Last week my inflated expectations from the week before influenced my reaction to the second episode of the Supernatural season. This week, I went into episode 12.03 nervous and crossing every available appendage in hopes that this one would get season 12 back on track. With writer Robert Berens and director Bob Singer at the helm, I was cautiously optimistic. And guess what? They didn’t let me down. That Show I love with all my heart and soul? It’s back. With bells on.
‘The Foundry’ was an old-fashioned Supernatural episode, which is a very big compliment indeed. It was by turns creepy and terrifying and heartwarming and heartbreaking, all in 42 minutes. I screamed out loud, bit my nails, knocked over a chair in my excitement at one point, and used up half a box of tissues by the time it was over. And that? That’s Supernatural.
Thank you, Bob and Bob. Since we had three interviews with guest stars on this episode, we’ve linked to them in the appropriate sections. Or you can just see them all here.
Even the beginning was classic Supernatural. After a ‘Then’ which confused me for its scene mentioning Vince’s ‘beloved sister’ who we heard nothing about in the episode before, we launch into the opening scene starring some will-most-likely-be-killed guest actors. A couple of hipster foodies are chatting about gentrification and first world problems, and then the cry of a baby lures them into a house that anyone with half a brain would have avoided at all costs. But this is my Show being a mini horror movie, so in they go and it’s scary as hell, and we’re only 3 minutes in. Then the poor hipster foodie lady unwisely pulls the tattered blanket off the baby in the crib and EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! That was my first scream because it’s a creepy as hell DOLL and I am totally creeped out by dolls and Robert Berens, did you do this on purpose???!
Of course he did. And it worked like a charm.
Back to the bunker, where Mary is reading John’s journal, and I have a bad feeling about this. Samantha Smith is doing a fabulous job of letting us feel Mary’s restless uncertainty. You can see it in her expression, in the way she sits, in how she interacts with Cas. She’s trying so hard, but you can see she’s not succeeding.
Mary: After you left heaven, when did it feel like you fit, like you belonged here?
Cas: I’m still not sure I do. But you do. You belong here.
Mary is clearly unconvinced, and that little ball of worry in the pit of my stomach is growing. I liked Cas and Mary’s interactions from the beginning, the two of them bonding over that shared uncertainty about fitting in. She cuts her hair, trying to find something that will reflect the new identity that she just can’t seem to find – something that rang so true. It’s what humans do, when we’re lost and can’t figure out how or what to change. It’s those little touches that make Supernatural so powerful – even though it’s literally about things that aren’t real, its human moments are more real than most reality television. This was one of those brilliant moments.
Then it’s morning, and I want to hug Berens for giving us a few minutes of domestic Winchesters, having breakfast in the bunker kitchen. And looking unspeakably gorgeous.
There’s some nice continuity, for which I’m grateful, and we even get Dean and Sam TALKING about how much they want to destroy the British Men of Letters (and hoo boy, are we all on board for that one!) We get a reminder that Sam has been healed (at least on the outside, but hey, they mentioned it) and then the Winchesters actually talk about their feelings! Their feelings about their mother anyway.
Sam is as worried about his mother as I am; Dean is stubbornly trying to pretend nothing’s wrong, or at the very least, that what is wrong is temporary. His mom is back, and he wants desperately to just be happy about it, trying to stay in denial about the fact that Sam is right – Mary is struggling.
Cas heads out to find Lucifer, telling Sam and Dean “I think you’re needed here.”
Cas gets Mary in a way that Sam and Dean don’t; he can empathize. He’s been there.
Mary’s struggle plays out much as it often does for her sons: she doesn’t know quite what to do with all those pesky feelings, so she just wants to hunt. Avoidance and denial, the Winchester way.
Mary comes in with like a foot of hair cut off.
Sam: Did you cut your hair?
Me: (shaking head)
We get more of the Dean-takes-after-his-mom tidbits, as Mary forgoes the corn flakes and goes right for the bacon, cold or not.
Mary: It’s bacon!
Dean: We are so related.
Such a small moment, but it’s so poignant. Dean’s expression as he says that, as he finally has a chance to discover who his mother is and to identify with her in a way he never had a chance to, is absolutely joyous. He looks like that four-year-old for an instant, who adored his mother and had her taken away from him way too soon. I ache for him, to see how badly he needs that.
On the second watch, it’s even more obvious that Mary is trying to get some distance by going off on her own to hunt, but Dean doesn’t take the hint, gleefully announcing a ‘family hunting trip.’
The second watch was so much more heartbreaking than the first, knowing what’s coming.
Later it’s pointed out again how similar Mary and Dean are (and perhaps we didn’t need it to be quite so obvious, but I still enjoyed the moments for what they were). Dean and Mary share a love for chili lime jerky and playing loud classic rock in the Impala. Another iconic scene as Dean guns the Impala and they speed away, listening to ‘Born To Be Wild.’ (There were a bunch of fans watching filming that day, and apparently Jensen was showing off a bit for them – I love that they used that particular take!)
But for all their ‘family hunting trip’ bonding, every time Mary is left on her own, we can see her uncertainty. Kudos to Sam Smith for conveying so much with so few words – clearly she shares that similarity with Ackles and Padalecki just as Mary shares similarities with Sam and Dean!
Berens gets extra helpings of love from me for making the Winchesters into the Partridge Family when they change into their fed suits.
Nice little shout out to SPN alum Katie Cassidy too. We’ve got Rick Springfield on the show now, maybe her dad and Partridge alum David Cassidy is next! (Ackles as Cassidy? Fandoms collide!)
Meanwhile, Cas is looking scrumptious in his fed suit also and calling himself Agent Beyonce (which started trending on twitter almost immediately). That makes Crowley Agent JZ, and suddenly we have the unlikely duo teamed up once again.
Let’s hope it goes more smoothly this time than it did last time.
I confess to enjoying the dynamic between Cas and Crowley – both Misha and Mark have a chance to flex their comedy wings working with each other, and they’re both damn good at it! Cas fixing his hair in the mirror and totally botching his attempt to get Vince’s sister to open the door were amusing, and Crowley’s reaction even more so.
Cas (as she slams the door in his face): Do you think that happens to Sam and Dean?
Crowley: (probably eye rolling internally): All the time.
The thing about Vince’s beloved sister came out of nowhere, like I said. Editing glitch perhaps?
Eventually, Castiel’s actual concern and Crowley’s faux concern (those puppy dog eyes!) prevail and the twosome get a tip on where Lucifer – and Rowena – might be.
Cas is often more perceptive than he seems, and he calls out Crowley for what I keep thinking is buried (deep, deep) underneath the surface – an affection for his mother.
Cas: Now I know you just want to save your mother.
There are a lot of valid reasons that Crowley doesn’t want Rowena working with Lucifer, certainly, but I can’t help but think that Cas is partly right.
Fandom already has a ship name for this duo: Crass.
Hmm. I guess that should have one s…
Meanwhile, Ruth Connell is having a chat with Rick Springfield, who is awesomely frightening as he’s menacing her. Kudos to Connell for showing us both Rowena’s bravery and also the emotion she’s covering up, tears in her eyes that she refuses to shed.
But Rowena is not so easily cowed, and Lucifer makes a mistake in underestimating her. Why does everyone trust her to do the requested Spell A when she could just as easily do Spell B, which will, oh yeah, end up setting her free? Underestimating Rowena is a big mistake, and that’s exactly what happens. A shirtless Rick Springfield gets blasted right the hell out of there. (He should have known he was in trouble when she started calling him ‘my liege’…) Though I selfishly hope the spell doesn’t destroy that lovely vessel any time soon because damn, Springfield’s acting is one of the pleasant surprises of Season 12 so far!
A+ dialogue here too. Rowena: [You think you’re looking like Keith Richards?] Try Iggy Pop!
More fandoms colliding!
All these classic 70s references are making me very happy, Mr. Berens.
Meanwhile, the Winchesters investigate the case Mary found in a gorgeous flashlight scene that lets Serge Ladouceur work his magic. Sam and Dean leave Mary to go one way while they go another, which makes me bite my fingernails instantly because hello horror movie trope! Sure enough, Mary pulls the blanket off the creepy creepy creepy doll – and did it always have Mary’s blonde hair?? – and then she’s being touched by the ghost child and screaming.
Bonus points for extra creepiness because Mary Winchester leaning over a crib while a light bulb flickers and buzzes? Talk about classic Supernatural!
Sam and Dean to the rescue, both of them rather horrified at what’s happened to their mother.
Sam: Mom, you’re hurt!
They want her to stay in the motel room and rest up (i.e., be safe). Mary wants to get out there and keep hunting. It’s painful to watch her realize that she doesn’t know what she’s doing in 2016 the way she did 30 years ago. She’s their mom and having her boys tell her that “we’ll teach you how to do this, don’t worry” must be incredibly hard to take. In fact, they essentially bench her, too protective of her to do otherwise.
In typical Winchester fashion, as soon as Sam and Dean leave, Mary uses the old fashioned phone to do some leg work of her own, figuring out who the little kid ghost is by calling his mom (nice touch that the mom is also stuck in the past, talking on a phone with an honest to god cord on it!). Mary’s determined to follow her hunter’s instincts that the ghost child wasn’t trying to hurt her but to communicate with him instead. In other words, we’ve gone all The Sixth Sense – and I love it when Show intersects with one of my favorite movies. (My son was in it, I can’t help it – in fact, I’m in it too. For about 3 seconds.) Anyway, those scenes are terrifying. I’m biting my nails and trying not to scream, but Mary Effing Winchester just keeps on going. She’s every bit as brave and badass and headstrong and stubborn and awesome as her sons.
Sam and Dean, meanwhile, are on an old fashioned salt and burn, and once again I am so damn HAPPY to get back to Supernatural’s roots. Sam and Dean at a graveyard, tossing down a pack of matches. It literally made me smile a sentimental sort of smile because that’s the Show I know and love.
And then we actually get more Winchesters talking to each other! You’re killing me here, Berens!
Sam tries again to tell Dean how worried he is about their mom, but Dean isn’t having it.
Sam: I’m worried about mom.
Dean: She’s back. She’s still working out the kinks, but for once, can’t we just have one good thing in our lives?
Sam: She’s not a thing. She’s struggling. She’s trying to bury herself in hunting to avoid dealing.
Dean: How do you know?
Sam: Years of personal experience. Like mother like sons.
Dean can’t disagree really, but he wants desperately to cling to his denial, to believe that everything – for once in the Winchesters’ lives – is going to be all right. Sam, on the other hand, has had enough of that avoidance-denial cycle that keeps biting them in the butt. And, as someone on my timeline wisely pointed out, Dean and Mary are very much alike. Sam has spent a lifetime watching his big brother; he knows him. Knows when he’s struggling. So, of course, he can see it in Mary more readily than Dean can.
I should have known, right then and there, that we were headed for heartbreak. I’ve said it a million times here already – this episode was classic Supernatural. And that means you end up with your heart shattered, collapsed on the floor amidst a pile of tissues.
Mary successfully finds the ghost guy who’s behind the murders but ends up being nearly killed by him before Sam and Dean finally arrive. Mary gets possessed, Dean gets elbowed in the jaw and thrown against the wall a few times, and it’s once again eerily reminiscent of early SPN, except then it was John Winchester possessed with Dean up against the wall and about to be killed.
Dean and Sam try to get through to Mary, telling her to fight it, and she proves herself strong enough to do just that temporarily. Just enough time for Sam to run downstairs to the basement and for Dean to grab his gun. My heart breaks as he aims it at his mother who he just got back.
Dean: Don’t! Don’t make me!
Me: (collapses in agony)
He doesn’t; he can’t. Any more than he could when it was John. We all know what family means to Dean Winchester. Luckily, Sam finally burns the bones, and the ghost guy is gone. We get a beautiful scene of the ghost children finally being able to move on (which is when I jumped up excitedly to say “Yes!” and knocked over a chair…) A rare opportunity for Sam and Dean to see that what they do really does make a difference.
Cas and Crowley arrive at Vince’s cabin to find Rowena sipping tea. She can’t be convinced to come with them (we all know that both Ruth Connell and her character are much too stylish for FBI pantsuits…) but she does promise them she’ll be there when they find him to help put him back in the cage.
And then came the scene that I should have been more prepared for. Dean tries to apologize to his mom if he and Sam made her feel sidelined in any way, saying that she was right and that she kicked ass, but she reacts the way Dean himself probably would, reminding him that her sons had to save her. He tries again to console her, saying “Mom, it’s okay. You’re home now.”
That, right there, is what Dean Winchester wants above all else.
And then the bomb drops.
Mary: “No. I’m not.”
And then my stomach dropped. Because I knew.
Much like that Buffy episode that will never really let go of me, we find out that Mary was in heaven before Amara yanked her out. She was with John and her young sons. Living in that memory, the way we saw Bobby living in his own little part of heaven. She misses them.
Mary: I miss John. I miss my boys.
Sam: (breaking my heart) We’re right here.
But it’s not the men in their thirties who Mary misses, it’s the Sam and Dean she lost thirty years ago. Her baby Sam. Her little boy Dean. And she just can’t do it; she tells Sam and Dean she needs to leave.
Then the moments came that destroyed me. As Dean realizes what his mother is saying, you can literally see him begin to shut down. To put up those defensive walls that have let Dean Winchester survive so much abandonment and loss.
Mary steps forward to hug Dean, and he flinches away from her, ducking his head and refusing to look at her.
In my living room, I think I gasped out loud. It hurt me and shocked me that much, and I instantly knew exactly what it meant thanks to Ackles’ incredible acting.
Jensen can convey so much without a single word, and at that moment I could feel Dean Winchester’s utter agony. Dean, who has been abandoned again and again his entire life. Who values family and keeping his family together above all else. Who just got back the mother he lost and grieved his whole life. How many times have we seen how tormented Dean is by the thought that everyone he loves leaves him? He is in so much pain he can’t even face her. Cannot look at her or at Sam. You get the feeling that if he moved at all, the fragile façade would disintegrate and Dean Winchester would be in pieces on the floor. Shattered.
Mary sees it, though of course, she doesn’t know her son the way we, the viewers who have lived with Dean and Sam for twelve seasons, do. She doesn’t know his history with abandonment, or how he suffered from her death and their father’s subsequent descent into revenge-fueled hunting. I don’t think she knows what she’s doing to him at that moment. But we do. Oh god, do we ever.
Mary doesn’t change her mind. She tells them she loves them – both of them – and hugs Sam, who looks just as shattered.
Then she resolutely gathers her things and John’s journal (in a sense taking their last piece of John away too) and climbs the stairs. When the door slams, Sam flinches and startles, and my heart is almost as shattered as Sam and Dean’s thanks to Padalecki’s equally brilliant ability to convey all that emotion with just a fleeting facial expression and body movement. He seems to shrink into himself at that moment, this big strong capable 6’ 4” man looking like the small child who needs his mother as she walks away.
And Sam, as always, looks to his big brother. That moment, that look, was the thing that broke me.
The tears started to flow as I frantically grabbed for the tissues because of that right there?
Those are my boys.
Oh god, Robert Berens, are you happy now? Pass me some more tissues.
The paradox of being a Supernatural fan is that right now I’m simultaneously heartbroken for my boys and ecstatic that my Show is back to being my Show. Talk about conflicting feelings! I don’t think the Show can be about three Winchesters hunting together, and Sam and Dean against the world is too much a part of the show and what I love about it to mess with, so I did know that Mary probably couldn’t stay. At least not in every episode.
I couldn’t help but be angry at her for leaving her sons – abandoned once again – but at the same time, Samantha Smith’s acting and Berens’ excellent script didn’t allow me the luxury of denial. I could see and feel how at a loss she was, and how much pain she was in. To Mary, it feels like her husband just died, and her baby and young son were just ripped from her. She lost them, and gaining an adult Sam and Dean who are virtual strangers cannot replace what she’s lost. Having to be around them and hear them call her ‘mom’ must be devastating. Reading John’s journal and experiencing the reality of hunting again just adds to the sense of loss and disappointment. So I get why she needs space, but god, what it did to our boys…
I wonder what it will do to them as they go forward, knowing that she’s out there? I’m worried about how Dean, especially, will react.
But at the same time I’m eager to find out, remembering those heady days of Season 1 when so much of the brothers’ emotions were tied up in their quest to find their father and make sense of who they were both with and without him. Will their mother being out there have a similar impact? I love ending an episode feeling like I absolutely cannot wait for the next one!
I watched the East coast airing and then tuned in to the West coast feed, which is always fun for watching who else is tuning in.
As usual, various big retail accounts turn out to be fans, many of them particularly…appropriate.
Cabeau Travel: Grab our travel blanket and snuggle up! It’s time to hit the road with Sam and Dean!
Astroglide: Today’s episode of supernatural is sponsored by #emotionalbaggage
The adorable young actor who played the ghost child, Christian Convery, posted adorable behind the scenes stills from the episode, including this one with Samantha Smith.
Meanwhile, Briana shipped everyone, Ruth and Misha flirted, and Jared and Jensen kept calling Mark Sheppard to interrupt his Facebook live stream attempts. This cast, seriously.
One last thing. That shiny motorcycle that Dean commented on? Not a random comment, that’s for sure. This will be important. I predict we’ll find out more about the owner of that bike soon.
And I can’t wait.
Thanks to @kayb625 for the pretty Supernatural 1203 The Foundry caps!
Here’s a look at what next week’s Supernatural American Nightmare is all about.