It was all about the head and the heart this week on Supernatural, as Sam and Dean found themselves hunting a banshee, whilst also working through their own personal demons in the aftermath of their battle with Lucifer.
Sam was having trouble sleeping, Lucifer’s words about Sam not looking for Dean in Purgatory, and how he would watch everyone he loved die playing on a loop in his mind. Dean, worried about his little brother, found them what he suspected was a routine ghost hunt fifteen minutes from the bunker, which he noted Sam hadn’t left for days, in the hope that it would take their minds of the bigger issue aka Amara and the imminent destruction of the world.
Their case took them to a well-to-do retirement home, where an elderly gentleman had apparently dashed his own brains out against a wall inside a locked room. On closer inspection, it seemed that the victim had been something of a scoundrel and made a few enemies, one of whom had since passed away, and the Winchesters were soon up to their necks in grave dirt, salting and burning the corpse to rid themselves of a vengeful spirit. However, when someone else died the next night, it became clear they were not dealing with a ghost after all. Luckily for our boys, a witness was at hand in the rather fruity form of Mildred (played by none other than Elliott’s mom from E.T., Dee Wallace), a retired Patsy Cline tribute act who took an immediate shine to Dean’s fictional Agent Osbourne. Also lurking in the background, observing proceedings was Eileen, the deaf daughter of a couple killed by the banshee thirty years previously in Ireland, and also the granddaughter of a Man of Letters.
While Sam bonded with Eileen, a woman with a mind to study law, who been robbed of her mother and father by a monster while she was in the crib, Dean chewed the fat with Mildred, who told him to always follow his heart and the rest would work itself out. Supernatural has never been particularly subtle when drawing parallels, but I think it could be forgiven in this episode because the dynamics were so interesting. Eileen and Sam had a natural affinity, both proud legacies, both mature enough and smart enough to understand that revenge wouldn’t bring back the things they’d lost, while Mildred had much in common with Dean. She spoke of her life on the road, and while hunting and gigging are two very different ways of life, Mildred still had traces of the hedonistic, devil-may-care attitude we associate with the elder Winchester. She also echoed his resignation to the inevitability of an unpleasant death, whilst demonstrating a desire to cling to life. Mildred represented the Dean of his old age, living the kind of life he envisaged when he suggested to Sam that they should make a reservation for their own retirement. This dream of a safe and disgraceful Winchester dotage was beautifully illustrated in the moment when Dean slipped a bottle of pilfered Viagra into his own pocket right under Sam’s nose.
While I’d suspected Mildred was not the banshee’s intended next victim, I was wrong-footed. The banshee cracked open heads and ate brains. Sam is the thinker, the mind, while Dean is the impulsive heart. Sam’s insistence that he couldn’t lead his life without Dean by his side underscored this idea of symbiosis. Both head and heart are vital, but can’t operate independently. I expected Sam, his psyche bruised by Hell memories and guilt, to succumb to the screams, but it was Dean who was deemed vulnerable by the creature, presumably because of his connection to and feelings for The Darkness.
How neither Winchester thought that the other might be a risk is beyond me, but maybe all the sexual advances they had to fend off in this episode distracted them! While Sam has been doing much better with the whole honesty thing this season, admitting to Dean that he’s not okay and discussing the fact he still carries the burden of guilt over the whole Purgatory debacle, Dean is still not willing to confide in his little brother that he’s muffed up two chances to end Amara, or that she has some powerful sway over him. This can only be very bad news.
Speaking of which, Castiel, now with Lucifer riding pinion, broke into the Men of Letters bunker. When confronted by Dean, he claimed he was looking for something to defeat Amara with, but Dean clearly sensed something wasn’t quite right with his angelic buddy. Misha Collins is obviously having the time of his life playing ‘Lustiel’. His facial expression in his opening scenes was possibly the smuggest thing I’ve ever seen. He wasn’t just chewing the scenery, he was serving it up with fava beans and a nice Chianti. He was the proverbial cat, lapping up blood instead of all the cream. I’d imagine it’s quite demanding playing an established character possessed by another well-loved (or well loved-to-be-hated) character posing as your original character, but somehow, Misha pulled it off, playing fake Cas with an Eeyore-like weariness.
So, “Into the Mystic” didn’t quite pass the Bechdel Test, but it did offer up two pretty cool female characters, and had them save both Winchesters! What’s more they both survived – hurrah! We all know this show has a less than favourable track record when it comes to representation of women, but here we had a brave and independent hunter (played by deaf actress, Shoshannah Stern) and an open-minded, caring, beautiful older woman who flew in the face of fear. Mildred’s flirtation with the boys was pretty full-on, almost shocking at times, but I never had the sense her sexuality was being mocked or played for gross-out value, which was extremely refreshing.
Sam and Dean’s final conversation in the bunker was a fitting end to a good episode. I know I spoke last week about how harking back to the Amelia storyline of Season 8 was labouring the point, and I stand by that, but my fannish heart couldn’t resist the broment on this occasion. Sammy apologising, stating his grief and guilt over letting Dean go, and Dean’s forgiveness and insistence that the only thing that’s ever mattered is that they are together, just reduced me to a puddle of fluids. Sam being able to rest, knowing he was forgiven was a beautiful sight, but because this is Supernatural, of course we left Dean sleepless and pondering the hold The Darkness has over him.
Final Grade: B+
+ Can we talk about Sam’s box of memories which contained pictures of actual Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as baby Sam & Dean, and THE FAKE SAMULET!!? My poor, aching heart.
+ Mildred. My Queen. My spirit animal.
+ The banshee was well realised in terms of the VFX, and she was a proper, old school Monster of the Week to boot!
– We’ll gloss over the ‘Irish’ accents in the opening scene…ahem.
– Dean and Sam were definitely more heart than head this week. They were criminally slow on the uptake, failing to realise they were both at risk, and failing to notice their BFF has a devil all up inside him.
– No one’s wife announces divorce proceedings with emojis, Arthur!
– How did Lustiel get into a heavily warded bunker? Is Cas’ vessel shielding Luci? I’m fairly sure we’ll never know. I’m also interested to see whether the Men of Letters connection with Eileen means she will be relevant to the overall arc of the season.
What did you make of this one? Was it a howling success, or did it give you the screaming ab-dabs? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!