This week’s Supernatural “Ladies Drink Free” episode saw the return of Claire Novak (Kathryn Newton), who is a controversial character for the fandom. I was excited just to have the Show back on the air after a mini hiatus, so my expectations were somewhere in the middle — but I was in a good mood just to be able to watch. I ended up enjoying the episode, though it won’t go down in history as one of my all time favorites.
The opening scene was notable for its scariness factor, and also for the acknowledgment of what everyone is asking the characters in every single horror movie. That, of course, didn’t keep the brother and sister from being attacked by the creepy mask-wearing werewolf. That’s a new one, werewolves in masks! I guess that’s a smarter than average werewolf.
Soon Sam and Dean are summoned to the Men of Letters headquarters, and I may have squealed a little bit just to have Ackles and Padalecki back on my tv screen, looking mighty fine. Dean is still clearly not really on board, especially not with the whole ‘reporting for duty’ thing. And especially if they keep him waiting! I was glad to hear Dean say that out loud because we all knew that wouldn’t sit well with Dean. Thanks, Meredith Glynn, for putting it in words. I was also very glad to hear Mick admit that if Mary and Sam hadn’t been there, he would be dead too – finally, someone admitting that SAM saved the day and killed the alpha vampire! More thanks to the writer.
Dean is also not down with Mick wanting to come along on the hunt, claiming that you can’t learn to hunt from reading a book. This has been the season of Sam prevailing, though, and once again Dean goes along with what his brother wants. I know some fans have been clamoring for a more equal partnership between the brothers for a long time, but I think it’s certainly there now. I like to think that Dean will still struggle with it from time to time, because being the big brother is ingrained in him (and I don’t ever want him to lose that, it’s a big part of why I watch the show) – but he absolutely respects Sam as an equal. They’re at a good place this season – they trust each other, respect each other, value each other’s intellect and strength. Would I like a little more emotion shown between them? Absolutely. But they are definitely a team, often speaking for each other with ‘we’ instead of ‘I’.
Dean isn’t amused that Sam finds some things to like about the BMoL, and I find that amusing.
Mick: Kendrick’s is the largest collection of occult lore in the world.
Sam: Cool! (Turning to Dean to share his glee)
If words could kill, seriously.
I laughed out loud. Sometimes I almost forget what a treasure it is having Ackles and Padalecki on this show – they can take a small scene like this one and make it into something hysterically funny, or heartbreakingly sad. Sometimes just with a look. This was one of those moments.
In fact, Dean is not amused at all every time Sam shows any enthusiasm for the way the BMoL do things. It’s endearingly like Dean and Mick are fighting over Sam’s loyalties, which warms my heart. I need to see more emotion between the brothers, Show, but this will suffice for now. Sam gets to do a lot of shaking his head, but there’s a fondness to it that I also appreciate.
Dean has to endure podcasts in the Impala and Mick in the backseat, and it’s during the drive that Sam and Dean learn that the BMoL have been killing whatever they deem as monsters indiscriminately, even ones who might not have done anything bad. Sam and Dean protest, citing Garth as an example of a so-called monster who can keep it in check, but Mick is not convinced. They are then conveniently distracted by arriving at their destination, but the conversation seems to foreshadow what fandom has been expecting for some time – the Winchesters will eventually part ways with the BMoL over this very issue. Sam and Dean started out also thinking in black and white, but over the years they’ve realized that not all monsters hurt people.
I actually tweeted #alwaysshadeesofgray after that conversation, before Dean makes it explicit a bit later in the episode. I love that about Supernatural and am once again thrilled to have it acknowledged in actual dialogue (and without the help of anvils either). Thank you once again, Meredith!
The “3-star hotel” scene was also glorious. Dean’s glee about the “little shampoo bottles” was so very Dean – it always makes him look like a five-year-old no matter how old either he or Ackles get. I also love that neither of the Winchesters was all that thrilled about the separate rooms, though – they do their best work in their shared hotel rooms!
Has Ackles already said that Dean grabbing a fist full of the free hotel mints and trying to shove them in his jacket was an ad lib? My money is on it if not. Never change, Dean.
I love all those little reminders of the sort of life the Winchesters have to live off the grid. They don’t allow themselves luxuries, but on those rare occasions when they can have a taste of some “luxury”, Dean grabs for it with both hands. That also explains his dip in the pool, sans bathing suit.
FAIL, SHOW, FAIL! Where is this footage???
Sam’s face was pretty priceless though as he contemplates the image. Which Dean clearly enjoys way too much.
The Winchesters and Mick visit the surviving werewolf attack victim in the hospital, getting competitive about who gets to talk to her and her distraught mom. Mick wins out by pretending to be a doctor – he is a rather quick study, even adopting a Fleetwood Mac alias himself.
But then he flat out lies to Sam and Dean about the girl being bitten, and uh oh. We can see where this is going. Sure enough, Mick goes back and kills her, but Adam Fergus does a good job of foreshadowing the not black and white speech Dean’s going to end up giving him. It’s his first kill by his own hand, and it’s clearly not as easy as he thought it was going to be.
Meanwhile, Claire has been working the same werewolf case. And she’s also lying – to Jody. There are so many lies in this season it makes my head spin! Dean calls her on the phone she’s using for cases, doing his best impression of Yogi Bear, which cracked me up (and was probably a lot of fun for Ackles). They meet up and catch up over a beer (which Dean won’t let Claire drink). Claire insists Jody is fine with her hunting alone and too busy anyway, which clearly neither of the Winchesters are buying. Dean’s still pissed about Sam’s enthusiasm for Mick and the BMoL too, much to my continued amusement.
Dean: Oh he’s Sam’s best friend. They’re like nerd soulmates.
Me: Soulmates! Nope. That’s already been settled on Supernatural.
Sam just rolls his eyes at his brother.
Mick lies again to Sam and Dean the next day, but that’s okay because we get a treat – we get Smart!Dean, my absolute favorite flavor! I adored Dean interrogating Mick as they’re supposed to be interrogating the bartender with the tattoos, clearly knowing he’s lying.
And then grabbing him by the hurt shoulder he’s trying to hide and slamming him up against the wall. Damn! Badass!Dean, wait, that’s my favorite flavor!
This episode kept reminding me of early Supernatural episodes, almost like I was having flashbacks. That pinch to the wounded shoulder threw me back to Born Under A Bad Sign, when possessed Sam does the same thing to Dean (who has been shot in the shoulder). That was one of the episodes that sold me on this show, so intense and so superbly acted.
Like I said, I loved Dean letting Mick know in no uncertain terms that this is NOT black and white, and not letting him off the hook. He tells it like it is: you killed that girl. That mother lost two children.
Dean: All you have is a case in front of you. But here’s a little tip – things aren’t just black and white out here.
Dean brings up Magda too, who Sam and Dean think they spared to go live her life. Mick, of course, knows that Mr. Ketch executed her. I wonder when the Winchesters will find out about that??
We also get some Badass!Dean dealing with the jerk of a bartender guy, who seems to think it’s perfectly fine to be grabby and disrespectful to “girls like that”. Dean getting in his face and warning him never to touch Claire again or “I’ll break your face!” was not only hot has hell, but made me want to jump up and yell YES! You tell him, Dean! Dean has come a long way in more ways than one.
Sam, meanwhile, is attempting a heart to heart with Claire, where he sounds oh so reasonable, and she isn’t having it. Calling Sam an old skeezer seemed like a low blow (and didn’t endear the character to Sam fans…), but nobody who’s struggling to be seen as an adult likes being called childish I suppose. Sam nevertheless tries to convince Claire to tell Jody the truth.
Claire: Stop treating me like a stupid kid!
Sam: Then stop acting like one!
Predictably, Claire has a tantrum and runs off (with headphones on….definitely a rookie hunter move, Claire) and, as we suspected would happen, gets bitten by the werewolf. Sam comes running just a moment too late and drops to his knees to gather Claire into his arms, frantically checking to see if she was bitten. Jared did an amazing job in this scene, conveying Sam’s desperate hope and then the moment he realizes with horror and despair that she was. I guess I’m thinking a lot about early SPN recently, because this scene reminded me of another of my most unforgettable scenes – when Dean arrives similarly a moment too late to save Sam in AHBL, gathering him up and having a similar crushing realization as he checks Sam’s injuries and feels all the blood. They even say the same things, murmuring “I gotcha, I gotcha”. Ouch. My flashback invested the scene with even more emotion.
The next scene was one of the strongest, as Claire begs to be killed, saying she knows she won’t be able to keep from hurting someone and she refuses to take that chance. I liked Claire more than ever in this scene, and Kathryn Newton did a great job – Claire demonstrates that maturity that she’s been struggling with, along with palpable emotion. Some of my own emotional reaction is also due to Padalecki and Ackles, who look absolutely devastated about what has happened. They’re both such good actors that the pain on those handsome faces just seeps right into me – pretty sure I had a similarly pained expression in empathy.
Dean: (desperately) You can live with this.
Claire: No, I can’t.
Cue the sad sad music, and me fumbling for the tissues.
Sam and Dean are a united front against Mick at this point, nearly speaking in unison.
Dean: Back off!
Sam: Shut up!
Sam: (steely) You killed a kid. We’re not angry; we’re done.
Sam, super smart geeky research boy that he is, makes all that staying up reading pay off – the BMoL did have a cure for this, at least in mice. It killed 9 out of 10, in agony, but at least there’s a chance.
My twitter timeline always adds to the fun.
Astroglide: (who often wins the best tweet contest hands down): You know what sounds like a terrible idea? Were-mice.
Anyway, Dean says absolutely not, it’s too risky (though really Dean, how risky are the other options?) But Claire wants to do it. Kudos to Meredith Glynn for the next little interchange, as they try to decide whether to risk it.
Dean to Claire: You don’t get a vote in this.
Claire: It’s my life. I get ALL the votes.
Damn right. And another thank you to Glynn.
Dean wants to disagree, but Sam backs Claire up, and Dean reluctantly goes along. (Once again, that’s a theme this season. Dean is as emotional and passionate as ever, but he can also listen to other viewpoints and hear them. And he’s capable of understanding when his knee-jerk reaction, his long ingrained need to protect those he loves, is not the right way to go. That, right there, is character growth. Character growth that’s realistic and not superhuman miraculous)
Adam Fergus also did a great job in this scene of showing us Mick’s in-episode evolution. He’s still torn between what his orders are and the way the BMoL have always done things, but the Winchesters are already teaching him. Dean leaves Claire with Mick along with a threat that nobody has any doubt he’ll carry out if needed, but you get the feeling that Mick is also rooting for Claire at this point. He killed one young girl; I don’t think he wants to do that again.
Sam and Dean head out to find the werewolf sire. I love that at first they rough up the wrong guy – just because he has tats doesn’t mean he’s the bad guy! (Also, that guy’s gonna have some gigantic therapy bills after this.)
Unfortunately, that means the real bad guy is grabbing Claire out from under the hapless Mick and taking her back to his place to turn her. She manages not to gulp down the nice juicy fresh heart he tries to force on her (ewww, Kathryn Newton you’re a brave soul…) and while the dialogue in this scene didn’t ring true to me (really? Claire takes the time to wittily call the bad guy ‘Teen Wolf’ in the middle of all this?) I was intrigued with what we learned. The werewolf and his pack were peaceful until the BMoL started wholesale killing them. How much worse are they making things in the US? This is a lesson the Winchesters learned a long time ago, but I wonder if this will poke a substantial hole in Mary’s argument that they’re “doing so much good.” Maybe not.
The Winchesters and Mick track Claire down thanks to a bug in her pocket, there’s a fight scene that’s as well choreographed as all the fight scenes in Supernatural, Dean defends himself from were!Claire with pots and pans and Mick manages to help save the day (and Dean). They have the means to inject Claire with her sire’s blood now, but how much do I love that Dean pauses before he plunges the needle in, looking to Sam. Dean has learned some hard lessons about consent. So has Sam.
Dean: She wanted this, right?
Sam: Oh yeah.
There are a lot of messages in here about autonomy that are right on point, can I just say? One more thank you to Glynn.
And then they wait. Wait to see if Claire will live and get better or die in agony. She definitely experiences the agony part – once again, the worst of that was watching the pain on Dean and Sam’s faces as they have to watch. Dean eventually can’t take it and goes out to get some air, reminding me of that time Sam was detoxing in the panic room and Dean couldn’t stand to listen. Dean can be ruthless and fearless, but he takes no pleasure in hearing someone else in pain – if it’s someone he cares about, his empathy literally won’t allow him to bear it. (And yes, I love that about him).
Sam calls his brother back inside when they think Claire has died, but I’m guessing none of the viewers fell for that. I wish I had, because then it would have had more impact when she opened her (human looking again) eyes, but the relief on Sam and Dean’s faces feels really good anyway.
Of course, that scene and this episode, in general, reminded most of us of the classic episode ‘Heart’, where a heartbroken Sam has to kill Madison and an equally heartbroken Dean has to let him. Who will ever forget Dean’s flinch when the gun shot ran out, or the single tear that overflowed when it did, knowing how much it cost his little brother? Some fans felt that finding this new werewolf cure negated the intensity of that episode, but it wasn’t truly a retcon. They couldn’t have cured Madison back then; they had no way of knowing that the BMoL had been working on a cure. So for me, that episode remains just as tragic and just as emotional. I’m sure poor Sam and Dean are going to think about Madison sooner or later, though, and find it even more heartbreaking.
Claire shows her newfound maturity again by thanking the Winchesters, gets some hugs, and heads to her car. Sam and Dean, showing their respect for the fact that she is an adult (I’m assuming she’s over 18, and to the Winchesters, that would certainly rate being old enough considering their own hunting history), leave the decision to call Jody to her. Claire actually did hear Sam though, even if she pretended she didn’t – she calls and leaves a message, acknowledging Jody’s impact on her as ‘her mother’.
I might have sniffled a little.
Also anytime we’re reminded that Kim Rhodes will eventually be back, I’m a happy camper.
Sam and Dean decide to give Mick one more chance, presumably because he came through in the end, but that doesn’t seem like the best choice to me. They said one chance! Hmmm.
I have to quibble a bit with the end too. Claire drives off, on the nose rock music playing (Wild Child). That parallel was a bit too heavy-handed for me – yes, we get it, she’s a hunter. But only the Impala gets to drive offscreen at the end of an episode, Show. Got it?
The ending had Wayward Daughters spin-off feels all over it, which would be very welcomed by the fandom. If that was the intention, I’ll forgive that error this once. But don’t let it happen again. I like my endings with Sam, Dean and Baby driving off up the road.
While this won’t go down in history as one of my favorite episodes, I like how much evolution occurred for both Claire and Mick, and I like that we’re finding out more about the BMoL little by little. The theme of lies and deception continues, but I’m at least hoping that none of that will be between Sam and Dean. It was difficult to watch Sam not tell Dean about working with the BMoL, essentially telling him after they’d already been taking their cases. Not cool, Sam. No more of that.
Some of the cast live-tweeted the episode, so we got a few behind the scenes pictures. Kathryn has to deal with plenty of big brother shenanigans, clearly – Jensen tied her shoe laces together in the scene where Claire is crying.
And even William Shatner was a bit put off by Claire’s insult to Sam.
Shatner: hey @jarpad, Skeezer??
One more little thing. Claire reads Batgirl. Nice touch, Supernatural.
Glad you’re back!
Check out next week’s Supernatural episode 1217 The British Invasion.