Who loves the idea of time travel? I do! The possibilities are endless as I contemplate where and when I would like to go if I had a time machine. Sam and Dean are no strangers to this phenomenon. This time around, Sam and Dean are not going anywhere (anywhen?), but are being visited by a man from the past that they didn’t even know that they needed.
The Road So Far
The boys are hunting a fairy creature that is being commanded to kill when they run into Charlie, aka “The Queen of Moondoor.” After setting the captured fairy free and having some fun on the LARPer’s battlefield, the boys go on their way.
It’s 1958 in Normal, Illinois as Henry Winchester says goodbye to his young son, John. Henry is going to work, but he’s not just an average father. His workplace is soon under siege by a very dangerous demon and Henry must save a mysterious box by going through a portal that he created with a spell.
The portal leads to the motel room where Sam and Dean are staying. After some handcuffing, window breaking, a little interrogating, and a scuffle with the demon who appears through the same portal, the boys learn that they are dealing with their own grandfather.
As Henry tries to explain that he is a Man of Letters and what that means, Sam and Dean try to understand what the revelations about their grandfather’s life and disappearance meant for their family. Hostility exists on both sides as Henry tries to understand why his grandchildren became hunters and the boys are given a glimpse of a past that they never knew anything about.
After finding the last living Man of Letters (or not), blood is spilled as Abaddon, their demon foe, catches up with them. After some hostage taking and a neat trick with a bullet, Abaddon is captured, but Henry tragically dies – never to return to his young family. Sam and Dean get a special gift from him first, though. They get a key that will open the Men of Letters’ headquarters, which is the repository of all the group's knowledge and the safest place on earth, protected from all evil. (Hey, no snickering from the peanut gallery.)
Now, I’ve read some of the complaints about this episode, but I still just love it. The introduction of Henry, as played by Gil McKinney, is pretty darn sweet. It’s very intriguing to find out who Henry was and what he did in the past. Josie Sands/Abaddon, played by Alaina Huffman, is also such a great character. There have been many demons on our show and Abaddon is one of the best (in an evil sort of way). Yes, it’s true that Dean gets to be the tough guy (again), have most of the conversations with Henry, and must save his poor giant baby brother (again), but I don’t care - I just love the rest of the story. I also don't worry about Abaddon not seeming to care about Sam’s history with demons, Lucifer’s fate, or that whole apocalypse thing, because I’m just not that analytical. Those things don’t even occur to me when I am watching; I just enjoy the characters and the fast-moving, diverting plot.
This episode is fun and I’m not going to let some small quibbles get in my way of enjoying it. I do love reading everyone’s deep analysis of this episode and agree with some of the complaints, but the goodness that happens here far outweighs any missing points, for me. I would’ve liked Sam to talk to Henry more, but I still enjoy watching Sam play interference between Dean and Henry. I particularly enjoy the dining scene when Sam must say, “That’s Dean,” when Dean wouldn’t open his mouth except to eat. Yes, Dean is being overly hostile, but that’s Dean. I see him as being in overprotective mode and looking for someone to blame for the troubles in his family. I’m sure that Dean is acting irrationally as he’s blaming Henry for putting his work above his family, but maybe a lot of that anger is misguided and self-directed? Is he blaming his father and himself for putting their very dangerous work before their family? I just assume that Dean is doing some venting and leave it at that. After all, it’s been a heck of a season so far. Dean (and many viewers, including me) are just getting over the mess and heartache of the previous months. He’s trying, though, and maybe overcompensating. Furthermore, I see Sam as being on Dean’s side, so he’s not going to get all buddy-buddy with Henry right away. He probably thought that he would have more time to talk with Henry and get to know more about the family’s Men of Letters heritage. Alas, no.
Anyway, let’s leave the mess that was the first half of season eight behind us, shall we? (Amelia & Company...grumble, grumble.) Let’s just appreciate that some of the best episodes of the series are ahead of us. It’s all smooth sailing from here, kind of.
I love the moment when Henry appears in the boys' motel room. The shock on Sam and Dean’s faces and their reactions are a hoot. It’s fun to see the boys try to restrain Henry, only to wind up handcuffed themselves. The reveals of Henry’s background and all that it means for our brothers, is very intriuging. I get tingles at the thought of all the new directions that the show can now take. It’s also great fun to meet Abaddon, who is a gorgeous and a truly formidable foe.
Here are some sleepy-time brothers, just for fun. You're welcome.
The plot marches along - through clue finding, comic store girl fun, Sam’s unconsciousness (always a fan), Dean’s brotherly rescue (ditto), and the bittersweet ending which was the only one possible. Yes, it would have been nice for Henry to not die and to make it back home, but that’s not the story that we are watching. There's not a lot of time for family bonding with Sam being captured and Dean being extra cranky, but at least there is a sweet scene at the end when Henry is passing away and at least a few nice words are spoken between Henry and his grandsons. The future was not what Henry had hoped it would be and his desendants didn't get to be Men of Letters in the way that he knew it, but he did see that they were darn fine men, anyway. Is it just me, or does the picture below look like they are getting married in some strange way? Moving on.
Things are what they are and that must be dealt with. What’s done is done, the past shouldn’t be changed, no matter how much we might wish it to be. Don’t mess with time, folks. Time will mess with you right back.
I’ve already written about Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, which includes time travel, and also 12 Monkeys and Timeless. They are worth checking out and here are a few more:
Random Time Travel Tales (Not time looping – that’s a different thing)
Back to the Future (1985) – I saw this in a drive-in (have your parents tell you what that is) the first time I watched it. The sound was bad and the picture wasn’t great, so I really wasn’t too impressed. This movie and its sequels, though, were a blast as I watched them, again and again. The charms of Michael J. Fox and his co-stars are really what make these films so fabulous.
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) - This film has some flaws including some bizarre acting choices from Nicolas Cage, but Kathleen Turner is wonderful as a woman who gets a second chance to make different choices in her life. The musical score is beautiful as Peggy Sue realizes that she can't change her past without giving up the future that she remembers. I would really like to go back in time to tell my younger self some things that she desperately needed to know, but the consequences of living in a different future might be worse than just dealing with things now. Who would take the chance of erasing your kids and every future experience from existence? Heavy stuff, man.
Oxford Time Travel Series (1992-2010) by Connie Willis – This series, which includes Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout, and All Clear is an intense, yet funny, set of stories. The prose is a little dry, but the tales are great fun. I enjoyed following the characters back in time and the details are amazing. These time traveling historians get to go study events as they happened and I enjoyed tagging along.
Doctor Who (2005- ) – I really didn’t know that much about this show when the revival of the series was announced. I’d vaguely heard of it, but had no idea how much fun was really to be had. I liked the first Doctor I met, loved the next one, and adored the next (Matt Smith...come ba-a-ack, sobbing). I can’t watch the Doctor (he who shall not be named) after that, though. He just wasn't my doctor. He’s gone, (yahoo!) so I’m there for the new series.
The Time Traveler's Wife (2003) by Audrey Niffenegger – I love this novel that is told through multiple characters including Henry who involuntarily travels through time. I just loved Henry and his family who must cope with life with someone who just can’t stay put, no matter how much they might want to.
A Shortcut in Time (2003) by Charles Dickinson – I’ve read this book many times over and it just resonates with me, somehow. I get so involved in the story of an average family man who discovers a way to travel into the past. It gets complicated when a girl arrives from 1908 and Josh takes too many trips into the future. How do you predict what your life is going to be in the future if you disturb the past? Josh might just be finding out that the cost is too great in this engrossing tale.
Harbinger (2009) by Jack Skillingstead – Ellis doesn’t time travel via a time machine, he was just made immortal by mysterious forces. He does, though, live for centuries while he mourns the loss of his family and those that he loves. This novel is complicated and mind-blowing, but Ellis is such a lovely narrator, that I just love sharing his often bizarre experiences with him. Fascinating reading.
The Forever War (1974) by Joe Haldeman - This story features characters that also don’t have a time machine, well…not really. They do have spaceships, though, so they get to experience time differently than the rest of us. Just imagine coming back for leave on Earth and many years have passed, each time. This book is extraordinary and I love William Mandella and his love, Marygay, to pieces. What a funny, exciting, and sweet story. The movie version has been in limbo Hell for years. Drat.
Legends of Tomorrow, Continuum, Travelers, Sliders, Quantum Leap…oh my gosh, I could go on and on. Maybe it’s time to hear from you what time travel stories float your boat. From Planet of the Apes to The Terminator – the variety is immense and wonderful. It's a surety that time travel will be a popular storytelling device for years to come.
Bye for now,