“Fighting the battle between good and evil isn't easy, especially when the first monster you have to face is the one inside yourself.”
I’m a bit torn about “Masters of War." I get the intent of the story, but I’m not entirely sold on the execution. On the plus side, this was one intense and very realistic character study of veterans post wartime. On the negative side, this was a really sloppy monster of the week story. So, how do I reconcile the two parts? The way I always do, by breaking it down.
Let me start with the bad. What a clunky mess of a story. It reminded me of the later years of Supernatural, aka the cobbled together with duct tape and chicken wire years. Because the flow of the story was so jagged and uneven, it did distract me from the finer character nuances that were the strength of this episode. What distracted me? How about the God costume that looked like it was bought at Spirit Halloween? That was the very first scene! I know this show is low budget but sheesh.
The biggest one for me, and Nate hit this so well in his review, was that the motives of a lame monster of the week were a bit fuzzy. So, how would have John become this guy’s disciple and join him in the fight for the Akrida? The others weren’t worthy of his test but he saw something special in John, so he tries to kill him? Is this something like Sam and Yellow Eyes? Why did Jimmy find it necessary to fake his own death? Why was Carlos captured by Jimmy the Mars Neto but not killed? To be a trigger for John with that silly mine scenario? It would have been way cooler if Carlos joined the fight. Also, this God is 9000 years old but his invincibility is tied to an amphora that’s easily breakable? Someone should have surely chipped it by now, especially if he was keeping it in such a flimsy ceiling. Millie just smashing it to the ground seemed like a real quick fix, but her son’s life was at stake, so that act was understandable, I guess, if not dumb luck.
Also, what was that about the investigative reporter traveling the country following the killing of Veterans? So the Scooby Gang just invalidated all his work by killing the monster in one day by breaking a 9000 year old vase? Oh, and he just happens to be Mary’s movie friend? He is so a demon. He better be in future episodes or this guy’s existence is a waste.
Speaking of Mary, this episode was a massive wasted opportunity. Where was the emotional writing, the cues that the task of clearing out Maggie’s room was killing her inside? She was reluctant, then prodded, then she was cleaning it. One of the biggest shortfalls of The Winchesters so far has been the characterization of Mary and her not being a sympathetic character. This episode did her no favors. I did love the Donny Osmond poster in Maggie’s room, but that frame was a bit ornate for a pop idol, don’t you think? In my young days, the teen idol poster was push-pinned to the wall sans frame. I know, it was the little things in this episode just bugged me. It took away from the story.
Once I get beyond the head scratching plot details though, this story dug deep into Carlos’ and John’s backstory. I’m fascinated that Carlos was in the Navy and joined to avoid jail time. That is a story about the Vietnam War that wasn’t widely told, what they did when hippies were busted for using recreational drugs. Carlos thought they were okay and felt they could handle this case, until they had to actually talk about the War to get the access they needed. That had a greater impact than they thought. Carlos admitting to John that talking about it actually helped and they found a therapist they could trust was a huge step forward. They had a deeply vulnerable moment at the end, choosing to reach out rather than go it alone. For such a cocky and confident person, Carlos has a soft side too. It was nice to watch.
Unfortunately for John, he’s a Winchester, which makes him someone with plenty of deep-seated rage. According to Jimmy, it’s been there for centuries. Since it was established the Winchesters were descendants of Cain and Abel in Supernatural, that makes sense I guess. John dealt with Murph’s death by doing what a Winchester would do, bury it. PTSD episodes usually surface because of a trigger. Here it was the silver cross found on Patches, similar to the one Murph had and was embedded in John’s arm from the explosion. John tried to fight the monster within rather than dealing with the trauma. He didn’t just kill Jimmy after he was weakened during the fight. He beat him to a pulp even when he was already dead, blood spurting everywhere. There’s that hidden Winchester rage, the one we’ve seen in Sam and Dean plenty of times. He didn’t go back to therapy like Carlos did. He had a private meltdown, one that only he and Millie were allowed to endure. It’s a shocking private exposure to the John Winchester we rarely got in Supernatural. He is vulnerable. Okay, we always suspected that, but this confirmed it. The final scene was truly heartbreaking, but true to character too.
Will John ever be able to talk to Carlos about his trauma? Maybe, but John was never a talker so I doubt it. Was Millie someone that John was able to count on? He didn’t talk about her much. Of course, he didn’t talk about Henry either, so anything is possible. She was there for him though, which means that she probably helped him make through to the next day.
It goes to show the different paths of healing that veterans can take after coming back from war. Carlos chose to address it, while John hid it from others and fell apart privately. That private pain naturally explains his obsession to kill monsters when Mary was killed by the Yellow Eyed demon. Either way, it was a realistic portrayal of the pain veterans experienced, both on the battlefield and off, with institutions often failing to provide adequate care. It’s nice to see here though a doctor that really did care.
Love that Carlos has the same thought about rock, paper, scissors that Dean did! “There is no logical world where paper beats rock.” Amen brother. I did smile at the thought of the many Donny Osmond dreams Carlos will have though. A dreamboat indeed.
The use of Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” is quite haunting. It’s a powerful song, but one that has many different interpretations to different people. Here, I believe it represents dreams never realized, dreams taken by the war. “Everybody’s talkin’ at me, I can’t hear a word they’re saying, only the echos of my mind.” It’s a beautiful song and fit the mood of the ending perfectly.
Okay, I’ve heard this complaint said by everyone now, but Latika finding the monster by just opening a book found under Maggie’s bed? Celtiberian culture? That’s rather obscure. It’s possible that maybe Maggie planted that there for just that moment, knowing something way more than all of us do. Maybe she’s a ghost there to help? Nah, it’s probably lazy writing. But if she is a ghost, I can claim I called it. :)
Overall grade, a C-. A great idea, lousy execution.
And now, the Preview…
The next episode, season 1 episode 5, is called “Legend of a Mind.” What is it about? Well, that’s not too clear, but we know that Ada is back and something is up there.
Here’s the official synopsis per The CW:
SECRETS UNCOVERED – Hidden secrets from Ada’s (Demetria McKinney) past comes to light when the gang goes undercover to look into a suspicious death. Still reeling from the last Hunt, Millie (Bianca Kajlich) asks Mary (Meg Donnelly) to keep an eye on John (Drake Rodger) as they split off from the others to get intel on the new case. Carlos (JoJo Fleites) and Ada’s stakeout connects the victim to the next target. Latika’s (Nida Khurshid) research comes up with some interesting results that lead John to be Mary’s lifeline out of a sticky situation. Lisa Soper directed the episode written by Sehaj Sethi (#105). Original Airdate 11/15/2022. Every episode of THE WINCHESTERS is available to stream on The CW App and CWTV.com the day after broadcast for free and without a subscription, log-in or authentication required.
The photos show that our gang, including Ada, is working on some sort of campaign. Interesting.
This preview clip from The CW is much different. A mind vampire? We'll see where this all goes.
How are you enjoying the season so far? Interested in what's coming next? Share your thoughts in the comments, and/or just watch the episode and share your reactions here afterward.
Check out Alice's entire roster of Supernatural reviews on her Writer's Page!
Want to see our reviews and other articles on The Winchesters? Check out our The Winchesters page!