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the new recurring characters of season 3 (spoilers through 3x15)
the arch of the eyebrows gives it away
I very rarely write up episode reactions, mostly because I like to have watched the eps a few times, in their larger contexts, before posting anything. But this time, I had lots of thinky thoughts that I haven't seen posted anywhere else.

Most of this post will be about the characters of Ruby and especially Bela. But can I just say - whoot! Dean made a friend who didn't die! I'm really tired of Dean making connections with people (and he does do that with some regularity), only to have them be killed or crazy (Richie, Gordon, Sarge - the list goes on and on).

I was a little worried by the prospect of two new characters when the third season began. I didn't resolve to hate them, sight unseen, and I think I was worried because they were new characters, not because they were female characters. Having gotten through almost all of the third season, though, I have to say that I think the show didn't do well with either character.

I don't have much to say about Ruby. A lot of that has to do with my opinion that Katie is just not a good actress. I've yet to see her be even a little credible. It seems like she's posturing, which I would be okay with if she could sell it enough to make it clear that Ruby's posturing too. But instead all I get is someone who always looks like she's acting, and not doing it very well. The thing is, I think she might have been just fine in a less demanding role - one of the one-shot characters who stays within a particular episode.

Lauren Cohan, on the other hand, I buy as Bela. I think she's a good actress getting the job done. What doesn't work for me is the repeated use made of her character.

I spent a lot of the season thinking I disliked Bela, or that I was bored by Bela. That wasn't it. What it was, really, was that the show totally overplayed its hand with her.

Remember the way she flushed and looked genuinely excited in "Bad Day at Black Rock" when Dean beat her security system and got into her apartment? That was a great moment for her - we got to see her as someone sharp and smart. Her utter amorality clashes convincingly with the Winchesters' quest to save everyone and save themselves. That was good.

But the show started relying on her too much, and in ways that made little to no sense. We didn't need to see Bela tricking Dean in "Red Sky at Morning." We didn't need to see her give the boys up to Gordon in "Fresh Blood." And we certainly didn't need to be told that the only person who could procure African dream-root in "Dream a Little Dream of Me" was Bela. All of these things were unnecessary and actually detrimental - the boys and Bobby were made to look helpless and/or incompetent so that Bela could be shoe-horned into the storylines. Three points come out of this.

* First, we know the show can do better. Think of Ellen and Jo. The Roadhouse was clunky - it could not geographically accommodate every hunt the boys were on in the second season - but I thought the Harvelles themselves were used judiciously. The insertion of them into canon was fairly smooth - there was backstory with Bill Harvelle, with Ellen's message on John's voicemail, with Bobby and Ellen knowing each other. And even the one time they took center stage ("No Exit"), there was not egregious rewriting of the boys' characters to accommodate them. And remember how exciting it was when Jo turned up several episodes later in "Born Under a Bad Sign"? See "Third" below.

* Second, the character of Bela is interesting. Before her introduction, we'd had certain types of characters - hunters and people in the know who were fighting for good (Missouri, Jim) , rogue hunters (Gordon), bad guys (Azazel, Meg), people who have no clue about the supernatural (many victims of the week), and people who are starting to realize there's something out there, either because of a hunt they were involved in or for some other reason (Deacon, Kat, Amanda, Kathleen, Diana, Cassie). Bela is different - someone who knows quite well what's going on but isn't buying into the "with knowledge comes responsibility" idea that John raised his boys with. She's put herself out there as an active player in the game. What happens when you've got a character with a completely unheard-of worldview in a well-established world like that of the hunters? Sometimes you get clashes, of course, which is why Dean and Bela can argue every time they meet. But more often, they don't engage at all; there's nothing to discuss. And the show didn't acknowledge that, and kept trying to force Dean and Bela onto the same page when they're really from entirely different books.

* Third, as I said, the show brought Bela into all sorts of situations where her presence made no real sense or derailed the point of the story. Actresses have contracts, and I get that. But how very cool would it have been if we'd met Bela in "Bad Day," learned that there are people in the know who choose not to be hunters and are out only for themselves, and then we don't hear from her again until - BAM - "Jus in Bello," and we realize that the master-thief has snaked the Colt from the boys and tipped Henricksen off about their whereabouts? I think that would have been more effective storytelling and also, we'd have been spared seeing the boys and Bela go head-to-head so often, and always to the boys' detriment. There's no doubt the same strategy worked in season 2, where we learned in "The Usual Suspects" that there were cops who were piecing together what the boys were up to, and then got sucker-punched along with the boys in "Nightshifter" when the FBI and Henricksen showed up and took the cops' place.

With all of that said, I'm really impressed at the way the show scripted Bela's death. The pieces fit together nicely (the exposition from "Red Sky" that she killed a family member, the stealing of the Colt, her denial that selling the Colt was her motive, etc.). It's of course conceivable and maybe even likely that this was not what all of those things were tending to, but the idea of Bela having made a deal of her own and her ten years running out was played very well. I don't think it weakens her character to have been a victim of abuse, especially since she never offered her abuse as a reason for making the deal. The implication, I thought, was that she was dangerously isolated by her family's wealth, with nowhere sane or human to turn, and when the devil offered her a chance, she took it. I do wonder if the method of the killings - the cut brake line - meant that her mother was collateral damage and not an intended victim: is that the death Bela's paying for in "Red Sky"?

It's sobering, of course, to see Bela, who has always presented herself as an aggressor, and never the victim, to be so helpless in the face of her ten years ending. She's had all that time to figure a way out, and she couldn't do it. Whether we're meant to think that that's because she insisted on going it alone - not asking for help the boys surely would have offered, as Dean points out - or because deals like this really are unbreakable, either way she's terrified and then dead. She lived and died by her choices.

Equally sobering is Rufus's unwavering declaration that there are no happy endings for hunters. Even if Dean gets out of this deal, there's always something else (many something elses) just waiting for their shot. That's not news to Dean, of course, or to us, but maybe it's the first time that's been so clearly articulated. It needed to come from someone who wasn't giving a warning out of love; it needed to come from someone who simply knew.

And I want to know what happens to Bela's cat.

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I totally agree with you! I was thinking the same thing!

Yes, to all. I didn't hate Bela for being a bitch - hell, i loved Lilah for the same reason, and Cordelia as well - but i hated her for being shoved into the episodes with no real purpose other than to make the boys look dumb.

I, too, loved Rufus. I dunno if what he says is true - after all, Bobby isn't a hermit or an alcoholic, and he seems genuinely liked and respected by just about everybody - but there's a lot of collateral damage in a hunter's life, and i liked that Rufus articulated it without grandstanding.

I really hope they bring him back.

Excellent post!

Oh - i think Bela found a rich and eccentric adoptive owner for her cat who'd leave it millions in their will. :)

Edited at 2008-05-09 04:47 pm (UTC)

Hee, the kitty is saved!

Right - bitchy characters can be wildly entertaining, but only if there's a chance that their bitchiness can be matched and met, right? With Bela, it was never a fair fight, which is silly, because our boys aren't dimwits.

I love Rufus, but I noticed that Bobby specifically called him a hunter. Have we seen anybody call Bobby that? Is Bobby a hunter or is he more of a resource for hunters? I keep remembering that Bobby didn't shoot Jake in AHBL II, just ran (slowly) after him. I wonder if Bobby's in the know because of his wife, and learned all he could but never decided to make hunting his life's work (maybe also because he already had a thriving business).

Rufus better be back!

Weeeeeeell...Bobby *was* out hunting that kid in the dream episode, so maybe he just takes ones he thinks are interesting or 'new'. I think he's primarily a resource and a resource gatherer, and only secondarily a hunter. Maybe in his younger days he did more hunting, but now i see him as feeling as if he's too old to go running around after vengeful spirits. His specialty seems to have been demons, anyway - not surprising - and he said he saw possessions 'two or three times a year' so - not a big-time hunter like the Boys.

Yes! Rufus!!
*fist pump*

D'oh! I totally forgot about Bobby being on that hunt without the boys! I think I've built my fanon-Bobby up so strongly - where he's a resource first and foremost - that I forget sometimes that just because I say so doesn't make it so.


Dude, less than four hours!

*jitters in chair*

Dear gods. I'm all.....thirteen years old again, heeeeeeee!
*flails all over*

This all rings very true for me, as well. Although my initial hesitance with regards to Bela and Ruby stemmed from the fact that the Network forced the characters to be added. I didn't think anything good could come from that, and while they weren't added to the mix with any finesse, they weren't intolerable either. I honestly can't say which character I prefer, but I do like the way Bela went out.

Yes, the network interference was odd, and the writing that accommodated the network requests was too often flat-out clumsy. It's a shame, because I think both Ruby and Bela are interesting characters, but the execution left a lot to be desired.

Bela's death really worked for me. I get the protests that she was killed off too early, but for me, the timing was just fine. (Would we care, honestly, if Bela's deal came due after Dean's? Nope.)

(Deleted comment)
She didn't steal the Colt to sell it

She tried to trade it with Lilith to get out of her deal, but they demanded Sam's life too.

Ah! I kind of wish the demon in her would jump bodies - keep the character, lose the crappy actress. I would *totally* be behind that! I agree that she didn't seem so bad in the scene where she admits to Dean that she's been playing Sam, but there's a difference between "not so bad" and "good."

Bela implies that she handed the Colt over to Lilith, right? Doesn't Dean say that she should have expected the new deal to change?

Thank you for reading!

(Deleted comment)
I guess since Bela didn't tell Dean where the gun was when she was sending him off to kill Lilith just made it unequivocal for me that she'd handed the weapon over, hoping for her life in return.

(Deleted comment)
Hee. I will try. Usually, though, I read ep reviews and think, "Yup. Nope. Yup. Okay, well everything I would've said has been said."

But thanks!

"always to the boys' detriment." This really irritated me. I enjoyed seeing Dean butting heads with her, but I resented Dean being shown as less than capable each time. It was such a relief when he does his suave cat burgular thing when stealing the petrified hand (in...ep. name?) I appreciate the occasional scene that shows Dean researching and finding results.

Right - no one expects the boys to be at the top of their game at every moment, but that's the way the writers wrote Bela - someone who couldn't be outfoxed, and it got irritating really quickly. We know the boys are smart - don't throw that out the window! That's part of why we love them!

*nods* This is very sensible. For the reasons you mentioned, I thought Bela was fun and something new in the mix and I'm really sorry the show lost their grip on her. Bad Day At Black Rock seems like what she was intended to be and I agree, they overplayed her, didn't give viewers a chance to like her (as I've grumbled elsewhere, SPN gives us shiny new toys -- supporting characters -- and then mismanages them).

One thing I liked about her exit was how it tied together the dangling loose Bela threads that before now had been just flapping in the wind. Entertaining to me, but I also saw why it didn't work. But now she really does fit. Her line in Bad Day about "we're all going to Hell, might as well enjoy the ride" and in Red Sky with her and Dean exchanging jabs about being damaged, tied in beautifully.

Yes, I thought Bela's death was tied together very neatly, but not in a pat way - I found it surprising and interesting. I really wish the show had used the character more sparingly and to greater effect. But it seemed like there were insults on top of injuries - did she need to swipe the lotto tickets after she shot Sam? - and they never stopped coming.

It's a pity. I like Bela much more now that I've seen how she handled a truly horrible death.

And I want to know what happens to Bela's cat. Oh no! Kitty!

I really like what you've so eloquently articulated here. I've always had a problem with Bela-haters simply because I could always see her POTENTIAL. Good actress. Interesting premise they bring her in on in BDaBR. Just, yeah. They definitely over-did it. What you said about waiting to bring her back for Jus in Bello is key. That would have played out so much better.

Equally sobering is Rufus's unwavering declaration that there are no happy endings for hunters. That was such an unnerving scene. He was incredible, was he not?

Rufus was totally incredible!

It took Bela's death for me to see her potential. I thought I glimpsed it when she first showed up in BDaBR, but they poured her into eps where she really didn't belong. She should have been used sparingly, like mustard. I hope Lauren Cohan gets a more rewarding gig soon.

I really do like the idea of keeping Bela out of the picture between BDaBR and JiB - I wish the writers had thought of it, not me.

I think Bela was a brilliant character, that the writers kind of fell in love with a bit too much. Like you said they showed her one-upping our boys too often. Maybe in a less shortened season it wouldn't have felt so on top of each other, but then again who knows.

I loved Bela for her total amorality and how she brought the moral indignation out in Dean. I'll miss the character because she was interesting. However I'm pretty happy with how she was written out -- even if a part of feels it was a bit too soon.

That's really interesting, the idea that Bela functions as someone to remind us (and maybe Dean) of his own morality. I like that. But even then, did we need Bela to do it so often?

And I hadn't really considered the possibility that the writers fell in love with Bela. I was working on the assumption that the network requested two female characters, and the writers obliged them and then had to work Ruby and Bela into a number of episodes. Hmmmm.

I think, honestly, Bela for me is a lot like Jo - someone interesting in her own right, but dramatically less interesting when she interacts with the Winchesters.

I think the writers loved Bela because I remember an interview where: a) Kripke said they were going to introduce a new character anyway -- Ruby. And b) when the CW asked for two, they had already gotten/started the script that introduces Bela and loved the character and decided to use her.

SO yeah I think the writers of SPN fell for Bela.

I loved Jo too and think both Jo and Bela could have been used more in the Winchester's worlds, but just weren't. I kinda wish Jo would come back for one more episode because I don't feel a total closure on her character to warrant never seeing her again like I do with Bela.

Ah, I never saw that interview! I always mean to go back to read interviews after the spoiler danger has passed, but I never do get around to it.

Jo is still a fascinating loose thread. I had a good time working her into a future-fic I wrote, and I like the trend of fanfic authors assuming she's still up for grabs and making good use of her.

But the show started relying on her too much, and in ways that made little to no sense. We didn't need to see Bela tricking Dean in "Red Sky at Morning." We didn't need to see her give the boys up to Gordon in "Fresh Blood." And we certainly didn't need to be told that the only person who could procure African dream-root in "Dream a Little Dream of Me" was Bela. All of these things were unnecessary and actually detrimental - the boys and Bobby were made to look helpless and/or incompetent so that Bela could be shoe-horned into the storylines.

I've used the exact same phrase myself - shoehorning. You just did it more eloquently ;) It really is a pity, because she was a great character and the actress did a good job with it. If only they didn't have to squeeze her in everywhere, and dumb the boys down to do it(not to mention pretty much getting rid of Dean's protective streak). Kinda made half of me go "Yay, Bela!" and the other half just got really annoyed.

I do wonder if the method of the killings - the cut brake line - meant that her mother was collateral damage and not an intended victim: is that the death Bela's paying for in "Red Sky"?

hehe I kinda wanted it to be that way myself, but the demon clearly says in the flashback: "I could take care of them for you." Pity, because that really would have been tragic.

Great meta!

Edited at 2008-05-13 09:19 am (UTC)

Shoehorning! Whoot!

I didn't pick up on the "them" in the demon's dialogue. That's interesting. I know I read lots of ep reactions that said that children who are being abused by one parent often blame the other parent equally, either for not figuring out what was going on, or for accepting that the abuse was happening (like Max in "Nightmare").

I enjoyed Bela - but alwasy thought I could like her more - they could have done better with her. The thing I felt was most interesting about her was that she was untrustworthy - and the boys are basicly trusting, heck they even trust bad guys (I mean not to shoot them but for all the 'Deamons lie' they still trust what they say)and they realy had no experince with anyone who was untrustworthy. And they totaly sucked at interacting with her.

Now Ruby... sigh* she feels like Meg!lite.

Ruby *wishes* she were Meggish. Seriously.

That's a really good point that the boys live these guarded lives, but they pretty much believe what they're told. Having someone like Bela, who is amoral and sneers at morality, around really contributes to the bleakness of the season. Interesting.

Meglite All the attitude none of the interest.

I thought more could be made of that, and maybe, if the strike hadn't happend,it could have. That's why it didn't bother me that she bested the boys pritty much all the time. they wern't beign stupid - they just don't think that people would lie to them.

I wish we could know somehow what we missed because of the strike. I did read that Kripke said all of the deal-stuff got covered, but everything else went.

me too - in a perfict world the strike wouldn't have happend, but since it did ... well I doubt we will ever really know what we missed. So we wont know if the new chericters could have been utilized better. sigh*

It's like you were in my head!

Exactly my thoughts on every matter you touched!

I don't have much to say about Ruby. A lot of that has to do with my opinion that Katie is just not a good actress. I've yet to see her be even a little credible.

I completely agree. I've spent a lot of the season wondering what I would think of the character if they'd gotten an actress who was up to the challenge. I would've loved to see Kristen Bell in that role.

we'd have been spared seeing the boys and Bela go head-to-head so often, and always to the boys' detriment.

Hey, that would've been cool. I like a lot of what you've said here re: Bela, especially in terms of her always coming out ahead in her dealings with the boys and her death.

Kristen Bell! She would have been awesome! And Katie could've been Gossip Girl - that could totally have worked! If only.

Now that I know she can't pants the boys again, I'm liking Bela more and more - I'm finally able to see what could have been done with her instead of what was (poorly) done.

Ohhhh the poor cat. I didn't even think about that. Now I'm even more upset that Bela's gone.

You manage to sum up and beautifully present a number of thoughts and issues the two new characters have raised in my mind.

If only they'd found someone wonderfully talented to play Ruby, methinks I could've liked her. Now? I'm iffy, and waiting to see if the Finale helps me form an opinion about her.

But Bela...I like her, all the more in retrospect. Too bad they sold her badly, and at the expense of the boys' characterization. Lauren Cohen is a good actress and had the right chemistry with JAck.

Someone, though, needs to think of her cat.


Ruby and Bela were both such wasted opportunities, though for very different reasons. I agree that Lauren and Jensen clicked convincingly in their scenes, and so did Lauren and Jared, actually. Such a pity.

I've only just realized that not only do I not hate Bela, I kind of like her, too. I've been looking around for posts that are sympathetic towards Bela and I'm so glad to have found this. You wrote that so very well! I tried putting my thoughts on Bela here but I'm not that articulate so that didn't come out very well unfortunately :/

Thank you so much for this!

You might like Red Sky, actually. Thanks for the kind words!

I totally agree. Ruby could have been a great character if played by a more experienced or stronger actress. As it was, she just annoyed me whenever she showed up.

Bela, on the other hand, I liked. She could have been better used; there was no need for her to be in 'Fresh Blood', shoehorned is the right word for her scenes in that episode. I'd have preferred it if the writers had shown her saying that she owed the boys a favour at the end of 'Red Sky at Morning' instead of handing them money. It would then have made a lot more sense for them to contact her in 'Dream a Little Dream' especially if there'd been a mention of how dream root seemed to be in short supply (maybe because the doctor had bought up all locally sold sources) and they needed some quickly.

As much as I think it was a mistake to have her in DaLDoM, your scenario is much sharper and smarter than the one we actually got. Ah, well.

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