Posted in Supernatural

In Defense of Claire Novak

Tomorrow night, Supernatural will air its backdoor pilot, Wayward Sisters.  I’ve been waiting for this for a few years now, ever since Jody met Donna in the episode Hibbing 911.  After the god-awful travesty of a backdoor pilot that was “Bloodlines” I wrote a blog entry here about the MANY other backdoor pilots that would be acceptable to me, and then I discovered there was already a Wayward movement – sometimes, many people have the exact same idea.  Sometimes, their idea is even better than anything I could think of – as if the case with Wayward Sisters.

However, in recent days, there has been a huge amount of negativity on Twitter and Facebook about this pilot.  Of course, there are the usual misogynists and MRA’s complaining about how awful it will be for 6 women to save Sam and Dean, let alone giving them an entire series.

This is to be expected – we all know how people freaked out over Ghostbusters having vaginas.  These types of negative comments can be largely ignored, but many of the negative comments came from women who don’t want to watch women, but rather they want to watch men, a sentiment which I find pathetic.

You want to watch for the men only?  Cool, just watch the men, but maybe shut up and don’t ruin it for the rest of us?

One of the recurring comments that the moderate complainers have is about Claire Novak.  The writers did Claire very few favors in the first episodes she was in.  For some reason, television writers can only write one type of female teenager – the sullen bitch.  This is how they wrote Claire in the first few episodes, so it is no wonder people aren’t terribly psyched for her appearance.

Part of the problem is the horrible “Mark of Cain” storyline.  In her reappearance in “The Things We Left Behind” (10.9) she’s loyal to a man who sold her out to be raped simply to pay off his debts.  I know, we were supposed to be aghast that the Mark had Dean killing everyone there, but a group of men who will sit by and listen to a 16 or 17 year old girl being raped deserve a more horrible death than they got.  However, Claire didn’t feel that way (mainly because she didn’t know her father figure set her up) and sets Dean up to be hurt in the very next episode.

This isn’t the best introduction for a character – we all love Dean so this of course made many of us dislike her.  Including me.

However, all of the bad writing and bitchiness they heaped on Claire’s character evens out by the time we reach season 12, and there are little signs of a compassionate human inside here and there.  When she was searching for her mom in “Angel Heart” (10.20), Claire goes from badly written teenage bitch, to lost little girl grieving for both of her parents.  In this episode, she finds out that her mother didn’t just abandon her, but was kidnapped and held for 2 years by a Gregorian angel.

It also helps that the very first thing her mother said to her upon being reunited was “I’m so sorry.”  If you can watch that scene and not cry for both of them, you are made of stronger stuff than I am.  This episode shows that Claire is not only badly hurt but full of love with no outlet for it.  She is also the one who manages to kill the Gregori after he kicks the snot out of everyone else.

Up to this point, Claire believed that her father died so Castiel could have a vessel and Jimmy “has it easy in heaven” while also believing her mother just abandoned her entirely.  On top of that, her lone remaining guardian, her grandmother, died, too.  Then Dean kills the asshole who was masquerading as her guardian (even though he was a monster and deserved to die.)

That’s a hell of a lot of loss for anyone to handle, let alone a 16/17 year old.  It wasn’t until playing putt-putt with Dean that she even found out that Castiel saved the world, so Jimmy’s sacrifice becomes heroic to her, instead of being merely another abandonement.

Her tearful thanks to Castiel and Dean for finding her mother was the very first glimpse we have that Claire wasn’t just a cookie cutter sullen nightmare, but a real girl in real pain from the many losses she’s experienced.

This is also the episode where Castiel gives her a stuffed Grumpy Cat from “the Hot Topical” and while she blows off Cas when he gives her the gift, she puts the stuffed animal in her bag.  When we see her in her room at Jody’s house in “Don’t You Forget About Me” (11.12), she is curled around the Grumpy Cat stuffed animal, which was more than a little heartbreaking to see – and something I didn’t even catch until my 3rd or 4th viewing.

Claire’s complete redemption for me came in “Ladies Drink Free” (12.16) where she is bitten by a werewolf and starts to turn into one.  In this episode she earned a lot of love from me by going by the fake name “Beatrice Quimby” from the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary.  I loved those books.  Also, she beat the boys AND the British Men of Letters to the scene, which shows that she has the raw material for a good hunter.

In this episode, she manages to get a lot of backstory on the case, and when she goes to share it with Sam, saying “I did good,” she’s wanting a pat on the back.  She’s wanting a “Hey, good job” or other simple kudo from Sam, but true to Sam form, he goes straight to the next problem instead of giving her even slight praise.  This is typical Sam who can’t celebrate the death of the yellowed-eyed demon for a few minutes with Dean, but has to press about Dean selling his soul.  Sam does this often – and as pointed out by my husband, Sam never got any praise so he has no concept of how to give it out to Claire.

Instead, he pisses her off by asking why she’s lying to Jody.  I will say that the exchange between Sam and Claire where she tells him to stop treating her like a child and he tells her to stop acting like one was pretty perfect.  She deserved that line, but Sam could have picked a better time.  Especially considering she runs away (still acting like a child, Claire) and immediately gets bitten by a werewolf.

This episode really redeems Claire because the way she handles being bitten shows her true colors.  Dean tries to tell her she can deal with it and she says to him “I can barely keep it together on a good day,” which shows a self-awareness that I didn’t think she was capable of.  It’s understandable that Claire is kind of a basket case.  I was in my mid-30’s when my father died and was a complete wreck for years.  That same loss as a child multiplied by 2?  Holy hell, Claire’s actually functioning pretty well.

Another great line between her and Dean here is Dean telling her she doesn’t get a vote and she responds, “It’s my life.  I get all the votes.”  Dean is so used to controlling Sam and Castiel and the others around him that he cares about, I think this is the first time anyone has ever told him no so perfectly.

However, what really makes this episode for me is something super small.  As she is turning into a werewolf and freaking out about it, she realizes she should call Jody and let her know what’s happening.  She says in the small voice a much younger girl, “She’s going to be so mad at me.”  How perfect a line is that?  It shows very clearly that she does consider Jody her mom, without those words being said.  Claire is pretty much dying, and she’s worried about Jody’s anger without the realization that any Jody anger springs from love.

It was that moment that I realized that I really liked Claire, in spite of the typical sullen teenage BS the writers kept heaping on her.  After she turns back into a human she even jokes with Sam and Dean about “craving a milk bone.”  This episode takes Claire and makes her not only likable but understandable.  Her mom (Jody) wants her to go to college, but she’d rather learn a trade instead.  That’s a normal family thing to have happen, just with the hunter spin on it to make it Supernatural.

She continues to be likable even to the end of this episode where she calls Jody and comes clean about not looking at colleges, but rather hunting instead.  She also calls Jody her mother, but she still has enough insecurity about being loved that she practically whispers the word.  She goes from being a brat to being a complex character in one fell swoop.

Also, she makes a joke!  Not the funniest of jokes, but still, it shows there’s a sense of humor hiding in there somewhere.

I get people hating on Claire, because the first several episodes with her, she was a total pain in the butt and more than little unpleasant, but her story didn’t end there.  She grew as a character and she lowered her defenses enough for us to see the broken-hearted girl within – and kudos for the actress who portrays Claire, Kathryn Newton, who flawlessly shows us the vulnerability of Claire over several episodes.

I would groan when I saw it was going to be “a Claire episode” but honestly, given all the character has been through and the fact that Sam, Dean, and Castiel destroyed her family – and hey, they saved the world a lot, but they did tank her life completely – she’s much nicer to them than I would have been.

Furthermore, from the promos I’ve seen for Wayward Sisters, she not only feels loyalty towards Sam and Dean, she’s determined to save them.  That’s a huge evolution for the character.  She’s gone from seeing them as the enemy to seeing them not only as allies, but as family.

So, I do understand hating Claire, but I really think that given her evolution, it’s short-sighted.  She has so much potential and Kathryn Newton is such a fantastic actor that I am more than happy to see her continue to grow surrounded by supportive women like Jody, Donna, and Alex.  I’m also excited to see her interact with the two newer characters, too.

The harsh Claire judgment makes sense to me in the first two episodes where she’s reintroduced, but this character has grown and changed enough as her story went on, that I think this potential Wayward Sisters series (please, please, please, PLEASE let there be a series!) can show her as not only likable, but heroic. I personally cannot wait for this episode to be available on the CW app (we don’t have cable) and I’m sure I’ll watch it several times.

 

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