OMG, OMG, OMG, was that...character development? Am I actually feeling...warm fuzzies? Did Sam and Dean actually have something good happen to them? My Chuck, what just happened here and why am I so flipping happy?
I keep digging back long and hard, trying to remember when at the end of a "Supernatural" episode I felt so cheery. "Fresh Blood" in season three comes to mind, as does the episode that followed, "A Very Supernatural Christmas." "Monster Movie," another Edlund contribution, comes to mind as well. After that, I got nothing.
It's not that I haven't felt good after "Supernatural" episodes. I mean the warrior ending from two weeks ago was positively epic and goes down as one of the best endings ever. I'm not talking about thrilled, shocked, scared, emotionally wrecked, ecstatic, etc. What I'm talking about is happy. Warm fuzzies on this show since season four is just about as elusive as those damn tablets.
Characterization has been my number one complaint with the writing of this show for three seasons now. It's seemed that these newer crop of writers try so hard to do things the way the brothers stereotypically are that the heart of their stories end up missing. Ben Edlund, even in his lesser scripts, always manages to get the brothers right, both together and individually. In this episode, which is not one of his lesser scripts by far, he managed to advance both Sam and Dean what seems like light years, or at least farther along than any other time this season, and he did it by blending it all in impeccably into the story. He didn't do any fancy speeches or overwrought dramatic tricks. He just did the one thing we've been DYING to see for seasons. He gave the brothers a break.
This week, Ben was reunited with Phil Sgriccia, who has been off with Eric Kripke doing "Revolution" and hasn't directed a "Supernatural" episode all season. Phil's trademark to this show is undeniable, and I knew it was him the second the first scene was shown. You see, Ben and Phil are from the old days, and remember what a thing called "heart" was like in storytelling. Also deserving high kudos, Jerry Wanek and team, who really, really outdid themselves with the latest set. I can't wait to see the other rooms, like that amazing shower that Dean enjoyed. I feel like we've all been dipped in magic waters (okay, perhaps I'm getting a bit too dramatic).
I already knew this episode was going to be different when I read "Nazi Necromancers" in the synopsis, as well as a Nazi bashing Golem. Chatting with Ben Edlund earlier this week reinforced that. Through this hat tipping to Inglourious Basterds, a couple sacred "Supernatural" themes were revisited - family and legacy. Remember, this is after all a family business. Just because they are now embracing another part of the family history, it doesn't mean that the main theme has changed.
This episode is a Sam fan's dream. Not only do we see him finally find his place in this world, spending weeks pouring through all the Men of Letters research looking like a kid at Christmas, but he got to wear a tweed jacket and sweater vest? Play research geek at the library, which isn't much of a stretch since he is one? Then, on top of that whole nerdy smart guy look, his hair was positively smoking? Okay, I know I'm sounding like a hormonally charged middle aged woman, but I'll just call out the costume and hair department. They started it! Isn't it amazing what can happen when at least one of them isn't playing an FBI agent (that's still old!). Plus, Sam was the one that got to say "Son of a bitch" this week. Honestly, has that ever happened? He also figured out that the Rabbi left a library of congress number. Oh, the theme was obvious. Adorable yet sexy dorks rule!
Dean had his chance to shine too though. He may not have been buying into the whole Men of Letters thing, thinking they were doing just fine without it, but at least he figured out quickly how to enjoy a hot shower and a comfy robe! He didn't seem to care when Sam asked if he was going to take off the dead guy's robe. But the really funny happened when Dean had a gay encounter, and was strangely flattered by it! Flustered, but flattered. He almost seemed disappointed when he found out it was a fake gay thing. I just love Sam's reaction when Dean said "He was my gay thing." On top of all that though, Dean delivered my favorite line, "Well, now we know; paper beats Golem, fire beats undead Nazi Zombie freaks." In a very close second, he makes a reference to my favorite "Saturday Night Live" sketch as a kid. "How do we 'Oh, No! Mr. Bill' over there?" For those that don't get the reference, Mr. Bill was a clay figure that kept getting squashed in these short films. Every time this happened, the tagline would be "Oh No!"
Everything came together in this episode. Notice how this week we got continuity, not shoutouts? All it took was a few sentences of Dean coming back and filling us in on where things stand. Castiel won't answer (remember him?), Garth says Hi, Kevin is still carrying on with the tablet. Notice how there wasn't a single "You've been Garthed" in there? I love mature writing, don't you?
For once, the parallel between a brother and the person of the week wasn't heavy handed. It was perfect because their situations were relevant despite their differences. Aaron grew up hearing about the Judah Initiative from his grandfather, but he just thought he was a crazy old man. He hadn't experienced the family tragedies and the hunter's secrets when he was young. His parents thought it was all crazy talk too, or at least did that to protect Aaron. It's funny how reluctant heroes are often the slackers that are forced into something like this. Maybe that's why I loved Aaron so much. It's clear he has so much to learn, but he choose at the end to take on that responsibility knowing the Thule, which are a threat to his people, are still out there. Plus he's got a seven foot Golem to take care of because there's no one else. To think, this is the same guy that smoked his Golem users manual in college because it had perfect paper for rolling. Yes, that kind of absurdity screams Edlund.
On the other side is Sam. It's no accident that the focus was on his lit up face when Dean turned on the lights. It's like he's been searching for this place is whole life. Seeing him so engrossed in those books, lost in geek Heaven, embracing the legacy that was left on him, it was quite inspirational. He looked like a man that had just found Jesus. After hearing Aaron's story about his grandfather, it's Sam that's willing to associate him and Dean with the Men of Letters. I adore how he got the Golem's trust by saying their grandfather was from the Men of Letters. He remembered they were good to the Judah Initiative, and it prevented him from cracking Sam and Dean's skulls.
The story had so many things - Funny, exciting, ass kicking, and some of the most interesting and creative mythology. The fascinating thing is the Thule Society was a real group. The fact that Sam and Dean are breaking their way into this unknown world of secret societies really pushes things into exciting new places. I'm also thrilled to pieces that Aaron's grandfather was so brilliantly played by Hal Linden! His part was short, but so wonderful. It does seem natural that spontaneous combustion would be a tool when fighting Nazi Necromancers. Another great benefit of fighting Nazi Necromancers is when you kill one they have to be burned within twelve hours. Kudos to Sam for taking advantage of a cold winter evening by keeping his hands warm over a nice Nazi corpse fire. No wonder Aaron thought they were psychopaths. I won't even get into how both Sam and Dean didn't hesitate in blowing the Nazis' head off. Brad Pitt would be proud.
I know I positively freaked after Sam was attacked by the dead Nazi with the dart. He started turning all purple and pale! Same with Aaron, and poor Dean there left to figure out what to do as they both turned dead. Send in the Golem! The dart hits the Golem, but he's not deterred. He just reaches through the books and smacks the living s*** of the Nazi! Then he drags him down the stairs. "Long live the Thule," the battered Nazi says, just before his neck is broken by the Golem. "Or not," Dean quips. I love how scary and funny blend together so seamlessly.
What I liked the most about this massive Golem, other than any creature that towers over Sam is a true anomaly, is how deep his convictions ran. He was true to his religion and the traditions he was trying to protect. He tried to keep Aaron in line with those beliefs. That added some layers to a creature that is stereotypically a giant bruiser made of clay. I'm with Edlund though, this guy's voice did sound like a church bell rolling down hill. He was perfect.
The best part of this episode obviously is the closing scene. We've been dying for a while now for a solid, honest, brotherly moment and this goes down as one of the best. Sam gets to make his contribution to the vast library, adding the copies of the Thule journal. While doing this with enthusiasm, Dean sees the writing on the wall. Sam wants to be a Man of Letters. "Good." He puts away the beers and pours them some fine scotch instead. This is a new dawn, and they aren't marking this moment with the cheap stuff. Sam doesn't say a word but his face says it all. Yes, this is what he is now. It fits. The shot closes out with both of them drinking together at the table, getting cozy in their new home. Cue me, the inner fan girl squealing, smiling so wide my cheeks are hurting. I'm still smiling!
I've already read fan concern that this show will start taking plots where Sam stays behind working the bat cave while Dean, with possibly Castiel, goes out and does the hunts. Did that happen in this case? No, Sam found a lead and both he and Dean took off to Eastern Pennsylvania (from Lebanon, Kansas) to check it out. If Sam's current quest is information, then he needs to be out in the field too. Plus he knows that he has to be there to have his brother's back.
As for Dean, the end said it all. Dean isn't ready, and may never be, to take on the role of supernatural librarian and man of knowledge, but he found value in Sam accepting that role. This outdated info did help them in a case. But most important, this role is making Sam happy. Dean hasn't seen Sam this happy in a very long time. As long as Sam's happy, he is too, thus the approval at the end, complete with toast.
Don't think that Dean will leave all the researching up to Sam though. No doubt he'll be digging through these books and documents at times as well. In the meantime, Dean is perfectly content having a nice place to call home. They've been quite lost since Bobby's house burned down, and having a home base is good. It's always nice to have something to come back to, especially a place with a family connection. My only disappointment (and it's minor) is we didn't get to see the rest of the place, like where they're sleeping. I'm sure that will come in time.
Think about it, the Men of Letters were organizers too, and a support group to various people and societies. Sam and Dean have a network right now, but it's not coordinated. Garth has been trying to get things together on the hunting end, so that makes him a valuable contact right now. Sam and Dean also have access to a heavenly prophet, and an angel too. Heck, if Meg ever surfaces, they might even have a demon ally. They're actually in the position to expand the network farther than the Men of Letters possibly could. Sam and Dean have always been the nerve center if you think about it, so now there's a place to go along with that. As Sam so eloquently observed, they could use a break.
It's a brave new world, and the lowest levels are currently being driven by Sam, Aaron, and Garth. These guys are hardly in command and only getting started in what will be their lifelong quests, but they're connected, and they're not alone, even if they are last descendants of their groups. They're all carrying on family legacies of hope, even Garth, who saw Bobby as a father figure and felt compelled to carry on his work. Luckily Sam has Dean as his reliable (and equal) partner that helps pull everything together, and Aaron has his Golem. On the other side Kevin and Castiel are doing their parts too, and I sense when it all comes together, it's going to be something spectacular.
Oh, but I hear the purists, "This show is about Sam and Dean out there together, hunting." No, it was about that in season one. It hasn't been that way ever since the special children were introduced. As more beings were introduced into their universe, the more profound and complex things got. Their simple ways are long done, so it's nice to finally see something come of all that rather than Sam and Dean floundering with no resources, like last season.
I'm giving "Everybody Hates Hitler" a big A, and it earns the title of my personal favorite of the season. I'm still smiling!
(P.S. For those looking for Screencaps for this episode, they're up in our Photo Gallery.)