There is simply too much to talk about in depth in this episode - nearly every shot was a unique angle and a new perspective. In particular, the angles set in familiar locations with new twists: watching the sponge bath with discussions of a hunt in the garage. The boys are going stir crazy sitting in the bunker and any whisper (pun intended) of a case is a good enough reason to head out.
This episode was all about the Winchesters and the Impala: even Cas was only an occasional voice over the phone. We hit some old landmarks from the memories and while Dean was doing.... who knows what...Sam was playing with Piper in the back seat.
And much as she's done in the past, the Impala was collecting bits and pieces that would be handy, to say the least, later on. Serious fun was the theme of the week as we watch the boys fit in some relaxation – overdue by who knows how long - and fit in some important talk time between them as well, about all manner of good things. Witnessing what the Winchester boys do in between and on the way to gigs – besides argue about music and what to eat – was a great treat. We were even privileged to a bitch-jerk repartee.
The Darkness Connections
Enroute to the hunt, Sam gets a visit from young John Winchester while he rides shotgun. Somehow it seems this is connected to his prayer for a sign back in the hospital. The John-faced entity warns Sam that the Darkness is coming and only Sam and Dean can stop it. Oddly, this isn't headline news. However, he also adds that "God helps those who help themselves” and it's this that grabs Sam's attention on waking. From this dream, Sam is prompted to confess to Dean about being infected back at the hospital and that it led him to pray for God's help.
Sam revealed that he often dreams about his mom in a 'normal life' capacity after Dean confesses to dreaming about John teaching him to drive as a teenager, rather than a young boy like he actually did; on a semi-regular basis.
So, who was wearing John's face? So many people are possible at this juncture, really. However, when combined with the vision of Sam in what appeared to be Hell's cage, and the comments from Crowley's lieutenant about someone in the cage going crazy when the Darkness was released? I have to lean toward Michael or Lucifer somehow. Michael has certainly adopted John's visage before for communication and, in all likelihood, he would have been around for the initial sealing away of the Darkness such to understand the threat she poses. Time will tell.
Visuals & Moments
Unquestionably, the episode continued the lighter atmosphere from last week - Sam and Dean enjoying women, music, food: a road trip if ever there was. I know I've said it before, but I'm saying it again anyways; the feeling of the old days of Supernatural was permeating 11.04 in the best of ways even as it adopted a fresh perspective on storytelling itself. There is a mess to be cleaned up, no question, the Darkness looms as an ever-bearing threat that even has the monsters scrambling, but still Sam and Dean are feeling more early-days Winchester than depression days Winchester with lacking sleep and over-consumption of boos and a desperate drive to fix the world and/or each other. This is better, isn't it?
Dean and Sam finally had a conversation about Sam's infection, which at last confirms for the audience that Dean hadn't been informed Sam was sick until this point. The conversation reveals a few ideas. One, that Dean and Sam maybe have discussed his 'visions' of the Darkness since the initial encounter in the field. Two, neither of the boys appear to be falling into their usual pattern of outrage over deceit or misinformation with one another – this is a positive improvement. Dean was upset but not outraged by learning of Sam’s infection as he may have been previously. Similar to last week when Rowena wasn’t able to provoke the brothers into an argument with one another. New patterns making for smoother partnerships.
Let's talk visuals: the idea in shooting this episode was that the viewer would feel like they were riding along with the Winchester boys on this cross-country trip. At least, that's what I'd heard in one interview about this particular episode. Hands up if you feel that feeling was successfully accomplished? For the space available, there are a surprising number of angles from which to shoot and ways to tell the story without the motion-sick handheld camera feeling. The story was well communicated at all levels, leaving out the sense of over-exposition for the sake of the audience and the circumstances and it was even fun to know things the brothers didn't know that weren't lethal (sorry Dean). Somehow - as it so often does - Supernatural accomplished the artistic storytelling without sacrificing the actual story. And in doing so, we were privileged with some beautiful shots and/or moments along the trip, including:
The Lego and initials carved into the Impala - the sentiment of these just subtle reminders of how important Baby is in the grand scheme
The overhead of the boys stretching out to go to bed
Sam and Dean singing along with the tape track - how long ago was it that we last saw a moment like this?
We even learned about a song that John used to play the boys because it was one of Mary's favourites - a rare moment of sentimentality in all the rough and tumble and militant training.
Monster of the Week
Whispers or Ghoulpires? Ridiculous, creepy and a bit fun too. What is more insane - a Whisper or a half-vampire/ghoul? Since we didn't get to see the Whisper (and I've seen Underworld) I think of the two, the curable half-ghoul is most insane baddie. There was a little ridiculousness here, true enough, but the bottom line is that the monsters are scared enough to be breeding in extremes. The Vamp-Ghouls made three in a 100-year stretch and sixteen since the release of the Darkness: it speaks to the level of deep fear the monsters have and Dean thinks it's a good thing. Possibly, except where they start creating situations like this one, Dean.
There are so many great moments throughout this episode, be they visual, verbal or some combination thereof. Of those here were a few of my highlight funny moments - something else the episode was rich in:
"Spider caught a fly"
Sam in background getting change/lookng for pennies while Dean's fighting ghouls
Dean's apology to Baby
A unique and fresh perspective on a relatively traditional MOTW plot that's been told many times before. This time, we were privy to details and a host of nuanced elements we often aren't aware of that enriched the episode brightly - like the girls’ joy-riding in the Impala. It was also interesting to get some new information, for whatever it's worth, about the Darkness and a sort-of visit from the nameless but apparently helpful entity. Curiosity is definitely piqued. Excellent brother-bonding road trip episode and worth at least another watch - if not two.
Thoughts? Are we curious to see a Whisper on the show? Who is responsible for Sam’s visions? Is it residue infection or a manipulation of the Darkness? Theorize in the comments!