“Demons I get. People are crazy.”
Dean Winchester, “The Benders”
Back in the Supernatural Season 1 episode “The Benders,” Dean Winchester implied that he could understand the motivations of demons. A stint in Hell (as viewers have been told throughout the show) has the power to burn one’s humanity. A soul becomes so twisted and corrupted as to feed on evil urges. Conscience and guilt are foreign concepts to demons. Evil serves as a demon’s jealous mistress to be unquestionably worshipped.
Experienced hunters like Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) have vast knowledge of those things that go bump in the night. But understanding the evil inclinations of people like the family in “The Benders” who turned kidnapping and hunting people into a sadistic sport for personal enjoyment? Well, I think even our heroic brothers would feel that studying Sigmund Freud would provide little answers to the notion of what motivates people (who aren’t possessed by demons) to travel the path towards performing acts of unspeakable evil. Is there a psychology of choice?
Actually, choice theory has been extensively discussed by psychologists for decades. I remember studying the psychology of choice back in college in the early 1980s. But rather than bore you with a recitation of clinical explanations, I decided to examine the psychology of choice as it applies to the British Men of Letters’ (BMOL) disciples Mick Davies (Adam Fergus) and Arthur Ketch (David Haydn-Jones).
At the outset, I offer this disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely mine and not those of The Nerdy Girl Express. This article is written for entertainment purposes ONLY.
In the Season 8 episode “As Time Goes By,” when the concept of The Men of Letters (MOL) was first introduced by Winchester paternal grandfather Henry Winchester (Gil McKinney) and viewers learned that the boys were legacies of an organization that studied and chronicled “all that man does not understand” as Josie Sands (Alaina Huffman) stated in “Mother’s Little Helper,” I was intrigued how the MOL would assist the Winchesters in their ongoing battle against the supernatural. Sure, Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) was invaluable when it came to schooling the boys on the things that they didn’t know, but how awesome that they now had an extensive library of information at their disposal? An angel friend/ally in Castiel (Misha Collins) and exhaustive material at their fingertips, the scales have been shifted in favor of good; the Winchesters’ job has just gotten easier. Right?
If you believe that, then I have a witch spell to sell you for dirty cheap!
Fast forward to Season 12: In the premiere episode “Keep Calm and Carry On,” Sam was tortured by British Men of Letters operative Lady Toni Bevell (Elizabeth Blackmore). So while the American MOL chapter appears to have died out in the 1950s, the British contingency have been thriving and by their own accounts, have been quite successful handling the monster problem in Europe. For the BMOL, there are no “good” monsters, no shades of grey like the Winchesters champion. Being a monster subjects that monster to an automatic death sentence. The BMOL live by a code of absolutes: The only “choice” given to a BMOL member is blind devotion to the BMOL.
A few episodes into Season 12, viewers met Mick Davies (Adam Fergus). Davies was intelligent and level-headed. Sam was released from his torture and it wasn’t long before the Winchesters realized that the BMOL’s way of doing things collided with the American hunters’ methodology.
When Mr. Ketch (David Haydn-Jones) rode onto the scene on a motorcycle and eliminated Magda in “American Nightmare,” it was clear to many viewers that the BMOL wouldn’t be the allies we imagined for the brothers. Even with an arsenal of impressive weaponry, the BMOL had a platform that left no room for individual choice or doubt. Strict allegiance to the BMOL was the only game in town.
As we saw in several episodes in Season 12, Mick followed the BMOL’s agenda. Killing monsters, killing people who stood in the way of what the BMOL needed to do, was a given. Then came “The Raid.” When Mick found himself a hostage along with Sam and Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith) at the makeshift BMOL compound while vampires, headed by the Alpha Vamp (Rick Worthy) stormed the place, he watched the Winchesters’ teamwork. Sam killed the Alpha Vamp with the Colt, but it was the Winchesters’ way of doing things that saved the day.
I believe that working with the Winchesters enabled Mick to chip away at the hardened veneer of the BMOL and to uncover his long lost humanity in the process. This theory was evident in “Ladies Drink Free.” Mick invited himself along on a werewolf hunt with the boys. Yet, we saw how guilt ridden Mick was when he had to kill a lycanthropy afflicted girl. Later, Mick didn’t want to kill Claire Novak (Kathryn L. Newton) when she was bitten by a werewolf. For the man who has been reared to accept the BMOL tenets without question, this was a turning point for the character. Mick was on the road towards freedom of choice.
In this tale of two men and their psychology of choice, Mr. Ketch is the other side of the coin. While Sam and Mary were with Mick during “The Raid,” the dapper and elusive Mr. Ketch was with Dean. At the bunker, Mr. Ketch bonded in a small way with Dean. Beware of the BMOL bringing gifts! Still, over a bottle of liquor, Mr. Ketch noted that he and Dean shared a passion for killing. It wasn’t the first time that someone tried to convince Dean Winchester that there were no shades of grey when it came to killing. Remember way back in the Season 2 episode “Bloodlust” Gordon Walker (Sterling K. Brown) attempted the same thing? But Gordon’s plea fell on deaf ears when the Winchesters’ saved Lenore (Amber Benson), a vampire who rejected human blood for animal blood.
Haydn Jones portrays Ketch with such aplomb that it is like the perfect study in Machiavellianism. Underneath the fine clothes and debonair persona, Ketch is an unscrupulous killer who certainly is well schooled in the belief that the ends justify the means. Ketch has mortgaged his individual right of choice in favor of doing the BMOL’s bidding.
“The British Invasion” was the game changer episode in this notion of choice. In this seminal episode for the character of Mick, viewers became privy to Davies’ backstory. As a lad at the perhaps Hogwarts inspired Kendricks’ School, we saw a young Mick make the ultimate choice to kill his friend so that he could advance to the next stage of BMOL training. We don’t know how much this deadly betrayal of his friend weighed on Mick throughout the years or if he buried it back within the deep recesses of his mind. What we saw in “The British Invasion” was an adult Mick burdened by horrible nightmares about his long ago choice. Everything came to a climax when Mick had to decide whether or not to murder Eileen Leahy (Shoshannah Stern) who had unintentionally killed BMOL member Renny (Darren Adams) when Eileen was aiming for Dagon (Ali Anhn). The Mick Davies of yesteryear might have adhered to the absolute of the BMOL code and fired the shot to end Eileen’s life. But the Mick Davies of today listened to Sam’s words about free choice and exercised the choice to spare Eileen’s life.
Sadly, Mick’s choice not to kill Eileen meant he signed his own death warrant; Davies was killed by Mr. Ketch.
Supernatural brought us a tale of two men (Mick Davies and Arthur Ketch) and the psychology of choice. Ketch deals in that world of absolutes fully ingrained by the BMOL. But will his burgeoning feelings for Mary Winchester cause him to defy the BMOL in favor of free choice?