“The Heroes’ Journey” was certainly an interesting episode. As far as timing goes, it was a dose of levity after so much angst and turmoil. That said, this episode left me with mixed feelings overall in spite of the laughter and effervescent presence of DJ Qualls’ Garth.
Mojo on the Fritz
The driving concept of this episode, aside from a trip to see Garth, was that Sam and Dean have lost that special something that gives them their edge. This results in a myriad of mishaps, including Sam’s repeated klutz attacks, Dean’s dental and intestinal emergencies and even the Impala suffering a breakdown. So, I have a few thoughts on this plot thread.
First, watching the continued chaos of “normalness” being inflicted on Sam and Dean was funny, to a point. The declined credit card and Sam’s inability in the kitchen, catching a cold and developing cavities: these had some fun to them. But we’ve seen this before, and we’ve seen it done better in “Bad Day at Black Rock” when it really was a curse.
There was something too abrupt in the way this unravelled that didn’t allow as much empathetic, authentic humour in the frustration the boys would have been feeling as there could have been. There were still moments of comedy because the physical actions and expressions were funny to be sure, but as a whole it was lackluster. One example of a flat moment, (and this is not a critique of Jared) is the scene of Sam drinking the cayenne medicine and reacting poorly. I don’t know what this was supposed to be, but it wasn’t achieved.
There wasn’t enough time for the boys to wallow in their frustrations at not being able to do what typically came easily. Instead, the story kept moving to the next thing they couldn’t do properly. Contrast that to “Bad Day”. The scene that best illustrates the slow burn of comedy at the characters' expense is Sam, sitting in the middle of the room, when the air conditioner suddenly and for no reason whatsoever, catches fire. As he tries to put it out with the curtain, his arm catches fire, then he manages to knock himself out. There is a moment in here as the A/C dies and begins smoking where Sam is sighing, frustrated and looking at the machine, saying, “come on!” We can feel the exasperation at the ridiculousness of the situation. This was missing from “Heroes’ Journey” – at least for this audience member.
The other element that bothered me, deeply, about the “normal now” storyline was verbalized to an extent by Dean and Sam. If, as Garth suggests, they only could these things because they were the “heroes” of Chuck’s story and now they’re not, what does that even mean? I would be much happier to have this be a curse of bad luck than get behind the idea that their talents do not come from experience, but because they are “written that way”, so to speak.
As Dean said, they’ve been hunters their whole lives – so was Mary, who came from a generation of hunters – and John came from a background of the Men of Letters and was a revered hunter himself. I can accept some added luck that might run out on the whim of Chuck (like credit cards and cavities) but not abilities like picking locks or the Impala, which we know is impeccably cared for, suddenly glitching and breaking down.
Simply put, this felt clumsy to say that Sam and Dean are who they are solely because of Chuck. They didn’t behave like themselves for most of the second half of the episode – I kept waiting for something to happen that would snap everything into focus for them, especially when Sam and Dean were introduced to Cutty and his line to them was:
I want to see your best. I want to see what the Winchesters are capable of. Stripped down, closed in, just you against the world.
This felt like the “aha!” moment – or a lead in to it – where the boys would look at each other, realize who they were, regardless of anything else and power through together. But it didn’t happen that way. Of course, maybe this is foundation for something down the road. This aspect of the story appears to extend into next week, to a degree, so I sincerely hope it will tighten up some explanations regarding the luck versus curse versus “written that way” notions.
The real hero of this week was Garth. As always, Garth is a bright light in the episode – happy and smiling despite the circumstances. We were introduced to Garth’s children in a funny moment: twins Sammy and Castiel.
I was nervous for Garth a lot of this episode. First, I wasn’t 100% certain it was Garth during that dentist segment, which was intercut with Sam writhing on the floor as Bess stepped around him. These behaviours made me wonder if the family had been taken over by Chuck (or someone else). Later, I was sure Garth wouldn’t live as he helped the boys escape. We’ve been taking out friends left, right and centre this season in one capacity or another, so it’s a wonderful relief that not only did Garth survive – he saved Sam and Dean and got to dance with his wife and kids at the end.
Maybe a portent of the future? Fingers crossed.
Bits and Pieces
Okay, let’s talk dance. It was random. It was unexpected. It was AMAZING. I didn’t understand what I was seeing – but I was loving it. This classy little tap number was so surprising in the middle of the episode, but somehow it didn’t throw it off kilter. I don’t know who came up with the idea for that – but it was fun and bolstered “Heroes’” a fair bit.
This episode was a bit odd in it’s action sequencing – in a good way. The opening cage fight was intense, almost cinematic – until the music started. It should have been out of place over such a bloody fight but somehow it worked. The most fun was the reversal of the film, to see Garth get the boys out and dropping the C4 around the building, blowing up the entire arena monsters and all. This had the added bonus of playing the line, “Oh, and boys? Shirts off.” twice, a line that made me laugh out loud.
Though it may read differently, I did enjoy this episode, many laughs and a lot less tension than last week. It had some fun one-liners (Bess’ cousin commenting on Sam’s brow and puppy eye interview technique) and some decent physical comedy too. Not to mention a sweet little dance number. Then again, if we compare it to “Bad Day”, I know who wins that battle. On the other hand, as it slots into the overall season I am hesitant to give praises until I better understand what we are really saying about this “normalness” versus “luck” thing.
Garth is alive, happy and well and the boys are off to Alaska. So time will tell how this plays out, but for now I’m not unhappy.
What did you think? Was anyone else disappointed the boys didn’t fight (shirtless!) in the monster ring? Are the lock picking skills theirs by rights? I mean, cavities fine, but don’t take away the integrity of their hunting talents!
Share your thoughts below.
Read more of Elle's "Thoughts on Supernatural'! Her reviews and other articles are all linked on her Writer's Page.