Like much of season 12 to date, there is a pleasant classic flavour to Asa Fox without sacrificing original, fresh storytelling along the way. Asa is another character-heady tale, with strong writing and unique insights into the hunter community, all the while bringing together a resilient collection of mother-figures around the Winchesters.
So how does it all shake down in the end? Let’s take a look!
Characters, Characters, Everywhere
This episode was so full of rich characters it is impossible to touch on everything adequately. So let’s keep this brief and sweet: each of our hunters were unique and new from hunters we’ve met in the past. While hunters have a social form about them born of traipsing through backwoods and slaughtering demons in unseemly circumstances, no doubt, everyone we met through Asa was individual and, unlike some others we have met before, wasn’t a caricature – a few would even be fun to meet again.
The Wiccan Twins, for example, were a great pair: a rare set of non-evil witches with an excellent appreciation for social do’s and don’ts – even within the crazy world of the supernatural. It could be worthwhile to explore these two further in the future, particularly with the sibling hunter dynamic, since they had limited screen time to expand and offered some great characterization throughout the episode.
Yes, each among the hunter collection brought something interesting: from the odd stalker-esque fan worship of Sam (which was equally funny and creepy) to the wendigo legend to Lorraine Fox. Here’s hoping it’s not the last we see of Asa’s inner circle.
Asa Fox – Man, Myth and More
As a character, we didn’t spend much time directly with Asa, instead learning about him from friends, family, legends and referential storytelling at his wake. However, through the opening moments, we meet a young Asa, saved by new mother and retiring hunter Mary Winchester in 1980 and thereafter inspired to be a hunter in Canada (finally!). This was a fun montage of learning, research, growth and even postcard “hunter journals” written to Mary over the years. Like Dean, Asa even has an unwavering devotion to his Jeep despite persistent mechanical trouble (later revealed to be the result of his mother’s sabotage).
What was particularly special about Asa’s story was that Asa did not find hunting as the result of a tragic, traumatic loss – rather, he was saved by a superhero and seemed to have an abiding passion for the life without the dark burden that so many hunters start with. Shaine Jones communicated this exceptionally well considering the brief dialogue afforded the character, Asa was joyful in every hunting engagement – and it made the abrupt hanging end that much more startling.
The Demon Jael
Once again, the villain was a background arc – meant to facilitate the plot rather than be the focus of it. This isn’t a criticism – simply commentary. Often these storylines work when the characters have something to address – as they did here. Fortunately, though it was teased, our seasoned hunters did not fall down the cliché rabbit hole of classic demon manipulations of “kill her, she’s possessed!” that was so obviously not Jodi. The old fear-mongering plot could have gone down a bad road if given improper fuel. Instead we were given the treat of both the reveal of the inner secrets – which was appropriately done as more hurtful and less overdramatic – and the group exorcism.
The exposure of Bucky as the killer inspired a mix of feelings initially; though the scene itself was excellent – both Kim Rhodes and Kara Royster played the demon well – it was the notion of the Bucky killing Asa in a push-fight of all things that seemed, at first glance, almost ridiculously simple. On review though maybe it was more suited to the storyline overall, as it was about relationships on whole: Sam and Dean speculate early in the episode about the time and manner of their demise, referencing Asa dying the hunter’s death. This of course proves untrue ultimately. Supernatural makes wonderful commentary about monsters, both magical and human, and in this case is perhaps a reflection on neither – is Bucky a monster in any sense? Not really – but about life happening regardless of who, what, where or when since in the end, it wasn’t the life that got Asa rather human impulsiveness and emotion.
A lesson all Winchesters could stand to be reminded of from time to time.
Jodi Hearts Asa
While I hemmed and hawed about Asa’s actual cause of death, I ultimately accept it was okay and suitable to the story about hunting, humans, monsters and death. The one part of 12.06 this review cannot reconcile? The Jodi/Asa love story. Small but significant, this feels wildly disproportionate while watching and somehow, I cannot resolve the conflict.
As the story goes, “Fox Mulder” met Jodi on a hunt, approximately six months ago, and the two dated over that period. So far, so good. Later there is an implication of an intense relationship/emotions with a view to a future – at least on Jodi’s part, and given her lifestyle (2 teens, full, time-demanding job, occasional hunt), his own “hobby” plus the distance, I wonder about the development of this relationship in the given time period with that level of intensity. Especially since…well, it seems an unnecessary embellishment that sort of interrupted the story flow at times, making me pause and go, “Wait, what?”
This is no critique of Kim’s acting – I believed Jodi was crushed by Asa’s demise – I just wondered why. Perhaps only there to have the boys recognize Jodi’s sadness and have them go to Asa’s wake too, it is a small thing – and this reviewer’s one tiny critique of an otherwise solid episode!
Mother to Mother to Sons
The boys’ dynamics with Mary are interesting to watch – and their exchanges with one another in proximity to mom too. Sam is just happy to have her there, recognizes her need to be away and accepts this for what it is, with no past relationship with “mom” to base current expectations on. Curiously though, he does exhibit some mothering of Dean – things we’ve seen Dean do with Sam in the past – feeding him his favourite comfort foods, encouraging talking but telling Mary to leave him be and give him space.
Jodi has a great reaction to Mary, encompassing everything from confusion, stunned, excitement and awkwardness:
“Mom. Wait, m-- Your mom? I thought -- I thought you were...Wow. W-wow! It is so nice to meet you! Wow! I'm gonna...I'm j-- I'm gonna give you guys some, um, some family time.”
And when she finally got to speak one on one with Mary, she maybe wasn’t as blunt as some of us would like to be (you know, stop moping and appreciate your sons!) but, as respectfully as possible, Jodi let Mary know truths about Sam and Dean:
“I don't know what's going on between you and your boys, but I gotta tell you, mom to mom... they are good men. Best I've ever me”
Fulfilling her motherly quota for the week, Jodi also acknowledged Dean’s turmoil and left room to talk without pushing too hard:
“Look, maybe this isn't my place, and this is epic stuff, but, you know... if I could have my son and my husband back? I mean.... really back, I would give anything, absolutely anything, to have that. And it would scare the hell out of me. Yeah? Yeah. 'Cause what if I've changed? What if they changed? What if it just didn't work out the way I wanted? If you wanna talk about anything, absolutely anything, I'm here.”
Thus, the Sheriff managed to succeed where, try as he might, little bro has not managed to make headway recently – after all, in the end, Dean offered to buy breakfast and it ended with the Winchesters heading to find bacon!
For Dean, he could have been written extraordinarily more petulant when it comes to his interactions with mom. And certainly, that air has bled through from time to time, but the omnipresent feeling is hurt blanketed with angry. And, as Jodi acknowledged, probably fear too.
Jodi, Mary, Lorraine Fox, even Ellen had a mention - there was a strong impact by mother figures felt from start to finish of 12.06. With Mary’s rescue of Asa to the final exchange between Mary, Sam and Dean, mothers were and unquestionable thread in Asa Fox. Lorraine resents Mary on first meeting, for the introduction to the hunter life but by the end, she discovered her grandchildren – only because of that hunter lifestyle. Yes, mothers abound throughout the story in one form or another, impacting not only children but each other.
Death’s Helping Hand
Another strong feminine tough, Billie the Reaper made a brief, though significant, appearance to facilitate getting Dean back into the Asa’s warded mansion and, ultimately, make (in a heavily foreshadowing kind of way) offer to Mary that she could refuse, for the moment.
It seems clear somehow, someday, this will come to fruition – the tease here makes us all wonder when and how and the impact it will leave on Sam and Dean. To lose mom again, now knowing the pain she’s in by staying with them. So, who is suffering worse then? Will she be by staying, will they when they lose her? Anyone having flashbacks to BTVS?
“I was happy…I was finished. Complete…Everything here is hard and bright and violent…Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that. Knowing what I’ve lost.”
-(Buffy, 6.03 - After Life)
Strong episode with well-conceived characters from the not-evil wiccans to the remorsefully murderous Bucky to the grieving mama Fox, Asa was all about people, their connections, their needs and the impacts of these relationships: as humans, not hunters. It was well delivered and beautifully buttoned with tentative, but genuine family connections through both Asa’s mother and her newfound grandchildren to Mary, Sam and Dean finally reconnecting.
Next week is back to big plot business and our favourite new dynamic duo too. Fun abounds!
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