Episode Review – Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox

I know it won’t take off in the fandom, but I’d like to declare the nickname for this episode as “the Hunting Muses hour” or “Nate Winchester’s” as it is almost a complete encapsulation of much that I’ve talked about on here.

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Let me get my complaining out of the way first since I’ll have far more praise to heap upon the episode.

First, so Asa is saved back in 1980 from a werewolf in the daytime.  We… we just don’t even care about their lore any more do we?  One line, people.  You tossed out one line in S10 that smoothed over and answered everything about witches in the show, you all can toss out one line in an episode to fix werewolves.  Or here’s an idea: try using one of Supernatural’s other monsters, we have plenty.

Second, “Reapers don’t kill people – rules.”  Um.  What?  Episodes 1.12, 2.01 and 6.11 expressly disagree, girl.  Even episode 4.15 disagrees by implication.  Come ON people!  Reapers are not that damn hard!  They’ve had like… half a dozen episodes, how can y’all keep breaking their lore like this?  Yes there’s some moderate audience extrapolations that can smooth it over but it’s getting tiresome having to do this every. single. time. reapers show up because the writers can’t be arsed to tweak their dialog.

It also slightly bugged me that Dean had to beg Billie for help to get into the house.  Especially given that once he was in, he didn’t contribute much to the plot.  It’s almost like whenever Dean gets into a mildly tough scrap, he goes running off to cry for help.  Why not let him work through a problem like he used to?  It could have been interesting to see him and Sam work the problem from opposite sides again.

Otherwise, great episode!

I’ve talked before about how hunters in the show function as an interesting examination parable for humanity’s need for protection and spontaneous order.  This episode was layered with multiple instances of this.  Like the scene of the hunters deciding the fate of one of their own.  A probable example of how Jury Trials were first born?  We’ll never know for sure (History being so murky) but it’s thought provoking.  Another example of thought provoking is how the show will talk about how hard it is for hunters to retire.  Why is that?  Crime is ongoing, there are new criminals every day, yet police officers (a fair analogy to hunters) are able to retire.  Look at how this very episode starts with Mary Winchester’s “last hunt.”  What is it Asa Fox asks? Who will protect them? (approx. transcript isn’t up yet) In the real world, we have institutions set up to maintain a continuity of law enforcement and protection.  Old warriors can retire because they have trained a new generation to continue the battle.  Ideally Mary would have supervised Asa’s training as she hunted less and less and let him carry on the torch.

But things don’t work out ideally, life is messy.  Life also has a history (in the show: canon), something which I have bemoaned the show has been missing lately.  What do we have this episode but people referencing history!  Not only history we have not seen, but that which we, the audience, have seen (beyond “I shot Hitler”).  This gives a great sense of realness to the world.  Also I have to take a moment to tease the SPN Wiki.

Randy: No freakin’ way. Aren’t you dead? Like, four times?
Dean: Yeah. It, uh, didn’t take.

Dean has in fact been dead or assumed dead four times in the series. First when he was killed by a hellhound in 3.16 No Rest for the Wicked, second was being shot by Walt and Roy alongside Sam in 5.16 Dark Side of the Moon, he was assumed dead by Sam after being sucked into Purgatory at the end of 7.23 Survival of the Fittest and being stabbed and killed by Metatron in 9.23 Do You Believe in Miracles?.

Technically, those would be deaths we’ve seen as the audience.  Given how fast his resurrection was after Metatron’s stabbing, it seems highly unlikely word of Dean’s death that time spread beyond Sam.  The other hunter (assuming not a simple miscount) would more likely know about the shapeshifter who died wearing Dean’s face in episode 1.06, then the death at the end of S3 and middle of S5 would be 2 more.  The other public announcement of Dean’s death would be in episode 7.06 where the Leviathan copy of Dean was killed after a round of public mayhem.  Given that the brothers were supposed to be lying low after that (and Sam got out of the business), it’s debatable how aware the hunter community was of Dean’s trip through Purgatory.  Especially since I think those other hunters would ask more “what was Purgatory like?” than just “aren’t you dead X times?”

Finally, my other favorite thing is that actions have consequences.  Too often in fiction (especially because it is easier on the writer) logical consequences are simplified or ignored for an outcome.  In real life, what we do impacts lives – for better or worse.  This is part of why I actually didn’t mind Clarie’s return in S10 because it was a consequence of Castiel’s actions.  She was something he needed to face and deal with.  Likewise in this episode, we slow down and take a moment to examine the consequences of the things we do.  Mary’s actions had a consequence on Asa.  Asa’s actions had consequences on others.  Life is a rich tapestry and it was nice to see the show examine this.  If anything, I half wish the episode had not bothered with the demon side plot at all and taken a structure more akin to the B:tAS episode, “Almost Got ‘im.”  Still the demon played a useful plot-advancing role so I don’t begrudge its appearance.

Also, this now makes 2 episodes in a row where the Winchesters have gotten into actual fistfights instead of just “acting pinned by mind powers” thing that had become routine (although that ended up happening this episode anyway).

It was also nice that Mary didn’t die this time, as I kept thinking she would.  So yeah, positives all around.

If they keep steadily improving like this, S12 could break my “rule of 3” season trend.  If things go worse from here, this episode will easily earn best of the season.  Mid season finale is coming up so we’ll have to wait and see.

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