The Official Supernatural: “Galaxy Brain” (15.12) 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. As we slide deeper into the Coronavirus outbreak, I will try to catch up a bit more on my backlog of retro recaps, while keeping up with current reviews (which will happen starting after next week, since it’s been announced that 15.13 will be the last episode aired “for a while”). If you’re enjoying these reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat.

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 up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. 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.

Recap: Rather boring recap of Dean telling Chuck off, a largely context-free rehash of Kaia/Dark-Kaia (leaving out, for example, that the reason Dean was threatening Kaia with a gun was because she was being awfully casual in refusing to help rescue Mary), and Jack coming back from the Empty.

Cut to Four Weeks Ago, but it’s not on Earth. It’s like Earth, but it has two moons (in a configuration that looks astronomically dodgy and must be currently popular in Hollywood because it also appeared in episode 1.09 of Star Trek: Picard). Inside a large office building, in a store called Radio Shed, a young redhead is looking desultorily at electronics, while Louden Swain belts out “Pop Tart Heart” on one of the radios.

Also on the radio is a news broadcast in which we hear the Paris Accords are being renewed, Hillary Clinton is president, and all is pretty right with the world. Nearby, a young store clerk watches the young woman like a vulture, making her nervous. When she leaves the store, he sighs in disappointment. She was the only customer. Radio Shed is not doing well.

The door dings again (though there’s no sound of it opening) and the young man turns to see Chuck. He starts his sales pitch on Chuck, but Chuck’s not interested. Our renegade mad God approaches a wall of TVs with Radio Shed’s logo. He says he’s “looking for … an audience.” Raising his arms, he makes all of the TVs bring up a different image of a different, peaceful, natural world.

Chuck talks about how, “in the beginning,” it was just him and his sister, but that he grew bored. So, he “created the World.” He gestures. A view of Dean and Castiel in the Bunker kitchen appears. Sam enters the kitchen on the screen as Chuck rants and strolls to another TV. He then talks about how he “got the bug and decided to create other worlds.” He gestures again. Scenes from Sam’s God Wound dreams come up, showing Sam and Dean murdering each other, as well as the “future” Chuck showed Sam. Chuck calls all of them his “toys.”

Chuck: Dean says I’m not gonna get the ending I want. And I don’t know, maybe, I mean, that shouldn’t matter, right? I’ve gotten what I want from a hundred Sams and Deans. I can get what I want from a hundred more. And I don’t care. Those other toys, they don’t spark joy.

Yes, Chuck just went all Marie Kondo on the multiverse.

Anyhoo, it turns out Chuck is really upset about what Dean said and it’s harshing his apocalypse mellow. So, what he’s decided to do is end all of the other worlds and timelines he created, except for that one original, maddening, “challenging,” rebellious one that still intrigues him. He’s decided it’s time to cancel all the other “shows,” the other timelines, the “alternate realities, the subplots, the failed spin-offs.”

Cue title cards.

Cut to “Sioux Falls. Our World. Now.”

Jody is checking out a dead cow that she determines was probably not killed by supernatural means. She tells Alex (whom we get in voiceover when she calls on the phone) that the cow was “clubbed to death.” Alex has a vegan lasagna in the oven. Jody tells her to keep it warm.

After she hangs up, Jody turns around to see someone slip through the doorway into the darkened barn. Jody follows, gun and flashlight leveled. She calls out, but no one answers. But then she’s attacked and knocked out.

Cut to the Bunker kitchen, where the scene Chuck turned on in the teaser is ongoing. Sam is saying he doesn’t like this new plan about Jack. Apparently, after being all Team Jack last season and blaming Dean for not feeling the same, Sam suddenly has doubts about Jack’s stability after losing his soul and being in the Empty. Dean asks which thing Sam doesn’t like – that Jack made a deal with Billie or that she’s now got him “eating angel hearts.” Even Castiel allows that the latter is “disturbing,” though he still trusts Jack.

Sam continues to whine-infodump about things he frankly should have cared a lot more about last season, like Jack’s lack of a soul, and the Ma’lak Box failure, and how killing Chuck would destabilize the balance between Light and Dark that Chuck has with his sister Amara.

Dean says that it’s no surprise Billie “has Jack on a need-to-know basis.” All of the cosmic entities they’ve dealt with in the past have played their cards very close to the vest. But Dean feels that they can “trust” Billie, or at least that they can trust her to protect the Natural Order. She must have some kind of solid plan. And it’s not as though they have any other plays right now.

Meanwhile, Jack is touching the carving on the library table Mary made of her initials. Jack then enters his old room and is approached by an older woman who first appears in the mirror. She is a reaper named Merle and she’s there to keep him on-task. When he asks why she’s appeared to him now, she says that he prayed silently to Death, but Death is busy. So, Merle appeared in her place.

Jack says he’d called out to Death when the Grigori captured him, but she didn’t come. Merle says Death probably already knew that Castiel would rescue him. She reiterates the rules (and infodumps for the audience) that Jack is to continue to “lie low” and not use his powers for any reason. If he does, Chuck might sense him and find him (the implication being that Chuck would then send Jack back to the Empty and hunt down anyone who got him out of there in the first place).

Walking down the corridor past Jack’s room (pure coincidence, I’m sure), Sam overhears Jack’s side of the conversation and enters. Since Sam can’t see the reaper, Jack is fairly successful in claiming he wasn’t talking to anyone. Sam is fairly successful in claiming he only just wanted to “check in” on Jack. He tells Jack that they’re glad he’s back, but they could have helped him if he’d asked first (this sounds a bit less convincing after Sam was trash-talking Jack in the previous scene). Jack says he knows that and Sam leaves. Jack looks pensive.

In the library, Dean and Castiel are having a drink together (all that pissiness from Castiel earlier in the season is all bygones now Dean’s groveled sufficiently, I guess). Castiel is crowing over how he was right all along about Jack (because Jacks mother Kelly, whom Jack brainwashed from the womb, had “faith” in her son). This seems pretty damned insensitive, considering Jack murdered Dean’s mother not too long ago and that’s why they were fighting in the first place. Dean rather weakly smiles and says sure. It is mind-boggling how little co-writer of this script Robert Berens understands how this hypocrisy ruins his favorite character, Castiel, for a lot of fans.

Dean on the other hand, cares a lot more about getting revenge on Chuck, by ensuring he’s “killed by his own grandson” (again with that nonsense).

Dean’s phone rings. It’s Jody. She’s forced by an unknown person with gloves to tell Dean that she’s “in trouble” and will be killed if he doesn’t come quickly. Later, Sam and Dean arrive at the barn in broad daylight to find Jody tied up and gagged. As Dean keeps a lookout, Sam starts to untie Jody.

Jody suddenly calls out a warning and her attacker – who turns out to be Dark!Kaia (oh, look, a character I had no interest in seeing ever again) – starts beating up on both Brothers with her ridiculously florid and unrealistic fighting skills, while getting mad at Dean for breaking her spear and refusing to help her get back to the Bad Place.

Fortunately, that segue into Arrow territory is cut short by Jody getting free and smashing a chair across Dark!Kaia’s back. She recovers to find two guns in her face, courtesy of Sam and Dean.

Sam asks her why she’d even want to go back to the Bad Place. She infodumps (in halting Kirk-speak) that Kaia!Kaia isn’t actually dead, that “our” Kaia is the person in the Bad Place whom she is trying to protect and whom she needs to go back and save.

Get ready. This is stupid.

She claims that she was able to dreamwalk well enough to physically manifest back in the Bad Place (but not actually travel back there for real), pick up her doppelganger, carry her back to her own shelter, and heal her with a bunch of leaves. Or maybe she did all this before she arrived from her world, yet even though she was able to come through, she doesn’t now have the power to go back. It’s really not clear.

Why did she do all this? Because she felt bad for “killing” her doppelganger and hadn’t intended to murder her (she just, you know, intended to skewer Claire). Oh, and by the way, her world is ending and she can see it through “our” Kaia’s eyes (cue a scene of “our” Kaia eating lizard, while rocking and singing the nursery rhyme “Miss Mary Mack,” then going outside to watch a nighttime violent lightning storm). Long story short: “our” Kaia’s not dead, after all.

Told you it was stupid.

Well, Jody’s profoundly shocked by all this and now they have a reason not to kill Dark!Kaia, at least for the moment.

Back at the Bunker, Castiel is playing Connect-Four with Jack and losing miserably. He gets mad. The door to the Bunker opens. In come Sam and Jody. Jody and Castiel meet for the first time. Castiel asks what happened and Dean says, “Long story” as he brings in a bound Dark!Kaia, who greets a startled Jack.

With Dark!Kaia in earshot, TFW 2.0 has a quick conference on what to do. Jack can’t use his powers, so he’s “off-limits.” When Dark!Kaia tries to move things along by yelling that they’re “running out of time,” Dean sarcastically calls her “Not!Kaia” and basically tells her to stuff it. Ah, Dean. “Not!Kaia,” it is.

After they chain her to a table (Jody got a vote) with only a beauty magazine to pass the time (ooh, burn), everyone else hits the books. Even Jack volunteers to help. However, his one big contribution (an Italian witchcraftStregheria– recipe called La Piegatrice Mondiale – “the World Bender”) hits a huge snag. The one exotic ingredient, a Mandragora liver, is one the Brothers knows can’t be found. John killed the last one in Fargo and wrote about it in his journal. They send him to check on Jody and Castiel.

After he leaves (in a snit), they admit to each other that they don’t have any solution. If they had archangel grace, that would be one thing, but they don’t. I’m a little confused. Sam had angel grace after he was possessed by Gadriel. And Dean ought to have some lingering archangel grace after being possessed by alt-Michael. But nope. Those possibilities don’t get a mention. Hmm.

Sam does mention that they could use Jack’s Naphil grace, but Billy would certainly object.

Meanwhile, Jody is looking at ingredients, while Castiel is leaving increasingly frantic messages for Sergei. Why Castiel would think Sergei would take his calls I have no idea, but this feels like heavy-duty foreshadowing for something down the road. Just not in this episode.

Jody complains that they have to go “analog” on this one and actually read print books (O the horror). Why, that could take weeks or even months. Jody, I am embarrassed for you.

Castiel changes up the subject by asking her if she’s told Claire “our” Kaia might still be alive. Jody admits that she hasn’t. Claire has been searching since they got back from the Bad Place, hunting for Not!Kaia. In fact, she’s out of phone range in Yosemite, hunting down a false lead on that trail. Jody’s afraid to try to contact her because she’ not sure how Claire would react if they can’t recover “our” Kaia.

Jody gets down to some readin’, while Castiel leaves another message on Sergei’s phone, and Jack watches them from the shadows.

He then goes to visit Not!Kaia, who is frustrated and bored. Jack can’t get over how much she looks like her doppleganger. Not!Kaia truly sucks at diplomacy. She tries the same guilt-trip tactic on Jack that she tried on Dean last season to get him to help her. It’s more successful on Jack. Seems she saw Jack’s manipulation of “our” Kaia through her eyes.

She insists that “our” Kaia will die if they don’t go back. She admits that she “envied” her doppelganger (which is ironic, because “our” Kaia’s life sucked). She says, “Her world looked peaceful. This place is cold. I don’t understand it. I don’t know how to move through it. So, I just find empty spaces and I hide.”

She admits that she doesn’t belong here (which probably has something to do with the fact that she comes from another timeline). She manages to get close enough to grab Jack’s hands and beg him to “help us.” Hesitantly, Jack puts his fingertips to her temples and sees “our” Kaia stuck in the Bad Place.

Well, now, Jack’s on a mission. He comes tearing back out to the library, insisting TFW has to go rescue “our” Kaia, who is alive. To their horror, the Brothers realize that he figured this out by using his powers and that he intends to do so again to open a rift to the Bad Place.

It’s at this point that Jack’s Reaper guard makes herself visible and strolls in. After introducing herself, Merle openly admits to having slipped in by “piggybacking” on Jack. She derisively refers to Jack’s plan as “Winchester Dumb” while glaring at Dean.

Dean (quite rightly) takes umbrage to this. After all, he’s the one who has been arguing for following Billie’s plan. Also in his defense, as he himself pointed out earlier in the episode, the Winchesters are often forced to operate on incomplete information due to major players in the SPNverse being unwilling to share intel with them. It’s therefore on Billie and the Reapers that Dean wasn’t able to keep Jack (never the sharpest tool in the shed) from going full-on Overpowered Moron.

Jack, at first, is cowed when Merle tells Jack that if he tries anything, she will tattle to Death. But then he gets an idea and tells her to go ahead. While she’s away, he’ll open the rift and she’ll reap (ha, sorry) the consequences of not being able to stop him. She then says she’ll just stop him herself and Jack (apparently correctly) guesses she can’t do that.

Angry, Merle now judges this “Winchester Stupid.” Dean, who has been intently watching Jack make his play (while Sam glances from him to Jack and Merle), spots the unspoken “but.” Merle admits that she could bolster the warding Amara had “stripped” from the Bunker and that the Brothers had thought they’d reinstalled (if it was only partial, why’d she need to slip in with Jack – oh , never mind). But she can only do it temporarily and using some of Castiel’s power. However, with all that, she could make the warding so Chuck can’t see what Jack is doing.

So, they rig up a spell and Sam says some Latin, while Jody mixes some ingredients, and Dean and Castiel watch. There’s a cool effect where the sigils Amara depowered when she appeared in the Bunker in season 11 glow all over the stone walls and columns. But Merle’s not done. She then pulls out a big rock with a sigil on it and sticks it on a library table, while the Brothers gear up as Jack releases Not!Kaia.

There is a last-minute switch-up of plan. Jody is also gearing up when Castiel has a quiet chat with her. Castiel admits that he still feels bad that he was never able to make things right with Claire (well, wearing her dead dad and effectively making her an orphan after destroying her happy childhood would make that hard). He believes that if things go wrong in the Bad Place and Jody, her new mother figure, dies there with “our” Kaia, it would destroy Claire. After initially balking and spouting some weird pseudo-feminist dialogue, Jody reluctantly allows that Castiel has a point and agrees to stay behind with him and Jack.

The Brothers and Not!Kaia assemble behind Merle on one side of the rock, while Jack, Castiel and Jody assemble on the other. Dean tells Jack to do his stuff and Jack makes the rift. Not!Kaia goes through first, then Sam, then Dean.

They arrive at night. It’s raining and the wind is blowing pretty briskly. Dean asks Not!Kaia how it feels to be back home. Sensing the approaching disaster, she doesn’t answer and Dean grumbles, “Good talk!”

Sam asks where “our” Kaia is and Not!Kaia leads them through the dark and dreary woods. They suddenly are surrounded by a herd of bipedal monsters with glowing red eyes and screechy voices. Not!Kaia warns them that they don’t have a chance if they fight because there are too many. But then she realizes that the monsters don’t want to fight, anyway. They’re scared. They can sense that their world is ending. The monsters ultimately run away without hurting them.

They walk until they get near the drafty hut where Kaia is. Not!Kaia says it’s her home (really? After a lifetime on this world, she couldn’t have done better with the shelter construction skills?). Sam and then Dean call her name and “our” Kaia, hearing them, comes out, still munching on lizard and clutching a stone knife. When she sees Dean and Not!Kaia, he says, “Hey, kid” and approaches her. After a brief double-take, she runs to him and hugs him fiercely.

When she spots Not!Kaia, it’s not with love and affection, but Sam reassures her that Not!Kaia helped them find her. Despite the Brothers’ urging, Not!Kaia refuses to go with them. This is her world, she never should have left it, and she’s not the one who belongs in theirs. “Our” Kaia does. The Brothers and “our” Kaia run back to the rift, as a tidal wave of unreality rolls across the Bad Place world and Not!Kaia turns to face it. She closes her eyes and the screen goes dark.

In the Bunker, the Brothers and Kaia burst out of the rift. Jody stands up and immediately hugs Kaia, who at first looks startled and then sinks into it with a look of contentment.

Later, Jack greets Kaia, who has showered and changed into his clothes. He asks her how she survived all by herself (a telling question, when you consider Jack has always been treated like a prince, supported and waited on by others). Kaia says her (deceased?) mother used to sing a nursery rhyme to her called “Miss Mary Mack,” but when she sees Jack doesn’t understand, she just tells him, “Never mind.” So, Kaia’s version of “Hey, Jude,” then.

Jody comes out with her pack and Kaia asks her what she’ll do now. Jody invites her back to Sioux Falls. Plaintively, Kaia asks if Claire will be there and Jody replies, “She will be.” Kaia thanks the Brother wholeheartedly with a little bow and leaves with Jody.

As TFW turns back into the library, Merle appears and allows that if she cared even a little bit about Kaia, this would have been a victory. When asked if they’ve managed to keep things on the downlow, she points out that if Chuck had noticed, they’d all be dead by now.

About a second later, she gets a scythe through the back of her neck and crumbles into ash. The scythe is Death’s and Billie’s holding it. She looks pissed. “Hello, boys,” she says, as Sam jumps and Dean’s mouth drops open, but her glare is reserved for Jack.

“What the hell?!” Dean says. This earns him a level look from Death, but then she turns her attention back to Jack. Jack tries to pull his innocent routine with her, saying he tried to call her. As she stalks up to him (Sam and Dean fall away to let her through), she says that she killed Merle because Merle failed at her job and was a “weak link.” This new TFW is only as strong as their weakest links.

She says that she sees a bigger picture. What Jack did, to save one insignificant life from one dying world, was reckless at best. She informs them that not only the Bad Place is dying. All of them are except for this one.

Castiel realizes she means that Chuck is destroying the multiverse. Billie is like, well, duh. Sam tries to challenge her by demanding to know what is going on. Yes, Jack is intended to kill God, but what is the plan here?

Billie is less-than-impressed by Sam, but she does give up some info. She says that as a Reaper, she believed in the Rules. But after Castiel killed her and she became Death, she inherited Death’s library and discovered that even God has His own book.

Dean says, “So, God can die?” which Billie confirms and we get a flashback to Death telling Dean he will eventually reap God, near the end of season five. Castiel is confused – why would Chuck allow such a weakness, a “blueprint to his own death?”

Billie: He didn’t. The books write themselves.

Billie explains that after Chuck created the world, he felt compelled to keep on creating. But in order to do so, he had to build himself into the framework of his own creation, which also opened up the possibility of his own death. And no one can see their death books without Death’s permission, not even God.

Sam tries to steer things back to Jack’s task, asking if Jack is in Chuck’s book, but Billie has a twist aimed especially at Dean. She reminds him that she had told him that he and Sam still had work to do. They are in Chuck’s book, too: “You are the messengers of God’s destruction.”

Cut to Chuck on Earth 2, watching the destruction of entire worlds on various TV screens and eating junk food. As he gets up to leave, the young clerk from the beginning scrambles up from a pile of empty junk food boxes on the floor. He looks decidedly haggard. He asks in an echo of his old clerk voice if Chuck is finished. Chuck muses that no, some worlds can be ended immediately, but others take time. It will take him a while.

The clerk asks in a plaintive voice if Chuck will spare his world – will spare him. After all, he’s been “serving” Chuck for weeks. Smoothing the initial irritation from his face, Chuck turns back and touches the clerk’s face and the young man looks terrified, awestruck and even reassured. Chuck assures him that he’ll be fine, but as he leaves the store and goes on his way with a mean little smile, meteors come roaring down from the sky. One completely demolishes the store.

Credits

The show dipped again to a 0.2 and 0.976 million in audience.

The preview for the next episode, “Destiny’s Child” (15.13) is up. With the Coronavirus pandemic halting show production after the first day of filming the penultimate episode of the series, we’ll have another hellatus of unknown length following “Destiny’s Child.”

Review: I can’t decide if this episode has already aged well or poorly, in light of current events. Fiction’s having a tough time topping reality right now.

But at least we’re back on board with this being a horror show (apocalyptic horror has always been Supernatural‘s forte) rather than dark fantasy or urban fantasy or paranormal romance, or whatever the hell the writers thought they were doing post-season 11.

In season six, Ben Edlund wrote a very similar episode in function, “The Man Who Would Be King,” that became an instant classic. Alas, this is no Ben Edlund script, not even a minor one. Where “The Man Who Would Be King” magnificently tied up all the many loose and tangled ends of season six (only for the yarn ball to get handed right back to the kitten by ostensible showrunners Sera Gamble and Eric Kripke for the end of the season itself), “Galaxy Brain” feels a lot more like taking out the trash. Long after the trash got moldy and stinky, and the neighbors (i.e., the audience) started to complain.

While the idea of Chuck burning down the SPN multiverse is a deeply horrifying concept, it feels in this episode more like a peremptory attempt to wrap up a concept (the multiverse) that the audience didn’t love in the first place. When Chuck says his other tries at timelines didn’t “spark joy,” it’s entirely too on-the-nose for what the writers Berens and Glynn are trying to accomplish here. At least Kripke was a little bit subtle, when he killed off all the Psykids at the end of season two, that he was burning down a storyline (especially in the form of the Roadhouse) with which he’d grown bored and for which he had no good ending.

When the show first introduced the multiverse in season 12, the obvious inspiration was the way it was used by DC shows on the CW and the apparent agent of separation between the different universes was mainly the choices humans and other sentient beings made, resulting in branching timelines diverging at each choice. The clearest example of this was the alt-Michael timeline where Mary refused to say yes to Azazel, John remained dead, and Sam and Dean were never born. Even season six’s “The French Mistake” was presented as just a pocket universe created by Balthazar, whereas he created the entire alternate reality in “My Heart Will Go On” by “unsinking” the Titanic.

Now, the idea of the multivere was relatively problematical, since it effectively retconned much of seasons four and five, which had presented the SPNverse as a single timeline where everything was predestined and it was very, very difficult (even potentially disastrous) to change what was foretold (note how pissy the Fates got about the Titanic timeline). Call it a Calvinist sort of universe.

But what the writers came up with this season was worse. At first, it was just a muddle, where it seemed that Chuck was actively meddling in preexisting timelines, or at least observing their results, where Sam and Dean killed each other over and over and over again. Then, in this episode, we are Told that no, there is really only one “true” timeline that has existed since the beginning of the SPNverse and that these other timelines are, in fact, just inventions after the fact by Chuck to test out various theories and ideas. And now that he’s bored with them, he’s burning them all down at once.

This could have been an intriguing concept, along the lines of a classic Lovecraftian story like the film, In the Mouth of Madness. Unfortunately, the way it appears in the second half of the season (after the show wasted almost half a season on that stupid Sam’s God Wound plot that went nowhere and existed only to keep Chuck’s storyline down to a glacial pace), it looks like something the writers pulled out of their asses.

Sam and Dean weren’t anywhere near the Bunker in season five, so Dean couldn’t possibly be shooting white-suited Samifer in the back of the head in season 15? Chuck wrote it that way. Why the heck does a young woman (Kaia), living in our world, not only have a genetic doppelganger in a radically different world full of monsters, but that young doppelganger speaks unaccented English? Chuck wrote it that way. Hillary Clinton is president on an Earth that has two moons and a version of Radio Shack? Chuck wrote it that way. Every plothole is Chuck-ex-machinaed to the point where story stakes become meaningless and there’s no point to getting emotionally invested in a storyline when the rug could get yanked out from under the audience, for the plot lulz, at any time.

I noticed that, for all of the focus in the story on Jack, in the end, Billie was pretty clearly using him as a tool. She didn’t care about keeping him in the loop. She probably only answered Sam and Castiel’s questions because she did care about keeping Dean on board and up to speed.

The one truly intriguing thing in all of this is that Chuck is so very obsessed with Dean (the real one, not those pale copies) telling him to piss off a few episodes ago. This appears to be quite literally the only thing that has saved even the prime timeline in the SPNverse from immolation. Chuck … wants to beat Dean. Not Sam (he already managed that and it wasn’t even that hard). Dean. Dean the Firewall is keeping the cosmic fire from his own world. It makes you wonder how much Chuck knows, even if he can’t see inside his own book. Does he know that Dean and his brother are his bane?

While Dean was hardly the focus of the episode, it did at least back off the egregious trashing of his character all season. The episode revisited the “deal” Not!Kaia tried to force on Dean last season (I know! I was shocked, too!). It wrote him as unrepentant and snarky with her, instead of getting beaten down by the story for daring to slap down her nonsense attempts to project her own guilt onto others.

It also revisited his threatening “our” Kaia (albeit the flashback in the recap was waaaayyy outta context) in a way that was positive for him. And there was the above hint that he is the actual hidden WMD against Chuck. So, I remain in hope the show will remember once again that he’s one of the two main protagonists in this story.

Let’s talk about Kaia. I know I was supposed to feel bad about Not!Kaia dying, but I didn’t, particularly. It was pretty obvious they were just writing her out because the spin-off didn’t happen (at least, not when it did) and neither her character nor the Bad Place (which was a rather idiotic and simplistic concept – Monster World, basically) ever clicked with the audience.

Bringing back “our” Kaia was more interesting because she was dead, and her storyline was done and dusted. The closest thing she had to continued relevance was Claire’s (completely offscreen) quest for revenge on her and that was really a Not!Kaia plot. They resurrected her for some reason. Folks, methinks that Wayward Sisters spin-off is still gonna happen.

I’ve been a bit rough on Yadira Guevara-Prip in the past about her past less-than-amazing performance as either version of Kaia (especially when compared to, say, Isa Briones on Star Trek: Picard, who almost casually knocks it out of the park playing three very different characters), and I still wasn’t won over by her rather late-TOS-seasons-Kirkian delivery with plenty of periods in random places for Not!Kaia. But I do think she nailed “our” Kaia this time round. Or, at least, nailed it enough that I’d now be interested in watching that character in a Wayward Sisters spin-off. And she did pull off making the two versions of Kaia seem like two different people. That’s not a very easy task.

While I try to be honest so that when I say something positive, it’s clear I mean it, I also try not to be mean or cruel. And in the case of actors, I back off them a bit because their performances are so influenced, even controlled, by outside forces like writing and direction. If the writing ain’t there and the director wants you to play a character a certain way, there’s not much you can do about it, especially if you are an occasional guest star on a set and hoping to become a regular on a spin-off (or are already locked into a contract).

So, I found it interesting that the point where Guevara-Prip appeared to get her footing with Kaia was when the character began to move beyond the original concept of Angry Underprivileged Ethnic Girl (or Feral Other whom we see only from the outside, like Not!Kaia) to Cowardly Lion Who Longs To Be A Hero. The former is a cliche, not a very flattering one at that. The latter is more interesting and has movement. That also gives us a dimension and sympathetic angle that the flat AUEG stereotype lacks. We’ve all been afraid and we all know that trauma can make someone extra hesitant to engage their fear. It’s a journey from that to get to being a Hero.

There are two critical moments where she had to sell it – and did. The first is when Sam and Dean show up with Not!Kaia to save her. The previous relationship between “our” Kaia and Dean has not been a good one. She is acutely aware that her journey to this place included the moment when Dean forced her at gunpoint to join TFW in the mission to rescue his mother. Yet, when he greets her, she runs to him and hugs him, after a brief hesitation.

This is an important moment, for both Kaia and Dean. The show wanted us to dislike Dean for threatening Kaia, but that doesn’t mean the scene itself made her especially popular with the audience. She was acting in a very unsympathetic and unheroic manner at the time, by initially refusing to use her talent to help find Mary, and pretty cavalier in her attitude about it.

We then saw Kaia flip in the very next episode on behalf of a girl she’d just met, Claire. This set up a Hero’s Journey for Kaia to overcome her lifelong trauma about the Bad Place, but it was cut short by her apparent murder and tempered by the unbelievable rapidity of her and Claire’s romance (such as it was).

In this episode, we see that “our” Kaia has grown from being forced to confront her fears in the Bad Place. When she sees Dean show up to save her from certain doom, it is with the knowledge that Dean makes those kinds of sacrifices for family (he makes sacrifices for complete strangers, too, but Kaia wouldn’t know that). So, if he’s there, greeting her in a warm and friendly manner, not only is he and his brother her ticket home, but he is greeting her as family.

We see this progress further when they all return to the Bunker and Jody welcomes her with open arms. Kaia isn’t too sure of this at first (she barely knows Jody), but then tentatively hugs her and sinks, finally, into her arms, closing her eyes. Kaia hasn’t felt safe or had a family in a long time, but she has one now. The fact that the actress is able to sell this is what makes Kaia’s subsequent decision to go with Jody in the coda logical and satisfying.

Not!Kaia, on the other hand, remains unsympathetic and not at all heroic. She has all these mad, unrealistic, Sueish fighting skills, but she has no interest in using them for the benefit of others. She is blatantly, unapologetically selfish for no particular reason, which makes her motivation too simplistic to sustain interest over multiple episodes. Even when she tries to get help for”our” Kaia – her doppelganger whose life she stole and whom she abandoned back in her own world – she tries to blame her own bad deed on others.

If there’s one big problem I have with the Wayward Sisters concept, is that its backdoor pilot’s rough spots included some 1980s and 90s cliches that didn’t need to be in there. It’s 2020, so I’d like to think we’ve moved a bit beyond having an eclectic cast supporting a cute, young, blonde, asskicking lead (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) or Angry Ethnic Characters who are converted from enemies to allies, but still have emotional control issues that make them a bit childish (Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, B’Elanna Torres from Star Trek: Voyager, and Teal’c from Stargate SG1).

Another concern, which the writers may or may not deal with, is that with no worlds left save Earth Prime, there’s no place for Kaia to dreamwalk or Jack to rip a rift to. So, that eliminates each character’s most distinctive and powerful magical ability.

At the end of the day, the Bad Place was not as interesting as the writers thought it would be. A world of monsters? Okay. And? That Sam and Dean spend their entire time there hunting and eating lizards, that Kaia gets up to nothing more exciting in her own time there, pretty much tells you how boring that concept actually is.

While I felt a bit sorry for the scared, red-eyed monsters they encountered there while rescuing Kaia, I actually felt more sympathy for Radio Shed Guy (who was just an innocent kid trying to pay the rent when his world was capriciously destroyed by forces well beyond his pay grade). In fact, it irritated me that the show implied the only way we could have a world where Hillary Clinton was President, and the world was going right, was a fake fantasy world that had two moons in the sky.

The episode titles have been their own special brand of bad this season. Last episode’s “The Gamblers” (evocative of the song used in season six’s “Weekend at Bobby’s” and of its writer, Kenny Rogers, who sadly passed away on March 20) was okay, but way too on the nose. This week’s evoked a meme from 2017 involving people taking an argument to absurd extremes (“galaxy brain“), in order to comment, I suppose, on Chuck’s extreme tantrum. Considering how tightly they’ve tied the character of Chuck to their own writing, though, I don’t think the writers quite understood how easily the title opened them up to mockery about the season’s writing.

The destruction of the various worlds (clearly, deconstructing the SPN multiverse is the task distracting Billie for most of the episode) raised some questions for me. What happened to the souls in these worlds? Did the angels and demons who died in those Heavens and Hells go to the Empty? Where did all the human souls go? How was Chuck able to create multiple versions of the archangels when he claimed in season 11 that he couldn’t easily resurrect either Gabriel (who, admittedly, wasn’t actually dead) or Raphael? Is there really no peace for the people of these other worlds, now that they are done?

Well. That’s grim.

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

Season 15


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: “The Gamblers” (15.11) 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.

Any and all contributions are welcome! 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 up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. 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.

Recap: We get a Then recap heavy on last week’s humiliating affair and Dean’s Big Speech, Sam losing his God Wound hold over Chuck when he lost hope or whatever, Adam and Purgatory and Jack in the Empty, some weird reference to the Grigori, and so on. It’s boring. There is no classic rock, just squealing soundtrack. Let’s move on to –

Now. We’re in Alaska (not really, but let’s roll with it). We’re in a bar and everyone’s shooting pool to Johnny Horton’s “North to Alaska” from a 1960 film of the same name (Horton was killed in a car accident a few months after the song’s release). A nebbishy and shabby-looking bearded guy in a suit is losing and begs his opponent, a grizzled older man in a cowboy hat named Jody to “give me a chance.” As others in the bar watch in tense silence, Jody instead wins the game.

The man in the suit exclaims in horror as two coins in a brass stand hung above the pool table glow green. Everyone, including Jody, looks grim as the man in the suit takes out one of the coins and starts yelling. But when he goes after Jody with a pool cue, a younger man grabs it and tells him coldly, “Hey, no fights.”

He then throws the man in the suit out through the saloon doors, telling him he knows “the rules” and that he is “out of luck,” even as the other man begs for another chance. Jody, meanwhile, grabs the other coin and shares a rueful smile with one of the patrons, a young woman with long brown hair.

The man in the suit, named Leonard, gets his glasses out of the muck and walks, disgusted, into the night woods. As he tosses his coin (which is blank) into the air, he’s clobbered by a semi.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Castiel entering the Bunker, calling out for Sam and Dean. He finds a note from Sam saying “Cass, we’ve gone to Alaska.”

Cut to the Impala roaring down the road through autumn leaves and no snow. Sam is checking his messages from Eileen, which he seems to be having no problem getting on the road to Alaska. Even as Dean complains about the credit cards not working, the car having trouble, and his suffering from heartburn, none of these problems is really in evidence in the scene.

Sam complains that the place Garth told them about is not even in the lore (like, oh, a bajillion other cases they’ve handled?) and no one’s heard of it. Should they even be trying to find it? Dean says they have no choice. He doesn’t think Chuck made them “normal” to teach them any lessons. It was intended to weaken them so that when he came after them again (there is no explanation why Chuck needed to run in the first place), they will be too weak to fight back. They need their mojo back. The Impala roars off into the night.

Back in the Bunker, Castiel is answering one of the Bunker phones. It’s a cop from Cushing, OK, asking for the “FBI” (i.e., Dean). Castiel says Dean’s Alibi Name is “working a case in Alaska” and says he is another agent who can help.

The officer then drops a bombshell on Castiel. It’s an old search from last year that Dean did on Jack. And it’s come up with a hit.

Sam and Dean (Dean still driving) arrive at their destination. In Alaska. In broad daylight. Um, isn’t this location near Barrow, above the Arctic Circle? There is no daylight there in mid-January.

Oh, and it’s raining. Nonono. It would be snowing. It would be like, well, Fargo, season one. They stop at a diner and ask a friendly waitress who’s lived in town all her life what is up a road they think might lead to their destination. She demurs at first, then tells them a local “urban legend” (urban legend? In rural Alaska?) about a pool hall where you can go to reclaim lost luck (seems Dean’s golden smile and charm still work on the ladies).

But, she warns them, no one who’s gone up there has ever come back. She mentions Doomed Teaser Guy, Leonard. He went up there to keep the bank from repossessing his house and had a fatal accident. I’ll say. Bet that truck left him in pieces.

She goes off to answer a phone call and the Brothers discuss. Sam complains about the “downside” and that they could be facing “a demon or a witch.” Dean disagrees. This is good news. He’s great at pool. In fact, they’re both great at pool. They’ve finally got an angle. And they need it, as the waitress informs them that the Impala has a flat tire. I mean, really, Sam, you guys are already dealing with some four decades’ accumulation of “normal.” Your luck can’t get much worse at this point.

Cut to the Bunker, where the cop is sending Castiel a video of Jack. It shows him alive, but killing a local doctor in his office. After a few minutes of static, the CCTV comes back and shows Jack eating the doctor’s heart. Oh, yay. So nice to see that Jack is just as morally problematical a character as ever. Thanks, Show.

Cut to Alaska, where the Brothers are driving up the road in question in broad daylight. As they get out, Dean unknowingly steps on Leonard’s faceless coin. They enter a pool hall called “Lurlene’s.”

Inside, there are a lot of pool tables and they encounter the sad young woman from the teaser at the bar. Dean asks for two waters (since they have no money), then asks the girl (named Evie) about playing pool.

Wearily, she calls to the guy who bounced Leonard out the door. His name is Pax. As he comes up, Sam asks Evie if she’s ever seen Leonard. In a very unconvincing tone, she claims she hasn’t.

Pax leads them to a table, where he shows them a coin. The coin is flat, but when Pax invites Dean to touch it (with a fatalistic shrug, Dean does so), it glows green and gets a profile. Pax judges that it’s not great, but he’s seen worse. What he means is Dean’s “luck,” which he sees as “about average.” Dean is a little surprised, but considers this a fair assessment.

Pax tells them that if they place the coin in the rack above the table, play a game, and win, their luck will increase. But if they lose too many times, their luck will evaporate and the coin will go flat. At that point, they get kicked out.

Sam: What is this place?

Pax: I just work here.

Pax tells them they can take it or leave it. Dean says that “when I win,” can he share the luck? Pax tells him that whatever he wins is his and he can do with it whatever he likes.

At that moment, Sam pulls Dean aside for a quick conference. Sam thinks it’s a bad idea. Dean demurs, saying that Sam may be better than he is at most things (this, of course, is utter bollocks and Sam knows it, yet Sam doesn’t disagree), but he’s a lot better at pool than Sam. At any rate, it’s Dean’s plan and Dean’s choice, so off he goes to play Pax.

Castiel is entering the doctor’s office where Jack ate a human heart. He finds the CCTV footage and checks out the scene where Jack eviscerated the doc. Appearing to know what he was looking for, he finds a long case that contains a Grigori sword. We get a quick flashback to the Grigori episode with Claire and her mom.

Then we cut to a man outside on a rainy day in a long coat with a similar case (There can be only one! [cough] sorry) being trailed pretty obviously by Jack. The man enters an open area through a chain link fence.

At the bar, Dean is gearing up for his match (oh, we’re actually going to get to see it? Yay), but no one will play him. So, he tries an old trick to lure someone in (since the other players look nervous and avoid him) and racks a game, loudly stating that he’s “a little rusty.”

A redhead at the bar downs her drink and comes over. She puts her coin up and starts playing him. Meanwhile, Sam wanders over to the bar to talk to Evie some more. She says the woman playing Dean has a sister she is trying to wake from a coma. Everyone here is playing for something or someone lost. Sam starts asking the usual questions (like whether she ever smells sulfur or has seen hex bags), but she acts like she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. She allows that the place is magical in some way, but isn’t terribly interested in exploring how or why.

In the background, Dean and the redhead are playing.

Evie tells Sam about two of the players, both gamblers, who started off on a winning streak that eventually went sour. Now they’re just playing to break even. Evie says, “They should have walked away” while they were ahead.

At the pool table, Dean sinks the eight-ball and wins his first game. His coin glows green, while the redhead’s fades (something he keenly observes). He turns to face the redhead when he hears her quietly curse in frustration.

Jack is entering a warehouse ([sigh] already bored with this storyline) where machinery is running and steam randomly comes out of the floor. Jack pulls out an angel blade, but gets ambushed by the man in the coat, who is another Grigori, with a Grigori blade. The second Grigori demands to know why Jack is following him.

At the bar, Dean is having a drink after the game, while Sam tells him about his conversation with Evie. Sam thinks it was a warning (thank you, Captain Obvious) and that if Dean plays too long, he will end up like Leonard. Dean says fine, they’ll spread the risk and pull an old con John used to try in Tallahassee that he got from the film The Hustler. He starts looking for his mark, his “Jackie Gleason,” and spots the man in the hat who beat Leonard at his last game.

Dean starts out brassy and confident, though he fails to sink the eight-ball. He manages to get out of his opponent his name (Joey Six) and correctly guesses where he got it (the Professional Bull Riding circuit), though, before Joey takes over. But Joey can’t keep his streak going.

Dean, however, regains the table with a very difficult shot where he has to try to bounce the ball over his opponent’s ball to sink the eight-ball. Confidently, Joey bets him double or nothing that he can’t sink the shot. Dean asks if Joey is trying to “hustle” him and Joey replies, “I thought you were going to kick my ass?”

Dean manages to sink the shot and the crowd oohs, while Evie smiles rather sadly. As his coin glows and goes flat, with the glow going all to Dean’s, Joey smiles gamely and says, “Helluva shot.” He bravely leaves the bar, already looking pale, as Sam looks after him. Dean, meanwhile, takes his coin and smiles.

Joey goes out onto the porch, breathing heavily and looking sick. Sam and Dean follow him out as he starts to cough up blood and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. It turns out he had lung cancer and has managed to beat it for a year by playing pool. But now his time is up. He dies coughing his lungs up, mostly off-screen. The Brothers look alternately intent and uncomfortable.

As they come back inside, Dean sadly muses that he liked Joey. Sam comments that the reason Joey died was because he bet double or nothing against Dean, so when Dean won, Joey lost all of his luck at one go. The tone of the scene makes it sound as though Dean was a bit rotten for doing Joey like that. But it ignores the part where Joey made the bet with the intent of screwing Dean and had likely done it to many people like Doomed Teaser Guy Leonard, taking all the luck at one blow and effectively killing them. Joey was sympathetic, but we saw his dark side in the teaser. He was okay with killing people to prolong his own life.

Dean wants to take the coin and go while the gettin’s good. Even though that was what he was originally urging Dean to do, Sam now wants to stick around and see if they can help the rest of the people in the bar and he doesn’t think the coin has as much luck as Chuck took from them, anyway. Because reasons (Sam’s motivations are …uh … fluid in this episode). Dean says fine, he’ll go take the Impala for a test drive and see how she runs. Then they’ll talk.

In the warehouse where we last saw Jack, Castiel is investigating a bloodstain when the dopey sheriff shows up. The sheriff infodumps that Jack and the other guy we saw with him were spotted here. Castiel asks about any abandoned buildings in town and zeroes in on when the sheriff mentions an abandoned church. As Castiel leaves, the sheriff protests that he called Castiel for answers. Castiel says he will find them, though he doesn’t say he will share them with the sheriff.

At the bar, Sam is getting the stories of all the other players. But they are all too obsessed with the game to give it up, even if the stakes are petty, except for Evie. But when Sam asks Evie if the other players are trapped in the bar, he oversteps by asking if she is, too, and she walks away. Smooth move there, Sam.

Dean comes back in. The Impala is once again a brick. He won some luck, but it’s not enough even to get them back to the Lower 48, let alone up against Chuck.

Sam gets the idea that someone is skimming the luck off each coin when it’s played. Otherwise, Joey would have had a lot more luck to pass off to Dean, since he’d been playing for a year. He picks up the coin and shows Dean the face, which has a woman’s head on it and the words “Atrox Fortuna.” The Roman goddess of Fate (apparently, we are now just ignoring that the show had three angel sister Fates in season six).

So, they go back to Evie, who insists she can’t help them. At least at first. Very reluctantly, she admits that she came to play and lost. Now she’s forced to work to avoid dying. Either you play until you die or you work until you die. But she doesn’t know if Fortuna is actually there because she only deals with Fortuna’s son, Pax – the bouncer.

Back to Castiel’s storyline. Jack has been caught by his would-be victim in the abandoned church. Jack has a wound in his side that the Grigori suggests he heal. He also says he knows what Jack is. Jack doesn’t respond to any of this, even when the Grigori threatens him to find out why he is eating Grigori hearts.

It turns out the previous Grigori called out to this one and that they have their own angel radio frequency.

At the bar, Sam distracts Pax, while Dean grabs him from behind and puts an angel blade to his throat. Sam calls out Fortuna’s name and Dean adds that they have her son.

“Enough!” says the redhead who played Dean before. She is Fortuna. Sam tells her his theory that she’s skimming luck. Dean threatens to kill Pax if she doesn’t give the luck back, but she refuses, saying she can always make more sons, since Pax’s father was human.

Frustrated, Dean lets Pax go and says he’ll play her for it. In very insulting tones, Fortuna says no. She’s already played him and she gets “a read” on the humans she plays. He’s “just a beach read.”

Dean: Lady, I’m Tolstoy.

What Fortuna wants to do is play Sam, since she finds him more interesting (I rolled my eyes pretty hard at that). After whining and hiding behind Dean all episode, Sam agrees, but he wants to play for the lives of the people in the bar. Again, she refuses. She’ll only play for the Brothers’ luck and if Sam loses, she gets their lives as payback for their threatening her son and her “livelihood.” Sam, pretty reluctantly, agrees.

If this scenario sounds familiar, that’s because it’s basically a retread of the forgettable season five episode “The Curious Case of Dean Winchester.”

Back in the church, the Grigori is slowly slicing Jack’s throat and carving angel sigils into his chest. Jack doesn’t budge. He says the Grigori can’t kill him (whoops, there went any suspense this scene had). The Grigori agrees, but says he can make Jack “suffer” for killing the rest of his kind, that Jack deserves to be tortured for this crime.

Jack disagrees. He says the previous Grigori he killed and ate pretended to be a doctor, but fed on his patients’ souls. He says that this Grigori does it, too, though his chosen victims are children (I know this is supposed to make it “okay” for Jack to use them as spare batteries, but it just comes off as thirteen different kinds of wrong). When the Grigori picks up his sword, puts it to Jack’s throat, and demands to know who told him that, Jack says it was Death.

The Grigori then senses someone behind him and swings his sword. Castiel ducks and they get into a brief but rather florid broadsword fight. Castiel wins (shocker, I know). There is then an emotional reunion as Castiel first unties and then hugs Jack Sue. It does make me wonder, though, how Jack was planning to get out of his predicament, if Castiel hadn’t shown up, when he couldn’t even break his bonds.

Back at the bar, Sam flubs an early shot on his game, giving Fortuna the chance to start cleaning up. But when she starts snarking at them about why they came to renew their luck (“girlfriend troubles” for Sam and “liver failure” for Dean are her guesses), and Sam casually says they got cursed by God, Dean sees an opening. He distracts her by explaining that they got cursed by God Himself and that yes, they’ve met him.

This sparks a rant in Fortuna where she spills how the pagan gods were created. She says that when humans “first climbed down from trees” (at least six or seven million years ago), they didn’t worship God. They worshiped the Sun and the Moon and other features in their environment. God was pissed off, but then created the pagan gods to gather in this worship, while also using them as scapegoats for human misfortune.

Eventually, she says, the pagan gods were forgotten (well, not really, but apparently, these writers haven’t forgotten all about “Hammer of the Gods” from season five), but that she is very old and that she “holds a grudge.”

In the process of being distracted, she misses a shot. That gives Sam a chance to clean up. Fortuna acknowledges that she got played, though she gives the acknowledgement to Sam, even though Dean was the one who strung out the line. Yeah, okay, Show. But Sam does say he learned everything he knows from Dean.

Fortuna then tries to rope them in again. She says that okay, they now have some luck back, but they really need “the luck of Heroes,” if, as Dean just told her, they intend to fight God Himself. What if Sam plays her again, double or nothing? Dean warily notes, “That’s how the Cowboy died.”

Sam agrees anyway, but insists on playing for the luck of the people stuck in the bar. If he wins, Fortuna will give them their luck back and “close up shop.” Fortuna laughs, wondering why Sam would care about “a bunch of losers.” But Sam insists that he does and Dean backs him up.

So, they rack them up, but alas, Fortuna gets to go first this time and, of course, she makes every shot perfectly and wins the game.

Afterward, she asks them what they thought they were doing, playing the Goddess of Luck (never mind that it’s also a game of skill).

Dean: Well, we had to try.

Fortuna: Well, that was stupid.

She leaves and they look crestfallen. But rather than kill them, she lets them leave alive. When Dean notes this, Sam points out that with their current state of luck, they won’t last long.

Sam is also worried about the others who are still enslaved inside the bar. Dean agrees that they have to try to get them out. He suggests finding someplace with wifi so they can research “how to kill Lady Luck.”

At that moment, Evie and the others come out. Evie comes up to the Brothers. When Sam asks her what happened, she says that Fortuna not only let them go, but she also “closed up shop” per her deal with Sam (even though Sam lost the second time). When Dean asks why, she tells Dean, “Because of you.” She also looks at Sam, including him, saying that Fortuna said she had thought that “your kind [Heroes] had gone extinct.” Guess Fortuna still feels she has some Chuck skin in the game.

Evie adds that Fortuna gave her a message to tell them about God: “Don’t play His game. Make Him play yours.” She then gives them a coin. When Sam takes it from her, it glows green and has a full face. Dean grabs it from him and it glows for him, too.

Chuckling in triumph, Dean gets in the Impala with Sam and starts it right up. Dean laughs: “We’re back, baby!” He and Sam ride off into the broad daylight of mid-winter, Arctic Circle Alaska.

Back at the Bunker, Dean is complaining about still not being able to win the lottery, though Sam points out that the Impala is running beautifully, the credit cards all work, and Dean can eat fast food again.

Castiel comes out into the library, puzzling the Brothers. Jack comes out and Castiel confirms “it’s really him.”

Sam hugs Castiel enthusiastically, while Dean grabs the back of his head and stares at him. Afterward, the Brothers are having a hard time wrapping their minds around Jack eating Grigori hearts and that he didn’t call. Jack insists that he “had to stay hidden” to stay safe from his “grandfather.” Castiel says that Billie hid Jack in the Empty to keep him safe from Chuck until Chuck left the Earth.

Jack says that Billie has a plan that he has to follow in order to become strong enough to “kill God.” I’m sure nothing can go wrong with this plan.

Credits

The show went back up a bit to a 0.3/2 and 1.07 million in audience.

The preview for the next episode, “Galaxy Brain” (15.12) is up. It ends the show’s hellatus in its final timeslot, Mondays, tonight on March 16, 2020. I was going to say this was the final hellatus, but with the Coronavirus pandemic halting show production after the first day of filming the penultimate episode of the series, I guess we’ll have one more hellatus after this one, before the two final episodes.

Review: The way this show is, especially these days, I’m reminded of Carl Orff’s arrangement of medieval university students’ drinking songs, Carmina Burana, ’cause the writing has been lurching all over the place.

O Fortuna
Velut Luna
Statu variabilis!

O Fortune
Like the Moon
Always variable!

Okay. It’s better than last episode, “The Heroes’ Journey,” so there’s that. Mind you, moldy, termite-eaten toilet paper is better than last week’s script, so there’s that, too. With Garth Sue sent off to his final happy place, “The Gamblers” wasted no time getting The Sam and (Occasionally) Dean Show back on track with a quickie, if somewhat ad hoc, solution to their “normalcy” problem, albeit diluted by the re-introduction of Jack Sue (it’s the Season of the Sues). Though, come to think of it, almost all of their solutions, and pretty much every one that worked, over the years have been ad hoc. And by “quickie,” I mean, “With zero interest in establishing any realistic Alaskan setting and only perfunctory attention to the legends employed.” But hey, at least people died bloody and the stakes were reasonably high for an MOTW.

I had happily managed to forget all of Jack’s storyline in this one, to the point where I only remembered the final meeting in the Bunker. That plot felt shoehorned in and it stole a lot of necessary oxygen from the Fortuna plot that should have been the A-story. Everything felt written-by-committee, perfunctory and paint-by-numbers, getting from Point A to Point B to Point C without a whole lot of emotional attachment to any of the guest characters in the writing (or particular knowledge or development of previous canon about pagan gods or luck curses or angels as it merrily and lazily retconned away). Fortuna was, by far, the most filled-out guest character and we got most of her backstory in a rushed infodumpy rant near the end.

This was unfortunate (sorry), since this new origin story for the pagan gods, and the idea of Heroes like Hercules and Cú Chulainn, had a lot of potential meat. They could have spent a whole season on just that, but nope. It whizzed by in a quick speech by a one-and-done guest character. Too bad. Fortuna/Tyche is a goddess much beloved of and feared by the Greeks and Romans, and whose fortunes (so to speak) did not fade in the least as Christianity took over and the Middle Ages rolled in.

This was, in large part, tied up with her role as Fate (as Atrox Fortuna) and her perceived capriciousness. There was a lot more to her than luck, though it appears the show is now completely retconning Atropos and her sisters from season six, and replacing them with Fortuna.

There’s a rather good theory I’ve seen on Twitter that Fortuna was testing the Brothers to see if they were worthy of her help, that her insulting of Dean and challenging of Sam were intended to see if they had the Right Stuff, rather than her actual opinion of them. They note, for example, that Fortuna’s cover story was that she had a sibling in a coma whose life she was trying to save – something that might appeal to Sam and Dean.

As much as I like that idea, I don’t think it’s quite enough to cover the holes in logic. I mean, it’s not as though we haven’t seen this story before, done both well (“Bad Day at Black Rock,” in which Dean does, in fact, win the lottery) and poorly (“Hammer of the Gods,” in which the show actively rips off Gaiman’s American Gods, and the pagan gods are decidedly not forgotten or powerless). Rather, I think we’re seeing a pattern the show has used over and over again.

In season eight, executive producer Bob Singer talked about how they would split the mytharc between the Brothers. One brother would have the focus in the first half of the season. Then they’d wrap up that part and focus on the other brother in the second half.

Well, there are some small fibs in that. First of all, the mytharc was All About Sam until halfway through season nine. Dean would get personal stories (which were summarily dropped as often as not), but he didn’t actually have the mytharc for over half of the show.

Second, it was very common for the writers to do a storyline that hit well with Dean and then basically give it to Sam. Sure, they switched up sometimes with having Dean do a version of a previous Sam story, but when it came to Dean’s stories, they didn’t just do Sam versions of them. They literally took the storyline away from Dean and gave it to Sam (Sam in Purgatory in “Taxi Driver” in season eight ring any bells?) once writing it for Dean had broken it in for Sam.

The writers seemed to be operating on the logic that since Dean was popular and it was easy to break new ground with him, this was a good way to launch popular stories for Sam. They have always seemed to struggle with launching stories for Sam, involving Sam, especially since Kripke left. It has never appeared to sink in that when you launch a story with Dean, the audience is invested in Dean in that story, not Sam, and that when you take it from Dean and hand it to Sam in the second half of the season (or, in this case, the third act of the episode), it feels unearned for Sam and drops Dean’s story without an ending, which is frustrating as hell to watch.

And that’s what they did this week. There was a germ of a good story in here about Sam stepping up (and out from behind Dean’s bullet shield), rediscovering his Hero mojo, and getting his hope back. The problem was that the dialogue and direction simply weren’t there. Not once did Sam say out loud that he needed to step up and get Chuck out of his head, once and for all. He didn’t even imply it.

And before someone says it was all in the subtext and the context, first, have you watched this show? Most plot points are rammed home with steel-toed boots. And second, it really wasn’t. The way the writing went, Fortuna was going to kill them right up until the moment she decided it would be better to power them up and send them after Chuck, instead. And the simplest explanation for why she wanted to play Sam had nothing to do with some perception she had of Sam’s depth compared to Dean’s, but that she either wanted to drain Sam’s luck, or worried that Dean was better than Sam and therefore good enough to win.

It boiled down to Sam’s Puppy Dog Eyes that didn’t work last week, but did this week. Some texting with Eileen near the beginning doesn’t change that. The capriciousness of Fortuna in real-life folklore doesn’t let a writers off the hook for establishing that character trait in the story. The show even appears to contradict that trait in their version of her by showing her as patient and cunning, and having her dismiss Dean as a shallow beach read.

Then there’s the perfunctory attention to the rest of the MOTW and background legend. Now, I didn’t actually mind the origin story for pagan gods that she gave (beyond the way Kripke previously ripped off American Gods, a book of which I’ve never been fond). I’d always wondered where they came from and it was quite an intriguing concept, for the hot second in not-Alaska the show spent on it. And Fortuna is quite a cool goddess with some intriguing lore. And I even liked the actress, for the two minutes we saw of her.

But why, oh, why, did the show portray Fortuna and her son so … Nordically? They’re not Nordic gods (or Celtic ones). They’re Roman. What the hell are they even doing in friggin’ freezing Alaska?

If Fortuna looks familiar to you, that’s because guest star Lynda Boyd is a Canadian genre vet going back to the 1980s and previously showed up on Supernatural as the medical examiner who turned out to be an evil Djinn in “Pac-Man Fever” in season eight.

So, what do I mean by the Alaskan setting not being realistic? Well, for a start, last episode, Garth claimed the bar was between Barrow and Kotzebue, which are way up in Alaska. Kotzebue, at the time this episode came out, had about four and a half hours of daylight, being at about 66 degrees latitude North (and as anyone who has been that far north knows, just because the sun came up for four hours, that doesn’t mean it was more than twilightish all day). Barrow, however, is hundreds of miles above the Arctic Circle at about 71 degrees North latitude. That means the sun sets on November 18 and doesn’t rise again until January 23.

So, why the hell do Sam and Dean arrive at the bar, in January, in broad daylight under a bright, blue sky? Never you mind even how the Impala managed to make it all the way to freakin’ Alaska. Why are the roads clear? In fact, how did the Impala get the almost four thousand miles up there when it appears there aren’t any roads to either Barrow or Kotzebue, even from further south in Alaska?

Where’s all the snow? And why is everyone wandering around, inside and outside, practically in shirtsleeves, when the average temperature in Barrow is below zero Fahrenheit in January? How difficult would it have been to have a bit of fake snow (in Vancouver, no less, where it’s hardly balmy at the time they filmed this episode), everyone bundled up, and film the damned thing at night?

Either someone had no clue what their setting was like or they just couldn’t be arsed to find out. You, dear reader, decide.

So, there’s all that.

Then there was the whole tonally and morally problematical subplot involving Jack Sue. Jack is back and he is … eating the hearts of people possessed by Grigori angels, presumably because the Grigori grace is concentrated in their vessel’s heart for some reason (that is never explained). I guess it beats his eating brains but not by much.

Now I’ll grant you that it’s not terribly surprising that even after dying and coming back (albeit characters realistically ought to have learned something from their death and rebirth, especially on the second go-round), Jack doesn’t seem to have learned a thing about the fact that stealing angel grace, especially after killing them, does not do good things to an angel’s morality – and that he personally has been down this road before and it didn’t end well.

This would not be a problem, necessarily, if the show acknowledged the moral issues (in fact, it would have been cool if the writing had explicitly connected Sam and Dean getting their Hero mojo back to Jack powering back up). Sam and Dean have done some pretty dark things in the past (notably, Sam drinking demon blood to gain power). And Jack’s father is Lucifer, an archangel who fed on the grace of other angels. But the show presents this as a necessary and a good thing, even though it has never, ever, ever ended well in Jack’s case and we’ve been down this road more than once.

It does not help in the least that cute widdle murderous bland white boy Scrappy-Doo is presented in this scenario as the Crown Prince looking to overthrow his father with the aid of his squire Castiel and his trusty peasant comic relief pair, Sam and Dean. I really wish the show would knock it off with this balderdash about Jack being Chuck’s “grandson” (and implied presumptive heir). He is no such thing, any more than any other creature in the SPNverse.

Lucifer was Chuck’s creation – an early creation to be sure, but still a creation, just like his archangel brothers, angels, Leviathans, pagan gods, and humans. And Jack is Lucifer’s son. That makes Jack … Lucifer’s son. That’s it. And it’s past time the show stopped acting as though he were the protagonist of this story.

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

Season 15


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: “The Heroes’ Journey” (15.10) 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.

Any and all contributions are welcome! 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 up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. 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.

Recap: Then recap to generic rock guitar bringing us up to speed on the season so far (yes, it’s that dreary) followed by a white Doomed Teaser Guy in an indoor cage match verses a jacked-up Hispanic woman to a bloodthirsty crowd. He’s losing and despite a last-minute rally – in which he reveals werewolf teeth and eyes, then slashes her – he ends up down and bleeding out into a grate that covers the screen while slow, melancholy piano music plays. In the process, we also find out that she’s a Wraith and the crowd (including, presumably, the match organizer nearby in shadow) are all monsters.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Beren’s Kwik Trap in Kansas, where Dean is on a food-and-beer run while Sam is back at the Bunker, dealing with a kitchen full of cooking food. Let’s cut to the chase, since this entire sequence is excruciatingly terrible – the credit card Dean is using (which Charlie gave them back in season nine and which should never fail) is declined and he gets a ticket after nearly being run over by a kid on a skateboard. Meanwhile, Sam ends up ruining dinner after a roast burns in the oven, setting off a fire alarm (why would the Bunker have a wimpy fire alarm like that?), and most of a dish of pasta ends up on the floor. When Dean comes back, Sam trips entering the library to greet him and starts to sneeze from the beginnings of a head cold.

So, first of all, Dean does have cash usually, just in case, and second of all, since when does Sam cook? Dean’s the cook. I know Sam was cooking breakfast with Eileen a few episodes ago, but even Dean noted that was unusual.

Dean has already twigged that something odd is going on with the day. Then they get a call. It’s from Garth, who needs their help. My heart immediately sinks. I am so not a fan of Garth and did not need to see him ever again since last season.

On the way in the Impala, the Brothers argue over whether this is an unusually bad day (Dean’s spidey sense says yes, but Sam is in denial). Sam also infodumps that Castiel is in Heaven, trying to get help from the angels. Dean predicts that will go nowhere (he’s probably right). That’s when the Impala breaks down. They are forced to walk the rest of the way and we get more of that lame piano music (the soundtrack’s not been good this season).

Cut to Garth feeding two babies. Seems he and his wife now have infant twins. And a little girl who seems a bit old for five years or so. The doorbell rings. It’s Sam and Dean. Sam won’t hug because he’s sick, so Dean reluctantly lets Garth hug him. Because people forcing hugs on other people who don’t want them is totally a good thing and cute in Dabb’s playbook (he wrote this episode, for our sins), and not problematical at all.

Garth claims that Dean smells good. This breaks up the hug (because let’s face it, that’s super-creepy). Garth then ask what took them so long. Dean mentions that the car broke down. I do not understand why they didn’t call Garth for a ride.

There’s a huge charge of tonal whiplash from the last episode already building up in this one. Last week, Chuck being locked away meant that darkness would prevail and this would result in mindless hordes of monsters (especially vampires) overwhelming humans and taking over the world. This week, monsters are “just folks” living ordinary lives in the American heartland, with cute matching moppets in high chairs. I really wish the writers would get together and figure out what kind of message they want to send about the show’s central metaphor, the MOTW, because they are all over the place with it from week to week these days.

The Brothers come into the kitchen, where Garth introduces them to his daughter Gertie and his twin sons, Sam and … Castiel. This formation of oldest girl and twin sons is a rather obvious amalgamated shout-out to the two leads’ own children, but the refusal to give one of the kids Dean’s name is gratuitously nasty. We’ve had 14 and a half seasons of this kind of mean-spirited dig at Dean. It stopped being funny about 14 seasons ago and I’m over it. Unfortunately, this episode is not even close to done with that.

Garth and his wife then get into why they called the Brothers. They go into Gertie’s room where DTG is still alive (though mostly comatose) and passed out on her bed under a cute painting of cats. Turns out he is Bess’ cousin and also a pureblood werewolf. He was found by local law enforcement near a swamp in St. Cloud, MN, left for dead. Not sure why he wasn’t then checked into a hospital. He looks pretty beaten up.

Dean notes a large gash on one arm – caused by a knife? Bess clarifies that it was caused by a Wraith. What is going on?

Dean sees a bowl of candy nearby and casually takes some while discussing the case. But suddenly, he groans in pain from biting down on it. And Sam is sneezing like crazy. As they leave the room, Bess says she has a cure for Sam’s cold.

As they head back downstairs, Dean comments to Garth that he has a really nice life and says he deserves it. Garth admits it wasn’t what he was expecting. What he did expect was to be “dead by forty, go out young and pretty.” Instead, he has a beautiful wife and children and life. More tonal dissonance builds up as Dabb completely ignores the trip to Purgatory last week: the eventual Hell where Garth Sue, Creator’s Pet, and his little family will eventually end up. Not so cute, this episode, when you remember that.

Dean keeps poking at his teeth and Garth asks the obvious – are they hurting? After some prodding, Dean admits that they hurt quite a bit and have since yesterday. Garth then has him come into another room in the cellar, which turns out to be a dentist’s office (Garth’s original occupation was dental student, before he slew the Tooth Fairy on his first hunt). He has a steady clientele with all the local werewolves.

Dean demurs when he sees the dentist’s chair, but Garth forces him into it, anyway. Meanwhile, Bess is forcing Sam to drink a mystery concoction that includes (Sam finds out after he drinks it) cayenne pepper. It puts him on the floor and nearly into cardiac arrest, while Bess just steps over him, the daughter giggles, and the twins start to cry. Boy, this joke sure hasn’t aged well with the advent of the Coronavirus, has it?

The most (unintentionally) horrifying part is how all of this is played off as cutesy and funny, with a bassoon tooting in the background throughout the back-and-forth between Sam and Dean’s situations. But it’s really pretty messed up and makes Bess and her kids, in particular (remember that they’re baby werewolves) look like sociopaths. Lovely.

Downstairs, Garth declares in a disapproving tone that Dean (who admits he’s never been to a dentist and whose teeth look great) has 17 cavities. Dabb writes this scene as if Dean were too arrogant and reliant on some nonexistent Hero’s immunity to ordinary woes to take care of his teeth. I’ve got a much better explanation that doesn’t distort long-standing canon – how about Dean spent most of his childhood and adulthood in extreme poverty, and couldn’t afford to go to a dentist, you privileged, sheltered twatwaffle of a showrunner?

Maybe it’s an exaggeration to step up for a fictional character like Dean in this way, but there are real-life people out there who’ve never been able to go to a dentist in their lives and who wish 17 cavities were their only dental issues as a result. This kind of writing mocks and shames such people by victim-blaming anyone who doesn’t go to a dentist regularly. So, go take a flying leap, Andrew Dabb.

Also, this interlude takes forever and brings the entire plot to a screeching halt.

Anyhoo, we (and Dean) get a little mercy when Garth dopes him up on nitrous oxide. Dean then has probably the best dream sequence in the show. It’s undoubtedly the best part of this episode, possibly of the entire season so far, and is probably the most screencapped and giffed of season 15.

In it, a confused Dean finds himself in white coat and tails in the Bunker, with a cane. Red curtains open in front of him and then the dream goes black-and-white. He sees Garth, dressed identically and also with a cane. Garth tips his hat to Dean and then begins to tap dance to Cole Porter’s “Let’s Misbehave” as recorded in 1928 by Irving Aaronson & His Commanders. Dean finds himself also tapdancing. They duet for a bit until Dean, smiling and happy for the first time in a long time, ends up tossing aside his cane (as Garth vanishes) and tapdancing around the room solo. He ends up on top of the map table and tips his hat as the dream irises closed. Dean woozily wakes up with a bloody mouth. Garth’s dentistry looks pretty scary to me.

Later, Sam is recovering from being poisoned by pepper, sitting on the couch, when Bess asks him how he’s doing, after she’s put the kids to bed. He says he feels better (I have no idea how). Dean comes in with a bloody mouth and a cup to spit wads of gauze into.

Garth realizes that something funky is going on (thank you, Captain Obvious). Sam admits that God is trying to kill them – or, more accurately, get them to kill each other. He explains that Chuck is a writer and they are his favorite characters. Garth susses out that he is a “supporting character/guest star,” but doesn’t mind. “Being the Hero sucks!” he declares. The protagonist of the story gets put through the ringer before he (or she) maybe wins in the end. Garth references the origin stories of Batman, Superman and 50 Shades of Grey to illustrate. The latter prompts a “cute” bit between him and Bess about their sex life that I did not need to know.

Anyhoo, Garth’s theory is that Sam and Dean have up to this point led charmed lives in that they did not need to deal with the regular, boring vicissitudes of life because they were the Heroes of the story (mind you, this is coming from a character who is a supernatural monster, so he’s hardly ordinary). Now, I get that this is just Garth’s theory, but it is treated as fact from then on, so we should take Garth as the writers’ mouthpiece in this case.

This is, of course, absolute nonsense that is contradicted by a great deal of canon in the show (hell, it’s completely contradicted by Garth’s continued Sue-ish existence and idyllic current life, in which he has plot armor so dense it bends the rules of the entire SPNverse to accommodate him). It also shows what a terribly trite and shallow writer Dabb is that he would assume this is good writing in the first place.

Dean insists that they are cursed and really, Dean’s not wrong. The way that Dabb portrays the Brother’s “normal” life in fact looks a lot more like a hex or other kind of curse, than anything resembling actual, ordinary human existence. But Garth overrides him and the writing goes with Garth. We even have Garth telling Dean he needs a colonoscopy right away.

At this point, we are mercifully spared any further exploration of this ridiculous retcon by Bess’ cousin calling for her from Gertie’s bedroom.

Everyone runs in as the cousin (boringly named Brad) wakes up and decides to be alarmed at Sam and Dean’s presence. Bess and Garth dodge his question of whether they’re Hunters and tell him they’re “safe.”

Sam then tries on the Puppy Eyes o’ Doom to get him to open up, but it doesn’t work at all (I chuckled, since it never worked on me, either). Fortunately, Bess isn’t above digging her nails/claws into his arm wound. He tells Sam and Dean about the cage match operation (which is also streamed live over the “dark web”) and how it’s to win money. Seems he has “three baby mamas” and needs to pay the bills.

He is, however, quite happy to give up the location of the club (Belgrade, MN, in a warehouse off Peach St.). As the Brothers leave, he starts to mock Dean about going in there with monsters and probably getting killed and Bess gives him an extra dig in the wound for it.

Outside, Garth is worried for the Brothers. He says he doesn’t think they can handle the hunt in their current condition (ugh, Dabb, so much). Dean flatly turns down his offer to come with them, saying that with their bad luck right now, they could get him killed and orphan his family. But then Dean gives a speech that, at the least, is pure Dean the way Ackles delivers it. Dean says that it doesn’t matter that they’re not at their best. With all the monsters in the club, innocent people are likely getting killed and it’s his and Sam’s job to stop that. So, what if they don’t have “the magic horseshoe [that Chuck yanked] out of our ass”? Dean doesn’t see any reason why they should stop saving people and hunting things because their skills are now “ordinary.” He just says, “Bring it!”

Rather than argue, Sam says, “What he said.”

Alas, this bravado won’t stick (because Dabb is determined to humiliate Dean especially with this storyline), but I think Dean’s reaction to losing all of his Hunter mojo is the most heroic thing in the entire show.

Garth does get them new spark plugs, though, and with that, the Impala is back in commission. Off to MN they go. They get there and scope out the place in broad daylight. Sam is so paranoid that he brings a first aid kit and everything else he can think of. Meanwhile, Dean is back to his usual fast food diet because I guess his teeth have already healed? Whatever.

Alas, their luck runs out when they go inside. Dean gets suddenly lactose intolerant due to the several cheese sandwiches he just ate and ends up puking in a grotty bathroom (this would usually go out the other end). So, he’s caught dead to rights by the manager and Sam gets knocked out. They end up in a cage.

The manager comes downstairs to gloat. He knows who they are. He introduces himself as “Cutty.” He’s a shapeshifter and he owns the club. He bring in another contestant, a huge guy named “Maul” and he’s a vampire. Cutty’s going to pit Sam and Dean against Maul.

Dean coolly says they’ve killed far worse monsters than Maul (and he’s right, so what the hell is this stupid plot even about?). Unfortunately, it doesn’t get them cut loose.

Cue a commercial advertising the Wraith who took down Bess’ cousin and advertising Maul’s cage match with Sam and Dean, for the club’s streaming show.

Later that night, the Wraith comes in for her match, while Sam and Dean wait in a cage. Dean manages to pull out a nail and starts trying to pick the lock. Thing is, he can’t. Neither can Sam. I call shenanigans – losing their luck and becoming normal wouldn’t mean they’d lose a lifetime of skills.

Dean is skeptical that Chuck will let them go out like this, though Sam figures Chuck could, at least, let them be paralyzed.

Dean: Not everything we did was because of Chuck.

He gives Sam a rousing speech about how they’ve been Hunting all their lives and they can do this, really. But after the previous match ends (with a Djinn choking out the Wraith), and the announcer starts up, he looks a lot more grim. And when Cutty comes in to get them (wanting them to fight with their shirts off), he finds their cells open and empty.

We get a quick recap of Garth showing up in the crowd, sneaking into the back, and letting the Brothers out. He rips off the locks with his werewolf strength. Gee, thanks, Dabb. There’s no way we could have figured that out without your Really Obvious Instant Replay.

Rather than trying to sneak out in any subtle way, Sam and Dean, with Garth trailing them, belt out right across the parking lot with Dean trying to strategize in mid-flight. Anybody could catch up with them. Garth’s twins could have caught up with them.

Garth then tells them he has a plan. The plan is to bomb the hell out of the club (after we get another instant replay of his laying C4 all over the place). Unfortunately, Maul then comes out. Garth wolfs out and goes up against him, but gets tossed into a car and knocked out.

First Dean and then Sam and then Dean try to fight Maul, without even grabbing any weapons. They’re slammed around. Dean is kicked in the balls and then choked. He manages to get Maul to let him go by tapping on his arm. Then Maul has his head split from behind by Garth with a machete. Garth then announces that Maul got garthed.

I legit facepalmed when I rewatched that. It was that bad.

Cut to Dean holding baby Castiel and Sam holding baby Sam, in Garth and Bess’ living room. Dean comments that baby Castiel keeps looking at him funny. Sam says that must be like the real Castiel, but Dean means that the kid keeps giving him werewolf eyes. He eventually just hands the kid off to Bess, who has packed him a bunch of cheese sandwiches.

Outside, some music starts up and I’m hopeful it’s 80s rock, but no, it’s just more generic soundtrack. The Brothers thank Garth for saving their lives and Dean calls him a real Hero. I throw up in my mouth a little.

Garth asks them what they’re going to do now, what with God himself after them. Sam says they don’t know. Garth then admits he knows of a place you can go in Alaska, between Barrow and Kotzebue (way up near the top of Alaska above the Arctic Circle), if you’ve lost your luck and you need it back. Someone once told him about it: “You’ll know it when you see it.”

Garth (unnecessarily) warns them that there’s always a catch and maybe they could get used to being “normal.” The Brothers, unsurprisingly, demur, since their lives aren’t normal and they have to take on Chuck, anyway. So, off they go to Alaska, but not before watching Garth (suddenly back inside the house) dancing with Bess to Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.” Oh, look, some actual classic rock, albeit one they’ve used before.

Per his dream, Dean comments that he could have been a good dancer (while Sam looks pensive about his glimpse of normal) and Sam says that yeah, Dean was always good at the Macarena. Off they drive, but not before the Impala stalls out again and Dean yells, off-camera, “Son of a bitch!”

Credits

The show dropped to a 0.2/1 and dipped below a million (0.99 million) in audience for the first time ever. That gives you an idea of the poor reception this episode received.

The preview for the next episode, “The Gamblers” (15.11) is up. The episode aired on January 23, 2020. “Galaxy Brain” (15.12) comes back from hiatus next Monday on March 16.

Review: Buckle up, ’cause I’m about to do to this episode what Unfortunate Ethnic Butch Lesbian Stereotype Killer Wraith did to Boring Deadbeat Bio Werewolf Daddy Brad in the teaser. DJ Qualls coming out of the closet right before the episode aired didn’t help any with Killer Wraith’s portrayal (or Garth constantly hugging and sniffing Dean), especially since Garth is indisputably straight in the episode. But hey, dude, welcome to the LGBT fold, anyway.

For me, this episode is the nadir of the season so far and damned close to the worst for the entire show. It’s not just that it retcons the show’s blue collar premise, and denigrates the Brothers’ many achievements, by fatuously attributing them to some kind of “hero’s” luck. It’s not just that this entire retcon is in fanservice to giving Garth Sue, the ultimate Creator’s Pet, a cute send-off that makes no damned sense (by the logic of the show, he and his family should have died bloody).

It’s not just that said pattern of dumbing down the Brothers to make this grating guest character look good has been in place ever since Garth first appeared on the show (remember when Garth was immune to that (un)lucky penny when even the Brothers weren’t because his heart was pure or some such balderdash?). It’s not even that the MOTW (werewolves) is one of the lamest monsters the show ever did, certainly the lamest recurring monster they insist on bringing back, and that the premise of underground cage matches for non-human or super-human characters was already old and moldy when Dark Angel did it two decades ago. Hell, I did a Joe and Methos fanfic version of it for my Highlander series about 18 years ago that was frankly a lot more brutal than this episode and the idea was a cliche already, then.

No, it’s because so much of the above makes this episode a dog’s dinner that is nigh on unwatchable, especially the second time round. The only genuinely good part is Dean’s dance dream, which I suspect was something on Jensen Ackles’ wish list that they just tossed in there. The rest is … really bad. I don’t know when the writers intend to make this season actually good, but the second half of it starts after this episode, so they need to hurry up.

The episode is obviously intended to be a bit meta and a comedic, shmaltzy send-off for Garth. That doesn’t excuse its also being stuffed with splintered canon, unnecessary retcon, and lazy writing, most of it not very funny (Jensen Ackles and Padalecki tried very hard to goof it up, and may even have had fun doing so, but the writing still fell flat as a souffle pancake). For a start, Cutty and his audience know all about who Sam and Dean are, yet Brad the cousin doesn’t recognize them. He just thinks they look like Hunters for some random reason. Say, what, now? Make up your mind, writers.

The episode acts as though the entire storyline with alt-Michael never happened last season – hell, it completely ignores the alternate future monster apocalypse from last week. There are no souped-up monsters whatsoever. Even the club denizens are depressingly ordinary.

Garth blows up an entire building full of his fellow beasts with a cheery smile and there is no fallout whatsoever from his helping the Winchesters. Dean’s rationale (with which both Sam and Garth agree without demur) for raiding the club is completely counter-intuitive. The monsters are only killing other monsters and not intentionally. Why not let them work out their own aggressions on each other and kill each other off? Why go in at all, especially when the Brothers are under a curse?

Then there’s this stupid idea of “normal” that the show has. Since when does being normal mean you forget skills you learned with practice and have been using for forty years? Since when can’t the Brothers pick a lock? Or fight? And why does Dean get the brunt of this idiocy? None of it makes any sense and it’s a little heart-breaking to see these current writers (especially the current showrunner, who wrote this piece of dreck) not even try, anymore.

Garth did not need a cutesy send-off in the middle of a final season that should not have been loaded down with this much filler. And it didn’t need to look like this.

A note about the dance sequence. According to dancer and choreographer Christian Lagasse, he and another dancer were originally hired to double for DJ Qualls and Jensen Ackles, but the two actors did so well with it that they were able to learn the entire thing themselves in time to film it all. According to Qualls, Ackles learned the routine in an hour and patiently helped Qualls (who was terrified) with it. Qualls said he accidentally broke some lamps in his hotel room while practicing.

Let’s discuss the retcon. First, it was very unpopular with many fans, in a way the showrunners should have seen coming miles away (so it makes you wonder why they went this route). I get Chuck cursing them. That’s a logical step for a not-quite-omnipotent demiurge figure who’s afraid his favorite creations might actually deep-six him. But real, ordinary life, even in the SPNverse, looks nothing like what happened to Sam and Dean in this episode. We already know what this looks like – it looks like a curse.

Look, Sam and Dean have not been skipping out on ordinary life for 14 and a half seasons until Andrew Dabb, in his “infinite wisdom,” decided to introduce them to it. We’ve seen them deal with car trouble and have to walk into town (“Everybody Loves a Clown”). We’ve seen them deal with food poisoning (Dean in “Wishful Thinking” and there’s a bit in season seven involving them being hungry in the middle of nowhere, with only a spoiled egg salad sandwich left to eat). We know they get hungry and not-so-occasionally starve (the conversation about the Rougarou in “Metamorphosis”). We’ve seen them brush their teeth as a daily morning routine (a few hundred times in “Mystery Spot”). We’ve seen them deal with injuries major and minor (to the point where Sam’s head injuries have become a running gag and Dean once cut off his own cast after breaking his femur early in season seven).

We’ve watched them engage in car maintenance (many episodes, but especially “Fresh Blood”). We’ve watched them do their laundry (“The Monster at the End of this Book”). Until they were finally and definitively declared dead (pick your time), they were incessantly in trouble with the police and there was that time in the season three finale when Dean killed a possessed cop at a traffic stop over a broken tail-light. Every single weeChesters episode (of which we will get one more this season) involved a lot of waiting for Dad and experiencing boring, depressing, hungry lives in grotty motel rooms. And the show dials down their fighting skills all the time because the writers are too lazy to dial up the formidability of the monsters.

In fact, the original premise of the show involved two ordinary young men with no special powers (save for Sam’s visions) going up against supernatural creatures with powers that made them very dangerous to engage. Sure, Sam and Dean have upgraded a lot, but they have done so mostly by honing their skills and acquiring new weapons. Yes, they have discovered they were archangel vessels and whatnot, but the point here is that the arc of what they became is realistic in the context of the SPNverse. Their only real advantage was Chuck’s resurrecting them over and over again. And since the show has beings who are literally billions of years old, that’s not that big of a deal. I mean, just what do Dabb & Co. think Chuck was entertaining himself with in the 13.7 billion years before Sam and Dean showed up?

If this is truly what Dabb thinks constitutes the difference between a “hero” and an “ordinary person,” then he needs to stop ripping off the titles of books he never seems to have actually read and check out what Joseph Campbell actually wrote.

The character who is truly unrealistic in this episode, to the point of distorting the entire SPNverse out of shape to accommodate him, is Garth. Garth is a Mary Sue. Everyone is dumbed down to make him look good. This includes Sam and Dean. Garth is the one who gets into Hunting and survives despite being profoundly naive and stupid. Garth gets turned into a monster and abandons Kevin, yet still manages to get a happy ending with other monsters who are virtually indistinguishable from ordinary humans in their everyday lives. Garth gives the Brothers sage advice, even though the advice is really bad and he has no clue what he’s talking about. Nevertheless, the writers assure us that he is right.

And yes, against all SPNverse logic, Garth gets a happy ending. Not even Charlie, a truly blatant and obnoxious Mary Sue, got that. That’s why this is a terrible episode.

It’s as though Dabb has entirely forgotten that this is a horror show (the Nepotism Duo are perpetually clueless about this fact). As in the execrable 200th episode, “Fan Fiction,” the only on-screen kill we get is a monster – Maul (like Darth Maul, geddit? Hahahahaha). Garth also blows up a building full of monsters, but this is off-screen and Maul survived it, so I’m not sure that counts. No humans die. In fact, aside from Sam and Dean, the only human in the story is the clerk with psoriasis who declines Dean’s credit card at the beginning of the story.

Since the audience is looking for horror subtext in what is, at the end of the day, a horror story, we latch onto any moment of tonal disconnect. One such occurs when Bess and her daughter are giggling at Sam’s choking on the floor. I’m pretty sure it’s unintentional (because we’re supposed to like and root for Garth and his family), but it comes off as very creepy and colors more darkly how I perceive the entire family.

The whole episode suffers from logic dysfunction surrounding the ongoing discussion about a concept of “normal” dependent on obliviously ordinary human life (like that of the clerk in the beginning), when literally no one else in the story besides the clerk fits that category. In sociology, they use the term “normative” rather than “normal” because people’s concepts of “normal” are so heavily based on the specific culture from which they spring.

By basing his concept of “normal” in the episode on Swedish Middle America human “normal” rather than monster “normal,” Dabb keeps inadvertently exposing how fake that concept really is in light of how superficially it fits Garth and Bess. And this has got to be inadvertent because Garth and Bess’ “normal” and “ordinary” lives are contrasted in such an intentionally positive way with Sam and Dean’s screwed-up, abnormal, “heroic” lives.

Dabb might as well hang a lead weight on the audience’s suspension of disbelief at this point. In “The Heroes’ Journey” (and too often in this season, as with the whole “Ghosts in broad daylight with combat boots” deal at the beginning), that suspension comes crashing down. In the wake of it, we’re left with a bunch of guest stars and extras with plastic teeth (if that) and whatever sensawunda might have been built up evaporates. Every time Garth “wolfed out,” I snorted in laughter because he looked like a dork. I’ve been more horrified by Beatrix Potter than I was at any point in this episode.

I have to finish by talking about the classic rock – or should I say, its lack – this season. I didn’t mind “Let’s Misbehave” (and it would be really nice if that were foreshadowing for Dean doing some ass-kicking of Chuck down the line), and it was nice to hear “Werewolves of London” again (even if, like AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock” in season nine’s “Slumber Party,” it’s been used twice now to cover up terrible writing and to send off Creator’s Pet characters many fans felt had overstayed their welcome), but this is the final season and there has been almost no classic rock whatsoever. They really couldn’t fit that into the damned budget? The sad piano in this one got mighty tired after a while and I’m really over that generic guitar riff. The least the showrunners could do is jazz up their crap final season with a better and more iconic soundtrack.

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

Season 15


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.