This week’s Supernatural episode, Into The Mystic (I love when Show remembers its roots and uses song titles) was one of those episodes that didn’t grab me at the very beginning and not let me catch a breath the entire time. Instead, it was a slow build, culminating in an ending scene that left me grabbing for the tissues and grinning like a fool simultaneously. Just the way I like it, Show.
There were things about the episode, and about where we are now in the myth-arc, that are still confusing to me. I remain confused about The Darkness and Dean – hence my question to Jensen Ackles at Jaxcon, and probably my next question to him too. To some extent, I guess that confusion is deliberate. At the very least, Jensen corroborated that confusion is what Dean is feeling at this point too. This week’s ‘Then’ montage included both grown up Amara and teenage Amara insisting that Dean couldn’t resist her and that they’re bound. I still don’t know what that means or what it has to do with the Mark, but the part that really throws me right now is when Amara tells Dean that what he can have with her is “just bliss” and asks “why wouldn’t you want that?”
The odd thing is, we’ve never really seen any indication that Dean feels blissful when he’s with her. He’s alluded to it being quiet, which I guess for Dean means no self recrimination or guilt or overwhelming sense of responsibility or whatever, so that would be nice I suppose. But bliss? That doesn’t seem like the right word for anything we’ve seen between them. It seems more like Dean falls into a trance when he’s with her – strong enough to make him ignore Sam’s phone call, or draw him into a kiss, but not strong enough that he didn’t make an attempt at stabbing her with the angel blade.
So yeah, I’m still confused. I don’t like the thought of it being “pining” or “attraction” at all. It feels disturbing. I guess that’s how Dean feels too, along with a whopping dose of shame for feeling anything even close to attraction for the being that’s out to destroy everything. It goes against everything Dean Winchester stands for, against how he defines himself – his very identity as a hunter of monsters. That combination of “attraction” and the reality of not being in control, especially when combined with a kiss, is definitely unsettling. I feel for Dean in his confusion. And I get that his shame is keeping him from admitting all this to Sam. Jensen said in his last meet and greet that Dean doesn’t understand what’s happening, and that’s why he’s still keeping it from his brother. Of course that doesn’t stop him from telling Casifer!
Misha’s version of Lucifer – Lustiel, if we go by Misha’s preference, but it keeps making me giggle inappropriately – was more understated this week, as he tries to speak and act more like Cas so as not to arouse Dean’s suspicion. It has to be challenging to play Mark Pellegrino playing Lucifer playing Castiel, so kudos Misha. I was a little confused last week as to why the version of Lucifer that we were seeing was more like Hallucifer than Lucifer himself (as Mark played him in his first appearances). Those were just Sam’s hallucinations, right? Then again, maybe they were based on how Lucifer acted in the Cage.
Anyway, Casifer strolls around the park and enjoys his freedom, trying to convince an angel that he’s no longer the bad guy with a friendly hand on his shoulder (and then exploding him when that doesn’t work). I laughed out loud when he referred to himself as “Lucifer Ex Machina” there to save the day, since there has been a fair amount of discussion in fandom about the danger of Castiel falling into a similar role. I know not everyone in fandom likes in jokes, but I do – and Robbie often can insert them seamlessly so that the narrative plays out with all the appropriate tension unimpeded.
There was plenty of tension when Dean returns to the bunker and hears noises, and it didn’t abate when Dean was reassured that it was Cas – because we realized with horror that Lucifer is right there, IN THE BUNKER. The Winchesters’ supposed safe place. How horrifying was it to see Casifer put his hand on Dean’s shoulder like he did with the angel he’d just killed, or to hear him sound so much like Cas with his signature “Hello, Dean”? Or that twisted manic grin after Dean left? I shuddered.
I did want to scream at Dean for telling not-Cas the truth about Amara when he hasn’t confided in Sam, but I do get it. He’s clearly confused and ashamed, and he cares too much about his brother’s opinion of him to just lay that out there before he really understands what’s going on. I think he’s still desperately hoping that it’s NOT attraction, and that he can fight it off next time. Kind of heartbreaking that he thinks Cas will be beside him next time to help, isn’t it?
(By the way, I do have to applaud Casifer for taking off the trenchcoat and rolling up Misha’s sleeves. Mmm.) I’m not sure exactly what Casifer is up to, but he was very curious about Dean’s bond with Amara – and perhaps how he can use it.
The other wonderful parts of this episode were every single thing about the amazing guest stars, Dee Wallace and Shoshannah Stern, and the brother moments we got in the bunker.
Guest stars first. I love when Supernatural brings in genre favorites and they join the family. Both Dee and Shoshannah have impressive resumes, and they are both super talented actresses. Add to that the richly configured characters created by Thompson, and WOAH. No wonder this episode kept getting better and better!
I love that Eileen is a badass Legacy hunter just like the Winchesters – smart, capable, taking no shit. I love that her deafness was just another attribute, much like Thompson created Charlie as a fully faceted character whose sexuality was only one part of her identity. Once again, Thompson has created a female character who makes sense in the Supernatural verse – she’s a hunter who just happens to be a woman and just happens to be deaf. Shoshannah Stern played Eileen with a believable guardedness, letting her lifelong trust issues show through, but at the same time with a steely resolve that befits a solitary hunter raised in the life. What’s even more remarkable is that Stern also shows us Eileen’s warmer side, with Sam and especially with Mildred. She has a flair for subtle comedy, with a well timed raised eyebrow or her eyes dancing with humor – she and Dee Wallace together made me literally laugh out loud.
I loved Sam in his first scene with Eileen — his response when he meets her, attempting to sign his thank you – and his apology for not getting it quite right. I also love Eileen’s amused correction and genuine appreciation.
“You tried. Most people don’t try,” she says. And she’s right.
Sam and Eileen connect (once she’s no longer trying to kill him) over their many similarities and mutual respect. (And who wouldn’t want to have Sam Winchester at your mercy like this, seriously?)
Sam, as is the Winchester way, tells her the things I always wish the brothers would tell each other – but at least that means we, the audience, get to hear them.
Sam: I wouldn’t do this without my brother. He’s had my back every step of the way. Even when I let him down.
Oh Sam. Break my heart, why don’t you?
I love Mildred as much as I do Eileen. She’s an older woman who is anything but pathetic – like Eileen, she’s smart and capable and takes no shit. In this case, her age is just another attribute, with both benefits and liabilities. She’s content and fulfilled and shares the wisdom that comes with experience – which Dean genuinely appreciates. There’s no condescension in his reaction to her, or in Sam’s reaction to Mildred’s obvious fondness for his brother. In fact, both brothers admit to crushes on two of the Golden Girls without judgment. How refreshing is that?
It’s also a bit of change for Supernatural, who has at times presented older women as “cougars” and their desires as laughable – ie, not in the most flattering of lights. Mildred is flirty with Dean, but in a way that seems appropriate and not entirely unwelcome. Mostly she just wants to look – and who can blame her??
My timeline immediately blew up: WE ARE ALL MILDRED.
Hey, the woman has good taste, what can I say? Dee Wallace did an incredible job of bringing Mildred to life and making us feel like we already know her – and love her! She could be a fangirl representation in more ways than just her unabashed ogling of the Winchesters though. She’s had an adventurous past, traveling the world with a Patsy Cline tribute band, and she doesn’t apologize for that. In fact she tells Dean, follow your heart, travel the world, make people smile. She did what she wanted to do and didn’t allow anyone to make her feel bad about it. That sounds a lot like fandom sometimes, doesn’t it? It’s half the plot of ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’.
Much of their interaction was amusing, but some moments between Dean and Mildred were serious too. The scene with them on the couch, watching the sunset, was particularly touching. (I also loved Mildred’s matter of fact observation that the sunset was almost as gorgeous as Dean. Which, by the way, was an actual fact.)
Dean listens to her; he wants to know the secret for a long and happy life. I found that tremendously hopeful – one of the messages of this episode seemed to be that the Winchesters are slowly coming out of a very dark time, in which neither of them had much hope for the future. For ANY future. That’s changing, little by little, now that they’re back together, a united front. Being together, a team, is what has kept them going through everything they’ve faced, and it’s giving them some hope now for something on the other side of the fight. Retirement, perhaps?
(Some of my favorite fanfics are Winchester retirement AU’s, so I’m so down with that, Show!)
Sam’s evolution is also seen in his conversations with Eileen.
Sam: My brother and I, we’re like you. We’re legacies.
You can hear the pride in his voice when he says it. He’s finally found an identity that’s meaningful for him, that’s important. He knows who he is and where he belongs and what he should be doing, which was something that eluded him for a long time.
But back to the women. Dee Wallace got some classic lines too.
Dean: Your hand is still on my knee.
Mildred: I could move it up…
Her signed conversation with Eileen on the couch is also classic.
Mildred: You can have the tall one. I’m not much of a mountain climber anymore.
Eileen: You sure you don’t want both?
I laughed out loud – in fact, I had to replay that scene several times because I kept missing what Sam and Dean were saying to each other on the phone, the women were so captivating.
It’s the women who save the Winchesters too, Dean incapacitated and Sam tossed aside. They make a good team, actually. I think the entire fandom began madly tweeting about how much we’d like to see Eileen and Mildred reappear – and hey, Mildred is only 15 minutes down the road!
Clearly all the actors had a fabulous time together too, judging from Shoshanna’s tweets and Dee’s behind the scenes photo.
Shoshanna: I loved seeing how much fun they had with each other. It was very contagious, and seeing that just made me smile.
Which made all of us smile!
A few of my other favorite scenes….actually, the more I write about this episode, the more I realize how much I liked it. It’s one of those episodes that sneaks up on you with its significance, and that invests each scene with more pleasure than it might have carried at first watch. I loved Dean casually pocketing some Viagra while Sam is reading the file (apparently this was an Ackles ad lib?).
Dean: Yeah, real dick move.
Hehe. Oh Dean. (And oh Robbie, thanks for making Dean sound so much like Dean)
And I loved every single scene of the boys in their Fed suits. Is it me, or are their Fed suits getting more and more beautifully tailored as the seasons go by? They are all long legs and broad shoulders in those damn suits. Thank you, Show.
There were several scenes that were breathtaking for their cinematography, so thanks also to Serge Ladouceur for working his magic. The nighttime graveyard scene, the boys back to back working and then Dean sitting on the green cooler by lantern light – so gorgeous!
As was every single scene in the bunker, with the interesting perspectives and the play of light and shadow that carries so much meaning.
Shout out to SPN’s hair and make up wizards too. Sam’s hair? Flawless, especially as it’s blowing back in the lantern-lit graveyard scene. And Dean’s lips were extra pink and plump and very very glossy. Yum.
I’m generally not a fan of actually seeing the MotW, preferring to keep things hinted at – that’s actually scarier for me most of the time. But I would guess that creating the banshee was a real feat of VFXing, and she was definitely frightening. Especially the way she moved.
Mildred’s scream at the window? Totally understandable.
And then there were the broments. Sometimes I think back over those seasons where Sam and Dean were so at odds, where they didn’t even seem to like each other let alone love each other. I remember how much that devastated both of them, and how much it hurt for all of us to watch. So I don’t take lightly the way things are between them now.
Throughout this episode, the source of the Winchesters’ strength and perseverance was clear – it was a theme that played out from beginning to end.
We see Sam at the start of the episode still cut off from his brother, tormented by Lucifer’s voice in his nightmare as he tosses and turns, the shadows on his handsome face like the bars of a prison.
He doesn’t share it, doesn’t talk about it; instead he takes the Winchester way out, getting up and being productive, obsessively cleaning his weapons in the bunker kitchen.
Dean (in the dead guy robe, yay!) knows there’s something wrong – and instead of ignoring it, he actually asks. And not for the last time in this episode.
Dean: How long have you been up? Are you okay?
Sam deflects and doesn’t admit he isn’t. Not yet anyway. Dean doesn’t push; instead he tries to get Sam’s mind off of things with the prospect of a case.
Dean asks again if Sam is okay as they dig the grave, which I loved. He knows there’s something wrong, and while he waits a while before asking again, he doesn’t just let it drop, and this time Sam tells him the truth.
Dean: You okay?
Sam: No. Not at all. Being this close to Lucifer again brought stuff up. Stuff I thought I forgot about.
Dean: You wanna talk about it?
Dean doesn’t push, but he does reassure. That Lucifer will never get to Sam again, that Sam is never going back to the Cage. Case closed, says Dean, and both of them want it to be. This interaction between the brothers rings so true, and it’s so much gentler than what we often hear between them – the kind of conversation that we know must have taken place again and again, because it’s the source of their unbelievably strong bond. Sam has been traumatized, and not for the first time. It’s happened to both of them, repeatedly. And this is what gets people through something like that – the genuine caring and valuing of someone who matters. The space to talk without being pushed to talk too quickly. I have to assume that’s what has gotten Sam and Dean through many times. But getting to see it and hear it? That is GOLD for me as a fan. It makes everything else between the brothers believable. Understandable.
Sam: Just burn the bones so we can go home.
Sam is irritable when he says it, and that too is both realistic and understandable, but what he says is important. Home – the bunker, or the Impala, or wherever he is with his brother – is a refuge for Sam now. He has someplace he can go to feel safe, to get away from the traumatic memories, and he can admit to needing that. How often have the Winchesters had anything like that? I almost felt like ‘Home’ should have been in the title of this episode – it was all about finding yourself and finding a place to belong. (Also, in perhaps an odd coincidence, but maybe a Kim Manners homage, the song playing at the retirement home is ‘Wonderful, Wonderful’ – which, if you’ve seen the classic Kim Manners-directed X Files episode actually called ‘Home’….. never mind…)
That sense of home and safety and not being alone is also reflected in the brothers’ bookended scenes about the retirement home. When Sam and Dean first arrive, it’s Dean who admits it would be nice to retire there someday; Sam scoffs that they won’t live that long, which has more often been Dean’s line.
By the end of the episode, things have changed.
But before we get there, a few wee quibbles: I was a bit surprised that the Winchesters assumed that Mildred would be the next target. Her atrial fibrillation, seemingly well controlled with meds, seemed to get lost in the shuffle of a bunch of people who probably also had vulnerabilities – some of them with walkers. Why were they so sure it would be Mildred? She looked pretty damn happy and healthy to me!
I also have to quibble with Sam’s far-too-easy acceptance of Dean’s lame explanation about why the banshee in fact came after him. It was clear that he heard the screams long before anyone else – and before he ever raised his gold blade. Sam was right there. Why didn’t he suspect his brother’s vulnerability? Maybe he just doesn’t want to push – is giving Dean time to come clean, the same space Dean gave him. Maybe.
Dean, it appears, is vulnerable because he isn’t able to share the emotional burdens he carries, and so they persist. He keeps his feelings hidden – his confusion, guilt, shame, fear about Amara, in this case. And when you keep everything inside and don’t ask for help and don’t get any, that creates a vulnerability. One that banshees can apparently see a mile away.
So at first watch, three quarters of the way through the episode as the banshee attacks Dean, I was enjoying it immensely but not engulfed in feels like I sometimes am by Supernatural. Things started to amp up in that scene, especially as Dean clutches his head and starts banging it against the wall. Every time something brings Dean Winchester to his knees it hits me hard, and this time was no exception. Sam rushes to him, and the kickass women trap and kill the banshee while the Winchesters are incapacitated. (Woohoo!) Sam runs to Dean’s side, sliding to his knees in his haste to check to be sure his brother is okay, which is always an episode high point. Sam catches Eileen’s eye and gets his thank you right this time.
Okay, MotW dispatched, but we’re not quite done. Eileen and Mildred watch the Winchesters walk away, once again signing behind their backs. In keeping with the ogling-the-Winchesters theme of the episode…
Mildred: They look even cuter walking away. Wow.
Thanks, Show, for that nice perspective. Much appreciated, John Badham.
And then Robbie Thompson sucker punched me, after I’d already put my box of tissues away. Dean and Sam are back in the bunker – back home. Sam tosses a beer over his shoulder without looking and Dean catches it seamlessly, a reminder that they are back in sync, together. And then Sam opens up in a way that rarely happens on this Show – or at least we rarely get to eavesdrop.
Sam: You were right, by the way. Getting back on the job, it helped.
Dean: Say that part again, that I was right…
Sam: You’re an idiot.
When Dean goes on, though, Sam stops him. I especially love Sam’s “Give me a sec,” and how Dean immediately shuts up. It’s Sam’s way of saying this is important, and it isn’t easy – so let me say it.
I sat there open-mouthed, possibly saying out loud “OMG they’re actually – finally – going there.”
Sam: I should have looked for you. When you were in Purgatory I…I should have turned over every stone but I didn’t. I stopped. And I’ve never forgiven myself for it.
The Season 8 Amelia arc is so roundly despised that fandom has had to invent its own head canon for what might have happened to make Sam behave so out of character. Many of us, including me, decided that Sam was not in his right mind, so overwhelmed with grief and rage that he had some sort of breakdown, hit a dog, and just stopped. Shut down. At least that made some kind of sense, and it wasn’t incompatible with the teensy weensy bits of explanation that we actually got in canon. Alternatively, it would have been understandable if Sam was convinced that Dean was dead – that was the most likely thing that had happened. He would have had no reason to think Purgatory was an option, certainly, so where the hell would he have looked?
Finally having the brothers talk about it made some people’s head canon no longer workable, but mine mostly survived. So Sam did look for Dean, and he failed to find him, and eventually he stopped. [In my head canon? Breakdown. Your mileage may vary]. We now know that Sam has carried a crushing burden of guilt for that stopping; one that Lucifer knew to take full advantage of.
I felt a tremendous sense of relief hearing Sam talk about his feelings and tell Dean that he can’t forgive himself – and hearing Dean say that he already has. It was a healing moment that I didn’t know how much I was still needing until it happened, and then I think I literally let out an audible sigh. Finally. I loved Sam so much in that moment – the courage it took to do that! And I loved the warmth in Dean’s response, full of love and genuine forgiveness and reminding us all of what’s really important.
Dean: Well, I have. Hey, that’s in the past man—what’s done is done. All that matters now, all that’s ever mattered, is that we’re together.
Yes. So much yes.
But Robbie’s not done with us yet. We get Winchesters saying goodnite, and barefoot boys climbing into their beds.
Sam opens a keepsake box he has in his room…. A KEEPSAKE BOX. Just the fact that he has one makes me so damn happy! That hope for the future I was talking about before? Sam has it – there’s no need for a keepsake box if you don’t plan to be around for a while. And what does he put into it? The brochure for the retirement home.
Sam has come full circle in this episode, from scoffing at the idea of them retiring to placing the possibility right there in his keepsake box. It seems that both Sam and Dean assume that they’ll still be together when they’re senior citizens – and that perhaps they’ll actually live that long!
Add to that the other items that we glimpse in those few moments, and I was a mess. The photo of Dean and Sam as kids (a respectable manip of young Jared and Jensen). The photo that led to the death of Death. One of the little green army men from the Impala. And holy shit, the amulet. Okay, not the original one – fandom would be destroyed if that was in there, though if anyone wants to try that, I’m so ready to be destroyed! But the one from the 200th episode, a symbol of the brothers’ love for each other. Sam saved it.
Sam curls up and falls asleep, comforted and freed from the burden of guilt that’s been weighing him down and oblivious to the fact that I am now sobbing. Dean is now the one who can’t sleep, burdened by the guilt and shame and confusion of Amara’s hold over him.
We get one last close up of his ridiculously beautiful face, anguished, before the screen goes dark.
So did I start out saying I liked this episode but it didn’t overwhelm me right away? The more I write and think about it, the more I love it. Might just have to go watch it again.
So what did you think??
Caps by @kayb625 – many many thanks!
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