Monday, August 10, 2009

Meet the Trickster

You know how in every fifth or sixth episode, Sammy explains to Dean for our benefit, "almost every country in the world has a vampire myth" or "stories of shapeshifters date back to..." (Well, except this past season. This season was mostly angels. And demons. And demonic angels. Or something.)

Anyway, the "Trickster" definitely fits Sammy's description of world-wide, since-the-beginning-of-recorded-time lore. It's difficult to pin a trickster with one "fits all" definition, since by their very nature, they are contrary and changeable, but they're often considered demi-gods and examples include coyotes in Native American tales, Eris (goddess of discord in Greek myths) and Loki in Norse Legend, who alternately assisted the gods and screwed them over. They are often associated with birth and renewal, interestingly, since often chaos and even pain must precede creation. (As someone who was in labor for over twenty hours with kiddo number one, I kind of get that theory.) Some Tricksters are portrayed as malicious pranksters while others are held up as a form of almost sacred comedic relief (with some cultures believing that laughing opens you up spirtually and emotionally for more serious matters to follow). So far, we've seen the Trickster in season 2's "Tall Tales" and season 3's "Mystery Spot." (so, SPOILERS for those two eps)

"Tall Tales," I have to admit, cracked me up with the brothers stymied on a case and explaining the "so far" events to Bobby--their individual versions of the stories each embellishing each other's character flaws to near-cartoon proportions. Sam became UberSensitive Sammy and Dean was far more of a pig than he actually he is (and while I do love the boys, I am not above occasionally laughing at my loved ones. Nor do my loved ones hesitate to make fun of my ass when the occasion calls.) Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't "Tall Tales" the first ep where the now-running-joke of Bus. Asian Beauts. were referenced? (And I am so not tagging that label for the post because...yikes.)

Anyway, the "Tall Tales" Trickster was sort of a vigilante with a warped sense of humor. He'd been sending people to creative (tabloid-inspired) demise in various nutty ways (okay, not so much demise in one case as alien probing. Which I will also not be using as a post label.) The Trickster was meting out justice to people who were jerks. He was taking them down a notch. Once Bobby clued in the frustrated brothers to what they were dealing with, they killed the Trickster. Except, of course, that it was a trick, leaving him free to pop up again in one of my favorite season 3 ep's "Mystery Spot."

If you're any kind of Supernatural fan at all, you probably already know that "Mystery Spot" was Show's take on Groundhog Day, with Sam reliving endlessly the worst day of his life (the day Dean dies--via gunshot, car accident, electrocution, taco poisoning. Piano. Dog. Take your pick.) Hundreds of repeated "Tuesdays" into the episode, Sam realizes that he's dealing with a Trickster (who lured the boys to the Spot by sending a self-important jerk through a dimensional wormhole). Trickster's with their godlike power have the ability to completely screw up reality, subjecting Sam to this gruesome (albeit, in some cases, LMAO funny) loop.

Earlier I said that some cultures believed that first you laughed, then you prayed, because you'd be more spirtually open to the seriousness. This ep certainly followed a pattern of comedy, comedy, SOMBER. Because for dozens of Tuesdays, we laughed--but then when the Trickster finally agreed to move on and let it be Wednesday, Dean dies. Again. And Sam doesn't wake up to relive it. Instead, we flip to six months later, to a dark, vengeance-obsessed Sammy (not entirely removed from who we had by the end of season 4). This solo hunter asks Bobby's assistance to track down and kill the Trickster, only in this case, the Trickster is disguised as Bobby. (He does finally relent and set time right, letting Dean live. But, as we and the boys are aware, that's only temporary because Dean's deal is almost up.)

Some of the lore descriptions I read on Tricksters said that they were alternately (and often randomly) cruel and kind. They'll aid you one day and set you up for disaster the next. So, while the Trickster was obviously having fun at poor Sammy's expense, my question is, do you think it was completely cruel or that he had an actually helpful lesson buried within the Asia-laden madness? Because he tells Sam that the brothers are each other's weakness, which we've seen demons exploit over and over.

And it seems like the Winchesters just don't get it. Dean almost died, and his father sold his soul to save him. Then Sam died, and Dean sold his soul. And you just know that if Sam could have got the Crossroads demon to alter the contract, he would have done the same damn thing to get Dean back. A vicious cycle. Won't they ever learn?

Well, no. On the one hand, you applaud the loyalty, the brotherly bond, the "willing to take a bullet for you" heart. But on the other, aren't there some lines that shouldn't be crossed? I doubt one minute passed where Sam was grateful for his brother "saving" him because that's a hell of a burden to put on someone (and, as it turned out, led to Dean inadvertently starting the Apocalypse, which...oops). The boys, with all their legitimate bad-assness, are also arrogant. They have to understand that there are lines you don't cross (see the doctor in "Time is On My Side," where Sam actually tried to talk Dean into freakish immortality at the expsense of someone else's organs every few years.) Later, Sam crossed the line of drinking demon blood and I have to say, by season 4, it wasn't that out of character because they've already made so many dangerous judgment calls. I felt that the Trickster was sincerely exasperated that Sam was not learning an important lesson. Then again, if the boys had mastered that back in season 2, we wouldn't have our show anymore, so I'm inclined to forgive...

Of course, my big question is: do you think we'll see the Trickster again?


Natalie J. Damschroder said...

One of my favorite topics! *bounces in glee*

Yes, "Tall Tales" was the introduction of BABs, Dean froze the laptop on that site. And his facial reaction when Sam confronts him is one of my all-time favorite moments. :)

I think it was only 3 months after Dean's Wednesday death (Bobby references three months on the phone, but maybe it's actually longer). Regardless, I think the Trickster's plan backfired. He wanted to teach Sam a lesson, but all it did was disillusion him, harden him, make him tap into a well of hatred and anger that opened him up to making all those wrong choices with Ruby.

The path of sacrifice is one that's totally logical to me. What (good) parent WOULDN'T trade their life for their child's? I'd do it in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity.

So then we have Dean's deal. He's had the notion pounded into him for his entire life that his only worth was as his brother's protector. In the last two years, that's become more and more important, and he has nothing else. It's a selfish act, one he admits readily at the start of season 3, but it's psychologically understandable.

As for Sam, when someone loves you enough to go to hell for you, and you love them the same amount, it makes sense that you'd try to make the same sacrifice. For all three of the Winchesters, it's as much about not being able to live with the torment of their failure as it is being willing to die for their family.

As for season 5--I think this learning curve is going to be a big part of their growth, from what I've been hearing out of Comic-Con and stuff.

And YES, I think the Trickster will be back! I'm hoping for him the most. They're bringing back a bunch of other guest stars, after all, and the Trickster will fit right in to the whole apocalypse thing. I really love Richard, too, and want to see him get an even bigger part in an episode than we've seen him in so far.

Okay. Long comment, but I'm done. LOL Thanks for such a stimulating topic!

Trish Milburn said...

I have mixed feelings about the Trickster coming back. Part of me thinks the episodes with him are interesting for many reasons, but part of me thinks. "Okay, we've been down that road twice already. Been there, done that."

It is going to be interesting to see how much the brothers have learned and will be learning during this next season. At some point, they've got to get off that merry-go-round.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

You make a good point, Trish, but I think if they bring him back, it would be in a totally different context. His "lessons" are small potatoes compared to what's going on, and his power could be VERY helpful. Which, of course, he would resist, because why does he care? It doesn't affect him.

Sorry. I'm in brainstorming mode with my revisions and it's carrying over. LOL

Unknown said...
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Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Okay, Tanya, you're like, prophetic. Richard Speight Jr. announced on his Facebook that he's coming back! (The Trickster, that is!)