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According to recent reports from Vancouver, the cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late). Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale (and expressed sadness on Instagram when he got the final script, which said “The End” instead of the usual “To Be Continued”). In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.
This recap was a bit late (sorry), as I’m working on a Halloween Zoom talk about local ghost stories and legends in eastern North Carolina. It’s free and it will be October 25 at 7pm (EST), until 8:30pm. You can register beforehand (no obligation) here. I’m hoping to get the next recap and review up on time, but if not, we should get back on track after the talk.
You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.15.
If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of snarfly foster kittens with seasonal eye gunk right now. My kitty Goose is doing much better, thank you (she’s acting as if nothing happened now), but I’ve still got that bill, so every little bit helps.
Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.
Recap: Fairly quick (less than a minute) recap, considering the show just came off a major and final hellatus, of Cuthbert Sinclair and Abaddon in Season 9 (and to think I just reviewed those episodes), and Jack’s boring “got his soul back” storyline from the previous ep.
Cut to Now in the Bunker, where Sam is doing research, Dean is cooking burgers (in an apron), and Jack is still sulking in his room. Sam snarks about the apron, though hey, at least, we get a reprise of Dean the Great Cook. Dean has come out of the kitchen to note that the Bunker seems to be on the fritz. The pilot light in the kitchen keeps going out, and he and Sam both notice that things keep switching on and off. Dean complains that the Bunker is supposed to be “state of the art,” though Sam snarks that yes, it was, “for the Fifties.”
While that’s true, the Bunker was shut down for over half a century and possesses lower transistor tech than we have today. Low tech tends to be more durable than high tech. Also, the Bunker is magical.
Anyhoo, at that moment (after Dean asks where Jack is and Sam says he’s in his room), the air goes down. This is right after the Brothers talk about how Castiel is looking for Amara for them and they’re probably going to kill her (this still seems like a stupid plan to me. Why not talk to her, first?). Dean decides they need to do something about the air. Well, yes, since otherwise, they’re going to suffocate. Sam wonders what they can do.
Dean: We fought the Devil, okay? I killed Hitler. I think we can handle some old pipes.
Cut to the Brothers coming down into a control room we’ve never seen before and apparently, they haven’t, either. Sam found it after some research. There is a large old-time, very-active-looking control panel. This is a pretty big retcon, I gotta say, that the Brothers never even looked at this room (which was so easy to find) when they were reconnoitering the Bunker. I mean, come on, Show.
Anyhoo, Sam says all the basic stuff like water and pipes should be controlled from that panel and maybe they should call in a plumber. Dean laughs this off and makes a Mario Brothers joke. Among other controls we don’t get a good look at, the control panel has two big buttons in the lower right-hand corner of the panel. One says “Standby” and the other “Reset.” The Standby button is glowing. The Reset button is not.
Out loud, Dean notes that whenever the porn on his laptop gets too many pop-ups, he just reboots. So, he hits the Reset button right as Sam is arguing that’s not a good idea. Now, obviously, since this is the episode’s teaser, it’s a bad idea, but the writing to this point doesn’t quite justify that. I mean, you’ve got a Reset button and the system is glitchy. Wouldn’t hitting it at least be an option?
Anyhoo, everything goes dark for a moment, but then it comes right back up and the glitches go away. Crowing “Victory!” in a bad Italian accent, Dean goes back upstairs to continue cooking burgers.
Later, we see Dean enter his room with a finished “Dean Deluxe” burger (which looks very tasty). Suddenly, he looks up offscreen and backs up. Cut to his bed, where a middle-aged, red-haired woman is folding his underwear, including a pair of Scooby-Doo-themed shorts. She says, “Oh! Hello, dear.” Dean bellows for Sam.
Cue title cards.
Cut to the Library, where the woman is commenting on all the dust and “filth,” and Dean is saying “Who the hell are you, lady?!” (she comments on his “language”). It takes this long for Sam to arrive from wherever he was and he’s quite startled to meet the woman, as well. He asks her name. She says her “true name is indecipherable in your tongue,” but says that “Mr. Ganem called me Mrs. Butters.”
Sam susses out that she’s not human based on the “our tongue” comment, though that’s pretty obvious at this point. She says that she’s a “wood nymph.” Dean’s reaction face is epic. When Dean asks, “Well, shouldn’t you be in the woods, nymphing?” she calls that “a young one’s game.” Also, she “lives here.”
When Sam suggests she’s a Lady of Letters, she calls herself a “helper.” She basically acted as a live-in maid and nanny for the Men of Letters, who needed, you know, a woman around the house. Even if she wasn’t human.
Dean sarcastically calls this “very progressive” (since it obviously isn’t), then tells her she can “just leave.” This prompts confusion and bewilderment from Mrs. Butters. As she said before, the Bunker is her home and Dean is basically kicking her out. After all, she’s served the Men of Letters “since before the War.”
Confused, Sam asks her what year she thinks it is and she replies in a small voice, “1958?”
Dean rather bruskly breaks the news to her that it’s actually 2020. When she asks where all the Men of Letters are (Mr. Akers and Mr. Markham, specifically), while gesturing at a photo of them on the wall, Dean says she is looking at the only two left. The others are dead. He explains that Abaddon killed them and that she was a demon. Though fluffy, Mrs. Butters is a quick study and realizes this is why the Men of Letters never came back.
In a warm-tones flashback, she explains that when they went to their ceremony (the swearing-in ceremony for Josie and Henry, where Abaddon used Josie to ambush and murder almost all of the chapter), they left Mrs. Butters behind to guard the Bunker. When they didn’t return, she put the Bunker (and herself) into Standby mode. When she hit the button, the lights went down and she turned into green smoke that was sucked up into the glowing symbols on the walls.
The Brothers try to explain that they didn’t realize she was there and that they have been dealing “with one apocalypse after another.” Mrs. Butters is very understanding. Her “boys” dealt with the same kind of schedule. She says that it must have been “an age” since the Brothers had “a home-cooked meal or a holiday.” She takes a step forward, wrinkles her nose, and comments that they haven’t washed their clothes in a while, either. Sam admits they’re not that kind of people.
Dean realizes that the Bunker has been “at half-power” the entire time they’ve been there. Mrs. Butters confirms this and, snapping her fingers, brings the place up to full power. Seems her magic is used to power the place to a higher level. The lights brighten (and turn on in the telescope alcove) and a red spot on the map starts to beep. Mrs. Butters explains that’s the “monster radar.” Pressing the red dot, she gives them the exact location of a nest of vampires 50 miles away from the Bunker. And by that, I mean she gives them the street address. She tells them if they hurry, they can clean out the entire nest and be back for dinner.
Dean is thrilled that they’ve finally caught a break, but as Mrs. Butters goes off to dust up the other room, Sam wonders if they can trust her. Dean points out that the Men of Letters would have needed a creature like her to take care of them and one way to find out is to check out the nest. If she’s telling them the truth, they can go from there.
Sam asks what happens if she isn’t and Dean prosaically says, “Then we deal with her.” Sam then asks, “What about Jack?” Oh, sigh, and things were going so well up to this point.
Cut to Jack, moping in his room. Dean knocks on the door. He tells him they’re going out for a while and gives him a heads-up about Mrs. Butters. He says she’s “probably harmless,” but in case she isn’t, to give them a call. He also says she’s baking “snickerdoodles.” Oooer. Jack just mopes, because that’s Jack for you these days.
In the car, Sam is still worrying away at whether or not Mrs. Butters can be trusted. Sam doesn’t seem to realize that Dean is trusting, but verifying, not just taking Mrs. Butters at face value. The discussion quickly turns to Whether Jack Is Okay because of course it does [sigh] after Dean points out that Mrs. Butters isn’t that big of a deal when they have “the Son of Satan living down the hall.”
Sam wonders if Jack is okay, what with Chuck “deleting worlds” and Amara in the wind. After admitting that Jack, is “a mess,” Dean says, “He’ll be fine. I mean, I’ve been through worse. Look at me – I’m the picture of health.”
Sam: Ignoring your trauma doesn’t make you healthy.
Dean [insincerely]: Sure, it does.
Boy, it’s been a while since Dean’s mental health issues have come up.
Anyhoo, they table the discussion for now.
Back at the Bunker, Jack is still moping, so Mrs. Butters knocks on his door with a sandwich. When he won’t answer, she says she’s leaving it by the door (now that Jack has his soul back, does he have regular human cycles or are we ignoring all that?).
Meanwhile, the vampire nest mentioned before turns out to be two bearded hicks watching an old vampire movie (not sure which one) on a TV in a shack, while sucking down blood from a local blood bank in their Big Swig mugs. Just as one vampire is musing why they don’t get to live in a mansion like the vampire in the film, Sam and Dean kick down the door. The two lowlife vamps helpfully whip around and thrust their heads forward, fangs bared. So, the Brothers simultaneously whack off their heads at one blow.
“Monster radar rules!” crows Dean.
The Brothers return to the Bunker to find it decorated for Christmas. There’s a giant tree in the library, with a train running around it. A big band version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” is on the soundtrack (is that irony deliberate?). Mrs. Butters comes out, giggling, with a plate of cookies. Both Brothers are nonplussed at first, but Dean starts to get into it, while Sam looks constipated.
Dean: We are so keeping her!
Cut to Mrs. Butters giving Sam some pancakes and a pep talk the next morning about his rather dour look on the world. In comes Jack and suddenly, her mood changes. She immediately recognizes him as not-quite-human, saying “What. Are. You?” in a tense voice.
Dean comes in, wearing a purple nightshirt and hat. He’s very excited about it (it was a gift from Mrs. Butters) and thanks her. A horrified Sam gets an eyeful (seems Dean is not wearing underwear beneath the nightshirt when he lifts it up) and Dean somewhat defuses the situation by off-handedly vouching for Jack.
Mrs. Butters just-as-off-handedly acknowledges Dean’s thanks, while bristling at Jack. Eventually, she stands down and appears to accept him. Whipping up a smoothie out of nowhere, she gives it to him, even as he’s protesting that he’s not hungry. When Dean shows an interest in the smoothie, she gives him a tomato juice, instead, saying she’s “worried about your cholesterol.” Jack looks amused at Dean’s crestfallen reaction.
A buggy horn goes off overhead, and both Sam and Dean run to their rooms to get dressed. As they’re coming back out past the kitchen, Mrs. Butters hands them each a bag lunch (“no crusts”), tells Sam the monster is a Lamia and that’s she’s put “blessed knives in the trunk,” and tells him to tell Dean to use the Impala gently, since she just waxed it.
Jack wants to go along, but Sam tells him to stay behind and take it easy. They’ll be right back. After saying goodbye to Sam, Mrs. Butters turns back with an edged smile and says to Jack, “Well. What shall we do with you?” Jack smiles at her, not noticing the undertones. Later, she gets him to tell her about being Lucifer’s son, how TFW 2.0 are his only real family, and how he killed Mary in a fit of pique.
Mrs. Butters says, “We all do things, things we’re not proud of.” But she adds that life is full of “second chances,” then offers him another smoothie.
Cue an adorable montage to The Bus Boys’ “Cleanin’ Up the Town” (from Ghostbusters, of course) of the Brothers running off to a hunt (excitedly grabbing bag lunches from Mrs. Butters at the kitchen on the way out), busting down doors, and having holidays (Thanksgiving, Halloween, Fourth of July, and Sam’s birthday). In the last hunt, they blow the door to a shack open and Dean comes in with a rocket launcher, while Sam is hefting Mjolnir.
We come back out of the montage to Sam’s birthday. When Dean wonders if he can have some of the same Rice Krispies treats when he has a birthday, Mrs. Butters comments that she’s surprised that he would still want to celebrate his birthday (i.e., that he’s over 40), but then says she was just teasing and there is more for him in the kitchen.
I’m not sure why the writers continue with these stupid age jokes when they are literally old enough to know better. I get that they work for a network that caters to a young female demographic in an often problematical way that involves literally fetishizing young women, but come on.
Anyhoo, life goes on and Jack gets hooked on his smoothies. One night, he’s coming out with an empty glass when he finds Mrs. Butters in the library, furtively looking at a file in one of the cabinets while dusting. Looking pensive, she puts it back, then jumps and squeals when Jack calls her name. As she comes over, he asks her for another smoothie. Instead of just whipping one up, as she has before, she takes the empty glass and goes off to the kitchen to get him a refill.
This gives him a chance to look through the drawer she was looking in. He finds an old Manila envelope with a CLASSIFIED file inside. It includes her photo and an old film reel. He sneaks off down to the projection room and revs up the film (how he knows how to do this is glossed over).
The faded black-and-white film has an opening narration by Cuthbert Sinclair (whom we briefly met in “Blade Runners” when he tried to enslave Dean, the Mark of Cain, and the First Blade). He calls it File 5150. He then reveals that “Subject B, casually referred to as ‘Mrs. Butters,’” was “retrieved” by Man of Letters Henshaw from a Thule lab. So, it seems the Thule had originally enslaved her (she killed a battallion of 200 men before they could “restrain” her) and if she has been working with the Men of Letters since “before the War,” then the Men of the Letters and the Thule must have been fighting a shadow war with each other even before WWII.
Sinclair then goes on to theorize that even though wood nymphs are normally “docile, they react- violently when home or family are threatened.”
He then turns and we see he is in the dungeon. There is a hooded prisoner in a chair and standing behind the chair is Mrs. Butters, smiling inanely. He says he’s been doing “a series of experiments” (translation: magical torture) to convince Mrs. Butters to join the Men of Letters, “for safety and security.” Pulling off the prisoner’s hood, he reveals that the man in the chair is a Thule operative. Having already extracted all info possible out of the prisoner, Sinclair instructs Mrs. Butters to pull off his head. She does, with the same cheerful smile, then asks, “Would anyone like tea or cookies?”
Horrified, Jack exclaims, “Son of a bitch!”
Jack comes running out into the library shouting for Sam (why not Dean?). Mrs. Butters is there and says Sam will be out in a moment. He’s getting ready for a date with Eileen. Sam comes out in a rather old-style waistcoat and tie ensemble. He says he feels silly. Mrs. Butters assures him he looks great (well, yeah. For the 1950s). Though she would like to cut his hair (Sam demurs).
Dean comes out in his usual flannel, saying “Wow! Somebody’s shopping at Abercrombie and Bitch,” to which Mrs. Butters scolds him: “Language!”
Sam tells them that he’s going on a date with Eileen, who is in town. They are trying to rekindle things since their disastrous kidnapping by Chuck a few episodes ago. Dean figures Sam is going to get laid. Mrs. Butters whips up a bouquet of red roses for Sam and sends him off, though afterward, she scolds Dean for being so mean to Sam. Dean is not especially repentant. But he is happy when she tells him she fixed the TV in his room and runs off to check it out.
Instead of following Dean to talk to him, Jack decides to stalk Mrs. Butters, instead. Because that’s smart.
He follows her down into the storage room and dungeon, where he confronts her. Mrs. Butters, smiling, asks him how the film made him “feel.” Jack is thrown by this question, especially when she supplies an answer – that he “enjoyed” watching her kill the Thule.
Jack realizes that she set him up, that it was a test, and that she thinks he failed (her going off to the kitchen to make him a smoothie should have been his first clue). She says that if the Brothers knew how powerful he’s become, they’d be terrified of him and they should be, that maybe they keep Jack sequestered in the Bunker to keep him from murdering anyone else the way he did Mary.
Jack protests that he would never hurt Sam and Dean, but Mrs. Butters points out that he already has in the past – a whole lot. Then she TK’s him into a wall. Jack gets up and gets angry. He starts to power up, but his eye glow fritzes and fades. As Mrs. Butters slaps a pair of magical cuffs on him (not sure if they’re demon or angel or archangel, or what), she tells him that she used the smoothies to reduce his power. Now, he can’t do anything. Seems she learned a few things while dusting in the library. She pokes him in the chest and TK’s him again into the wall.
When Jack asks her why she’s doing this, she says, “To make the Bunker safe again. To kill all the monsters!”
I know the show wants us to side with Jack and see Mrs. Butters as dangerously out of control. But Mrs. Butters actually isn’t wrong. This scene is a classic case of When the Villain Has a Point.
The show seems to want us to believe that Jack has changed permanently for the good because he has his soul back. But Jack did plenty of horrible things when he had his soul (nor was he at all forgiving about, say, rescuing Dean after Dean said yes to alt-Michael to rectify Jack’s mistake, and save Sam and Jack from Jack’s father). and he intentionally lost his soul out of a desire to get his powers back. Thing is, every time Jack has had to choose between Sam and Dean, and getting his power back, he’s chosen power every time. So, I don’t think the writers did a convincing job of setting up the conflict here.
Dean comes out into the kitchen to see that Mrs. Butters has fixed him a grilled cheese sandwich. Just as Dean is happily digging into it, she tells him the food is to give him strength to go down to the dungeon and kill Jack. Then she hands him a brass dagger.
With a sad, longing look at the sandwich, Dean sets it aside, takes the dagger, and after a comment about how unfortunate it is that she turned “Nurse Ratched” on them, says they’ll go down to the dungeon, let Jack out, and “forget this ever happened.”
That gets him locked in the dungeon with Jack. Mrs. Butters insists that Dean has been “infected” by Jack, who is “just like his father … the Serpent in the Garden” (kind of ironic considering Jack was in the Garden just last episode). Sam returns from his date to find Mrs. Butters waiting for him. When he asks where the others are, she tells him that Jack has got inside Dean’s head, where the two of them are, and that he and she now have to go kill them. She calls him “the smart one” for figuring it out.
Sam says, sure, he’s just going to go to his room for his gun and meet her down there. Instead, he calls Dean from inside his room (apparently, there is cell phone reception in the dungeon, now). When Sam asks why Dean didn’t call him sooner, Dean says he didn’t want to bother him on his date: “It’s been a while for you, man” (truer words). Dean is oddly casual about the whole thing, as if it’s a minor inconvenience.
When Sam asks him for suggestions, Dean points out that Sam was going to research ways to stop Mrs. Butters if she turned evil and suggests shooting her. Sam protests that he’s been distracted by all the celebrations (they reminisce briefly over the fabulous omelette from Boxing Day). Dean suggests hitting the Standby button in the control room (which is actually quite a good idea) to shut her back down. Sam decides to try it.
Back in the dungeon, Jack suggests that he could use his powers to get them out of there, but Dean says the amount of power Jack would need to break out of the cuffs would alert Chuck to his presence (also, Jack’s powers have been reduced by all the smoothies, but it’s not clear if Dean knows about that, yet).
Jack starts panicking a little, saying he has a “mission.” When Dean tells him to calm down and turns away (trying to think), Jack quietly asks if Dean still thinks he’s a monster. Dean turns back to face Jack and lays it all out. He’s trying to forgive Jack, but it’s hard. On the other hand, he’s not “going to let some evil Mary Poppins take you out.”
Upstairs, Sam is edging through the library, gun in hand, calling for Mrs. Butters. When she appears, he does try to shoot her, but she stops him with TK and then TK’s him into a chair. She merrily tells how Sinclair “explained” the importance of the Bunker to her and since Sam is her “favorite,” she’s not going to give up on him … yet. She then proceeds to show him how Sinclair “explained” things to him – by ripping out his fingernails, one by one. Has that happened to Sam since Season 3’s “A Very Supernatural Christmas”? I think so, but can’t recall the other episode.
No matter what Sam tries to tell Mrs. Butters about Jack being “just a kid,” she insists that Jack is a monster who will kill them and she’s already lost her previous team to a monster. She’s not doing it again.
In the dungeon, Dean has an idea, but it involves some rather brutal methods (a very old piece of soundtrack plays over this – I think it’s “Lilith Unfair.” No, sorry, it’s “Old ‘Monster Movie’”). He’s going to use the brass knife to try to break the chain between the cuffs. Jack isn’t too sure it’s going to work and Dean is cheerily unreassuring about the whole thing. When he hits the cuffs with the knife, the magical blowback tosses Jack against a cabinet, smashing it. Dean says the cuffs aren’t coming off without a key, but he’s got another idea (especially since it seems Sam is delayed in showing up).
Dean lines Jack up in front of the door. “Now remember,” he says. “Pain is just weakness leaving the body. On three.” He hits the cuffs on the two count, of course. The resulting explosion blasts Jack right through the door. They’re free, at least for the moment.
Down to the control room they go, where Dean takes a hammer and hits the Reset button (wasn’t he going to hit the Standby button?). The red emergency lighting and klaxon come on. When Dean and Jack enter the library, they find Sam alone. The problem appears to be solved.
But it’s not. In the control room, the panel rattles and the sigils above the doors begin to glow an angry red. A steam pipe bursts. Through the steam Mrs. Butters materializes with glowing green eyes and walks back upstairs. There, she TK’s all three of TFW 2.0 (present) across the room and starts to scream at them that she’s not going to fail again. She especially directs her anger at Jack. She says about him that the reason she can’t go back to her forest is “because of things like that!”
Sam tries to talk her down, saying that Sinclair (“Mr. Cuthbert”) used and tortured her. But it’s Dean who gets through to her. He says that Jack “can save the world.” He points out that that’s always been “the mission.” Confused, Mrs. Butters stands down. The emergency lighting cuts out and everything in the Bunker goes back to normal.
Afterward, she heals Sam’s hand and apologizes to all three of them. Jack says it’s okay. When Sam and Dean note that Sinclair made her leave her forest, she gets all nostalgic about it. Jack then says, “It’s settled.” The next moment, we see her in travel clothes with a purse, as she’s going back home.
She warns them that without her magic, “the Bunker will revert to Standby mode.” Dean tries to make the best of it, talking about the big telescope in the alcove. She tells him it’s not a telescope. It’s an interdimensional geoscope (in other words, a scope that can look into other worlds in the Multiverse).
When Dean comments that he’s looked in it and not seen anything, Mrs. Butters says, “Ohh. Oh, that’s not good.” (Obviously, this is a reference to all the other worlds Chuck was destroying and indicates there was nothing to see in the scope because there are no more worlds left in the Multiverse.)
Jack gives her the photo of the Men of Letters that was on the wall. Before she leaves, she tells Dean to eat his vegetables, Sam to cut his hair, and Jack to go save the world. The she snaps her fingers and vanishes. Half the Bunker shuts down, including half the lights.
Later, while they are reading or doing research or something in the library, Sam tries to get Jack to open up. Jack admits that here he is, supposed to kill God, and he got taken down by a wood nymph. He’s not at all sure he is up to the job. Sam says that he has to because he’s “the only one who can.” (ugh)
Dean breaks up the mood by coming in with a cake, wearing his apron (which Sam continues to be salty about, for some unknown reason). It’s a birthday cake for Jack. Dean has decided that Mrs. Butters was right – even though they’re busy, they should still celebrate occasions. Dean admits that the cake doesn’t look perfect the way Mrs. Butters would have made it, but Jack is happy to see it, nonetheless. Dean lights a candle and puts it on the cake. Sam tells Jack to make a wish. Jack sits for a moment, thinking, then blows the candle out.
Ratings for this new episode rose from those for the previous episode to 0.4/3 in the A18-49 demo and 1.1 million.
Review: When I first saw the commentary about this episode on Twitter, I was sure I was going to hate it. It sounded quite bad and like an entire forty-some minutes of Jacknatural. After I saw it, though, my feelings became more … mixed. I still actively disliked the Jacknatural aspect, and there were some seriously problematical things, like the entire treatment of what was effectively the Brothers’ condoning their predecessors’ enslavement and torture of a sentient supernatural being.
And yet, the entire montage of Sam and Dean hunting and being ministered to by Mrs. Butters, to the tune of “Cleanin’ Up the Town” from Ghostbusters (a decent non-soundtrack song, for once), was magic. Dean’s enthusiasm over the whole idea of having endless birthdays and Christmas and Halloween was magic. I will probably end up rewatching this montage a good bit come Christmastime.
I actually liked Mrs. Butters and felt sorry for her, far more than Jack (in fact, I think she had some excellent points about Jack). And I know I wasn’t supposed to laugh at Dean beating the hell out of Jack to get them out of the dungeon, but I totally did and I’m not sorry. If that’s all Jack has to suffer from Mary’s loved ones for killing her, it’ll be the very, very least he deserves.
I am thoroughly over and stick-a-fork-in-me done with Jacknatural. Any bit of taking him down a peg introduces some welcome balance to the show that it really needs at this point.
The show has made it seem as though Jack getting his soul back should somehow alleviate what he did to Mary, but I don’t see how something that he was basically tricked into doing should be redemptive in any real way. Mary is no less dead and Jack, for all his guilt, hasn’t done much at all to make amends. There are only so many times you can apologize before you realize that “sorry” is just a word without actions to back it up. This is not Jack’s first “Ooh, I made a really cosmic boo-boo” rodeo and his learning curve is distressing flat throughout.
I also thought his unsympathetic reaction to the old film was un-reassuring. The monsters Mrs. Butters was helping Sam and Dean hunt may or may not have been worthy of killing, but we’ve seen that the Thule invariably are. Jack also didn’t pick up at all on the many hints Sinclair gave that he had tortured Mrs. Butters into serving the Men of Letters. In that moment, he had no compassion for her and hypocritically saw her as nothing more than a monster.
The weird thing is that for all the gaslighting of Dean in-story for not forgiving Jack ridiculously soon, Dean’s the only one of TFW who is acting in character. I don’t even know what the hell Castiel is supposed to be responding to, anymore (he lost most of his remaining personality when Jack brainwashed him from the womb in Season 12). But what about Sam? There’s sort-of, kind-of some supporting canon for Sam acting so academically about Mary’s death and Jack’s role in it. He did admit in the Pilot that he didn’t remember Mary, so he lacked the primal emotional connection to her that Dean had.
Later, we saw Sam react in a similarly muted way to John’s death. Those two had a lot of mixed feelings toward each other, so I guess that makes sense. Anyhoo, it’s canon that Dean reacted a lot more violently to John’s death than Sam did.
But then there’s the flip side of this coin. In the very same Pilot episode, Sam swore vengeance for his girlfriend Jessica’s death and went on a roaring rampage of revenge, as The Bride might have put it. Even five seasons later, when he find out a demon possessed his close friend and then murdered Jessica just to put him on that road, Sam thoroughly enjoyed gutting Brady like a fish. He went completely off the rails after Lilith and then Metatron killed Dean. He had an incandescent hatred for Crowley after Crowley murdered Sarah, one that combined with Sam’s irrational jealousy every time Dean forms strong relationships with other men, that ended up in a situation where Sam threatened the entire Multiverse.
Sam’s been a lot of things, but he ain’t Spock. Either he never did develop strong feelings for his mother, despite extensive attempts by the writers in the past few seasons to show them bonding, or he’s been brainwashed like Castiel, or he’s lying to Jack’s face about forgiving him and just using him to take out Chuck.
The episode dealt clumsily with the central idea of Mrs. Butters as an enslaved supernatural being who powered the Bunker to an extra level. It doesn’t help that the name pretty obviously (though anachronistically) evokes the brand name Mrs. Butterworth, a famous American syrup brand. Rumor has it that Mrs. Butterworth was originally inspired by Hattie McDaniel’s enslaved house servant and nanny in Gone with the Wind (1939), though the brand wasn’t introduced until 1961. Its packaging has recently been revamped after criticism that the original model evoked “mammy” stereotypes. I talked a bit about that stereotype (most famously illustrated by McDaniel’s role, albeit much older) in my review of season one’s “Home,” since Missouri definitely evoked it.
While Mrs. Butters has a British accent, and it’s implied that she was originally German (Hyacinth Bucket meets the hausfrau stereotype), her name seems a pretty obvious evocation of the above minstrel show trope, as well. Whatever “Last Holiday” was trying to say about slavery seems to get tangled up in a lot of white-washed, tone-deaf Lost Cause subtext as the Brothers and Jack proceed to enjoy Mrs. Butters’ ministrations without thinking too hard about what she gets out of it. It made me wonder what other dark secrets and beings might be involved in the Bunker’s foundations. Cuthbert Sinclair really was quite the bastard, wasn’t he?
The frequently perky tone didn’t necessarily help. For example, the only time Dean appeared to take Mrs. Butters seriously as a threat was near the end, when he finally got through to her by explaining Jack’s actual function with them. While the way Mrs. Butters then stood down may seem heartwarming on the surface, I was struck by the bleak (unintended?) subtext that only when Dean pointed out that Jack was a Men of Letters weapon (like her) did she back off.
Was it because she just didn’t buy that the Brothers considered Jack family, especially after what he’d done to their mother? Or was it because Dean was finally being honest when he made it clear that Jack was a weapon and that he and Sam knew exactly what they were doing in keeping him in the Bunker (as she implied when she locked Jack in the dungeon)? Had she previously been reacting to the underlying dishonesty?
By the way, if the name Henshaw sounds familiar, he’s the Man of Letters who wrote the report about the Hand of God in Season 11’s “The Vessel.” So, think of Jack as a sentient Hand of God. Then he doesn’t seem quite so special as he thinks.
It actually makes a lot of sense that Mrs. Butters would take special umbrage to Jack. It’s necessary to remind everyone here that Jack didn’t just kill Mary. He also killed his own mother by being born. Jack is a natural born matricide, twice over. That the show had Kelly gloss over this, even in Heaven (ugh, gag), and make it seem okay didn’t improve matters.
But Mrs. Butters is a maternal figure herself, nurturing full-grown men engaged in a very dangerous profession. She would relate to other maternal figures, the real mothers of these men, more than some other characters. And she would find matricide especially unforgivable. After all, it’s a direct threat to her, as well.
I didn’t notice until the rewatch that Dean did actually free her right away. It was off-hand and he was basically evicting her from her home of three-quarters of a century, but his very first thought was not to take advantage of her, as was the impression I got on first watch. After all, he had been tortured by Cuthbert Sinclair and nearly made his slave, too.
It wasn’t until she clearly showed her intent and desire to remain in the Bunker that Dean started to get into keeping her around. Keep in mind that Sam’s very first thought was to kill her, though he eventually warmed to her, as well, and we got to see a happier Sam for a while (sad we didn’t get to see Eileen this time, though).
Perhaps the biggest problem with the suspension of disbelief here is that the episode chose to introduce and write out a key element in the Bunker’s history inside a single episode. Mrs. Butters was a lot like that Hunter character the Brothers have supposedly known for decades (but never mentioned before) who pops up for a single episode, only to get killed off (usually after having turned evil, first). I think we might have felt the sense of betrayal a bit more when she turned on them if she had been introduced at least a few episodes earlier.
Alas, with introducing such a powerful figure, so intimately connected to the Bunker, this late in the game, retcons and other questions arose. For example, when Amara invaded the Bunker near the end of season 11 and burned out the sigils in the walls, why wasn’t Mrs. Butters awakened or even killed? What about when Dorothy brought the Witch into the Bunker? Was Mrs. Butters not there, yet? Why didn’t the Brothers ever notice the control room in their thorough search of the place? Did none of the Men of Letters notice that early on that Cuthbert Sinclair never seemed to age? Were the London Men of Letters ever aware of her existence? How long a timespan did this episode even cover?
Why introduce such a powerful character (she took down Jack) so late in the game and then write her out? Is not Earth Prime her home, her woods, writ large? Couldn’t the Brothers use her as an ally against Chuck, instead of the show writers’ usual simplistic obsession with a single solution (finding and neutralizing/recruiting Amara) that we already know won’t work in the breach? I know the Nazis were obsessed with nature, but is her grove even still standing? What happens if/when she finds out it’s not? Will she turn monstrous?
Why are we even still doing MOTWs at this late date? Are all of these elements in the last seven episodes going to figure in the finale? I hope so, but they need to hurry up with starting to tie them together.
Next week: Gimme Shelter: Castiel’s back and the Brothers going looking for Amara. I’m sure that will end well.
The Kripke Years
The Gamble Years
The Carver Years
The Dabb Years