Thoughts on 8x02 - "What's Up, Tiger Mommy?"

What's Up, Tiger Mommy? was a thoroughly enjoyable episode. It had good writing, was well paced, good characterization and, like last week, felt reminiscent of the Supernatural days of yore. So, let's break this down shall we?
 

Safety Deposit Boxes, Finger Bones and Virgins

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The opening of this episode was quite strong and a decent throwback to the MOTW storylines. Both of these characters were sufficiently acted, one being particularly nasty and the other bending over backwards to keep her customer service smile despite the over the chart creeper levels of this particular customer.

Mommy Dearest

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Kevin, still stung from the image of Channing's neck being snapped insists they visit his mom and check on her safety. Playing on Dean's heartstrings with the mom card they go against better judgment (which later proves would have been the right call) and find the surveillance team as issued by Crowley overwatering the flowers and delivering a few too many pieces of mail. Dean is always the more blunt of the two brothers however it seems that he is even more straightforward then before and more keenly aware (if that's possible) that pre-purgatory Dean. This isn't to say Sam isn't all of these things, it just feels somehow sharpened in Dean as compared to previous seasons.

Linda Tran is a brilliant character. Taking everything in stride she brings a point of humour and a certain degree of badassness that would serve her well as a hunter. Though I was hoping for a "cristo" utterance from one of the brothers, the dousing unexpectedly in holy water was a suitable gag, especially the shock of it during the emotional and delighted reunion between mother and son.  Sam impressively reverse-exercises the demon in Eunice, something Dean apparently didn't know how to do, allowing Ruby's knife to silence this particular minion of Crowley. Now the fact that Dean did not know how to do this after all this time but Sam does leads one to wonder: was Sam really as retired as he says during that year? Maybe he wasn't actively hunting per se but was he instead researching? It's hard to imagine that Sam could just back out of the life entirely, give it up cold turkey after his brother disappeared. Maybe he learned this trick while researching ways to get Dean back from wherever he was (since Sam apparently didn't know Dean was in purgatory). It's also hard to imagine Sam has known this incantation all this time but this is the first use of it. Pure speculation on my part but it was a curious detail within this episode.

Honestly, I'm surprised that the boys let Linda come along with them ultimately. It wouldn't have been out of character to give superficial agreement and then lock her down somewhere for safety. In the end though, I'm glad she did go along for the ride, if for nothing else that the reference to the devil's trap tattoos again (and the flash of Sam's - yum).
 

50 Shades of Dean Winchester

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For Dean's part he doesn't hesitate for a second when it comes to killing the demonic hosts. Nor does it appear to affect him. This is not a criticism of Dean but a note on another side effect of Purgatory. Am I the only one reminded of Future!Dean from The End these days? The interrogation of the tablet thief gave us our first purgatory flashback of the episode. Dean seemed to be flipping between selves and making use of the "skills" he picked up in Hell. Purgatory is a world of very clear black and white (except for Benny) and not just in colour. Dean is holding onto this, it would seem.

Cocky Lyle was no match for Linda "mail order" Tran. Between Kevin and Sam's lightening fast mental calculations and Linda's threat of an audit Lyle quickly turned over this information about the tablet. This was a great scene - something different from the usual FBI threats on the part of Sam and Dean. One more perfect Linda Tran moment? When she snaps her fist into Crowley's snarky face. Not that this stops his commentary and Moose remarks.

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Let's talk about for a moment about Beau. Colourful, unexpected, clever characters like this are one of the reasons I fell in love with Supernatural in the first place. Refreshing over the angel/leviathan/demon storyline of last season, this particular character doesn't use blanket threats and violence to get what he wants and instead puts on a charming smile and gives an enticing invite to a supernatural auction. Beau functions as the right-hand of Plutus and far more classy than the actual God of Greed who was decorated like a smarmy pawn shop owner.

"System only works when everyone participates."

Sammy, Sammy, what were you thinking even suggesting the Impala being used to get the tablet? I know it's the Word of God and all, but the Impala?! Still, this did give us a great moment where Dean came to the hard defense of his baby. This makes up a bit for his somewhat lackluster response to Her last week during their reunion. This was followed by another piece of comedic relief where Dean is made to walk through a metal detector. Was anyone really not expecting that thing to go off like a fire truck en-route to an out of control blaze? Sam's "dude, really?" look to Dean was classic. The weapon unloading here reminded me of a scene from the film Ms. Congeniality.

 "I guess we have to ask ourselves, what is sane?"

Purgatory

We also meet Samandriel a.k.a. Alfie the Weiner Hut worker who stops Dean to ask about Castiel. Alfie was quite forgiving of Cas and almost emotional (for an angel) about his loss. This brings us to our second purgatory moment in which we (finally!) come to Cas. Castiel and Benny clearly have no love lost between them from their first meeting, not that I expected differently given the angel/monster components. This meeting with Cas seems to take place a ways into Dean's time in purgatory. Either that, or Benny has an unusually defensive almost protective (?) attitude towards Dean. He was pretty unimpressed with Cas' "abandonment" of Dean on their arrival in the middle of the hellish wasteland. One must wonder at the motivation then - isolate Dean? Ensure that Benny is the only one Dean trusts (more or less) in purgatory? Time will tell I suppose.

Castiel as always brings some unintentional humour with his straight-faced and serious responses. I know there are people out there who don't like Cas and/or his relationship with Dean however I personally like it. It was a good reunion (not to start a comment war, but this was what I'd expected between Sam and Dean last week actually; which serves to further illustrate the differences in Dean - less emotionally open) and good explanation of Cas' disappearance. Dean was not willing to leave without Cas no matter the danger to himself - not going to lose another brother-in-arms no matter what.

Going Once...Going Twice...Sold!

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Back in the real world at the auction there were some funny moments regarding dwarfish gold plans A through D (for dumbass) and the moon but the real heartbreaker was Linda bidding her soul after Kevin was made a gift-with-purchase to up the bidding on the tablet. Now, this was the one spot in this entire episode that was a touch shaky to me. It seems to this reviewer that Linda's soul wouldn't be worth much to the god of greed as it's bidding was a selfless act. This is a minor point but it's been a nagging one.

While Alfie was quite the angel - much more personable than most angels we encounter, he nevertheless was unable to get Linda to hand Kevin over to the protection of Heaven's forces. Crowley and Beau burn off Linda's devil's trap tat and I really enjoyed seeing the red crossroad demon eyes during Crowley's possession of Linda - continuity how I love thee. I also loved watching Sam swing around Thor's hammer. One question though - Beau's motivation for betraying Pluto was a little murky - for an island, really? 

It's unfortunate but also intriguing that Crowley was able to pluck from Linda's head the real plan for the Word of God. Further was his cruel yet to some extent accurate statement about the Winchesters that motivated Kevin to take his catatonic mother and go into hiding. I will say that while understandable, I felt Kevin's anger toward Dean and Sam was misplaced as they tried to keep her away and safe somewhere but neither Tran would hear of it. To be clear, Sam and Dean don't deliberately, as Crowley made it sound, use people and then sit back to watch them die. It's a consequence of the lifestyle and an unfortunate one at that. Kevin's note felt unnecessarily harsh given that he was the one who insisted on going to his mother where Dean was adamant about not allowing this.

"People I don't need any more, they end up dead."

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Alright, let's talk about that closing clip of Castiel shouting for Dean. Inspired by Kevin's words in the note, this memory seemed to imply that Dean made a conscious choice to leave Cas after he'd gotten what he needed out of him. On closer review of this clip it looked like Castiel lost his grip on was I assume was Dean's hand - not that he let him go. Additionally, this was a very closely cropped image and with Supernatural things are very rarely what they seem. Considering finding Castiel was a condition of Dean's before he was willing to work with Benny and his insistence that Castiel come along, not to mention everything we know about the character and loyalty of Dean Winchester, I refuse to believe this was (and pardon the pun) as black and white as it seems.

Final Thoughts

So that was episode two. So far, I'm thoroughly enjoying season eight. This may be premature to say only two episodes in however the entire tone of these two episodes feels so much more classic Supernatural than last season did. This isn't to say that I didn't like season seven, per se, it's just nice to return to the classics after a while. Season eight also seems to have a much less dark and depressing air about it. Once again, I'm not criticizing previous season that have delved quite deeply into the heavy dark and depressing, however it is refreshing this season be a touch on the lighter side.

This was largely a Dean-centric episode to me as it gave us a great deal of information about the effects of purgatory, another piece of that storyline and an indication as to where his head is at right now. The repercussions of purgatory appear to have scarred and hardened rather than instilled such profound guilt on Dean as significantly and deeply as Hell did.  Next week seems to delve more into Sam's life the previous year and where his head is at right now. I already have some thoughts on that after watching the preview, one comment in particular has already given rise to a mental paragraph for that review, but I will reserve these thoughts for next week. Until then, sound off below as to your thoughts on What's Up, Tiger Mommy?

(Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts last review and apologies for not responding to comments on my last review - was a nutty week getting ready to host family etc. for the holiday weekend and then the post-holiday clean up - promise to respond this time!)