Another monster of the week episode…
Over all? Wasn’t that bad.
Sure you can trace a lot of elements from this episode to earlier ones in the series. The town with a dark secret from Scarecrow. The monster is a man in a suit from #THINMAN. Heck we even have a taxidermy callback from Dog Dean Afternoon. Still this doesn’t make the episode any kind of “copycat” like earlier ones because this time it is at least making something new from all these pieces and adding to them.
Through much of this season, I’ve been praising the show runners for putting in effort to fix the canon. This episode was the first time it stood out to me that they were trying to fix the tone of the show. When was the last time we saw (or didn’t) a monster that was supposed to be scary? Yet at the climax everything from the lighting to just the framing of the scene work to make us feel dread. For twelve seasons the Winchesters’ job description was, “we hunt monsters” and this was the first time in a long time it felt like it. This isn’t to complain about the “monsters can be cuddly” episodes but rather that the audience needs to be reminded that some monsters are indeed dangerous, vicious creatures that need to be hunted. Seeing the tone restored and looking back now, one can see that the last few seasons have felt so off because the show has drifted so far from its core. Sam & Dean felt pointless because the audience wasn’t drawn into the need to have people like them. Yes the boys and show can recite the mantra about the family business all they want, but this is the first time in a long time the episode worked to give meaning behind those words instead of leaving them empty.
Yes the closing tone between the brothers was just a touch over played (it should have had 1 reminding flashback instead of the 800 it did). Still it was another step in the right direction. It’s too easy for long running stories, like Supernatural to get too focused on delivering the “big moments” (in SPN’s case, brotherly moments) that it backfires and each one means less than the one before. Stories need to be filled with the small moments to build up to and provide a foundation for those big moments. Because that’s life, big moments connected by thousands of little moments. Sam throwing himself into the gates of Hell worked because we had the earlier moments like Sam & Dean having a little Christmas. (Seriously rewatch that S3 episode and see how understated it looks compared to later episodes that aimed for the same.) Here? Carving their names into the bunker is just a little thing, is sparked organically from what the brothers have been through and yet feels more real than their entire struggle with the Mark of Cain.
So was it all perfectly executed? No. The episode’s theme didn’t quite shine perfectly. Like I said the closing moment was a touch overplayed and there wasn’t much character in the guest stars for me to get involved with them. But it is so on the right track. It wasn’t perfect, but they’re heading in that direction.