This week’s episode of Supernatural, “Dog Dean Afternoon,” was written by the team of Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder and directed by Tim Andrew and surprised me by how much I enjoyed it. Charmelo and Snyder come back to Supernatural after showrunning the ill-fated Ringer and then Do No Harm. I really enjoyed Ringer but have to admit that most of their Supernatural episodes in season six were among my least favorite. Their episodes do feature lots of great pop culture references, however. Based on the description and promos, I have to say that I was not particularly looking forward to this episode... but in the end, it's a solid episode.
The opening montage begins with the usual background on this season to help those who may just be tuning in or those viewers with a faulty memory. But then it shifts to a series of clips from past humorous episodes. While I generally don’t like my dramas to turn into comedies as that often takes me out of the universe of the show, Supernatural usually does it seamlessly and with enough horror and content designed to move the season’s mytharc along. However, I don’t think it helped the episode to point out that we weren’t supposed to take it as “serious.” In addition, did they not trust the audience to realize they were allowed to laugh?
Otherwise, the episode is structured much like any episode, and we begin with a monster of the week killing. In this case, a taxidermist is working on a series of squirrels dressed as characters from Game of Thrones – hilarious! For some reason, he’s working in the middle of the night in his hunting clothes and has his shotgun right next to him. There is a great shot of the killer’s forked tongue – kudos to the VFX department! Max, the taxidermist it crushed to death. Both the monster’s kills are beautifully shot. We see Max turned into a pretzel via silhouette and then the kid at the animal shelter is slashed on the other side of a see through door, allowing him to slide down the door. A nice touch was seeing the slash marks on his face pulled open by the force of his body moving down the door.
The action then moves back to the Men of Letters bunker. Sam (Jared Padalecki) has a hunt and Dean (Jensen Ackles) is still reluctant to let him hunt. It seems that Sam should be getting more suspicious by this point, but we can only assume that he is writing Dean’s behaviour off as his usual over-protectiveness. Kevin (Osric Chau) is apparently bank in the bunker, but we don’t see him. How big is the bunker and how plausible is it that we shouldn’t see Kevin if he’s living there? More importantly, shouldn’t the angels be very interested and motivated in finding the Prophet who can read the angel tablet – and who has the angel tablet? He would seem to be the best way to for the angels to get back into heaven. So shouldn’t Zeke be more interested in getting Kevin out of the bunker even more so than he was getting Cas (Misha Collins)?
The comedy in the episode is actually done pretty subtly and is a testament to Padalecki and Ackles’ great chemistry and Ackles’ comic sensibilities in particular. Andrew as director should be pointed out here as well. It’s easy to let performers get too big in comedy and he deftly handles both the comic elements and horror elements of the script. The scene in the vegan diner is hilarious as Dean in particular is repulsed. The best moment after the discussion of douche bags wearing sunglasses inside is mirrored by the douche bags themselves saying it is when they take their sunglasses off and the brothers recoil in unison from their injuries.
Having determined that the only witness to both crimes is The Colonel, the taxidermist’s dog, they decide they need to talk to him. The canine guest star is both beautiful and talented! And did anyone else recognize the Colonel’s voice? There is no credit in the episode, but I’d sweat that was executive producer Bob Singer’s voice... They get an Inuit spell from Kevin – who seems to be their librarian or a substitute for Bobby now. Dean insists on doing the spell, no doubt worried about how it might affect Zeke. Watching Dean take on the characteristics of a dog is hilarious. He unconsciously “fetches” Sam’s tossed garbage and scratches behind his ear before leaping up with Colonel to bark at the mail carrier. Ackles’ face is a master class in comedic acting. Padalecki’s physical reaction to Dean jumping up is also hysterical The capper on the scene is when he realizes that Sam’s right that he’s taking on dog characteristics and quotes Scooby-doo’s famous “Ruh-oh!” I laughed out loud – for real! – like I haven’t at a Supernatural episode in a long time.
Next up Dean finds out he can talk to all animals because animal language is universal – like Esperanto. Dean pulling his gun on the pigeon and Sam leaping to stop him is yet another terrifically funny scene. According to SE Hinton’s tweet during the episode, it was Ackles’ idea to pull the gun. They drive back to the animal shelter so Dean can interrogate the rest of the witnesses – while obviously enjoying sticking his head out the window. They must have cut the scene in which Sam insists he has to drive because Dean can’t be trusted to suddenly become distracted and drive off the road. Deleted scene on the DVD? Sure hope so!
The Yorkie who insists on a tummy rub in exchange for information is apparently the same Yorkie who chased Dean in “Yellow Fever.” The belly rub was apparently Padalecki’s idea, again according to a live tweet by SE Hinton. I loved that Dean stood up for not leaving the Colonel in the car and then let all the dogs out of the pound. It was actually a nice little shout out for people to be aware of the fact that most of the dogs in shelters are older dogs that are unlikely to be adopted – like the Sheltie Dean first interviews. It also sets up the finale when Dean is able to call his pack to kill the chef.
I loved the mice – hilarious (and helpful)! I thought the monster of the week – a chef with cancer who turns to shamanism to cure himself – was a good one. The monster storyline was tight and logical. There was the usual amount of exposition – Sam filling Dean in on the case at the beginning, discussing the spell, and the bad guy monologing his motives to Dean. The one really annoying element? Sam receiving a fatal wound and Zeke having to jump in to save him yet again. How many times is Sam going to die this season?! And I’m very tired of them having to retard Sam’s healing so Zeke has to stay in his body every episode. It’s also a bit hard to swallow that Sam has no memory of the attack and doesn’t question why his neck and clothes are covered in blood.
Steve Valentine (Crossing Jordan) is fabulous as Chef Leo. I have to wonder if we are to read the themes brought out in the episode as some insight into the main season story. If you are what you eat, if what you ingest affects who you are – Dean becoming dog-like, Leo taking on the attributes of the animals – how is that related to Zeke taking over Sam? Are we to extrapolate that Sam will be changed, either temporarily or permanently by the experience? Or maybe Zeke will be?
In the end, Leo was never able to cure his cancer and Dean’s ability to talk to Colonel wears off just as the dog is about to let Dean in on the great secret of dogs. I did love the scene when Dean is trying to wake Sammy and threatens to lick his face. Dean telling the Colonel he wishes he could take him on the road, but it’s no place for a dog is telling about the life they lead and its hardships. I was really hoping they would be able to take him to the bunker and keep him as they did with Bear on Person of Interest. The final scene of the brothers talking over the car, I felt, was the weakest in the episode. Dean is clearly being eaten up by keeping the secret and seems very close to telling Sam the truth. Sam is too clever not to be picking up on Dean’s behavior. That storyline is going to have to come to a head sooner rather than later.
I realize I’ve nit-picked at a lot of issues in this episode but overall I think it’s one of the strongest monster-of-the-week episodes that they’ve had in a long time. It was also hysterical and will definitely be one of my top lighter-hearted episodes ever. What did you think of the episode? Let me know in the comments below!