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Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.
Rather quick recap of Dean’s “hunting trip” speech from the Pilot (good Lord, does Ackles look young and shaggy in that), John, Mary, and the situation with Michael stuck inside Dean’s head, up to this point.
Cut to Now. Dean is walking up to a pawn shop called “Precious Pawn” and looking pretty cold. Sam joins him and they go inside.
The proprietor greets them with a 20% off offer. Sam says they’re there for “the good stuff.”
“The really good stuff,” Dean says, flashing a huge wad of cash. By this, since the protagonists of this show are a couple of exceedingly experienced and deadly necromancers, he obviously means magical objects, probably of the black magic variety.
Fortunately, there’s no demurring or beating around the bush. The guy just chuckles and leads them into a back room. There, he leads them through the “basics” (including, among other things, a Hand of Glory), then gets into more esoteric (and expensive, of course) stuff like “Dragon’s Breath.”
The Brothers cut him off by saying they are looking for something “more specific.” They want the skull of Sarah Good, a poor woman who was executed for witchcraft at Salem in 1692.
The proprietor turns to a large safe and starts working on the combination lock. While his back is turned, Sam, for some strange reason, picks up a teddy bear on a shelf and starts to pull on the string. The man cautions him not to do that (yeah, Sam, why are you doing that?) and Sam puts the bear back as Dean gives him a disgusted look.
When the owner turns back with the skull, he starts in with some rather obvious bull about having bought the skull in an auction in Pawtucket.
“No, ya didn’t,” Dean says with a predatory smile, as the masks all come off. Game on, y’all.
Dean infodumps that the skull belonged to a Hunter named Bart Kemp, a friend of the Brothers, who worked out of Boston. Only, Bart’s dead. He was cut in half by someone and the skull was stolen, along with everything else he owned.
Well, the owner realizes the jig is up (since he’s the prime suspect). He grabs up the Dragon’s Breath and tries to flamethrow the Brothers. Sam ducks/falls to one side, while Dean is blasted to the other side of the room (though he does duck in time to avoid being flambeed). The owner then picks up a scimitar called a Chrysaor (who was actually the brother of Pegasus and a warrior with a golden sword, not the sword, and it wouldn’t have been a scimitar) that he says reputedly “can cut through anything.” Oh, and it’s the murder weapon.
But he’s stupid. As he’s monologuing and getting ready to swing at Sam, he turns his back on Dean. Dean shoots him from behind. As the owner falls, Dean says in exasperation, “They always talk too much!”
Afterward, Sam finds the owner’s account book and realizes he has a ton of cursed and magical artifacts. They’re not safe to leave there, so the Brothers will have to bring them back “home” (i.e., the Bunker). Dean, who is playing with the Dragon’s Breath, sighs in annoyance at the extra work and aggravation.
Remember when I’ve commented in the past that after a Hunter dies, other Hunters descend on his or her place and clean it right out? Yeah. Like that.
Cue title cards.
Cut to a brief shot of the Brothers passing a sign for Lebanon, KS, proclaiming it the geographical center of the United States.
Cut then to a group of the dumbest, most stereotypical teens possible. I mean, these kids are bone-stupid. And, unfortunately, they are talking about the Brothers, which means that annoying shenanigans are about to ensue. I’d really hopes this trope would have left with Adam Glass and Robbie Thompson, but I guess not.
Anyhoo, one of the boys is scaring the other kids with a story of having once seen the Impala and heard something thump inside the trunk and breathing (kiddo, you have no idea).
The kids are alarmed and intrigued when the Brothers choose that moment to pull up in front of their bench. As they get out, Dean is grumping about Sam’s discovery that every single thing in the teaser ledger (now all in their trunk) is lethal.
The Brothers go inside a bar, where they are greeted by a bartender who knows them and gets them their regular (“a double” of that, Dean corrects him). Sam then suggests that cataloguing and going over this new collection might provide Dean with some distraction. After some hedging from Sam, Dean gets out of him that he means Michael locked inside the cage inside Dean’s head.
Across the street, the boy is still revving up his friends, speculating about whence the Brothers come (well … originally, they’re from Lebanon, actually [sorry, Lawrence, but they are from Kansas]) and their weird friend in the trenchcoat and the innocent boy who is always hanging around with them.
Two of the kids leave, with one girl, Max, and the boy talker staying behind. One of the departing girls comments on how nice the car is, while touching it, and Max gets this look in her eyes. Because, you know, kids are always stealing cars, right out in the open, of people who scare them. Consider how likely it is, for example, for some kids from high school who haven’t gotten into any trouble to decide to just up and steal a car owned by a known drug dealer when he’s right across the street. Yeah, that only happens in Hollywood because kids like that end up dead and even at 15, you know that.
Anyhoo, while the Brothers are inside talking about a pearl, the Baozhu, that grants wishes (from one of the sneak peeks), Dean notices Max stealing his car.
The Brothers come roaring across the street, full throttle, which gives Talker Dude a lot more gossip to share later than he ever wanted (pretty sure he pees his pants). The Brothers are a little bit … larger than life. Anyhoo, doing Bad Cop/Psycho Cop, they get Max’s name out of him, but he claims she’s new in town and he doesn’t know where she lives.
But never fear, there’s the post office. Sam is striking out in there with the postal lady (who thinks he’s a pedophile for wanting a young girl’s address), but then Dean walks in. Turns out Post Office Lady knows Dean very well and has a wee crush on him (she has good taste). Dean asks her about her son, then shmoozes the address of Max’s mother out of her.
Turns out Mom works at a diner and she is pissed to hear what Max did, especially since Max was also blowing off school. The cook informs everyone that it’s Skip Day (February 7), where kids skip school to go have a party at an old house outside town on Route 36. He says that kids need to “blow off a little steam.”
Okay, yeah, kids in a small town get bored. But when we cut to said old house, none of the kids at the party seems the least bit bothered that Max just stole a very visible classic car, cleaned out the trunk, and brought the stuff into the party. There’s a big old difference between smoking some pot and getting drunk in some woods, or going cruising in the ‘rents’ car and catching a porn film at the drive-in alongside a bunch of middle-aged Quebecois in steamy-windowed cars (um … too specific? I had a somewhat misspent youth. In the 80s), and stealing some local gangster’s super-expensive restored car. The former is minor stuff. The latter is a felony.
So, when Max’s friend (the one who commented the car looked cool and on whom Max is apparently crushing) thinks all this is hunky-dory, I’m a little shocked. And also disappointed that Dabb apparently still doesn’t know how to write teenagers.
So, yeah, at the party, the teens have actually cleaned out the backseat and have left all the dangerous occult stuff in the living while they go drink or huff glue or eat Tide pods, or something appropriate for kids of their low level of intelligence and street smarts. In the meantime, John Wayne Gacy’s old cigar box (which Sam specifically mentioned earlier) opens up and guess who/what comes out?
So, Mr. Serial Killer Groupie comes running over to the party (after insisting to the Brother that he had no idea where Max had gone) and tries to warn her. Max’s bud blows it off, saying “Max can handle herself.”
Yeah, not so much. One kid goes into the bathroom (this is an awfully nice place for some abandoned old building) and is washing his hands when his breath fogs up. He thinks this is cool, but then the mirror fogs up, too. When he wipes it off, he sees a creepy, rotting clown in the mirror, who then reaches out to attack him.
Fortunately, the Brothers roll up at that moment in a vintage old pickup (probably from the Bunker’s garage). Dean is most worried about the Impala not being damaged (well, Max is pretty stupid, so you can’t call her a driver with the greatest judgment on not damaging a vehicle), but Sam points out that the stuff they left in the backseat is gone.
At that moment, the boy from the bathroom comes running out of the house, very much alive but freaked right out. A girl runs after him, calling him Ethan and trying to get him to stop.
The Brothers don’t catch Ethan, but they do tag the girl. She says Ethan saw a ghost in the bathroom. A creepy clown.
The Brothers bust in with their FBI badges, clearing everyone out, including their groupie, who tries to linger. Dean starts looking around, asking Sam where they might find a killer clown. With a Shaking Finger of Melodramatic Fear, Sam points at the cigar box of John Wayne Gacy, which is wide open.
Sam starts to respond, but then his breath fogs. Dean says calmly, “We should burn that right now.”
Sam can’t get across the room fast enough to grab the box, toss it into a convenient nearby fireplace, and set it alight. Or, he would , if his lighter worked.
Dean, meanwhile, is amused at the cognitive dissonance Sam must be feeling because “you love serial killers, but you hate clowns.” But he starts exhorting Sam to hurry up when the ghost appears across the room from him.
At this moment, their groupie outside decides to go in for Stupid Plot Reasons. He arrives just as Dean is being tossed onto a couch on top if the cursed teddy bear Sam was playing with earlier and Sam manages to light up the ex-John Wayne Gacy. Max and her erstwhile crush also rush in and all three of them get to see Gacy Ghost go up in flames.
Afterward, instead of slapping them silly, the Brothers give them The Talk. And Dean tells them they have to keep it to themselves. Max’s squeeze is the first to agree.
Back at the Bunker, Sam realizes he’s found the pearl. He suggests calling Mary or Castiel, but Dean doesn’t want “to get their hopes up” and suggest trying it now. After some discussion, he holds the pearl, closes his eyes, and concentrates on his “heart’s desire” (“Michael out of my head”). The lights flicker and go out, and the red emergency lights come on.
Suddenly, a shadowy, armed figure appears. Sam takes a swing at it and gets knocked down. Dean, too, is knocked down. The figure aims a shotgun at them and threatens to shoot them.
Then the lights come on and the shadowy figure resolves into a very confused-looking John Winchester, their father.
John recognizes Dean first and then Sam. Then he asks why Sam isn’t in Palo Alto. Dean quickly figures out that John has gone through time and asks him what year he thinks it is. John just came from 2003. Sam explains that he thinks they accidentally “summoned” him.
The Brothers bring John up to speed in a dizzying recap of the past 12 and a half seasons. But he’s okay with being dead in the (nearish) future because he was able to take out YED for killing Mary.
Sam rather awkwardly tries to explain that one, but Mary shows up right then, saving him the trouble. As their surprised and delighted parents start making out right in front of them, Sam drags a dazed Dean out of the room.
Sam wants to analyze what’s going on and find the catch. Dean’s just so happy to get something he always wanted (his family back together) that he doesn’t care. He understands that there is some catch, somewhere, but he just wants to indulge this long enough for “one family dinner.” He stalks off, leaving Sam stuttering.
Sam comes out into the Library to find John looking through the books. John is amazed at the scope of the Bunker and Sam admits that he and Dean were initially “blown away,” too.
John says Mary is giving Dean the recipe for her Winchester Surprise (doesn’t Dean already have it from a few weeks ago?), and we do get a quick cut afterward of Dean taking a list of ingredients from her. Sam’s mention of Dean’s story to Mary about once trying to make it in a motel room gives John some negative nostalgia.
John tries to apologize and Sam admits that John “did some messed-up things.” But when John also rather sneakily brings up their last fight to guilt Sam, Sam admits that said conversation was “a lifetime ago” and he no longer really remembers what he said. What he does remember, vividly, and thinks about a lot, is seeing John dead on a hospital floor and never getting the chance to say goodbye. That causes John to apologize again.
As Dean is heading out to get supper ingredients, Sam catches up with him and agrees that he was right to want one family dinner. Sam then asks if he can come along. Dean smiles wolfishly.
In town, however, they find that their lives as the Brothers “Campbell” have been upended by the spell. The liquor store guy no longer remembers Dean. Max calls Sam a “weirdo” when he says hi to her on the street. And the post office lady just glares and pulls the shade down when Sam waves to her.
More concerning, Sam sees a wanted poster for Dean, with his mugshots from season two’s “The Usual Suspects.”
Sam hurries over to Dean, who’s by the car, checking his phone. Dean has found a TED talk online by nuSam, now a lawyer, in which he goes on and on about kale and how one should achieve excellence by giving up all semblance of a personal life, including family.
Old!Sam is more concerned about the wanted poster, but Dean’s already hip to that, too: “I googled me, as well – lotta beheadings.” Sam speculates that John’s time travel “changed things.” Dean agrees, but he’s still hunting. It’s Sam who’s changed a lot.
Sam thinks they’re in “a temporal paradox” and that the old timeline is changing to the new one created by John’s arrival. The really concerning thing is what else might have changed.
At that moment, two angels are flying down to earth. Yep. Angels still have their wings in this timeline. Also, they’re familiar. One is Zachariah and flying in next to him is a factory reset Castiel whom Zachariah calls “Constantine.”
As the Brothers are trying to figure out how to tell John and Mary, Zachariah and Castiel are entering the diner where Max’s mom works and where Max and her friends are hanging out. Zachariah demands to know who is “messing with time,” saying that the angels have never been entirely able to read Lebanon, so they can’t quite figure out what’s going on. He then has Castiel show his wings (which explodes the lights in the diner) and threatens to have Castiel smite them.
Outside, the Brothers see the light from Castiel’s grace and realize bad things are going down. They rush inside and quickly evacuate the bewildered civilians before there are any casualties. Zachariah is confused at first, mentioning that John had disappeared a while back, which somehow fizzled the Apocalypse. Then he realized the Brothers were responsible and tells Castiel to kill them.
Dean tries to get through Castiel (but mostly gets beaten up), while Zachariah chokes Sam and demands to know what Sam did. Sam can barely speak, anyway, but as Zachariah leans closer, Sam is able to pull out an angel blade and stab him. Exit Zachariah. Again.
Both Brothers try to take on Castiel (who, for some strange reason, just beats them up rather than smiting them), but only Dean gets a lick or two in and it doesn’t do much. Castiel smashes Sam’s head into a table a few times and Sam is able to use the blood from it (while Castiel is distracted by choking Dean) to do an angel banishing sigil on Castiel.
Back at the Bunker, in front of a set table for dinner, Dean explains to John about Sam’s “temporal paradox” theory. He says that since John disappeared in 2003, Sam never got back into hunting and the Brothers never did all the things that they did, specifically, with releasing the Darkness and getting Mary back. Dean says that Sam thinks Mary “will just fade away.”
This makes the choice easy for John. He’s not going to stay in the future at the cost of Mary’s second life. He asks if Mary knows and we cut to Sam in the kitchen, explaining the situation to her. She asks how they’d reverse the spell. Sam thinks that destroying the pearl should do it, sending John back. Mary is upset that John probably won’t remember any of it. Mary starts to cry and Sam looks upset as the oven alarm goes off.
In the library, hearing the alarm, John “suggests” Dean go help Mary (’cause we all know who the real cook is around here). But as Dean is leaving, John stops him and does the same thing he did with Sam. He says he “never meant for any of this to happen.”
Dean thinks John means the spell, but John means pulling them into his revenge quest and having to continue it after his death. He tells Dean he’s “proud” of him and the man he’s become.
But, well, it’s John and he can’t quite let that go without adding in a backhanded compliment. He says that he just wishes that Dean had been able to manage a “normal life, a peaceful life, a family.”
Dean half-chuckles as if to say, Well, there went that other shoe.
But then he looks his father in the eye and says with fierce pride, “I have a family.”
John seems to realize he’s stepped over a line Dean didn’t draw before and asks what they do “next.” Dean says it’s time for dinner. Dinner is sad, at first, but then John suggests they be thankful for the time they’ve got. So, they do a toast and have a dinner montage to Bob Seger’s “Till It Shines.”
Afterward, as they’re washing dishes, Sam broods and expresses second thoughts to Dean about sending John back. Wouldn’t it be nice if John could at least remember it? What might he have changed? Instead, he’s just going to “go back to being Dad.”
Dean says, but why stop there? Why not send John even further back and nip the whole thing in the bud? He admits that he was very “angry” for a long time, and blamed both John and Mary. It would be nice to let “some other poor sons of bitches save the world.” But then he wouldn’t recognize “who that Dean Winchester is.”
Dean says, “I’m good with who I am. I good with who you are. Cause our lives, they’re ours. And maybe I’m just too damned old to want to change that.”
At the end, they all gather in the library and exchange goodbyes, including a big threeway hug between John and his sons, where he tells them he’s proud of them and loves them. Dean whispers, “Love you, too.”
John and Mary hold hands while Sam takes out the pearl. Everyone’s pretty much bawling by the end of it, especially Dean, who blinks and flinches when Sam breaks the pearl, but never looks away. John looks at Mary and then slowly fades. Mary and Dean look at each other. Sam has looked away and turns back. All three are crying.
In town, everything returns to normal, large and small. And the three teens are walking the streets, thrilled about the idea of monsters being in the world. Like a Scooby Gang. No, show. Just no. Bad show. [whaps writers with a newspaper]
The first sign in the Bunker that the timeline has returned is when Castiel comes in, looking confused at why everyone is crying. He’s back to normal, too.
In 2003, John wakes up in the Impala, off a causeway in the pouring rain. A phone call from Dean woke him. He tells Dean about how he just had “one hell of a dream … a good one.” So, he does remember. Sort of.
Ratings for the much-ballyhooed 300th episode and John’s return went up to a 0.5/2 and 1.64 million. JDM said in one of his EW interviews that he’d like to come back for a longer arc. With those ratings, which put the show comfortably in second place for the week behind The Flash, I’ve little doubt the show will now make that happen.
There’s a preview up for the next episode (on March 7) in which Jack appears to go psycho and try to kill Rowena.
I had misgivings about this one, having just reviewed the 200th episode and been less than impressed. Also, I’ve never been a huge fan of John (shut up, back there in the peanut gallery; I’m busy speaking for Captain Obvious). I mean, just an episode or two ago, Dean was talking about John used to get fed up with him and send him away. Father of the Year? Not exactly.
And there were some very large plotholes, as well as an underbaked B plot that sucked life out of the A plot, some paper-thin characters, characters acting stupid to further the plot (like the Brothers not locking the Impala up on a busy street, with dangerous occult objects in plain sight on the back seat), and some low stakes for the first 15 minutes or so.
Biggest of the plotholes? This was supposed to be a way for Dean to excise Michael, safely, from his head. Yet, not once after Dean made the spell, or even after they unmade it, did Sam or anyone else ask Dean if Michael was still there. Yes, that’s right – the whole point of doing the spell was to get rid of Michael and we never found out if it did! Even with angels involved in the third act … nope. Nary a mention.
Speaking of angels, Kurt Fuller was snarky as always and Zachariah was suitably hoot-worthy. But not only did he get barely more than a cameo, but the show just had to have Sam “get” Dean’s kill of Zachariah from the 100th episode. Dean’s kill of Zachariah was momentous, against all odds, and totally badass. Sam killing Zachariah this time? Just another kill.
The teens were pretty awful and belonged in another episode. I don’t know if it would have been a good episode (the Gacy ghost was pretty creepy but also easily ganked), but there simply wasn’t enough room to introduce any such characters properly here, let alone without choking off most of John’s family reunion plot. They were cannon fodder who never got killed off.
The story started off reasonably well with the teaser involving the creepy guy who was killing Hunters and stealing their stuff. A little more detail on his scam would have been nice, but the actor did a good job playing smart and dangerous (except when it came to turning his back on Dean, but a lot of people make that mistake).
Too bad the show has now decided that killing rival human magic workers is no longer a Big Deal as it was in seasons past. That was a missed opportunity for some subtextual unease about Dean, who, after all, has a murderous, genocidal archangel in his head.
But then the episode took a weird side trip with the teens stealing the car. I’ve talked above about how unrealistic this seemed, as written. Also, I don’t think making the larcenous teen a budding lesbian was such a hot idea. The CW likes to pride itself on being open about sexual orientation, but on its shows, it has an unfortunate tendency to write fake Diesel Dykes who look an awful lot like Lipstick Lesbians. It’s also really into having its (mostly male) writers give us the sexual awakening stories of Baby Dykes. Stereotypes, not people.
When it works and you get a dynamic character, you get Alex Danvers on Supergirl. When it doesn’t, you get cardboard cut-outs who are basically all about their sexual orientation and strident pseudo-feminism and whatever Unfortunate Implications sneak in afterward.
I’m also not wild about the idea of these kids being used for a new spin-off. Look, folks, Wayward Sisters had its issues, but all of the characters in it had been pretty thoroughly introduced with conflicts and connections to the Brothers and the supernatural world. We barely know Alex and the gang, but we already know they’re ordinary and dull. How long can a spin-off run on “Gee whiz! Sam and Dean are great!” stuff?
Also, why name her Alex? We already have an Alex. She lives with Jody Mills.
John’s intro this episode had me rolling my eyes a bit. Really? He’d be able to kick both his sons’ asses in their prime? I was never a big fan, especially, of the variation of SuperHunter!John and that’s what we get in his first few seconds in the episode.
Fortunately, that gets dialed way back afterward. I actually liked how John interacted with his family. I know some people were disappointed by his conversation with Dean, and as I said before, the writing could have been better overall. But I thought the actors more than made up for it by bringing in subtext and subtlety to an encounter that otherwise would have been a whole lot of linear writing and montages.
For example, John’s interactions with Mary clearly show a lot of chemistry between them and show us how much he missed her. But we also get, on her side, how much she missed him. It was a foregone conclusion that John would never sacrifice Mary to save himself, but I liked how Mary balked at letting him just slip away. This drove home, I think, that Mary really is a living and active main character again in the show, after having been dead for 11 seasons.
With lesser acting, John’s interactions with his sons wouldn’t have worked, as the writing is a bit flat, there. But the subtext is pretty amazing. Morgan, Padalecki and Ackles managed to nail the undertone of regret from an abusive parent about being unable to have broken the cycle with his kids before they were grown – and discovering that some mistakes can’t be fixed, no matter how badly you feel about them or how willing your children are to forgive you.
John in this episode is still John as he’s been written and talked about for 14 seasons. He’s just John as played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who is really good at evoking sympathy for the Devil in the most evil of characters. John isn’t evil, but he is very flawed. We see this as JDM plays him on his best behavior, but then he slips here and there.
So, for example, when he’s apologizing to Sam, he can’t help bringing up their last fight before Sam left for college. And in his apology to Dean, he manages to flat-out insult his eldest, evoking the Daddy’s Blunt Little Instrument/mindless attack dog image brought up in season three’s “Dream of Little Dream of Me.”
But the Brothers (separate from each other) respond very well. Sam tells John that their fight was a lifetime ago and he doesn’t even remember exactly who said what. That what he does remember is that he never got a chance to say goodbye to John when he died and that he’s not going to blow this second opportunity to do so. Sam doesn’t deny that John was abusive. He just makes clear that he’s over it.
Dean goes even further. When John started harping on an echo of his “I want Dean to have a home” theme as if Dean were a guard dog he wanted to rehome and not his son, I just thought, Oh, no, you didn’t! But Dean simply shuts him down by telling him that he has a home and a family, that he has a life. John’s dreams for Dean are no longer Dean’s dreams for Dean. Dean has his own dreams now.
This echoes the melancholy conversation Dean had a couple of episodes with Mary, in which he admitted that no matter how much he wished otherwise, the damage his parents did to him in his childhood, inadvertent and otherwise, can’t be undone. They can’t go back. To have a real parent-child relationship, they can only go forward. Later, Dean tells Sam that he doesn’t want to go back and undo everything. He’s okay with who he is.
Now, this is quite relevant to the elephant in the room (Michael) whose status during the pearl spell we never hear about. Nick’s post-Lucifer storyline may not have been stellar (an understatement, I know), but it did drive home the way angels manipulate the fears and resentments of their vessels to get them to say yes and keep saying yes, to isolate them from their human family and friends.
By saying that he’s okay with things as they are now, and that he is no longer angry at his parents, Dean disconnects a major button Michael could push to make him compliant (remember that if Michael takes over again, this will not mean Dean’s death – just everyone else’s).
The other remarkable thing is that Dean says all of this while firmly believing that his destiny in the near future is to end up in a coffin at the bottom of the ocean with an angry archangel, presumably until the heat death of the universe. Yet, Dean is not willing to give up even one of the steps that led him to that family dinner.
The Kripke Years
The Gamble Years
The Carver Years
The Dabb Years