I LOVED last week’s episode of Supernatural, so I went into this week’s with high expectations, especially because this was the lead-in to the Wayward Sisters pilot episode that happens when we return from Hellatus. ‘The Bad Place’ turned out to be a wild rollercoaster of a ride that kept me on the edge of my seat – it literally looked and felt like a feature film crammed into 42 minutes! That’s not to say I loved all of it, but it definitely did a great job of setting up the possible spinoff while simultaneously entertaining me throughout.
So, what I liked? Well, I really liked Jack. It was nice to meet Alexander Calvert at last weekend’s Supernatural convention and to be able to tell him in person what a fabulous job he’s doing on this show, because DAMN. I have been rooting for Jack since the beginning, which says a lot about Calvert’s acting and the way he’s been written considering he’s Lucifer’s son. I didn’t think I’d like him at all before Jack was born, so I wasn’t even prepared to care about the character – but I do.
We open with a young Native American artist, Derek, and his girlfriend discussing the difficulties of making a living through art, which, YES. Enter Jack, a prospective buyer.
Derek: You’re young.
Jack: I am.
I laughed out loud at Calvert’s delivery, and the fresh-faced expression on Jack’s face. He manages to make Jack entirely likable while also playing him with a hint of wait-is-that-a-menacing-look so I’m always a little off base and unsure. I was so horrified when we thought that Jack killed Derek, it actually made me a little sick to my stomach. I don’t WANT Jack to go dark side, Show! And that says something very good about how the character is being written and acted because I actually CARE about him.
Berens does a good job of incorporating a bit of Native American lore, and casting does a good job as they almost always do with finding an actor (Nathaniel Arcand) who makes us care about him even in the four minutes he was in the episode! Arcand is not just very good looking; he invests Derek with personality too.
I hated seeing Derek lying on the floor with his eyes burnt out, his horrified girlfriend screaming. I think I might have been muttering No No No Jack No No No, much to my family’s dismay.
And who does Jack see as he hitches a ride with the Dreamwalker? Mary, now in the hanging cage that Lucifer was being tortured in. That didn’t help my poor stomach at all.
There’s more to like about Jack in this episode, but let me more or less follow the episode’s progression because there was a lot happening!
While Jack is out hitching a ride with a dreamwalker, Dean and Sam are desperate to find Jack. So desperate that Dean is doing something that felt a bit out of character to me – calling Patience. After he told her to stay out of the life and stick to normal if she possibly could, he’s calling her to ask for her help in finding Jack. Yes, he acknowledges the change of heart and the reason, but I couldn’t quite get my head around it. Especially when we see that he’s called her six times! That’s called stalking, Dean. It all feels a little more worrisome when this is a high school student we’re talking about. So that wasn’t one of the things I especially liked in this episode.
Patience (Clark Backo), for her part, is having a tough time of it even apart from Dean Winchester being intrusive. She’s lying to her dad (played by Adrian Holmes – which he somehow doesn’t realize even though it seems fairly obvious to me) about having visions, and her grades are suffering for it. If you can call getting a C suffering, that is. I work with clients all the time whose perfectionism is definitely not doing them any favors, so I really bristled when Patience’s dad told her in no uncertain terms that only perfect grades and SATS were acceptable. Bad parenting, Patience’s dad! The dads on Supernatural make some really crappy decisions, and this dad takes a page out of the John Winchester parenting handbook by telling Patience that if she leaves and “chooses that life,” she can’t come back. WHAT? I mean, I knew he made bad decisions after the whole decade of lying to Patience about her grandmother Missouri, but this was almost worse. Who sets those kinds of limits on your kid when it’s clear they’re trying to do something GOOD??
Poor Patience. Good thing she kept Jody’s business card.
Speaking of Jody, she calls Sam and Dean with a lead on Jack and they head to Derek’s studio to talk with the traumatized girlfriend. There they learn he was a Dreamwalker and see the painting that lets them know he’s been to the AU – Apocalypse World as we’re now calling it.
Sam and Dean get in the car, in front of a big beautiful blue winged mural on the side of the studio so kudos to Jerry Wanek and his team of wizards. Dean knows this is Season 13 so he keeps to the new norms, thankfully.
Dean to Sam: We gonna talk about it?
Of course they are, because this is Season 13!
Dean: Looks like Jack gave up on us and is looking for his daddy.
Me: (and Sam probably) NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
Dean: This isn’t an I told you so. I actually like the kid.
I liked that little conversation so much, because it’s the Winchesters really being open with each other. Before Sam can misinterpret, Dean lets him know how he’s actually feeling and that this is not what he wanted either. Season 13!
Another thing I really liked? Kaia Nieves (Yadira Guevera-Prip). We first meet her in a group therapy session (with a not so great therapist, which always makes me feel a little defensive for my profession, but whatever). Kaia is revealed to us little by little, covered up all over and hiding under a hood and under her well-honed snarky defenses. Her portrayal was so realistic that I found myself thoroughly believing her as a reluctant, defended client – both the acting and the writing were spot on. Even her little quip about Trump rang so true (I guess on the show we’ve intersected with real life now that the Lucifer-possessed president guy is out of the way). She actually sounds just like an addict in denial, which is how the therapist treats her, but when Kaia says she doesn’t want to go to “the bad place”, she means something much more literal. She too is a Dreamwalker, but instead of being able to go where she wants, she always ends up there – and comes back not only psychologically scarred but literally bloodied. Those scars she’s hiding under her sleeves are not from cutting.
(Also did anyone else keep getting Dark Angel feels every time someone talks about ‘the bad place”?? Shades of Jensen Ackles’ brilliant portrayal of Ben, one of the most tragic characters I’ve ever encountered)
Jack shows up, and he’s progressed from “I like nougat” to “I like cocaine” alarmingly fast. Kaia’s reaction was brilliant – Yadira’s facial expressions are amazing in conveying so much, from shock to humor to horror to joy.
Kaia: (bemused) Okay, Suite Life…
The little shout out to Kim Rhodes’ previous series was a nice touch, Mr. Berens.
Jack breaks her out, and I worry that the guard he took down isn’t really just “sleeping” because we don’t yet know that Jack did not, in fact, kill Derek. But we find out quickly because the Winchesters show up right about then. Sam shares the details of Kaia’s tragic life story with Dean, who sums it up with “bad hand…”
I’ll say. I already have a lot of empathy for Kaia, but that seals the deal.
Meanwhile, Kaia is proving herself not only relatable but badass. And smart. She refuses to go with the creepy stranger who can break through triple locked doors and knock people out by touching them – I mean, odd decision, but… Jack is distracted by Sam and Dean, which gives Kaia a chance to haul off and punch him and run away.
Jack: (indignant) She hit me!
Then we get one of my favorite scenes in the episode, during which Calvert, Jared Padalecki, and Jensen Ackles all knock it out of the park (with help from Berens and director Phil Sgriccia).
Jack: I’m doing this for you! I wanted to prove to you that I’m good. So I did the thing you wanted the most…. I researched, like you taught me… And I saw her. Your mother. She’s alive.
Dean: (absolutely dumbfounded and already overcome with emotion) What?
Jack shows them what he saw, and they actually SEE Mary being tortured, and hear her calling out for help. It must KILL them to see and hear that and not be able to do anything.
Dean: (sounding broken) Mom!
There’s a moment then where we focus on Dean’s face, and everything else that’s going on seems to fade into the background. He turns away slightly from Jack and from Sam, a look of shock on his face at finding out his mother is alive. And then, in just a few seconds, you can see his expression harden, his jaw set. That right there is Dean Winchester swearing to god that he will do whatever it takes to save his mother. It’s Dean channeling John every time he put his boys into danger to try to save Mary. It literally gave me goosebumps.
The other incredible scene I LOVED was the “car scene,” with Dean and Sam in the front and Jack in the back as they go after Kaia. Berens shared that as originally scripted and shot, that scene was much shorter. But the episode actually (miraculously) came in under time, so they had some time left to fill. They “collaborated and spitballed” and realized they could reshoot the scene in an extended version. Berens added that it “felt like a cosmic gift.” And I definitely agree!
Berens: Strong case to be made it’s the MOST important scene in the ep, the emotional payload, and we almost didn’t have it. ALL that stuff was written as subtext to the episode but it became clear I messed up, we NEEDED to see that moment. So Phil shot it perfectly, and of course Jared, Jensen and Alex hit it out of the park. So lucky.
I’ll say. Also, the Season 13 rules about open communication are still in play, and I am ridiculously grateful for that.
Dean to Sam: You were right. This whole time… We should have been looking for her.
Sam tries to console his brother because he KNOWS how hard Dean will take this, saying he didn’t know, he just hoped. But it’s clear that Dean is taking this on himself, guilty and traumatized because he gave up on his mother. Dean (and me) struggled mightily with Sam giving up on looking for Dean way back in the Amelia season, so this is something that must really hit home for him. And that worries me.
Dean: We find her. No matter what.
Me: Uh oh.
Then there is the absolutely wonderful conversation that came from reshooting the scene and being able to make it longer. It makes me wonder what kind of glorious moments we would have if our show always had the luxury of time, because this? This was effing magic.
Dean: Kid, you okay?
I smile every time Dean calls him ‘kid.’
Jack is not, in fact, okay. He realizes that the Winchesters believed he was capable of doing something awful like killing Derek. Sam struggles to explain, and Jared does an amazing job making it incredibly real and poignant. You can hear Sam’s voice shake; he even stumbles over his words a little in an attempt to make something awkward understandable. Dean finally admits that they thought he went looking for his father.
Jack: Lucifer? He’s no one to me. You – Castiel – you’re my family.
Dean doesn’t even hesitate.
Dean: Yes. Yes, we are.
Dean: Finding mom, you did a good thing, kid. A real good thing.
The small smile on Jack’s face made me tear up. And the look on Sam’s face when he hears Dean say that! There are tears in his eyes, and he just looks so…. Relieved? Happy? It made me happy too.
Kaia, in the interim, gets kidnapped by a bunch of angels who are of course dicks because really, angels are the worst on Supernatural. I get that they’re desperate with the whole going extinct thing, but wow, they are really awful other than Cas.
I continue to adore Kaia, both the acting and the writing. The angels tell her they’re using her as bait to lure the Winchesters and Jack, and she scoffs.
Kaia: They won’t come for me, you picked the wrong bait. No one’s gonna fight for me. I’m not white, I’m not rich, I’m not blonde. I don’t matter.
That line didn’t pull any punches, and it hit many fans very hard. Several people on my timeline posted that there were tears streaming down their faces, they were so shocked and so validated to hear a person of color be that outright on a television show.
But Jack and the Winchesters do show up, and the angels try to talk Jack into coming back to Heaven with them, saying he belongs with his own kind.
Dick angel: Come home.
Jack: (glancing at Sam and Dean): I am home.
Jack saves the Winchesters’ very fine asses, much to Kaia’s shock.
Then try to explain to her who they are and what they do.
Winchesters: We’re hunters.
Kaia: And he’s the son of Satan.
Jack: I am, yes.
At some point in here, the actress ad-libbed an under her breath “What the f—k,” which was glorious. And which Sgriccia left in, bless him.
The next scene is the one I had a big problem with, as did a fair number of fans. Sam pleads with Kaia to help them find their mom, trying to explain what’s needed. He even uses his puppy dog eyes. Jack tries too, telling her “we need you.” Dean listens, then adds his own plea, which goes right to the heart of where Dean Winchester’s head is at right now.
Dean: We can save her.
But Kaia says no. She only goes to the bad place when she dream walks, and she doesn’t come back unscathed. Again, she says no. There’s a loaded pause, and Sam reluctantly says what we’ve heard the Winchesters say many times when someone is reluctant to put their lives on the line.
Sam: We’ll find another way…
Dean interrupts him, pulling his gun and quietly cocking it.
Sam: Dean. Dean?
Sam looks shocked, and in my living room, I am literally gaping. WHAT ARE YOU DOING, DEAN?? I even had a brief moment of wait, is that Dean? Did he somehow get possessed?
Dean: Get in the car.
Kaia hesitates, still unwilling.
And then the most shocking thing happens – Dean suddenly LOSES IT, brandishing his gun and yelling GET IN THE DAMN CAR!
I legit screamed because Dean Winchester scared the crap out of me, and then for some reason, I covered my ears as though that would make it not be happening. (Yes, I know, I’m kinda invested in this tv show, what can I say?)
Kaia looks as frightened as me, and she gets in the car – I mean, who WOULDN’T get in the car with Dean Winchester yelling at you like that? My timeline immediately split into “I’m terrified” and “Uh that was weirdly hot” while I felt just like Sam looked – just plain shocked.
Dean: We’re going to South Dakota.
I think I understand what they’re going for here – why Dean is acting so not Dean. This is his mother, his family. Who is being tortured RIGHT NOW and is screaming for him to help her. He can no more leave her to that than he could leave Sam – he will move heaven and earth to save his family. I know that, I love that about the character. But this just felt a bridge too far for me. Kaia is a teenager (I’m assuming) and a vulnerable one at that. She clearly said no and he ignored it and forced her into the car – he essentially kidnapped her just like the angel dicks did. Not for as nefarious ends, sure, but whoa. I had a hard time reconciling that Dean with the Dean I know and love.
I know Dean has been in a bad place himself this season, and I know how prone he is to throw mountains of guilt on himself – and that makes people do pretty crazy things. I’m guessing he can rationalize it with it’s for the ultimate good and he’ll be sure she’s safe, but it becomes clear pretty quickly (and really he knows) that he can’t do that. And we just heard all about her tragic life so far and how awful it is for her to go to the bad place, so forcing her there is just hard to swallow. Maybe it’s the therapist in me, but I was entirely on Kaia’s side in that scene, not Dean’s. And I don’t like that feeling!
Sam echoes my discomfort, asking Dean “What are we going to do, force her to dreamwalk at gunpoint?”
Dean: We get Mom back no matter what, remember?
Pretty sure neither Sam nor I defined it in quite this way, Dean. That scene still doesn’t sit right with me. I just don’t see Dean going that far, even if I understand his motivation.
Jack takes over as the voice of reason (which is really saying something, Dean!), apologizing to Kaia and reassuring her that not everything she sees in dreamwalking has to be the bad place.
Jack: Our powers can be good. We can do good in the world.
That seems to persuade Kaia more than Dean waving his gun at her (go figure…) but at that moment the angel dicks cut them off and they take refuge in a boat yard. In a big giant abandoned boat. Like, a real boat. Not a VFX boat or a set, but a real boat. Whoa. That scene was amazing, with all the kudos once again to the crew who makes this show look like a motion picture day in and day out.
Here’s where the suspense ramps up to off the charts, with an incredible musical score by Christopher Lennertz that has my heart pounding right out of my chest. Sam paints sigils throughout the boat as they race higher and higher, a whole gang of angels now after them. Luckily the angels sort of take their time, so Sam gets to paint LOTS of sigils. (I bet Jared had a great time with that, we all know how much he loves painting sigils…NOT)
Dean seems to come back to his senses, apologizing to Kaia for dragging (literally) her into this
Dean: Sorry to drag you into this, it’s not your fight.
But Jack has gotten through to Kaia and she’s on board – and also her survival instincts have kicked in.
Kaia: Let’s do it.
Sam: What if something goes wrong?
Dean: (stating the very obvious) Something already is going wrong!
Kaia agrees to dreamwalk and take Jack along, trying to get them all to Mary. Meanwhile, the angels are performing a synchronized sigil-busting ritual we’ve never seen before (canon problem perhaps, or maybe new canon?) The suspense keeps building as they take down one sigil after another, until only one is keeping them out – and it’s slowly melting. By this time, I was about to have a heart attack. Just in the nick of time, Kaia gets to where Mary is and then screams. Her scream, surprisingly, destroys the angels, and blasts Jack and the Winchesters to different places. Kaia wakes up still in our world, Jack at Mary Winchester’s feet. Sam and Dean wake up in the Vancouver woods, except it’s clearly not. Everything is in desaturated shades of blue, so we know we’re not in Kansas anymore.
The portal stays open, which can’t be a good thing. In another part of the country, Patience arrives at Jody’s house.
Patience: Something bad is coming….
Meanwhile, Dean comes to and immediately pats Sam on the back.
Sam: (knowing what Dean needs to hear) I’m okay, I’m okay.
Dean has come through with an angel blade, so that’s good. But that’s clearly the only thing that’s good.
Dean: Where the hell are we?
The camera pulls up for a wide perspective and we see that where the Winchesters are is..
Standing inside a giant three-toed footprint.
I admit I laughed for a second, because for once I was NOT spoiled.
But it was a really cool shot and I mean, why the hell not? Supernatural has done just about everything else, and it’s Season 13, and we have Alternate Universes to play in – and besides, it’s Sam and Dean against the world and that is never not going to make me happy. My timeline lit up with Jurassic Park gifs – timed just as the trailer for the new Jurassic Park movie hit, believe it or not – and lots of bad jokes about Winchesters and dinosaurs. In fact, it was hilariously split between OMG AWESOME and OHNOYOUDIDN’T!
But I think ultimately I’m sorta okay with it.
Supernatural has jumped the dinosaur?