If these four wheels could talk---that is the premise of the Supernatural episode, “Baby.”

It is a daring thing to tell a story that focuses on the little moments---a day in the life slice of pie that captures what it is really like to be Dean's beloved 1967 Chevy Impala. The case and the monster fight that happens around the car seem so inconsequential to her story---to all of those small memories that soak into Baby's leather. It's just another day on the hunt, housing the Winchesters in her sleek frame, and leading them onto their next destination. This episode captures so much about what makes Supernatural endure as a show, why this car is more than just a vehicle, and how she represents so much not only to Sam and Dean but to us, the audience.

The case is a bit mysterious at first---but really ends up being cut and dried. It's “thin” at best---one victim labeled as an animal attack they suspect might be a werewolf---it'll be “probably nothing.” Thin as it is, the Winchesters will trek to Oregon to investigate. After all, Dean's already washed “every car in here twice,” and it's time they get out of the Bunker to do what they do best. Instead, they find that they're up against a vampire---no a werewolf---no a “werepire”---no really a Nachzehrer or “ghoulpire.”

None the less, the case itself is really unimportant in the scheme of Baby's story. She'll stand with the brothers as they trek from the police station, to the edge of the woods, to the gas station, and back to help her boys get their job done. The story is really about her and her presence. She is the anchor that the Winchesters can rely upon. Of all the things in their lives, she is the longest lasting. No other object---be it a weapon, spell book, or sentimental trinket---can claim to be in their lives for as long. Baby has been there for everything and she'll continue to be that rock they rely on---right until the very end.

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Baby assists the brothers in battle---namely Dean. He's kidnapped by the woman they thought was a victim. While Sam is trying to get the coin---a pre-1982 penny---they need to put down the monster, Lily beats him in an ugly fist fight in the back seat. She drives back to the edge of the forest, all to reattach the head Dean had severed from the “ghoulpire's” alpha. Once Dean wakes, the fight is really on. The alpha---the deputy---informs Dean that their plan is to turn Sam and feed Dean to him for his first meal. After all, “you cut off my head, and I can't stand for that.” While the alpha talks, Dean uses the time wisely. He uses the hairpin Sam's one night stand left behind to free himself. Once free, Dean uses the best weapon on hand---Baby---to a successful conclusion of the hunt.

In the end, one “ghoulpire” lies dead. All those he turned along the way revert back to being human---and thus are saved. In that way, the case itself carries on the thread that was established by Sam's speech in “Out of the Darkness.” They're not just hunting things---they're saving people, too. The others this deputy---the actual monster---had turned weren't killed by the Winchesters. Even the woman, Lily, who had taken Dean hostage and tried to “make it right” isn't killed. She's a bit more beaten and worse for wear after her scuffles with Dean, but she's alive and so are her children, the ones Sam fought against clearly by his bruised and bloodied form. Here, they didn't just shoot and ask questions later. Instead, they managed to prove to themselves that they could indeed hunt things while they're trying to piece together the Darkness and her plans---but also save people along the way.

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The case also allowed them to learn more about the threat the Darkness poses---even if they didn't get anything tangible about it precisely. Instead, it is the fear that it raises in the monsters themselves---Sam comments, “Dean even the monsters are scared.” Aware that it has been let loose, they are scrambling to create armies to stand against it---as this “ghoulpire” was trying to do. Clearly, this new entity is frightening to everyone---demons, angels, and monsters alike. If they didn't know that they needed to stop the Darkness before, Sam and Dean do now. After all, if this one monster was trying to prepare to make a last stand, are other monsters doing the same, too?

Baby stands witness to all of this---and yet it isn't this portion of the episode that makes it daring or noteworthy. It's the smaller and quieter moments that Baby records that truly matter. She soaks up more secrets. She basks in those treasured moments that shape the Winchesters as men. It is her interior that will witness their greatest emotional moments, their bond, and the quiet moments that they get so few of but cherish so much. It is everything we imagine the Winchesters doing along the way onto a hunt: the teasing, the quiet companionship, and even the confessional conversations that expose their vulnerabilities to one another.

This is a daring move on the show's part. The actual monster hunt is so secondary to this---and it is clearly a character driven study on both the brothers. More astonishing, however, is that this episode is a character study on the Impala herself. She may never speak, she may not be a person, but Baby is just as important as anyone else---perhaps more so. This episode captures expertly just what makes her so vital to Supernatural's success. It is her anchoring the story that makes this episode work, flow, and tell a moving story about two brothers that live on the back roads of America facing down our worst nightmares.

We see it in the most mundane moments.

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Baby gets her own car wash, lovingly sponged down by both brothers as they scrub away grime, dust, and more from her windshield. With the camera angled as it is, it's not hard to imagine that Baby's perspective would indeed look much like this. The action is simple and so ordinary---and yet it is the little quiet moment that the brothers have here that stand out more than any use of soap or water ever could. They're joking, laughing, and teasing in an easy fashion. Sam quips about Dean's shorts, Dean retorts, “It's a free Bunker.” They're talking freely about taking on a case and getting back on the road. If Baby could turn her own engine and give an emphatic yes to that idea, it's clear from this angle that she most certainly would have.

This character study allows us to see into a day in her life. It even includes a rather risky joy ride by the valet at one of the Winchester's stops. Even though she's been driven a bit rough by the valet, Jessie, we can't help but wonder if Baby's having just as much fun here. The giggling, the music, the sharp turns and even the dough-nuts are playful---and Baby seems to enjoy it judging by the purr of her engine. Otherwise, the car trip is just the brothers simply riding together. There's no tension. There's no crisis to rush towards. Sure, the Darkness looms out there, but for now Sam and Dean are focused solely on getting there---and they're taking their time to do it. They squabble over smoothies and beer, they share fast food meals. They tease each other playfully. Dean calls Sam “Samuel,” a change up from the usual Sammy. It pushes Sam's buttons just right, and we see Sam retort, “It's Sam.” They pull up at a roadhouse---one that Sam remarks, “Are you serious? Dean it's late, I'm exhausted, and-and starving and this place -- not even Swayze would come to this roadhouse.” Baby is left through the night, almost as if she's standing watch over the place while she waits for them to return.

And yet, as Dean climbs into her driver seat and mutters, “Mistakes were made, mm hmm,” we learn that she's already recorded another memory with Sam. A young woman pops up from the back seat, and it's clear that Sam hadn't simply stuck to research as he told Dean he would. Her name is Piper, which amuses Dean to no end. The one night stand may not be shown, but we can clearly imagine that Baby will always remember that Sam actually was gentlemanly enough to take Piper “home” and put down a blanket across her back seat.

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It's the moments, though, after Piper leaves that imprint deeper on Baby. Dean, teasing his little brother, decides to turn on some Bob Seger. The song can be none other than “Night Moves,” and Sam shakes his head in embarrassment. He grumbles, “Don't 'Night Moves' me.” And yet, despite his protest, we see Sam join in singing the lyrics, changing them to, “Out of the back seat of my brother's '67 Chevy.” The moment is light, easy, and captures just what Baby really is: home.

As long as Baby is there---as long as she can be rebuilt anew---these boys will always have a place of their very own that will allow them to share these kinds of special and quiet moments. Baby may have been just as beaten---if not more so by the end of the “ghoulpire” case---but she still ran---and as long as her engine turns over, she'll always take them onto their next adventure. Much like Sam and Dean, she's a true Winchester. She can be beaten, bruised, dented, bloodied, and smashed---but never ever will she be truly broken. Baby will find a way to rise again and stand with the Winchester brothers when it counts.

Baby also captures some great moments with another key family member---Castiel. He's not physically on screen at any time, but we hear his voice over the phone as he talks to Sam and Dean throughout the case. Left back at the Bunker to heal from the spell Rowena had cast, the angel has turned to research to help the brothers while on the case. He protests that he can join them, but is told by Sam, “Right now is the time for you to focus on getting better. This is just a milk run, we got it. So, try and relax, read a book, watch some Netflix.” There's quiet humor in these exchanges. Castiel doesn't know what Netflix is. When he calls back later, he tells Dean, “I'm mostly confused, I'm not sure how orange correlates with black that is new.”

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The conversation between Castiel and the brothers captures another brilliant layer of this character study. It allows us to see their relationship through new eyes---or the eyes we've longed to see through the most. Baby is a patient witness to their teasing, their playful relationship, and the gentle love between all three. By being there, she's just as much a participant, too.

As Castiel imparts the case facts about the monster they face, Castiel is talking more to Baby than he is Dean. Dean is too busy fighting the monster outside the car. Castiel's voice drones on until he realizes he's not getting a single answer and starts to frantically ask, “Dean, Dean?”

If Baby had been a human character, it is possible to imagine her sighing in exasperation at this point---or laughing quietly at Castiel's reaction.

She's also there for their most vulnerable moments, too. These are the moments Baby must treasure most. In the start, we're shown all the little touches the brothers have added to her frame through the years. The army men in the ash tray, the Legos in the vents---the initials carved into her. These are milestones, memories, and treasured moments that forever scar Baby. It makes her unique---a one of a kind car that fits her one of a kind family. Certainly, when John bought her all those years ago, she was not seen as a family vehicle. All sleek muscle and chrome, this Impala was meant to intimidate.

Instead, she's become the best refuge that the Winchesters could ever ask for.

She is a family car in every sense of the word. It is her silent presence that protects them and she will take the physical abuse as we see here---but it is her quiet acceptance of their inner most secrets that truly makes her home.

Sam, after they leave his one night stand behind opens up about “wanting something more.” Dean points out that they've struck out too many times in the domestic life---that they're landing big “goose eggs” there, but Sam clarifies. He doesn't want normal. He doesn't want that “apple pie” life so much now as he once did. He's come to accept that hunting and saving people and their family business is it for him and that he loves doing it---but perhaps he wouldn't mind someone who “understands the life.”

It's a simple and quiet moment that captures so much about these brothers, how far they've come, what they've had to give up, and yet how much they actually have. They have this car, they have each other, and they have the road ahead of them.

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Later on, when Sam is tired from the long car ride, he crashes in the back seat. While he's sleeping, he falls into a dream. It's worth noting that the dream takes place inside the car. Instead of Dean at the wheel, he's stunned to find their father, John. No, he's not the man Sam remembers last seeing. He's not older and weary from the long decades search for Azazel. Instead, he looks as he did in his youth, around Sam's current age.

The exchange is unusual. Rather than telling Sam that they should be focused on the hunt for the Darkness exclusively, rather than reminding him of his duty to keep up with the “family business,” John tells him, “It looks like Dean's taken good care of this old beast. It looks like he's taken good care of you, too,” and “What you said about relationships, about wanting something more---I never wanted this for you boys---this life---not really.” It's everything Sam has always wanted to hear, the words he wanted his father to say while he was still alive---and most certainly while Sam was growing up. “John” admits to him that he thinks they turned out alright and, “I did my best, anyway, for what it was worth.”

Startled awake, Sam finds his brother has stopped the car for night. Dean quips quietly, “We don't have cable---but we do have room service.”

It is here that Baby records everything into her leather. She captures these brother's vulnerabilities and their bond best in these late night moments. Sam recounts his dream to Dean, letting him know what their “father” relayed to him. He admits openly that he prayed back in the church when he had been infected. Dean bristles, but not in a way that will lead to a fight. It's as if the atmosphere inside Baby has made her a safe space---where they can exchange secrets without becoming defensive or difficult. There's a slight accusatory edge in Dean's voice---but he prods Sam to continue.

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Sam tells him that he's been having visions---that he has since that infection and thinks that this wasn't a simple ordinary dream. Certainly, it started that way with the song their mother loved---the one that John played for them while they were growing up---but it didn't stay that way. Sam remarks, “You said when you saw the Darkness you weren't sure if it was the real thing or a vision, right? I think I've been having visions too, lately. It's just images, I mean more of a feeling, really. But I just had one right now, and-and Dad was in it, but it wasn't Dad like the Dad I grew up with, it was Dad when he was our age, and I guess it wasn't really Dad just someone pretending to be Dad---Anyways who ever it was, they had a message to deliver. They said the Darkness is coming and only you and I can stop it. He said that God helps those who help themselves.”

Dean isn't ready to accept this as some premonition. It's not that he's dismissing Sam or his dream, it's that he doesn't like the idea that it comes from God. To him, God isn't out there. He's left the building and the idea that he would care about them at this point seems ridiculous. He states, “That quote, 'God helps those who help themselves'? God didn't even say that. It's not even in the Bible. That's an old proverb that dates back to Aesop. I read. And more importantly when was the last time God answered any one of our prayers?”

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Instead of dropping the matter of dreams altogether, though, Dean opens up himself---admitting that he dreams about their dad all the time. Baby's refuge allows him to tell Sam his own story. He remarks, “'Course I do. It's usually the same one too, we're all in the car I'm sitting in the driver's seat and Dad's sitting shotgun. But there aren't any shotguns, and there's no monsters, no hunting, there's none of that. It's just he's teaching me how to drive, and I'm not little like I was when actually taught me how to drive, I'm sixteen and he's helping me get my learner's permit. Of course you're in the back seat just begging to take a turn, we pull up to the house -- the family house. I park in the driveway, and he looks over and he says, 'perfect landing son.' I have that dream every couple of months, it's kinda comforting actually.”

It's key that his dream centers around the car, too. Certainly the normal life aspect, the fact that there are no monsters or hunting feeds into a fantasy of Dean's---where perhaps they can finally let go of this burden of saving the world and killing the monsters---but what's more important to note is that it is Baby that features above all else. She is the constant in Dean's life, and he shares this story to show just how prevalent she is. He equates her with being normal, with what should be, and what is good. Their father is crucial for Dean, yes, but it is Baby's participation in the dream that really matters. When all else fails, he can turn to her---know that she'll silently stand with him and Sam.

The conversation between the brothers makes it clear just how special this car truly is to them. Sam replies that he has a similar dream. He says, “I always dream about Mom, usually the same kind of thing though.”

Baby quietly records all of these things, taking them into her frame and holding them precious along with all the other memories they've made over the years inside her. She knows that she was the one that took the blow when the semi crashed into her side. She was the one that took Dean's grief after their father's death. Baby has been there for all their triumphs, too. She was the one that allowed Sam to remember all the memories that she contained---the bond he shared with Dean and the truth of it---after Lucifer took hold. She knows that she's the record keeper for their lives, and she'll do so until the end.

10
As the brothers prepare to return to the Bunker, Dean remarks, “Okay, mom. Let's go home.”

Sam shakes his head and replies, “You know what? We are home.”

The word home is crucial for understanding this episode in relation to the Winchesters and to its meaning to them, certainly, but it also captures what it means for us as the audience. Of all the objects in the show that we relate to, none holds as much value as Baby. She is perhaps---second only to Castiel---the most cos-played character at conventions. More and more fans connect with her sleek beauty on a fundamental basis. They find ways to acquire a model of their own, they restore other '67 Chevy Impalas to glory---complete with weapons cache---and they dream of getting the chance of sitting behind her wheel even once.

As much as this episode captured why Baby is home to the Winchesters, it captured why she is our home, too. We look to her for refuge, even if we can't sit on her bench seat literally. We've been on the road with the Winchesters for eleven seasons now, and we find ourselves sitting in the back seat for the ride in so many ways. It's her low growl, her sweet purr, and her sleek grace that captures us as much as it does Sam and Dean.

This car is so much more than a car. She allows us to see her as a rich symbol for the Supernatural Family we all proudly belong. The conventions, the on-line community, the show itself all find its anchor in this vehicle. There is so much that she represents to us, and this episode captured why she is so vital and important to its fabric. She's more than just that mode of transportation that takes the Winchesters on their adventures---and us with them---she's the vehicle of our own adventures. Where she goes, we go with her. Baby has been the one constant female character that has managed to rise above, to triumph, to come back again and again from being twisted, beaten and bruised. Her frame has been dented, her glass shattered, her leather sliced and diced---and yet in the end, she emerges on the other side to live another day.

Much like her, we remember the story of the Winchesters, too. We remember when Dean stuck a spoon into Sam's mouth as he slept---only to blare the music. We remember that it was Baby Sam used to find his way back to Dean---to put his own soul back together. We remember all the little moments we've seen of them singing---in sad and happy times. It's what makes her the best third character a show could ever have---one that is as complex and as rich in her texture as any speaking human character could ever be.

It has everything to do with the fact that we see so much of ourselves in her frame. We, too, wish to protect the Winchesters. We, too, take the hits when they do. We're just as emotionally battered as they are---and we are willing to go through it all to the end. Baby represents us as much as anything else on this show ever has.

Whenever we're on her bench seat---we're home.
 

 

Comments  

SueB
# SueB 2015-11-02 13:42
[code type="xml"]It has everything to do with the fact that we see so much of ourselves in her frame. We, too, wish to protect the Winchesters. We, too, take the hits when they do. We're just as emotionally battered as they are---and we are willing to go through it all to the end. Baby represents us as much as anything else on this show ever has.

THIS.

It's impossible for me to not anthropomorphiz e Baby. The way the head gets flicked off by the windshield wipers, the door decapitates (again) the bad guy, and she comes back to life after being beaten. I've very glad it didn't have an actual artificial personality as it was perfect just the way it was. I don't think my fondness for Baby could be any higher.

I'm glad you mentioned how Baby got hallucinating Sam back to the real world. That was a key element that I don't recall discussing before. And also how Baby is a 'safe place'. With the two of them in their little "cocoon" in that picture ... *sigh*.... that's such a perfect encapsulation of what Baby is for them.

But .... where's the Green Cooler love?! (J/K) Although the Green Cooler seems like Baby's sidekick to me. It may only carry beers, smoothies and ghoulpire heads, but it does it's job well.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-11-02 20:05
Thanks for the comment.

I'm glad you enjoyed my little love letter back to the episode. It hadn't even occurred to me that they would even think of anthromorphizin g Baby. It just doesn't seem to fit the story.

I may be a bit biased, but I guess I remember Sam having to use Baby to get his soul back together because that is some of my favorite acting from Jared in the series.

And as for the Green Cooler, I already told it on Twitter I loved seeing it in the ep. I can't imagine Baby having any other cooler!

Thanks again.
YellowEyedSam
# YellowEyedSam 2015-11-02 14:32
Quote:
” And yet, despite his protest, we see Sam join in singing the lyrics, changing them to, “Out of the back seat of my brother's '67 Chevy.” The moment is light, easy, and captures just what Baby really is: home.
I had such a big, joyous smile on my face when Sam started to sing. He last did that in S3 and I thought that was a one off (considering Jared doesn't like to sing where as Jensen as we all know loves it). The whole episode left me excited and happy. :)
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-11-02 20:06
Thanks for the comment.

I have to say it was perhaps one of my favorite moments of the episode. That, and the way Sam chided Dean for not having his eyes on the road while they were teasing back and forth. Just awesome all around.

Thanks again.
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2015-11-02 16:38
Thank you for a lovely review of a lovely episode. There wasn't a false note was there? I loved your description of Baby's love for her charges. She has been caring for the Winchesters since they were born. One of my favorite ending scenes in SPN is Baby standing guard outside the motel room where Sam and Dean were celebrating what they thought was their last Christmas together. It was cold and snowing but the Christmas lights were reflecting off her hood and she could watch them smiling and content through the window. You just knew she had their back. Every season ender has had her standing stoically by their side ready to take whichever one of them is left standing back into her care.

She really deserved a whole episode to herself and Robbie Thompson, Thomas J. Wright and Jared and Jensen all did an emmy winning job of telling her story. I loved every minute of it.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-11-02 20:08
Thanks for the comment.

I'm glad that you enjoyed my take on this fantastic episode. It was hard to tackle---not because I didn't love it, but because I may have loved it a bit too much! I wanted to capture it well and I'm glad you think I did. Baby does stand with them stoically (I like that term) just going on the adventure with them and doing her part. It's great that she got an entire episode to share that story with us and let us see ourselves in her. I think it's one reason why Baby is so iconic for us. She's an awesome car, but really it's what she MEANS that makes us love her.

And yes, everyone that put this episode together nailed it.

Thanks again.
spnlit
# spnlit 2015-11-03 13:40
I think it is cool that it was Sam who called Baby "HOME". For Sam home is the car or "Home" is wherever the brothers are themselves, together. Last season I think the most important line that summed up Sam's whole arc for the season was when he told Dean he was here to take Dean HOME. 10.02 Reichenbach
DEAN : "Well, I'm not walking out that door with you. I'm just not. So, what are you gonna do? Are you gonna kill me?"
SAM: "No."
DEAN: "Why? You don't know what I've done. I might have it coming."
SAM: Well, I don't care. Because you are my brother. And I'm here to take you HOME.
And that is exactly what Sam did, he brought his brother back to himself and back to him/ family And how did he do that: By using what is HOME to the boys..... being together.
SAM: Take these. And one day, when you find your way back... (home) Let these be your guide. And they can help you remember what it was to be good...what it was to love.
(Sam looks down and places the two pictures we saw in the opening on the floor. One of Mary Winchester and Dean as a young boy and another of Mary, Dean and Sam as an infant.
Now they are HOME together.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-11-03 17:50
Thanks for the comment.

I like that comparison. I do think that Home is the car for Sam---but more importantly being with Dean is his home. Dean's really become attached to the Bunker as a homebase/home, which makes sense, but I think Sam's always seen any place as being home for him as long as his family is there---especia lly Dean. It makes a lot of sense.

Thanks again.