I really enjoyed last week’s Supernatural episode, which feels really good to say. I don’t like not loving episodes – it makes me feel like my entire universe is somehow tilted in a wrong direction – so it’s almost a relief when Show comes back with an episode that I can thoroughly enjoy. From the very first scenes, I loved the look of it – the dark and dimly lit, atmospheric quality that it had. In some ways, it was very much an old school Supernatural episode, dark (literally) and full of twists and turns and Winchesters on a hunt for something personally important to them.
Struggling with conflicting ideas of what’s right and wrong and whether the ends justify the means and struggling with their own faith in the face of overwhelming odds and too many losses. All the while teasing each other in the easy way that brothers who know they have each others’ backs no matter what can do – and knowing when the other doesn’t need teasing, but listening and empathy, and giving it freely. All that was in this episode, together with a double-triple (quadruple?) game of Clue with the Winchesters in the middle. Thank you, Bob Singer and Andrew Dabb, for writing such a satisfying episode.
I’ve come to like Amanda Tapping’s directing very much – she doesn’t rush, allows us to revel in the gorgeous lighting and cinematography that Serge Ladouceur and his team invariably bring, and to savor the beauty of the actors onscreen too. Chris Lennertz added a unique score that underscored the feeling that we were back in time throughout the episode, giving it a surreal noir feel that made it both fun and quirky. I like fun and quirky.
With Castiel tracking down clues in Syria (did he have to fly there?) Sam is in research mode, which is also old school, and Dean tired of pizza and wryly noting that the internet is not just for porn, Avenue Q classic aside. So off they go to try to find the blood of a saint, which leads them to a lady named Margaret (Leanne Lapp) who also looks like she’s right out of another era. All the set dec reinforced that feeling, with old hotels full of potted palms and flocked wallpaper and sconces for lighting – I felt like we were in the Tower of Terror ride lobby at Disney! (That is a very positive association for me…I love that ride…) Margaret definitely appreciates what a handsome man Sam Winchester is, for which I totally could not blame her – also Jared’s acting as Sam literally jumps when she unexpectedly (and pointedly) lays her hand over his on the table was A+. He quickly clues in and uses her attraction to his benefit. Also A+. Smart Sammy. Dean, on the other hand, definitely does not appreciate Margaret’s blatant appreciation of his little brother, which of course Jensen conveys with just his facial expressions. Eyeroll much, Dean?
Dean gets to turn the tables when the young woman in the coffee shop who’s a fan of “the Supernatural” clearly appreciates Dean – but Sam nips that in the bud by calling Dean over to do more research. Classic early season Supernatural!
The next player is Richard Greenstreet (Dominic Burgess), who loves his donuts – which aren’t actually donuts apparently but – krapfen? That sounds like a joke, I know, but that’s what the internet tells me. With jam inside? Yes, please. It looks like Dean might want one too, if him licking his lips is any indication. (Also, it’s the little things that bring Dean to life so vividly).
Anyway, the boys are ostensibly from Rhode Island and stumble right into the oldest trick in the book for some reason, ‘Did you know the Mansion twins?’. Or was it the Manchin twins? I couldn’t figure out if it was some kind of Rhode Island housing reference or a shout out to post production ninja Mary Manchin. Anyone?
At any rate, Greenstreet is a jerk who criticizes the Winchesters’ Montgomery Ward suits (talk about going back in time…) and cheap ties. That just reminded me of what we love about them, though. Sam and Dean are working class heroes, and that makes them different. I have the urge to stick my tongue out at Mr. Greenstreet right then. He proposes a little chicanery; Dean looks to Sam to see if that’s a good thing or not and then seamlessly goes with it when Sam nods (I usually want Smart!Dean 24/7, but in all fairness, that’s a pretty old fashioned word…) Also, I love when Winchester non-verbal communication works so perfectly.
And that brings them to the next player on the Clue board, mobster Scarpatti (Al Sapienza). Greenstreet wants the skull of St. Peter and then will give the boys the blood of Saint…. Ignatius (he totally paused there, boys, just sayin…kinda a clue…) in return.
Sam and Dean leave arguing about whether stooping to thievery is right or wrong (not that they haven’t depended on theft of some kind for a long time), and Dean takes the moral stance of not being perfect and not expecting himself to be and therefore, in a sense, the ends justify the means. It’s sort of the stance that Cas took last episode too, and clearly an ongoing theme of the latter half of Season 13.
Sam: So this is what we’ve come to? Thieves?
Dean: Hey, you want the blood, right? Besides, the thing’s already stolen.
Sam: Really? That’s your rationale?
Dean: Well, I’m not perfect, and by the way, neither are you, okay? So, what, now you’re above a little…chicanery?
(Dean looks so proud of himself that he’s learned that new word, btw)
Dean: Look, this isn’t a perfect world we’re trying to save, okay? And if I’m not perfect trying to save it, so be it. Come on, you with me or not?
Sam is, but not happily. The old fashioned tune “Accentuate the positive…” starts to play as the Winchesters get in the car and drive away.
Next player is Antonio someone, who doesn’t have a big part because he’s already dead when the Winchesters find him. The Patricia Hotel is another beautiful set by Jerry Wanek and company that looks like it’s been frozen in time (and could be the lobby of the Tower of Terror). No sooner do Sam and Dean mutter a “what the hell” than a gruff guy appears and orders them to cuff themselves to the radiator. The Winchesters are not very intimidated by Mr. Fake Cop (which they realize immediately) even when they’re cuffed to the radiator, which earns Dean a gun to the temple and makes me need a cold drink.
It’s all sort of Clue-meets-Murder on the Orient Express and at this point, who knows what’s going on! Luckily with this show, I like that.
Once Mr. Fake Cop is gone, Sam immediately whips out a lock pick, much to Dean’s glee.
Dean (grinning like a schoolboy with more than a little big brother pride) Look at you, you’re like a Boy Scout. You’re always prepared.
Sam: Yeah, and you’re like…like uh…. I don’t know what you’re like…
Dean: (still grinning) Yeah!
Me: (grinning even wider than the Winchesters)
As they walk back to the car, Dean uses the word “whack,” and Sam gives him an eyeroll.
Dean: (defensively) That’s mob talk.
Oh Dean, I do love you.
They’re intercepted by some of Scarpatti’s mobsters, who order Sam and Dean into the Impala and demand the keys. OMG, the look on Dean’s face when he had to hand them over was positively murderous!
Guy: Nice car.
Dean: (practically growling) Yeah. Enjoy…
Me: Oh you’re so gonna die…
Now we’re in a scene from The Godfather complete with lap cat and opera music, and Sam and Dean look damn good in all that red opulence.
Scarpatti: If you were to get whacked now…
Dean: (looks pointedly at Sam to say I told you so)
I loved that moment – such a small thing, but so indicative of who Sam and Dean are. Their personalities came through so strongly in this episode – they weren’t cardboard cutouts of the characters I love, they were Sam and Dean, the characters I fell in love with!
Dean keeps mouthing off to the mobster who could blow them away, and Sam keeps telling him to shut up, and it’s all just glorious. Dean is all like look, I’ve been to hell, I’ve been a demon, you don’t scare me…
Me: Where is that cold drink??
Scarpatti: You say that to me, here? You got a set on you, pal!
Me: NO REALLY WHERE IS THAT COLD DRINK??
The Winchesters leave still in one piece and go in search of the key, and we’re back to the Clue game. These are beautiful scenes, smart stealthy boys in their form fitting long coats, shadowy shots and and dramatic music.
Dean sends Sam to search one of the hotel rooms, saying “the key is in that room, I can feel it.”
Sam (as soon as Dean is out of earshot, imitating Dean) I can feel it… Why didn’t you say so?
When Sam at first doesn’t find anything, he just repeats his brother’s annoying insistence “Really Dean, you can feel it?”
Until he gets whacked on the head after finding a piece of paper with a code on it, that is. Ouch. Dean comes looking for his brother soon after, bursting into the room and then seeing Sam lying on the floor.
Dean: Sam! Sammy!
Me: (squeeful) Nothing says Supernatural like Dean going all big brother protective and calling his 6’5” brother “Sammy.”
Dean checks his pulse, and then when Sam is on his feet again, he actually gives voice to what most of us worry about every time Sam gets hit on the head, asking him if he’s sure he’s okay.
Dean: Sure you’re not drowsy? How many fingers am I holding up?
Sam: I’m fine.
When he’s satisfied that Sam is indeed okay, Dean reverts to teasing again.
Dean: Okay, I’m just sayin’, you’re taking a lot of shots to the head lately. I mean, I know that Disney Princess hair gives you some padding, but…
Sam bats his brother’s hand away, because some things never change. Luckily.
Down an alley, shadowy figures with guns, dramatic music, all so very noir – the boys find a man knocked out, who turns out to be Father Lucca (Massi Furlan). I loved this guy; I have to say. Sometimes this show can create a memorable side character just in one episode, and that was the case with Fr. Lucca. What he says to the boys could easily have been over the top, but somehow the actor totally sold it, at least for me.
Fr. Lucca: Imagine you woke up and this thing you love was just gone….what would you do?
If that question isn’t something the Winchesters can relate to, I don’t know what is.
Sam: Try to get it back.
Dean doesn’t buy into what the Father is saying at first, saying that the world is a screwed up place, and basically there’s not much you can do about it. But Fr. Lucca isn’t having it.
Father: So change it.
Dean: (whose optimism has been sorely tested over the course of the last two decades) Yeah, good luck with that.
Father: It’s not about luck, son. It’s about effort. All the time, I hear people saying the world’s not perfect, and they’re right, it’s not. But do you use that as an excuse? Do you use it to excuse your own sins? Your failings and your laziness? Do you use it to give a bad man power because the world’s not perfect? Or do you work? Do you try and improve things in whatever way you can? Guys, the world will never be perfect. But if good men do good things, it can be better. Every day can get better.
That’s a pretty powerful message, and one the Winchesters sorely need to believe. It’s essentially the story of their lives – two good men trying, against all odds, to make the world a little bit better.
Sam gets it and decides to help get the skull back to Father Lucca and the sisters. Dean, however, needs some convincing. But Sam (knowing his brother as well as he does) figures out the perfect analogy to help him along.
Sam to Dean: if someone took the Impala, what would you do?
Dean: (looking shocked) Murder. I’d murder them all.
Sam: Right. My point being I don’t want a dick like Greenstreet or Scarpatti to win, not this time.
Dean: There’d be torture first. A lot of torture. And then it would end up in death. If I can’t have it, nobody can.
Sam: Were you even listening to what I was saying? (waves his hand in front of Dean’s face, to no avail)
Sam: What did I say?
Dean: no response
Sam huffs and walks away, but he’s gotten through to Dean anyway. Into the Impala they go, to try to get that skull back for Father Lucca and maybe double cross someone into getting the blood of a most holy man too.
Another beautiful scene, with lots of atmo smoke as Margaret arrives at the meeting place too.
Dean: (snarkily) Oh look, it’s your girlfriend…
She is not a nice lady (despite having good taste in men) and disses her henchman, which is probably not a good idea, just sayin’. The music in this scene is absolutely motion picture worthy, so perfect and so dramatic – it all comes together beautifully.
Sam Effing Winchester, brave man that he is, walks right into the lion’s den with a briefcase full of cash and gets in on the bidding war between Scarpatti and Greenstreet. Margaret is all too happy to let him in. And why not? He’s so damn ballsy, waltzing in with his briefcase and announcing “I’m here to buy.”
The men all write down what they’re offering, and maybe Sam should have just written “ME” on his piece of paper because I have a feeling Margaret would have declared him the winner and I would not blame her.
Meanwhile, Dean and the Father have a little talk about God and how neither of them expects him to swoop in and save the day, but an interventionist God isn’t what the Father is counting on.
Father: I didn’t mean that God would reach down and protect us, of course that’s not going to happen. But I believe that all good things are God’s things. And what your brother is doing, it’s a good thing.
Dean: Yeah, or a stupid thing…
Father: Or both. Many times they can be the same.
Especially for the Winchesters!
I think that little conversation gave Dean some real food for thought – he’s been feeling so betrayed and let down by Chuck’s abandonment, he hasn’t been thinking of doing good as something that is “God’s thing.”
The Father and Dean are endearing working together.
Father to mobster: Excuse me.
Mobster: What are you doing?
Father: Creating a distraction.
Dean: (as he chokes the man out) (eyeroll)
A lot of Winchester badassery then ensues, with a gunfight worthy of the best classic film and complete with a kickass musical score of religious music to make it both surreal and strangely beautiful and a nice homage to films that have done the same. Dean comes in guns blazing, wielding double fisted handguns, slow motion bullets flying and people going down, the Father saving Dean and getting grazed in the process, but the good guys prevail.
Father (to Dean, who doesn’t believe in miracles): It’s a miracle!
Sam and Dean confront Greenstreet, who it turns out never had the blood they needed to begin with. Shockingly.
Dean has the last word with Greenstreet, along with a punch to the jaw.
Dean: Chicane this!
It really didn’t matter that I saw it coming that the Father was actually the “most holy man” whose blood they needed – I loved it anyway.
“We all have faith in something,” Father Lucca reminds them.
He made my eyes water, not gonna lie.
The episode ends as all episodes should, with Sam and Dean having a broment, this time at home in the bunker.
Dean: C’mon, I know that look, what’s on your mind?
Sam: You ever feel like we’re doing nothing but playing defense? You know, bouncing from one apocalypse to the next?
Dean: Well, it’s not exactly our call.
Sam: I know that, and I’m not saying we don’t do good. But no matter how many people we save, there will be more people that need saving, no matter how many monsters we kill…
Dean: There’s always gonna be another one around the corner.
I think Sam was hit really hard with that bad guy letting him know that the monsters they’ve seen, and the ones they fight, are only the tip of a very large iceberg. I think that’s been weighing on Sam a lot, the source of some of his hopelessness recently. It’s powerful here how Dean knows this is serious and this time doesn’t let Sam brush it off. Instead, he encourages Sam to open up, and Sam does – I feel like Sam really needed that encouragement, after what he said to Rowena about knowing Dean would listen, and yet not talking to him about his doubts and fears.
And Dean gives Sam something important here – he finishes Sam’s sentence for him, so that Sam knows that Dean 100% gets it. He knows exactly how Sam feels – they are, literally, in this together. That encourages Sam to keep going, since he feels understood.
Sam: You think we could ever change things? I mean, really change things. You know, stop all the monsters, all the bad…
Dean doesn’t scoff, doesn’t blow it off, doesn’t say anything smartass. He knows that’s not what Sam needs right now. Instead, he just agrees. He just stays there with Sam, sits with that emotion right along with him.
Dean: That would be nice.
Sam’s simple response is an acknowledgment that Dean has given him what he needed, that he can move on a little.
Sam: So what are you thinking? Think that’ll work?
Dean: (pondering, and rubbing his lip in a way that totally distracted me) I have faith.
It’s just what Sam needs to hear, and thanks to his conversations with the Father, I think Dean believes that. He doesn’t specify faith in what, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was faith in them. In Sam and Dean and in Cas and Mary and Jack. In good people trying to do good things who can actually make the world better.
Dean’s eyes were wet, and so were mine.
Jared and Jensen both let so much emotion come through in this understated but powerful scene – they are both so good at being vulnerable enough to let the genuine emotion just come through, in the expression in their eyes, a subtle gesture, their tone of voice. It is brilliant – they are brilliant — and it gets me every single time.
This episode puts ‘Good Intentions’ into perspective, and that episode makes more sense with this one as a follow up. They needed to think about what’s important, whether the ends justifies the means, whether “good intentions” are enough. I can’t wait to see how this plays out going forward as the story arcs come together for the last eight episodes of the season (after we’ve had our long anticipated Scoobynatural fun!)
I ended this episode the way I love ending episodes – sniffling and smiling at the same time, and feeling like I’d just spent the past hour with the Winchesters. All the little things that let me know this was Sam and Dean, those characters I fell in love with so long ago. I recognized them, my heart and my head both recognized them. They weren’t cardboard cutouts, they were fully fleshed out and real and wonderfully familiar – and that made all the difference.
I had a feeling I would like this episode, since both Jensen and Jared had talked about it at the Orlando convention. I had said to Jensen that I hadn’t felt like we’d seen a lot of Sam and Dean being brothers this season, and he told me he thought I’d enjoy this particular episode – that it was the boys teaming up to search for something and there was a lot of teasing each other, very old school SPN. (He knows me a little, I guess…) Jared also talked about filming this episode at that convention.
Jared: The writers kinda write how we behave. They roll cameras, and we’re still messing around. The episode right now we’re teasing each other, we’re having fun, we’re making fun of each other. It’s a very Butch Cassidy and Sundance kind of episode.
And it was! The actors seemed to enjoy filming it too, which came through in their teasing. I like to try and figure out which scenes aren’t scripted in every episode, and if I’m remembering correctly, some of that Dean-thinks-about-someone-taking-the-Impala scene wasn’t entirely scripted – which was totally my guess! Invariably I end up dying over those scenes when they let the boys just do what they do so well and it turns out hysterical.
Now we have a mini hiatus again, and when the Show returns, it’s time for “Scoobynatural!” I love it when Show takes a risk and ‘goes there,’ so I can’t wait.
Check out the trailer for Supernatural’s Scoobynatural 1316 episode above.