Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Supernatural: “Alex Annie Alexis Ann”

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Let’s start at the beginning: The title “Alex Annie Alexis Ann” directly recalls Martha Marcy May Marlene, a movie that focuses on a possibly deranged girl (played by Elizabeth Olsen) who has escaped from a cult. The similarities with the premise of “Alex Annie Alexis Ann” are clear—Alex has escaped from her family of vampires, which, if not quite a cult, at least has plenty of supernatural, creepy, and “weird” elements. I haven’t seen Martha Marcy May Marlene yet (I really want to!), so I can’t quite say how the two compare beyond the titles and basic concept. But at this publication, at least, Noel Murray praised Olsen’s performance as one of the central pillars of the film. As Alex, Katherine Ramdeen’s role is not nearly as demanding, but her performance still doesn’t rise to the challenge.

The big problem with Ramdeen’s Alex is that a lot of what’s going on in the episode requires us as viewers (as well as the Winchesters and Sheriff Mills) to be unsure of whether or not to trust her, but there’s no real evidence either way. We’re presented with both the side of Alex’s personality that seems to enjoy luring men back to the nest to be turned into meals and her expression of guilt at the same (and ultimate choice of humanity), but Robert Berens’ script and Ramdeen’s performance never bother to connect those two sides into an even close to real person, or give us a reason why she might pick one or the other besides it being a source of tension. She doesn’t manage to convincingly play Alex’s guilt when she explains to her Momma that she can’t lure people back to the vampires anymore. Pretty much the entire stakes of the episode rest on whether or not Alex is saved, from the vampires and from herself, so Ramdeen’s inability to make us care about her for most of the episode is a more or less fatal flaw. Pretty much the only moment Ramdeen successfully emotes is when she has to stab Momma with the syringe of dead man’s blood, but it comes at the end of the episode, too little too late.

If I’m singling Ramdeen out, it’s because the script asks a lot of her without giving much in return—everything else going on is fine, but it’s all a bit boring. I like Sheriff Mills as much as the next guy, but she’s already made an appearance this season (back in “Rock And A Hard Place”)—though considering how quickly recurring characters (especially female ones) get the axe, it makes sense for the writers to have to keep drawing from this same well. And the vampire family itself, and in particular the actors playing them, are ridiculously boilerplate, not bothering to differentiate themselves from any other variant on the same story.

In some respects, this episode feels a bit like a mirror image of “Sharp Teeth.” In both cases, there’s a creepy family of monsters (vampires here, werewolves in that episode), focusing on a well-trod Supernatural ethical question (there whether or not the Winchesters would kill “good” monsters, here Alex’s true allegiances and whether our heroes should trust her). And as in that episode, an old hunter friend is used as the emotional hook for the story—where “Sharp Teeth” made the werewolf family important to us because Garth had been turned, Sheriff Mills is the one who calls Sam and Dean in on the vampire case.

The scene in which Momma holds Sheriff Mills hostage after turning Alex neatly captures the ways in which “Alex Annie Alexis Ann” feels like a retread of stuff the show has done before, and without much of a strong investment. Momma literally tells Sheriff Mills, “You got issues, some hole in your life you’re using Alex to fill,” (which, come on), before Jody in turn realizes that Momma’s biological daughter was the original Alex and Momma calls Jody a bitch (lot of gender issues coming up when Sheriff Mills comes to play). In the next scene, Dean calls one of the vamp sons a bitch before beheading him. Bitch, please. Sam calls out Dean for his insult, but rather than point out his brother’s years-long habit of overusing of the word, is merely worried that Dean is enjoying killing things too much. This supposedly ties in to the Mark Of Cain stuff that’s been going on for a few episodes now in a nod to some of the season’s plot, but Dean has loved being a hunter for a long time, making this particular complaint pretty dumb. I’m not opposed to standalone episodes at this point in the game, but let’s try to maintain at least some semblance of continuity here, guys.

Stray observations:

  • Sorry this went up so late—should’ve been up a few hours ago. This’ll be the last one that goes up this late, pinky swear.
  • If any of you have seen Martha Marcy May Marlene, it’d be cool to get a discussion going about how they compare.
  • Next week: Supernatural comes to Chicago. That’s where I live!