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Supernatural - Mint Condition - Review

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Supernatural “Mint Condition” was written by Davy Perez and was directed by Amyn Kaderali. Following a traditional routine for the show, this episode was largely played for laughs as a break from the previous intense episodes. Also traditional for the show was the episodes focus on fans and nerd culture – and a return to Dean’s (Jensen Ackles) love of horror movies. The episode is a nice commentary on the comfort that fans feel from their fannish passions. And of course, it’s also comfort food for the audience with a traditional ghost story, monster-of-the-week format.

The opening teaser features a bunch of terrific Easter eggs. There is a clip from Hell Hazers: The Reckoning – which is the movie shot in season two’s “Hollywood Babylon” – there’s also a shot of the truck from season one’s “Route 666.” There’s a costume for the Red Hood, which Ackles voiced – and he put up a photo shoot of himself to twitter and Instagram on Halloween of him in the costume. There’s a poster for House of Wax that Jared Padalecki (Sam) starred in – with Paris Hilton who was a guest star in “Fallen Idols.”

We watch as Stuart (Kurt Ostlund) unpacks new merchandise in the comic shop he works in. This is a great shout out to The Big Bang Theory on which the character Stuart (Kevin Sussman) runs the comic store. In case you weren’t aware the character of Kripke (John Ross Bowie) on The Big Bang Theory is named after Supernatural creator Eric Kripke as the writing rooms used to be across the hall from each other. Stuart is thrilled when he unpacks a Panthro Thundercats figure – which he promptly steals!

We get a close up of the store keys – with a batman keychain – when Stuart gets a call from Sam (Genevieve Buechner), who turns out to be his boss. She’s calling to reprimand him for being rude to a customer, but they’ll still be meeting up later at game night. Back at Stuart’s house, he’s attacked by a suddenly animate Panthro, which he thinks is pretty cool until it attacks him.

At the bunker, Dean has retreated to his room to eat junk food and binge horror movies. Specifically, Dean is watching Hatchet Man: All Saints Day, which is the fictional horror series that runs throughout the episode. Was it just me or did the Janitor victim (Nathan Barrett) look like he could be Padalecki’s younger brother?  And, of course, the horror movie also features the classic Supernatural blood splash…

When Sam comes in to check on Dean and try to interest him in the hunt, Dean is immediately distracted by the fact that Sam has shaved – and it’s hysterical that he compares Sam’s still impressive five o’clock hipster shadow with the smoothness of a dolphin’s belly… Sam is less concerned with the teasing than with the fact that Dean hasn’t really left his room in a week. He also reveals that he’s not really comfortable the house “being full of strangers,” and I think this is going to be something that’s going to come up again. Dean tells Sam that he likes to relax with scary movies, and Sam points out that their lives are a scary movie – again highlighting the difference between the brothers. Dean likes their life, but Sam considers it a job – and that’s where he turns – the job.

Dean is hoping the case is more Michael-monsters, but Sam has an even better hook – killer toy – and not just any toy. Unsurprisingly, Dean is all in as soon as he sees it’s Panthro and Thundercats! I love the smile on Sam’s face when he knows he’s hooked Dean.

The two show up as insurance adjusters. We get a nice nod to Sam being the boy who hated Halloween – in addition to Christmas, remember. Dean also draws a parallel between his brother and Samantha – his wonder twin – who is also wearing flannel, is in charge of the store, and has luxurious hair. There’s a terrific shot of Padalecki in the foreground and Buechner in the background sweeping their hair back in unison.

Meanwhile, Sam tells Dean that his twin is Dirk (Aaron Paul Stewart), which Dean denies – and then naturally, Dirk and Dean are equally enthusiastic about the life size Hathcett Man figure. Dirk is eating the same kind of  red lollipop as Dirk, who encourages him to press the button on the figure and then they both geek out over it – Dean’s even ready to buy it, but it’s not for sale.

When Samantha asks what she can help them with, it’s hilarious that Dean jumps all over vintage hotwheels! No doubt looking for the Impala (that most of us already own in various sizes…). They then tell her that they are with Campbell & Sons Insurance – which is a nice shout out to Mary’s maiden name. Their rock FBI aliases are a nod to Deep Purple. They find out that Stuart has been kicked out of his apartment – by his roommate – and has moved back in to his mother’s basement.

Stuart’s mother (Ingrid Tesch) gives them hot cider, and it’s hilarious that Dean switches mugs with Sam so he gets the Flash mug – and Sam gets the cat mug. As they’re waiting, they hear Stuart screaming at someone over Fortnite – a video game. They’ve noticed that Stuart is burning sage, and he tells them about dating a Goth “chick” – of course only online. Stuart is a somewhat distressingly negative stereotype of comic and gaming fans. However, he has to be balanced with the fact that Dean is also seen as fan and so are Dirk and Samantha. When Sam discovers the comments on the video, Dean remarks that everyone can be a dick on the Internet – because there are no consequences and it’s easy to hide behind anonymity.

Stuart tells Sam and Dean that he made up the entire attack. He didn’t expect it to go viral – but it did, and now he’s the one being trolled and ridiculed online. Like the typical bully, he can dish it out but he can’t take it. When they clearly don’t believe him that it was an accident, Stuart kicks them out. Dean and Sam are leaning toward Stuart having been spelled or hexed because his “girlfriend” was into wicca. Sam points out that not all Wicca are witches, but it’s still worth checking out.

As the two wait in the Impala to go back in to search Stuart’s house for hexbags, Sam takes a call from another hunter. He’s clearly filling the role previously held by Bobby and then Garth as mentor and repository of knowledge for the other hunters. Dean takes the opportunity to press for why Sam hates Halloween – and quotes from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester” when he tells him not to say that every day is Halloween for them. He goes on to say that Sam has hated Halloween for a long time. Sam dodges answering the question when Stuart’s mother finally leaves. We also get some nice physical humor as the two awkwardly sink down in the front seat so she doesn’t see them.

Suddenly, Stuart bursts out of the house, covered in blood and screaming for help. Sam stays with him while Dean goes in to clear the house. As Dean looks at a poster for The Chainsaw Massacre, he’s attacked by a chainsaw which embeds itself in the wall through the poster – because it misses Dean’s head!

At the hospital, Stuart’s mother thanks the brothers for saving his life. She’s about to go back to the house for Stuart’s favorite pillow, but they convince her it’s better for her to stay until Stuart – who is pretty badly hurt – wakes up. Dean had swept the house for hexbags and found nothing, but the EMF clearly indicated it’s a ghost. Dean stays at the hospital while Sam goes to get more information on any potential recently deceased people in Stuart’s life. Sam doesn’t get any reaction from the EMF meter at Stuart’s but notices a figure in Stuart’s computer wallpaper that he doesn’t recognize.

Back at the hospital, Dirk is there to check on Stuart because he’s his best friend. Dirk points out that “we all have our stuff,” and Dirk finally shows us another side to Stuart – the friend who takes him in, no questions asked, when things are bad at Dirk’s house. He tells Dean that eating junkfood and watching scary movies with Stuart is just… zen. And of course, Dean totally gets that – it’s why he does it too.

I loved the conversation between Dirk and Dean over their favorite All Saints Day movie. It’s hilarious because it’s so typical of fans! I also loved them quoting the lines completely in unison! Dean confirms that growing up, it was nice to check out now and again – and watch movies in which he knew the bad guys would lose.

Meanwhile, Sam visits his own wonder twin and asks Samantha if anyone close to Stuart had died recently. She thinks it’s a weird question, but tells him that Jordan, the owner of the store, passed away recently from cancer. He left the store to Dirk and Samantha – but not Stuart because Jordan caught him stealing from the store. Samantha hired Stuart back because he’s her friend – she knows he steals but she docks his pay to make up for it. But the ghost doesn’t know that.

The temperature drops – and the Hatchett Man statue comes to life and tosses Sam across the store before going after Samantha. Sam wakes up and finds Samantha crouching by the counter. He tells her that ghosts are real. Hatchett Man took the keys and bolted. And because Jordan was serious about security, they have a really hard time getting out of the store – but Sam calls to warn Dean.

Dean is bonding over junk food and gruesome horror movie kills with Dirk. It’s hilarious how excited and thrilled Dean is that Hatchett Man is coming to the hospital. Dean puts Dirk in a salt circle with Stuart – and tells him everything is real – except Godzilla! Of course, Dirk panics when it’s clear the ghost is there and bolts out of the circle.

I loved that Dirk and Dean debate the realism of hospital hallways being that empty at night, and Dean insisting that he’s been in a lot of hospital hallways at night and it’s accurate – and then we have them both running around empty hallways. Naturally, we’ve seen it on the show, but it’s really just a way for studios to cut costs by not hiring a bunch of extras! In fact, I loved the way the entire All Saints Day movie is playing out on the television and is paralleled by the action in the episode – especially when the guards are watching it and completely miss Dirk and Hatchett Man behind them and on the monitor! I loved them telling the girl to press the button as Dirk is pressing his – and then later the ghost presses his own button so that he can speak! And was it just me, or did Hatchett Man’s long blond hair remind anyone else of Greg Nicotero’s (special effects guru and The Walking Dead exec producer)?

I also loved Dirk standing up to ghost Jordan for his friend Stuart – and saving Stuart’s mother too.

Back at the shop, Sam mixes cleaning supplies in a Scooby Doo lunchbox – of course! And a nice shout out to last season’s “Scoobynatural.” Samantha wants to know how he learned to do it, and he tells her that he had a pretty messed up childhood. I like that they take a typically child-centric holiday like Halloween and use it to reflect on the brothers’ childhood. I also loved both Sam and Samantha saying “Cool!” in unison when the door blows.

There’s a rough cut from Dean discovering Hatchett Man and Dirk in the morgue to a trailer for the movie All Saints Day III: The Reckoning. The movie trailer also includes clips from previous Supernatural episodes “The Song Remains the Same” and “Southern Comfort.”I’m betting they had a ton of fun making the trailer! Dean gives the ghost the option to just go into the light – or he sends him there. Dean is thrilled when Hatchett Man tells him that it’s “time to slice and dice.”

Samantha is the one who figures out that the cursed object is the key chain. Dirk shows his bravery again when he stabs Hatchett Man to save Dean – at least long enough for Sam and Samantha to get there and set the keys on fire and release Jordan. It’s another really terrific special effect. I particularly liked the statue going stiff and falling over too. The brothers tell Dirk and Samantha that it’s all over and that they are safe – even Stuart. Jordan is in a “better” place.

We get the requisite ending Impala scene, and Dean thanks Sam for the hunt – it’s gotten him out of his funk which is exactly what Sam hoped would happen. Dean is still thrilled that he got to go toe to toe with the Hatchett Man. Sam tells Dean that he’s got to stop hiding out in his room. Sam also tells Dean that he did the right thing by saying yes to Michael – he did it for his family. Sam tries to convince Dean that just because Michael was wearing his face, Dean isn’t responsible for any of what Michael did. He asks Dean to try to stop blaming himself.

Dean says that he can’t. But he does admit that he can’t stay locked up in his room – he’s there for whatever Sam needs. And then he calls him “Chief” as the others have been doing it. He says it without bitterness, so perhaps I am over-thinking this, but I have to wonder if Dean – as older brother – resents Sam – as younger brother – being in charge. On the other hand, it makes sense for the other hunters to turn to Sam for research – after all, Dean does it himself! And this seems to be the perfect position for Sam – and not one that Dean would really enjoy….

Dean changes to subject to press Sam once more on why he hates Halloween – and Sam finally relents, giving us yet another little glimpse into their childhood. Dean guesses that it might be the time he ate all of Sam’s Halloween candy or something that Dad did, but Sam says no. Sam tells Dean that when he was in 6th grade and they were living in Bismark, he had a huge crush on a girl who invited him to her Halloween party – and during bobbing for apples, Sam threw up – all over the girl! Sam ended up hiding out in the woods until Dean came and got him. Dean, of course, thinks the story is hilarious – but is determined that next year they will do Halloween right – right down to getting matching outfits! And the list of buddies is hilarious: Batman and Robin (nice nod to the CW DC shows – and Ackles turn as the Red Hood and all the times that Dean has referred to himself as Batman – see “Bad Day at Blackrock”), Bert and Ernie (nice nod to the shipper fans – even if they are both freaked out by it as weird), Rocky and Bullwinkle (nice nod to Crowley’s nicknames of Moose and Squirrel), Shaggy and Scooby (“Scoobynatural”), Turner and Hooch, Ren and Stimpy, or Thelma and Louise – and Ackles has often said that that’s the way he’d like to see the story of the brothers end – like Butch and Sundance – or Thelma and Louise.

The last scene of the episode finds one of the guards (Lee Shan Gibson) finding the statue of the Hatchett Man – but is he really just a statue?!?!?! It’s a nice classic horror movie ending – to a terrific episode. While there was much “comfort food” to be had with this episode, it also tied back into the season story arc. One of the great things about Supernatural is that it doesn’t forget that it’s been on the air for 14 seasons. And that’s even with me whining about retconning – these meta type episodes really are love letters to the fans. I also liked the way they treated fandom culture in the episode. It’s always great when we also get a bit more insight into the brothers’ childhood – which they are both increasingly able to remember more fondly and put behind them. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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