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Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.
Recap: Straight-forward and relatively quick recap of Cole’s roaring rampage of revenge against Dean storyline, Witches, and that Castiel and Hannah angel storyline that was so forgettable I had to rewatch this recap twice to remember to write it down.
Cut to Now and a young woman in stereotypical hooker garb (which includes the obligatory kitten heels that fail her in a dark alleyway and cause her to fall). She’s running from her pimp, Raoul, who chews all available scenery before revealing himself as a demon (after she stabs him in the eye with her heel) and snapping her neck. After telling her that hookers like her are a dime a dozen. Gotta say, the acting in this scene is not good. She doesn’t even look that scared and did I mention all the scenery he masticates? Yeah.
Cue title cards.
Cut to the Brothers eating steak at a diner. Sam is trying to figure out what kind of case they’re in town for and Dean admits they’re there because this place has “the best steak between Connecticut and the Bunker.” Sam notes that Dean is also getting a lot of messages on his phone, about which Dean acts very cagey. So, Sam grabs Dean’s phone (despite Dean’s legit protests of privacy and … stuff) and brings up that Dean has made a profile on a dating app. He’s going on a date with a cute girl named Shaylene Johnson.
Sam, having inserted himself into this situation, looks through her texts to Dean and opines that she seems “too good to be true.” On the one hand, okay, watching out for your brother is good. On the other, it’s funny how the brother who has massive issues with respecting other people’s boundaries is the one who is constantly whining about needing his own space and going off to find himself or hook up with a demon mistress or whatever. At this point, Sam has hit 30 and this kind of adolescent jealousy of his brother’s sex life (in which, by the way, Dean is far more experienced than Sam when it comes to these short-term hookups) is no longer cute.
Sam’s rather homophobic attempt to get a rise out of Dean (by saying Shaylene could be “a Canadian trucker named Bruce”) is cut off when Shaylene shows up in the flesh. It’s only at this point that Sam realizes Dean lied to him twice and they “detoured eight hours so you could get laid.” Dean openly admits to this, pays for Sam’s lunch, and tells him not to wait up. Yeah, Sam, don’t, ’cause you just got owned in the manipulation department.
Cut to Hannah crossing off photos of angels in their vessels on a poster board on the wall, while Castiel is doing research on a reverend who is engaging in faith healing. They are still tracking down rogue angels and the photos are of those they’ve returned to Heaven. Some of them have even been willing. As Castiel talks about the reverend, who is their latest target, Hannah embarrasses him by taking off her vessel’s clothes and standing naked in front of him, before going to take a shower. Hannah wonders why Castiel is “bothered,” as an angel wouldn’t usually care. But then, as Castiel points out, angels don’t need to take showers. I’d forgotten how dull this storyline was.
Cut to Dean getting slammed against a motel wall with awful wallpaper by Shaylene. It’s getting hot and heavy. Unfortunately, it soon turns out that Shaylene is a prostitute and she expects payment. Disappointed, but not angry, Dean admits that he has “a code – no cash for ass.” Then she sultrily tells him he doesn’t need to pay her money, that he can, instead, sign over his soul. As she is nattering on about how who knows if souls even exist, it’s obvious to us the audience that she has pinged the wrong john because Dean definitely knows otherwise. And he also quickly figures out that Shaylene does not, in fact, love her job, not one little bit.
Well, girl, you are in luck because if anybody can get you out of this situation, it’s Dean Winchester.
Cut back to Castiel and Hannah checking out of their motel. As Hannah goes to pay, a man grabs her hand, calling her “Caroline.” It turns out he’s her vessel’s husband and he’s been worried about her. So, he “put out an alert on your credit card.” Awkward.
Back to the other motel. Shaylene’s john strolls in, expecting to make a deal. Shaylene is sitting on the bed, looking nervous, while Dean sits on the bed with his back to her, behind her. As the guy pulls out a paper contract, Dean gets up and turns around. The pimp barely has time to register Dean’s presence before Sam walks out of a side room, but he quickly recognizes them (Dean swinging an angel blade helps, I’m sure) and he’s terrified. Oh, and they’ve drawn a devil’s trap on the ceiling because this guy, too, is possessed.
Dean tells the demon that Shaylene “told us everything.” Sam lists it out: “Abduction, forced prostitution – it’s pretty gnarly, even for a demon.”
The demon tries to claim that Shaylene is exaggerating the evil of the situation, which is kind of amusing because hello, he’s a demon. He makes the error of taunting her (We find out that she was carrying a heavy student loan debt after graduating from Harvard) and claiming she’d have been dead on the street on drugs without him. In the middle of the Brothers trying to interrogate him (and her calling him out for lying), Shaylene gets up in a blind rage, grabs the angel blade out of Dean’s hand, and stabs her demon pimp with it.
Dean grabs the sword away from her in exasperation, while Sam grumps that they just lost their best lead.
Dean: Okay, well, that happened.
Since Shaylene is their only lead, they ask her some more questions, which she eagerly answers to the best of her abilities. She really wants to help them out. She says the demon mentioned a brothel in a phone conversation with someone else. While she doesn’t know the location, she did see him handing out business cards. Going to the demon host’s body, she pulls one out. It’s bright-red and says, “Raul’s Girls.” And it has an address on it. Well, that works.
At said brothel, which is done up with a lot of glitter and bullfighting motifs that look like Ancient Minoan contests, one of the “girls,” a young brunette, is defiantly refusing to put on a skimpy costume another pimp wants her to wear as Raul (you know, the guy in the teaser and on the business card) walks in, sporting an eye patch. When the first guy, Gerald, asks Raul what he should do, Raul tells him he knows what to do, in a rather exasperated tone. Gerald gleefully turns back to the poor woman with the intent of doing some real ultra violence.
It’s at that moment that a red-haired woman in her thirties makes her entrance. She may look familiar to the observant. Remember that red-haired woman in the coda to “Soul Survivor” (10.03)? That’s her.
She asks if she’s in Raul’s Girls and Raul suggests she is in the wrong place, unless she’s a customer. He’s not hiring at the moment and she’s too old for his criteria.
With a sugary smile, she tells him that while she means no insult to his “girls,” she “would rather die than do business with filth like you.” She then tosses a hand-sized ball of what looks like solid black catnip at him. Confused, he catches it, then gets a horrified look.
“You!” he says, as he begins to vomit out black, congealed smoke and tar, and Gerald shouts, “Boss!” As another, blonde girl in leopard print runs in, Rowena suggests they step back, since things are getting “messy” for Raul. Gerald, not too surprisingly, smokes out and leaves his meat suit dead on the floor. Raul’s host, of course, doesn’t make it, either, since he got a stiletto heel to the eye in the teaser.
The woman says, “Hardly the most appetizing process in the world, but killing demons always makes me hungry.” She turns away, while the two girls stand there, stunned. Over her shoulder, she suggests they come with her and they hurry after her.
Meanwhile, Hannah is fielding an encounter with her vessel’s husband and it’s not going terribly well. It doesn’t help that the dialogue is super-clunky infodump, with her husband at one point talking about whatever “got into you.” We find out that her vessel has been missing for a year. Hubby is determined to get an explanation out of her, but Hannah’s pretty sure he’s not gonna be able to handle the truth.
When Castiel walks in the room, Hannah subtly lets him know that this is her vessel’s husband. Then she decides to make Castiel the fall guy and says she’s been in a relationship with him. She even kisses him when the husband insists it couldn’t be true (In all fairness, neither Hannah nor Castiel is putting out particularly natural body language for a human). Okaaayyyy. But it does seem to convince him. Maybe. At any rate, he looks even more devastated than before. Hannah tells him she’s sorry and tells Castiel, “Let’s go.” They leave.
The Brothers enter the brothel (to a screechy, knife-like soundtrack) to find the demon hosts for Raul and Gerald, as well as what’s left of Raul. Grumping that someone else got to kill Raul before they did, Dean tells Sam to “check IDs” while going to pour a drink behind the bar. Sam realizes that the black tar underneath Raul’s host is Raul. As Dean speculates about what could kill a demon in that particular way, Sam finds Rowena’s ginormous hex bag. Witchcraft. Looking alarmed, Dean immediately puts down the booze.
In a swanky restaurant (according to the captions, it’s “mid-tempo French music playing” on the soundtrack), Rowena is enjoying a flute of rosé wine and offering the two prostitutes some hors d’oeuvres. They look uneasy and admit that they “don’t belong here.” They want to know why she brought them to the restaurant. She says she wanted to feed them, since she’s quite sure “that swine Raul” starved them (Nobody likes Raul).
As if to emphasize their being out of place, a snotty waiter arrives at their table and tells Rowena that the restaurant (Bistro de Moules) “has a very strict dress code” and her guests don’t meet it. The girls are willing to leave, but Rowena tells them to stay where they are (to the consternation of the waiter).
Rowena takes out another hex bag, a smaller one than the demon-killing one, drops it in the startled waiter’s hand, and says, “Famulatus” (slavery). This hex changes the waiter’s attitude completely. Seems he was either the head waiter or someone else high up the waiter food chain because suddenly, full plates of food start to appear and he brings Rowena a fine bottle of champagne, Krug ’95.
The blonde is greatly impressed, but the brunette is more wary. When she asks Rowena how she did it, though, Rowena is upfront and honest: “Magic.”
Cut to Crowley’s throne room, where he is brooding on his throne when Gerald (already in a new meat suit) either comes to him or is brought to him to report. Crowley is not happy to hear about Gerald and Raul’s plan to open a demonic “bordello.”
Gerald tries to play it off as Raul’s idea and that Crowley’s reputation wasn’t really connected to it because they called it “Raul’s Girls.” Crowley is not impressed. Gerald then whines that he and Raul felt under pressure to perform after Crowley had put out a decree the month before saying CRD deals were down after Abaddon’s death, and creativity was required.
Crowley: So, you and your half-wit pal threw me into the sex trade? I’m evil. That’s just tacky.
Gerald then whines that they tried to get Crowley’s approval, but he “wasn’t taking meetings” at the time. This is an obvious reference to Crowley’s vacation with Demon!Dean and is soft ground. But Crowley does have to admit (albeit with an eye roll) that Gerald’s point about smoking into the nearest possible host (a pudgy black guy in a crossing guard uniform) is valid when Gerald says a witch being able to kill demons so easily is a dangerous precedent that needs to be nipped in the bud.
Cut to a nighttime scene in the Impala. Sam is infodumping online research to Dean, who is driving. He’s found an 18th century spell called “Defigere et Depurgere,” which he translates as “To Bind and To Purge” (eh … more or less). It hasn’t been used in three centuries and only then by its creator, a witch named … (dun, dun, dun) Rowena.
Cut to Rowena telling the girls about a group of witches called the Grand Coven. She says there are three kinds of witches: Borrowers, Students and Naturals. (FYI: This was borderline retcon at the time, as previously, witches always got their powers from demons.) Most common are the Borrowers, who use a demon to get power (Rowena glosses over the part where they sell their souls to do it). Students learn spells and take on a Natural mentor approved by the Coven. The “rarest” are the Naturals, who are born with a gift. Rowena happily admits to being one when the blonde suggests it. The brunette is still wary, but the blonde is happy to ask that they become her Students.
Rowena admits that she’s actually a fugitive from the Grand Coven, who threw her out long ago and forbade her from practicing magic or forming her own coven due to her methods being “too extreme.” Ya think? She calls them “utter fannies” (In British dialect, “fanny” means “vagina”). But when the brunette suggests this means Rowena can’t teach them, Rowena ostentatiously says, “Screw the Grand Coven” and magnanimously says she’ll teach them (even though it’s pretty obvious she’s intentionally recruiting them).
The blonde eagerly asks when they can start. At that moment, the waiter Rowena hexed stops in the middle of his rounds, as his face turns lobster red, and drops his plates before dropping dead. Rowena hastily has the girls decamp to another place to begin training.
Cut to a grotty warehouse where a demon is tied to a chair in a devil’s trap. He calls the unseen person splashing holy water in his face a “noob” who is “studying” him and in “training.” Despite the demon’s defiance, the newbie Hunter, who turns out to be Cole, is determined to find out everything he can about “your buddy, Dean Winchester.” Pretty sure Mr. Demon will give up that information for free, Cole.
Cut to a cloudy outdoor scene at a gas station where Castiel is gassing up. Hannah is having second thoughts about abandoning her vessel’s husband. She didn’t want to hurt him or erase his memories, but he wouldn’t let her go and now she feels bad. Castiel opens up a bit for the first time in years about his vessel, Jimmy Novak, and mentions Jimmy’s daughter, Claire (Yes, this is foreshadowing for later in the season). He calls what he did to Jimmy difficult but “necessary.” However, when he turns back from gassing up the car, Hannah is gone.
At the restaurant, a young waiter is telling Dean (in a suit) about the hexed waiter, Marty, who “stroked out.” He also identifies Marty as their “head waiter.” It’s not until the kid mentions that “two hookers” were in there previously that Dean realizes he has a lead. Dean also finds out that they were there with “a lady,” whom he correctly identifies as a witch to Sam outside.
Sam is getting off the phone from talking to a Hunter named Darrell. Darrell has been tracking a series of ritzy hotel murders, with bodies pinned to the ceiling (Sound familiar?). It turns out that they, too, were hexed, just like the waiter. Sam suggests he and Dean check out some five-star hotels.
Cut to Hannah standing on a wooden bridge over a stream in a rather deep channel (Looks like North Vancouver). Castiel finds her there and she admits that she is “done” with the mission. Her encounter with her vessel’s abandoned husband has reminded her that “we always said that humans were our original mission.” Well, that’s belated.
She admits to having experienced human feelings, including an attraction to Castiel, but now she realizes that they are from her vessel, “screaming” to get out and have her life back. She kisses Castiel on the cheek, says goodbye, and then angels out, leaving Castiel to deal with a very confused Caroline. Though she does recognize Castiel.
I have to say that even though I ended up not at all impressed by this storyline or character, the actress (Erica Carroll) fields the transition between Hannah and Caroline really well. It’s a damned shame they wrote her out right at the point when the character was getting a little interesting.
At a five-star hotel, there’s a knock on the door to the room where Rowena and the two prostitutes are staying. She suggests they get some practice in on whoever is knocking and admits it’s probably a hotel manager complaining that she hasn’t paid her bill.
She gave the girls some spells, but the blonde is confused by the “Spanish” (Latin). Unfortunately, the bell boy at the door isn’t exactly alive, anymore. Instead, when Rowena throws it open, it turns out he is a corpse with a cut throat that falls in through the doorway. His killers are two demons, possessing a tall, blonde woman and a nondescript greasy guy.
Cut to Rowena, gagged, being dragged down the hallway, the girls along with her. When the brunette declares that she’s not going back to the brothel, the blonde demon informs her that “Operation Skank has been canceled” and the only thing happening to the two younger women is that their dead bodies will shortly be ditched in the dumpster out back.
And that’s about as far as the demons get in their plan. The Brothers pop up and the blonde immediately gets skewered by Dean with the Spork. The other one tosses Dean down the hallway, but when Sam grapples with him (and gets knocked down), this gives Dean the opportunity to stab the second demon from behind.
As the three women back into the dead end of the hallway at the Brothers’ approach, Dean tries to reassure them that he and Sam are only there for Rowena (“the witch”) and mean them no harm. When the brunette asks who the Brothers are, Rowena says, “Hunters.” The blonde then panics and demands Rowena do something. So, she does. She hexes the blonde with an “attack dog” spell (“Impetus Bestiarum”) that turns her red-eyed and rabid (to Dean’s horror).
With an animalistic scream, the girl attacks the Brothers while Rowena and the brunette flee. Sam distracts her, and sends Dean after Rowena and the brunette. He manages to lock her in a linen closet and begs her to fight the spell, but she cries that she can’t, even as she batters at the door. Sam pulls his gun to protect himself, but then the battering stops. When he opens the door, she is standing there, wide-eyed, and falls down dead.
Out in the alleyway, the brunette demands to know what Rowena did and quickly realizes her friend will die, “just like the waiter.” After admitting the most humans can’t handle hexes like that and live, Rowena tries to deflect the brunette’s attention from this by calling her friend, Elle, “weak,” while declaring that the brunette is “strong.” The brunette agrees – then punches Rowena in the face and strides away. Just as Rowena (albeit looking impressed) points after her with a killing spell (“Occidere ingrat -” basically, “Kill the ingrate”), Dean sticks a gun in her hair from behind and shouts, “Not another word!”
Rowena turns around, looking genuinely scared (she should be), as Dean tells her, “Lady, your luck just ran out.”
But Rowena’s face changes as she looks over his shoulder. She’s not the only one with enemies and one just found Dean. It’s Cole and, as Dean puts it, his timing really sucks. He whistles at Dean and calls him “Dean-o” (which, to be perfectly honest, may be a minor thing in the grand scheme of the show, but was easily the most irritating thing about the character).
So, Dean drops the gun and turns to deal with Cole, while Rowena runs away, free (for now). Cole is now officially in deep, but apparently, he’s too cocky and stupid to understand that. Dean apologizes for … well … being a demon the last time they met and for killing Cole’s dad, but says he’s “not that person, anymore.” Cole insists he’s “not a person at all” and splashes him with holy water, but is confused when all it does is annoy Dean. Cole then persists in asking if Dean was a demon when he “murdered” his father. Dean says no.
Cole then makes the huge mistake of pistol-whipping Dean, which gives Dean the chance to grab the gun and knock it from Cole’s grasp. A fist fight ensues that Cole initially is all up for, but even before Dean tosses him against a dumpster, and then through a car windshield, it’s pretty clear Cole is still wayyyyy outmatched. That Dean gets a bit more bashed up this time doesn’t really change that and can be attributed as much to Dean’s reluctance to kill Cole as to his powers being altered/reduced.
Dean then gets to his gun and knocks Cole’s out of reach. Handing over the gun, Dean asks for five minutes “to clean up this mess, once and for all.” If Cole wants to shoot him after that, fine.
Dean tells Cole that he hunts monsters. Cole’s father was a monster, not one Dean had ever seen before or since, that had eaten the livers of three people and was determined to kill Cole and his mother that night. Cole insists that his father sounded human and was begging to Dean stop, but Dean calls this “a monster’s trick.”
Dean suddenly says, “Put it down!” but he means Sam, who has come out and leveled his gun at Cole, who now turns around to confront him. Well, Cole did torture Sam, so you couldn’t say Cole didn’t have that coming. But Dean is at least able to stop Sam from putting a bullet in Cole as Cole digests what he’s hearing and decides whether or not to believe Dean.
Cole has a hard time letting it go. After all, he’s spent over a decade hunting Dean. As Dean puts it, Cole has his “story.” Dean had his “story,” too, that led him to “beat up a good man just for the fun of it” (meaning Cole in “Reichenbach”).
Dean says that stories are great, in that they can keep you going, but they can also “lead you to dark places.” Dean says that “the ones who love me, they pulled me back from that edge. But Cole, once you touch that darkness, it never goes away. I’m past saving. I know how my story ends. It’s at the edge of a blade or the barrel of a gun. So, the question is, is that gonna be today?”
Sam looks shocked at Dean saying he’s “past saving.” But Sam has the presence of mind to mention that he heard Cole talking to his family while torturing him. He says Cole’s family needs him “to come back whole.” Sam doesn’t mention that he probably wouldn’t be able to stop Cole if Cole actually shot Dean (and we know Dean would only come back as a demon, anyway).
Cut to the front of a house as Caroline, Hannah’s former vessel, walks hesitantly up to the door. She looks scared as she knocks. Upon opening the door, her husband looks glad to see her and immediately accepts her heart-felt, tearful hug. In a car outside on the street, in the rain, Castiel watches their successful reunion as the door closes behind them. He then pulls out a laptop and types the name of his vessel, the now-deceased Jimmy Novak. He gets a bunch of missing notices and looks sad.
Later that night, the Brothers watch Cole leave in his jeep. Sam asks where Cole is going. Dean says, “Home.” And Rowena? “In the wind.” Sam then asks about Dean telling Cole that he was “past saving.”
Dean: I was just telling the guy what he needed to hear.
Dean interjects this lie casually and easily, with a shrug. Sam doesn’t look as though he believes it, but what is he going to do? This isn’t about a nice steak and a hot date, anymore. Dean’s walls are up and he’s not talking. When Dean turns to walk away, we get a look at pensive Sam before he follows his brother. Sam used up a whole lot of moral poker chips getting his brother “back” the way he wanted him and now he’s finally beginning to count the cost. He’s also beginning to realize that Dean is never going to be back under his thumb again.
Cut to one of Crowley’s dungeons. Crowley is with Gerald, still in his DIY meat suit. Gerald tells him that the Brothers took out the Alpha demon team, but the Beta team was able to play clean-up (I sure hope that doesn’t involve Shaylene or the brunette, but we never do find out). They got Rowena (as I said, she was only momentarily free). Gerald says they’ve tortured her and is creepily eager to kill her. But Gerald’s smugness quickly evaporates when Crowley points out that Gerald was only cleaning up a mess he’d made in the first place. Crowley tells him to get out of his sight.
Crowley [opening the dungeon door]: Is everyone working for me touched?
When he comes into the dungeon, though, he is struck dumb. Rowena is there, strung up in manacles and looking pretty much the worse for wear. Knowing he’s the King of Hell, she taunts him to “get on with it” and kill her.
Stunned, Crowley mutters, “Mother?!”
Ratings for this episode dropped a bit in demo to a 0.9/3 in the A18-49 demo and 2.30 million in audience.
Review: This is a problematical one. It’s better in retrospect than when I first saw it, but still, it’s got some issues, due to Robert Berens’ lack of experience and Bob Singer’s rather lackluster direction. It re-introduces a character we first saw, very briefly, at the end of Jensen-Ackles-directed “Soul Survivor.” Rowena Macleod shows up in the episode’s coda, no dialogue, sipping whiskey in front of a fire with a book and smiling – while two dead demons inside their hosts are pinned to her ceiling (They’re in red suits that appear to be hotel uniforms and we find out in this episode that they were hexed). Rowena, of course, will go on to become a very important character on the show and that starts this season. The badass intro she gets in “Soul Survivor” is worthy of that subsequent career. This follow-up episode … not so much.
The problem is that Rowena in this episode is a straight-up bitch and not in the fun way she becomes later on. A lot of the character’s longevity derived from actress Ruth Connell’s charm and (deserved) good reputation with the fandom thanks to cons and social media. But initially, the writers did not give her a whole lot to work with. Sure, it was already fairly obvious to the observant that she had a connection to a certain recurring character (Hello, she’s Scottish), but at the time, she was just a really annoying Witch character in a long line of really annoying Witch characters who somehow got to walk away (or not) with murder because they were still human.
This is too bad because “Girls, Girls, Girls” does have some potentially good meat on its bones regarding misogyny, both external and internalized, and why women would turn to the dark arts to better their lot when trying to survive in a world of scummy, predatory men, even if it doesn’t gel into a satisfying whole. Despite the title, and the admitted presence of an actually reasonable number of female characters, most of them get very little depth or exploration.
The young prostitutes in the story are so desperate for a female mentor that they don’t pay attention to the big red flags (and I’m not talking about her hair) in Rowena’s character until it’s too late for at least one of them. Meanwhile, there are hints that Rowena is her own kind of desperate in searching for a coven in such low places, and fallen on hard times.
Part of the problem is that the episode is trying to show Sam and Dean (especially Dean) helping these girls, so that Rowena is portrayed as someone who presents herself as an elder female mentor and benefactor, but is really just another predator, sucking the power and energy off the younger women. That blunts the message of female empowerment quite a bit.
One curious thing about the subplot of Crowley stalking Rowena (whom he eventually realizes is his long-lost mother) is that he doesn’t seem to be even remotely interested in Cole or why Cole is stalking Dean. This subplot, aside from introducing a new storyline for Crowley, seems intended to show him outwitting the Brothers, but that’s not really what happens here. And having Crowley simply ignore Cole seems a bit strange, especially since this episode shows Cole torturing one of Crowley’s demons.
The episode also launches the thorny relationship (which will become a friendship that sadly never got real closure at the end of the series thanks to the writers’ obsession with everyone else getting closure with Rowena) between Rowena and Dean. But the episode itself is kinda forgettable.
What is interesting, though, is that even this early on, if you know how the rest of her story goes, you can see how Rowena will eventually become a member of the Winchester family, of TFW 2.0, and herself a dark and dirty Hero, without ever actually ceasing to be a very dangerous and unpredictable character with a whole lot of her own not-so-suppressed rage at the world, particularly men. She is an outcast, a grifter and drifter, who grew up poor (We’ll find out more about that later).
I think a major reason why she worked and not, say, the arrogant Bella from Season 3 or the CW-ish Witch and Familiar couple in “Man’s Best Friend with Benefits” (aside from the really gross racist subtext in that episode, of course) is that Rowena is a bit flea-bitten and down-and-out, while simultaneously and subversively very powerful – I mean, she’s got a lot more than the Brothers on her trail, even this early on. Albeit initially someone who doesn’t seem to fit into the show’s dark and desperately poor, blue-collar worldview, she later comes off as someone who is exactly that kind of girl beneath the threadbare posh exterior. Her appearance on the scene sends up a massive supernatural flare and one wonders where she’s been hiding all this time.
The Brothers have a tendency to attract extremely powerful misfits to their group because they become a last point of refuge. This is how Rowena fits with them. It also happens that they have Scottish ancestry and she (obviously) is Scottish. While the show has sucked in the past in some of its research, I always thought it did the Scottish stuff, overall, pretty well. The crew had a long-time member who was herself Scottish (as is, of course, Ruth Connell) and someone actually cared enough to do some research into Scottish witches and witchcraft. So, kudos for that.
Some of the other female characters in this episode don’t do so well. The prostitutes, with one exception, don’t rise above the level of cliches. The brunette has some promise, but we never see her again after she rejects Rowena. I did, however, quite like Shaylene and totally got where she was coming from. Elysia Rotaru gets across really well Shaylene’s fear, rage, shame and violation (She also played “fancy lady” ghost Victoria, one of the few good things about Season 7’s godawful “Of Grave Importance”). It makes total sense she would snap and stab her kidnapper. I hope she managed to get away to a better life afterward.
Dean often gets criticized by certain segments of the fandom for being sexist and misogynistic because he is promiscuous. However, unlike, say, Charlie with the kidnapped fairy in Season 8’s “LARP and the Real Girl” or Sambot with pretty much every woman he came across in Season 6, Dean is very good with sussing out whether a partner really wants to be with him, and backing way off when she doesn’t. Even at his sleaziest as a demon, when he’s hitting on the stripper in “Reichenbach,” his actual goal is to provoke the bouncer into a fight.
His tryst with Shaylene slows way down when she brings up money, but it comes to a permanent screeching halt when he realizes demons are involved and she is working under duress. No Charlie making out with a person who can’t realistically give consent, not here. Even when the demon walks into the motel room, his first clue ought to have been that Shaylene and Dean are sitting on opposite sides of the bed, not touching and not even facing each other. Dean understands and respects sexual boundaries, which is a helluva lot more than many other characters on this show do.
And then there’s Hannah. [sigh] That entire storyline was boring as hell and it didn’t need to be. It’s a shame, because they finally did something fairly interesting with her and then they ditched this version (Subsequent versions, before they killed the angel part of the character off for drama points, were even duller). This seemed to be a pattern with the show, that the writers would finally spice up a dull character and finally give an able actor something to do, right before they wrote them out. It’s a common trope on TV and it’s frustrating, to put it kindly.
The actress playing Hannah had gotten very little to do besides being annoying fanatical and obsessive with Castiel up to this point. Carroll fielded the transition to the human vessel for Hannah, Caroline, well, but then it was like, “Oh, this could be int – oh, whoops, guess not.” I guess this was the only way for a character to get a happy ending on this show, with this crop of writers. We won’t see Caroline again.
“Girls, Girls, Girls” also brings back Cole, the character who was on a roaring rampage of revenge after Dean at the beginning of the season. This episode wraps up that rampage with something of a whimper. It’s as if the writers wanted as badly as Dean did to tie up this loose end and move on. Even though I normally like it when Dean talks a character down, I didn’t buy it this time. It was way too easy and anticlimactic. Cole was simply never a credible antagonist to Dean.
We see Cole Trenton one more time after this and then he, too, is gone. The reasons why remain cloudy, but they do seem to have been related to how the character went over with the audience and the actor, Travis Aaron Wade, went over with fans at conventions (and online, where he said some very strange things, and may have stalked and doxxed some fans) and possibly his fellow cast members.
Wade had an odd vibe at cons and some fans accused him of doing inappropriate stuff. It also didn’t help that he was 39, three years older than Ackles, when his character was supposed to be 24. Or that he later voted for Trump.
I won’t take you all down that rabbit hole of decidedly unreliable narrators and fifth-hand accounts (especially since which version some fans chose to believe and propagate seemed to depend on which ship they supported rather than which version actually made sense), but let’s just say it got pretty weird. One account now lost to time that I recall was from a girl who claimed that Wade had made inappropriate gestures at her during an after hours party, except that she didn’t really remember him doing it because she was drunk (and underage) and got the story from her friend who was there, the next morning. Much of the action and alleged first-hand accusation occurred on the now-defunct Television without Pity and IMdB boards, but there are enough remnants on Reddit, LiveJournal and Tumblr to give you a clue.
To be honest, I’m skeptical of the cancel culture involved with the Supernatural cons. GoHs are held to a very high standard, and really have to watch their step (There were also some recent allegations regarding producer Jim Michaels and some equally infamous allegations against Ty Olsson back in the day), while the fans engage in widespread, and largely unacknowledged, sexual harassment and other bad behavior (like the aforementioned underage drinking at the after hours parties, and groping GoHs during Q&As and photo ops). It sets up double standards that seem ripe for crossing boundaries between GoHs and fans that really shouldn’t be tested, let alone hurdled at high speed. With all the inappropriate behavior on both sides, it becomes hard to tell who’s the victim and who’s the aggressor.
There is, for example, the incident of the “Flying Fangirl” who attacked Jensen Ackles at the first Asylum (the yearly Supernatural con in Britain) con in 2007. There are different accounts. In one written account by Ackles himself, during an interview that I can’t now find (It might be in one of the Supernatural Magazine issues), he said that he was getting into an elevator with a friend when she launched herself at him through the closing doors. He got a forearm up out of sheer reflex as she tried to wrap her arms and legs around him, and accidentally got her in the throat.
His account apologetically continues that he didn’t mean to hurt her. Afterward, in a meeting alone with him and con security, she was tearful and apologetic, and he asked that she not get kicked out of the con. According to various other reports, however, she still was (and she should have been). I’ll admit I am again going on memory with this one, but as it’s by far the most logical-sounding (and least brutal about her) of the accounts I’ve read, and the only one that was first-hand, I’m gonna put it out there.
What is straight-up bizarre is that some writers, some academic writers, like Katherine Larsen and Lynn Zubernis (authors of Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls) in their book, Fandom At The Crossroads: Celebration, Shame and Fan/Producer Relationships, wrote sympathetically about the Flying Fangirl and claimed she was just misunderstood. It doesn’t help that they weren’t actually at the con and got everything third-to-fifth-hand like the rest of us. Larsen and Zubernis’ general thesis in both books is that female fans are shamed about their sexuality by the mostly-male makers of the fictional media (and gatekeepers within fandom itself) that these women and girls consume.
Which is all very well, but when the authors act as though the only “real” Supernatural fans (or, at least, the only fans worth acknowledging) are Wincest fans, that interpretation gets a bit iffy. Wincest fans developed the reputation they did among Saltgunners early on because they were known for being damned inappropriate regarding the cast, writers and showrunners, as well as aggressive toward other fans, both online and sometimes at cons. And when Larsen and Zubernis’ takeaway from the incident was a frisson of horror at realizing that, yes, there are boundaries you shouldn’t cross in meeting real people who make your favorite media, and that other (more sensible) fans will certainly let you know when you cross them, even when you are oblivious to healthy boundaries, that whole thesis becomes downright problematical. Owning your sexuality as a woman doesn’t equate with becoming a sexual predator. That’s a bad message.
While some fans may have expressed the general fandom takeaway a bit overenthusiastically, they were not wrong in calling that flying leap sexual assault. The Flying Fangirl was lucky not to get arrested and charged, and both she and Ackles were lucky neither got hurt. I get that she was overexcited about meeting her favorite actor and probably just didn’t think, but there’s no version of the event out there where what she did was okay. Girls, this ain’t Ancient Greece or Rome and y’all aren’t Bacchantes. Learn to behave yourselves around total strangers you’re sexually attracted to. It’s not that hard.
But in truth, a lot of the problems with the character of Cole boiled down to very fundamental issues with the writing and casting decisions that probably would have doomed the character to a quick exit even if Wade had not gone hog-wild on the con circuit, and gotten himself iced out of the fandom and the show. Cole claims that Dean killed his father when Cole was a kid in 2003.
Dean would have been 24 at the time, as this was two years before the show started. Cole was 13. When we meet Cole, he should be 24, yet he’s already done multiple years in the military, on some pretty crazy tours. He has a wife who looks in her late 20s and a son who looks to be at least six or eight. When did this guy get married? At 16?!
There was a sort of “Just go with it” attitude in the season premiere regarding these plot holes, but they were becoming glaring by Cole’s third outing in this episode. There was also the odd thing where they had Dean beat Cole again, but it was harder than it probably should have been. Sure, Dean’s powers were altered compared to when he was still fully demonic (no TK and a bit less superstrength, but completely immune to holy water), but even this early on, we were all suspecting he hadn’t been fully cured. After all, he still had the Mark.
The whole idea of there being someone who was hunting Dean as if he were a monster was not a bad one (even if it was basically a retread of Sam’s “Hunters hate me” storyline from the first five seasons), but Cole’s obsession with Dean really had nothing to do with Dean having the Mark of Cain. This storyline could have happened in any season. It seemed like waaaayyy too much of a coincidence that it occurred in the period when Dean actually was no longer strictly human. It felt random and that may have contributed to why it also felt forgettable.
The thing was that once Cole stopped hunting Dean, there wasn’t really much reason for him to be around, anymore. We can talk until the cows come home about how the actor poisoned the well for his return, but the writers didn’t make the character likable enough to justify his return in the first place.
He wasn’t a supernatural being. He cold-bloodedly tortured Sam (which mostly existed to make Demon!Dean look like a complete bastard while very conveniently hand-waving questionable things Sam was doing like brutally torturing a CRD inside her own, innocent meatsuit). He trash-talked Dean and he wasn’t particularly witty about it, the way Crowley or Lucifer was. There just wasn’t a hook (unless they made him a Hunter and that never happened) to keep him around. After this episode (and definitely after his follow-up episode later this season), his arc was done.
Granted, that didn’t stop them from bringing Jack back a gadzillion times, but at least Jack was a supernatural being with a deeper connection to the Brothers, however forced. Cole reminded me a bit of Dan on Lucifer – a character who did really questionable things while convincing himself he was the good guy in his story, not the villain.
Dean’s speech to Cole didn’t surprise me (and it brings up the issue that the dumbest possible thing Cole could have done was shoot Dean). Nor did I buy for a second Dean’s offhand lie to Sam that he didn’t mean it when he said he was doomed. Of course he meant it. At this point, I think he just couldn’t be bothered to lie convincingly.
But Sam’s reaction was frustrating. Sam. Honey. What about waterboarding and injecting your brother with holy water made you think that would leave him with better self esteem? Plus, Dean is not incorrect that his base condition (the Mark of Cain) remains and that unless it is removed (considered an impossibility at this point), he is doomed.
However, one thing Dean remains in denial about is the kind of madness that plagues him. The Mark of Cain, we know at this point, has rendered Dean effectively immortal. He may slide back into the madness of being a demon, but he can’t die. He can’t go down bloody. And that is the biggest tragedy of this storyline.
Next week: Hibbing 911: Jody meets Donna for the first time at a law enforcement conference. Then bodies start dropping and you just know Jody will end up having to give Donna The Talk.
The Kripke Years
The Gamble Years
The Carver Years
The Dabb Years