I have so much to say about this episode, so I’m not going to waste any (more) time on the intro and I’m just going to cut to the chase.
The Road So Far:
Sam and Dean first fight “things that look like other things” in s1e6’s “Skin”. They meet their first ghoul in S4e19’s “Jump the Shark”. We first saw zombies in…psych! That was just what the show wanted us to think about! Dean gets his first taste of the real wild west in s6e18’s “Frontierland” and finds it isn’t all Hollywood has told him it would be, but this episode shows that frontier spirit is still alive and well in Dean’s heart! I’ll also be using the episode s1e12 “Faith” to talk about Jack and his powers. No explicit S1 callbacks this episode, but lots to relate back to in earlier seasons!
Let me begin here by saying that I felt a bit let down with this episode of Supernatural. I sat through this entire episode waiting for someone to say they needed to “get outta Dodge” and it Just. Never. Happened!
I was also disappointed that we started the episode in media res. Who is this guy with Dean? Where is Cas? They were just about to talk for the first time (in person) since he came back! Where is my reunion? I demand satisfaction! Good, strange guy literally had the earth swallow him up, Cas time now? (Really, that was quite the tease Supernatural!)
So we do finally get to see the reunion between the boys and their angel. So sweet! Dean is doing that thing where he’s so happy and excited, but it’s not manly to show it, so there’s just a light in his eyes and a half smile (there and gone again) on his face. Sam looks like he’s about to cry he’s so happy. Yeah, Dean and Cas are best friends (or more if you subscribe to that view of this world) so I think people can sometimes underestimate just how much Sam loves Cas. (Except for the Sastiel shippers, they know.) I was pretty excited that they were able to pull off a non-awkward hug! After the chick flick moment, they start asking questions about just how Cas came back. “(A)nnoy(ing) an ancient cosmic being so much that he sent me back” just seems like a very Cas way to be reborn. All of their questions and reasoning lead them back to Jack and that’s where they end up physically as well. Jack finally gets to meet Castiel in the flesh. Then he gets to show off his hunting and use of his power knowledge to his de facto Dad and I thought that was pretty cute. Jack has found a hunt for them and Team Free Will 2.0 is on the road. (Though is Jack Team Free Will?)
They “get intta Dodge” and head for the motel where Dean can be seen fangirling over the Wild West gunslingers whose pictures are hanging on the wall of their room. I will always be there for Dean fangirling over anything. It’s so rare to see him so genuinely happy and excited and…light. It does seem a little odd though that this happy Dean moment is coming so hard on the heels of the “Dean has never been this hopeless before, this is his lowest point ever, he’s in such a dark place right now, I’ve never seen anything like it, will he ever snap out of it? Dean’s broken!” of last week’s episode where Dean acted like Dean normally does when things look bleak and they’ve had a big loss but every other character onscreen made sure to tell us just how bad it was. I know Dean said he just needed a win and getting Cas back IS a big win, but if that was his worst and he fixed it that easily, it cheapens some of the depressive episodes Dean’s gone through in the past, like in season 7, or the time between Dean’s “live it up phase” immediately after he made the demon deal for Sam and later in the season when he came to a kind of acceptance. These are episodes that stuck and took him a long time to get out of. (And he did get out of them somehow even though they never really let him deal with those feelings, just more of his 3 B’s to a Better You strategy, Booze, Bacon and Bullets) I thought they were finally going to deal with this, but it just got handwaved away. You can be better than this Supernatural! Sam was allowed to discover his anger issues and need for control and his egotistical nature when he believed he knew better than everyone else. He recognized these were the deeper issues underlying all of his other, more visible or recognizable issues and he was able, and allowed, to deal with them. Let’s do the same with Dean now, please? Yes, Sam usually is more open to expressing and exploring his feelings than Dean is, so it does make sense for the character to have just repressed everything to this point. However, Dean has grown emotionally over the years, so it makes sense for him to start to be able to actually deal with things now, not just stuff them down with food and alcohol, or express it by punching things. It also makes for good TV.
Alright, rant over, moving on. A local cop has a pickup pulled over, waiting on word back from dispatch on the owner of the vehicle when the passenger door pops open slightly. Okay, I’m not an American, but I’m still pretty sure that the cop immediately pulling his gun and approaching ready to shoot at that point isn’t standard operating procedure for what has so far been a routine traffic stop. No warning no directions for what the suspect should be doing, I mean, what if the door latch is just busted? Oops, too late, the cop is pulled under the truck to no good end, I’m sure.
Back at the motel, the boys are asleep and so Cas and Jack take advantage of their mostly sleepless natures to have a heart to heart. They talk about Kelly and the goodness that she and Cas both believe is inside of Jack. Jack says he understands why he trusted Cas before he was born. (Remember that!) He also mentions how his Mom told him he’d have an angel watching out for him. Sounds very similar to Mary telling Dean he had angels watching over him. Those were actually Mary’s last words to him back when he was 4, and they are close to the last words Kelly says to Jack. I’ll need to go back to check on that when I write up the first 4 episodes this season. Anyway, their chat is interrupted with a news report of the cop’s death and so Jack decides to flirt with death himself. Ha! Not really, he can’t die. But he is definitely crusin’ for a bruisin’ by daring to wake Dean up early. I completely sympathize with Dean in this instance. I have on occasion (while asleep) attempted to punch and kick people who have tried to wake me up. I’m a bear too Dean. In fact, Dean’s reaction to someone waking him up and the way Dean treats his coffee are exhibits #1,782,363/4 proving Dean is just a male version of me. They decide Sam and Jack will check out the grave (yeah, best to keep him away from Dean for a little while) and Dean and Cas will check out the crime scene of the cop’s murder. After Dean finishes his coffee.
Cas and Dean pull up and Dean tries to pass off some bull***t story about how the locals won’t trust the “big city cops” so they need to be more like good ‘ol boys. I think Dean just wants a chance to dress like a cowboy again. Which is absolutely okay with me because Cosplay!Dean is the best Dean.There was “Stampede” stuff all over this episode (including on Cas’s hat). Did the prop guy go to Calgary this past summer or is it just that Calgary is the only place in Canada to get cowboy themed stuff? (It isn’t. I know you can get cowboy gear in Ontario at least too, but Calgary is closer to Vancouver.)
Now, I’m not usually a person who notices music cues in something I’m watching unless they’re either doing something incredibly well or they’re doing something incredibly badly. I definitely noticed the music in this episode, and because they were doing it well. The Steve Miller Band “Space Cowboy” as Dean and Cas go from the car to the crime scene is great, especially if you’re focusing on Cas the entire time. Dean looks more natural and Cas…looks like a cowboy from space. Later, “They Call Me Zombie” by Messer Chups works with the costume, hair make-up and props department to tell you all you need to know about Athena without saying a word. Finally, “Hot Rod Rockin” by Thaddeus Rose and The Thorns provides some nice, loud, cheery uptempo Rockabilly to cover any potential noise coming from the shadowy figure stalking Athena down the hallway and is a very nice juxtaposition between the happy and the horror. Great job!
Back to the crime scene where Dean’s face at Cas’ “Val Kilmer” alias is priceless. Hey, credit where credit is due, it’s better than Beyonce. Cas is improving! We find out that the cop who was killed was the Sergeant’s nephew, so this time, it’s personal. The Sergeant identifies Cas and Dean as Texas Rangers and how long, do you think, has Dean wanted to pose as a Texas Ranger? #CareerGoals!
We now transition over to the mortuary/graveyard/Athena’s house where Sam questions Athena about the grave robbery. Jack tries to help but is about as subtle as a clown at a funeral. (Though he does helpfully wander around so he can “just happen” to see a picture of Athena and her boyfriend.) Sam and Jack get permission to examine the grave and find it’s not the zombie Jack has thought it was, it’s actually a ghoul.
Team Free Will gathers back at the motel to pool their info and Jack is able to pull up a picture of the truck the cop pulled over when he was killed. One magic zoom later and boom they have a photo. Dean recognizes the guy and gets positively giddy about the fact that the ghoul has taken on the appearance of “Mysterious” Dave Mather. Calm down Dean, it’s just a ghoul with a costume on. It’s not like the ghoul gets to be Dave Mather, he just gets to look like him. And you’re gonna have to kill him shortly. Jack recognizes the ghoul as Athena’s boyfriend.
Back to Athena where she finds out she’s been accepted to THE makeup school, Ben Carruth Makeup and Special Effects program in L.A. …and her boyfriend craps all over her happiness. Nevermind him Athena, he’s just being downright ghoulish about this. You got into your dream school, that’s huge! Celebrate! Be Proud! You Go Girl! (I love everything about Athena by the way.) Athena mistakenly clues Dave into the fact that a hunter is after him, so Dave decides he needs to go to the bank to “withdraw” some travel funds. Of course Sam and Dean are close behind and find out where he went from Ms. Athena “why are you in my house?” (um, because it’s also a business?)
Team Free Will 2.0 approaches the bank just as Dave is coming out, so there’s a shootout at the
OK Corral Credit Union and while trying to help apprehend Dave, Jack accidentally injures the security guard. Dave gets away and before Cas can get to the guard to heal him, the guard dies. (Though why does he stand there and wait until Jack asks him to heal the guard? Bad blocking or something…have Jack ask while still running to the guard so Cas starts to heal him as soon as they get there.) The guys head back to the motel where Dean tells them to get Jack out of there and back to the bunker while he takes care of tidying things up in Dodge.
We check back in at Athena’s where Dave stumbles in, shot, and confesses to Athena what’s he’s done (for them he says) and tries to get her to leave with him. Athena, who is a smart girl is having none of it. So then of course Dave makes it all about how he’s done everything for her and taken all these risks for her and if she wasn’t such a bitch she’d appreciate him a little more. Ugh. I’m starting to think Dave isn’t a very good boyfriend. I mean here’s Athena with a house and a business, working all day while you futz around, taking care of the day to day while you may occasionally rob a grave to take her to a concert. You aren’t supportive of her and her career goals and the minute there’s trouble, you pull the “well if you weren’t such a bitch card.” Athena? Girl, you can do better.
So Dean gets to Athena’s and finds the Sergeant about to go in. They both disclose their intention to kill Dave and Dean tells him just to make sure to aim for the head. There, Dean can be reasonably sure the Sergeant will be able to kill the ghoul without having to go through the “monsters are real” spiel! I love it when the writers let the boys be smart. Especially Dean. It’s pretty well established that both boys are quite smart, though it’s more “out in the open” with Sam going to Stanford and everything. The evidence for Dean’s intelligence is a little more subtle, but it’s there. However, there are a lot of times the boys are made to make really ridiculously bad decisions for plot reasons, so I always appreciate it when the writers stay true to the characters and let them find a way around the monster talk, and outsmart the ghoul with a fake-out play. Then wrap up all the loose ends with a nice, simple story that sounds reasonable and explains everything. Smart!Dean is second only to Cosplay!Dean.
So I’ve jumped the gun a bit for a reason, I want to talk about all of the Jack stuff together. So, we’re back to Cas and Sam and Jack, silent, in the car on the way home. Cas and Sam decide to try giving Jack a pep talk, but it fails. I don’t blame Jack. All of the parts of this episode of the guys trying to get him to get past this just ring false to me. He just accidentally killed someone less than 24 hours ago. Now isn’t the time for the “you need to keep fighting” speech or the “we’ve all done it speech” or the “this is the life” speech. Maybe time for the “it was an accident, it’s not your fault” speech, but only if it seems that Jack is going overboard on blaming himself. And he doesn’t seem to be doing that. He seems to be blaming himself just the right amount. Now is the time to be there with him, hug him, listen to him, give him space if he asks for some, but otherwise let this sink in, let him feel this and he needs to be able to feel sad about it and bad about it, and yes, guilty about it. Jack has a tendency to just jump in to situations with his power that he can’t really control yet, and in combat situations that he definitely doesn’t understand yet and maybe feeling some guilt will let him reflect on that and change that behaviour. In a way these speeches by the boys are realistic. None of them are really stellar in dealing with heavy emotions like this. (Sam is probably the best.) And there are a lot of people, in my experience a lot of guys, whose first response to a problem like this is to try to fix it. Which is what these speeches seem to be trying to do…get him past this, fix his bad feelings. (Especially Dean’s totally sappy “I thought you were a monster, but I was wrong” speech. That whole thing just fell flat for me) But sometimes things can’t be fixed and some things that can be fixed still need to be fixed in the proper time.
That said, I don’t think Jack’s response to all of their speeches is the right approach either. Though at least he has the excuse of being like a month or two old. Wisdom comes with experience. Well, this choice certainly doesn’t seem wise. Earlier this episode, Jack was talking about how much he trusted Cas, how his Mom knew he would be good, in part because he’d have an angel watching over him. He begged for Cas to come back from the dead, but now that he is back, against all odds, he just runs away? This decision just feels so much more plot driven than character driven. If Jack truly wants to get better, learn to control his power so he doesn’t hurt anyone, the bunker is the place and these are the guys to help him do it. He’s already learned a modicum of control thanks to Sam. And don’t forget that all of Heaven and Hell are gunning for him right now, either to kill or control him. Will he be able to protect himself when he can barely control his power? Or might he hurt someone else while protecting himself? A lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense in this episode.
So, that’s it for the episode, sorry it was long, there was a lot to unpack in this one! One thought I had while watching this episode though, before I go. Remember s1e12, “Faith”? Dean suffers damage to his heart muscle while fighting a monster and doctors say there’s no hope. Sam isn’t ready to let go, so he starts looking for other options. He hears about a faith healer from another hunter, one that’s actually getting results, so he drags Dean there. Dean gets healed and in the process, discovers that for every person the reverend heals, someone nearby dies in the exact some way. So, I had a thought. Jack is accidentally responsible for waking up Cas and getting him back to earth. In a way, he gave life. Shortly after that happens, he accidentally takes a life. What if Jack’s power, like a reaper’s, is about balance? It seems for every 2 steps forward Jack takes, he takes 2 back again and it has made me curious as to if this is merely down to the struggle of learning a new skill or if there is some balancing act going on here. This could have repercussions later on this season as well. What if to bring Mary back someone is going to have to go back to the other universe? What about Lucifer? Something to think about.
The Road Ahead:
- Should someone have said “we need to get outta Dodge? Yea or Nay?
- What did you think of this episode?
- Which !Dean is your favourite Dean? Which !Sam?
- What are you like waking up? In the morning or unexpectedly.
- Did you love Athena or LOVE Athena?
- What did you think of the music this episode, or on the show in general?
- How did you feel about the reunion between Dean and Sam and Cas?
- Is there any deeper meaning to both Dean and Jack having angels watching over them and being told that by their mothers?
- Should the show let Dean finally deal with some of his deeper emotional issues or do you like him just the way he is?
- Were you as bothered by Team Free Will’s speechathon at the end as I was?
- Can Jack be Team Free Will?
- Do you think Jack’s power demands balance, or is this just the normal forward and back dance of the learning curve?
- Just out of my own sense of curiosity, do you think Jack would have the power to bring Adam back? Should he? Maybe only if he can also heal his soul?
Well, that’s it for this week guys. Until next time, be good to each other! XO