And I realised that what with that board and the different ones in Hunteri Heroici, there’s a bit of a THEME happening here and wanted to explore it.
In fact, we can maybe even add Charlie’s LARPing battle board to the mix as well, since I think it’s a given the chess boards represent the ongoing supernatural war the show portrays, making Charlie’s board a similar metaphorical/fictional representation of battle. And remember - Dean made significant changes FOR THE BETTER to Charlie’s board, indicating very clearly that Dean is good at TACTICS, good at battle plans (which, as an aside, I would consider a trait of the ‘brawn’ btw, because it’s about fighting and knowing how to fight best and how to overcome opponents quickly and efficiently).
Anyway - point is, there is an ongoing theme here of battle, or rather of a constant war (the game of chess represents war, with each individual game being an individual battle within that overall concept of chess as war) with multiple battles perhaps. Which fits the show well - demons and angels (Heaven and Hell) have been in constant opposition throughout the show, likewise hunters remain in constant opposition to supernatural creatures, humanity stands in opposition to both Heaven and Hell most of the time. It’s all war and battle, and more than that it’s about war between binary opposites. Black vs. White (that elusive simplicity Dean especially has been struggling to fit the wider world into from the start).
Now let me babble about how the chess boards relate to that and how the show is perhaps settling up this theme of binary oppositions in order to BREAK IT DOWN :)
Here is the chess board from Everybody Hates Hitler.
As Dean says, the Men of Letters manning the Cave were forced to leave half-way through the game. This is a chess board mid-battle. Which relates nicely to the Men of Letters themselves, of course - as a society they and their hunter allies were in the middle of a real battle against supernatural evil (black), which they were forced to abandon just as this chess game was abandoned (why? unclear at this point, because now I think about it, it seems odd that Abaddon’s attack during Henry and his friend’s initiation should have caused the whole society to disband, the size of the Batcave implies there must have been many more members than the few we saw last week that surely should have kept the society running after Henry’s group were killed?)
I know so little about how to play chess it’s embarrassing, but to me it looks like this game is fairly evenly match at this point? Both sides have taken a couple of pawns, the game could go either way.
This is the chess game in the middle of Hunteri Heroici. You can find some specific analysis of it here :)
There are some lovely character implications with this game that I think are absent in the other one - such as the wooden pawn representing a piece from a different board/game/battle joining a fight that it doesn’t belong to, which just screams CAS :) But ignoring that for the moment - this game also seems evenly matched to me?
These are the boards at the end of Hunteri Heroici.
A board where the battle is yet to begin. And a board with a battle that is almost over, where, according to this great analysis here, White has Black in check, putting White in something of a winning position, but even so there is still a chance that Black could win the game if the White player makes a wrong move.
So what does this all add up to? Well, there are lots of things :)
The games represent an ongoing war (the game of chess - representing the war between demons, angels, humans and the supernatural), which is pretty evenly balanced overall. That’s the simple reading.
But I wonder if we can find more if we take the COLOURS into account.
Only ONE game is the traditional Black vs. White - the wooden one. Could that be angels/Heaven vs. demons/Hell then? Considering Cas broke the demon tablet in half and the Winchesters (and thus Heaven via Naomi’s connection to Cas) have Kevin, the prophet who can read the table, White/Heaven is indeed, in the current situation of the show, holding Black/Hell ‘in check.’ But a few smart moves on Crowley part (like experimentation on poor Samandriel for instance) could tip the game back in Black/Hell’s favour.
The other games are Frosted glass vs. Clear glass and Silver vs. Gold.
Could Frosted vs. Clear perhaps be humanity vs. the supernatural, or hunters vs. the supernatural - in opposition, and yet not really all that different at all? This is a topic being heavily explored this season, particularly with Benny and Dean and how they are both soldiers, how Benny conveys human nobility while Dean shows monstrous bloodlust, showing that the line between human/hunter and monster is often unclear. I think frosted and clear glass might represent that quite nicely - clear glass is naturally assumed to be superior to frosted, because it’s ‘purer,’ so it connects to humanity/hunters that way, because humans have also been considered better than the supernatural pretty much all show (for the most part, but this has always been complicated - ie. Lenore, Gordon Walker, Eva etc). So is the clear glass humanity, while the frosted is the supernatural, tainted by evil thoughts and monstrous urges? But then again, don’t supernatural/monstrous creatures have a greater claim to purity? Dean called Purgatory ‘pure’ - because pure can also be animal, instinct, monster. So is the clear glass representative of the supernatural, while the frosted is humanity, clouded by the rules of society and convention? And is any glass better than any other, really? If they were to fall it wouldn’t matter which shade they were, which side of the game they were on, the glass of either side would shatter just the same.
And so begins the breaking down of binary opposition :) Is that why the final shot of the Frosted and Clear chess game is the beginning of a game, no battle yet being fought? Does that board represent the idea that humanity and the supernatural don’t NEED to fight?
I particularly like the idea that Frosted and Clear represents humanity vs. the supernatural, because it’s the Frosted and Clear board that the wooden piece (part of the Black and White, Heaven and Hell, game) migrates to - which ties in nicely to Cas leaving the battle between Heaven and Hell to help humanity and humanity’s struggles (which is exactly what Cas is doing at the very moment that board is in shot - helping Sam and Dean work a case, helping humanity deal with a supernatural problem, Cas is not acting on behalf of Heaven or fighting against Hell).
But… wait a minute… if that’s the case, why is Cas’ piece one of the Black/Hell pieces?!
And so begins MORE breaking down of the binary oppositions. Because if we look back at the wooden Black and White pieces we see that, actually, they are NOT black and white at all. They are dark wood and creamy wood, making neither colour a clear representation of good or evil, because neither colour is ‘pure.’ Heaven is not wholly good and Hell is not wholly evil. And so now which is which?
Last season Crowley claimed Hell needed to have integrity, he criticised an underling for exploiting loopholes in demon deals, suggesting he felt Hell should be transparent in its dealings, HONEST if not nice. While in opposition, we had Cas flat out breaking his S06 deal with Crowley and now with have Heaven (assuming Naomi IS working for Heaven) being underhand and secretive, manipulating angels against their will and without their knowledge, being DISHONEST but supposedly benevolent. Considering that, the Darker pieces could represent Heaven as much as Hell, couldn’t they? Then we have to consider whether, like with humans and supernatural creatures, there is really much of a different between angels/Heaven and demons/Hell - Cas tortured just as well as, if not better than, Crowley during S06, perhaps doing to Ellie as much as Crowley did to poor Samandriel, while whatever the fuck Naomi did to Cas is just as much torture as anything a demon does to a soul in Hell.
So yes, Cas can be the Darker wooden piece as much as the Lighter wood. And I’m sure he thinks of himself very much as dark/sinful at the moment, so it’s apt that the migrating pawn should be the darker piece I think.
Which leaves us with the fancy Silver vs. Gold pieces. What do they mean? Humanity vs. the supernatural again, I imagine, only this time it’s Men of Letters vs. the supernatural. A battle that was abandoned, the war being continued in new battles between hunters and the supernatural instead.
But are Sam and Dean are about to pick up where the Men of Letters left off, jump into the game that is already part way through and try and win? And if so, which pieces would they pick - Gold or Silver? Both precious metals, both beautiful, both costly… which is the Men of Letters and which is the supernatural? And to add to the breaking down of opposites - I imagine the pieces aren’t REAL gold and silver, they will be an alloy, a mix of several metals, with gold and silver paint or leaf on top, their differences entirely superfluous, surface level differences only.
Perhaps instead, Dean and Sam should do to the Men of Letters chess board what was done to the frosted and clear glass board - reset it. End the battle.
Conclusion? Like I’m that smart. IDK! Something like - our boys need to think outside the chess box. Chess tries to make the world into a collection of binary opposites, but those opposites are ILLUSORY - nothing is black and white, least of all the pieces on the board!
Dean, Sam and Cas need to start seeing the world more like this:
Full of colour and with boundaries that aren’t rigid. A world where it’s never simply ‘us vs. them,’ where it’s not a 2-man
show game but one with multiple players who are colourful and complex. Where different teams form ALLIANCES, where elves can fight alongside moon maidens, and moon maidens can have romances with fairies, and players who were elves one day can become orcs another, and teams that were fighting one week might be allies the next.
Yes. There we go. Conclusion - the point of the chess is to show that the world isn’t a chess board, and neither is it a solitaire board or a Sorry! board. That’s where Sam, Dean and Cas have been going wrong all this time, they’ve been seeing themselves as pieces in someone else’s game, or letting themselves be pieces in someone else’s game. Well they stopped the fucking apocalypse - it’s game over. The board is THEIR’S now, they don’t need to play by anyone’s rules but their own :)