After concentrating on setting the myth arc for this season, and introducing The Darkness as potentially the most formidable foe The Winchesters have faced to date, Supernatural gave us a solid stand-alone ghost hunt this week. And, as with the previous season eleven episodes, “Plush” demonstrated a sense of Supernatural returning to its roots, recalling earlier seasons without feeling stale or rehashed.
We also saw the return of Sheriff Donna Hanscum, the show’s second longest surviving female police officer. After falling prey to a fat-sucking pishtaco in season nine, and teaming up with Sheriff Jody Mills to fight off vampires in season ten, Donna enlisted the brothers’ help when a Minnesota college kid wearing a creepy bunny head broke into a local man’s house and stabbed him to death with a broken bottle. Having seen behind the veil, Donna’s suspicions were aroused when the entire police department failed to separate the perp from the mask. After visiting the murderer in jail, Sam and Dean believed they were dealing with a cursed object. But when Donna’s new partner, Doug – unfortunately named after Donna’s asshole ex-husband – shot the kid to keep him from bashing Donna’s brains out with a nightstick, the Winchester boys discovered that salting and burning the sinister costume didn’t stop the violence.
The next victim was the gym coach at the local school. He was rendered comatose with a kettle bell by a young female student wearing the school mascot costume, a jester, and when the jock who witnessed the attack claimed that the weight room went cold, Sam and Dean realised this was a case of ghost possession. Once shot with some salt rounds, the attacker claimed she had no memory of the assault, and no beef with the coach. She also told the boys that the costume was donated. The brothers went to question the original owner of the costumes who explained they’d belonged to her brother, a children’s entertainer called Chester Johnson who had recently committed suicide.
While the Winchesters spoke to Chester’s sister and nephew, Max, Chester’s ghost took over the body of a retired GP in a terrifying clown outfit, and went to finish off the coach in his hospital bed with a knife across the throat. Sam ending up in the hospital lift with a killer clown, his worst nightmare, was an absolute joy, especially because he pulled exactly the same scared face as Dean did when confronted by an albino python in season four’s “Yellow Fever”. In fact, there are many parallels between the two episodes. Both dealt with vengeful spirits of people who were wrongfully killed by vigilantes, and their deaths covered up. In “Yellow Fever”, Luther Garland was the town ‘weirdo’, dragged to death by townsfolk convinced he’d murdered a missing girl, while the police turned a blind eye to his death. In Chester’s case, it transpired that he’d been dangled and dropped off a bridge by Stan (the man killed by the Easter Bunny) and the coach after both men accused him of inappropriate behaviour with their children, and that his sister was complicit in his death. Despite Max’s insistence that his uncle was innocent, Chester’s sister harboured some suspicions about him, and let the men mete their own form of ‘justice’.
After confessing to the Winchester’s, Chester’s sister found herself the next target, with Chester’s ghost inhabiting Max, via a deer’s head, to throttle her. A less tactful reviewer than I might point out the irony of an alleged child molester seeking revenge for injustice by entering a young boy’s body without consent…Anyhoo, after some obligatory head trauma for Sam and being flung into a wall for Dean, the boys managed to burn the last vestiges of Chester’s eerie costumes and liberate his spirit.
We ended with Sam and Dean driving, and Sam telling Dean about his visions of The Cage, having been caught praying by his brother in the opening scene. Dean was rather dismissive of the suggestion that God wants Sam to return to Hell to defeat Amara, but I’m hoping that was fear and denial talking, because Sammy is going to need his big brother by his side if he’s to face his old bunk buddy, Lucifer, before long…
Final Grade: B
+ Genuine scares. I actually JUMPED clear of my seat when the bunny grabbed Dean through the prison bars. This is unprecedented! The gore was turned up to eleven and I will have nightmares about that clown. Bravo, Show. You owe me some new underwear.
+ Sam confiding in his brother about his visions of his own volition, and Dean telling Sam to forget God and place his faith in them, in Sam and Dean. Oh, BOYS! This. This. THIS.
+ Sam playing matchmaker and telling Donna to give Doug v.2 a chance. Donna and Doug II were so cute and dimply together. I wanted to squish them so hard.
– Occasional moments of doh! Never turn your back on a deranged, bunny-costumed killer with superhuman strength, even if he’s been shot full of tranquilizers. Don’t these people watch horror?!
– I’d have liked the characters of Stan and the coach to be a bit more rounded. They both just seemed like stock douches which didn’t fit with the complexity of the story. Chester’s innocence or guilt was left ambiguous, and it would have been nice to reflect the notion that good people can do abominable things (and vice versa) in his killers. A bit more light and shade required.
Extra Thoughts: On the surface of things, this was an enjoyable MOTW episode in the classic Supernatural formula: A fun, goofy premise at the start quickly followed by darker subject matter. It felt cosy and familiar. But it also served to remind us once again of the show’s roots, and that while they are fighting things that go bump in the night, many of the struggles the Winchesters face stem from the internal evils which lurk within ordinary people. The literal ghosts the brothers encounter usually represent a buried secret and the death of innocence. Childhood is always problematic in Supernatural, depicted as something precious that should be preserved, but inevitably is tarnished by knowledge. “Plush” also teased the idea that Sam has unfinished business with the archangels who wanted him and his brother for vessels, linking back to the original apocalyptic storyline of the early seasons. Dean’s dismissal of Sam’s prayers harked back to season two’s “Houses of the Holy”, before the boys knew about the existence of angels, but after everything they’ve been through since then, and in light of Sam’s willingness to share his visions with his brother, I really hope Dean is able to put his doubts to one side and support Sam’s endeavours, and that the Winchesters will take on the might of Heaven and Hell, united and stronger than ever.
What did you think? Will this episode linger in your memory like a vengeful spirit, or was it just DOA? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!