This week’s Supernatural episode didn’t leave me jumping up and down and squeeing to the rooftops – but that’s not actually a complaint. Instead, it left me scratching my head and wondering where the hell we’re going from here and what the hell the Djinn saw in Dean’s mind. That’s a feeling I often had in the early seasons of Supernatural, so once again, that makes me a happy fangirl. (Not that I don’t have things to critique, of course…)
The episode started out slow, and at the first break I was feeling a bit meh about it. This surprised me because I usually enjoy Meredith Glynn’s writing quite a bit. It took me a little while to realize that the pace was slower than I’ve grown used to – but once again, that turned out to be a good thing. Instead of ten different plot lines zigzagging through the episode, Glynn and director Darren Grant took their time, following each scene and letting the anticipation or suspense or fear or whatever emotion build before bringing it to a climax. The pace was slower, so you could savor moments like Dean and Sam exploring a dark and scary crypt or Sam fearlessly going up to the attic or Dean quietly bonding with Sasha. I just have gotten used to a faster pace on this Show, so it took until the halfway point for me to realize I was actually appreciating the Show taking its time for a change.
The beginning scene is Maggie, whose name half of my timeline can’t remember, which says something that isn’t good. She’s hunting alone for some reason, and not very competently. Sure enough, she’s attacked and taken down by something that looks like a ghoul. I scratch my head. That’s not the reaction Show was going for most likely, but I honestly cannot manufacture much feeling about the AU hunters. There are way too many of them, and I don’t like them in the bunker and that all translates into me just not caring very much what happens to them. Maggie has never seemed like someone who should be a hunter, and we haven’t been given any reason to care about her. It’s like she’s the only one of the random AU people who has a name, so she keeps getting tossed into the story. Sorry, Maggie. At least I’m remembering your name.
Then we’re in the overcrowded bunker, Chief Sam briefing a bunch of AU hunters. He’s all awkward when Dean walks in, which is telling – Sam is clearly not comfortable being the leader when Dean is around. I’m not sure I’m all that comfortable with this new dynamic either, but Dean
seems more at ease than either me or Sam.
Dean: You kids have fun out there.
He teases Sam to break the awkwardness, telling him that he did a great job with the whole camp counselor vibe and offering to get him a whistle.
Dean: And they’re checking in? That’s adorable.
It’s not, however, adorable that Sam isn’t getting enough sleep. Protective big brother Dean gets on his back about it, clearly worried. Dean stays in this mode when Sam gets upset that Maggie (Katherine Evans) didn’t check in, trying to reassure Sam that she might still be alive. Poor Sam, his reserves clearly on zero and feeling the burden of responsibility, immediately starts catastrophizing and falling into hopelessness, so it’s a good thing Dean is back to pull him out of it. The brothers are always a good team when they’re together, always knowing what the other one needs to hear in order to keep going. There was a lot of that in this episode, and I appreciate every moment.
Dean compliments Sam on his innovation of having the hunters wear body cams, and he’s the one again encouraging Sam as they head out to look for Maggie, saying that they’ll find her and bring her home.
I cringed at the use of the word “home” because the bunker is NOT their home, all the AU hunters. Grrrr.
Anyway, Sam and Dean and the Impala, so yay.
They explore the Rawlings family’s private cemetery, Sam explaining to Dean what a walker is and Dean indignantly retorting “I know what a walker is, Sam!” Then it’s into the crypt by flashlight where they find marks of someone being dragged across the floor.
Dean: But no blood. She could still be alive.
Still the encouraging one.
A shady seeming groundskeeper appears with a dangerous looking pitchfork, and the boys have to come up with an explanation on the spot. They morph into the most adorable aw shucks representatives of the Historical Preservation Society you’ve ever seen.
And we’re left with hmmmm that groundskeeper seems shady. The first red herring, but not the last – and I love that! This episode was smart and full of twists and turns and dead ends, which is just how I like my Show.
They come to the house to see the owner and find Mary and Bobby already there. Bobby is even more surly than those ‘The Bobbys are surly’ were in that weird version of heaven. He immediately attacks Sam, calling the headquarters he has set up a bunch of “idjits,” after which Dean looks like he’s barely holding back from tearing Bobby’s head off. I don’t blame him one bit.
Meanwhile, Maggie is strung up in the attic, and oh, that looks familiar…
Me: It’s a djinn! Maybe?
The homeowner himself turns out to be comatose, taken care of by bubbly nurse Neil (Chris Patrick-Simpson). The homeowner’s daughter Sasha joins the party and I immediately like her. Leah Cairns did a fabulous job making Sasha a memorable character who seemed very real even in the short amount of time we had to spend with her. She is 100% done with the Winchesters’ B.S. within about five minutes and kicks them out.
Even though they look like this…
The Winchesters and Bobby argue about what the monster could be. Ghoul? Shifter? Demon possession? Bobby is once again surly and accuses Sam of letting Maggie hunt alone when she wasn’t ready. Dean again is protective and pissed and jumps to Sam’s defense, but Bobby’s not having it. He accuses Sam of not being “a real leader” which of course goes right to Sam’s vulnerability since he’s worried about that very thing.
I mean, I wouldn’t want to keep attacking Dean Winchester’s little brother when that gets you a Dean Winchester who looks this angry, Bobby, just sayin.
Mary tries to subvert a showdown by pairing Dean off with Bobby, and she goes with Sam. She tells him that Bobby’s wrong, that what she’s seen is that Sam is doing what he’s “born to do.” She also tells him far too much about her relationship with Bobby, lamenting that he’s “not open like your dad.”
Sam: (incredulously) Like MY dad??
It was an interesting little exchange, underscoring the huge disconnect between this Mary Winchester, who only knew John when he was a young man, and the John that Sam and Dean knew. No wonder Mary doesn’t seem like their mom most of the time – not only is she too young, her experience has just been so different from theirs. She has literally lived another life. Mary has more to say about Bobby, but like all the other AU hunters, I find myself not caring very much about this version of Bobby either. That breaks my heart to say, because I would LOVE to have OG Bobby back and I love Jim Beaver more than I can say – but this is NOT our Bobby. He’s lived a different life; he doesn’t even know Sam and Dean. They are not the “two boys he raised, and they grew up great, they grew up heroes.” This Bobby doesn’t love them like his own sons. They haven’t fought together; he didn’t watch them grow up. It’s all too different, and I feel like Show is asking me to forget just how different it is and love this Bobby like I loved the other one. It’s….confusing.
Despite the fact that Bobby was just critical of him, Sam Winchester hangs onto his empathy – because seriously, Sam Winchester is the most empathic character to ever empathize with anyone. He tells Mary that if Bobby is closed off, there’s probably a reason, and maybe she should talk to him. (The same advice Sam has clearly given himself when it comes to his brother).
Sam, you are a better man that most of the rest of us. I still want to punch Bobby in the face for what he said to you and you’re already trying to help him.
It’s also weird, though I assume we’re supposed to assume that Mary has had some conversation with Dean over the weeks that have passed, but we’ve never seen it. We didn’t see her react when he staggered back into being himself, and we haven’t seen her ask Sam how he’s doing either. It’s….weird. Sigh. Anyway, Sam and Mary find a pile of discarded IDs and realize they’re from a hunter, who’s nowhere to be seen.
Bobby and Dean are having their own conversation. Dean doesn’t hesitate to defend Sam again, saying that he’s doing his best – better than his best!
Dean: He’s killing himself over it.
Worried protective Dean is my favorite flavor, have I mentioned?
Dean and Bobby find a deserted rustic cabin in the woods, which is always a bad thing in a horror film so is probably a bad thing here too. Bobby mysteriously disappears, Dean discovers a dead body and then gets attacked by the ghoul, so yes, bad thing. He stabs it with his machete, and it dissolves into a cloud of dust that gets all over him.
At that moment, Bobby comes back.
Dean: What happened to you?
Bobby: I could ask you the same thing!
Meanwhile, Sasha hears noises in the attic but when she goes to investigate, a vampire attacks her. She does the classic trip-and-fall-over-nothing trope and gives up, hands over her head waiting to die – but the hallway is now empty. She tells the Winchesters about it, and they’re even more confused.
Sam: It makes no sense.
Dean: What kinda vampire lets its dinner go AWOL?
Sasha: (silently but eloquently) WTF?
The brothers consider that maybe this is a manifestation, ala Fred Jones in the nursing home. Another possibility on the table!
Then someone realizes Bobby has once again disappeared and Mary goes off to find him. Everyone is clueless about horror movie tropes in this episode. Of course, Bobby is in trouble – he’s met up with a manifestation of his son Daniel, who was lost in the angel wars and whose death this Bobby feels responsible for. Jim Beaver gets a pretty epic fight scene that ends with Bobby pinned to a tree with a blade. Ouch! Mary to the rescue, then Bobby to Mary’s rescue (pulling out that blade? Ewww).
Now Mary really does know that Bobby’s got some issues.
Meanwhile, Sam and Dean realize that the vampire manifestation was probably trying to keep Sasha out of the attic. So of course Sam Winchester, the brave brave Sam Winchester, heads for the attic. This is a great scene, playing out slowly as I mentioned.
We follow Sam down the hall and up into the attic.
And we see through his eyes when he finds Maggie.
Me: It is a djinn!
Sam manages to machete the vampire into dust and free Maggie.
Dean, meanwhile, has a chat with Sasha. This was one of my favorite scenes of the episode – again, it’s not rushed. It plays out organically and realistically, and it gives us a beautiful glimpse into Dean’s headspace by paralleling him with Sasha.
Sasha makes herself a stiff drink, then whirls on Dean, who is making lots of noise with his knife sharpening (while perched provocatively on a chair arm….)
Sasha: There’s a strange man sharpening a… machete? In my living room. Thank god for benzos.
She’s Dean in her avoidance and use of substances, and she’s Dean when she rebuffs his attempts to talk with a “Not really up for a heart to heart.”
Dean respects that, but Sasha then opens up to him, as people often do with Dean.
Sasha: My dad wasn’t the best person…. Funny thing is, I worshipped him when I was a kid.
Hmm, that sounds like someone else we know, doesn’t it?
Sasha’s dad left them alone, and she was the one to find that her mother killed herself when Sasha was only twelve. It’s a tragic story, and Dean knows tragedy. He offers a sincere “I’m sorry.” And some advice.
Dean: Try to let it go.
Sasha: That what you do?
Dean: I try. I try every day.
He’s clearly talking about both the trauma of his childhood and the recent trauma of being taken for a ride by Michael and all the awful things the archangel has done since.
Oh, and Dean has also figured out it’s a djinn.
Me: Love me some smart Winchesters!
Dean (Mr. Smooth): Sasha, why don’t you go make me a sandwich?
Sasha: (WTF look)
Dean: (mouths) Get out of here.
Sasha: I’m just gonna go make that sandwich…
Dean confronts the Djinn, who it turns out thinks he’s Michael come around to test the Djinn to see if he’s following Michael’s instructions: kill as many hunters as you can.
For that, the djinn gets an upgrade, and is able to read minds and see nightmares and then make them come true. Dean, undeterred by the fact that he doesn’t have the lambs-blood-dipped knife to kill a djinn (thank you Meredith for the canon continuity!), shoots the djinn in the knee and pisses him off.
The djinn attacks Dean, assuring him (and us) that he won’t hurt Michael’s favorite monkey suit, and reads his mind.
It’s scary and disturbing just like it was in What Is And What Should Never Be (back when Show had the best titles EVER) but just as Dean’s eyes go white, the djinn looks positively stricken and pulls back, clearly shocked.
“You…” he mumbles, as Dean looks equally shocked.
Everyone watching: WHAT THE HELL DID HE SEE????
We don’t get to find out, because Dean channels all that rage we know he’s holding inside and bashes the djinn’s head in. Before he dies, the djinn taunts him, as monsters often do. He’s not the only trap set for hunters – for Dean’s family.
Dean sneers, because you do NOT threaten Dean’s family.
Dean: You don’t know my family.
He kills the djinn, and then empties seven bullets into him too, in a moment chillingly reminiscent of demon or Mark of Cain Dean.
We end the djinn saga with Dean unhooking Sasha’s dad and Sasha contemplating some forgiveness (which I can only hope is forthcoming from the dad as well, otherwise, ouch).
I had a bit of a Sixth Sense moment at this point, trying to make sense of how the Djinn was acting with the Winchesters when he must have believed the whole time that he was dealing with Michael. I did a rewatch (like you have to do after the big reveal in the Sixth Sense) and yes, Glynn and actor Chris Patrick-Simpson were actually able to make it work by having the Djinn determined to play along. Nifty!
Sam and Dean bring Maggie back to the bunker (I refuse to say “home”) and the other AU hunters welcome her with hugs and smiles. Nobody thanks Sam and Dean, and in fact they stand on the sidelines in their own home, looking left out, which hurts my heart.
Dean knows how much Sam needs to hear that gratitude and celebrate a rare rescue.
Dean: You did this. You got her home.
I loved that moment so much, loved that throughout this episode the brothers were entirely tuned into each other and trying to give each other what they need. That’s been consistent for the past few episodes, and I really hope it stays that way. They KNOW each other; they care about each other. It makes sense that, even if it’s in an awkward way or with very few words, that they would try to take care of each other (and not just by stitching up wounds).
I tend to really appreciate the way Glynn characterizes Dean, and this episode is no exception. He almost takes a back seat to Sam, allowing him to exercise his leadership muscles, but he’s right there, paying close attention. Mentoring his little brother silently but effectively. He’s protective, encouraging Sam to sleep and eat and take care of himself, but he’s very gentle about it, without any put-downs. He senses when Sam needs to hear that he’s doing a good job, especially when someone who is NOT a father figure to them but feels like it keeps telling him that he isn’t. I know there are fans who don’t like that Dean is suddenly not the leader and that he was on the sidelines this episode, and let me say that I don’t want it to stay like this either, but I can enjoy a little while of role reversal as long as it gives me insight into Dean’s head space and gives him an important role to play.
The brothers switch back and forth throughout the series, one of them stepping up and the other standing back and supporting, then vice versa. In fact, this episode also wonderfully complements the last episode, in which Sam gets to show his protective side and his knowledge of his brother by taking care of Dean – and getting him out on the road on a hunt he can win. I absolutely love the reciprocity of the brothers’ relationship and how that’s shown in these two back-to-back episodes. It’s subtle but powerful, and much appreciated – I’m talking to you, Davy Perez and Meredith Glynn!
There’s a bit of an apology from AU!Bobby to Sam, after Mary has patched him up and followed Sam’s advice to get Bobby to open up to her a bit. (That patch-up scene was well done on the part of both of the actors, but alas, I just don’t care enough about their relationship for it to have much impact. It’s too disconnected from Sam and Dean and their story at this point).
Bobby tells Sam that he realizes this job is no picnic and that he doesn’t know if he himself ever had it in him – but that Sam does.
And then Bobby and Mary leave. They’re ostensibly going up to Donna’s cabin (you know, the one with the garden gnomes…) so he can recuperate.
At this point, Sam and Dean are stoic about their mother leaving, because that’s pretty much what she does. This time is less onerous, with Mary assuring them that she’s just a half day away and she’s there for them if they need her, and Dean assuring her “Mom, go. Be happy.” There are hugs and pats on the back, and the family theme plays, but it rings sort of hollow for me here. I think – like Sam and Dean – I’ve just watched Mary leave too many times. It can’t feel okay, it can’t not be meaningful, but I fear not in the way Show wants it to be. I just feel…numb. And that makes me sad. Mary coming back had the potential to be such an emotional and powerful story line, but it has never entirely gelled for me.
Ackles and Padalecki are such nuanced actors that we can see Sam and Dean’s ambivalence as they watch their mother leave again too. When Mary hugs Sam, Dean nervously scrubs his hand over his face as he watches. As Mary and Bobby climb the stairs, Sam follows them with his eyes, trying to smile, then nervously glances at Dean as though to reassure himself that his brother is still here with him. It’s those little things that let me know that the actors also realize that Sam and Dean can’t be as okay with this as they’re trying to seem.
It pains me to say that I also don’t feel the way I think Show wants me to feel about AU!Bobby. It could be an interesting thing to explore – how does it feel to have someone who was SO important to you, who was like a father to you, whose death was incredibly painful, back suddenly? And yet not back, because this looks like Bobby and talks like Bobby and is surly like Bobby, but this is NOT Bobby. He doesn’t love Sam and Dean – and I don’t love him. I want to, I do – but I don’t. Why would I? He hasn’t done any of the things that made me love Bobby Singer. It’s almost like Show is saying, love him because I said so, because he looks the same and acts sort of the same. But this Bobby hasn’t earned my love, or even my caring about him.
I was excited about the potential for the AU being a way to bring back beloved characters who I think it was a mistake to kill off, but I’m not sure it really works. Bobby is not Bobby and Charlie is not Charlie. I love having Jim Beaver and Felicia Day on my show, but they are not the characters I loved. Even though I want them to be!
We end with the brothers, because Meredith knows how much this means to me and that this is how Supernatural should always end. They are, praise the lord, still talking to each other openly.
Dean tells Sam that Maggie wants to get out there and hunt again, and Sam is surprised.
Dean: (smiling the proudest big brother smile ever) Well, she learned from the best.
It takes Sam a minute to realize that Dean means him, then he looks down almost shyly, and a trace of a smile crosses his face. Awww Sammy.
They also talk openly about the elephant always in the room – Michael.
Dean: I know, not my fault.
He says he’s been trying to get past what “I…we…HE did” and that he was starting to feel like himself again. Almost.
(Brilliant dialogue here, the progression of those three pronouns perfectly encapsulating Dean’s struggle not to take responsibility for what Michael did!)
Sam: So we work harder.
Dean: How? You only sleep 3 hours a night.
Sam: Then I’ll sleep two!
Me: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Sammy!
Sam: We’re going to find Michael. And when we do, we’ll kill him.
Dean: I hope you’re right.
Neither of them look convinced, and that’s heartbreaking.
The episode didn’t leave me jumping up and down raving about my Show or even feeling happy. It left me wanting desperately to know what’s going on with Dean and what’s in his head (some part of Michael? Some memory that’s so horrific even a djinn can’t stand seeing it?). It left me as fascinated as I’ve been for fourteen years by the way Sam and Dean care about each other, and frustrated with all the people in the bunker who I don’t care about. That’s a familiar combination for this Show, and it feels right – my own emotions about all three of those things let me know that I’m still as passionate about Supernatural as ever. I want the bunker emptier and the cast of characters less like a nameless horde, but I like that this season is spooling out hints about what Michael is really up to and how that is tied up with Dean little by little, and that I legitimately don’t know where that story is going. I love feeling like oooh I can’t wait for next week’s episode, maybe we’ll find out a little more!
The things I’m frustrated about are peripheral story arc problems, not writer problems. Glynn respects and remembers canon, which I greatly appreciate. Sam and Dean feel and act like Sam and Dean. She doesn’t write down to the viewer, letting us be confused about what’s going on just like Sam and Dean are and rarely hitting us over the head with those painful anvils. So kudos to Meredith Glynn for another solid episode that felt like Supernatural. That’s the highest praise I can give.