Time to Buy More Tissues – Supernatural 8.16

When it comes to Supernatural episode reactions, it’s all relative. That gave “Remember The Titans” a big advantage, so it’s no surprise that I liked it. The fact that Dean was wandering around in his boxer briefs and tee shirt probably contributed to my affection for the episode as well, also to the surprise of no one. (Yeah, he had the dead guy robe on, but it was OPEN, guys. I mean, that’s what gifs and screencaps are made for!) Add to that the fact that the brothers were back to being smart and competent and that Sam is confiding in Dean a little, and I’m a happy fangirl.

While there were some odd things that threw me out of the moment (questionable parenting decisions, the Batcave holding an open house, a few more unlikely gaps in Dean’s knowledge base), for the most part the plot and dialogue and Steve Boyum’s well-paced direction kept me engaged. Loved seeing the boys calling the shots again – Dean’s badass “Let’s roll” command when Zeus wouldn’t play ball gave me shivers. Sam’s smarts do the same thing to me every time. Smart!Sam talking Artemis out of killing them, and Dean being an adorable mix of perplexed and impressed, pushed all my Sam buttons.

Show has gotten very good at consistently drawing parallels from the MotW to the brothers, investing the Show with meaning without too much exposition or falling anvils, and that worked well this week. The conversation between Prometheus and Sam about duty and sacrifice rang true without being heavy-handed. Eventually Prometheus gave his life to save Oliver, just as John gave his life for Dean, and Dean gave his life for Sam, and Sam gave his life to save all of humanity – and his brother. As Prometheus says, it’s all meaningless if you can’t save your own family.

Sam’s empathic offer to take little Oliver out for ice cream to get him away from the grief and violence was quietly touching, and full of meaning. Sam got a chance to be the big brother for once, to demonstrate the protective role that he learned from watching his own big brother do that for him. It was almost like watching a role reversal, since Oliver also mirrored Dean in his elective muteness after a trauma. Sam got a chance to comfort Oliver, as he was never able to comfort young Dean. And Oliver’s decision to stay instead echoes Sam’s own decision to stay and fight, even when it leaves you in the midst of pain and loss.

Boyum’s direction allowed for fast-paced action sequences, but he also excelled at the quiet scenes, allowing the dialogue to unfold slowly, lending them an understated power. Sam and Oliver’s conversation felt that way, and so did Sam and Dean’s talk in the Impala. I might have squealed when Sam confided to Dean that his earlier bravado about being certain he could survive the trials had been shaken. While I think fandom (myself included) loved Sam’s speech about hope and taking Dean with him to the light, I also think it’s realistic that Sam would waver in that conviction sometimes. He still has hope, and he’s still including Dean in that hopeful vision of the future, but he’s also scared – how could he not be? And confiding that fear to his big brother is so much better than pretending he doesn’t feel it. Any time the boys are genuine with each other, I find myself reaching for the tissues; this time was no exception. It felt like an important step forward for them, evidence of the trust Sam is once again placing in Dean.

And miracle of miracles, Show allowed Dean to give it back. He hears Sam. He hears his fear, and he sees his pain. He shores Sam up in the time-honored big brother tradition of saying shut up and eat your burger, Dean-speak for “You’re not dying on my watch and I’m gonna take care of you whether you like it or not!” Sam hears it for the comfort it is (as Dean often expresses his caretaking with food, something he’s been doing for Sam all their lives – something he can do when he can’t do much else). Sam eats his burger with a soft smile. They understand each other in that moment, and watching from my vantage point of eight years of history with these brothers, I understand too.

Sam trusted Dean enough to let himself be vulnerable instead of keeping a stiff upper lip like I was afraid the writers would do. He may not be saying hey, I’m bleeding every time I brush my teeth, but he’s not pretending to be invulnerable either. Dean trusts him in return; instead of ranting and railing and accusing Sam of hiding something, he sends a heartfelt plea to Cas to keep his little brother safe. This is a big step for Dean, allowing Sam to keep some things to himself instead of badgering him to spill. Allowing Sam the space to process his own fears, trusting that he’ll lean on Dean when he needs to. He understands why Sam is trying to be brave; so do we.

If the bro moments up until that point hadn’t made me reach for the tissues, Dean’s prayer to Cas did the trick. Dean, who would never ask for anything for himself, will do anything when it comes to Sam. Dean calling Sam his little brother, putting aside his pride and doing what he considers begging for Sam’s safety….that would have been enough. Ackles’ quiet desperation and the fear in his eyes as he looks around hoping for help was heartbreaking. It’s clear Dean will still feel like it’s his fault if Sam does die doing the trials – that it should have been on him.

To break up all that intense angsty tissue-grabbing stuff, there were humorous moments too. Dean’s face when Sam is winding up Artemis was priceless. And I’m not sure why Dean’s vision of Sam having a future seems oddly focused on prostate exams, colonoscopies and Viagra, but it amuses me nevertheless. Also I’ll never get tired of Dean coming down to breakfast in his robe sipping a cup of coffee and wondering what Sam’s up to – it screams “home” and it makes me smile every single time. Add to that Dean’s boyish pride as he confides that “we’re legacies,” and Sam’s wondering expression in return, and my grin was probably verging on ridiculous.

We’ve got a break for a mini-hellatus now, during which time we’ll head to Vegas Con and try not to follow the rule of ‘what happens in Vegas…’. And stock up on tissues. So keep it up, Show!

11 thoughts on “Time to Buy More Tissues – Supernatural 8.16

  • After the Man’s Best Friends with Benefits ep, I admit that I was going into this one with trepidation. After all, Hammer of the Gods wasn’t a particularly memorable ep in terms of how the gods were depicted, but I was very pleasantly surprised that this one really hit the spot.

    Both Jared and Jensen are back in their stride and have plenty of material to work with. They never fail to knock it out of the park when they are given the opportunity, and this particular episode showcased their deep knowledge of the characters they inhabit. Dean KNOWS that Sam isn’t okay, but he’s not bitching at him, instead he’s allowing him space, and because of that, Sam has opened up a little to him. Although it’s evident that what he’s communicated worries Dean desperately, he hasn’t done what he would have not so very long ago and bawled him out. He’s allowed him the dignity of accepting that he will back up Sam’s decision and see him through, even if it kills him.

    The two of them seemed to be so much more mature in this episode, even though Dean allows himself the little boy glee at being a legacy! Also, I really liked that for the second time in a row it was Dean who found what they needed when they were researching, even if he did make a vaguely crude joke about it when he identified it.

    Good work, Show, B+ from me!

  • Thanks for reminding me to pack Kleenex for Vegas. I have such a Winchester mom complex I am sure I will cry just seeing them!!! Like my long lost sons or something. Is there something terribly wrong with me psychologically for feeling that way? I can’t wait to get your book in Vegas so I can find some explanations for my thoughts and behaviors regarding this show. 🙂 I am 57, have 3 sons in their 20’s and this show just turns me into a fan girl or mush!

    This episode hit it all for me. The bro moments were so much more mature which makes me happy and sad at the same time. Like a mom watching her kids become adults and knowing they will be leaving soon. Can you tell I am still suffering from some empty nest issues! But no matter how old your kids get you still feel their pain. That’s why when the boys are in pain, especially emotionally, I can’t NOT cry. Like typing now I am teary eyed for pete sake!

    The J’s have just embodied these characters for me and make them so real every week. They bring every emotion to life in such a way that I have to remind myself it’s a TV show!

    Thanks for your review. I hope I can hold it together in Vegas. I will be so embarassed if I am a cry baby!

      • Hey, I’m 59 years old and have had the pleasure of meeting Jensen and Jared in person several times. They are true Southern gentlemen and SO handsome, I can’t help my lust showing, but I realize I’m old enough to be their mother and keep myself in check. I’m so proud of their accomplishments and thrilled that Jared has become a father and Jensen will shortly become one, too. I hope SUPERNATURAL never goes off the air! Love, Robin Vogel

    • I am 46 and have never been into a show like this. It is something about the relationship about the brothers–haven’t we all yearned for someone who would love us this much? Yet it’s done with humor, drama, and love, never bordering on being corny. I am part of fandom to the extent that maybe I don’t go to the cons, but I know that I am dreading the day this show ends. The actors and writers, and all the creative team, have done a tremendous job of telling a story and making you care about the characters.

  • Very nice review of this episode! You liked it much more than I did, but I did appreciate Dean lounging in his jammies. I also liked Sam trying out his big brother skills on Oliver and that he talked to Dean about his fears.

    What I didn’t like held a good deal more weight for me, though. I think I disliked this one more than last weeks (how could that be possible???) because last week’s was throwaway silliness, while this week’s connected to the main arc, so what didn’t work, matters.

    I think holding open house on the batcave really undermines the whole MOL story line. The boys are supposed to be taking their heritage seriously, both in terms of their identity and what it offers them as an ace in the hole. This week, Sam and in particular Dean were terrible MOL. I could not believe the words coming out of Dean’s mouth: “It’s a SECRET society!” Well, not any more, Dean. And he’s saying it to a civilian. I disliked stupidDean last week and the stakes were much higher this week.

    The only reason I can think of for the boys leaving Kevin with Garth in a hole of a boat, half-starved and in danger of being found, instead of taking him to the protection of the batcave, giving him his own room and cooking him meals, is they want to keep it as secret as they possibly can. But evidently not. I guess protecting Kevin isn’t that big a priority.

    I was also disappointed about the stakes given for Sam to doubt his hope for a future. I loved Sam, who more than anyone knows the price for saving the world, still held on to hope and felt he could finally take care of his older brother and show him hope. It’s a lovely switch up on the usual dynamic I would have liked it to last longer than one episode and one trial. I didn’t think Prometheus’s plight really would have shaken Sam like that. He’s paid a price of his own that rivals the god’s. He’s not naive about the situation. I did expect him to struggle with his hope, but not so quickly. Dean is immediately back to taking care of Sam, which isn’t as interesting because we’ve seen it so often.

    Which leads to the prayer. I thought Jensen just nailed it. He’s just wonderful with these kinds of scenes. But I couldn’t let myself just enter into it and let it flow, because to do so, I have to ignore the last scene we had with Sam and Dean and Cas.

    Last we saw, Sam and Dean were horrified at Cas killing Samandriel and suspicious enough to ward Rufus’s cabin against him so they can discuss their fears without him knowing. That’s a high level of distrust. The boys do not have any answers, but the questions they raise are: why did Cas kill Samandriel? Is someone controlling him? Could it be angels? Why would they want Samandriel dead?

    I believe Dean believes Cas has truly repented about hurting Sam and that he loves his friend. I also believe he thinks there’s been something very off about him since he “escaped” Purgatory and he’s now suspicious Cas may be under someone’s control and can be made to kill.

    How does that lead to the prayer? Why would putting Sam in Cas’s hands feel safe to Dean, given Samandriel’s fate? Why would the thought of Cas take any weight off Dean’s shoulders, given he not only doesn’t know how to save Sam, he doesn’t know how to figure out what’s up with Cas, either? Cas adds complications; he doesn’t take them away. I don’t know why Dean would even freely share with Cas about the bunker at the moment, never mind put a very vulnerable Sam in his care.

    I feel like this season the writers have set up so many situations that matter very much to the relationships, and then ignore them when they are relevant later on. The vitriol and threats in Southern Comfort, the way Sam reacted to Benny vs Kate, Cas killing Samandriel–they need to be dealt with.

    Maybe the end of the season will still make things pay off in a way that makes emotional sense to me. My fingers are crossed!

  • It has been a long time coming, but Dean and Sam have grown up. I am so enjoying the grown brothers talking, listening, and supporting. It was wonderful to see

  • I love Sammy and Dean and Jared and Jensen pull them off so well. I reach for the tissues all the time. I loved everything that was said about them and the things that have happened in past….if Sam has to do all the trials, that is ok, they will make it…both of my boys…and Jensenfan1978, yes, I think they have grown up, a lot………..I am a Jensen girl myself, really
    a huge fan of his.

  • For a standalone episode, it was fine. I still think the show has done better with its fillers in past seasons, though. The guest actors did a good job but I just didn’t find myself all that emotionally engaged even in the brotherly moments. Maybe it’s because, as another poster said, we’ve been down this road many times before. Something’s wrong with Sam every season, Dean angsts over and takes care of Sam every season….that formula getting a bit long in the tooth for me.

    As cute as Dean being domestic is, I really miss our badass, confident, strong, smart Dean. There were a few glimpses but still….. I hope he eventually makes a comeback because I’d hate to think the writers now see Dean as the clueless comic relief or as this severely “my life and happiness revolve totally around Sam” codependent. And to be honest, I have less faith that Dean’s going to have much to do with Sam’s trials. Those and closing the hell gates seem set up to be Sam’s big hero’s moment. Which is fine, if that’s the direction Carver wants to go. I just wish both brothers could have been involved in doing it together as equals and in a true partnership, seeing as how demons have devastated both their lives. I think it would have helped bring closure to Dean in way he won’t get just by watching Sam do the heavy lifting. Oh well.

    • I think it would be a nice direction to have Dean fight demons of his own (not just his feelings of worthlessness) but demons in terms of an addiction or something else, where he’s not the good one for a change. Sam can be the one who helps him find his way back. It hasn’t been done and I think for both actors it would allow them to be vulnerable and stretch their acting skills instead of rehashing the old storylines, which truth be told, for a show that has gone on this long it has been amazing and I will watch no matter what direction the writers go. It just is sad if the show ends and these two actors don’t get a chance to work together in a different way, and challenge themselves and the fans.

  • I love how the brother’s are relying on each other again, and the brotherly moments they been sharing with each other. They both have grown in so many ways, but the still need each other’s love and understanding.

Leave a Reply