One of the things that Supernatural does better than any other show on television is blend outrageous, over-the-top comedy with dark, serious drama, so even as I was laughing the plot remained believable and we also had emotional payoff in Sam’s flashbacks and Dean and Cas’ conversation. In fact, the illusion/fantasy versus reality theme ran through all beats of tonight’s story.
The flashbacks deal with Sam and Amelia and were shot it a very appropriate dream like soft focus. Liane Balaban continues to impress. She has to play a broad range from the dutiful daughter trying to get her dad to accept her boyfriend to the final scene when we’re shocked to learn her husband is still alive. Her conflict over learning he’s still alive is clear. Her dad is played by Canadian actor Brian Markinson, who has long been a favorite of mine. He plays the over-protective dad-from-hell to a tee. He has Sam squirming at every turn. Having been in the army, he’s not impressed when Sam brings up John the marine. This may also go some way to explaining his resistance to Sam as Amelia’s husband, Don, was also in the service. From a realistic perspective, Sam isn’t a catch: he came out of nowhere and doesn’t appear to have any assets or even a good job. Amelia manages to convince her father that she’s happy with Sam and manages to get him to lighten up somewhat.
Sam’s reflections are triggered by the orderly’s comment on an elderly resident who is just staring into space: “A lot of these people just tune out and live in their own heads. Like maybe the real world is too much for them and they just run and hide.” Amelia’s dad asks Sam what he’s afraid of and what he’s running away from. I’m not convinced that that is what Sam did. In several interviews lately, cast members have said that this season is about perception versus reality – in the way that last week, Dean was convinced he had let Cas go, when in fact, it was the other way around. I think that Sam is feeling guilty, like he simply ran and hid, but he had no leads and no one to go to – as he said in the first episode this season.
It’s fitting that Sam is the one to have to convince Fred Jones to leave his safe dream world. Jared Padalecki really shines in the scene with Mike Farrell, who is a terrific guest star. I was disappointed that he didn’t get to do more in the episode, however. This particular scene was fantastic – Sam tells Jones that eventually, as nice as the dream world is, he will have to leave it because whatever he’s running from will find him. It’s clear that Sam tried to keep his own dream alive but wasn’t able to. I’m curious as to whether what Sam is running from is just his past, his life as a hunter, or is actually his brother. The special effects in this scene are also a terrific counterpoint to the action. As Sam tries to convince Jones to come out of his fantasy, the background changes from static to test patterns. At first it is an older test pattern, but as Sam talks to Jones and Jones becomes more lucid, the test pattern becomes the more modern colored one we are more used to seeing.
It’s fun to see the actors coping with completely different situations, so watching Padalecki play the squirming boyfriend was great. His anguish in the final scene of the flashback is clear as he realizes his dream is ending.
Jensen Ackles hit the comedic notes just right from smacking himself in the face with a book to getting a
frying pan in the face. He also gets the tag, “That’s all folks.” At the same time, he is able to be supportive for Cas in the more serious beats of the story and attempts to draw him out to talk. When Cas tells Dean he won’t go back to Heaven because he’s afraid that what he may find will make him want to kill himself, however, Dean has no idea what to say to him. It strikes me as likely that Dean will want to try to protect Cas from that and will likely feel responsible it having happened in the first place.
|Special Guest Star Mike Farrell and Misha Collins|
The episode has some nice links to past episodes. We see the boys using John’s journal again and Cas even remarks on what nice hand writing he had. Most importantly, however, the question of what happens to hunters when they get old – if they get old – is addressed. It’s interesting that Ford has psychic-kinetic powers and yet this is the first we’ve heard of him even though Sam and Dean apparently knew him as kids. I would almost have expected that they would have sought him out when Sam’s own powers started showing. At any rate, they also have to deal with his inability to stay in reality. He knows he’s going to lose his grip on reality again – it’s just a matter of time. Luckily, Cas is able to do something to him that incapacitates his abilities to affect reality.
By the end of the episode, Dean is ready to allow Cas to ride shotgun. Cas, however, is ready to return to Heaven to atone for his wrongs, but before he can say so, Naomi calls him to her and tells him he’s not allowed to go to Heaven until she lets him. Cas is not aware of this break in his own reality. I'm curious about the relationship between Naomi, dreams and reality. Is she, perhaps, simply a figment of Cas' imagination? Is she a fractured piece of his own pysche that's preventing him from going to Heaven for self preservation? Regardless, Cas does know he can’t run anymore. Sam’s speech about facing his demons seems to have hit home with him too. Misha Collins is also a joy to watch, and he is in his element in this episode. He is the master of deadpan delivery. At the same time, his anguish over the carnage he left in Heaven is palpable. His scenes with Ackles are terrific as both convey so much with just a subtle look. It’s a nice throw back to Mary’s promise to young Dean that “Angels are watching over you” when you sleep when Cas says he will watch over Dean when he sleeps. Dean is clearly uncomfortable with the idea, but I’m curious if that’s how they managed in Purgatory if Dean simply didn’t need to sleep – or eat – there. I really hope those questions get answered at some point.
It was great to have the classic rock aliases back: Crosby, Stills and Nash anyone? The gas station at the top of the episode was named Big Ryan’s Gas and Sip after Ryan Curtis on the VFX team. And did you recognize the birthday girl? She was also in “Bedtime Stories” playing the witch to Hansel and Gretel who get lost in the woods.
What was your favorite cartoon reference in the episode? Favorite cartoon death? Let me know in the