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It was just a wish:

Mother, brother, home, and love.

Heroes pay the price.

 

Looking for missing people in Illinois, Sam and Dean realized that they were hunting a djinn. Learning from Sam’s research that djinn lair in large ruins, Dean did a quick solo check of a deserted warehouse, only to be attacked by the djinn – and wake up in what seemed to be the world he would have wished for, a world in which his mother hadn’t died and the Winchesters hadn’t become hunters. Cautiously exploring, Dean soaked up every sweet and normal thing: his mother, alive, well, and loving; Sam safe, innocent, happy, and newly engaged to Jess; photos recording a whole lifetime of family events; a loving and understanding girlfriend. Even where pain intruded, it was bearable – smiling, softball-playing John Winchester had died of a stroke in his sleep, a peaceful and painless end, and while it hurt that Sam was largely a stranger, Dean was convinced that he could make things right. Except – he kept seeing a haunting and out-of-place girl, and when the evening news commemorated the anniversary of the plane crash that he knew he and Sam had prevented in Phantom Traveler, he turned to the Internet to learn that everyone whom the Winchesters had saved was dead, because they hadn’t become hunters. He knew what the father he remembered would have said, weighing his happiness against others’ lives, and so he set out to hunt down the djinn and get it to send him back. Accompanied by an incredulous Sam, he returned to the warehouse and found the girl of his visions strung up, being slowly drained of blood and life by the djinn. Only then did he realize that he must be in the same condition, with everything he was experiencing taking place only in his dreaming mind. Despite the pleas of his own desires, wearing the faces of his brother, his mother, his lover, and Jess, he stabbed himself, betting that dying in the dream would force him to wake in the real world. He found himself hanging in the warehouse with a distraught Sam trying to rouse him and cut him loose. The djinn attacked Sam, Dean broke free and managed to kill it, and the brothers found they were still in time to save the girl. Dean told his brother what he’d experienced and confessed how hard it had been for him to leave, while Sam tried to convince him that the lives they saved made all their bitter sacrifice worthwhile.

 

That bald summary doesn’t come close to telling the tale. This was Supernatural at its very best, exploring the soul of Dean Winchester and the self-sacrifice at the heart of a hero, even the most reluctant one. Raelle Tucker’s script, Eric Kripke’s direction, Jensen Ackles’ and Jared Padalecki’s performances, and the entire production design – from lighting to music to props and beyond – displayed a sensitivity and attention to detail that brought everything to life.

 



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Killer and victim

Haunt each other on a road;

Unfinished business.

 

The twist in Roadkill was clearly Supernatural’s tribute to The Sixth Sense: that Molly, the woman who stopped the brothers on the road begging for help, was herself a ghost, unaware of her own state. The episode structure, revealing near the end that the boys had understood Molly’s nature from the beginning, was beautifully executed, giving an entirely different flavor to all the earlier scenes. Kudos to writer Raelle Tucker and director Charles Beeson. We discovered along with Molly that she had killed a farmer in a car accident, and that the farmer, now an angry spirit, haunted the road on the anniversary of his death, chasing and torturing the ghost of the woman who had killed him. Greeley, the farmer, was bound to earth by revenge, while Molly was equally bound by her love for her husband, and the fear that their last argument in the car just before the accident would be the memory of her that he would carry to his own death. The Winchesters dealt with Greeley in standard fashion, destroying him by burning his bones. Since Molly had already been cremated, however, and was held to her haunting only by her own unfinished business, her release required that she herself decide to let go and move on. Sam bringing Molly to understand and accept her choice was poignant.

 


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John’s secret, Dean’s fear:

Save Sam, or have to kill him.

Gordon makes Sam prey.

 

Supernatural follows only one truly predictable pattern:  every time a question is answered, however satisfyingly, the answer itself raises more questions. In Hunted, after 106 agonizing days of impatient waiting and rampant speculating, we finally learned what John whispered to Dean before he died:  that Dean had to save Sam, that nothing else mattered, and that if he couldn’t save Sam, he would have to kill him.

 

Was it any wonder that Croatoan pushed Dean over the edge? He saw John’s words come to life:  he failed to save Sam from being infected, he fully expected that the virus would turn Sam into something he would have to kill, and anticipating what he would have to do when that happened broke him. And when it didn’t happen, when Sam inexplicably turned out to be immune … Dean realized that he’d just had the merest foretaste of the rest of his life, the dread he’ll face in his dreams and his every waking moment. Save Sam, but – save him from what, exactly? Sam immediately assumed that the warning meant that he might turn darkside, a reasonable conclusion given what he’s feared ever since realizing what Max had done in Nightmare and what he’d overheard from Ansom in Simon Said. This seemed borne out in this episode by what the doomed Scott said about his yellow-eyed demon dreams, and what Gordon recounted from his exorcism interrogation of a lesser demon. But – demons lie. And what did happen to Ava? Did she abruptly and without any warning turn darkside demonic rogue and brutally slaughter her fiancé? Was she taken somehow, with no one like Dean there to save her, when her fiancé was killed by a demon? (And is that kind of demon-snatch disappearance what Dean must really save Sam from?) Did she find her demonically deceased fiancé, freak out, drop her engagement ring, and flee? Did her fiancé turn on her, demonically possessed, to force her to kill him, followed by Ava stripping off the ring in negation and going on the run? Or was she never quite the sweet innocent that she seemed in the first place? And could I come up with any more abstruse options?

 


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You might not think that Supernatural is the right show to watch on Thanksgiving night, but let me tell you:  this week’s episode, In My Time Of Dying, is the perfect choice. Why? Because this is a family love story among three men – a father and his two grown sons – who will literally live and die for each other, and who are running out of time to be together.

 

Is it scary? Yes, a bit – but life is scary, especially when you, like the Winchesters, are facing your own death or the death of someone close to you.

 

Is it sad? Yes to that, too – but sadness isn’t always bad. Sadness for impending loss tells us that life is sweet, that what we have is something we shouldn’t forget to be thankful for, and that we shouldn’t ever wait to express our thanks and our love.

 

Is it good? Oh, my – yes. It is very, very good: the writing will grab you by the throat and the acting will rivet your eyes to the screen, and both together will combine to touch your heart.

 

I’ll be giving thanks for many things this Thursday:  having a loving family, my health, a fulfilling job, good friends, a comfortable home. I’ll also be thankful that the CW is giving us Supernatural, and that the show’s entire creative team – including Eric Kripke, Robert Singer, Kim Manners, Sera Gamble, Raelle Tucker, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and every single member of the writing staff and production crew – is doing such superlative work.

 

If you haven’t tried Supernatural yet, tune in on Thanksgiving night. Long before the episode ends, you might be giving thanks for it, too. And coming back again.

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We all knew that Dean wasn’t stupid; we all knew that Dean had to be thinking that his Dad’s death, matched against his own miraculous recovery, added up to something ugly and unreal. Now it’s finally out in the open – but no one can make it all right. And it was eerily disturbing that Dean, in describing the zombie revenant Angela brought back to unnatural life, described something that sounds a lot like what Dean himself has been so far this season:  “These things are vicious, they’re violent, they’re so nasty they rot the ground around them.” And they beat the crap out of the things and people they love, too.

 

Raelle Tucker, who together with Sera Gamble was the writer of the first season episodes Dead In The Water,  Faith, Nightmare, and Salvation, has always displayed a fine touch at opening Dean’s heart, and she did it again in Dead Things (sorry, but I just can’t keep repeating a title that long …), aided and abetted by the emotional direction of Kim Manners. This story, ostensibly about a college girl brought back to unnatural life as a revenant, wasn’t particularly subtle in setting up its parallels with Dean’s own situation, but it worked marvelously for me nonetheless.

 

Dean, deliberately avoiding visiting his own mother’s grave with Sam (and, in a particularly nice touch, backing off from a gravestone bearing the corrosively accusing legend “Loving father, at rest”), stumbled upon a new grave that cried out for investigation, since everything in a perfect circle around it was dead. Sam initially dismissed it as another example of Dean’s need to hunt in order to distance himself from his emotions, but eventually even Sam couldn’t deny that the evidence of malevolent supernatural forces was real, and Dean proved himself still a gifted hunter in coming up with the plan that ultimately worked to put the spirit back where it belonged. If only he could do the same for himself.

 

Twice in this episode, Dean said emphatically, “What’s dead should stay dead.” By the second repetition – especially after his additional declaration that “When someone’s gone, they should stay gone. You don’t mess with that kind of stuff.” – it had to be clear to everyone that he wasn’t speaking just about the vengeful Angela. It all finally came down to Dean in the coda coming clean about this one piece of the weight that Sam correctly diagnosed was killing him.



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December 2015

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