Lauren Cohan as Bela Talbot
|First appearance||"Bad Day at Black Rock"|
|Last appearance||"Time Is On My Side"|
|Portrayed by||Lauren Cohan|
Bela Talbot is a fictional character on The CW Television Network's drama/horror television series Supernatural, portrayed by Lauren Cohan. Appearing only in the third season, she is depicted as a character who uses knowledge of the supernatural world to her advantage rather than to help people like the series' main protagonists, Sam and Dean Winchester, do. Self-centered and a thorn in the side of the Winchesters, Bela makes her living by stealing occult objects and selling them to wealthy clients. While critical reaction to the character was mixed, fans responded very negatively to the character, leading to her departure at the end of the season.
In her first appearance, "Bad Day at Black Rock", Bela Talbot hires two crooks to steal a cursed rabbit's foot from a storage container owned by deceased hunter John Winchester. Anyone who touches the foot is granted good luck, but will die within a week if the foot is lost. She intends to sell it and shows no concern for the fate of the thieves. John's sons, series protagonists Sam and Dean, retrieve the foot but are cursed by it. Bela interferes when they attempt to destroy it, and shoots Sam in the shoulder. Dean, however, tricks her into touching it. She gives the foot up for destruction, but manages to steal $46,000 in winning lottery tickets from Dean that he had purchased using the foot's granted luck.
She next appears in "Red Sky at Morning", an episode in which the Winchesters track down a ghost ship responsible for local deaths. Bela fools them into helping her again, with the three of them working together to steal a Hand of Glory, a precious and magical artifact. The Winchesters plan to destroy it in order to end the curse, but Bela steals it from them to sell to a client. However, Bela then witnesses the ghost ship, which only appears to those who have spilled the blood of a family member. Condemned to death, she turns to the Winchesters for help. Dean is prepared to leave her behind to die, but Sam comes up with a plan to save Bela's life. This time, Bela gives them $10,000 as a "thank you" before she leaves because she does not like being indebted to others.
In "Fresh Blood", hunter and recently-escaped felon Gordon Walker tracks Bela down and threatens to kill her unless she reveals the location of the Winchesters. Reluctant at first, Bela agrees to do so in exchange for his priceless mojo bag. She then "forgets" to warn the Winchesters that Gordon is coming to kill Sam. Once the brothers later confront her, she uses a Ouija board to obtain information on Gordon and his location.
In "Dream a Little Dream of Me", Bela returns when the Winchesters contact her for help in saving fellow hunter and family friend Bobby Singer after he falls into a mystical coma. They need dream root to enter Bobby's dreams and find out what is keeping him asleep. She claims nothing from them in compensation, explains she is helping them in order to repay a debt to Bobby. However, the Winchesters discover after Bobby awakens that she was lying, having helped them to gain access to the Colt, a mystical gun capable of killing any being. Enraged at the theft, Dean and Sam attempt to track her down in "Jus in Bello", but instead are led into a trap she has set up; police arrest the Winchesters and throw them in jail. Though the demonic overlord Lilith sends her forces, Sam and Dean eventually make their escape.
In "Time Is On My Side", Dean tracks down Bela and discovers she has sold the Colt. He later gets her criminal record from England and learns her true name is Abbie. Almost ten years prior, when she was 14, she had her parents killed in exchange for her soul as part of a ten-year deal made with a Crossroads Demon. The reason is implied to be abuse by her father. Now desperate because her time is running out, Bela tracks the Winchesters down and tries to kill them, but they anticipated her and escaped ahead of time. They then call her a few minutes before her deal is up. She confesses to them she tried to get out of the deal with the Crossroads Demon by trading the Colt. Once she gave it up, however, the deal changed so she had to kill Sam as well. She pleads for them to help her, and though Dean refuses, she reveals to him the demon Lilith holds all the contracts brokered by Crossroads Demons, including his own. She tells him this as he has a chance of killing Lilith and escaping the deal. At the stroke of midnight, Dean hangs up after saying, "I'll see you in Hell." Her death is inevitable, but not shown.
According to series creator Eric Kripke, the writers conceptualized Bela Talbot as "someone [the Winchesters have] really never come across before". Though she moves throughout the supernatural world, Bela has no interest in the "altruistic or obsessed or revenge-minded motives of hunting". Described by actress Lauren Cohan as a "a female Humphrey Bogart", Bela is also "a mercenary, very much out for herself", who "sees everything as an opportunity". Cohan also feels Bela is "a little bit manipulative" and "always wants to be in control". The character "thinks she’s justified" in stealing artifacts for profit rather than for helping people like the Winchesters do, and finds the brothers "really naive and kind of endearing". On this aspect of Bela, writer and producer Sera Gamble commented, "I always suspect when someone is that blasé that there's something underneath, and we're finally getting into that". Likewise, after talking with the writers about later episodes, Cohan came to the realization Bela is a "really damaged character" who, due to terrible experiences in her life, has been shaped into a character that is "a lot less heartful" than she was expecting. Cohan noted, "She keeps those walls up and very rarely lets them down. She does but then she quickly builds them back up because she doesn’t like to ask anyone for help."
Originally intended as a recurring character, Bela was upgraded to a series regular after the CW requested a second female character for the season. Cohan auditioned for the demon Ruby, the other new female role, but ultimately received the part of Bela. Upon learning of Cohan's British accent, a "really psyched" Kripke reworked the character to be British. The actress herself later pictured Bela that way, feeling she "has some kind of cool shading and sneakiness, which fits the British accent". At the time Cohan's casting, however, she had been given little exposure to the character script-wise, and was unaware she would play a "nasty person". It was not until The CW up-fronts that Kripke gave her a "good spiel" about Bela because she would be interviewed. The actress later turned down an offer from him to provide more of the character's backstory, and instead opted to learn it as the episodes were filmed. In order to prepare for her role, Cohan received weapons training to be "well equipped with swords and a lot of instruments—sharp instruments".
Due to "protective and occasionally nervous" fans, Kripke meant for Bela to be introduced in "small doses". He wanted fans to know the show would always be just about Sam and Dean Winchester, and stated, "[Ruby and Bela are] there for important plot elements, but it's not the Ruby and Bela show, nor is it about the four of them cruising around in the Impala together. It's about the guys." However, he feels the writers pushed it too far in the episode "Red Sky at Morning", stating his opinion it "was by far the least successful episode this year because it really kind of became the Bela show". Unfortunately, the writers also did not take the time to consider how to tie her into the Winchesters' storylines. As Kripke pointed out, "It's a road show and we're in a different town every week, so if you're going to run into the same character over and over again, you better have a damn good reason..." They were eventually "crushed under the weight of the absurdity of it" because it became more difficult to justify her reappearances within the narrative. Another key problem stemmed from their conceptualization of her as an antagonistic character rather than a potential love interest for the brothers. The writers, "so taken with a woman who could screw the boys over at every turn", ended up making Bela too antagonistic without establishing a balance. Any chance for a "funny effervescent episode where they all work together" was lost after the character attempts to have the Winchesters killed on multiple occasions.
Critical response to the character has been mixed. BuddyTV staff columnist Don Williams deemed the addition of Bela a "cheap ploy" to attract teen male viewers, believing the character distracts viewers from the "brotherly bond that made the show so special in the first place". As well, he felt her "sexy cat burglar act, coupled with her flirtation with one of our heroes, is cliched and has been seen a thousand times before", and he likened her to a combination of Catwoman and "the equally annoying Electro-Gwen from Angel". However, he later admitted Bela was "a great comic foil". Moreover, Diana Steenbergen of IGN became "increasingly frustrated" with the "unlikable and manipulative" Bela throughout her appearances. She found the character's tragic backstory to be "too little, too late", but was surprised the writers were able to make her feel "even a tiny bit sorry for [Bela]" during her death scene. Steenbergen wishes the character had been written differently—"not either annoying or downright contemptible"—and deemed her "a wasted opportunity to give us an interesting female foil for the boys". Although TV Guide's Tina Charles "really liked" the character, she noted her annoyance that Bela continuously steals from the Winchesters, making them "look ridiculous". Overall, she felt Cohan "did one hell of a job". Likewise, Karla Peterson of The San Diego Union-Tribune believed Bela "got gone just as [she was] getting interesting", and deemed her a "decent traveling companion".
Fans were at first very wary of bringing in female characters to the male-dominated show; they feared Bela was brought on to be "arm candy or [a sidekick]". To make matters worse, when coming up with the scenes for the auditions for Bela, executive producer Robert Singer spent an hour writing a lackluster script not intended to be used in the show. Mere hours after the script was given to the casting director, the show's fans had found them on casting websites and were "obsessively going over these scenes". According to Kripke, the fan reaction was the characters "really look like they suck". Bela's overly-antagonistic actions throughout the season did not calm the viewers' fears. "[Bela screwed] over the boys so badly," Kripke explained, "that she became unlikeable to the fans because she was irredeemable". Kripke has confessed part of the decision to kill the character off was due to the negative reaction from the fans.
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- Writer: Laurence Andries, Director: Sera Gamble (November 15, 2007). "Fresh Blood". Supernatural. Season 3. Episode 7. CW.
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