Last week I was bowled over by the return of Supernatural, with a season premiere that kicked ass in so many ways. That’s always a dangerous place to be for the next episode, so I really should have tried to rein in my expectations a bit. But hey, I was enjoying being in that heady space, so I just dove in without talking myself down. The second episode of Season 12 had more ups and downs than the first.
Alas, there was no Abba despite the title. Instead, the episode started out with the definition of a WTF moment. As in, I was screaming at the television screen, WTF????!!!!! Sure it’s nice to see Jared Padalecki shirtless from time to time, but the fact that he was rolling around the bed with that Nasty Crazy Lady took any possible hotness and extinguished it within a microsecond. Do you think I’m that shallow, Show? That I’ll take some shirtless Sam no matter what the context and not be bothered? That it won’t matter the circumstances?
Look, I’m plenty shallow at times when it comes to this Show, but no. (Jared doing pushups in the workout trailer, on the other hand? Oh hell yes, shallow shallow shallow…) I vacillated between okay-calm-down-this-clearly-isn’t-real and but-omg-what-if-it-is because a redemption arc for Lady Toni is my nightmare right now. I might actually mean that literally.
We’re not left wondering too long, thankfully, and sure enough, it’s not real. It’s more of Nasty Crazy Lady’s psychological torture, this time enhanced by some spell work. It’s also creepy as all hell.
Luckily, I hadn’t seen this tweet earlier in the day: Tonight on Supernatural – rock, romance and reunions. Tune in!
My timeline immediately lets me know about it though, because a substantial portion of the fandom was rather dismayed by it. This most definitely wasn’t romance and it most definitely was not consensual, whether it was a hallucination or not, and that makes it all really creepy. I understand that tweet was meant as an exhortation to get people to watch by intentionally misleading them, but eww. I felt sick to my stomach last week from the graphic torture and Jared’s amazing acting during it, and there I was right back to that awful feeling. For more than one reason this time! I’m going to have to start watching Supernatural with a box of tissues and a bottle of Pepto Bismol.
Nasty Crazy Lady’s snarky suggestive ‘Was it good for you?’ turned my stomach even more.
Have I mentioned my nightmare??
That creepy scene over, we’re back to physical torture again, which most definitely did not help my poor tummy. Though once again, good job Show – this time on the make up effects!
And then we bounce to Mary and Dean, which was a tremendous relief. They’re dealing with family awkwardness, but that I can take. I enjoyed Dean desperately trying to confide in Cas and get some advice (though I’m not sure why he thought Cas would be the one to ask about family communication problems) — but Cas actually gives him some!
Cas: You humans tend to make everything needlessly complicated.
So true. And so very Supernatural.
I was glad to hear Mary open up to Dean a little, expressing her guilt that “I started all of this” and worrying about how she’ll face Sam. Canon, yay! (Though does Dean even know what she did? Did we miss her explaining it to him?)
We learn that John really was a good dad before his life turned upside down, which is heartbreaking, and we hear more of Mary’s ambivalence about hunting. And yet, she is clearly still a hunter. As much as she tried to get away from the life, it’s still her identity. Already she’s back in hunter mode, and unapologetic about it.
Dean is clearly struggling with reconciling this flesh and blood version of his mom with the mom of his four-year-old’s memories, and with how to tell her about what happened after she died to her husband and sons.
I love that we get more glimpses of just how much Dean is like his mother, which has always been a mainstay of fanfiction – so I’m delighted to see that in canon!
Dean: I can’t do my job if I’m worried about you.
Mary: You don’t have to worry about me. Okay, good talk.
Dean: Oh boy.
We definitely see where Dean gets it. How many times has he used that ‘okay good talk’ routine on Sam as he walks away?
And later –
Mary: I’m your mother, you have to do what I say.
Didn’t Dean use that same line on Sammy, with I’m the oldest?
I enjoyed all the Dean and Mary scenes, including the one where Dean tries to explain to Mary what we all know so well.
Dean: When Dad disappeared, Sam and I looked around, and something became very clear. The only thing we had in the world, besides this car, was each other.
Supernatural in a nutshell. I hope Mary gets it because I certainly do.
I was happy to see Rowena again in this episode because I’m basically always happy to see Rowena and Ruth Connell grace my screen. She’s back to her old tricks, i.e.,. taking care of Rowena. When we got some Crowley and Rowena together I was even happier (and woah, did Mark Sheppard look dapper or what?) I can listen to Rowena and Fergus go back and forth forever, both of the actors so good at inferring there’s more to their relationship than just simple hatred.
Have to say that most people were confused by the whole Lucifer can’t be sent back to the cage while he’s in a vessel thing, though. Doesn’t that conflict with Swan Song??
Rick Springfield was another high point of the episode – this whole Lucifer as rockstar thing has a real Anne Rice Vampire Lestat vibe to it, which I love. Tom Wright pulled a fabulous acting performance out of Springfield – he really made me feel his agony and unresolved grief. Anyone else get Nick vibes as Lucifer once again picked out a vulnerable, grief-stricken man who would be willing to say yes to someone looking just like the woman he lost?
His confrontation with Crowley and Rowena was well played, full of suspense, though once again I was wishing for the Pepto when Rick Springfield’s face melted right off. Kudos, VFX team, but ewww!
Poor Rowena, so close to making her escape and running off to live a life of being pampered, is once again a captive. This time of Lucifer himself.
Finally, halfway through the episode, Dean and Mary and Cas head out to save Sammy – because my stomach cannot take much more of this!
Misha got some of the best lines of the episode, like this one –
Cas: You brought your mother?
Unfortunately Dean steps on something magic and gets himself captured, and now Crazy Nasty Lady has two Winchesters to torture.
But that’s not the worst of it. Not even close. The worst of it is, this is the reunion scene we have all been waiting to see since last May. This is Sam FINALLY knowing that his brother is not dead. This is Sam and Dean having the most epic bro hug in the history of epic bro hugs….oh wait.
That is not what happens. In fact, almost nothing happens. Sam blinks a few times, and Jared gamely tries to make us see the gravity of his realization that his brother is alive, but he’s given no dialogue and no time to communicate any of that at all. I sat there cursing out loud for so long that the rest of the family thought I’d stubbed my toe and was in agony or something – until I started yelling about being effing cheated, and then they knew it was Supernatural.
Seriously, Show???? THAT is the Sam and Dean reunion you give us? After all this time???
I’m calmer now, so I’m going to move on. But it’s hard.
Nasty Crazy Lady decides to torture Dean because she is smart enough to know that the best way to break one of the Winchesters is to torture the other. By this time, I’m begging for some Pepto (unsuccessfully, alas). She taunts both of them, and at this point she is seeming to absolutely delight in causing them pain – and if anyone even mentions the word redemption around me, I’m going to lose it.
Luckily Mary Effing Winchester comes to the rescue, and though I was spoiled for that, which reduced the impact, it still felt really good to hear her tell Crazy Nasty Lady to get away from her boys. Nice nod to previous canon also.
There’s a fight scene that’s well done, and Dean gets to show some smarts, so yay!
Dean: Turns out this ape did read a book or two…
Just when you think the Winchesters have FINALLY prevailed, the other Men of Letters dude appears, trying to convince everyone that he’s a good guy. Which thankfully the Winchesters don’t seem to be buying. He insists they will deal with Crazy Nasty Lady, who apparently wasn’t even following orders exactly – she just enjoyed torture that much, apparently – and make sure she faces consequences.
Dean: You could take a walk, and she can face those consequences now.
But no. They leave, and the Winchesters and Cas go back to the bunker.
Misha got another fabulous line here too.
Cas: I don’t sweat under any circumstances.
And then they’re outta there.
Most of us were spoiled for a bunker scene with the photo of Dean with pie all over his face and the three Winchesters around the table. I would usually love a scene like that. But with what came before? Sam’s horrific torture, the lack of any Sam and Dean reunion conversation let alone a hug, the disgusting rapey mind control sex thing….it was all too much. I couldn’t suddenly make the transition to a scene played for laughs; it just felt stilted. I get that Mary would want to ‘mother’ her grown-up boys, and Dean’s love of pie is one of the continuities they can all cling to. But even Jensen’s adorable pie-smeared face, which would usually make me smile, fell a bit flat for me. (Though Jensen is often so thoughtful about such things that maybe he played it purposely that way, with Dean desperately trying to be the comic relief that will ease things for his traumatized brother and mother. That sounds like Dean, doesn’t it? I’m gonna go with that. It may be giving these writers too much credit, but I wouldn’t put it past the actors. They can pull off miracles.)
The awful “hey this is funny” music playing over the scene most definitely did not help.
The last few scenes were the strongest of the episode, largely because Jared Padalecki and Samantha Smith once again knocked it out of the park. Sam comes to see Mary, bringing her a cup of tea. Jared portrays Sam’s awkward earnestness so well here, it’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Sam, who has never known his mother, is finally getting a chance. He doesn’t have the ambivalence that Dean does – the memories of another mother that he’s held onto for so long, that don’t mesh completely with the flesh and blood mother he has now. Sam doesn’t remember his mother and never thought he’d get to have a mother. Never thought he’d get to BE mothered. It makes me tear up just thinking about it.
Sam wants desperately to connect with her, and he brings her what he thinks can help. Because Sam is empathic and caring. He’s just been through a horrible trauma, but he’s thinking of his mother and her own trauma instead of his own. He brings her John’s journal, saying that it helped him when he felt lost, that it “helps keep him with us.”
Oh, my heart!
Sam: I know what it’s like to come back and not feel like you really fit.
Mary: I have a lot of blanks to fill in.
They talk about hunting, and we get to hear Sam affirm his identity as a hunter, as Dean has also done.
Sam: This is my family. My family hunts, it’s what we do.
Before he goes, he turns to tell Mary something important – to her and to us.
Sam: You being here, that fills in the biggest blank for me.
I needed tissues then, instead of Pepto. Mary hugs her son, and Sam clings to her, all 6 foot 4 of him, and it’s absolutely beautiful.
Then I remember that I didn’t get that same sort of hug between the brothers, and my heart aches all over again.
And there’s Dean, alone, sitting on the floor of the kitchen, family photos spread out around him. Mary and Sam are connecting, reunited and helping each other through their respective traumas. Figuring out where they fit. Dean seems cut off from both of them, trying to make sense of who he is in the context of this new version of family. Clowning with pie on his mouth instead of talking seriously or reaching out for that hug he clearly needs as much as his brother and his mother.
Where are those tissues??
We end with the Big Bad of the season being introduced, but I end up caring more about what’s happening with the Winchesters. I need a little time to get over my own trauma, to grieve what I needed Show to give me in order to heal myself and didn’t get.
And I’m stocking up on the Pepto Bismol and the tissues before Supernatural next week – just in case.