The penultimate episode of The Winchesters’ first season was what Supernatural used to call a ‘Monster of the Week’. The open is frankly terrifying, two guys out to have a good time – at a closed carnival at night? Uh oh.
Not-very-happy guy finds a ticket, hears music that his friend doesn’t, and heads right toward the creepiest looking carnival tent you can imagine because of course he does. Limbo’s Hall of Happy – and here he is, Limbo himself, waving and beckoning the guy to come right on inside. WHY, DUDE? Who would follow a clown that looks like this???
First he’s trapped in a hall of mirrors (look, those things were terrifying when I was a kid – not fun!) and then confronted with Limbo and his own face in clown makeup staring back at him. Somehow he manages to smile anyway and AAAHHHHH I am totally with Sam Winchester and his fear of clowns!
Kudos on a truly creepy scary opening, The Winchesters!
‘Tears of a Clown’ is a classic song that makes a good episode title. Dean Winchester narration kicks off after that.
Dean: Hunting’s a dishonest business. You gotta lie all the time, about who you are and what you do. But the hardest lies aren’t the ones you tell other people, they’re the ones you tell yourself.
Yes, that was a predictable ending to that sentence that I spoke right along with Dean, but it is something that Sam and Dean learned the hard way. It’s also, as I’ve written before, a big theme of this show. Who are you? Is reality what you think it is?
John and Mary are pretty good with the musical aliases, just as their sons will be. (It is so confusing that this is a prequel, and that John didn’t know any of this in the OG show, constantly making my head hurt!) Even Karen Carpenter got a shout out here, very 70s.
John is channeling his inner Dean Winchester (I know, I know, it’s gotta be the other way around), snapping at Mary when she questions if he’s okay after he was ‘overly aggressive’ with apparently more than one person. He just wants to put what happened with Kyle in the rear view, but Mary’s not so sure that’s possible. I am still not totally sold on the John-has-anger-issues thing – we don’t see a lot of it, and just hearing about it isn’t as convincing. I can understand the John has PTSD thing more, and perhaps anger is one of the things that he’s dealing with as a result, but I wish we saw more than we have. I imagine having only 13 episodes to get to some revelations in the next episode has made things more compressed than they wished they could have been.
While Mary and John snap at each other, Lata and Carlos find a creepy clown case; John, however, wants to stick to the Akrida search. It’s a common Supernatural argument when a MotW episode is kicked off.
We actually get the song ‘Everybody Loves A Clown’ in the episode, which is a nice homage to the Mothership episode of that name. The fab four question a carnival clown, who tells them there’s a rumor the missing guy was the latest victim of Limbo the Clown, a carnival urban legend who lures people inside his tent and they disappear.
John volunteers to go with Lata, clearly pissed at Mary. Lata is also worried about John, but he insists he’s good.
Carlos also wants to know what Mary and “Soldier Boy” were fighting about. He points out that Dr. Z says that everyone processes trauma differently, which is true. (I will never get over Carlos referencing Dr. Z when that’s what my students and clients call me hehe).
Lata finds Limbo’s story in the lore, way too easily because these are actual books and how many of them can she possibly have with her, but I say that every week.
Limbo was a down on his luck clown who traded for a spell to make him forget all his problems and freeze him like that so he could stay happy forever. I suppose not a bad spell as spells go…but there’s always a price for that sort of trade in the Supernatural universe.
At the carnival grounds, suddenly Mary collapses on Carlos, sobbing “I’m so worried about him” and making me go what the hell is happening, that is not good acting!
But good job Mary –she’s pretending so she can whisper to Carlos that someone is tailing them. Carlos looks over a bit too obviously, unfortunately, and the mysterious man runs. He turns out to be a big brother looking for his little brother Roger, who Limbo took 30 years ago.
Every Supernatural fan watching: Oh no brother feels!
Also, the face Carlos makes about everything evil creepy clown in this episode is me every time.
Their parents died in a car crash when they were 18 and 10, almost as tragic a history as Sam and Dean will have. Clarence didn’t know how to help his little brother through the grieving; he tried taking him to a carnival, but Roger vanished. Clarence never gave up on finding Roger though, because this is Supernatural and brothers do not give up on brothers. Ever.
Carlos: You were just a kid too. I lost both of my parents to monsters, I know how hard it is.
“You were just a kid” is a Supernatural universe line that will always make me emotional. So true.
Turns out the other unhappy guy who vanished was upset because he was being forced to move as a result of his parents’ divorce, so the fab four (yes, I know it’s the ‘core four’ but the fab four sounds so much better even if the Beatles did do it first) figure out that Limbo is targeting people who are sad or dealing with grief. He has an enchanted mirror that maintains the fake happiness if he spreads it to other people. If anyone is convinced to embrace reality again, however, he’d be destroyed and the other people set free. (Unfortunate loophole there for you, Mr. Limbo…)
John and Mary immediately start arguing again, Mary wondering if their relationship is the problem.
Clarence used the carnival as an escape for his brother, she says, so he wouldn’t have to face his problems, and Mary thinks John has been using their relationship in the same way and ignoring reality. John snaps back that Mary’s also ignoring reality, that she hasn’t pursued college at all, too busy saving the world. Ah, the old gotta save the world first excuse. John does have a point – in fact, his argument makes a lot more sense than Mary’s.
Mary: Think what you want, I don’t have time for this.
John: And there you go, proving my point!
Mary stalks off, and I honestly was convinced that they had manufactured this spat to bring out Limbo, much like Sam and Dean’s faked arguments in episodes like Tall Tales. Sure enough, it works – Mary finds the ticket. At least she does know it’s Limbo. John wants to stick together but Mary stomps off – and does not wait for John to get there before running right into Limbo’s creepy tent (though she does tell him on the walkie talkie). I love that they have Walkie Talkies instead of cell phones – that was a rarity at the time, pretty sure.
By the time John gets there, the tent has disappeared – and Mary with it. This episode has some great shots, and this is one of them.
Apparently it was not a faked fight after all – Mary really was upset, as John admits to Carlos and Lata back at the motel. We don’t get a ton of glimpses of the motels that John and Mary have been staying at while on the run, but we got a little look here – the Impala would look right at home.
Luckily Carlos doesn’t have to use his “I’m pretty upset with Jonathan right now” to get into Limbo’s tent – Clarence had one of the tickets.
The three use it to gain entrance and foolishly split up almost immediately for some reason I cannot fathom like in every single horror movie ever. Limbo cuts John off and traps him in the hall of mirrors, which he gamely attempts not to look into, as we see Limbo rush by him.
Limbo eventually confronts him (and creeps me out intensely) – I’m impressed with John’s ability to not back down because AAAHHHHH! And Drake Rodger’s ability to really embody the badassery of John Winchester.
Then Mary appears, telling John that she wants to say there and wants John to stay too.
Mary: We can be together where there aren’t any problems.
No arguments about John’s anger or Mary’s future – they can be happy in Limbo’s tent.
John: None of it would be real…there’s a world out there we have to save.
Me: Is this a What Is And What Should Never Be homage? I think it is.
Mary tricks John into looking into the mirror and poof, they’re both clowns now (and smiling creepily) while Lata and Carlos pound on the door.
Suddenly a literal clown car beep beeps in.
Carlos: Oh, gross, no!
Me: I love you, Carlos, and you are so right.
Tons of clowns climb out and advance on them as they run around the tent, trapped – the door has disappeared. Limbo, John and Mary clowns appear.
Carlos and Lata: No no no no no this is not happening…
Limbo: Make them die laughing!
Me: I am so going to have nightmares!!
Carlos and Lata leap into the clown car and lock the doors, screaming as the clowns pound on the doors.
Lata: Ohmygod we’re gonna die in here – in a clown car!
I was laughing and shrieking at the same time; this scene was pricelessly hilarious and terrifying simultaneously and Nida and JoJo were amazing.
Carlos sees a little kid clown appear in the back seat and realizes that it’s Roger, and in the midst of all the mayhem of attacking clowns, he somehow has the presence of mind to tell Roger that he’s not alone, and that his big brother never stopped looking for him because he loves him and wants to be with him again.
Miraculously, he gets through to Roger, asking him if he wants to see his brother again. Meanwhile, the clowns peer through the windows and try to break in and Lata’s face is me watching tbh.
A tear drips down Roger’s clown makeup and Limbo dissolves and explodes, freeing John and Mary and everyone else, who are understandably confused (and from all different eras of the past).
The brothers are reunited, which made my heart all kinds of warm. If that isn’t a Supernatural message, I don’t know what is!
Mary is wistful after, saying she remembers being a clown and actually it was kinda nice (reminiscent of the ambivalence Dean had for a moment in the final scene of WIAWSNB).
John says he realizes he’s been ignoring things and is sorry for being so angry, and Mary admits she got angry herself and he was also right about her fear of the future.
And then Millie shows up to save the day in another way – finding a witness who can testify that Kyle made the 911 call before he was even there at the garage, which doesn’t seem like it will totally get John off that easily, but I guess it does and the John and Mary on the run story is over.
We didn’t really get to see much of it, which is kind of a shame because it would have been reminiscent of Sam and Dean in OG Supernatural if it had been just the two of them on the run, on the road. That would have given us more time to see John’s persistent anger and Mary’s doubts about leaving hunting now that she has the option too. Turns out we didn’t see much of that and it wasn’t just the two of them against the world anyway – I guess Carlos and Lata were sort of on the run with them?
Meanwhile, Ada is in search of enough magic to make a dent in the Akrida queen, gaining entrance to a truly awesome witches cabaret. Their makeup alone is enough to make it awesome, but they’re also sassy, if not quite friendly to Ada and her ‘earth magic’.
Rowena’s old nemeses aren’t eager to help Ada in her quest to stop the Akrida queen, saying they’re too powerful to stop and the witches’ plan is to protect each other (and apparently screw everyone else).
Luckily (for us anyway) Rowena does offer to help – for a price, of course. I might have screamed when Rowena graced my screen again, even though I knew it was going to happen.
Ada turns over a grimoire to Rowena that she claims the Men of Letters stole from her. Unfortunately that turns out to be a lie just to get through the warded door. She actually wants the demon that Ada trapped in a plant, who has information about Rowena’s son.
Me: Her son???????????? Fergus? Crowley????
Ada manages to temporarily stop Rowena, but she comes back with a ball of purple light and sends Ada flying. (Didn’t Rowena only get that purple light power and glowing purple eyes later though?? AU…AU…AU….hopefully).
Rowena makes her a restorative cup of tea after, as nuanced a character as ever. Rowena invites Ada to join her coven – and she knows something about the Akrida needing the alignment of five planets too. She gives Ada some purple magic, which needs one final ingredient that will change Ada forever – a piece of her own soul.
Uh oh. We’ve been down that road before.
Rowena disappears with her customary drama and I hope that’s not the last we’ve seen of her, in one way or another, because it’s always awesome to have Ruthie Connell on my screen.
Ada doesn’t tell the rest of them about the added ingredient she has to put into the magic Akrida killing formula, because of course she doesn’t, but it’s clearly almost season finale time because the planetary alignment has already started.
That’s the set up for the season finale tonight.
I really liked the creepy aesthetic of this episode. The show is finding its feet in terms of looking more like OG Supernatural and more like the creepy horror show it’s supposed to be, and this episode really showcased that evolution. Hunting is a dark world, and I appreciate when the prequel reflects that.
We also got more of the show’s overarching theme of what is reality/alternate realities, this time with the suggestion of being in “limbo”, as in stuck between two worlds. Hmmm.
The most compelling part of the MotW story line for me was the brother connection – it was much more believable to me that Dean wanted to stay in WIAWSNB because it was a whole life being lived how he sometimes wishes it could have been, and we got to SEE what made it compelling to him through his eyes. Mary just seemed sort of high on clowning, not offering a whole lot to convince John to stay. Though I guess for someone who has always been a (somewhat reluctant) hunter, just hanging out and smiling alot would seem like a nice break at least for a while. Not sure why clown John was crying at first – not wanting to stay residue?
At any rate, I do really appreciate the combination of scary and hilarious this episode managed to pull off!
This week’s season finale may end up being the series finale, who knows. Either way, showrunner Robbie Thompson assures us that some of those lingering questions about canon/Alternate Universes/timelines, if not all of them, will be answered. And Dean Winchester himself seems poised to make another appearance to answer some of those questions. My fingers are crossed that there’s no retcon of the Mothership, because I’m more than happy about every single thing about Supernatural!
So stay tuned – the season finale of The Winchesters airs tonight on the CW… I’ll be watching and live tweeting (as much as I can with the crossed fingers…)
Caps by raloria/spndeangirl
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