Supernatural: The Benders
May 27, 2021 1:44 PM - Season 1, Episode 15 - Subscribe

After following up on a pattern of unusually high numbers of missing persons in Hibbing, Minnesota, Sam is abducted and locked in a cage, and Dean must team up with a sheriff to find him... before the hunt begins.
posted by orange swan (4 comments total)
Pa Bender: Only reason I don't let my boys take you right here and now is that there's somethin' I need to know...
Dean: Yeah, how 'bout it's not nice to marry your sister.
Pa Bender: Tell me. Any other cops gonna come lookin' for you?
Dean: Oh eat me. No no no wait, wait, wait, you actually *might*.

Dean: Have you seen 'em?
Sam: Yeah. Dude, they're just people.
Dean: And they jumped you? Must be getting a little rusty there, kiddo.
Sam: So, you got sidelined by a thirteen-year-old girl, huh?
Dean: Oh, shut up.
Sam: Just saying getting rusty there, kiddo.
Dean: Shut up!

Dean: [softly, to a 13-year-old girl] It's okay, I'm not gonna hurt you.
Missy Bender: I know [expertly throws a knife at Dean].

Dean: Well, I'll say it again: demons I get; people are crazy.

According to the trivia section on IMDb, the murderous Bender family in this episode is based on four unrelated people who posed as a family with the name Bender, AKA the "Bloody Benders", and who killed visitors to their Kansas hotel in the early 1870s in order to take whatever money and goods their victims had. People started to notice that there were a number of disappearances where the trail seemed to end at their hotel, and that their garden was always freshly dug.... They are known to have murdered seventeen victims including an 18-month-old child. However, due to the high number of people who went missing in the vicinity, and the fact that there were body parts found buried on their property and that would have belonged to at least three other people, they are thought to have killed more.

While no one really know what ultimately happened to the Benders, who disappeared when public suspicion began to grow against them, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about the search in her memoir. She claimed that her father Charles was a member of the vigilante posse that formed to find them, and that when Charles Ingalls returned home, he appeared rather worse for the wear, and that he always said of them, with a note of finality, "They will never be found."

However, Wilder almost certainly made that up out of whole cloth (she sometimes highly coloured the facts, or even told outright lies about her life story, i.e., claiming that no one had ever given her and her husband anything, that they had worked for everything they had, when her parents-in-law had bought them a house). In this case we know she was lying because the timeline doesn't fit. The Ingalls left Kansas and moved back to Wisconsin at least a year before the manhunt for the Benders took place.  

I would have expected that the show writers would shoehorn a supernatural element in this episode somewhere, but they just didn't. 

One of the filthy, rotten-toothed, half-witted, in-bred, feral Bender boys was named "Jared", heh. I suppose "Jensen" is too unusual a given name for the Supernatural writers to get away with using it in that context, while Jared is very realistically the kind of name the Benders would use.  

I find it incredibly hard to believe that the Benders weren't caught long before the events of this episode. They had all their victims' cars sitting in their backyard!

The Bender boys will go to prison for the rest of their lives, but I wonder what will happen to Missy. She'll probably go to a home for delinquent girls at first, but I don't know if anything could be done to save her, and it isn't at all likely that she'd get the kind of intensive help she needs anyway. She'll ultimately wind up in prison, or dead. 

Dean has such a need to protect Sam. Dean was taking care of Sam when he was practically a baby himself, and he's still trying to be the older brother and to shield and protect him, and even make decisions for him, though Sam is now an adult and just wants them to have each other's backs in an equitable way. Given the dynamic between them, it was an inspired casting choice to make the younger of the two Winchester brothers so much larger than the older, and also to make the younger one the ambitious one who was much better at school -- not only is Sam not the baby or kid brother anymore, but he has even grown beyond Dean's reach in several ways. 

Dean's drive to take care of Sam causes conflict between them for years, because Dean hides things and his feelings from Sam in the way an elder does from a child rather than treating him like a peer. 
posted by orange swan at 2:36 PM on May 27, 2021

I've blanked out entire seasons of this show but somehow I still remember the cop's name in this episode was Kathleen Hudak and her brother was missing. I really like that actor, too. I don't remember if this is the only story they ever did that wasn't supernatural at all, but they did such a nice job with set design on that house and a one and done MOTW.

Nightmare was the first episode of the show I saw, on rerun during the first season's spring hiatus, but I was kind of whatever about it. But I remember when Kathleen offhanded mentions that Dean Winchester died in St. Louis under suspicion of murder, I had to know what THAT was about (and I don't remember if Skin lived up to my hopes but that's neither here nor there) and by the time Hell House aired I was caught up and extremely and regrettably Invested.

Dean's drive to take care of Sam causes conflict between them for years, because Dean hides things and his feelings from Sam in the way an elder does from a child rather than treating him like a peer.

I mean this is completely true, and also why I always liked and noticed the interaction in this episode where the dad is threatening Dean with a hot poker and making him choose whether the family will turn loose and hunt "the boy or the cop," and Dean says "Take the guy." It's a really small moment, but Dean refers to Sam like another adult and figures he can take care of himself being hunted through the woods alone and unarmed, like Dean would expect of himself.
posted by jameaterblues at 6:23 PM on May 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

The actress who played the cop did a bang-up job and created a really great and multi-faceted character. I can't say I really noticed (or was bothered by) the lack of the otherworldly in this episode, just because it was so enjoyable watching the characters interact and display their feelings so strongly.
posted by sardonyx at 7:24 PM on May 27, 2021

dorothyisunderwood a couple of episodes ago mentioned how 'Supernatural' started out acab, but switched to be much more sympathetic to law enforcement.

If memory serves, there becomes a trend towards "good" female law enforcement in the show (and at least one recurring character). Will have to keep an eye out on whether the trend sticks mostly to female LEO or whether there are examples of good male cops too.
posted by porpoise at 8:30 PM on May 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

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