The return of some familiar faces to Supernatural this week, as the Winchesters paid a visit to Sioux Falls and caught up with Jody Mills, Claire Novak, and Alex Jones.
Following the death of her mother, and the hijacking of her father’s earthly body by Castiel, Claire had been living with the lovely Sheriff Mills, and former vampire colluder, Alex. But while we found Alex embracing the sporty, prom-filled life of a normal teen, it seemed Claire had eschewed college in favour of terrorising suspected monsters with a sword in local make-out spots.
But Claire’s call for back up to the Winchesters backfired when instead of endorsing her hunter credentials, they ended up playing devil’s advocate, helping Jody teach her adopted daughters about the risks of unprotected sex, and the importance of a good education. The scene in which the brothers unwittingly became embroiled in the family dynamic over dinner was a joy to watch. Both Sam and Dean just wanted to scoff as much of Jody’s home cooking as possible, but instead they kept finding themselves way out of their depth as Alex and Claire bickered, and Jody lectured them on the importance of preventing STDs as well as using birth control.
There was a more poignant side to this scene as well, because it served as a stark reminder that the Winchesters never really had anyone to make sure they were eating properly after the death of their mother. Sam marvelling that the chicken was ‘shaped like chicken’ and not a ‘patty or a nugget’ was actually a little heartbreaking when put into context. It also coloured the earlier exchange between the brothers when Sam rejected Dean’s ‘Elvis’ burger, because I couldn’t help imagining young Dean trying his best to feed his little brother, but getting it wrong. Maybe Sam’s efforts to eat healthily as an adult are a reaction to all the convenience food he made do with as a child. It was also bittersweet to see Jody continue to ‘mother’ the boys as well as her two wayward daughters. While she is emotionally strong, the tragedy of Jody’s own family, and the loss of Bobby are measured by her continued need to care for others.
While Alex was aligned with the Sam of the Stanford days, throwing herself into school and ‘normal life’, clear parallels were drawn between Claire and Dean (and present day Sam, to some extent), even down to her plaid shirt. Claire demonstrated the stubborn determination and lust for spilling monster blood that defined early seasons Dean, and also proved to have Winchester-esque intuition when Alex’s favourite teacher was slain and drained of blood.
As the Winchesters and Sheriff Mills investigated, Claire pursued her own hunches, all the while refusing to attend classes. But she was vindicated when she and Jody were kidnapped by a vampire (the janitor at the girl’s school) with a vendetta against Alex, and his latest recruit, a newly turned vamp – the favourite for Homecoming King, who’d been dating and baiting Alex.
The janitor’s story revisited a familiar theme in Supernatural. What makes you a monster? It could be argued that he was an innocent victim, lured to his unenviable fate by Alex when she was being controlled by the vamp nest. His inability to control his bloodlust, the murder of his wife and son cemented his ‘monster’ status, but his appetite for revenge and cruelty hinted at a darkness which may have been present before he was bitten. Similarly, Alex acted monstrously in her former life even though she was never turned. While she showed genuine remorse, she couldn’t stop her past sins being visited on her new family. Again, this is something Dean and Sam would understand only too well in light of their respective times as a demon and a blood-addicted vessel for Lucifer.
It was nice to see the women hold their own. Jody took a beating in a cleverly shot sequence, which used blurred focus to echo the character’s disorientation while also making the violence more disturbing. While Sam offered her treacherous boyfriend up to Alex for justice (a little reminder that Sam Winchester can be DARK at times), Claire saved her the emotional cost by lopping off his head, an act nicely reminiscent of Dean trying to save Sam’s pain at killing Madison in “Heart”.
This episode served as an opportunity to call in on old friends, and to reiterate the core theme of the show: Family. While all the characters have suffered lost, their banding together demonstrated Bobby Singer’s credo that “family don’t end with blood.” Indeed, as the Winchesters and Jody continue to form new families and connections, and to strengthen old bonds, the message we take away is that where there’s love, there’s hope. But because this is Supernatural, horror is never far away, and the flip side was nicely summed up by Jody: “That’s what’s scary about family, it gives you so much to lose”.
Final Grade: C
+ It’s always a treat to get some Sheriff Mills. Kim Rhodes has natural chemistry with the boys and always brings real warmth and heart.
+ The dysfunctional family meal was hilarious. Sam’s “Oh, we’re going there” made me laugh a lot.
+ No recurring female characters got bumped off!
– The pacing was a little slow in places. I found my attention drifting at points.
– Similarly, the dialogue was a little clunky in places and the exposition a tad overdone. The janitor’s backstory monologue came over a bit James Bond villain.
– No real advancement of the main arc for a couple of weeks now.
Extra Thoughts: In light of Sam’s recent chats with Lucifer about losing everyone he loves, this family-heavy episode seems a little ominous…
So what did you think? A solid stand-alone episode, or retreading old ground? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!