Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.07: Bad Boys


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

A friend and fellow saltgunner, Mandi Gordon, is trying to do a GoFundMe to get out of a tough situation following her grandmother’s death. Even if you can’t contribute, please consider sharing the link where appropriate. Thanks.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.


[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: It’s a blast from Dean’s misspent youth when a man who runs a boys home seeks the Brothers’ help.


Recap: Quick recap of Dean’s miserable childhood and the season nine storyline with Ezekiel to that point.

Cut to two teenage boys running from someone who is “right behind us” at night on a farm in Hurleyville, NY. They run into a barn and hide. A younger boy in glasses comes in and tells them to come out. He says the barn is “off-limits” for playing hide-and-seek. But he runs out of the barn when an older man comes in with a flashlight, looking for the boys and saying they’re missing curfew.

The man is cursing them under his breath and shouting at them that he’s going to use a belt on them, when his breath fogs up. Then he’s run over and impaled by heavy machinery that turns on by itself.

Cue title cards and Sam in the Bunker, looking for Dean and Kevin. He doesn’t find them. Just when he’s settling down with a book in the library, Dean’s phone buzzes. Sam answers it and claims there’s no one there named “D-Dog.” Dean comes in right then and grabs the phone from Sam. He tells the person on the phone (“Sonny”) that he will be there as soon as he can and hangs up.

When Sam asks him what’s up, Dean mentions a time they were in New York as kids while John was on a rougarou hunt. Sam remembers that Dean “disappeared” and that John sent him (Sam) to Bobby’s for a few months. When Dean reappeared, John said Dean had been “lost on a hunt.”

Dean now admits that was a lie. What got lost was the Brothers’ food money in a card game and Dean then tried to “buy” Sam food at a local mini-mart by stealing it. Caught red-handed, he was sent to a boys home on a farm in Upstate New York. It was run by Sonny, who knows about their profession and had Dean’s number on speed-dial. Turns out Sonny may have a problem of their kind that they can solve.

When Sam grumps about not knowing about this until now, Dean says he was 16 and has tried to forget about it.

Probably looking like a nut to Sam, Dean asks if Sam is too tired to come along and if “we” are okay with going to the Catskills. Puzzled, Sam says he’s fine (while rubbing his neck and yawning) and wonders why Dean keeps saying “we.” We the audience, of course, know Dean is talking to Ezekiel inside Sam’s head. Apparently, Ezekiel is okay with it because he makes no appearance.

The Brothers arrive at Sonny’s Home for Boys (a handmade sign by the road announces it), which is the large farmhouse in the teaser.  As they get out, Sam is confused about how John could have “lost” Dean for two months. Dean says that he didn’t. He found Dean immediately, but then decided to leave him there because Dean had lost the food money. Sam notes that Dean was only 16 and “made a mistake” and Dean tells Sam not to pile on John. Boy, times have changed a bit, haven’t they?

As they sort-of argue by the car, they’re watched by the kid in the glasses from the teaser.

When Dean knocks, a stern-looking woman wearing a honking huge cross answers the door. When Dean introduces them as “old buddies” of Sonny’s, she coldly and judgmentally asks, “Prison buddies?” Sam looks uncomfortable, while Dean says no and repeats his request to talk to Sonny. She lets them in, but insists they take off their shoes, first, because she just mopped.

As soon as she leaves, Sam snarks about Sonny being an ex-con and Dean notes that they are hardly ones to judge. In the living room, Dean seems to realize it hasn’t changed since he was there. He has a rather depressing flashback to being 16 (in 1995), in cuffs, being talked about in the third person by an asshole local cop about being caught shoplifting.

It’s possible the cop is less-than-sympathetic due to Young!Dean having punched him in the eye. He says that when they called John, John said to “let him rot,” but the judge is on vacation and they don’t want a teenager in “county,” so they brought the kid here. Just in case anyone was still thinking that John was somehow even within shouting distance of halfway decent as a father.

This line is especially relevant in light of the 300th episode, but also Dean’s recent comment that whenever Dean irritated/rebelled against him too much, John would “send me away.” And people wonder why Dean was so noncommittal about John’s half-assed apology in “Lebanon.”

Anyhoo, the cop leaves and Young!Dean practically blows him a kiss out the door. But Sonny (who is rocking the most awesome pornstache since Gabriel in Casa Erotica) points out that the cop took the handcuff key. But no matter. He knows another way to get them off.

As he’s unlocking Dean’s cuffs, Sonny notices bruises on Dean’s arms. When he asks about them (strongly hinting that Dean may have been abused by his father, or even the cop), Dean casually says it was a werewolf (referencing Dean’s story to Gordon about “embracing the life” at 16, in season two’s “Bloodlust”). Sonny doesn’t buy this, but he doesn’t push, either.

Dean asks Sonny what the place is and Sonny says it’s a home for wayward boys. They work the farm and learn useful skills. Young!Dean scoffs at this, but doesn’t outright disagree.

Back in the present, Dean smiles.

Sonny comes out. His long hair is now pulled back into a ponytail and the pornstache is graying. He hugs Dean enthusiastically and warmly welcomes Sam. When Dean says the farm looks great, Sonny admits it’s seen better days. The county prefers to incarcerate wayward boys now instead of reform them, so he only has a few there.

Dean quickly suggests that they talk alone, so Sonny asks the stern woman, Ruth, to go check on the boys. She doesn’t look thrilled (and Sonny rolls his eyes a bit at this), but she goes. Sonny then fills the Brothers in on Doomed Teaser Guy’s death. He says he’d never really believed the “mumbo-jumbo you boys are into,” but odd things have been happening of late – flickering lights, scratching in the walls, and so on.

Dean tells him they will investigate. He tells Sam to check the house while he goes out to the barn. Sam looks at the boys’ dorm and spots something familiar – what looks like a pointed star on a bedpost. Pulling several layers of tape off the bedstand, he finds “Dean W.”

He hears an odd whoosh and looks up. Pulling out a ginormous knife, he follows the odd noise to a whispering and finds Ruth kneeling by a bed, praying. Ruth says she knows why they’re there and says she was praying for the “ghost that haunts this farm to leave.”

In the barn, Dean checks out the killer tractor (which Sonny says wasn’t working even back in the day 18 years before when Dean lived there).

Dean hears a strange noise like sobbing and follows it. He enters a part of the barn with a low-hanging bulb that appears to be swaying by itself. When he stops it and turns around, he finds himself confronting the little boy from the teaser, the one with Coke-bottle glasses. They talk, as Dean literally gets down to his level by crouching and shaking hands with him. The boy, Timmy, has a superhero toy that “fights monsters.” After a bit of discussion about what little he remembers of Jack (Doomed Teaser Guy)’s death, which boils down to only remembering that the barn got very cold, Timmy gets concerned and says he has to finish his chores or Ruth will get mad. Dean lets him go. But now he has more confirmation that the MOTW is a ghost.

Back in the house, Ruth is telling Sam some history of the place. She says she worked for (or visited) the owners before Sonny, Howard and Doreen Wasserlauf. Howard was fond of corn liquor, which made him paranoid. One day, he decided that Jack (who already worked at the farm) was sleeping with Doreen and attacked them. Jack escaped, but Howard killed Doreen with a meat cleaver and got life in prison. He died a year ago and is buried in town.

Cue the Brothers digging up Howard Wasserlauf. Sam tries to probe Dean more about his time at Sonny’s. Dean claims he doesn’t remember much, but that no one abused him, so it’s all good. They dig down to Howard and light him up.

Back at the house, Ruth is having a bath to the sounds of “Ave Maria.” We start to realize that perhaps the Brothers have salted and burned the wrong vengeful spirit when the lights flicker and the mirror ices up. Ruth finds her breath fogging right before the shower curtain rips itself off the bar and lands on her. After a pretty nasty struggle (with Sonny trying to break in to help), Ruth smothers under the shower curtain.

At Cus’s Place, Dean is eyeing the waitress, a brunette thirtysomething named Robin, and trying to explain to Sam why he picked this place for a burger. Cue another flashback to Young!Dean and Sonny at the same table. Young!Dean is thanking Sonny for getting the charges against him dropped. Sonny says that stealing because you’re hungry doesn’t make you a hardened criminal, especially if you only do it once. He notes that John has vanished, so Dean can stay at Sonny’s as long as he likes. He’s doing well in school and has made it onto the wrestling team.

Sonny then asks Young!Dean about whether he’s into Satanism because he carved an Occult symbol into his bedpost and puts salt all around his bed at night. Young!Dean also happens to be wearing his horned amulet pretty prominently.

To get Dean to open up, Sonny tells him about his own misspent youth. He was in a gang and his loyalty then ended up getting him 15 years in the penitentiary. He tells Dean that a man should be able to stand on his own two feet and be himself, not just a part of some group. At that moment, teenage Robin shows up at their table and Sonny introduces her to Young!Dean.

Back in the present, Robin comes over to waitress the Brothers. She claims not to remember Dean when Dean tries to jog her memory (though it’s clear she does), then gets called away to another table. Upset, Dean leaves, even as a curious Sam is asking him all sorts of questions. Hmm, some bad blood, there.

Outside, Dean’s brooding is interrupted by a phone call from Sonny about Ruth’s death. They come over and Sonny tells them he couldn’t get through the door. Thing is, it wasn’t locked. “There are no locks on the farm.” Also, Ruth’s rosary is missing.

The Brothers quickly realize the ghost wasn’t Howard. Dean goes to talk to the kids, while Sam stays with Sonny. Dean finds Timmy being bullied in a depression against a cellar window by the two older boys who were hiding from Timmy in the teaser. Intimidating them with his fake FBI badge, he gets a little bit more information out of them about Ruth (even if it’s Captain Obvious that she was a “bible thumper” and a hard task master) and warns them off going after Timmy again. He then helps Timmy out of the hole and tries to give him some advice about how to stand up to bullies.

Inside the house, Sam is surprised to find a “hall of fame” for the house on the wall. Up there, Sonny points out a county wrestling championship for Dean from 1995. Sam is impressed.

Outside, the two older boys are mowing and raking the lawn when Robin shows up with a guitar (Dean had previously mentioned she used to come to the farm with her mother to teach music lessons). One of the boys makes a gross remark to the other about how he’d tap that. The other one makes a gross remark about how she’s too old to be attractive. Charming.

The lawnmower starts making funny noises, so the first gross boy turns it off and flips it over. Ruth’s rosary is caught up in the blades. He starts pulling grass out to get at the rosary as the other boy watches. Timmy, clutching his action figure, watches them from an upstairs window, as he did when the Brothers arrived.

This is a rather tense scene, as you just know that lawnmower is gonna start up at at the worst possible time. And it does. Blood and screaming ensue. But Dean later tells Sam that Gross Boy #1 only had to have a bunch of stitches. Damn. Was hoping for at least a missing limb. No matter. You won’t see either of them again in this episode.

Anyhoo, Sam has been digging into Timmy’s past. Timmy was found in a warehouse all by himself a year ago and has been running away from foster homes ever since until Sonny took him in.

Dean suggests demon possession, but Sam thinks it’s actually possession by a ghost. Dean’s unhappy about the idea of shoving salt down a little kid’s throat.

The Brothers go for another search. Dean tells Sam he’s taking the barn this time. Out there, Sam finds a hatchway up to the barn attic. There, he finds a small hiding place Timmy made. It includes a helpfully detailed, albeit childlike, cartoon strip of Timmy and “Mom,” Timmy and Mom in a car accident, Mom burning up, and Mom pushing Timmy out the window.

Inside the house, Dean finds Robin tuning her guitar and has another flashback to taking lessons from Teen!Robin. She’s asking him where he’s been. Young!Dean says his dad travels a lot for business and wants Dean to go into it, but he doesn’t really want to. He wants to be a “rock star” or a car mechanic. Dean calls cars “a puzzle” and that “when you’re done, they leave and you’re not responsible for them, anymore.” Dayum, that’s sad.

Young!Robin admits her father wants her to run the diner after he retires, but she wants to become a photographer and “see the world.” She then impulsively kisses Dean. This startles Dean, who tries to cover it up by claiming he’s kissed lots of girls before. Robin sees through this and suggests they keep practicing.

In the present, it turns out Robin is there for Timmy’s music lesson. Dean tells her that’s been canceled. He tries to warn her that she needs to get out of the house and she needs to trust him. When she scoffs, he realizes that she does remember him. She’s just mad at him for leaving her.

Cue some more flashback teen kissing to Journey’s “Stone in Love.” Robin worries that Dean will ditch her. He insists he’s not going anywhere and asks her out to the school dance. She accepts.

In the present, Dean tries to explain why he left, instead, then admits there’s no time for it. Grabbing her by the hand, he tries to get them out out the door, but it slams violently in their faces. Timmy appears with his toy and says he can’t “stop it.” Then a vase smashes against the wall behind them as Dean calmly asks him what he’s talking about. More stuff starts smashing around them, so Dean yells at Robin to run into the kitchen. Let’s just say Robin’s sure looking like a believer now.

Sam comes in the back door, but doesn’t realize what’s going on in time (even as Dean is yelling at him not to let the door shut) and gets locked in with them. The Brothers put a ring of salt around Robin and tell her not to leave it. She’s asking Dean what’s going on.

Timmy comes in and now says that he can’t stop her. Sam correctly guesses he means his mother. As Dean stares intently at Timmy, Sam asks the boy what happened. Timmy says there was a car crash in the woods. His mom pushed him out of the car to safety, but burned alive as the car exploded. He ran to an empty building and cried for his mother. She came back and she protected him, but she was different now. She was a ghost.

The Brothers zero in on Timmy’s action figure as being the object tying his mother to the earthly realm. It was a gift from his mom for his ninth birthday. But then a female ghost, covered in burns, shows up and knocks Sam across the room when he tries to get the action figure away from Timmy. Dean manages to grab it (Timmy lets out an anguished cry, since it’s the only thing left he has from his mother) and then burns it on the stove. But though the figure laughs in a sinister way as it burns, its destruction doesn’t free the ghost.

Robin has grabbed Timmy to pull him to safety inside the salt line, but then the ghost begins to blow the line away. Sam correctly guesses it wasn’t the action figure, so it must be Timmy. The Brothers have a quick discussion that maybe Timmy’s mother is trying to protect him, but she can’t recognize what is a threat and what isn’t.

At this moment, Robin snaps and runs out of the room. Dean chases after her, but she then runs smack into the ghost. The ghost slams Dean into the doorjam. Then she apparates into the kitchen and grabs Sam, who is trying to talk to Timmy. Dean runs in and, even though the ghost is also pushing him through a wall, continues Sam’s talk to get Timmy to figure out how to send his mother away.

Dean explains to Timmy that his mother’s spirit heard Timmy’s cry for help and came back to him. But being stuck on the earthly plane is “driving her crazy.” Timmy has to tell her to go away, to let her go. Dean tells him that sometimes, you have to put yourself first (something, of course, Dean would never do, but Timmy doesn’t know that).

Timmy stands up and, with some encouragement from a slowly suffocating Dean, gets the attention of his mother’s ghost. She turns around and holds out her arms to him, but he tells her she has to go away permanently. He promises he will be okay. As the char and rot flake off to reveal the original, human form of his mother, he tells her he loves her, too. Smiling through ghost tears, she vanishes in a haze of light. Timmy runs through the space where she had just been to Dean and cries in his arms. Robin comes in and sees it.

Later that night, as Timmy watches them from the front steps, Robin gets The Talk from Dean about The Family Business. Dean admits that he never became a rock star. Robin allows that she thinks he’s still “pretty rockin’.” She also admits she never thought she’d like staying a small town girl, but she’s actually pretty happy. She gives him a kiss goodbye and then goes in the house with Timmy.

Sonny hugs Dean and says he’ll miss him. Dean says he thinks Timmy will be fine with Sonny. As Sonny leaves, Sam asks Dean how he knew telling Timmy to tell his mom to leave would work. Dean says he didn’t, that it was a “total Hail Mary” (ironic, considering Ruth’s death to “Ave Maria,” on top of the intentional irony involving Dean’s deal with Ezekiel).

Sam admits that going into this case, he thought they would be exploring the “worst part” of Dean’s life, but instead, “it was the best. Why’d you leave?”

Dean hedges a whole lot, calling it only “two months.” He claims that it wasn’t “right” for him, but the longing gaze he gives the house after Sam gets in the car sparks another flashback.

This one is to the night of the school dance. Young!Dean is getting dressed up in a shirt and tie for his date with Robin. Sonny comes in and compliments him. But Sonny has news. John is there to pick Dean up, but he won’t wait. He says there’s a “job” and Dean knows what that means.

Sonny says the home turned his life around and it could turn Dean’s around, too. He’ll fight for Dean (against John, it’s implied), if Dean wants.

Outside, John honks the horn. Sniffling, Dean looks out the window to see Sam in the passenger seat. He turns back and thanks Sonny, but he has to go back to his family.

In the present, Dean finishes staring at the house, at what could have been, and gets in the car. A pensive Sam thanks Dean for always being there for him. Sam admits he’s been a jerk at times. Dean puts on a smile and pretends not to know what Sam means. He starts up the car and they roar off into the night.

Credits

Review

I’ve avoided this one for a while, since watching it the first time. I could say I don’t know why, since it’s actually quite a nifty old school salt-and-burn-and-angst episode, but I do. I think I’ve said before that I’m not really a huge fan of the episodes that flash back to the Brothers’ childhoods. These stories are invariably depressing.

Yes, Dylan Everett is good as Young!Dean (though I liked him better in “About a Boy”). Yes, the fact that Dean was able to reconcile with his first love Robin (Cassie who?) was sweet. Yes, I liked Sonny and could never figure out why he never came back. But this was still a tragedy without catharsis because we all knew Dean would always make the heroic sacrifice and go back to his family. And that’s depressing to watch.

I just shake my head at the fans who try to justify John’s behavior by saying “He did his best.” Of course he didn’t, people. He admitted that himself many times. He invariably put his obsession with Mary ahead of the welfare of their children. This was not some compulsion or dropping too many balls that he was trying to juggle in protecting his boys. He intentionally put his children into that life because it fit better with his plans for revenge. He could have done it very differently, and I’m sure his regrets were real, but he created that situation quite deliberately.

Ironically, the same fans who rush to give John every possible excuse didn’t seem nearly as enthusiastic about giving Mary a pass, or even any consideration, when she came back to stay at the end of season 11. People talk a good game about hating the genre trope of fridging female characters, but they don’t respond so well when that trope is negated or even reversed.

By no means am I arguing that the writing for her since she came back has been consistently stellar, but come on, people – there was plenty of crap writing for John, even when JDM was playing him back in the day, that made John even less sympathetic than he needed to be.

But Mary is the parent I see as actually having tried to do her best and that’s why I think her importance on the show rises above the inconsistent writing. She belongs there now, not least as a stinging rebuke to the way her husband and father put her up on a pedestal after her death and used a whitewashed plaster saint version of her to excuse terrible sins against her children. The only people who have (with justice) escaped that rebuke are her sons, who simply didn’t know her any other way.

While her bailing on them immediately after she came back was not the greatest response ever (let alone her misguided sojourn with the psycho LoL), it was very human and did make sense from a psychological point of view. She was confused. She had a lot of trouble connecting with these two strange men and connecting them to the babies she’d been torn from so violently. And she did come back.

She didn’t abandon them or let them down when they were children – she freakin’ died, people. She was murdered. She did let them down as grown adults, but since then, she’s tried to make up for it. So, what we’ve had since the end of season 11 is an actual relationship being (re)built with her sons.

We have seen her attempts to balance her Hunting life with her desire to have a “normal” life as far back as season four. They weren’t entirely successful, but her desire to protect her family from her old life was a real example of “doing one’s best.” Sure, it failed, but the point is that her goals were benign and relatively pure. She was putting her family first. Her keeping secrets was part of that.

John, on the other hand, always put his obsession with revenge over the raising and protection of his sons, and made it clear to them that they were part of the machinery he was using to find the Yellow Eyed Demon and kill it.

It’s interesting, then, that we have two analogues to both John (Sonny) and Mary (Timmy’s mom) in this episode. Sonny, of course, is the contrasting analogue: the Good Dad who praises Dean and gets him interested in healthy pursuits, who encourages him to go after his dreams, and who is solidly behind him 100%. Sonny exists as a foil for John.

Timmy’s mom, of course, has parallels to Mary. She dies in a fire (like Mary) and heroically pushes her son to safety. As a ghost (like Mary), she defends him and watches over him. And Timmy worships her, just as Dean worshiped his own dead mother. She’s even blonde.

But, as with a lot of Adam Glass scripts, the writing isn’t nearly as clever as the author thinks. Timmy has been in the child services system for a year. He says that he was on his way home with his mother when they had an accident and she died in a fiery crash. Everything we learn about him and his mother indicates that they were middle class. He never mentions his father, so his mom appears to have been a single parent.

Even so, Timmy was clearly well-loved and appears to have had a normal life before the crash. So, where are the relatives, friends, neighbors, teachers and coworkers who must have been looking for him and his mother after the accident? He didn’t run away that far – why did no one recognize him when his picture was put up on the internet (and probably on television)? Why weren’t he and his mother reported missing in the first place?

Then there’s Dean. One could argue that the only people who didn’t know where he was, and would be looking for him, weren’t human. But this would require ignoring Sam’s part of the story – that he was sent to Bobby’s for a couple of months. By bringing Bobby into it, the story not only tarnishes John’s character, but also Bobby’s. Supposedly, Bobby just calmly accepted the arrival of John and Sam, without Dean, and didn’t go looking for him. I’d like to have heard that conversation.

Similarly, I found Jack and Ruth’s characters to be so thinly developed that their deaths provided little more than a red herring and a bit of the show’s usual gore. They were stock “mean” characters. Why they were so bitter and hostile toward the kids was never clear. Also, if Ruth’s story is any indication, they should have been around in the flashbacks, if only by mention (Sonny even mentions Jack with familiarity to Dean in passing), yet there’s no sense of recognition from either Ruth or Dean when she meets him in the present.

Jack’s death I could understand, in that he was chasing the kids around and yelling at them. But even irrational ghost logic didn’t explain Ruth’s. If anything, Ruth’s theory that the ghost was the former owner would lead away from Timmy and his mom, so why did Timmy’s mom’s ghost feel threatened?

I liked the young actors in the story (well, the main two – Dylan Everett as Young!Dean and Sean Michael Kyer as Timmy). Kyer didn’t have to do much besides look cute and pensive, and cry, but he did it well. Everett got a lot of Jensen Ackles’ mannerisms and much of Dean’s snarky, outlaw sense of humor. Both Everett and Ackles had good chemistry with Blake Gibbons (Sonny).

The rather perfunctory (but cheerful) love interest (retconned into Dean’s first), Robin, got short shrift in the writing. Erin Karpluk and Sarah Desjardin (as Young!Robin) still managed to establish her as someone Dean would fall in love with and still hold a torch for decades later. If Karpluk looks familiar, that’s because she previously appeared in season one’s “Salvation” as the new mom the Brothers saved from burning alive on a ceiling. Similarly, Timmy’s mom was played by two women – Alika Autran under the burn makeup and Jen Oleksiuk as the memory of the “human” version of her.

There’s a whole lot of “What could have been” in this one. It’s a fairly important piece of Dean’s past, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Sonny again. But the episode itself has a lingering touch of melancholy and pain that doesn’t make it a favorite.


Fun lines:

Sam: So, Sonny’s an ex-con, huh?
Dean: What, and we’re angels?

Dean [about his time at Sonny’s]: I don’t really remember. Nobody bad-touched me. Nobody burned me with their smokes or beat me with a metal hanger. I call that a win.

Robin: Who are you?!
Dean: Right now, I’m the only thing keeping you safe.

Dean [to Timmy]: Sometimes, you gotta do what’s best for you, even if it’s gonna hurt the ones you love.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


Like this column? You can help keep it going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee.


The Official Supernatural: “Lebanon” (14.13 – 300th Episode) Live Recap Thread


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

A friend and fellow saltgunner, Mandi Gordon, is trying to do a GoFundMe to get out of a tough situation following her grandmother’s death. Even if you can’t contribute, please consider sharing the link where appropriate. Thanks.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Rather quick recap of Dean’s “hunting trip” speech from the Pilot (good Lord, does Ackles look young and shaggy in that), John, Mary, and the situation with Michael stuck inside Dean’s head, up to this point.

Cut to Now.  Dean is walking up to a pawn shop called “Precious Pawn” and looking pretty cold. Sam joins him and they go inside.

The proprietor greets them with a 20% off offer. Sam says they’re there for “the good stuff.”

“The really good stuff,” Dean says, flashing a huge wad of cash. By this, since the protagonists of this show are a couple of exceedingly experienced and deadly necromancers, he obviously means magical objects, probably of the black magic variety.

Fortunately, there’s no demurring or beating around the bush. The guy just chuckles and leads them into a back room.  There, he leads them through the “basics” (including, among other things, a Hand of Glory), then gets into more esoteric (and expensive, of course) stuff like “Dragon’s Breath.”

The Brothers cut him off by saying they are looking for something “more specific.” They want the skull of Sarah Good, a poor woman who was executed for witchcraft at Salem in 1692.

The proprietor turns to a large safe and starts working on the combination lock. While his back is turned, Sam, for some strange reason, picks up a teddy bear on a shelf and starts to pull on the string. The man cautions him not to do that (yeah, Sam, why are you doing that?) and Sam puts the bear back as Dean gives him a disgusted look.

When the owner turns back with the skull, he starts in with some rather obvious bull about having bought the skull in an auction in Pawtucket.

“No, ya didn’t,” Dean says with a predatory smile, as the masks all come off. Game on, y’all.

Dean infodumps that the skull belonged to a Hunter named Bart Kemp, a friend of the Brothers, who worked out of Boston. Only, Bart’s dead. He was cut in half by someone and the skull was stolen, along with everything else he owned.

Well, the owner realizes the jig is up (since he’s the prime suspect). He grabs up the Dragon’s Breath and tries to flamethrow the Brothers. Sam ducks/falls to one side, while Dean is blasted to the other side of the room (though he does duck in time to avoid being flambeed). The owner then picks up a scimitar called a Chrysaor (who was actually the brother of Pegasus and a warrior with a golden sword, not the sword, and it wouldn’t have been a scimitar) that he says reputedly “can cut through anything.” Oh, and it’s the murder weapon.

But he’s stupid. As he’s monologuing and getting ready to swing at Sam, he turns his back on Dean. Dean shoots him from behind. As the owner falls, Dean says in exasperation, “They always talk too much!”

Afterward, Sam finds the owner’s account book and realizes he has a ton of cursed and magical artifacts. They’re not safe to leave there, so the Brothers will have to bring them back “home” (i.e., the Bunker). Dean, who is playing with the Dragon’s Breath, sighs in annoyance at the extra work and aggravation.

Remember when I’ve commented in the past that after a Hunter dies, other Hunters descend on his or her place and clean it right out? Yeah. Like that.

Cue title cards.

Cut to a brief shot of the Brothers passing a sign for Lebanon, KS, proclaiming it the geographical center of the United States.

Cut then to a group of the dumbest, most stereotypical teens possible. I mean, these kids are bone-stupid. And, unfortunately, they are talking about the Brothers, which means that annoying shenanigans are about to ensue. I’d really hopes this trope would have left with Adam Glass and Robbie Thompson, but I guess not.

Anyhoo, one of the boys is scaring the other kids with a story of having once seen the Impala and heard something thump inside the trunk and breathing (kiddo, you have no idea).

The kids are alarmed and intrigued when the Brothers choose that moment to pull up in front of their bench. As they get out, Dean is grumping about Sam’s discovery that every single thing in the teaser ledger (now all in their trunk) is lethal.

The Brothers go inside a bar, where they are greeted by a bartender who knows them and gets them their regular (“a double” of that, Dean corrects him). Sam then suggests that cataloguing and going over this new collection might provide Dean with some distraction. After some hedging from Sam, Dean gets out of him that he means Michael locked inside the cage inside Dean’s head.

Across the street, the boy is still revving up his friends, speculating about whence the Brothers come (well … originally, they’re from Lebanon, actually [sorry, Lawrence, but they are from Kansas]) and their weird friend in the trenchcoat and the innocent boy who is always hanging around with them.

Two of the kids leave, with one girl, Max, and the boy talker staying behind. One of the departing girls comments on how nice the car is, while touching it, and Max gets this look in her eyes. Because, you know, kids are always stealing cars, right out in the open, of people who scare them. Consider how likely it is, for example, for some kids from high school who haven’t gotten into any trouble to decide to just up and steal a car owned by a known drug dealer when he’s right across the street. Yeah, that only happens in Hollywood because kids like that end up dead and even at 15, you know that.

Anyhoo, while the Brothers are inside talking about a pearl, the Baozhu, that grants wishes (from one of the sneak peeks), Dean notices Max stealing his car.

The Brothers come roaring across the street, full throttle, which gives Talker Dude a lot more gossip to share later than he ever wanted (pretty sure he pees his pants). The Brothers are a little bit … larger than life. Anyhoo, doing Bad Cop/Psycho Cop, they get Max’s name out of him, but he claims she’s new in town and he doesn’t know where she lives.

But never fear, there’s the post office. Sam is striking out in there with the postal lady (who thinks he’s a pedophile for wanting a young girl’s address), but then Dean walks in. Turns out Post Office Lady knows Dean very well and has a wee crush on him (she has good taste). Dean asks her about her son, then shmoozes the address of Max’s mother out of her.

Turns out Mom works at a diner and she is pissed to hear what Max did, especially since Max was also blowing off school. The cook informs everyone that it’s Skip Day (February 7), where kids skip school to go have a party at an old house outside town on Route 36. He says that kids need to “blow off a little steam.”

Okay, yeah, kids in a small town get bored. But when we cut to said old house, none of the kids at the party seems the least bit bothered that Max just stole a very visible classic car, cleaned out the trunk, and brought the stuff into the party. There’s a big old difference between smoking some  pot and getting drunk in some woods, or going cruising in the ‘rents’ car and catching a porn film at the drive-in alongside a bunch of middle-aged Quebecois in steamy-windowed cars (um … too specific? I had a somewhat misspent youth. In the 80s), and stealing some local gangster’s super-expensive restored car. The former is minor stuff. The latter is a felony.

So, when Max’s friend (the one who commented the car looked cool and on whom Max is apparently crushing) thinks all this is hunky-dory, I’m a little shocked. And also disappointed that Dabb apparently still doesn’t know how to write teenagers.

So, yeah, at the party, the teens have actually cleaned out the backseat and have left all the dangerous occult stuff in the living while they go drink or huff glue or eat Tide pods, or something appropriate for kids of their low level of intelligence and street smarts. In the meantime, John Wayne Gacy’s old cigar box (which Sam specifically mentioned earlier) opens up and guess who/what comes out?

So, Mr. Serial Killer Groupie comes running over to the party (after insisting to the Brother that he had no idea where Max had gone) and tries to warn her. Max’s bud blows it off, saying “Max can handle herself.”

Yeah, not so much. One kid goes into the bathroom (this is an awfully nice place for some abandoned old building) and is washing his hands when his breath fogs up. He thinks this is cool, but then the mirror fogs up, too. When he wipes it off, he sees a creepy, rotting clown in the mirror, who then reaches out to attack him.

Fortunately, the Brothers roll up at that moment in a vintage old pickup (probably from the Bunker’s garage). Dean is most worried about the Impala not being damaged (well, Max is pretty stupid, so you can’t call her a driver with the greatest judgment on not damaging a vehicle), but Sam points out that the stuff they left in the backseat is gone.

At that moment, the boy from the bathroom comes running out of the house, very much alive but freaked right out. A girl runs after him, calling him Ethan and trying to get him to stop.

The Brothers don’t catch Ethan, but they do tag the girl. She says Ethan saw a ghost in the bathroom. A creepy clown.

The Brothers bust in with their FBI badges, clearing everyone out, including their groupie, who tries to linger. Dean starts looking around, asking Sam where they might find a killer clown. With a Shaking Finger of Melodramatic Fear, Sam points at the cigar box of John Wayne Gacy, which is wide open.

Sam starts to respond, but then his breath fogs. Dean says calmly, “We should burn that right now.”

Sam can’t get across the room fast enough to grab the box, toss it into a convenient nearby fireplace, and set it alight. Or, he would , if his lighter worked.

Dean, meanwhile, is amused at the cognitive dissonance Sam must be feeling because “you love serial killers, but you hate clowns.” But he starts exhorting Sam to hurry up when the ghost appears across the room from him.

At this moment, their groupie outside decides to go in for Stupid Plot Reasons. He arrives just as Dean is being tossed onto a couch on top if the cursed teddy bear Sam was playing with earlier and Sam manages to light up the ex-John Wayne Gacy. Max and her erstwhile crush also rush in and all three of them get to see Gacy Ghost go up in flames.

Afterward, instead of slapping them silly, the Brothers give them The Talk. And Dean tells them they have to keep it to themselves. Max’s squeeze is the first to agree.

Back at the Bunker, Sam realizes he’s found the pearl. He suggests calling Mary or Castiel, but Dean doesn’t want “to get their hopes up” and suggest trying it now. After some discussion, he holds the pearl, closes his eyes, and concentrates on his “heart’s desire” (“Michael out of my head”). The lights flicker and go out, and the red emergency lights come on.

Suddenly, a shadowy, armed figure appears. Sam takes a swing at it and gets knocked down. Dean, too, is knocked down. The figure aims a shotgun at them and threatens to shoot them.

Then the lights come on and the shadowy figure resolves into a very confused-looking John Winchester, their father.

John recognizes Dean first and then Sam. Then he asks why Sam isn’t in Palo Alto. Dean quickly figures out that John has gone through time and asks him what year he thinks it is. John just came from 2003. Sam explains that he thinks they accidentally “summoned” him.

The Brothers bring John up to speed in a dizzying recap of the past 12 and a half seasons. But he’s okay with being dead in the (nearish) future because he was able to take out YED for killing Mary.

Sam rather awkwardly tries to explain that one, but Mary shows up right then, saving him the trouble. As their surprised and delighted parents start making out right in front of them, Sam drags a dazed Dean out of the room.

Sam wants to analyze what’s going on and find the catch. Dean’s just so happy to get something he always wanted (his family back together) that he doesn’t care. He understands that there is some catch, somewhere, but he just wants to indulge this long enough for “one family dinner.” He stalks off, leaving Sam stuttering.

Sam comes out into the Library to find John looking through the books. John is amazed at the scope of the Bunker and Sam admits that he and Dean were initially “blown away,” too.

John says Mary is giving Dean the recipe for her Winchester Surprise (doesn’t Dean already have it from a few weeks ago?), and we do get a quick cut afterward of Dean taking a list of ingredients from her. Sam’s mention of Dean’s story to Mary about once trying to make it in a motel room gives John some negative nostalgia.

John tries to apologize and Sam admits that John “did some messed-up things.” But when John also rather sneakily brings up their last fight to guilt Sam, Sam admits that said conversation was “a lifetime ago” and he no longer really remembers what he said. What he does remember, vividly, and thinks about a lot, is seeing John dead on a hospital floor and never getting the chance to say goodbye. That  causes John to apologize again.

As Dean is heading out to get supper ingredients, Sam catches up with him and agrees that he was right to want one family dinner. Sam then asks if he can come along. Dean smiles wolfishly.

In town, however, they find that their lives as the Brothers “Campbell” have been upended by the spell. The liquor store guy no longer remembers Dean. Max calls Sam a “weirdo” when he says hi to her on the street. And the post office lady just glares and pulls the shade down when Sam waves to her.

More concerning, Sam sees a wanted poster for Dean, with his mugshots from season two’s “The Usual Suspects.”

Sam hurries over to Dean, who’s by the car, checking his phone. Dean has found a TED talk online by nuSam, now a lawyer, in which he goes on and on about kale and how one should achieve excellence by giving up all semblance of a personal life, including family.

Old!Sam is more concerned about the wanted poster, but Dean’s already hip to that, too: “I googled me, as well – lotta beheadings.” Sam speculates that John’s time travel “changed things.” Dean agrees, but he’s still hunting. It’s Sam who’s changed a lot.

Sam thinks they’re in “a temporal paradox” and that the old timeline is changing to the new one created by John’s arrival. The really concerning thing is what else might have changed.

At that moment, two angels are flying down to earth. Yep. Angels still have their wings in this timeline. Also, they’re familiar. One is Zachariah and flying in next to him is a factory reset Castiel whom Zachariah calls “Constantine.”

As the Brothers are trying to figure out how to tell John and Mary, Zachariah and Castiel are entering the diner where Max’s mom works and where Max and her friends are hanging out. Zachariah demands to know who is “messing with time,” saying that the angels have never been entirely able to read Lebanon, so they can’t quite figure out what’s going on. He then has Castiel show his wings (which explodes the lights in the diner) and threatens to have Castiel smite them.

Outside, the Brothers see the light from Castiel’s grace and realize bad things are going down. They rush inside and quickly evacuate the bewildered civilians before there are any casualties. Zachariah is confused at first, mentioning that John had disappeared a while back, which somehow fizzled the Apocalypse. Then he realized the Brothers were responsible and tells Castiel to kill them.

Dean tries to get through Castiel (but mostly gets beaten up), while Zachariah chokes Sam and demands to know what Sam did. Sam can barely speak, anyway, but as Zachariah leans closer, Sam is able to pull out an angel blade and stab him. Exit Zachariah. Again.

Both Brothers try to take on Castiel (who, for some strange reason, just beats them up rather than smiting them), but only Dean gets a lick or two in and it doesn’t do much. Castiel smashes Sam’s head into a table a few times and Sam is able to use the blood from it (while Castiel is distracted by choking Dean) to do an angel banishing sigil on Castiel.

Back at the Bunker, in front of a set table for dinner, Dean explains to John about Sam’s “temporal paradox” theory. He says that since John disappeared in 2003, Sam never got back into hunting and the Brothers never did all the things that they did, specifically, with releasing the Darkness and getting Mary back. Dean says that Sam thinks Mary “will just fade away.”

This makes the choice easy for John. He’s not going to stay in the future at the cost of Mary’s second life. He asks if Mary knows and we cut to Sam in the kitchen, explaining the situation to her. She asks how they’d reverse the spell. Sam thinks that destroying the pearl should do it, sending John back. Mary is upset that John probably won’t remember any of it. Mary starts to cry and Sam looks upset as the oven alarm goes off.

In the library, hearing the alarm, John “suggests” Dean go help Mary (’cause we all know who the real cook is around here). But as Dean is leaving, John stops him and does the same thing he did with Sam. He says he “never meant for any of this to happen.”

Dean thinks John means the spell, but John means pulling them into his revenge quest and having to continue it after his death. He tells Dean he’s “proud” of him and the man he’s become.

But, well, it’s John and he can’t quite let that go without adding in a backhanded compliment. He says that he just wishes that Dean had been able to manage a “normal life, a peaceful life, a family.”

Dean half-chuckles as if to say, Well, there went that other shoe.

But then he looks his father in the eye and says with fierce pride, “I have a family.”

John seems to realize he’s stepped over a line Dean didn’t draw before and asks what they do “next.” Dean says it’s time for dinner. Dinner is sad, at first, but then John suggests they be thankful for the time they’ve got. So, they do a toast and have a dinner montage to Bob Seger’s “Till It Shines.”

Afterward, as they’re washing dishes, Sam broods and expresses second thoughts to Dean about sending John back. Wouldn’t it be nice if John could at least remember it? What might he have changed? Instead, he’s just going to “go back to being Dad.”

Dean says, but why stop there? Why not send John even further back and nip the whole thing in the bud? He admits that he was very “angry” for a long time, and blamed both John and Mary. It would be nice to let “some other poor sons of bitches save the world.” But then he wouldn’t recognize “who that Dean Winchester is.”

Dean says, “I’m good with who I am. I good with who you are. Cause our lives, they’re ours. And maybe I’m just too damned old to want to change that.”

At the end, they all gather in the library and exchange goodbyes, including a big threeway hug between John and his sons, where he tells them he’s proud of them and loves them. Dean whispers, “Love you, too.”

John and Mary hold hands while Sam takes out the pearl. Everyone’s pretty much bawling by the end of it, especially Dean, who blinks and flinches when Sam breaks the pearl, but never looks away. John looks at Mary and then slowly fades. Mary and Dean look at each other. Sam has looked away and turns back. All three are crying.

In town, everything returns to normal, large and small. And the three teens are walking the streets, thrilled about the idea of monsters being in the world. Like a Scooby Gang. No, show. Just no. Bad show. [whaps writers with a newspaper]

The first sign in the Bunker that the timeline has returned is when Castiel comes in, looking confused at why everyone is crying. He’s back to normal, too.

In 2003, John wakes up in the Impala, off a causeway in the pouring rain. A phone call from Dean woke him. He tells Dean about how he just had “one hell of a dream … a good one.” So, he does remember. Sort of.

Credits


Ratings for the much-ballyhooed 300th episode and John’s return went up to a 0.5/2 and 1.64 million. JDM said in one of his EW interviews that he’d like to come back for a longer arc. With those ratings, which put the show comfortably in second place for the week behind The Flash, I’ve little doubt the show will now make that happen.

There’s a preview up for the next episode (on March 7) in which Jack appears to go psycho and try to kill Rowena.


Review

I had misgivings about this one, having just reviewed the 200th episode and been less than impressed. Also, I’ve never been a huge fan of John (shut up, back there in the peanut gallery; I’m busy speaking for Captain Obvious). I mean, just an episode or two ago, Dean was talking about John used to get fed up with him and send him away. Father of the Year? Not exactly.

And there were some very large plotholes, as well as an underbaked B plot that sucked life out of the A plot, some paper-thin characters, characters acting stupid to further the plot (like the Brothers not locking the Impala up on a busy street, with dangerous occult objects in plain sight on the back seat), and some low stakes for the first 15 minutes or so.

Biggest of the plotholes? This was supposed to be a way for Dean to excise Michael, safely, from his head. Yet, not once after Dean made the spell, or even after they unmade it, did Sam or anyone else ask Dean if Michael was still there. Yes, that’s right – the whole point of doing the spell was to get rid of Michael and we never found out if it did! Even with angels involved in the third act … nope. Nary a mention.

Speaking of angels, Kurt Fuller was snarky as always and Zachariah was suitably hoot-worthy. But not only did he get barely more than a cameo, but the show just had to have Sam “get” Dean’s kill of Zachariah from the 100th episode.  Dean’s kill of Zachariah was momentous, against all odds, and totally badass. Sam killing Zachariah this time? Just another kill.

The teens were pretty awful and belonged in another episode. I don’t know if it would have been a good episode (the Gacy ghost was pretty creepy but also easily ganked), but there simply wasn’t enough room to introduce any such characters properly here, let alone without choking off most of John’s family reunion plot. They were cannon fodder who never got killed off.

The story started off reasonably well with the teaser involving the creepy guy who was killing Hunters and stealing their stuff. A little more detail on his scam would have been nice, but the actor did a good job playing smart and dangerous (except when it came to turning his back on Dean, but a lot of people make that mistake).

Too bad the show has now decided that killing rival human magic workers is no longer a Big Deal as it was in seasons past. That was a missed opportunity for some subtextual unease about Dean, who, after all, has a murderous, genocidal archangel in his head.

But then the episode took a weird side trip with the teens stealing the car. I’ve talked above about how unrealistic this seemed, as written. Also, I don’t think making the larcenous teen a budding lesbian was such a hot idea. The CW likes to pride itself on being open about sexual orientation, but on its shows, it has an unfortunate tendency to write fake Diesel Dykes who look an awful lot like Lipstick Lesbians. It’s also really into having its (mostly male) writers give us the sexual awakening stories of Baby Dykes. Stereotypes, not people.

When it works and you get a dynamic character, you get Alex Danvers on Supergirl. When it doesn’t, you get cardboard cut-outs who are basically all about their sexual orientation and strident pseudo-feminism and whatever Unfortunate Implications sneak in afterward.

I’m also not wild about the idea of these kids being used for a new spin-off. Look, folks, Wayward Sisters had its issues, but all of the characters in it had been pretty thoroughly introduced with conflicts and connections to the Brothers and the supernatural world. We barely know Alex and the gang, but we already know they’re ordinary and dull. How long can a spin-off run on “Gee whiz! Sam and Dean are great!” stuff?

Also, why name her Alex? We already have an Alex. She lives with Jody Mills.

John’s intro this episode had me rolling my eyes a bit. Really? He’d be able to kick both his sons’ asses in their prime? I was never a big fan, especially, of the variation of SuperHunter!John and that’s what we get in his first few seconds in the episode.

Fortunately, that gets dialed way back afterward. I actually liked how John interacted with his family. I know some people were disappointed by his conversation with Dean, and as I said before, the writing could have been better overall. But I thought the actors more than made up for it by bringing in subtext and subtlety to an encounter that otherwise would have been a whole lot of linear writing and montages.

For example, John’s interactions with Mary clearly show a lot of chemistry between them and show us how much he missed her. But we also get, on her side, how much she missed him. It was a foregone conclusion that John would never sacrifice Mary to save himself, but I liked how Mary balked at letting him just slip away. This drove home, I think, that Mary really is a living and active main character again in the show, after having been dead for 11 seasons.

With lesser acting, John’s interactions with his sons wouldn’t have worked, as the writing is a bit flat, there. But the subtext is pretty amazing. Morgan, Padalecki and Ackles managed to nail the undertone of regret from an abusive parent about being unable to have broken the cycle with his kids before they were grown – and discovering that some mistakes can’t be fixed, no matter how badly you feel about them or how willing your children are to forgive you.

John in this episode is still John as he’s been written and talked about for 14 seasons. He’s just John as played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who is really good at evoking sympathy for the Devil in the most evil of characters. John isn’t evil, but he is very flawed. We see this as JDM plays him on his best behavior, but then he slips here and there.

So, for example, when he’s apologizing to Sam, he can’t help bringing up their last fight before Sam left for college. And in his apology to Dean, he manages to flat-out insult his eldest, evoking the Daddy’s Blunt Little Instrument/mindless attack dog image brought up in season three’s “Dream of Little Dream of Me.”

But the Brothers (separate from each other) respond very well. Sam tells John that their fight was a lifetime ago and he doesn’t even remember exactly who said what. That what he does remember is that he never got a chance to say goodbye to John when he died and that he’s not going to blow this second opportunity to do so. Sam doesn’t deny that John was abusive. He just makes clear that he’s over it.

Dean goes even further. When John started harping on an echo of his “I want Dean to have a home” theme as if Dean were a guard dog he wanted to rehome and not his son, I just thought, Oh, no, you didn’t! But Dean simply shuts him down by telling him that he has a home and a family, that he has a life. John’s dreams for Dean are no longer Dean’s dreams for Dean. Dean has his own dreams now.

This echoes the melancholy conversation Dean had a couple of episodes with Mary, in which he admitted that no matter how much he wished otherwise, the damage his parents did to him in his childhood, inadvertent and otherwise, can’t be undone. They can’t go back. To have a real parent-child relationship, they can only go forward. Later, Dean tells Sam that he doesn’t want to go back and undo everything. He’s okay with who he is.

Now, this is quite relevant to the elephant in the room (Michael) whose status during the pearl spell we never hear about. Nick’s post-Lucifer storyline may not have been stellar (an understatement, I know), but it did drive home the way angels manipulate the fears and resentments of their vessels to get them to say yes and keep saying yes, to isolate them from their human family and friends.

By saying that he’s okay with things as they are now, and that he is no longer angry at his parents, Dean disconnects a major button Michael could push to make him compliant (remember that if Michael takes over again, this will not mean Dean’s death – just everyone else’s).

The other remarkable thing is that Dean says all of this while firmly believing that his destiny in the near future is to end up in a coffin at the bottom of the ocean with an angry archangel, presumably until the heat death of the universe. Yet, Dean is not willing to give up even one of the steps that led him to that family dinner.

That’s badass.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


Like this column? You can help keep it going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee.


Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 10.05: Fan Fiction (The 200th Episode)


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.


[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: It’s the 200th episode and we’ve got the Brothers on a very light-weight case involving privileged schoolgirls doing a musical based on the Carver Edlund books based on the Winchesters’ lives. Hunting meets First World problems. Yay.


Recap: Recap that consists of someone typing out the title page to the show’s pilot on a computer.

Cut to Now, over a black curtain that opens up. It’s a living room scene with a very bad young actress reading a book. A “ghost” prop drops to the floor in front of her and lifts up. She screams.

The door busts open and two college-age women dressed as Sam and Dean aim pop guns at the ghost while “Dean” desultorily knocks off a quip. Somebody yells, “Cut!” and a young girl in a red prep school uniform, with an Asian sidekick in similar get-up (I kid you not) starts yelling at the girl playing Dean. “Dean” replies that she’s just doing it for college credit. A shoving contest ensues, whereupon the adult in the group, who is sitting in the seats, yells at them to break it up.

She tells them she’s fed up with all the girly “drama” and she’s going to the dean of the school tomorrow to shut down the production. After she leaves, the preppy girl, Marie, insists they continue until they’re “suspended.”

Outside, the teacher is bitching on her cell phone to some friend about how “Supernatural” is not theater “truth,” and tippling from a flask, when she gets kidnapped by vines in the bushes. A purple flower is left behind on the pavement.

Cue a title card of lit bulbs and Marie stating it’s not quite right – so we get ten years’ worth of title cards, instead.

Cut to Dean cleaning up the Impala, dressed in a dirty t-shirt and jeans. Damn, does Jensen Ackles have a nice ass (sorry!).

Sam exits their motel room, which is #200 (of course). He, too, is in jeans and a v-neck t-shirt. And it’s a nice, sunny day. And a downright slutty Gordon Lightfoot song, “Sundown,” is playing on the radio. Wardrobe just called and said, “You’re welcome.”

‘Scuse me, I gotta go rewatch that.

Anyhoo, Sam comments that Dean is “up early” (hinting that Dean still isn’t sleeping) and Dean cheerfully says he’s got a case. He tells Sam about Doomed Drunk Teaser Teacher. Sam is skeptical, but Dean says he’s going stir-crazy and needs a hunt. So, off they go.

They arrive at the school theater in broad daylight (there’s a nice flower bed next to the parking lot). They’re both in their FBI suits and Sam is on the phone (Dean driving) to a police officer. As Sam brings Dean up to speed on what happened to DDTT and brags about his brief career in high school theater, Dean sarcastically notes that consisted basically of running tech stuff backstage.

The Brothers walk into the auditorium and encounter instant life dissonance. One girl in makeup as Bobby Singer is practicing the word “idjits.” Another, dressed up as Castiel, is imitating Castiel’s suicidal holy oil molotov throw (“Hey, assbutt!”) at Michael in season five finale “Swan Song.” On stage, the girl playing Dean in the teaser is singing a song called “The Road So Far” about the Winchesters’ horrible life (with a heavy emphasis on how speshul Sam is) to a montage of season one, basically, acted in pantomime by other actors while another girl (the second-to-last Person of Color we’ll see in this episode) plays on the piano. Marie and her assistant are sitting in the front row until Marie calls a cut.

Sam looks bemused, Dean utterly horrified. But it does convince Sam that there’s a case here.

Marie comes rushing up to Sam and Dean, thinking they are “from the Publisher” (whoever that is). Sam introduces the two of them as FBI agents, but Dean almost spikes it (or perhaps successfully distracts the girls from the fakeness of their badges) by getting into an argument with Marie about the play being a musical, insisting that if there were going to be any singing in Supernatural, it would be Classic Rock. Marie’s assistant dryly calls the play “Marie’s interpretation” as Marie glares daggers at Dean, but then Marie semi-mollifies him by pointing out there’s a rendition of show signature “Carry On, Wayward Son” in the second act.

Sam then gets them both mad at him when he doesn’t know that song. He mightily drags things back on track by saying they’re there to investigate the drunken teacher (Miss Chandler)’s disappearance. The Brothers quickly get filled in that she’s been drinking a lot since her divorce the previous year.

Dean belts out, to Sam’s chagrin, “I don’t blame her. I’m gonna need fifty Jello shots and a hose-down to get this stink off me!”

Sam gets the name of the assistant (Maeve) and suggests she give him a backstage tour while Dean deals with Marie. As Marie and Maeve head back down to the stage, Sam comments about how charming the production looks, but trails off when he sees Dean’s look of utter disgust.

It’s a sign of the low stakes in this episode that it never once seems to occur to Sam that it might not be very safe for Dean to be wandering around alone with a kid who is irritating the hell out of him by way of mangling the most painful chapters of his life story. I mean, Dean was a demonic madman just two episodes ago and still has the Mark of Cain at this point. But nope, says Sam, let’s split up and do a tour. What could possibly go wrong?

So, Dean goes backstage with Marie and asks her about the props table (this being Dean played by Jensen Ackles, he naturally starts playing with them, to Marie’s horror). He then spies the two girls playing Sam and Dean, over by the prop Impala. Marie explains that they’re rehearsing the “BM Scene.” Confused, Dean asks if it’s the “Bowel Movement Scene.” Marie says no, it’s the “Boy Melodrama Scene.” You know, when they talk about their feelings.

That’s somehow lots worse, especially when I remember this episode was written by a guy. I’m also reminded that this was one of Thompson’s last episodes for the show and he may have already been on his way out, willingly or unwillingly. This episode has some in jokes that seem mean-spirited at the expense of the cast and crew he was leaving behind, in a way similar to “The French Mistake,” which Ben Edlund wrote when he was halfway out the door.

Dean comments that the two actresses are standing awfully close to each other. When he asks why, and says, You do know that they’re brothers, right?” Marie insinuates that it’s “subtext.” Dean then calls out to the two girls to back it up a step. Yeesh.

In the control booth, Sam is talking to Maeve, who is a little jerk. Sam tries to ask her about “weird noises” around the theater (per folklore, theaters are notoriously haunted) and she just brings up all the FX they can do. When he mentions he did theater tech in high school, she actually cuts him off so she can go answer a call. Woof, Maeve. Rude, much?

Dean, overseen by Marie, is looking around DDTT’s office. He finds a lot of half-empty booze bottles and a weird robot prop. It turns out to be part of the second act, in which Marie (dissatisfied with the way the story went in the books post-“Swan Song”) decided to write her own fan fiction – sorry, “transformative” fiction. Which involved robots. And ninjas. And Dean turning into a girl for a hot minute.

I guess we should be grateful MPREG (the trope of male pregnancy) isn’t involved. I actually wrote an MPREG novella once, but in my defense, it was original science fiction. There’s nothing wrong with MPREG. It’s the way the trope is used in media tie-in fan fiction, with the intent of making grown men act like teenage girls, that is cringey.

I know this is supposed to be a (not so) gentle poke at the show’s fan fiction, but this second act is starting to sound more and more like Act Two of the infamous cursed play The King in Yellow.

Dean then claims to have the inside track on the as-yet-unpublished later books. He basically does a rather heightened rendition of the story up through early season ten. Marie absolutely hates it and makes fun of it as bad fanfic. Dean is (not surprisingly, since it’s his life) pretty offended. Well, can you blame him? The entire school seems bratty and entitled.

Dean then notices that the two girls playing Dean and Castiel are hugging. Seems they are a couple. Of course they are. Marie goes off on a fond little rant about the s-e-x in subtext and how there’s Destiel in Act Two. Apparently, she thinks a thirty-something man who’s seen a ton of bad shit in multiple worlds needs to have gay subtext explained to him by a sheltered teenager in prep school. The straightsplaining in that speech is so nasty that I can’t help channeling Dean’s fourth-wall-breaking look of disgust at the camera.

Outside, Dean meets up with Sam (my, they look nice in those suits) and after some discussion about the weird shipping dialogue, they finally get back to the case. Sadly, there isn’t much of one. There’s no sign of supernatural activity at the theater or in DDTT’s office. Dean speculates she may be face down in a bar or a ditch somewhere. Note that we’re already almost 15 minutes in (sans commercials) and the Brothers aren’t even sure if they’ve got a case, yet. Even though inside, someone is doing a very bad play based on their lives. So, they get in the Impala and they leave.

Later that night, a girl named Maggie is bailing on Marie’s “little dictatorship” and threatens to go to the principal in the morning, but then she gets kidnapped by a monster that looks like a scarecrow, but has vine arms like those that kidnapped DDTT. Marie sees it.

The Brothers, having heard what happened, return to the theater the next day and interview Marie. Marie manages to make poor Maggie’s (how many friggin’ girls with names beginning with M are in this episode?) kidnapping about her own humiliation at not being believed. Charming.

Marie describes the monster as looking like the scarecrow prop in their play. The monster dragged Maggie behind a dumpster and then they both disappeared. Needless to say, neither the cops nor the school authorities believed her. She’s shocked to realize that ghosts might be real and Maeve even thinks she wants to believe.

Sam makes a tactical error by introducing himself and Dean. Sadly, Marie and Maeve are Very Very Stupid and respond with laughter and mockery. This makes no sense to me. If I thought someone were playing a joke like that on me after a traumatic paranormal event I witnessed, I might get angry. But I wouldn’t respond like these twits.

I so want to slap Marie and Maeve. Hard. And we’re not even quite halfway through.

Marie’s hung up on the idea that the Carver Edlund books are “works of fiction.” Maeve’s hung up on the idea that Sam and Dean are too old to be … well, Sam and Dean (the ageism in this episode is pretty darned bad). But Dean is finally able to get these two morons back on track by convincing them that he and Sam are Hunters and can help them. Maeve guesses they’re like The X-Files and Sam’s like, “Yeah, we’ll roll with that.”

So, the first theory (remember that we are halfway through and only now taking the MOTW seriously) is that the monster is a Tulpa, since Marie based her prop on a creepy scarecrow outside town when she was a “kid.” Um … she’s still a kid, so what the hell?

The big problem with Sam’s theory (which he himself admits) is that neither the books nor the play are popular, so where did sufficient belief to create the Tulpa come from? Sam is also hung up on the fact that another flower was dropped at the scene, but he can’t recall what it is.

Meanwhile, Dean has Marie take him to the boiler room, where the scarecrow effigy is. Marie is terrified of it; Dean, not so much. Marie helps Dean burn it.

But when they come back to the library, Sam says it’s not a Tulpa. It’s a goddess. A Greek Muse to be exact – Calliope, the Muse of Epic Poetry. Sam identified her via the flower left behind. It’s a starflower, also known as Borage.

Sam says that Calliope nurtures and protects an author she favors, using manifestations like the scarecrow that kidnapped DDTT and Maggie, until that author has “realized her vision.” Then Calliope eats the author.

Kinda wish Calliope had eaten Thompson before he turned in this script.

So, Marie doesn’t take this well. She freaks out and runs into another room, then hyperventilates into a paper bag. The Brothers and Maeve rush in after her and then Sam abandons Dean to go do research or something, leaving Dean to get Marie to buck up and get the show back on track. The plan is to lure Calliope out and gank her. Because if Marie tries to stop the whole show, more people will just get kidnapped. Or something.

Marie enthusiastically responds to this rousing speech by stating she’ll take her fictional hero – Sam Winchester – as inspiration and play him in the play. Yep. Marie’s a Sam stan, on top of everything else. Oh, and she’s got a version of Dean’s amulet that she calls the Samulet (always hated that name). Dean’s double-take reflects mine.

Marie gives herself a totally self-absorbed pep talk to the mirror that finishes with her saying she’s “gonna Barbara Streisand this bitch.” So much wrong with that. So, so much wrong. She later claims, with no intentional irony, she left Chuck out of the story because an author inserting himself into the story is douchey. Ugh.

The Brothers then change back into their regular flannel and Sam arrives to surreptitiously give Dean a stake of some kind that will kill Calliope.

Dean gives the cast a big backstage speech that actually works. Then they all do a group chant of “Ghostfacers!” that horrifies the Brothers before starting the play. [sigh]

Marie comes out on-stage to give a big, stalling speech of her own to the audience and the Brothers have Maeve bring up the music to shut her up. We get the “Road So Far” montage again as the Brothers roam the backstage, looking for signs of Calliope in the confusing mess of players coming on and offstage in makeup.

Sam then gets grabbed by the scarecrow, right in front of Dean, and disappeared into a wall. Dean runs frantically after him backstage, but isn’t in time to stop it.

Sam wakes up in a cellar with DDTT and Maggie. He still is holding his goddess-killing stick. It’s the school basement. Calliope shows up and TK’s Sam around a bit.

While the girl playing Castiel sings a lonely solo onstage (remember that “The voice tells me I’m almost out of minutes” scene from season 5?), Dean tells Marie to “stick to the plan” and keep going until the goddess shows up.

The goddess, meanwhile, is monologuing to Sam about how Marie’s play is terrible (especially that second act), but there’s something special about this opening night. Perhaps it’s because the real-life inspirations for the story are here (yes, she recognizes Sam as a Winchester). She guesses she’ll “just have to find out” by killing Sam and Dean.

Upstairs, during a montage recreation of Dean’s deal to resurrect Sam in “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2” at the end of season two (yes, I know that’s out of sync with Castiel being in the play at all), Marie sings “A Single Man Tear.” That is truly an obnoxious song that sends up toxic masculinity without actually critiquing it. The only good thing about the song is the juxtaposition with Dean, who is so intently looking for the MOTW that he doesn’t notice or care about the song’s lyrics or message, and there ain’t nearly enough of that.

Near the end of the song, Dean spots the scarecrow again and runs across the back of the stage, in full view of the audience, to tackle the scarecrow while Maeve fires off instructions to the crew.

Downstairs and stalling, Sam is getting Calliope to monologue about why she chose this story, in some of the most annoying on-the-nose dialogue ever about the greatness of the show. I mean, I love this show, but that kind of infodump doesn’t belong in the dialogue. Subtext, my ass.

Anyhoo, Dean’s fighting the scarecrow and getting his ass kicked, while downstairs, Maggie and DDTT come up with a pretty decent plan to distract Calliope (by whacking her over the head with a heavy book) and kick the magic stick back to Sam. Sam stabs Calliope in the back, right at the moment Marie gets into the fight upstairs and stabs the scarecrow, shouting “No chickflick moments!” The scarecrow staggers back, arms outstretched, then bursts into blue goo right at the moment its mistress dies in the same manner downstairs. The startled (and goo-covered audience) gives her a standing ovation. Dean tells her and the “Dean” actress to take a bow. The curtain closes on this.

Afterward, Maeve comments to Sam that this is usually when the Brothers exit stage left in haste. Sam agrees. Maeve then says he’d make a pretty decent Dean if he cut his hair. Sam looks exasperated.

Dean, meanwhile, is talking to Marie during the intermission about how they just have different interpretations of the same story. Marie gives him the Samulet prop and calls him “Dean,” making it pretty clear she’s finally figured out who he really is. Dean’s not sure how to deal with that late-hour validation. So, he just comments that he never needed the Samulet as a symbol for his love for his brother (though she does get him to take it), and goes to stand next to Sam in the wings.

As the curtain rises, Sam is startled to find the words taken right out of his mouth by the dialogue on-stage about how staying “cooped up” in a motel room or the Bunker or wherever isn’t such a hot idea and they belong out on the road. Turns out it’s the BM Scene.

The play continues with the cast singing “Carry On, Wayward Son.” One of them, according to Maeve, is playing Adam. That one sure makes the Brothers uncomfortable.

Finally listening to the song and music, Dean and then Sam are emotionally affected by it.

At the very end, in the real Impala, Dean puts the Samulet prop on the rear-view mirror as they drive off into the sunset. Or the sunrise. Take your pick.

In the coda, Maeve comes running down from the balcony to Marie to say the ticket they left for the “Publisher” was picked up. After some momentary confusion over whether Calliope came for her or the Publisher, Marie runs up to meet him. It turns out to be Chuck, whom we haven’t seen since the end of season five.


Review: So. This is the episode for which the show spiked the Demon!Dean storyline.

I never thought I’d see the day when Supernatural had an episode in which only the MOTW died (It wouldn’t really be a Supernatural episode at all if nobody died). And I certainly didn’t expect that episode to be the show’s 200th, not after the high-ish body count for the 100th.

For those wondering why I’m about to body-slam “Fan Fiction” when it’s just supposed to be a flaky lark, there are two reasons. First is that screwball comedy and farce of this episode’s type are difficult precisely because they’re supposed to be light. But if a souffle falls flat, it falls flat, and that’s a fail. Gordon Ramsay isn’t going to take pity on you and call it a nice try. He’s going to call it a hot mess. That was “Fan Fiction.”

Second, the episode itself is intended to be a milestone meta commentary on the show itself and how it’s perceived by the fans. This makes it, by its very nature, analytical. Analysis is designed to be itself analyzed. The funny thing is that the show itself has always been intended as a meta commentary on the horror genre, anyway, like its spiritual predecessor, The X-Files. So, there’s double the reason to take this puppy down to the studs and see how it measures up.

This was a bantam weight entry at best. It wasn’t the worst they’ve ever had (perhaps because there’s heavy competition for that spot), but a classic it also was not. And that’s too bad, though yay for the show making it to 200 episodes in the first place (and this week, it’s the 300th). Very, very few shows have managed it. In fact, only 40 scripted primetime shows out of over 120 thousand shows in U.S. history had reached 10 seasons (2 of them, Supernatural and Bones, were in their 10th season) the year this episode came out. Supernatural is currently one of only 14 scripted primetime shows to make it to 15 seasons. If it makes it to 16 seasons, that number will drop under 10.

That said, this came off like a rather lazy and self-indulgent effort, as well as yet another reason for Robbie Thompson, like Adam Glass, to stay far away from writing young female characters, especially female LGBT characters. ‘Cause he sucks at it and the result seems more like soft-core porn than flying the Rainbow Flag.

Also, the young actresses they got weren’t the greatest, even allowing for the fact that they were playing teenage girls, some of whom were playing (very badly) two grown-ass men.

What was especially disconcerting, in light of its total reversal on the show’s basic premise, is how it wanted us to sympathize with a bunch of privileged young (mostly) white girls who were appropriating the life stories of two white guys – who also happened to be poor, marginalized, underprivileged and – until recently – homeless most of their lives. Two people who also happened to have been brought up in an atmosphere where they lived in violence the way fish live in water. And who had made out of that unfortunate circumstance a heroic profession.

And on top of that, not only did these spoiled little brats think they had a right to critique those lives, they also felt they could rewrite the story any way they chose, which also meant making it as girly as they chose (keeping in mind that this script was written by a grown-ass white man, so the female characters were themselves walking stereotypes of Clueless Female Writers who couldn’t get inside the head of a man enough to write him well. O the irony).

It came very perilously close to the kind of cultural appropriation that makes blackface or running around in an “Indian” headdress with a tomahawk at Halloween offensive. About the one thing that “saved” it (more or less) was that the culture was a fictionalized version of many different bits of world folklore and the two protags having their lives appropriated were white. And male.

Even so, fictional as they are, I found myself feeling sorry for Sam and Dean Winchester. Dean, especially, got set up for a lot of mean-spirited laughs. Ackles dealt with it by just going out full-throttle goofy, while Padalecki went Giles-levels of deadpan. I’m not at all surprised that both of the leads were more than a tad horrified when they first got the script.

I’d say that this wouldn’t have ever flown with two minority protags, but then I’m reminded of how many times this kind of story has used minority protags in exactly that way. Somewhat dopey white characters getting life lessons from Wise Old Ethnic People while appropriating the WOEP’s life stories? Tragic Gay Best Friends for the Rich Girl Who Has Everything? Very common event in Hollywood. Hiyo, Silver.

This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if this viewpoint were simply presented as is, or even satirically, but it’s really not. By the time Dean is head-bopping at the end to a song about his mother being torched on a ceiling, it’s pretty obvious these kids are supposed to be imparting some kind of wisdom to Dean, and to Sam, after appropriating the story of their lives and rewriting it in a really crappy and self-indulgent way. The viewpoint itself is intolerant. Either you’re with the writer’s pseudo-PC beliefs or you’re a bigot.

One of the reasons why Hollywood TV writers doing riffs on their shows’ fan fiction almost always goes horribly wrong is the unexamined misogyny of a bunch of (mostly) sheltered white men whose main experience with writing women is action shows and superhero comics. I remember writing fanfic on Usenet in the 90s for Star Trek, Queen of Swords and Highlander (you can find it all here if you’re curious), and woof, was the “official” attitude horrible toward fans back in the day.

On the surface, it’s improved to where they now actively woo certain fans (while still freezing out others, thus creating fandom gatekeepers for the extra lulz). But the subtext is still one of condescension and mansplaining because you’re still stuck with the writer’s male gaze. Even women who write for television almost always do so according to male producers’ and showrunners’ specifications, and for a male audience.

The thing is that there’s nothing inherently wrong with fan fiction. Hell, a huge amount of historical fiction was nothing more than religious fanfic for a very long time (Biblefic, baby!). Sure, most of it sucks, but that’s true of most published writing, too, and some fan fiction is actually very good.

Writing in a preexisting universe, like any other writing exercise, can help you become a better writer. It can give you some extra space to learn other skills besides original worldbuilding. Plot, for example. Writing a good fan fiction story means learning to research canon and write convincing characters who give readers the same thing they look for in those same characters onscreen. That’s harder than it sounds. It’s about so much more than just filling in the gaps between scenes or episodes, or retelling a story when it turned out a way you didn’t like, or writing shipping porn.

But then you get into the part where so many of the fans writing and reading media tie-in fan fiction have been women (probably because not being the intended audience means you’re less satisfied by what you get from the canonical story), and the nasty attitude of showrunners toward those fans. And this episode, while purporting to be a love letter to those fans, too often crosses the line into mean-spirited mockery. It even commits some of the sins it mocks them for, distorting the Brothers’ characters and story to fit Thompson’s little segue into Meta Land. Apparently, if you are a “real” (read: usually male) scriptwriter on the show, you can write as much shitty fan fiction as you like. But little girls writing it for free? How dare they?

Fanshaming’s not cool, writers, especially when you get the fans in on it and internalizing it and turning on each other. These people keep your story alive and your jobs in play. Show a little respect.

Now I get that the basic structure of the MOTW episode is that the protagonists of the story (Sam and Dean) roll into town and must learn a new lesson every week while killing monsters. So, they’ve got to learn something, as well, from someone re-telling their story, however horribly. But that doesn’t mean that they should be getting lectures from civilians who have no clue what their lives truly are like. It seems to trivialize the risks of hunting monsters, as well as the tragedies.

Many fans have complained about this over the years. Yet, the show continues to do it as if the writers haven’t heard anything to that effect. I suspect that has a lot to do with network pressures to introduce characters who bring in a younger audience. Why do I think this? Why, because the show has done this before and so has the network.

In season three, the CW insisted on the show introducing two young (and attractive, it almost goes without saying) female characters as recurring guest stars. The show already had one introduced in the form of Ruby, the demon who would eventually lead Sam to start the Apocalypse. Under the gun to bring in another female recurring lead, they took a one-shot, Bela, and turned her into a recurring.

Personally, I liked Bela’s potential, if not the execution, until “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” when she tried to kill the Brothers by stealing the Colt and giving it to Lilith. This was solely to save her own hide. Even that could have been written more sympathetically, but the writers, by their own admission in the companion book for season three, hated having the character imposed on them. So, they did their level best to sabotage the writing for her from the get-go.

Ironically, the character that they really did like, Ruby, who also happened to be a Creator’s Pet, was even worse than Bela because her creator was so obsessed with her. She was so roundly hated that they had to recast her because Eric Kripke refused to write her out until the end of season four.

I was therefore unsurprised to see the network doing this again in season ten, by introducing – or should I say, having the showrunners introduce – a slew of new, young, female characters. After all, it is not the first time they tried this (“Ghostfacers” and, ugh, “Bloodlines”). And it wasn’t the last time, either, though “Wayward Sisters” was a hell of a lot closer to the original show’s concept than this episode. At least “Fan Fiction” wasn’t the (bad) sign of things to come that it looked like when it first came out. So, there’s that.

There is somewhat of a mystery about why they introduced these characters in the 200th episode (we never did see them again). I say this because the episode went to great lengths to introduce all of them (even if Marie was the only one who got any real development). Yet, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of plot gas in terms of recurring characters for someone like Marie. Okay, so she’s doing a play about Supernatural. Great. But then what? It’s not as though she is going to become a Hunter. And there are only so many times a haunting can occur at her school before it gets sillier than season seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the Hellmouth and bad guys constantly coming to her town.

So, perhaps Marie and her little girl gang were not ever intended to be recurring characters, let alone the backdoor pilot material the network so desperately desires. It makes you wonder, though, why they were introduced in the first place. The very last people I’d think would be obsessed with the lives of Sam and Dean Winchester would be a bunch of sheltered prep school girls.

In addition, there are a few problems with the logic of the situation. Let’s all cast our minds back to the fact that the Brothers have been on the run from the law for most of their lives, almost as long as Bo and Luke Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard. In addition, Dean had been a wanted serial killer for nine seasons to that point. Not to mention when both he and Sam were framed as spree killers by Leviathans who looked just like them in season seven. These two have been on America’s Most Wanted list more times then Ted Bundy.

It is therefore a bit of a stretch to expect that a prep school for sheltered young girls would have no objections whatsoever to a bunch of their students doing a musical about these two serial killers. Even worse, they are two serial killers who are heavily into the Occult. It all defies suspension of disbelief just a tad in this post-9/11 world. I mean, would you really expect to see the same bunch of girls allowed to do a play like Springtime for Hitler or a sympathetic musical about the life of Charles Manson? Try so not.

The writing tries to both dodge and handwave this with a rant by the drunken schoolteacher, who is supposed to be the girls’ after-hours chaperone in the teaser, about how they are doing a musical based on a bunch of badly written books. Which is all very nice, except that the Brothers are real, and their reputations as wanted, vicious criminals are also quite real, within the context of the Supernatural universe. So, even if the teacher is mainly focused on the badly written books, she’d have to have been living in a cave not to have noticed that Sam and Dean, on whom the books are based, are very bad men, as far as she knows.

One could argue that because Chuck never uses Sam and Dean’s last names, it doesn’t matter and nobody is going to put two and two together to realize they are one and the same. However, in America’s litigious society, which is also very paranoid, the teachers would probably object amply because the Sam and Dean of the books could be confused with the “real life” Sam and Dean on the Most Wanted list.

Speaking of the teacher, we are apparently supposed to believe that she can just walk off and leave a bunch of teenage girls all alone in a theater in the evening with no chaperone. Never mind that she’s kidnapped while she’s leaving them alone; she should not have left them alone in the building in the first place. This, once again, shows that the writers of Supernatural, including Robbie Thompson, don’t always know what they’re talking about when it comes to some basic real-life situations. Certainly, it gives the impression that neither Thompson, nor anyone who vetted this script, has ever been a teacher.

I have to say that Marie is a truly irritating character. I could handwave a lot if she were more fun. Instead, she is an uptight little rich bitch who spends a great deal of time yelling at everyone else. To make matters worse, we are apparently supposed to believe that she is on a Hero’s Journey and that we are supposed to root for her. I so don’t want to root for her. I was rooting for the MOTW to eat her.

The episode also really, really tries to be PC, but fails miserably in a couple of places. For a start, what is with the token Asian character of the young woman who is Marie’s assistant? Also, to make matters worse, she just happens to be revealed at the end of the episode as the token Dean Girl.

Also, what is up with all the lesbian characters who are 1. lipstick lesbians, and 2. engaging in relationships with each other as part of a lifestyle? It makes you wonder just how hip Thompson really is to the LGBT community when he takes the number one accusation that is used against them – to whit, that they choose to be gay or lesbian or transsexual or bisexual, rather than that they are born that way and therefore can’t just stop doing it – and makes it sound as though choosing to do it is a great fashion statement and a growing phase.

Thompson honestly seems to think he is striking a great blow for LGBT representation on television by having two teenage girls who happen to be playing men – hot teenage girls, I might add – also be in a relationship with each other, on top of playing two men who are in a relationship with each other. I get that it’s all supposed to be very Victor/Victoria (which is a wonderful and very funny film on my short “I feel like crap; what shall I watch to feel better?” list), but even in Victor/Victoria, the characters who are gay are born that way and can’t help it. In fact, some fairly major plot points in the movie revolve around how incredibly dangerous it was to be gay in certain parts of the world in that time period.

Victor/Victoria makes no bones about showing how terrible and destructive homophobia was in the early 20th century. “Fan Fiction” does not make any effort whatsoever to show the equivalent for the 21st century. Apparently, the episode exists in a world all to its own where young women can choose to be lesbian with no societal consequences whatsoever. Can I live on that planet? Because it is not Planet Earth.

It doesn’t help that all of this is meant to be a goof on Destiel. On top of that, we have Dean being lectured by Marie on how to treat his brother. Never mind that Marie seems to be convinced that Dean and Sam are in an incestuous sexual relationship with each other (can’t leave out those Wincest jokes). So, I am pretty sure that Marie does not know nearly as much as she thinks she knows, not least because she has to be rescued from a pagan goddess who, up to that point, she had no idea even existed.

That said, I sort of liked the return of the Samulet. I didn’t like hearing it referred to incessantly as the Samulet. But I liked that it came back because I really hated the way they wrote it out in season five. I get that it was causing Jensen Ackles a lot of pain, but I wish it had been written out better, even if it did get a somewhat nice coda to its story near the end of season 11.

Before I wrap up this rant, I want to add a couple of things that are more positive. For one, the sets were really nice. I mean, they were really, really nice. This show’s saving grace has often been the crew who work tirelessly to make it look good on a low budget. It is rare that they screw things up. Granted, there are times when the writers write checks the crew’s talents (and budget) cannot cash. But in this case, they really came through.

For one thing, the sets look like the kind of thing you would see in a high school musical. Having played orchestra in the pit for a few high school musicals (bass clarinet, in case you’re interested), I can tell you that the sets often have to be the saving grace. Even cheap ones can look great if you have someone with a little artistic talent behind the scenes. In this case, the crew obviously did and they made it look as though Marie had a theater crew she did not deserve.

Second, while I did not care for most of the songs, I did think the voices, in general, were pretty good. And some of the young performers did quite well. I liked the girl who played Mary, for example, and the girl who played Castiel was also decent.

I didn’t care so much for the actresses who played Sam and Dean. I know they were supposed to be playing young college girls doing summer stock theater, but that doesn’t mean that I particularly liked their performances. And I also did not find them at all convincing playing men (contrast them, for example with the Hillywood sisters, who are much better at it).

It made me wonder, in fact, if the script itself had directed them to play Sam and Dean as stereotypically “girly” as they possibly could. In an episode where all of the guest characters were female, and we were supposed to have some pro-female Gay Pride theme going, it was disappointing to see all of the girls be frilly stereotypes. Once again, that is the kind of thing that can happen when a male writer thinks he knows women better than women know themselves and proceeds to mansplain feminism to them. Gee, that’s not condescending at all.

Finally, the stuff where the Brothers are getting ready for the hunt, and after they leave the hunt, is really quite good. I loved the use of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” (he’s one of my favorite singer songwriters, going back to my childhood). Baby has never looked better. I’m not sure Sam and Dean have looked better than in that scene, either. I also liked the final shot of their driving off into the sunset. Yes, it looks unreal, even stylized. But I’m pretty sure that’s the intent. I still liked it.

I wish they had done the Monster of the Week better. You would think that they could’ve written her as less underwhelming. I also wish that Dean had gotten the kill. I get, in retrospect, that they were drawing out the suspense of Dean’s first kill after being a demon. That doesn’t mean that tactic was satisfying in “Fan Fiction.” There were some good moments of Dean rushing around backstage during the climax where Jensen Ackles makes frantic work of it. But it doesn’t make the general proceedings any less silly.


Fun lines:

Dean [to Sam]: We got work to do. [slams the lid of the Impala]

Dean [to Marie]: There is no singing in Supernatural! If there were, it would be Classic Rock, not this Andrew Lloyd Webber crap!


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


Like this column? You can help keep it going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee.


The Official Supernatural: “Prophet and Loss” (14.12) Live Recap Thread


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

[sigh] I so hate Nepotism Duo scripts. Anyhoo, let’s get started.

Paint-by-numbers recap of the Nick storyline and Dean creating the Ma’lak Box to get locked inside out under the Pacific.

Cut to a box on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Inside is a terrified Dean, clawing and banging at the lid as it appears to bow in from the pressure. Then the light on his phone goes out as his battery dies.

Cue title cards.

Dean wakes up, very wide-eyed and gasping. It was a nightmare. Sam comes out of the bathroom, looking concerned and apologizing for having woken Dean up. Dean says Sam didn’t wake him up. As a scream from his nightmare echoes in his head, he glances over at the wall next to his bed. It is covered with bloody scratches. He glances down at his hand, the one he was using in his dream to bang at the Ma’lak Box lid. His fingernails are torn and bloody.

I gotta give this to Jensen Ackles in the dream scene and this one. He is not afraid to look unheroic. In the coffin dream, Dean is red-faced and ugly-crying. Even afterward, he looks shell-shocked. It isn’t pretty and I’m curious to see how many fans will actually recap it on social media. The teaser is a classic horror trope of being buried alive, plus an undersea theme common to submarine flicks and Ackles milks it like a doomed Alfred Hitchcock Presents protagonist.

Sam (unknowingly?) twists the knife a bit by pointing out that what Dean proposes to do is far worse than death – Michael will keep him alive in that box “forever” – so of course Dean must be terrified. Dean says yeah, but it’s not as though he’s got any other options. Sam says, well, unless they can find a way to get rid of Michael first. Dean asks Sam if he’s got any solutions for that. Sam doesn’t. Dean goes into the bathroom, looking a little disgusted with Sam.

Cut to a young woman in some factory setting. She is tied up and gagged. A stone-faced young man fills a tank with water, pours something into it (salt?), then dumps her in. He briefly drags her out to cut up her arms, then drowns her. Afterward, he hears voices speaking in what sounds like Enochian. This is an obvious rip-off of the film Frailty, one of inspirations Kripke has acknowledged for the show. Can’t say I loved the film and I’m not too impressed by the homage, either.

Lu – sorry, Nick wakes up in a hospital bed. I guess he’s there for his knee (which Donna shot out from under him last week). This show has such magical thinking with medical stuff (particularly this episode’s writers) that it’s hard to tell how seriously it chooses to take a particular injury in a recurring character.

Nick is being tormented by a very unprofessional cop who is his bodyguard. As I recall, this guy last played the corrupt sheriff in the season 10 episode when Dean killed all the Stynes. The guy promises him that he will spend the rest of his life in prison and Nick whines that the devil made him do it (no, he actually says that). Ugh.

Cut to the sneak peek, with Dean trying to keep Sam on track with supporting him. They are in some wet forest, investigating a case. I think. Sam is being pissy instead of supportive and guilt-tripping Dean. I really want to slap Sam hard here. He knows perfectly well how dangerous Michael is. Michael already promised him a few episodes that “the last thing you’ll see is this pret-ty smile” as he tore Sam apart. It’s flat-out irresponsible for Sam to recruit TFW 2.0 to sabotage Dean and it’s exactly what he did in season 10.

And guess what Sam does as soon as Dean leaves the car to go to … the bathroom? Again. Anyhoo, Sam calls Castiel and they whine to each other about how even Rowena can’t find anything in the Book of the Damned.

Cut to the stone-faced young man again, this time in a car in the rain. He’s stalking someone in an alleyway, a man this time. Cut to the man tied up and with duct tape over his face, getting dragged into another convenient factory setting and getting his throat cut. The psycho chants about executing “judgment” in the land of Egypt, cuts up the guy’s chest and intones, “I am the Lord.”

Jeez, Nep Duo, you can’t even do villains right. So dull. And kinda cringey.

Cut to the Impala driving back in the night and rain, pulling something. Dean is driving, despite Michael’s banging on the inside of the Cage.

Dean apologizes to Sam for not always being the greatest brother (really, show? Really?! Did we not get enough of this tripe in the first five seasons?). Sam says that Dean was the only person who was always there for him.

Dean says that sometimes, he sided with John just “to keep the peace,” but that there were times when he seemed to disappear out of Sam’s life. These were when he had somehow angered John and John would send him away (a reference to “Bad Boys,” I guess). Wow. As if John couldn’t look any worse.

This seems a tiiiiiny bit outside of canon as outlined in earlier seasons, but it’s nothing to what a wanker Sam is about not wanting to hear it because it sounds like a “deathbed apology.” Dean looks devastated.

I sure hope the rest of the season won’t have me wanting to punch Sam in the throat nearly every time he opens his mouth. That could be wearing.

Cut to Nick praying to Lucifer (the cop thinks he’s praying to God). He manages to get the drop on the cop while asking him for a pee break. Then he beats him to a pulp. I am so rolling my eyes at Nick Sue this season.

On top of everything else, Sam decides to check out a case. Dean’s hesitant, at first, because that’s not what the trip is about (I’m not even sure what the trip is about at this point – getting the box back to the Bunker? What, Nep Duo?). But then he figures, sure, why not? “One last case for the Winchester boys.”

Sam gets pissy about Dean constantly bringing up his imminent entombment and I actually said out loud, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Sam!” It quite confused my 18-year-old cat, who is trying to get me to give him his dinner.

Anyhoo, Sam mentions the two victims. The woman did indeed drown in salt water. They both had Enochian carved into them.

The Brothers visit the brother of the second victim, pretending to be FBI. He’s played by the same actor because they were twins. In the interview, he says his brother came out first and always tried to be his big brother (Dean’s getting a headache from all the plot anvils). Sam tells him the “graffiti” was Enochian meaning “I am the Word” (ah, so not “I am the Lord”).

Turns out the victim knew another guy, Tony, who had a tattoo that says “The Word.” Gee, I wonder if that’s our killer. What linear writing.

Dean calls Castiel for research and Castiel blurts out that Sam told him everything. Sam looks uncomfortable as Dean gives him a dirty look – yeah, Sam, you are that family member nobody wants to tell anything because it’s just like announcing it on Facebook. But he does get out of Castiel that Tony was supposed to become a Prophet after Donatello.

As Dean speculates whether Donatello is now dead (because that’s the only way a new Prophet can be activated), we get a view of Donatello on a ventilator in a hospital bed, where he’s been ever since Castiel turned him catatonic last season.

Far too many commercials on this stupid CW app.

Dean calls Donatello’s doctor, posing as his nephew.  Yep. Donatello’s still alive.

The Brothers now need to figure out how Tony got activated and why he is a-murdering innocent folk. The Brothers break into his house. They discover a room with walls covered in Enochian and containing photos of the dead victims. Sam reads some of the Enochian about Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea and “divine retribution” and killing of firstborns. Dean immediately makes the connection to the victims (the woman drowning in salt water like the Red Sea and the young man being the elder twin) and points to photos on the wall as possible future victims. Sam then susses out one that talks about fire coming out and consuming someone.

Cut to Tony pouring gasoline all over some poor dude while ranting about fire coming from God. He then backs away, pouring a line, and lights a match.

At that moment, the Brothers run in, guns drawn. Sam tackles Tony and starts to choke him out. Dean rescues the victim and tells him to run after cutting his bonds. The guy wastes no time obeying and quickly leaves the scene.

Dean actually has to yell at Sam to stop choking Tony and Sam lets him drop. But when Dean asks him if he’s Tony and Tony is unwise enough to challenge him, Dean punches him, hard.

Tony insists he’s doing the Lord’s will, but when the Brothers ask him what he’s hearing now, he realizes the voice has stopped. Sam says that’s because whoever he was hearing wasn’t God. Dean informs him that he killed three innocent people for nothing and punches him again.

After some flashbacks to the murders, Tony is in denial and tackles Dean for reasons not entirely clear, aside from getting Dean’s gun so he can shoot himself once Sam hauls him off Dean. The Brothers look upset for reasons not entirely clear, considering he was murdering people.  So, what if he was a Prophet? He was still, as Dean put it, “a psycho.”

So, that happened.

Afterward, Sam is talking to Castiel on his cell phone while they are continuing to haul the Ma’lak Box back in the longest coffin trek since Woodrow Call hauled his best friend’s body back to Texas in Lonesome Dove. Sam is worried that with Tony dead, some new serial killer Prophet is now awakening somewhere else, ready to start the crazy all over again. It feels like the end of the episode, but according to the CW timer, we’re only a little bit over halfway. Oh, dear, Nep Duo. Come on.

Castiel makes a comment with no ironic intent whatsoever about how the new Prophet was “malformed” because the Natural Order has been upset. Sam says he doesn’t know how to keep the whole process from starting all over again. Dean just tells him, “You know how.”

Nick breaks into his old house, which looks pretty darned good for having been boarded up and left as-is, sheet-covered furniture and all (people don’t really do that in real life). He starts having flashbacks to Lucifer’s manipulations because everybody’s having flashbacks in this episode.

But then something rather interesting occurs. His breath fogs up and when he turns to a mirror, it fogs up, too. Thar be a ghost about. Doors bang and lights fritz and guess who appears? Nick’s wife, Sarah. You know, the ghost of the woman in whose name Nick murdered all those people.

As this is an episode where nobody’s motivations make a whole lot of sense, though, Nick immediately thinks she’s Lucifer pretending to be his wife (as happened right before he said yes at the beginning of season five). Needless to say she’s hurt and I’m confused as to why we went through this whole storyline this season about Nick avenging his wife and child when he doesn’t actually care, after all.

After the commercial break (yes, I’m quite salty about being stuck with this stupid CW app), Nick asks Sarah why she’s still there. She tells him the obvious – “unfinished business” regarding her murder and that of their baby.

Crying, Nick tells her he missed her and she calls him a liar. He insists he found justice for her, that he found her killer. Sarah calls him out on his motivation for that, too (by the way, she’s a mighty solid ghost, per previous Nep Duo ghost entries). She says she was there as a ghost the night he said yes to Lucifer. If he truly cares more for her, then let him “reject Lucifer” and choose her, releasing her from the earthly realm.

Alas, despite all his blubbering, Nick can’t and leaves the house with her shouting after him that he’s become Lucifer. Nick agrees and says he’s going to find the “darkest” place he can find, wherever Lucifer is. I’m sure you’re all shocked.

Cut to the Happy Daze nursing home (y’know, with these two so close to retirement age themselves, you’d think they’d finally lay off the ugly ageism. Guess not). The Brothers are there to pull the plug on Donatello and the doc is all for it. Holy Irresponsible Spreading of Wrong Medical Knowledge, Batman! Uh, no, you do not pull the plug on people in a “persistent vegetative state.” And no, you cannot have practically no brain activity while still mumbling in your sleep. Bad writers! Bad, bad, bad writers! [Whaps writers on the nose with a newspaper.]

So, Castiel happens to be there, playing a Doctor Novak. Castiel gets pissy with Dean, even after Dean tells him to stop it and that he’s already having a hard enough time. It turns out Donatello was mumbling the same words that Tony heard. Somehow, Tony heard Donatello trying to reorganize his brain. Or something. Me, I’m wondering why the hell Donatello was off his respirator long enough to have his eyes wide open and mumbling stuff. But massive continuity errors are cool, amirite?

So, after months of ignoring him, Castiel decides he’s going to heal Donatello. This confuses Donatello’s doc who was just about to take Donatello off the respirator as part of discontinuing his treatment – except we just saw a video of him doing just that and Donatello really clearly breathing on his own. Because breathing on your own is how you form words.

Anyhoo, after some more random bitchery aimed at Dean, Castiel decides to operate. The Brothers hang out in the waiting room, in comfy chairs.

Dean asks Sam if he’s all right. Sam, employing some more neutron-heavy plot anvils, talks about Donatello being trapped between life and death (except, not really, because Donatello no longer has a soul). When Dean shrugs this off, Sam snaps, “Easy for you to say.”

“No, it’s not, really,” Dean coldly replies. Rather than realizing it’s time to back way the hell off, Sam sees this as a weakness to exploit, but Dean just tells him, “Nothing’s changed.”

Dean then has a Michael attack right in front of Sam, but Sam doesn’t even appear to notice.

Inside Donatello’s room, Castiel is doing his glowy-hand thing. He tells the Brothers he’s “searching for something,” but doesn’t explain what except that his eyes glow when he finds “it.” And Donatello wakes up.

But it’s not clear whether or not the machines are just keeping him alive so Dean … uh … turns them off. Yeah, yeah, I know, but we’re just rolling with the stupid at this point.

So, at first, Donatello appears to fade out, but then he wakes up with a dramatic gasp (through the ventilator that nobody bothered to remove). And then they give him glasses that were put on his bedside table, even though he was in a coma and didn’t need them for months and months. The only staff that bother to come in after his machines got turned off is the rather confused doctor. Dean fairly loudly adjudges it “a miracle.”

Cut to Donatello eating jello or pudding or something, and wanting buffalo wings. Dean tells him to take it easy and get up to speed slowly. Donatello doesn’t remember anything about being possessed by the Demon Tablet, but Castiel quietly assures Dean that this is the “real” Donatello, albeit still without a soul. All the other canon and worldbuilding and lack of research these writers bad-touched all episode, but that they remembered.

Dean goes outside, to find Sam getting sloppy drunk by the Impala. I can already feel the urge rising to punch Sam in the throat. It doesn’t improve in this scene.

Sam proceeds to go on a (inaccurate) rant not much better than the one at the end of “The Purge.” Sam accuses Dean of “quitting” and wanting to kill himself. Um, no, Sam. You yourself admitted earlier in this episode that Dean is not going to die. Regardless of how all this pans out, as long as Michael is inside him, Dean will live forever. It’s the world that is on a deadman’s switch if Dean loses control.

Really, what Sam is pissed off about is not that Dean is dying because Dean isn’t and all of the solutions Sam claims they could find, they could find with Dean inside the Ma’lak Box. Because Dean and Michael would still be alive inside it a year, ten years, a thousand, a million, a billion years from now. Maybe not sane, but they’d be very much alive. So, Sam isn’t upset about Dean dying. He’s mad that Dean is breaking up the band.

Anyhoo, Sam starts slapping Dean in the chest and then punches him, declaring that “I believe in us!” which is new, considering Sam spent the whole first nine seasons of the show trying his level best to get away from Dean, and not really something I buy. Dean stops Sam from punching him, so Sam tries hugging it out. This apparently works, as Dean relents and says, sure, they’ll look for some solutions.

But Dean then pulls back and says when – sorry, if – they don’t, he’s going into that box and Sam is going to let him do it. As Castiel walks up, Sam agrees. Then again, Sam agreed last week, too.

Off they drive in the Impala. Sam doesn’t look quite as triumphant as you’d think. Maybe the reality of what he wants is finally coming home to him.

Credits


Ratings for the show remained steady in the demo at 0.4/2 and dropped a bit to 1.40 million. This tied it in the demo at second for the week and put it second in audience.

The show has also been renewed for a 15th season. No word yet on how long the season will be. Let the hopeful hater speculation that it will be the last begin in 3 … 2 … 1 ….

The preview for next week is here, as is a sneak peek. That’s the much-vaunted 300th ep, “Lebanon,” and yes, I will do a retro review of the 200th ep this week (“Fan Fiction” from season 10). After that, we’re going to have a brief Hellatus. I think it will just be a week, but don’t quote me on that.


Review

My goodness, this one was just terrible. After the opening scene (which was a hoary idea even in the Victorian Era, and great mainly due to the Ackting and some nice CGI), things went downhill quickly. Linear plotting, inconsistent pacing, convenient coincidences, a very boring MOTW, plot holes large enough to drive that semi that totaled the Impala in “Devil’s Trap” through, lazy characterization, ageism, appalling and insensitive treatment of medical ethical dilemmas … jeez.

Okay, sure, Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming have written worse (like dog girls), but when that bar’s set so low it’s somewhere down with Dean’s nightmare in the Marianas Trench, that is not saying much. “At least they weren’t casually racist or misogynistic this week” is not a ringing endorsement of even a Nep Duo ep.

What the actual plan was for the Brothers regarding dragging the Ma’lak Box all over the countryside did not get much explanation. I guess they were heading west this week with the box to charter a boat? Yeah, that wasn’t explained very well.

Neither was the new Prophet’s motivation. The torture and death scenes came off as gratuitous, largely because the Tony character was written as such thin gruel. Aside from a few characteristics that sorta, kinda fit what Donatello was muttering, how did Tony choose his victims? Were they all people he knew? What did he even think he was trying to do? How did he justify it to himself? Why did he end up shooting himself (aside from the whole convenient writing thing) after Dean told him they were innocents?

Was it all part of some spell Donatello was muttering (and was it a leftover from the Demon Tablet)? Did Heaven have Donatello on speed dial (even though he’d apparently been activated by Amara, originally)? Or was Michael maybe trying to reach out through a Prophet to effect his escape? Obviously, Donatello’s mutterings will figure into something later in the season (that foreshadowing was neutron-star dense), but Tony’s entire character seemed random.

Speaking of random, again, with John obviously coming back next week (yeah, yeah, I know, spoilers), what the hell was up with Dean telling Sam that John would get angry with him and send him away for extended periods of time when they were kids? Especially in light of what happened in “Bad Boys,” that’s somehow even more horrifying than the hints that John smacked Dean around. It just seems so emotionally abusive.

It was therefore quite annoying for Sam to make the horrific and terrifying journey that Dean was trying to take All About Himself. And to have Castiel back him up with his own angel brand of pissiness just made me want to smack their heads together like a couple of coconuts. If would be one thing if they were only risking their own lives, but these two chuckleheads are ready to let the world burn just to keep Dean with them, being the wind beneath their wings until the day Michael manages to flip the switch. Which is cute and all, except not really. Actually, it’s quite horrifying.

This is a really, really, really important point that the show keeps obscuring by having Sam and Castiel throw the words “suicide” and “self-destructive” around. And I’m not just talking about the deeply offensive way the show continues to treat mental illness, when its leads have worked so hard to build a charity that includes a crisis hotline and is literally intended to help dismantle the toxic attitudes toward mental illness that the show’s writers too-often promote for giggles and drama plot coupons.

No, I’m talking about the part of the story where none of this involves Dean committing suicide. Dean is going to imprison himself before he loses control of that dark and genocidal archangel part of him. He is not going to die. He can’t die, actually, at least not right now. His choices boil down to: living forever inside a box with an angry archangel, but the world is safe, and living forever inside an angry archangel as he rips the world apart.

But either way, it’s living forever. It’s the world that’s in peril. From him. He’s got a gigaton thermonuclear bomb inside him and it’s ticking. And he can hear the clock.

They could, conceivably, stick Dean inside the Ma’lak Box now in a way that wouldn’t drive him completely insane (give him a Gameboy, or something), and then look for a solution. It’s not like Dean’s going to die. The Ma’lak Box could actually be a temporary solution, a sort of padded cell for Dean to stay until TFW: The Expansion Pack could figure things out.

But that doesn’t even come up because Sam and Castiel and even Mary (Jack was totally MIA this week) are so stuck on the idea that Dean musn’t go into the box, even though they could open the box back up at any time. Their intransigence just doesn’t make any sense except in terms of Sam freaking out at the idea that Dean might abandon him (as Dean hints in his conversation about John). It’s pretty gross that Dean has grown so much in this storyline, yet 36-year-old Sam is still acting like a pissy, willful, self-destructive adolescent. Grow his ass up, already, Show.

Finally, I guess I have to talk about whatever-the-hell-that-was with Nick, don’t I? I get that the show wants Nick to “choose” Lucifer (I keep hoping against hope that the show really isn’t going to bring Lucifer back, but maybe if they do, they’re planning to stick him in Nick and then stick Nick into the Ma’lak Box, with the idea that Nick won’t mind because he’ll be back with Lucifer. Which is all kinds of messed up and not in a good writing sort of way, either, but if it gets rid of Lucifer for good, I’m okay with that). What I don’t get is why they did it in a way that made his whole revenge quest for his wife and kid completely pointless. I mean, he killed a bunch of people in their names and then, when he encountered Sarah’s ghost (different actress, I think, and longer hair, and what’s with this show’s obsession with ghostly women in nightgowns?), he couldn’t even lie to her long enough to help set her free.

So, what was even the point of watching him do all that? Yes, I get that part of it was his discovering that he still missed Lucifer and that Lucifer fundamentally screwed him up. I get that. But there wasn’t even any sense of betrayal when the demon told him last week it was working for Lucifer when it killed his family. Not only did he not demonstrate any anger or guilt or pain over that, but the show didn’t even acknowledge that yeah, that would be a huge monkey wrench in his whole revenge plot.

Overall, that felt like a damp squib, a completely anticlimactic ending to a plot that took up far too much of this season as it was. I kept hoping his wife would rip him apart and then move on to the next world. Sadly, the Nep Duo aren’t good at writing ghosts, so she just flapped some doors around and chilled the air and screamed after him. Jeez, Nick, at least give Sam and Dean a call so they can release her.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


Like this column? You can help keep it going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee.