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Saturday, 13 September 2008

Supernatural: The Benders

Clearly certain words don't mean the same in America as they do in the UK - or maybe schoolkids aren't using them anymore - but once you get past the playground humour of the title, this is a solid, Supernatural take on the Hollywood horror standard of backwoods family of rednecks hunting people.

The first thing that strikes you about The Benders is that the Winchester brothers have really upped their game in recent weeks, now having access to not just fake identification (right from the Pilot) but complete, authentic disguises (last episode they were priests, this episode state troopers) and in Nightmare Dean was wielding around a very fancy piece of kit, far above the EMF detector jerry-rigged from an old Walkman he used early in the season.

The Winchester's are investigating a missing person in Hibbing, Minnesota - after the only witness to the abduction (a small boy) claimed a monster took the man - and while wondering what sort of creature the 'kidnapper' is, Sam gets snatched from a bar car park while waiting for Dean to come out.

Dean - still pretending to be a state trooper - teams up with the local sheriff's deputy Kathleen (Jessica Steen - the original Dr. Elizabeth Weir on Stargate SG-1), who quickly sees though his disguise, but doesn't arrest him immediately because she lost her brother three years earlier in similar circumstances.

There's even a reference to Dean being 'dead' - and a murder suspect - according to police files, after the events in Skin. It's these little continuity gems that are such a delight to me as a fan of serial drama.

Things quickly move in to familiar Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Wrong Turn, Countrycide territory, as we - and Sam - discover that the abductors aren't the type of monsters that the Winchesters are used to dealing with: they are 'just' humans. Humans who trap and hunt other humans for sport, that is.

Sadly, Sam doesn't get to call on his new telekinetic power when caged by the rednecks and facing death... bit of a useless 'superpower'!

The episode gives us all the tropes we'd expect from this well-trodden genre, from the waif-like little girl who turns out to be as evil as her kin to the house adorned with human body parts as trophies, the jars of teeth and eyeballs etc

It's not at all original, but it's a hell of exciting adventure yarn nonetheless, as Dean falls into the hunters' hands while trying to rescue his brother and Kathleen.

I love the fact that, like Torchwood, a show that deals with the 'out-of-the-ordinary' can mix in an episode like this that is "out of the ordinary" for its usual remit.

And why is it called The Benders? Because that happens to be the surname of the serial killing rednecks (not that it's ever said in the episode as far as I could tell) and that links it to the genuine case of the the 19th Century Bloody Benders family. Wikipedia suggests that the family in this episode are descendants of those Benders.

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