I’ve been a happy Supernatural fangirl so far in Season 13, and episode 13.06 was also a win in my book. I’m not over the moon like I was last week, but it was a solid episode with great performances once again – both dramatic and funny as hell — and some great directing by Nina Lopez-Corrado, one of my favorite SPN directors. Also a special shout out to Jay Gruska for the awesome music throughout the episode, both instrumental and song choice. This was one of those episodes that had a specific “feel” to it, with the writing (by Davy Perez), directing, music and set decoration all contributing to make it wonderful.
Supernatural has done a Western episode before, so this one didn’t carry the first time thrill of OMG we get to see Sam and Dean in the old west, but it’s been a while so I was eager to see Dean Winchester put on boots and a cowboy hat once again. And this episode marked a change in tone for the season that was significant– having Castiel back is that ‘one win’ that Dean so badly needed in order to rekindle some spark of hope so he can care again. He told Sam at the end of the last episode that he just needed a win, and he got a big one. Castiel is back, against all odds. That’s wonderful in itself, but maybe that means other things can change for the better as well. Dean has hope again, and a renewed belief that maybe what they do really CAN make a difference – just by knowing that good things can still happen. Miracles, even. I think we’ve all missed Dean’s personality this season, since his usual sense of humor and ability to take great delight in even the smallest things has been quashed by his depression, grief and hopelessness. In this episode, we start to see the Dean Winchester we know and love come back to life, and it feels almost as good as when I see that start to happen with a real person, whether a client or a friend. I’ve missed this side of you, Dean Winchester!
The episode starts with a flashlight-lit chase in a graveyard with Dean and some sheriff guy we don’t recognize, until he disappears down a hole grabbed by who knows what. Then it’s “48 Hours Earlier” and we’re back to where we left off, as Sam and Dean react to the surprise return of Cas.
Sam: I don’t know what to say…
Dean: I do. Welcome home, pal.
You can see how desperate Dean is for that win – he barely hesitates, he needs to believe this is really Cas from the get go. The relief on his face as he embraces his friend is palpable.
Cas gets a Sam hug too, and this is the moment that Jared and Jensen talked about onstage at Pittcon. While Jared and Misha were hugging, Jensen just “brought my foot up…”. In a vulnerable place, let’s say. Julie Holden captured the moment during filming, with Jensen clearly cracking up.
Soon enough they all figure out who probably helped bring Castiel back – Jack.
One of my favorite scenes was the Jack and Cas reunion. These two have an odd bond, forged before Jack was even born, but it’s clearly one that’s strong and very real to both of them. Cas and Jack hug – this episode is a veritable hug fest for Supernatural – and you can see how glad Jack is to have Castiel back.
Jack: I missed you so much.
Jack just breaks my heart with his innocence and his absolute determination to make Sam and Dean (and now Cas) proud of him. He shows off his ability to finally move the pencil with his mind, the thing Sam asked him to do earlier. And he finds them a case too!
Dean: How did you learn to do that?
Jack: (proudly) I learned by watching you and Sam.
This season really is My Two Dads. (Now My Three Dads…)
Jack’s so proud of himself, so thrilled that he can finally do something FOR the Winchesters. At first they’re all skeptical about pursuing it, but then Jack mentions that the case is in Dodge City, and you can see the moment it registers with Dean. He tries to hide it, but that little boy smile is already in evidence. Dodge City?? Cowboys!!
Cas: (realizing what’s going through Dean’s mind) Wait, really?
Cas looks at Sam for confirmation of his skepticism, the two of them both amused by and incredulous at Dean, which was all kinds of adorable. I love when Cas and Sam share an eyeroll over Dean that doesn’t really hide their affection for him one bit.
Dean: Two salty hunters, a half angel kid, a dude just come back from the dead – again… it’s Team Free Will 2.0!
Who can say no to Dean when he’s that excited about something? Not Sam and Cas, that’s for sure. Next thing you know, they’re in Dodge City, where the Impala looks just as damn sexy as she does in any other part of the country.
Their hotel room is so Western themed that it looks like an amusement park, much to Dean’s over the top delight. And I mean that in the best way possible. Kudos to Jerry Wanek and company for decking that room out to be amazing. Dean’s smile and excitement, and the way he geeks out over all the photos of gunslingers, knowing every detail about them? It’s fanboy Dean, one of my favorite things in the whole universe. I have missed that smile so much!
Jack: (deadpans) He really likes cowboys.
Cas: Yes. Yes he does.
Dean: This is awesome!
We didn’t get too many scenes between the brothers in this episode, which I always want more of, but there was a nice little conversation between Sam and Dean that carries on that open communication thing that I’m loving this season.
Sam: You’re in a good mood, huh?
I love that Sam noticed, and that he said something too. It’s the theme of this season – feel it, say it! Keep doing this, boys!
Sam: You’ve been having a rough go of it. It’s good to see you smile.
Awwww. Sam’s consideration for his struggling brother has been so heartwarming this season. Have I mentioned I really love you, Sam Winchester? And I agree wholeheartedly.
Meanwhile, Nina Lopez Corrado directs the hell out of a very scary scene during which a hapless red shirted deputy gets killed by what turns out to be a grave robbing ghoul. Nicely done, Nina!
Cas and Jack stay up late and have a heart to heart while the Winchesters turn in.
Jack: You can have the couch, I don’t sleep much.
Cas: (deadpans) I don’t sleep at all.
I love these two together, gotta say. They are both a little bit awkward, which it turns out is twice as hilarious when they’re talking to each other. And yet they’re both very earnest, so it tugs on my heartstrings at the same time. Cas apologizes to Jack for not being there for him, but Jack isn’t holding it against him. He also tries to encourage Jack to keep trying, saying that his mother believed that he was good, that he’d do good in the world.
Cas: I know that she was right. That WE were right. Kelly would be proud of you.
It’s a sweet moment, and Misha plays it with just the right amount of emotion. This is a side of Castiel we haven’t seen that much of, when he’s open and expressive and we get a glimpse of who he really is and how he feels. Also in keeping with this being the season of Tell-Me-How-You-Feel. And I like it!
The moment is interrupted by Jack figuring out the next step of the case. He jumps up to wake Sam and Dean. Cas runs after him trying to warn Jack with ‘hey I wouldn’t do that….’ But Jack already has a hand on Dean, who predictably jumps up from a sound sleep with a gun already aimed at Jack’s head.
Ummm… is it hot in here??
Competency kink plus two Winchesters in single layer tee shirts???
Yeah, it’s definitely hot in here.
Dean: (grumbling sleepily) Who’s makin’ me coffee?
Cas to Jack: I told you, he’s an angry sleeper. Like a bear.
That was fodder for all sorts of internet jokes, but it was also just delivered in a very funny way. Despite this being an emotional episode, everyone brought their A game for those little comedic moments, and they all hit just right.
Dean indeed refuses to speak or get up and do anything until he’s had his coffee, which he conveys to Cas with just a hand signal. Also hilarious.
And Dean is still wearing only a tight tee shirt. So yeah, it’s still hot in here.
We’ve also gotten some interesting tidbits of character development this season, sometimes in small moments like this one. Dean’s grumpiness in the morning and his love of coffee are common in fanfiction, for example, so it’s nice to have those traits confirmed in canon.
Sam and Jack head out to investigate the grave robberies, and Dean and Castiel head out to investigate the murder. Dean insists they need to “blend in”, which means we get the long-anticipated scene of both Dean and Cas in cowboy hats. Dean has to adjust Castiel’s hat and give him some instruction in how to behave first, because Dean is an authority on all things cowboy, which is adorable.
Dean: Act like you’re from Tombstone.
Cas: The town?
Dean: The movie! I made you watch it.
Cas: (longsuffering) I’m your Huckleberry.
Dean: It’s good to have you back, Cas.
Satisifed, Dean gets out of the car. Thank you, Nina, for the slow-mo montage that lovingly pans up Dean Winchester in all his Western decked out glory as he does, from those gorgeous boots to those long bowlegs to the white shirt and bolo and scruff and hat. Mm mm mm.
Dean and Cas “saunter” up the road, Impala gleaming behind them, “Space Cowboy” playing as they walk.
It was pretty epic.
I enjoyed Dean and Cas getting to play cowboys, and their scene together was cherished by anyone who happens to ship that ship. I’m all for everyone enjoying whatever it is they enjoy about the show, though articles that try to get hits by setting it up as a zero sum game (it’s either Dean and Cas or it’s Dean and Sam) just create dissension and tear the fandom apart. So boo for that.
Anyway, I enjoyed their cowboy dress up (though I admit I would have loved to see Sam decked out too!) The sergeant, however, is not all that impressed – which is HILARIOUS. All the kudos to guest actor Eric Schweig who made the best faces every time Dean or Cas said something questionable.
Cas: I’m… my name is Val Kilmer.
I burst into laughter. Dean just closes his eyes in defeat.
Sarge mistakes them for Texas Rangers, which makes Dean gleeful. He tells them the murdered man was his nephew, who he’s known since the boy was a day old, and now there’s some emotional resonance at the same time as Sarge’s skeptical “mm hmm” keeps making me giggle. Kudos to all the actors and to Nina for making sure every single humorous moment landed perfectly.
Meanwhile, Sam and Jack surprise the town undertaker, a young woman named Athena. More great music is playing on her headphones – about Zombies no less. Just as Sarge was skeptical about Cas, Athena is skeptical about FBI agent Jack.
Athena: He’s an FBI agent? Did his parents sign a permission slip?
Sam: He’s a trainee…
Kudos to guest actress Sarah Troyer for bringing real personality to Athena even in a small role – I think we were all rooting for her (both to survive and to dump that crappy boyfriend…)
Sam eventually digs up a gnawed up bone in the graveyard, and now they know it’s a ghoul. When Cas and Dean return, Jack manages to pull up surveillance footage and now they can clearly see the guy driving the truck before the murder.
Dean: (delightedly) That’s Dave Mather!
Dean once again geeks out over the gunslinger, even if the actual person has been dead for a very long time and this is actually a ghoul wearing his face and adopting a lot of his persona.
Jack: (delighted to be helping): That’s Athena’s boyfriend!
Dean: Let me get my boots on!
We find out that Dave isn’t exactly the nicest guy – he doesn’t respect Athena’s boundaries and seems awfully pushy to me. Oh, and he’s a ghoul. I mean, she doesn’t know it yet, but I feel like he was sending out some pretty clear signals about what kind of boyfriend material he is – as in, ‘run away run away!’
The Impala pulls up to Athena’s house with fabulous Spaghetti Western music playing, where Athena tells them Dave headed to the bank.
He’s already pulled off a bank robbery, but is confronted by Sam and Dean with rifles drawn. Somehow, the Winchesters – who we know are crack shots – manage to miss nearly every one. What the hell, Show? Finally Jack steps up to save the day, using his powers to knock Dave on his ass after Dave shoots him. Tragically, that also makes the poor security guard fly through the air – and right into a concrete pillar.
Jack is horrified, looking stricken as the guard lies there bleeding. Jack begs Cas to heal him, but Cas can’t.
Sam: He’s dead.
Dean chases Dave into the street, nearly gets run over (by a car whose driver must have thought huh that guy’s carrying a big rifle…) and loses him. The Winchesters aren’t exactly the awesome hunters they usually are today, are they? I don’t really like that, Show, just so you know.
The three dads discuss what to do while Jack sits stricken in the other room. Finally Dean says that Sam and Cas need to take Jack back to the bunker, for his own safety. Dean goes after the ghoul alone, which always makes me nervous. He meets up with Sarge, also there to take no prisoners. The two understand each other in a way that reminds me of Henrickson and Dean in early seasons – two hardened men, ready to do what needs to be done. Dean and Sarge understand each other.
Dean: Where’s your badge?
Sarge: Don’t need one. This is family business.
And if anyone understands family business? It’s Dean Winchester.
We return to the opening scene, and Sarge soon disappears, pulled into the deep hole in the ground in the graveyard. Dean runs up to find only his hat beside the gaping hole.
Dean (looking down) Ah hell.
(Jensen Ackles’ Texas twang much in evidence, much to my delight)
Dean looks again, shaking his head and talking to himself.
Dean: Mm mm, no. I don’t wanna…Okay…
And in that split second, he talks himself into doing what he needs to do and throws himself down the hole anyway. We know how much he hates crawling through the very skinny tunnel, dirt all over him. His gun gets stuck and Jensen Ackles’ comedy genius is showcased a thousand percent.
Dean: Perfect! (spits out dirt loudly) Sure, come to Dodge City, have some laughs…
When he comes to the end of the tunnel, he throws himself out the exit right onto the floor in a heap. By that time, I was laughing out loud. I bet Ackles ad libbed some of that – can’t wait to ask him at the next con I’m at!
The bad guy comes back shortly after Dean discovers a tied up Athena and a beaten up Sarge, and he orders Dean to get his hands up. Dean complies, but slowly, exchanging a wordless plan with Sarge. Dean taunts Dave, but it’s Sarge who fires from behind him, blowing the ghoul’s head right off. Once the dust has cleared, Sarge asks Dean what happened – because he clearly knows that’s the theme of Season 13.
Sarge: What actually happened back there?
Dean: Dave killed the deputy…and the guard…you killed him. I was never here.
Sarge: Fair enough.
I kinda love Sarge.
Meanwhile, Sam drives back to the bunker, Cas riding shotgun and Jack in the back. Sam and Cas try to convince Jack that it wasn’t his fault, that it was ‘just a mistake’, but Jack isn’t really having it.
Back at the bunker, Dean returns. Sam asks him how it went.
Dean: Usual. Killed the bad guy. Saved the girl.
He makes it sound so simple, but that is such a big deal for Dean right now. This is how Dean defines his purpose in life – this is what he does, as a hunter. Saving people, hunting things. Recently he hasn’t been able to do that and it drove him into a deep depression. Now he’s got another win, added to the return of Cas. He’s back to doing “the usual” – and it must feel so very very good.
Sam: And the guard?
Dean: I took care of it.
That brings an explosion from Jack, who is feeling terribly guilty. He demands to know if the guard had a family, and Dean doesn’t lie to him.
Dean: Yes, he did.
Sam again tries to say that it’s okay, that this life is difficult.
Sam raises his hands in surrender, and you can see the moment that registers with Jack.
Jack: (dismayed) You’re afraid of me. Maybe you’re right…maybe I’m just another monster.
This time it’s Dean who responds, and it sorta makes my eyes water.
Dean: No. You’re not. I thought you were. I did. But like Sam said, we’ve all done bad. If you’re a monster, we’re all monsters.
It’s a good speech, and Dean means it, but Jack is actually the one who’s terrified – terrified that he’ll hurt someone else. Terrified that he’ll hurt Sam and Dean and Castiel.
Jack: (despairing) I can’t even do one good thing. I know that if I stay, I’m gonna hurt you, all of you. And I can’t. You’re all I have.
Oh Jack. Where are my tissues?
Jack: I have to go. I’m so sorry.
He blasts the three of them to the floor, and he’s gone – with the sounds of wings.
Sam: He’s gone.
I knew Jack would be going, but I’m full of trepidation about what that means. Will Asmodeus try to turn him again? Will he succeed, now that Jack is alone and vulnerable?
Finally Dean believes in him, but now Jack doesn’t believe in himself. It really is breaking my heart.
On the other hand, the Winchesters are getting back to being the Winchesters, Cas is back, and things seem a bit more hopeful. I’m sure that just means that Show will break my heart a million times over, but for right now, I’ll take it.
Fingers crossed for episode 7!
Big thanks for the caps by @kayb625
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