Welcome to “Supernatural” Davy Perez. I got to meet this new writer at Comic Con this summer and it sounded like this new batch of writers were dedicated to telling unique stories while staying true to the SPN Verse. After seeing the first episode from this new crop, “American Nightmare,” it looks like they’re off to a good start.
Yes, I liked it. A lot of the complaints I had from last week weren’t set to rest, but they were at least set aside. For one, the whole hour focused on one story, the Sam and Dean monster hunt. Don’t get me wrong, I like Castiel and Crowley, but sometimes the constant bouncing around between stories gets a bit much week to week. Sticking to the basics is a nice change at times. This episode however had some big hints that what happened here is relevant for the story later, but it wasn’t weighed down too much by the previous events. That’s exactly the kind of episode I need in episode four.
The biggest strength of the episode though was the focus on the brothers themselves. For once, I didn’t feel like Sam and Dean were supporting players in their own story. Yeah, perhaps the religious zealot stereotype got a bit much at times, not to mention I absolutely hated that final scene (go away British MOL), but all in all, I wasn’t hurling stuff when it was over. That’s an improvement.
Let’s go through all that impressed me. First, I liked how Perez didn’t brush the Mary Winchester saga under the rug, but he didn’t turn it into overwrought drama either. Dean was smarting, Sam understood that Mary needed her space. But Dean sent Mary a text anyway checking in with her in a very endearing Dean way, he wasn’t sure whether to call her Mom or Mary. I didn’t like the choice of Dean acting like a bitter jerk to everyone, especially jumping to the conclusion that the Wiccan was the evil person, but showing him as taking it personally was the right idea.
Dean dealt with his pain in his own way though and I’m glad he came around by the end of the episode. He and Sam talked about it and they had a reasonable adult conversation. Dean saw through the religious family that sometimes space does wonders for healing. He learned through the Wiccan that newly found responsibility and pressure isn’t a good thing. Dean eventually realized that having that extra space wasn’t abandonment, it was healing.
I loved it when Dean got the text from Mary, which was the justification that he needed that he was on the right path. My happy fan girl heart had a total meltdown. As I said in last week’s review, I was so bothered by the downbeat and depressing tone of the first three episodes that to see this glimmer of hope that Mary is still Mom to them, that quick smile from Dean before acting casual in front of Sam, the acknowledgement that he hasn’t been abandoned after all, it was all I needed. Between that and getting the number from the Wiccan he wanted to kill, maybe things weren’t so bad after all.
Second, Sam got to bond with the monster/victim of the week. Sympathetic Sam isn’t a Sam we see a lot of anymore. He’s been so hardened from all that’s happened it difficult for him to relate (the same can be said about Dean). It was a throwback to seasons one and two and I was stunned to see it. The script and the acting connected in just the right way where the connection came across as heartfelt and genuine. Again, my inner fan girl went into fits.
Sam intrigued me with his speech to the mother about letting her child die. It was cold, bitter, and extremely personal to him. I was stunned to see it. Was this coming from his recent ordeal with the British MOL or his intimate knowledge about God’s true will, which is actually human free will? “God doesn't care what kind of life you live. Trust me. And God didn't kill your daughter. You did.” It surprised me to hear Sam verbalize such feelings. Just like Dean reaching out to Mary, Sam is showing some growth himself by not hiding his true feelings. I like it.
Third, OMG did they just revive the psychic storyline?!? Am I dreaming?!? Seriously, pinch me. Sam didn’t just acknowledge Magda’s pain. He flat out told her he had psychic abilities. He called himself a psychic. He acknowledged exactly what he could do with his mind. THEN Magda asked the one question that was screaming in my head, “You can do that?” Sam said he couldn’t. “Well, no. Not anymore. I think.” WAIT A SECOND, did he tack on an “I think?” Did he create some doubt in that statement? Why is my inner fan girl now having a total freakout?
I’m trying very, very hard not to get too excited since I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me by the writers many times, but could they finally be addressing a story arc that only dominated the first five seasons? Are they finally going back to the fact that Sam’s powers disappeared in season six and have never been mentioned again? Could that one lingering item that has been on my season wish list for years finally be removed? Should I dare to dream??
Sam talked about control in his words. I also found that very interesting. Sam fought very hard the urge to use his powers, but we never saw him in a state of full control when he had them. Azazel controlled them first, then Ruby found the right way to push those buttons, as did Famine when they resurfaced in season five. Could this control he mentioned be that he’s been fighting something inside since they went dormant in season six? Has he always sensed they were there? Or was it just words to help a wayward girl through a dark time and they aren’t an issue for him any more?
Yeah, once I thought through things more, my excitement became short lived because there’s my lack of trust in the writers. I know we have a new crop that like I said are dedicated to maintaining the continuity, but the decision makers, the ones that blatantly violated my trust last season, still have a long way to go to win me over other that an “I think” from Sam. What if this is all a setup for the British Men of Letters to find out that Sam had powers once and that’s good enough for them to kill him like they did Magda? What if they decide it’s more fun to bring up the past than revisit it? I’m left skeptical but hopeful. I should be grateful that it was actually brought up again, but I want more. If this all turns out to be a tease, then this episode has lost its purpose.
Fourth, well, it’s the little things and I’m always about the little things. The episode made sure that everyone was on the same page. Sam and Dean now know that Castiel and Crowley are working together, Vincent Vincente is a Lucifer meatsuit and turns out Sam was a fan! I loved the reference to “Butt rock”. I haven’t heard that in years. Yes, I also laughed at Dean’s “One’s an angel, one’s a demon, and apparently they solve crimes.” There’s your “Supernatural” spinoff right there folks! I also loved Sam and Dean in the non-threatening sweaters. Red is a perfect choice for Sam. Both of them also got to wear the priest outfits again. Much sexier in season 12 than season 1! Then there was the talk of God. “Do you know God, gentlemen?” Dean - “Oh yeah. Yeah, we're besties.” Bwah! It’s another one of those cases where a big joke happens just by telling the truth. Sam and Dean do live bizarre lives.
What Didn’t Work
As much as the episode gave us, naturally I have nitpicks. Although I wasn’t as offended by the graphic whipping and chaining and innocent girl in the basement thing as Nightsky, I still think the mother was way too over-the-top for my tastes. Poisoning her family so they could all be in Heaven together? That’s too much stereotypical religious nut stuff. Rat poison doesn’t work that quickly! Plus wouldn’t it have tasted awful? The son was a cardboard cutout too which was disappointing since they were hurting his sister. His purpose was what?
I’m also confused by the psychic abilities of Magda and had hoped for more. What was she doing with her mind that ended up liquifying brains? Was there a family history of her doing such things her entire life, or was she just moving objects with her mind and her family freaked out? Why didn’t she use that brain liquifying thing on her evil mother? That would have saved some trouble. What I’m most disappointed with is how did she get her abilities? Was she born that way? Did a demon come to visit on her six month birthday? Were the hints that she was The Devil a big clue or just more religious zealot talk? Sam and Dean both personally know God and The Devil. They would have been able to offer some more insight.
(Great lighting in this scene, despite the disturbing images)
The part I absolutely hated the most though was the ending. From what I understand, the British Men of Letters are very zero tolerance kind of people. You don’t let the monster go. However, ambushing a teenage girl in the bathroom? Is that supposed to make them menacing or scary? Mr. Ketch isn’t awesome. He’s a mindless thug. What’s so intriguing about that? The end pretty much put a sour note on what was a decent episode and has not reinforced for my the confidence in the British MOL storyline. I would have been extremely happy if they had ended the episode on Dean reading Mary’s text, not the crappy “sensational cliffhanger” we got. It dampened the optimism I gained in the episode, and trust me at this point I was dying for some sort of optimism. I have chosen to pretend that ending didn’t exist.
Overall grade, a B+. I’m really looking forward to next week’s episode, which looks to be the continuation of one of my personal favorites, “Everybody Hates Hitler.” It’s time to see what new writer Meredith Glynn has to offer.