“The Winchesters” has three episodes remaining in its first season after this one, Suspicious Minds, so I expected things to ramp up as far as finding the Big Bad (aka the Akrida queen). That ramping up did happen, it turns out, in both expected and unexpected ways.
The Akrida have apparently been wreaking havoc since the 1950s, killing poor Dorothea who was only trying to be helpful by fixing a car (I love all the women on this show who are so mechanically talented, even if that is so not me).
The Men of Letters didn’t manage to send all of them back to their own universe, so some have been hiding out ever since – including the Queen.
I’m not as invested in the Akrida as I’m probably supposed to be – this show is more interesting when it’s telling me something about these characters that I know and love from OG “Supernatural,” assuming it feels like it can connect the two. So as soon as John finds a letter from a university amongst the pile of mail on Mary’s table and asks her about it, I instantly thought of Sam Winchester getting a similar letter – and having to hide it from his family.
Mary has been paralleled to Sam in wanting to have a “normal life” and get out of hunting in this show and in the original, and in this episode that’s made explicit. It made sense in the context of this show, so I enjoyed the parallel – it’s only when it seems like a stretch and doesn’t make sense that they don’t work for me. In this world, however, Mary opens it and John shares her excitement about being accepted – unlike the John Winchester of “Supernatural.”
We get the Jensen Ackles Dean narration early on, a bit of a warning about expecting happy endings from this show (just as we were warned in “Supernatural,” and if you didn’t heed that warning, you probably had a tough time with November 2020).
Dean: Hunting and happy endings don’t usually mix. So, when you get your chance, you’ve got to ask yourself, how far will I go to get it?
Dean has a lot more Texas twang than he used to, especially in this particular voiceover – but he’s right about not usually having happy endings when you’re a hunter. That is not a complaint – that’s what we all signed up for because that’s what “Supernatural” has always been about!
I will forever feel fortunate that we got to see Sam and Dean get the closest thing to a happy ending possible for two hunters by being in Heaven, their ‘peace when you are done.’
There are two storylines in this episode, one with John and Mary and their Men of Letters guest, and the other with Carlos and Lata. Lata and Carlos are out looking for the Akrida Queen, but mostly they’re a little bit hilarious as Carlos is at first totally dreamy over Anton and then wants to run away from his feelings, and Lata tries to talk him out of it.
They’re over the top sometimes (seeing “his round dimpled face in pancakes”?) and I really really want to know where they get the money for those fabulous outfits, but still, when they bicker over who will get in the van first, I had to laugh. I also love that Lata has been seeing Tony, Ada’s half djinn son, in her dreams. I hope we actually get to see Tony again before the season ends.
They find Roxy, who’s been fired and had her girlfriend break up with her and has been drinking to try to forget the trauma the Akrida possession put her through. Bridget Regan is outstanding in this episode, showing how much Roxy trying to avoid the traumatic memories is not working and how horribly they’re tearing her apart. It’s a pretty accurate depiction of PTSD and I feel for her – and Regan is a really talented actress.
Lata surprises Carlos by knowing a memory extraction and wipe spell that she uses on Roxy, which gives them enough information to find where the Queen is underground. The introduction of a memory wipe is interesting given that’s a possibility for how “The Winchesters” can actually make sense given the inconsistencies with “Supernatural.” I have no doubt there will be some explanation for why things are “off” and that’s one explanation, along with maybe this is an Alternate Universe and not the familiar one we know (which would make all the parallels kinda fun). We shall see…
Roxy decides to hang onto her memories after all, even though it’s painful, offering to help in any way she can to bring down the Akrida. That’s a small scene, but I found it significant – it’s the decision that Sam and Dean make multiple times in “Supernatural” also.
Stay in the fictional world of The French Mistake where they live in mansions and Sam is married to ‘Ruby’? Nope. The brothers opt to go back to their own world, where they’re hunters and brothers and they make a difference. Stay in the djinn created fantasy world where Dean is with Lisa and Sam is with Jess and they have their mom alive and well? Nope. He opts to go back to his own world and be who he really is.
They don’t want to not remember, even when a lot of their memories are of loss and trauma; it makes them who they are, and as Dean memorably says, “I’m good with who I am; I’m good with who you are.” This episode, more than any before it, seems to ‘get’ what “Supernatural” was all about more, so the parallels are subtle but powerful.
Carlos is tempted to want to take the easy way out and ask Lata to erase his memories of Anton, but Roxy’s courage inspires him to not run away from Anton also. Something I’m happy about (but stop talking about his round pancake face, Carlos…)
Meanwhile, in the John and Mary storyline, a man of letters named Porter lets himself into the clubhouse with his key and offers to help them kill the Akrida queen. (Causing me to yell “Victor Cassadine!” because Charles Shaughnessy is also on General Hospital).
I love that they pull some old Men of Letters files and that they look so familiar from “Supernatural” – I have a folder that was in the things they sold when they tore down that amazing set and I cherish it. We also get a glimpse of a chess set in the clubhouse, which also made me miss Sam and Dean’s Men of Letters bunker so much it hurt. I was lucky enough to spend some time on that set and to sit down at the little table with its chess board, and so seeing such a familiar set dec made my heart ache with how much I miss “Supernatural.”
Anyway, the guy is sus from the jump, but John and Mary go along with him for quite a while, ignoring his prejudice against hunters (“that’s your nature”) and his history of experimenting on “monsters” and lobotomizing them into watchdogs for the MoL.
Does that seem a little off to you?
Here the parallels to things that “Supernatural” dealt with (like killing Hitler and the Thule story arc) are a lot darker. I would have hoped that John and Mary would bristle at that and do a little more nuanced thinking, especially since their friend Ada has a son who’s half “monster”. Then again, if we think of how black and white John is when we meet him in Supernatural, I guess not!
John and Mary do exchange an epic WTF look when Porter smiles happily as he talks about how the Queen will suffer greatly before dying if he carries out his plan (kudos to Meg Donnelly and Drake Rodger because it was priceless). However, they still are so focused on “getting the job done” that they don’t realize for too long that Porter is a man bent on revenge – at any cost. That’s a message I wish John Winchester had learned a lot better.
Weird that the possessed people are still just doing their jobs and eating donuts like poor Officer Jones, who John and Mary bring to the crazy guy (I still don’t entirely get the whole Akrida possession versus bugs thing but luckily the show hasn’t confronted me with it recently).
They do finally figure out that Porter is not who he says he is – in fact, he’s Jack Wilcox, not Porter Hobbes, and the Akrida killed his wife Dorothea back in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the bad guy knocks out both the hunters rather easily and prepares to put his dead wife’s consciousness into Mary and himself into John so they can have their happily ever after. He also turns into someone who sounds like Asmodeus instead of Victor Cassadine, alarming most OG “Supernatural” fans.
Also. unexpected was the appearance of a golem that the bad guy apparently created to protect him and his experiments. Wilcox’s monster experiments are disturbingly Nazi-like, which makes killing the golem, a Jewish folklore creature created to protect, by incinerating its head in a kiln no less, even more disturbing. I’m guessing that was supposed to be in keeping with the theme of being possessed and controlled against your will.
I think this was also intended as a callback to “Supernatural’s” golem episode – John even does the Dean line “that was my spleen” and there’s a moment when he confronts the golem at first and has to look up…and up and up and up which was similar too.
The difference is that “Supernatural’s” Everybody Hates Hitler kept the golem in context as not a monster and wisely avoided ovens. This episode also confused me – why did they make so much of getting the scroll out of the golem’s mouth if they were just going to decapitate and incinerate it? Not a fan of that whole part of the episode.
The episode is also reminiscent of the episode where Sam wants to save Dean from dying by co-opting another insane doctor’s mad experimentation so they can both live forever as patched-together Frankenstein-esque people. It seems we’re going down the Winchesters-will-do-anything-to-save-each-other road that is Mary and John’s fate and eventually their sons’ modus operandi as well.
I like that kind of callback; again, it makes sense in the context of this show as well as the original. It’s one of the things I love most about Sam and Dean, their willingness to do anything to save each other, and I love that it was presented as both powerful and also something that in real life you’d definitely worry about. (Luckily, it’s fiction, so we don’t have to worry!)
Dorothea and Jack ended up together after all (though not alive).
Later, Mary and John salt and burn the bodies in dimly lit woods – which gives us some beautiful not-brightly-lit cinematography, something I’ve been wishing for more of on this show.
John: Things we do for love.
Mary: That’s not love. Jack was only thinking of himself, of what he wanted. It didn’t matter if it cost him his humanity to get it. That’ll never be us, right?
Me: Ouch. Nope, no one will ever sell their soul to bring back someone they love, definitely not. Not a Winchester thing at all…
That parallel worked for me, as did their salt and burn and bury, and the two walking away with their shovels through the dark woods, as their sons will do so many times in the future.
But the real ramping up of the stakes in this show happened in this episode when we get to eavesdrop on the Akrida (in their not-scuttling-bug forms which thankfully we haven’t seen in a while) talking about how the hunters have become a problem (and how awesome ranch dressing is). Because they are most interested in one particular hunter and the Queen wants them to find “this bastard” – aka Dean Winchester. Now that’s making this personal!
Possessed Kyle is perfectly willing to spill his host’s blood (RIP Kyle) to set up John Winchester as a violent killer who went after Kyle as a rival for Mary. Millie arrives to see John bent over a bleeding mortally wounded Kyle as police sirens get closer.
Poor John – that was a pretty well-done setup.
And a beautiful final scene, John bending over Kyle seemingly having attacked him, Millie standing there in shock, framed by the garage door and the giant WINCHESTERS sign flickering above them as the sirens draw closer.
I liked this episode more than I’ve liked all nine that came before it (though not all of it; see golem oven no above). It connected to “Supernatural” more authentically than the other episodes have, which I hope will continue in the final three episodes of the season (though having Dean back onscreen without Sam will inevitably make me sad, even though I expect the reason will make logical sense).
“The Winchesters” takes a few weeks off now, and when we come back it’s the final three episodes beginning with 1.11 You’ve Got a Friend. Will the Akrida catch up with Dean Winchester? Will we??