but “Sharp Teeth” can’t decide whether it wants to be contemplative or exciting (and how much of badass Werewolf Garth it can actually give us, which will always be not enough).
The episode’s attempts at contemplative also tie into its biggest problem, which is the renewed focus on the Winchesters. It might be to much to ask for Mark Sheppard and Misha Collins to be in every episode, but if last week (and most of this season) is any indication, Supernatural is much, much better with them around to mess with the Winchesters and keep them off their boring guilt-trip stuff. At the very least, blissfully, Dean doesn’t lie to Sam about the Mark Of Cain in the hospital—it looked for a moment like we were going to get even more of Dean lying about some dumb stuff, but the implications of the Mark are lost in the shuffle of Garth’s escape from the hospital. Instead, Dean tries to lie to Sam about Garth’s whereabouts, which again is thankfully papered over when they both agree to go after him.
At the end of the episode, Sam correctly points out that the two don’t see themselves in the same way—Dean has been unbearable since he convinced his brother not to close the Gates Of Hell—and all Dean can do is play the family card as often and as futilely as Walter White. Their feuding, which now seems likely to carry over into a colder relationship now that they’ve reunited, has consistently brought the season down. But still, “Sharp Teeth” comes close to finding a new, fresh way to take on one of the series’ pet topics. If there are other possibilities for dealing with these sorts of problems, Supernatural might have more life in it than even the showrunners might expect.
- “Gone for two weeks and I feel like I’m in an episode of Teen Mom.”
- “We’re more spiritual than we are religious.” Pastor Jim sounds like he’s spent some time doing yoga in L.A.
- Garth’s favorite movie is Rocky III. Because of course it is.
- So Garth is still coming back this season, right? Maybe with a not-terribly-in-Oz Charlie? Let’s hope so.