But, when we look at the show as a whole, we also see that the theme is carried within Sam and Dean as well. We constantly see them struggling with it. Sam with his demon blood, Lucifer, soullessness, of course, but also Dean - his constant willingness to do anything for his dad and his brother, his experience in hell, and most recently the MoC and demonification. And that's what makes this show so good, for me. That our heros are not perfect. And because they are not perfect, they are able to empathize with others and their monsters. We see it a lot from Sam. He empathizes with monsters all the time because he is in tune with his own monster. But, Family Remains is an episode where we can see this especially from Dean's perspective because of his recent experience in hell. So, let's get started!
"The Charge at Feather River Theme" by Max Steiner (the old movie Bill Gibson is watching until the power goes out)
The episode starts with the MoTW. An older man is at home watching TV when suddenly the electricity goes out. The man goes to open a door but it is locked. Then from another door, a scraggly ghost-like girl comes and attacks him. He dies a bloody death.
Sam and Dean in the car, late at night. Sam is sleeping in the back, Dean using a flashlight to check out cases in the front. Sam wakes and complains to Dean that they've been on the road non-stop (since Heaven and Hell) and points out that it seems like Dean is trying to run from his memories of hell.
How right he is, and Sam really has no reason to complain about Dean having a hard time dealing with 40 years of Hell except maybe he's just a bit drained from all the hunts Dean has been taking him on nonstop. Sam knows that even Dean is exhausted and is running on fumes. What he doesn't know is that Dean is overcome by guilt and pain not because he tortured souls back in hell as much as the fact that he had enjoyed it. It is eating at him and he feels he has to atone for that by saving as many souls as he can.
They go to investigate the case in which a man was killed in a locked room without sign of forceful entry. They are pretty sure it's a ghost, but they can't tell for sure because there are too many power lines and they cannot use their EMF meter. Dean finds a boarded up hole in the wall in the kitchen, but Sam explains it away as dumbwaiter.
They find a doll head in a cupboard which spooks them out. It is rather disturbing if you are thinking of ghosts and monsters, but not so much if you are thinking of a half-animal human girl&boy...
The fact that there is a doll means that the daughter, Rebecca, may have cared for her kids before she killed herself. And the reason the head is there now?Obviously one of the kids put it there. Why? as a present for their dead mother? As a warning to anyone who comes in the house? Or, maybe it was left behind when Sam and Dean came and the girl hurriedly hid in her part of the house.
Sam and Dean belatedly find out that the house had been sold when the family drives up with their moving van. They try to keep the family away while they get rid of the ghost by pretending that the house has asbestos and a gas leak.
(I do love this shot of the boys♡）
So I want to talk about this family. Some friends mentioned that this family was boring for them or the focus on them took away too much of the focus from Sam&Dean. To me, the family is not as boring as they are tough to watch. Not only have they lost a loved one in an accident, but the dad is the only one who is trying to keep the family whole. Everyone else is hurting too much to care. The mom even sounds like she is blaming the dad for everything. The girl is obviously unhappy with the move, mom is half-heartedly trying to study up on vegetables but she seems to be doing it for her husband, not because she wants to. The uncle, Ted, is very judgmental of the boy and of the parent's parenting methods in dealing with him despite the hardship the boy's been through, and even the parents do a shitty job of believing their son when he says he didn't write the writing on the wall. But as I've said before, I believe all these details have a purpose. The writers are trying to tell us something through this family as well as the "monster" they encounter. Let's see if I can find it.
So let's jump to the boys for a bit, who are questioning the neighbors about Mr. Gibson, the dead guy. The lady who had been cleaning his house tells them that she found him "everywhere." Do you think maybe the kids ate him? I guess there would be less of him left if they did, and the police would have been able to tell. It's more likely they tore him to bits in a fit of rage.
The family comes back and settles in. Kate, the teenage girl, is the first to see the girl in the wall looking at them from the window upstairs. Her mom tells her that everything is going to be ok, and Kate replies,
KATE: I'm sure. Everything is going too change.
And I'm thinking, what happened to this family after the death of the brother? It must have fallen apart completely... The relationship between husband and wife, between kids and parents, and the kids very likely had some serious trouble at school as well. Or maybe the family was falling apart before the brother's death. Maybe his death was a trigger for the dad to do something about their family...
Wait... the fact that Kate is the first one to see the girl... referring back to what I said earlier about monsters, could that be thought of as metaphorical too? A family that's gone through pain and hardship, and a girl who recognizes the monster inside of herself for the first time... hmmm... interesting thought. It doesn't end there. The boy also sees the "girl in the wall." He, on the other hand, is not freaked by her. He is very understanding and kind to her. You can tell he is very lonely at least. He doesn't care that she all of a sudden comes out of the closet or that she looks like a ghost. He doesn't even care if she IS a ghost or not. She rolls him a ball and he very happily rolls it back to her, telling her, "It's ok." This is a rather typical horror show scene, aye? It's usually the young child that accepts the monster and becomes friends with it. So metaphorically speaking, the boy accepts the monster inside of himself? And loves himself despite of it? Could we tentatively say that Kate is like Dean - freaking out - while the boy is like Sam? Accepting?
MOM: What are we doing Bri? Us, on a farm, talking about Zucchini.
DAD: It's going to be different. I promise you. We're going to be happy.
MOM: And if we're not?
DAD: We will be. We have to be.
MOM: I can't put the kids through another year like the last.
So this conversation is what made me think that the mom was either blaming the dad for everything or a very passive person - depending on her husband to make it all better. The mom seems a very reluctant participant. But I'm guessing that maybe their relationship for the past year has been pretty rocky to say the least, and the kids have felt the brunt of it. Combined with their brother's death, these kids are pretty messed up. Ted - I still can't figure out why he is there. Maybe just to help with the move?
Sam and Dean are outside going, "should we tell them the truth?" "naw."
Ted first finds the writing on the wall, "GO" and believes it's the boy, Danny, who's written it.
TED:Tell you what—if my kid did this—
Why he'd believe that is a mystery. Did he think Danny was trying to scare them? Make them think there was a ghost? The parents also look at it and believe the same. One thing that bothers me about this. How did the girl in the wall even learn how to write? Or if it was her brother, how did he? I wonder if their mother could have let them out once in a while and taught them? Which also goes with the theory that she may have given them the doll...Maybe she was the one that fed them too?
Kate, on the other hand, is listening to music and hearing a panting by the bed, thinks it's their dog.
KATE: It's ok Buster. It's ok. I hate it here too.
She confides in him saying how she doesn't like the new house either and puts out her hand to pet him. And this is a rather typical horror moment when she sees the real dog come in the door and realizes whatever has been licking her is something else. She looks down and we don't actually see what she saw, but since she agrees with her brother later, it must have been the girl in the wall. This girl in the wall is quite lonely too obviously. But she's been LICKING the sister? ug. So the sister screams and goes running. The sister's scream makes Sam and Dean come running to the front door to see if they are needed. The parents, having heard from both their children that there is a strange girl in the house, are better prepared to believe Sam and Dean when they say there is a ghost. The lights going out also helps. Then the dog disappears and they hear pained whinnying and then find a message on the moving van. When Sam and Dean tell them to leave, they agree. But soon they find out that's not possible. The tires have been cut, Sam and Dean's guns and everything else is gone from their trunk.
DEAN: What kind of ghost messes with a man's wheels!
Ted, on the other hand, thinks they are either crazy or crooks or... something. He makes fun of them and tells them he's going to leave. Dean threatens him saying he has a gun, so Ted subsides but Sam comes up to Dean:
SAM: Dude, you don't have a gun.
DEAN: And? I'm not letting that bastard or anyone else die tonight.
While they are talking the girl in the wall enters the room and tentatively comes closer to them. I wonder what she is thinking? That she can kill all of them at once? With one knife? but with the whole family cowering in the salt circle, she finally steps into the circle and Dean realizes that she is actually not a ghost. Ted tells him to shoot her and we have our only funny scene in the whole ep:
DEAN: Yeah... about that...
Dean has an iron poker, which he was planning on swiping through the ghost, but it's a different matter now he knows it's a real live girl. He hesitates too much and she comes at him with a knife while everyone else scatters outside of the house. Sam, who's been checking around the house, comes back just in time and realizing what is going on, shines the flashlight on her. She leaves.
They both come out of the house to find most of the family ok, except Danny has disappeared.
SAM: It's just a girl?
DEAN: It's not just a girl. It's Psycho Nell.
Dean suggests the mom and Kate go and hide in the shed while the guys go find Danny. This episode is one of those rare ones (maybe the only one?) where they have so much help. The whole family is there and they have 2 guys that they can team up with and cover more ground. Unfortunately, that makes for more possible victims as well. That's one of the things about Dean. He says he doesn't want anyone else to die, but that doesn't mean that he will not let them take the same risks as he does. Sam goes with the dad and Dean reluctantly pairs with Ted to check the inside of the house. Dean soon shows Ted how knowledgeable he is about what he is doing by finding the loose board in the cupboard.
TED: Smell that?
Now this walk through the walls reminds me of No Exit aye? And Dean must have learned by now that he shouldn't be separated from his partner in such a place... but he still leaves the guy behind, believing that he is in more danger of coming in contact with the girl than Ted is. He basically finds a lot of bloody animals, including Buster the family dog. Significant here is that he finds a bloody picture of two figures holding hands on the wall. Knowing there is a brother, I imagine the kind of life these two might have had in the walls. Their father treats them as monsters even before they know what a monster is (sounds familiar...), their mother is too young and weak to do anything about it and they grow up on their own in a dark, uncaring world. When the mother dies, they are left even more alone, with a hatred for humans who abandoned them - especially for their father who let their mother (the only one who showed them any kindness at all) die and kept them imprisoned.
Dean, well, it doesn't click with him that the two figures on the wall mean that there is more than one child - unfortunately. And while he is looking down below, Ted gets killed off by "Nell."
Ted falls over and through the opening just as Dean is about to go up and help him and Dean's guilt of not being able to save him is palpable here and again as he goes to the shed to tell everyone that Ted isn't walking in the door because he had to carry him out of the house.
DAD: Are you saying that he's dead?
MOM: You're not saying that are you?
Dean just looks at Sam with that pained look on his face and it's just heartbreaking.
DEAN: I shouldn't have left him alone. I'm very sorry.
After that, the mom (who we've seen to give up more easily than the dad) starts saying that Danny must also be dead. Just as in the beginning, it's the dad that continues to keep up hope and tells her no, the girl in the wall said that Danny could stay. She would not kill him. He is going to find Danny and once he finds him, they are going to be fine. "We're all going to be fine." OK, so this kind of reminds me of one interpretation that this is a family that is running from their problems just like Dean is running from his memories. But I just can't see it that way. It may sound a little unrealistic - things are not going to be fine right away. Not only is their son Andy dead, but now Ted is dead as well and it's going to take them a while to deal with it all. But I really see the dad here as the voice of hope in the midst of despair urging everyone on and telling them that despite all they have gone through, they will find a light at the end of the tunnel. Just don't give up. You know? One person who is running from the problem is Ted, who (metaphorically) could not believe in monsters and (in reality) could not accept that Danny might be going through a rough time. So (metaphorically speaking - ) as Ted dies, so does the part of the family that believes that nothing is wrong and is avoiding the problem and finally the "hope" can kick in properly? Wow... I doubt the writers were thinking this deeply, but I think I made myself a pretty nice theory :P
Going on - Sam is reading Rebecca's diary at last. Dean is talking with the dad about Andy's death in a car accident. Dean promises that he will get Danny back. The dad asks why Dean cares so much. But Sam comes up and interrupts. He tells Dean what he found out in the diary.
DEAN: So the daddy was the baby daddy too.
SAM: Dude was a monster, Dean.
DEAN: Humans man...
(I love how they talk in the salt circle here... just the image :D)
SAM: I'm sure her life was hell, Dean. That doesn't mean she gets a free pass for a murder spree.
DEAN: Like you know what Hell's like.
Dean figures out how the girl was fed through the dumbwaiter and they break through the boarded up dumbwaiter. The dad is there as they do, and he wants to go down, but Dean begs for him to let him go. I love this scene where they break through the wall. It is shown from the other side - like they are bringing light into the darkness, you know? very symbolic from the metaphorical point of view :P I also love how they peer through the square dumbwaiter and later as they pull Danny out. - it reminds me of several scenes - especially in Bugs, where they are looking into the first hole and as they look through the hole in the roof at the end. Not only are they symbolic, but the hole makes for an excellent frame on the faces peering in and I just love the imagery.
Anyway, Dean goes in and finds Danny and is attacked by the "boy in the walls" from behind. He's warned by Danny just in time to kill him. In the meantime, the girl in the walls has found a way to get into the shed, through the window. For me, that's the most scary part of the show :P Suspense like that tends to scare me a lot more than the monster itself LOL The interesting part of this is that the mom stops being passive and fights for her daughter and for herself.
And although we don't see it, the dad is the one who kills the girl in the wall with the knife. So there you go. Once denial (Ted) is gone, they recognize their monsters and the family works together to deal with them because that's the only way they are going to heal and stay whole, aye?
DEAN: You ok?
MOM: No. We're the opposite of OK but, we're together. Thanks.
So, we have the importance of family here at the end. That as long as they stick together, there is hope. And I guess that's the only way I can really tie it completely to the situation we see with Sam and Dean. They are both not ok. They both have their monsters still inside them as do we all. But they are together.
Later, they drive under a bridge for some breakfast and Dean can't bite into his hamburger for thinking of those poor kids made into monsters by their monster dad.
DEAN:You know, I felt for those sons of bitches back there. Lifelong torture turns you into something like that.
SAM:You were in hell, Dean. Look, maybe you did what you did there, but you're not them. They were barely human.
DEAN:Yeah, you're right. I wasn't like them. I was worse. They were animals, Sam, defending territory. Me? I did it for the sheer pleasure.
DEAN:I enjoyed it, Sam. They took me off the rack, and I tortured souls, and I liked it. All those years, all that pain. Finally getting to deal some out yourself. I didn't care who they put in front of me. Because that pain I felt, it just slipped away. No matter how many people I save, I can't change that. I can't fill this hole. Not ever.
Just a note: I really do think those kids actually enjoyed killing their dad. They were not just animals defending their territory. I think there was a lot of hate for how they had been treated. But once they killed their dad, they found that it wasn't enough - that it didn't fill the hole. Like Sam says to Adam in a later episode, "It's never over."