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Supernatural - The Things We Left Behind - Review

Supernatural, “The Things We Left Behind,” was written by Andrew Dabb and directed by Guy Norman Bee. For the first time in many episodes, we actually see something of all four leads. However, the season still lacks any really coherent focus and one of the results of that is perhaps the flattest, least anxiety-inducing fall finale that I can remember for the show. That’s not to say that the episode was completely without merit. On the contrary, Misha Collins (Castiel) and Jensen Ackles (Dean) deliver particularly fine performances. Mark Sheppard (Crowley) and Jared Padalecki (Sam) also give solid performances. The episode itself revolves around one of the series’ favorite themes: family.

The episode does answer a few burning fan questions, such as whatever happened to Claire Novak (Kathyrn Love Newton) and whether Jimmy is still alive somewhere. Claire has turned into a juvenile delinquent. Actually, in some ways this was the most disappointing part of this episode as having Claire end up with the Fagan-like Randy (Roark Critchlow) is simply a re-tread of what happened to Krissy Chambers (Madison McLaughlin) in season eight’s “Freaks and Geeks” after her father died. However, we do finally learn definitively that Jimmy is in Heaven because no human soul can survive a body being destroyed on the sub-atomic level – which happened to Castiel not once but twice – in the season finales of season four and five.

The episode compares three families: the Novaks, the Winchesters, and the McLeods. In all three cases, the children have been traumatized and left on their own or with a single parent. Claire tells Castiel that her mother abandoned with her Grandmother and disappeared to find herself. After her Grandmother died, having no other living relatives, Claire ended up in the system. We know that John Winchester fought to keep his own sons out of the system, but in this episode, it seems that the system and Sandra Phelan (Jennifer Copping) are the only things really keeping Claire safe. If Copping looked familiar, she also appeared in “A Very Supernatural Christmas.”

Newton does a good job as Claire and has some really nice moments in the episode. I liked the more subtle moments of her performance that the angry/angsty teen ones. When she’s first told that her father is here to see her, there’s a nice moment where we see Claire is hopeful – she’s not the hardened criminal she’d like others to think she is. She also remembers everything, as she tells Castiel, and even Sam and Dean are surprised when she remembers them. The trauma she went through in first losing her father, having him tell her he’s not her father – in the flashback and then again in the present – and all of the events of “The Rapture” would inevitably leave her scarred on top of being abandoned. All she wants from Cas is for him to get her out of the Youth Transition Center.

The interview with Phelan is hilarious as Cas is completely out of his element – we know what a bad liar he is. However, the scene also brilliantly brings the theme of the episode home. Claire’s idea of a father is someone who wears a tie – something we’ve seen Cas lose this season. The tie he has is an echo of the one we see Jimmy wear in the “THEN” montage – same type of stripes but bluer – as an echo to the blue tie associated with Cas. Well done costuming! It’s hilarious to see Castiel adjust his voice up – to sound much more like Misha Collins! Phelan sees right through Castiel and refuses to release Claire to him. She tells him that Claire is troubled and has had a difficult time while he’s been absent. She tells him that she doesn’t need a friend, she needs a father. Parents need to be more than friends. In fact, this is what Phelan has tried to provide for Claire. Even the isolation room tries to protect her. There’s a blow up punching bag for Claire to take her anger out on instead of the wall, for instance.

Cas does break Claire out. He tries to be somewhat of a parent by telling her that she should eat some vegetables. It’s hilarious when both Claire and Dean (and my husband) insist that ketchup IS a vegetable. Claire proves that she is perceptive. She tells Cas that he’s only gotten her out because he feels guilty – and she later calls him on the difference between being truly sorry and just feeling guilty. She tells him that he’s nicer now, he’s not as stuck up or dick who she just wants to punch in his angel face. Weren’t these all pretty much Dean’s initial reaction too? Cas admits that he’s learned a lot and no longer feels like he’s on a righteous path. He knows that people are just trying to do the best they can in a world that makes it easier to do the wrong thing. And then, he makes it pretty easy for her to lift his wallet and get away – to run back to her “family.”

Cas manages to save her from committing armed robbery. This is quite a nice scene as we see her tell Cas that she used to pray to him every night to keep her father safe. Cas says he knows. Newton’s reaction is perfect as we see her realize what he’s saying – he heard her prayers and didn’t answer. She’s angry with Dean and Sam for allowing this “monster” to take over her father. Jimmy was a casualty that they all willingly sacrificed to stop the Apocalypse. After all she’s suffered, I think she would find that a comfort rather than more traumatic – she already knows about angels after all. She also asks Cas why he deserves to live while her father who was a good man had to die. The “THEN” montage also gives us a quick reminder of the Novak household. We see Jimmy tell Claire not to take a bun before grace is said. It re-enforces that he was a devote man, but it also shows that he was a good father. He wasn’t indulgent, he made her follow the rules.

In the final scene, Cas saves Claire from Salinger but has to pull her off of him. When they come back in the house and see the carnage Dean has created, however, she does turn to Castiel for comfort, burying her face in his chest. Like Sam, however, I do have to wonder where they are going with this. Has Castiel lost Hannah as a traveling companion only to replace her with Claire? Is Cas going to become fully human when his grace wears out this time and settle down to raise her? After all, now that Crowley has found his own blood family, he’s unlikely to come to Cas to help Dean – his BFF – again. I thought the choice of Salinger for a name was interesting. Is this a nod to JD Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye – the seminal coming of age/loss of innocence novel? Is Cas saving Claire from going down that dark road?

The scene in Phalen’s office at the beginning of the episode cuts immediately to Dean watching the Three Stooges. We see Sam bring him a grilled cheese sandwich – comfort food and candy for the mind. We see Sam eye the Mark on Dean’s arm and look troubled. It’s interesting that we see Sam trying to be Dean’s friend, to humor him, and it makes me wonder if Sam doesn’t need to be something more for Dean now. I felt badly for Ackles throughout this episode as we see him eating in almost every scene! Of course, this begs the question, is Dean trying to feed the Mark or satisfy some unscratchable hunger with food?

Dean and Sam answer Cas’s call for help, though Dean gives him a hard time that it’s not an emergency. However, Dean suggests Sam check out the Youth Transition Center while he and Cas see if Claire circles back to Sharkey’s. In reality, Dean is using the opportunity for a heart to heart with Cas. The episode opens with Dean having a nightmare of killing. As much as he tries to distract one hunger by feeding another and says he’s fine, the Mark is clearly affecting him. Cas knows Dean is troubled. It’s nice to see the two actually have a scene together.

Dean begins by trying to get to the bottom of what Cas is doing with Claire. Dean suggests that Cas is simply having a mid-life crisis, to which Cas responds, “I’m extremely old. I think I’m entitled.” Apparently, Collins simply improved that line – how well these actors know their characters! Dean tells Cas that he’s just got to let go of the people he let down or couldn’t save. When Cas asks Dean if that’s what he does, Dean laughs and responds, “That’s the opposite of what I do, but I ain’t exactly a role model!” Cas has been using Dean as a role model for years, and he recognizes Dean’s innate heroism (as he does Sam’s as well now). He tells Dean that that’s simply not true, and Ackles, in typical Dean fashion, nails Dean’s embarrassed denial.

Cas then turns the tables on Dean. Dean tries to say he’s fine. He says he’s lost the black eyes, so that’s a plus, but he admits he’s worried about the effects of the Mark, though he doesn’t give Cas any specifics. In fact, as soon as they mention it and Dean touches it, he’s lost in the dream of carnage. He asks Cas to promise to take him out if the Mark takes over. Cas says he doesn’t understand, so Dean is clear: “knife me, smite me, throw me in the friggin’ sun.” He tells him not to let Sam try to stop him and that he can’t “be that thing again.”

I loved the scene in the Tiki bar. Does everyone know that there is a tiki bar in the writers’ room for the show that Kripke had put in? It’s fitting that it’s here that the boys share their own memories of their father. Sam tells Cas not to beat himself up about Claire. Cas says who is he to tell her how to lead her life, but Dean says somebody has to because she’s got “issues.” It’s an interesting take from the three of them and shows how each has been affected differently by their own parental experiences. Sam acknowledges that Cas may never be able to make it up to Claire because Jimmy was her father, “and to some people, that’s everything.” Cas says his father (God) was absent and distant, he never knew him. So because his experience is of an absent father, he doesn’t know how to be present in Claire’s life or understand her need for Jimmy to be. Cas asks Sam and Dean if they loved their father. It’s impossible for me to believe that Cas doesn’t know the importance of John Winchester to Dean. So that question really clunked for me even if it does lead in to one of the best scenes on the show in literally years.

Dean doesn’t hesitate to answer, “with everything I had.” Sam hesitates but says, “yeah. It wasn’t always easy, but yeah.” We know Dean has had father issues that he’s spent much of his life looking for John’s approval, but he also credits John for the good he’s done. Sam, let’s never forget, resented John and it wasn’t really until after his death that he really came to understand and love his father. If you want to see some of the best scenes on the Winchester family dynamic, see “Dead Man’s Blood” and “Everybody Loves a Clown.” Dean explains that while John “isn’t gonna win any number one Dad awards. Damned if he wasn’t there when we needed him.” Don’t forget that it’s John’s ghost showing up in “All Hell Breaks Loose Part II” that let’s Dean kill the Azazel and avenge their mother’s death. With all this talk of John being there when they needed him, I have to wonder if we aren’t on the cusp of the long awaited return of Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He’s actually signed to attend a fan convention in 2015, and this is the 10th year of the show (and while he’s just signed on to do a couple of movies, he’s not currently starring in his own show). Or maybe, it’s just time for Sam to take a page out of John’s parenting book…

Sam encourages Dean to tell Cas the story of one of Dean’s childhood exploits. The story of Dean sneaking off to CBGB’s is terrific – and also a nice nod to the comic book written by Andrew Dabb and his long-time writing partner Daniel Loflin, Supernatural: Beginning’s End. Having read the comic, I wouldn’t recommend it – and I wouldn’t count it as part of canon. However, it is set in New York. I loved Cas demonstrating that he knew the Ramones and Blondie got their start there – and Sam’s utterly baffled look at Cas knowing that! The point of Dean’s story is that John showed up at the club at just the time he needed him too. I loved when Dean says “John Friggin’ Winchester” and both he and Sam take a drink like this is a long-standing toast for them.

He tells Cas that rather than getting thanked for saving him, Dean whined about being embarrassed and told John he hated him. Dean goes on: “he stopped, looked at me, and said, ‘Son. You don’t like me. That’s fine. It’s not my job to be liked…” and Sam continues, “It’s my job to raise you right.” Am I the only one who had this exact same conversation with my mother? And overheard her having it with my sisters? Here’s our theme again. A good parent has to be far more than just a friend. It’s much harder to make the hard calls of a parent.

The final parent/child relationship we see it that between Crowley and Rowena (Ruth Connell). Rowena lies and sweet talks her way back into her son’s good graces. He tells Gerald (Viv Leacock) that she was a terrible mother, trying to sell him for three pigs when he was an attractive child and could juggle and was clearly worth five pigs! Gerald shares that he killed his own mother for burning him with cigarettes – another example of bad parenting in the extreme. Sheppard is terrific as Crowley as always, nailing the snark and comedy, but also easily conveying that there is more going on under the surface. He doesn’t want Gerald to kill Rowena. We know that Crowley wants more, he wants to be loved – or at least he did at the end of season eight and under the influence of human blood. We also learn that Rowena also abandoned Crowley when he was 8. When he calls her on saying he’d never amount to anything and die in a gutter, she first asks how he did die – hilarious – but then excuses herself by saying she was only trying to motivate him. It does seem rather hard that the mother and son reunited – over Gerald’s dead body – are the King of Hell and his clearly terrible mother.

The final scene of the episode is a powerful one and Padalecki and Ackles really nail it. As soon as Sam hears the commotion in the house, you see – in slow motion – it register on his face that Dean is in trouble – not from the bad guys, but from the Mark.

        We see that Dean’s dream has become a reality – it’s nicely set up for the dead bodies to line up with Dean, covered in blood, sitting in the middle on his knees – almost as if he’s praying.

        Sam immediately runs to his brother, cupping his face in his hands – which while tender, did mean that Ackles lines were a bit mumbled. Sam demands that Dean tell him he had to do it. Dean says he did do it and “I didn’t mean to.” Of course, this is the acknowledgement that Sam didn’t want. Dean didn’t do it because the others were trying to kill him but because the Mark made him do it. Dean is horrified and ashamed and acts almost like he’s drunk from killing. Unlike John Winchester who showed up in the nick of time to save Dean from himself, Sam is too late. Cas also looks horrified and turns away – Dean has always been a role model and almost a father figure to him too. In case we think Dean can be excused because he was attacked and he did warn them not to, we see a close up of Randy, also knifed to death, and there’s no way that Randy would have attacked Dean – he’d proven himself a coward and wanted the others dead too.

The end of the episode sets us up for the second half of the season, but there’s no way the problem of the Mark is going to be cleared up before the end of the season. No one is in mortal peril at the end of this episode, so we can go into hiatus without any great anxiety for the next episode. This was still an enjoyable well-acted episode that focused on the series’ main theme of family. Collins really demonstrates how Castiel has grown and changed and it’s a testament to his performance that you can see those changes. What did you think of the episode? Were you glad to see Claire back and get some closure on the Jimmy storyline? Do you want to see more of her? Do you think Rowena and Crowley are going to make a good team? How badly would you like to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan make an appearance in the second half of the season? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

About the Author - Lisa Macklem
I do interviews and write articles for the site in addition to reviewing a number of shows, including Supernatural, Arrow, Agents of Shield, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Forever, Defiance, Bitten, Glee, and a few others! Highlights of this past year include covering San Diego Comic Con as press and a set visit to Bitten. When I'm not writing about television shows, I'm often writing about entertainment and media law in my capacity as a legal scholar. I also work in theatre when the opportunity arises. I'm an avid runner and rider, currently training in dressage.

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