The mid season finale was aptly titled ‘Reflections’ and that’s what it asked some of its main characters to do. Supernatural (the Mothership for this prequel series) has always been about family relationships, so I was eager to watch this episode, which promised not one but TWO missing fathers returning. The episode was also directed by Supernatural’s Richard Speight, Jr. so that was an extra incentive to be excited. It also had me reflecting on my long history with this universe, since Speight has been so much a part of all things Supernatural and the return of Henry Winchester also meant the return of Supernatural’s Gil McKinney. That meant that this episode was, for me, the most emotional one so far.
We get Dean Winchester right away with his introductory monologue: Comes a time in every hunt when the fightin’ starts. And the difference between winning and losing isn’t whether you have the holy water, the wooden stake or the silver bullet. It’s whether you’ve got the grit to get the job done.
Certainly something that Sam and Dean had, no matter what got thrown at them, and not something that the John and Mary we know in the future were lacking. In this timeline, John and Mary stalk the radio station tower that’s calling all the monsters to the Akrida in a beautifully filmed scene in an overgrown field and then inside a dark abandoned radio tower.
Speight always gives us some shots that strike me as beautiful in their composition, and I enjoy looking for them in each episode he directs – this one didn’t disappoint.
Unexpectedly, Mary finds her father’s bag covered in blood (he apparently puts his initials on everything – someone must have sent him to camp a lot as a kid).
Mary freaks out, feeling guilty about the way they left things. She told him that she wanted to leave hunting and then Samuel went out on his own, and now she fears that maybe he’s not coming back. It’s such a common struggle for people who have lost someone and their last interaction was less than positive, and it can cause painful feelings of guilt and regret that are hard to get past. I felt for Mary there, as she confessed how much it was bothering her. I wondered if John too had felt some guilt – we don’t know what he had said to his father on the night Henry disappeared. Were there regrets there too?
Just then they notice a banging coming from the trunk of a car –some poor guy named Hector who is currently a vessel for the Akrida (Should John really be hitting him like that or does possession by the Akrida not work that way? I feel like they were more hurting an already tied up and bloody Hector, not the Akrida.) I’m not entirely sure why some of the Akrida are in human vessels and some are just running around like giant bugs.
Hector says their work is done, the Akrida have enough of that “sweet monster essence” and nothing can stop what’s coming. We find out that apparently Hector is “fried from the Akrida” anyway so he can’t be saved, which I appreciate the show addressing but ouch, poor hapless Hector. The guy falls on his face in the dirt saying long live the queen. I’m also not sure how we can tell whether or not the humans are fried or could potentially be okay, which becomes relevant later when John and Mary fight a whole bunch of them in human meatsuits. Hopefully this show isn’t cavalier about the hapless humans.
Roxy (who clearly picked a meat suit for its attractiveness because she’s pretty stunning imho) threatens the resident chemist to figure things out faster and then an Akrida in giant bug form skitters in for a conversation with her.
I’m still having trouble taking the giant bug forms seriously – it seems more sci fi than horror, or even camp, and I’m used to Supernatural being darker and closer to horror. Both literally and figuratively. And I liked that about Supernatural! Part of the fandom is convinced they’re meant to look like a uterus and now I can’t unsee it, which isn’t helping. Anyway, the bug tells Roxy that our fearsome foursome have the box.
They have it, but so far they’ve had no luck actually getting it to work again. Carlos and Lata argue about it, both of them frustrated.
Luckily Ada returns from helping her son “with his djinn side,” which led to some MoL lore that she thinks may be helpful. It’s interesting to hear them wonder what happened to the Men of Letters, why all their offices are abandoned, knowing what we know that they don’t (at least in the universe we know well). Lata finds a paper describing the mystery box, once again in record time.
Lata: The box is called the Ostium.
Carlos: Latin, for an opening in the body.
Everyone else stares at him, like how did you know that?
Carlos: What, didn’t anyone else go to Sunday School?
I hope Carlos is not going to suffer under the Dean Winchester curse of being assumed he’s not smart just because he can be funny. And pretty.
Carlos: So is this thing organic? Is it a mouth or any other kind of hole?
And oh yes, you know fandom has some wild theories about that too.
They wonder if it’s called that because it eats monsters… when suddenly John realizes that the paper is written in his dad’s handwriting.
John tries to make out the paper. They soon realize it’s in a kind of shorthand, since Henry was an initiate, in charge of taking notes at MoL meetings. John brings Millie to the clubhouse to help with Henry’s writing, since she must have known it well.
Millie: I need to know what’s going on.
John: We’re trying to save mankind.
She’s understandably incredulous that deciphering her late husband’s chicken scratch is gonna save the world, but she agrees to try.
Speaking of saving mankind, I kind of wish that the stakes were not quite so universal to start this show out actually – that they were instead going after something intimately connected to John and Mary the way that Sam and Dean were when they hit the road together in the pilot. Yes, they were looking for their father and so are Mary and John, but the mytharc and the big mystery was also personally tied to the Winchesters, and that made the stakes actually feel higher. It sounds counter-intuitive that the stakes might feel higher when it’s individual people being threatened instead of “all mankind”, but that’s how we feel as humans. I’m a lot more invested in ‘that thing is after my fave!’ than ‘mankind must be saved.’ Maybe we’ll find out that it IS personally connected, and that’s why one of John’s sons is narrating this story, but we don’t know that yet and I sort of wish we did.
Meanwhile, Mary finds a motel key in Samuel’s bag (that looks just like the vintage motel keys I now have from the Mothership in fact, since it always seemed like Sam and Dean were staying at places that hadn’t changed since the 70s anyway, so it gave me a pleasant moment of nostalgia for SPN). She heads to his motel to look for clues.
Carlos goes with her, trying to assuage her guilt. He shares his own struggle with similar feelings – when his parents were killed by the ghouls, it’s because they were in Phoenix to work a gig so they could get him a new guitar, supporting his dream of being a rockstar. JoJo Fleites and Meg Donnelly have a touching but realistic scene here, showing how powerful it is get some validation from someone else who’s been through the same thing. It’s really only someone who actually knows how it feels who can help you feel better – that’s why group therapy is so powerful. Carlos is honest with Mary about how hard it is to get pat that. He admits he couldn’t just get rid of the guilt, so turned to revenge, tracking down the ghouls and killing them.
It’s a Supernatural tradition, isn’t it?
A cop pulls Carlos over on the way; he asks Mary to hide the little baggie that’s under her seat because hey, this is the seventies. Carlos is an excellent flirt.
But it’s even worse than the cops, it turns out – it’s Roxy. Mary pulls her knife, but Roxy says that will just kill the woman she’s possessing and that would be a shame (I mean, it would definitely be a shame for that woman…) She also says that Samuel is alive and she wants the Ostium – in exchange. It’s so very 70s that the plan for the rendezvous is a phone booth on a corner will ring at 10 pm and give Mary instructions because yep, no cell phones!
Carlos, proving his smarts once again, plants a hex bag in the back of the cruiser so that Ada can cast a spell to track where Roxy goes. Nicely done, Losi!
Back at the clubhouse, Millie and Ada do a little mom to mom bonding. Millie says she needed a break from ‘those kids’ and wonders how Ada puts up with it.
Ada: I let them think they’re in charge. And I drink.
I always enjoy when Millie and Ada get to interact – I kinda need a break from ‘those kids’ too I think. They feel miles younger than Sam and Dean did when Supernatural began. Bianca Kajlich and Demetria McKinney are both so good, understated but conveying so much with every expression.
They share a drink, and Ada also shares some history of Henry – that he worried what his vocation was doing to their marriage, and that’s why he wanted to separate. Both the Campbells and the Winchesters had their issues, didn’t they?
Millie worries that she’ll lose John in the same way, but Ada assures her that John isn’t closed off like Henry was (though he has been more closed off than not, honestly). They both agree he has to deal with his anger though – and that Ada’s son Tony does too. They drink to their “boys”.
I loved the small moment that comes next because one of the things I enjoy about this show is that it does take place in the 70s, and I like to be reminded of that. Lata puts Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” on the record player and I got stuck for a few minutes on what that used to feel like, since I can remember doing that back in the day. It was a whole thing, taking the record carefully out of the sleeve, putting it on the turntable, placing the needle. It took time, and it somehow made the playing of the music even more special. Speight gets a shot of the record which I greatly appreciate.
Lata, with Millie’s help, has figured out a few things. The Ostium doesn’t kill monsters, but transports them. They’re basically like the Borg on Star Trek, wiping out whole worlds and then taking them over, and working as a hive mind. Also like the Borg, they are all attached to the Queen (and if someone takes her out, the rest are goners). Someone call Jean Luc Picard stat!
Everyone is happy about this – except Carlos, who doesn’t want to break up the band (he’s in the Dean Winchester position tonight, worried that his family will leave and ‘go back to school’ as soon as the immediate danger is over). It’s a nice subtle call back to the Mothership even though it came out of nowhere for Carlos, and made me miss Sam and Dean like a visceral thing. We got a little bit of his backstory in this episode but I’d like to know more. From what we do know, with his family gone, it makes sense that their little hunting family is very important to him.
Ada’s spell locates where the Akrida and Roxy are (with a little plant bursting through the map!)
I love Ada’s connection to plants, and if you could see our house you would instantly know why. In fact, I love all the greenery inside the ‘clubhouse’ – though I hate that they call it a clubhouse, it really plays up the ‘they’re kids’ thing and I might be a little too old for that. Ada, another grown-up drink please?
Meanwhile, in one of the creepiest scenes in the episode (and closer to the horror roots that I value so much) Akrida who are possessing humans work digging and mining something, increasingly desperate to get to whatever it is they’re trying to uncover. One woman drops to her knees and starts clawing at the floor, nails scratching and breaking and EWWWW I had to look away.
Nice shot, Director Dick! There’s that dark horror I was looking for!
Millie figures out they can set up a séance with Henry – they just need an object connected to him with strong feelings. (Why has Ada not tried this séance thing before to find out stuff? Hmm). John says he has something if it doesn’t have to be positive feelings, which is sure to be sad to hear about. Sure enough, he takes something from his closet that is connected to his dad – and ‘Americana’ by the brilliant Jay Gruska starts playing (which I was spoiled for and it’s kind of a good thing because that music is very very special to me and I very much do not want it to be overused. You have to earn using that music).
He brings a music box that plays ‘As Time Goes By’ – as Millie says, “our song”. He used to listen to it every night, John says, thinking if he kept playing it maybe his dad would come back. That rang so true, so like something a little boy feeling abandoned and too young to understand why would feel. That everyone who watched Supernatural connects that song to the episode in which we met Henry Winchester makes it doubly emotional for us as we watch.
Poor John. Then he got angry, he admits, and broke it.
Carlos is the only one who actually goes to therapy on this show, but luckily for the rest of them, they keep being forced into kinda doing therapy (unfortunately without a therapist). It happens again in this episode. John has to reach out openly and honestly to John and share his true emotions in order for the spell to work, so essentially he’s doing the Gestalt empty chair technique which hey, not a bad intervention for complicated grief but damn, you probably should not do it on your own with a bona fide ghost! But it is one way to have to stop repressing your feelings. (And for viewers to get a lot of information on the characters’ emotional state).
As they proceed with the séance, the candles all go out and they think it didn’t work. John storms out, angry. Americana plays sadly as Mary goes after him.
John: Guess I shouldn’t be surprised he didn’t show up, he never came to baseball games either.
Ouch. A resentment and hurt that John will repeat with his own sons, we know.
Mary empathizes how hard it must have been that he was so young when his dad left. He remembers hearing his parents fight even before his dad left, and would hear his name, so he’d play the music box to try to drown it out. So I was right about the guilt.
John: Maybe if I could’ve been better…or smarter… maybe he wouldn’t have left.
He’s tearful, struggling not to sob.
Mary: You were just a kid.
(Oh, Supernatural fans, where have we heard that before?)
This too rang very true. All kids at that age believe in a phenomenon called “imminent justice,” the idea that if something bad happens then it must have been because of something they did. A parent leaves, it must be because of that child. It’s why it’s so important when parents separate that they make sure kids know it wasn’t because of them, because that’s the default assumption. Poor John, carrying that burden all this life – no wonder he’s so damn angry!
Mary says it wasn’t his fault, the theme of the episode, and then Henry is suddenly there to agree, flashing into existence, saying it wasn’t John’s fault, it was his.
It was so wonderful to have Gil McKinney back on my screen as Henry again!!!
Henry wants to explain why he left – and wants to see Millie – but John says they don’t have time for that, they need his help, that the Akrida are back. Henry tells John that the Ostium has to be recharged, and set so that the Akrida will be sent back to their own world forever.
Each of the Men of Letters was given a piece of the energy source to hide in case they needed it, luckily. He tells John that the energy source is in that jasmine vine because of course it is.
John tells his father that Millie isn’t too happy he’s gotten into the monster business and Henry warns his son that this is a dangerous world he’s stepped into, and damn it, Gil McKinney totally made me cry! I loved his character on Supernatural, so to have him back as that same character felt really good.
Henry: You watch out for yourself, and your mom. I’m proud of you, son.
That got to me too, thinking about how much Sam and Dean needed to hear that from John – and how much John needed to hear that from Henry.
It takes Mary an oddly long time to get to her for some reason, so Millie gets there just in time for Henry to tell her that he loves her and John, and then he disappears.
That was an emotional scene, beautifully directed by Mr. Speight and acted by Drake and Gil. In part, it worked because we’re already invested in Henry Winchester (the ‘we’ who are Supernatural fans, that is) and we feel like we know his character. Otherwise, I would have said that there wasn’t enough emotional build up in six episodes of John longing for his dad to make his sudden appearance that powerful – Supernatural made Sam and Dean search for John for a long long time before they finally were reunited, and that wait made the payoff have a huge impact. I’m sure the practical reason is that The Winchesters only is assured of one shorter season to prove itself, but anticipation is a good thing when it comes to emotional payoffs.
I don’t know if it’s due to editing and time constraints, but in contrast the Millie and John reunion was strikingly not very emotional – I would have expected a lot more feelings after all that time, and a lot more despair that Henry flashed out and disappeared almost immediately. I would be pissed if I were Millie!
They find the rock hidden in the jasmine and Lata says it may be from another universe and hmmm, is that a clue, show?
Box-powering rock having done its job, they all converge on the Akrida lab building, confronted by lots of Akrida possessed people. Mary reminds John those are innocent people, so they should use demon possession fighting rules – which basically means beating the crap out of them but not killing them and ouch, those poor people! I never like music montage type fight scenes so I wish the music wasn’t there, but the fight scene itself is well done and choreographed and John is now fighting like the ex Marine he’s supposed to be so that’s good.
Lata and Carlos find a cabinet full of monster essence, hiding when someone comes in and opens it – and leaves with a case full of it.
Another great Director Dick shot.
Outside, a ‘cop’ orders Ada and Millie out of the van and Millie proves herself a badass going from ‘oh hello officer’ to suddenly knocking him right out.
Again, I’m feeling for these Akrida hosts if they ever manage to wake up. Ouch.
When they confront Roxie, Mary opens the box to pull Roxy in.
And it works – in she goes, along with a few other Akrida bugs!
But nope, of course it’s not that easy, this is only the mid season finale after all. One is still there, confusingly. John realizes with dismay that maybe Roxy wasn’t the queen after all. Uh oh.
He and Mary run for their lives and lock themselves in a room, a bunch of Akrida bugs clamoring outside the door.
(Bianca Kajlich posted a behind the scenes video of crew members standing in for the giant bugs outside the door and it was hilarious – go find it if you missed it).
I guess they think they’re about to die, because oddly John takes a moment to revisit their conversation of the night they met and then pull Mary into a kiss. Not shocking, since we know how they end up, but surprising in that moment. I feel like I should be more invested in their relationship, but I think it works against them that we do know they’ll end up together – there’s no suspense about it, and that takes away some of the excitement. I am convinced they care about each other in six episodes, but there hasn’t been enough chemistry to see that kiss coming or to enjoy the anticipation. So it didn’t carry alot of impact for me, but if you were hoping for it, you probably enjoyed it.
And then Samuel Campbell bursts in and saves them! Well hello, Tom Welling!
He sucks the Akrida up and boom, they’re gone!
He unfortunately collapses soon after, bleeding and gasping. But he did save the day, and Mary is overwhelmed with relief seeing him alive.
I liked Tom Welling in Smallville and he’s a good friend of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki from all their Vancouver days, so I’m happy to have him on the show even though it’s nearly impossible to see the character as the same one that Mitch Pileggi played on the Mothership. Pileggi played a version of Samuel that was far from sympathetic, so it will be interesting to see what this version is like.
It’s not exactly a happy ending for the mid season finale though, unsurprisingly. The Akrida lady with the monster essence brings the case to the tunnel where the Queen is sealed, and they break through to where she is, bringing her the essence. I’m tremendously relieved we do not actually SEE her, just the worker Akrida bowing to her queen.
Well, that can’t be good.
The Winchesters is on hiatus until January – but returns on January 24, which just so happens to be Dean Winchester’s birthday. Stay tuned!
Caps by spndeangirl
You can read all about how Supernatural changed
the lives of its fans – and its actors – in their
chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood and
There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done (including
Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki). Info links at: