‘Dog Dean Afternoon’ won’t go down in Supernatural history as one of the greatest episodes ever, but I liked it. Just about everyone in the fandom was well prepared for the way we were intended to view it – if you weren’t already spoiled for the comedic intent of an episode where Dean becomes a dog whisperer, then the montage of Supernatural’s greatest comedic moments should have clued you in. Which is good, because if you’d been prepared for a serious SPN ep, you might have been gobsmacked by this one.
It was silly. At times, it was so silly that it veered dangerously close to embarrassment squick for me – Dean lusting after an ultra-feminine pink-ribboned and coifed poodle, and Sam’s dubcon Yorkie petting come to mind — but something saved it. That something was Ackles and Padalecki, who in my humble opinion are comedy geniuses. Especially when they get to be funny together.
Anyone who’s ever seen them onstage together at a con, or watched the clandestinely taken con videos, knows that they could go on the road as the ‘J2 Comedy Hour’ if they ever want a break from network television. They riff off each other seamlessly, so in tune that they anticipate each other’s reactions and are right there ready to respond with something that’s so perfect that it’s hysterical. Just as the real life closeness that Jared and Jensen share makes the bond between Sam and Dean onscreen genuine, it also makes Sam and Dean together every bit as funny as Jared and Jensen. They are both capable of subtle comedic moments – a look, a tilt of the head, a slight widening of the eyes directed at the other one – and both got to display those talents in this episode.
Dean retrieving Sam’s discarded balled up paper from the trash repeatedly was so well done, from Dean’s apparent cluelessness as to what he was doing, to Sam’s confused “I don’t want that,” and then the slowly dawning awareness that his brother is playing fetch. Tears were running down my face for a very different reason than why that usually happens when I’m watching SPN!
The scene with the snarky pigeon also reduced me to helpless laughter. Dean’s indignation, the pigeon’s spot-on dialogue, and Sam’s flustered hand waves and almost-curtsey to pacify the onlookers after he’s manhandled his brother into the car were all perfect. I loved Dean’s Scooby channeling “ruh roh” and his admission that he wanted to lick Sam’s face to bring him around (and his almost-admission that he was feeling an urge to sniff butts, presumably Sam’s, which also made me laugh out loud).
Dean letting all the dogs out was another favorite moment – Dean has always given a great big “F you” to the idea of fate and destiny, so his decision to give them freedom of choice seemed completely in character. Yay for them coming to his rescue in return too.
And Dean abruptly getting up from the table to all but bark at the mailman, to Sam’s utter disbelief? Priceless. I might have squealed at my television at that moment, because Ackles’ subtle rendition of canine tendencies was so well done – as was Padalecki’s portrayal of Sam’s slightly horrified, slightly amused realization of what his always-in-control big brother was doing. You could tell that Sam was taking a bit of pleasure in seeing Dean lose his cool, which seems like such a little brother thing to do, and so in character for Sam. It evoked the ‘old days’ of Season 1 and 2, when the boys were constantly bickering in the most affectionate, brotherly way possible. I loved it.
Throughout the episode, Sam treats Dean’s dog-like behaviors with an affectionate indulgence, which I found thoroughly heartwarming. Sam driving the Impala while Dean sticks his head out the window and looks blissed out was another favorite moment – instead of being annoyed, Sam exhibits a fondness for Dean more openly than usual, perhaps because Dean’s own defenses are down due to the spell. I was half expecting Sam to buy a package of rawhide treats and surprise Dean with it, or offer to scratch behind his ears. (Pretty sure that’s happening in fanfic somewhere by now.)
And speaking of fanfic, while it’s good riddance to the creepy MoTW, I have to give him props for suggesting that Dean should be leashed. I mean….is it hot in here? Anyway…
The other thing I enjoyed about this episode was simply the opportunity to revel in the boys being on the same wavelength, completely. They were in sync throughout the episode, the way they used to be in Season 1 and 2 before tragedy kept coming between them and tearing them apart. It was a tremendous relief to be able to put aside the constant worry about the big Zeke-shaped secret between the brothers and just enjoy that close bond between them that drew me into the show in the first place. Time and time again, Sam and Dean exchanged a glance that said so much without any words at all, the way they used to all the time in the early seasons. Sam holding up the Joffrey mouse with a quizzical expression; Dean responding with an answering expression even in the middle of a conversation. That level of being tuned into each other is one my favorite things about Sam and Dean, and it was wonderful to see it again – and more than once!
I was feeling downright nostalgic by the time the episode was nearing its end. I adore the Men of Letters bunker, but I literally squeed outloud to see Sam and Dean sitting at a table working a case together at a tacky motel, their plaid shirts clashing wonderfully with the diamondback curtains and décor. This is my Show! These are my boys! (I might have said that out loud, but nobody has called me on it yet. Shhhh). The boys even used Poison cover names. And the dialogue was old school SPN, with the pop culture references subtle and sparsely used, instead of shoe-horned in, as they sometimes seem recently.
We even got an ending that felt reminiscent of so much of early season SPN. Sam knocked unconscious, Dean demanding “What did you do to my brother?” in that voice that leaves absolutely no doubt what Dean Winchester will do to anyone who hurts his Sammy, and then using both brains and brawn to fight himself free and get to Sam. And then (as if all that wasn’t enough to already have me basking in nostalgic bliss) we got protective big brother Dean cradling Sam’s head tenderly as he pleads for him to be okay. It reminded me of that iconic scene in All Hell Breaks Loose, as Dean skids to his knees and catches Sam as he falls, desperately cradling his face to try to bring him around. Remembering that scene, and how much it tore my heart out, added gravity to this one – a shock to my system after an episode that was mostly light-hearted.
Of course, in Supernatural, this is a very scary thing indeed. I know, deep down in my SPN-loving heart, that Show is letting me revel in the brothers’ closeness and laugh with them and be light-hearted for a while, only because it’s setting me up for a fall. They’re reminding me of why I love this Show and these brothers, how much I love seeing them working a case together, seeing how much they care about each other, how happy it makes me to see them be happy for a change – so that when the inevitable crash comes, it will hit me all the harder. Why, Show, why??
Sam is getting closer to figuring out that something is very wrong, and Dean is getting more and more worried about what he’s done. The parallels were pretty clear — the MoTW did what he did out of desperation to survive, and that seemed to be a parallel to Dean’s desperate measures to save Sam, in addition to the guy’s whole ‘get possessed to be healed’ thing. And the bit of obvious foreshadowing, as Dean talked about the guy being possessed by something he couldn’t control, and that it was only a matter of time before it took over….that was absolutely chilling. For a moment, I really thought that Dean was going to spill his secret to Sam – you could tell how much he wanted to, and more than one of us was probably yelling “Tell him!” to our screens.
I’m getting spoiled by having some of the cast and crew watching along with us on Twitter – Jared joined in again, sharing a few behind the scenes tidbits (yes, poor Jensen really drank that yucky liquid concoction) and confiding that he was a bit disappointed by the animal voices. Most of fandom seemed to agree.
Meanwhile, Osric was at an airport trying to find a television tuned to the CW so he could watch, and as frustrated by finding them all tuned to CNN as any fan would be, which made all of us love him even more than we already did. Then he amused himself by writing some spontaneous SPN fanfiction on his phone, which amused us even more than it did him.
All in all, I enjoyed this episode, but it left me with a sense of foreboding. I keep remembering what Jensen said to me about Dean getting himself more and more tangled up in lies, and how things were going to get worse. The way he said it, and the expression on his face, literally gave me shivers (and not the good kind we all sometimes get when Jared or Jensen or Misha look at us…) I can’t help but think that this episode was a lovely little reminder of just how good Show can make me feel – and that it can just as effectively break my heart into a million pieces.
Next week, we find out how Castiel is doing with assimilating and pick up his journey of ‘being human’ as he tries to elude the angels who aren’t exactly willing to let him get on with his life. More heartbreak, we suspect. Damn it, Show!
What did you think of Dog Dean Afternoon? Chime in with comments!
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