The Winchesters: Season 1 Episode 6 “Art of Dying” Review

We open on a fairly standard horror movie scene – a woman is running, terrified, from some unseen monster. Meet Darla (Jacquie Schmidt), she manages to find refuge in a barn only to die grimly shortly thereafter.

In an unlikely follow-up, we see Latika attempting to meditate but her efforts are thwarted by John and Carlos fighting (vs the usual John and Mary flirting scene). Mary interrupts the argument at a critical juncture, and a phone call sends our Monster Club members off to an ex-hunter friend of the family. Tracy Gellar (Audrey Marie Anderson) is something of a beacon for Mary – she got out of the life, which gives Mary hope she can do the same. Unfortunately, her escape plan came at a steep cost, which the gang suspects with the help of a cute taxidermist (Carlos’ new crush, Anton as played by Nicholas Duvernay). When confronted, Tracy comes clean but it’s too late. The ghost of her terrible past possesses John and nearly kills our heroes until Latika intervenes with an impassioned speech about her battles with anger. Surprisingly, this works. The ghost, Tracy’s one-time friend Mack, decides to talk it out with his traitorous cohort and they patch things up enough for him to release John alive and relatively well. Tracy is pulled back into the hunting life, though now with a purpose, while John finally confronts his anger issues, and as a cherry on top, the club has located the Akrida.

This episode is pretty good, John gets a nice chunk of growth, Latika finally has her moment in the sun, and we even see Carlos twitterpated! For those of you not in the know, that term derives from one of my favorite old-school Disney movies: Bambi. Carlos experiences the kind of crush that leaves him dumbstruck, and it is highly entertaining. Mary’s growth is minimal but no less significant. I’d say a solid B.

Why not an A? First off, we get an unnecessary and frankly unsuccessful emotionally manipulative scene with a hunter’s funeral – sorry, show, I don’t know this lady so I don’t give a shit that she died. And yes, I know this could be any of the Monster Club’s members’ fates but that doesn’t make it any more relatable. Secondly, Latika, because, despite her opportunity to shine, I just don’t feel it. Maybe it’s a case of the wrong actress in the wrong role, or maybe I’m just a hater, but I was hoping Nida would step up to the plate here, and, for me, she just doesn’t. Earlier in the episode, there is a moment where Lata talks to Carlos about her contributions to the group. Sure, she’s academically useful, but being a pacifist means she’s not exactly a conventional hunter, right? Right, but Carlos is always there to pump her up – he essentially tells her not to lose hope. Naturally, when brute force fails, Lata’s brand of “hunting” comes into play – we learn that her father was irrevocably changed by going to war, and his anger led to her anger which led to her unspoken sin (oh yay, another mysterious piece of Latika’s puzzle). It was after this tragic mistake that Lata decided to deal with her rage and ultimately embrace pacifism.

This is all grand but unfortunately, Nida doesn’t sell it. You know when I saw Latika come alive in this episode? It wasn’t her talks with Carlos or her speech changing Mack’s mind, it was in the scenes with Anton. Nida has a natural skill for bringing out Lata’s intelligence that she sells 100%. I fully believe that Lata is fascinated by science, research, and the macabre (with respect to understanding it rather than fighting it). If Nida and the writers are smart they will lean more into this aspect of Latika’s personality because, again, it is the one Nida is best at presenting. That isn’t to say this is all Nida’s fault – the writers and showrunner have been weirdly stingy regarding Latika as a character. We’ve been given tiny pieces of her whole picture, but not nearly enough to really know her. Which is a problem, especially when you decide to do a personality dump out of nowhere. Oh, Latika’s dad suffered from PTSD, wow…uh how come she hasn’t been more involved in trying to help John then? She’s suffered from rage issues that caused her to fuck up her life? Ok…again, why has she not brought this up to John??? Seriously…a few minimal side conversations could have set up perfectly for this episode’s reveal instead we get Mary butting heads with John over his building aggression, and Carlos holding his tongue about the whole thing – which also doesn’t track for Carlos.

Speaking of…Carlos is a fantastic palette cleanser here. Amid the heavy material of Tracy, Mary, and John, we get Lata and Carlos as our comic relief with Carlos really doing all the work thanks to the introduction of Anton. Now, the last episode we got a tease for Lata in the relationship department (the most minuscule of teases mind you), but in this episode, we get Carlos – smitten! It is hilarious to see the normally confident and garrulous Carlos rendered speechless in the presence of what I hope isn’t a one-time guest appearance. Anton is adorable, and Carlos is even more adorable in his immediate affection. What’s even better? Carlos is only dumbstruck around Anton, with his fellow club members he’s fine – normal – but once he sees Anton or even thinks Anton might be around his giddiness kicks in and we see an almost childlike bashfulness overtake him.

Having Jojo play Carlos so well, makes Nida’s failure with Lata even more evident. There are definitely times when Meg and Drake might dip here and there but for the most part every actor except for Nida has found their groove here. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but her performance really brings down the experience for me. Carlos, in the hands of the wrong actor, could be an insufferable stereotype but Jojo plays him with just the right amount of loveable sass. The only thing in Nida’s favor is that her portrayal is toned down so much that her character mostly disappears – trust me, this is a lot better than being painfully bad. This is a point I’d like to make here – Nida isn’t a bad actress per se, but I don’t think she’s skilled enough to pull off what they want Latika to be. Yes, Carlos, by those standards almost seems easy to play – after all his personality is practically stitched onto his clothes, but Latika? Latika is a much more subtle character, akin to John in a way. Drake may occasionally go a little overboard with his depiction of papa Winchester but at least he swings! Nida seems too afraid to really try with Lata, except, again, with respect to her intelligence. Lata is fully engaged when she’s playing scientist with the vampire’s disembodied arm.

Moving on, Mary’s dream of being free of the hunting life is a big part of this episode, and the subsequent endangerment of that dream isn’t to be ignored…yet…it basically is. See, when Tracy finally comes clean about her real retirement from life, Mary is instantly distraught yet she’s not allowed to really feel those feels because John’s gone missing! It wouldn’t hurt the show to breathe here and give Mary a chance to embrace the conflict. In the end, her decision to leave hunting behind wraps up in a neat little bow with the warning label of making sure you don’t do anything you can’t come back from.

John gets the bulk of character development here, next to Lata, with his being noticeable and significant. This works because John’s feelings have been built up for the past two episodes – granted the last episode didn’t see him as enraged as I would have liked, and in a way you can see Drake overcompensating for this. John is way too enthusiastic about going after the Akrida to the point of getting into an argument with Carlos. Carlos sees what John’s ignored emotional baggage is doing to him though for some unknown reason he doesn’t bring this up to Mary, Lata, or anyone. When Lata presents meditation and Carlos presents therapy, we see John considering the options until Mary gives him an out.

Later though, after Latika’s confession, and his possession, John decides to revisit meditation – it makes sense given his family’s reluctance for talking. The only thing that doesn’t exactly track here is how willing John is to try Lata’s method. Yes, it isn’t therapy, but I’m a little surprised he doesn’t pull the old “you wouldn’t understand” or “it’s not the same” cards. After all, Lata wasn’t in a war, her father was, and her father didn’t meditate. That’s not to dismiss Lata’s feelings as less than John’s, that’s only to say given John’s personality I’m simply hesitant to buy he’d go for Lata’s method when her anger isn’t derived from a similar place as his own. However, that may be the point. After all, Carlos shares John’s brand of PTSD yet John will not give therapy its due. To each their own, eh? Will meditation be the key to John’s salvation? I’m hopeful they explore this instead of just having this one scene and then moving on.

Guess we’ll have to keep watching to find out!

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