Drive by review, since I have managed to injure my back and typing this just plain hurts. Ouch!
I thoroughly enjoyed this week’s episode, ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’, which came with a lot of expectations thanks to the pent up frustration of Supernatural fans wanting more of the Wayward Daughters. Social media amped up a campaign to get that trending, which worked quite well, and I think pretty much everyone cheered to have Jody Mills back on Show. Supernatural has long been criticized by some for killing off too many women or not writing them with enough agency, but I think the Show has come a long way. This episode wasn’t perfect, but it was an episode focused on three women written by a woman and there were some scenes that will go down in Show history as favorites. I’d call that a win.
Let’s just talk about the things that weren’t entirely a win first, so I can get to the good stuff and gush. The pacing was odd – there were several times that a scene seemed to just continue on after it was clearly meant to be over. It was striking enough that a few times, I said out loud, huh? That threw me out of the story, which is never a good thing. I think I saw a tweet somewhere that they actually ran short on this one (which seems to be the opposite of their usual problem) so perhaps that’s an explanation, but it threw me off a bit.
The other thing that some fans questioned was the eventual confrontation between Jody, Claire and Alex and the vampire janitor and his jerk of a sidekick. Now Jody Mills is a badass. There’s no doubt about that, and she proved it again when she took a beating and still kept trying to save Claire. Claire is a bit of a badass too; she’s hiding from her traumatic past in hunting, for sure, but she’s also throwing herself into it with a lot of guts. Alex has proven her strength in recovering from a long history of abuse and manipulation, and is managing to ‘keep fighting’ even as she struggles with some serious guilt and feelings of inferiority. That’s why they’re nicknamed the Wayward Daughters – in parallel to the teenage Winchesters. Claire and Alex are Dean and Sam (one throwing themselves into hunting, one wanting to go to school and be ‘normal’) with Jody as their Bobby Singer parent figure. If that parallel is to work, however, the women need to be as badass as the boys. I’m not sure that came through as much as it could have in this episode. They all show courage, absolutely, and Claire does get to lob off the vampire janitor’s head on her own, but the last scene when Sam subdues the jerk sidekick and then places him in front of Alex so she can gank him (or just punch him) didn’t quite sit right. I would’ve liked to see the women totally save the Winchesters’ (very fine) asses instead – the way Sheriff Donna once stepped in and saved the day. It’s not a gigantic quibble for me, but I think it could have been a little bit stronger and more empowering. I do like that Claire chopped off jerk ex boyfriend’s head to spare Alex from having to do it – she’s definitely the Dean of the sibling duo.
(And Speaking of Briana, which I just was, this episode could have used more Sheriff Donna too! Let’s just put all the badass women together. Hey, maybe Rowena can be the next big bad they have to go up against?? And somebody reincarnate Charlie too while we’re at it!
One last comment about that scene. Good thing the bad guy had to monologue for about five minutes, or Sam and Dean wouldn’t even have arrived in time to do any saving. Was Sam walking in slow motion or something?? I was yelling at him to hurry the hell up as he sauntered around with his big knife and the screams of distress got louder. And sure, he looked really good sauntering – and Dean took my breath away when he stepped through that torn curtain in the dark, long coat fanning out and blade gleaming – but come on boys, can you hurry?!
The CW’s SPN twitter got it right though, tweeting at that scene: What every monster fears to have coming towards them.
Okay, so that scene aside, there was so much to love about this episode! Unlike the proposed backdoor pilot ‘Bloodlines’, which didn’t get picked up, this episode succeeded because it integrated Sam and Dean into the episode, and it starred characters we already knew and loved. Whether it’s actually being considered as a spinoff or it was just written as a nod to fans who want that, they did it in the right way this time.
All five of the actors are talented enough to pull off both humor and angst, and there was plenty of both in this episode.
I’ve gone on and on about Jody Mills and how much I love both her and Kim Rhodes, so I won’t repeat myself. Except to say that I love Jody Mills and was SO DAMN HAPPY to see her back on Show!
I was really glad to see Alex return too. Alex is a character with a truly tragic backstory, written with lots of nuance by Bob Berens when she was introduced in ‘Alex Annie Alexis Anne’. Her story, if anything, became more tragic with this episode, as we see in painful clarity (through the eyes of the equally tragic vampire janitor) what she was forced to do – the wrong that she was forced to do to innocent people. Those vampires weren’t just killing criminals, they asked Alex to lure the good people too. And she did it. As Claire wisely points out later, she was a kid – she’s not to blame. But that’s a tough pill for Alex to swallow, difficult for her to believe now that she’s adopting an entirely new morality. There’s a parallel here with cult members, especially for children – if that’s all you know, that’s the sense of right and wrong that you adopt. It wasn’t Alex’s fault – but it was most certainly wrong. And living with that, as Sam knows from his time of being soulless or demon blood addicted and Dean knows from his time of torturing in hell and being a demon, is damn hard. Katherine Ramdeen does an admirable job of showing us Alex’s guilt as well as her underlying (and understandable) rage.
I love that this episode made Alex’s story even darker and more complex; that Nancy Won’s script didn’t take the easy way out and make the vampire janitor just a ‘bad guy’. Instead, we got his story and it stopped me dead. Oh no. I’m empathizing with the bad guy again, what the hell?! That’s good writing. I had to struggle with it – with what it meant for him and for Alex and for the fact that he has to die. Ben Cotton, who has guest starred before on Supernatural back in Season 3, did a great job of making me feel for a character who was only onscreen a short time and was a villain to boot. Even jerk sidekick was also a victim, turned against his will (though we get the idea that maybe he was a jerk long before that).
The other serious scenes were the ones that Sam had with both Claire and Alex. For years, fans bemoaned the fact that we weren’t getting enough Sam pov, myself included. It made the show one-sided, and it made everything Sam did confusing. We started to feel like we no longer knew him, and that was painful – one of the things that research shows as a healthy benefit of loving a show like SPN over the years is the sense of familiarity, which gives us some of the same feelings that we get from spending time with actual family. But if we feel cut off from a character, that’s less likely to happen. This season, I feel like I know Sam Winchester again – and I love him perhaps even more than I ever have (and I’ve always loved him).
His genuine empathy and gentle challenging with Claire were so perfect; she listens to him and doesn’t shut down because she can tell that he gets it. And his conversation with Alex at the end is similarly genuine; he gets her too. Sam is so much more open this season – with his brother, and with trusted others. So he’s able to share with them both, and they’re able to hear him. And it helps. Jared excels at those scenes. He was so very Sam Winchester in both, and sells that earnestness perfectly. Sometimes I just sit here thinking how lucky I am that the characters I’m crazy about are played by such talented actors – who care about what and who they’re playing.
Dean’s interactions with Claire are more humorous, but no less helpful. We didn’t get as much of a glimpse into why Claire is so desperately wanting to lose herself in hunting (though we can certainly guess), but Kathryn Newton can definitely play the humor as well as the teenage angst.
I laughed out loud when Dean went into ‘Dad’ mode with her, especially because of the constant social media teasing that Jensen, Jared and Misha take for being ‘Dads’. I loved Claire’s reaction – half amused, half oh FINE Dad. It rang so true. And his not-so-subtle admonition to the (jerk) boyfriend?
Know what else was priceless? Some of the tweets flying back and forth during the west coast airing, when Kim, Kathryn Newton and Katherine Ramdeen (joined by fellow female alums Briana Buckmaster, Alaina Huffman, Ruth Connell and others) were as entertaining as the episode itself.
Katherine: DEANS DAD FACE LOLOOLOL @JensenAckles
On screen, Claire tells Dean that it totally worked, then rolls her eyes and walks away.
Katherine: CLAIRE TROLLED SAM & DEAN LOLOLTROLOLL
Kathryn and Katherine also bantered in character back and forth.
Katherine: SHUT UP CLAIRE @KathrynLNewton
We also got Kim Rhodes having as much maternal pride as Jody, which Kim sold beautifully both as an actor (Jody’s fond smile as she watches Alex ‘fit in’) …
And as herself in the live tweet.
Kim: NOT A WORD SPOKEN! But such a good moment!!!! @katramdeen and @KathrynLNewton OWNED IT!!
They did. The wordless nod exchanged between the two young women after the vamps are killed carried so much meaning. Clearly they’ve learned how to communicate non verbally after watching Jared and Jensen, masters of the look that says more than an entire page of script.
Also, whoever keeps putting Sam and Dean in those long coats and FBI suits? Needs a friggen’ raise. Holy crap, but the boys look good dressed like that.
Other things I loved?
I loved the beginning scene when Dean brings Sam a burger.
A double donut Elvis burger.
Now surely Dean knows that this is not up Sam’s alley, but he’s so infatuated with the idea and its awesomeness that he just can’t help himself. He wants to share the awesomeness with his little brother. Of course he does.
Dean’s childlike glee over finding the Elvis burger is adorable, but Ackles always plays Dean with such nuance. When Sam rejects the burger, you can see the flash of hurt cross his face as he makes an aborted gesture toward the other bag, trying to say ‘no, that one’s yours, I have my own…’ He drops it immediately and falls back on bitching and humor, but Dean is sensitive when it comes to Sam. I love that tiny moment that reminds us of who Dean is – I am forever grateful that Jensen remembers.
I loved that Sam and Dean are, once again, working together as a team.
They talk to each other, plan with each other, bicker with each other over food but share commiserating glances constantly.
When they split up to work the case, they call each other — and they pick up too!
My favorite scene – and one that will go down in Show history as a favorite – was of course the infamous dinner scene. Infamous because Kim and Kathryn both talked about how hysterical (and difficult) it was to try to say your lines while Jensen Ackles is sitting across the table from you making a giant fort out of his mashed potatoes.
I can only imagine.
The scene itself had me laughing so hard I needed tissues. Jared and Jensen played Sam and Dean shoveling chicken and mashed potatoes in their mouths with gusto perfectly – not so over the top that it wasn’t believable but OMG so damn funny.
Apparently Kim added some brilliant ad libs that ended up being some of the funniest moments.
Nothing says, “We’re never gonna fuck,” like a slug on the arm. @JensenAckles
“Sit. Stay.” Also not scripted.
I didn’t stop @katramdeen fast enough on the wine. “Put it back,” not in the script.
Obviously these five work together seamlessly, because those all came off as just right and nobody blinked an eye.
I loved everything about that scene. Jared and Jensen being Sam and Dean being awkward as the conversation turns to a teenage sex talk will never not be hysterical. Sam’s avoidance, and Dean’s open mouthed and determinedly clueless “What?” killed me.
I had to go back and rewatch that scene several times simply because I enjoyed it so damn much. And Kim, playing Jody’s increasingly exasperated “A little help here, boys?”
Fandom thought so, clearly.
The scene was funny as hell, but it also had a little bit of seriousness to it. We do know from canon that Dean can cook – he once made Sam a sandwich that had him salivating. But the boys rarely get someone cooking for them, certainly not a mom figure around a family table. It’s that as much as the food that I think the boys are overcome by and enjoying so much.
The theme of family resounds through this episode – and how devastating the loss of family is. Dean lets us glimpse his own always present sadness about the family he lost as a child when he snaps at Claire that she should be grateful for the found family she has in Jody and Alex – for a room nicer than the one he has now. Oh, Dean. Every now and then, we can see so clearly that hurt little boy who’s still inside, the four year old who lost his mother and his home and his room with its trucks and toy soldiers and legos. He wants it for Claire, but it hurts too, because he never got that back. I think part of the reason he holds onto Sam with every molecule of his being is that Sam is the only part of his family that he hasn’t lost. He literally couldn’t bear it.
A line near the end of the episode echoes both the importance and the immense vulnerability that having a family to love brings:
“That’s what’s scary about family, it gives you so much to lose”
Thank you, Nancy Won, for that line. It says so much about Supernatural.
The Winchesters get leftovers. In Tupperware. Which both looks really amusing when Sam is carrying them, and makes both the brothers ridiculously happy.
Jody gets one of the best parting shot lines, as we say goodbye to the Wayward Daughters (at least for now): As long as everyone wears a condom, we’ll be fine.
Dean: [laughing] I want that bumper sticker.
Fandom, as always, was on it.
Damn it, even my drive by reviews end up four pages long. I cannot NOT write about this Show!
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