The Winchesters – Season 1 Episode 11
“You’ve Got a Friend”
The Winchesters deals with dark secrets and John facing the law following the Akrida framing him for Kyle’s murder.
Things are starting to ramp up in anticipation of the season finale. Only two episodes remain so the stakes are rising in a variety of ways. The best way to create stakes is for them to be meaningful to the characters so putting John on the wrong side of the law with both the Akrida and regular law enforcement on his tail presents him with a significant challenge not easily overcome.
Supernatural had a number of episodes dealing with regular law enforcement looking into Sam and Dean’s exploits and being confused by what they saw. Not having the complete picture made their actions seem bizarre with no discernible pattern or motive for their illegal activities. The Winchesters tried to take this a step further by developing the pursuing police officer in more detail.
Betty has been featured in a number of episodes and has a strong connection with John so her pursuit of the truth has a definite personal touch to it. The show hasn’t spent enough time developing John and Betty’s connection or developing Betty enough as a character for her inclusion to be as meaningful as it needs to be but it’s more meaningful on a personal level than a police officer character introduced for the express purpose of causing trouble by investigating something they don’t understand. That’s effectively what Betty is but her connection to John was frontloaded when she was introduced.
Unfortunately, it’s all very functional without being particularly interesting. Instead of piecing together information over a period of time, she is set up as being suspicious of Mary in one episode and her next appearance has her find out the truth. There’s no buildup, no further exploration of her relationship with John and no time to let the story breathe before moving to the next stage. A common problem with The Winchesters is introducing ideas and progressing them far too quickly which robs a lot of what the show does of potential. Everything feels introduced simply to move on to the next plot point rather than exploring the different aspects of it in greater detail. The Winchesters stands apart from Supernatural in that it’s set in Lawrence Kansas which provides the opportunity to develop it as a setting with recurring characters and a sense of identity to their surroundings.
Technically the show does this through Betty -and previously Kyle- but they are means to an end rather than being organically connected to their surroundings. This means that Betty comes across as someone moving through a collection of triggers rather than being a character in her own right. Andrea Londo mitigates some of this by being an engaging performer and creating a character with clear inner life but she is let down by scripts that don’t use the character properly. It’s a wasted opportunity among a string of wasted opportunities that hurts the show overall.
Betty’s reaction to learning the truth is a realistic one. She doesn’t believe it because of how ludicrous it seems no matter how sincere Millie seems when delivering examples of bizarre things she has experienced recently. Betty outlines the urgency of the situation when she tells them that John is being moved to state prison because he is considered a flight risk. She’s clearly distressed by this, indicating how deeply she cares for John. It’s something she wants to prevent and thinks Millie and Mary being honest with her might be a way to do that. Betty blames Mary for getting John mixed up in something strange and wants to know what that is. The truth is a lot stranger than fiction as she will come to learn.
Ultimately she does come around to their way of thinking thanks to a magical bracelet that gives her evidence that she can’t ignore and her tune completely changes. Instead of being an adversary, she becomes a fully-fledged ally who can act as their cop on the inside who can potentially divert suspicion or keep an eye on Akrida agents within the police force. Of course, it’s likely to land her in trouble when either her superiors, the Akrida -or both- get wind of what she’s doing and start to come after her. Based on how quickly this show burns through plot, it’s likely to be the next thing that happens.
Betty’s final scene with Mary is a strong one. They connect based on their different experiences of being dragged into the truth. Betty states that she doesn’t think it’s necessarily a good thing to know that monsters are real and Mary empathises with her. It’s a lot to take and a huge burden to carry once the truth is known so Betty is likely to have some difficulty adjusting to the world being vastly different to what she previously assumed. As with most things in this show, it’s a very quick interaction but the actors do a lot to add heft to it. Andrea Londo plays Betty as shaky and uncertain which sets the tone of the scene beautifully and Meg Donnelly projects an air of awkwardness as if not knowing what to say that can offer any comfort. There are nuggets of strong characterisation to be found in these interactions but the scripts need to be sharper to take full advantage of them.
John’s arrest also leads to some engaging content. Detective Klett (Ed Amatrudo) aka the Akrida that possessed Kyle’s interrogation of John is really well done because it amounts to a battle of wits. Klett -let’s keep calling him that as the Akrida name is unknown- wants to know about Dean and thinks John is the one who can tell him. John gives him false information and Klett sees through this very quickly and hits him in order to motivate him to talk. It has been previously established that John was once a Prisoner of War, something that Klett brings up when reeling off John’s record as a way to remind the audience so that it’s in mind before it becomes relevant.
John’s experience as a POW prepared him for situations like this as he was trained to never give the enemy any information. Klett ends up revealing too much information through all the questions about Dean. Asking so many questions means they know nothing about him and needing the information tells John that Klett is afraid of Dean. Since nothing on Earth can harm the Akrida and Klett is afraid of Dean that means he’s not of this Earth and therefore a threat to them. It all happens very quickly and is punctuated by some clunky dialogue that explains exactly what has happened but it works well while once again raising the stakes when Klett states that he has arranged for the prison transport to crash and kill him since he knows nothing about Dean and is therefore useless to the Akrida. It’s a conversation made up of victories on both sides and an exchange of power that is very compelling to watch.
Lata is forced to confront her “dark secret” when a bracelet designed to reveal them forces itself onto her wrist, putting her and Carlos in danger if she doesn’t open up. Mary’s cousin and Lata’s friend Maggie has been previously mentioned. She died during a Hunt which underscored the harsh reality of the life that they live. The catalyst for Lata confronting her dark secret is a bracelet Maggie had in her possession that she hid somewhere. They need it because they believe that it can be used to see truths such as people possessed by Akrida. Once the bracelet attaches itself to Lata it isn’t long before they’re pulled into a dark and cold room with the only means of escape being telling the truth.
A manifestation of Maggie (Bella DeLong) appears and tells Lata that the only way to free Carlos -as well as herself- from this prison is to share her dark secret. The manifestation states that Maggie was hurt that she shared everything with Lata and got nothing back so her challenge is to be open with Carlos otherwise they’ll both die. There’s a short time limit as the room is getting colder and darker so Lata has to come clean sooner rather than later. Her dark secret is that she blames herself for the death of her family’s housekeeper, Sania. She talks about bringing leftover food from one of her father’s many parties to Sania’s quarters and being caught by her father who accused Sania of stealing food and was about to attack her for doing so. Lata retaliated on Sania’s behalf and hit her father with the same lamp providing a small amount of heat and warmth in this supernatural prison.
Lata’s reaction to her father telling her mother what she did and having her mother be disappointed was to leave them without looking back. The unfortunate consequence of that was Sania was blamed for Lata leaving and locked in a room with no light or heat until she froze to death. Carlos and Lata are being forced to experience what Lata’s father put Sania through which is obviously triggering for Lata.
The story is undeniably tragic but it’s also very meandering which makes it difficult to latch onto the details of it. Nida Khurshid’s performance as Lata confronts her buried secret is excellent, unquestionably carrying the scene and injecting raw emotion into it. She’s fully unguarded and vulnerable as she relives something she has clearly tried very hard to forget. It’s let down by how complicated the situation is and may have been aided by forcing her to actually relive it with Carlos in tow with the escape being earned by her expressing the guilt she feels over what happened. Sania appearing and accusing Lata of leaving her to die would have made the point far more powerfully rather than Maggie saying something vague about Lata’s reluctance to open up to those around her. It’s a very well-acted reveal from Nida Khurshid but it wouldn’t have taken much to make it better.
Another issue is that the whole setup is based on Lata’s private nature being a problem that needs to be solved. It’s the result of a tragic backstory which is a contrived origin for a common trait among people. It has been covered previously when she talked about the reason she became a pacifist with this being the information she left out because she was ashamed. All of that makes sense as a motivation for being private but equally being private could simply be the way she is with no explanation needed. It has never been established as a problem by any other character prior to this point so framing her entire contribution to this episode around her reluctance to open up to others is also very contrived. Carlos has never expressed frustration because Lata isn’t fully open with him so there’s no actual problem to resolve. When she does open up to him his perception of her doesn’t change in any way and he remains an unflinchingly supportive friend. This is reinforced when she admits to him her parents are still alive and he tells her they’re dead as far as he’s concerned. Their friendship isn’t damaged by this though it is arguably strengthened but even that isn’t fully evident.
Carlos and Lata’s interactions are a joy to watch as always. The actors have excellent chemistry that perfectly presents a dynamic that has been cultivated over years spent together. The writing also supports this with little flourishes in the way they interact that come across as naturally developed and unique to them. This is something that should be nurtured should the show continue into a second season as it is more organic than John and Mary’s rushed romantic dynamic. Once some of the niggles are ironed out, Carlos and Lata could be a classic TV pairing.
The episode ends with John and Mary on the run having to watch their back as the law is looking for them. There’s hope as Betty is working with Millie to clear their name and they know that the Akrida are afraid of something so resolve to find Dean so that they can finally fight back. It’s not a strong cliffhanger ending but isolating John and Mary while throwing them into a situation resembling the transient existence of most Hunters is potentially interesting though it’s unlikely to last long given there are only two episodes remaining in the season.
A good episode that competently raises the stakes as the season finale approaches and features an incredible performance by Nida Khurshid. Betty learning the truth about monsters was an inevitable development that comes across as the character moving through a collection of triggers rather than developing organically. Not enough time has been spent on John and Betty’s relationship or Betty as a character in her own right. The potential is there and Andrea Londo elevates the material she has with her performance but the show could be handling her better. Betty’s reaction to learning the truth is a realistic one and goes through the expected motions that lead to her believing it by the end of the episode. It changes her role as she becomes their source within the police who can divert suspicion from them or keep an eye on the Akrida. Her final scene with Mary where she talks about the burden of the knowledge she now has is a strong one though mostly due to the actors adding depth to the interaction. John’s arrest leads to engaging content. Detective Klett wants to know about Dean and thinks John is the one who can tell him. John previously being a Prisoner of War equipped him with the skills and knowledge to manage such a situation and he gives Klett false information before pointing out that Klett tipped his hand by revealing that he’s afraid of Dean who can’t be of this Earth because otherwise, the Akrida would have nothing to fear. Klett points out that John is useless to them since he doesn’t know anything so arranges for his death. It’s a conversation made up of victories on both sides and an exchange of power that is very compelling to watch. Lata confronting her dark secret features an incredible performance by Nida Khurshid. She unquestionably carries the scene and injects raw emotion into it. The plot is let down by the tragic story being meandering and a clear opportunity for more powerful exploration being missed. If she were forced to directly confront her past with a manifestation walking her through it to prey on her guilt then it may have been far stronger. The whole setup is based on Lata’s private nature being a problem and frames her nature as being the consequence of a tragic backstory. It’s contrived and there’s no indication that Lata being a private person is a problem for Carlos. Their friendship isn’t damaged or even challenged by what goes on here. Carlos and Lata’s interactions remain a joy to watch due to their natural chemistry being supported by writing that injects flourishes into their scenes together. The episode ends with John and Mary on the run having to watch their back as the law is looking for them. There’s hope as they mention and the objective to find Dean is clearly outlined. It’s not a strong cliffhanger ending but isolating John and Mary while throwing them into a situation resembling the transient existence of most Hunters is potentially interesting though it’s unlikely to last long given there are only two episodes remaining in the season.
- competently raising the stakes
- Betty’s realistic reaction to learning the truth
- Andrea Londo’s performance in the Betty/Mary scene
- John’s interrogation and the victories on both sides
- drawing on John’s established history to enhance the interrogation scene
- Nida Khurshid’s incredible performance injecting raw emotion into her tragic backstory
- further showcasing Carlos and Lata’s well-cultivated friendship
- Betty’s development coming across as moving through a collection of triggers rather than being organic
- Lata’s dark secret being overly complicated
- basing the setup on her private nature being a problem
- no evidence of Lata’s private nature having a negative impact on any of her friendships
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