Something a bit different this week, as the Winchesters took some time out of their hectic hunting schedule to visit an old friend, and ended up at a funeral which brought some familiar faces together…
The cold open introduced the eponymous character of Asa Fox, a young boy rescued from a werewolf in 1980 by Mary Winchester, who then grew up to be a hunter. Okay, if we overlook the fact that Mary looked exactly the same in 1980 and 2016 (where was Amy Gumenick?) and the mahoosive coincidence that Asa ended up dating Jody Mills (I guess the hunting community is pretty small), it was a great introduction to a hunter character. It was super refreshing to have Asa idolise the mysterious woman who saved his bacon, and to adopt the life out of gratitude and curiosity rather than because he’d been affected by some personal tragedy and wanted revenge.
There’s a reason Jody Mills is a solid fan favourite, and Kim Rhodes gave another great performance in this episode. I actually prefer her character away from adopted daughters Claire and Alex, when she’s interacting with Sam and Dean, and the dynamic between the three of them was great this week. Jody seems to have picked up Bobby Singer’s mantle and wasted no time feeding the boys and teasing them affectionately. There was definitely a real life Jared Padalecki laugh bleeding through Sam when he was telling Jody about Dean’s love of Hentai! But their joviality was short lived when Jody received news of Asa’s death, and the three of them set off for his wake, over the border in Canada.
By having the Winchesters meet hunters who didn’t want to kill them for starting the apocalypse, Supernatural regained something that’s been missing for a while. A sense of community. The notion that there’s a wide world out there and things that happen when the brothers are not on watch, things which other people take care of. There was mention of Ellen and The Roadhouse. Stories about the Winchesters which suggest the boys have passed into lore themselves. By reminding us that a hunter’s life usually ends bloody, but showing us a celebration of a man who went into each skirmish with his eyes open, living his best life, this episode revealed the heart and soul of the show. As well has harking back and providing some nostalgia, this installment showed some progression and development by including characters such as the twins, raised by a good witch to wipe out evil forces (and seduce men in Max’s case!) Sam’s casual acceptance of this shows that brothers have come a long way since the time Dean killed Amy the kitsune.
While the monster in question this week was a crossroads demon, he wasn’t the spineless, suit-wearing bureaucrat we’re used to seeing under Crowley’s rule. Jael too had an old school menace about him. The possession scenes were reminiscent of episodes such as “Born Under a Bad Sign”, and it made my black heart glad to see a demon with real power, who got off on killing and tormenting people. The murder of some wake guests by Jael gave Billie the reaper an excuse to visit, and she wasted no time attempting to lure Mary Winchester back to the afterlife.
There was a final twist in the tale as it transpired that Asa had accidentally been killed by his friend, Buck, who’d then framed Jael. This was pretty tragic for all involved, but illustrated once again how the lines between human and monster, good and evil, have become very blurred over the last decade. The hunters playing a wendigo drinking game was nicely symbolic of this shift. Back then, at the start of this epic journey, the rules were very simple. The Winchesters hunted supernatural things and put them down. But as the years roll by and the scars accumulate, things become less cut and dried.
It was good to see Mary and Jody have a conversation. Jody understands that while she’d give anything to have her husband and child back, there’s a difference between mourning the life she would have had with them, and getting them back suddenly after she’s adjusted to the loss. Jody understands that she’s changed in the interim, and what’s in the past can’t be regained after something as cataclysmic as death. While Sam and Dean have always subverted the natural laws because they aren’t prepared to live without one another, Jody, Mary, and Billie treat death with a bit more reverence. Still, it was heart-warming that Mary chose her sons over merciful oblivion.
I really enjoyed this episode. It broke the formula to offer us something which felt organic and had a strong emotional core. A raft of great performances made it believable, engaging, and moving. A few more like this please, show!
Final Grade: A
+ Alice in Chains’ “Man in the Box” for a funeral = perfect!
+ It was so good to see the group pulling together to defeat a common enemy, using knowledge and teamwork rather than just shaking the demon’s vessel. Latin words and camaraderie FTW!
+ Can we just talk about how Dean screamed for Sammy as soon as he realised the house was warded and there was a reaper around, and the first question he asked when Billie broke him in was “where’s my brother?” That’s my beautiful, co-dependent boys.
– I know it’s nit-picky, but it does seem like a bit of a stretch that Mary and Jody would have both known Asa. On the whole, this episode felt very authentic, but that contrivance slightly tarnished it for me.
– And, yes, I’ve already banged this gong as well, but it would have made more sense to have used the ‘young Mary’ actress for the scenes from 36 years ago.
Now that Dean owes Billie a favour, is the reaper going to be on his case? It seems pertinent as we don’t usually see Billie when someone dies. Or was she simply there to have an exchange with Mary, who perhaps secretly longs for death?
How did you feel about this episode? Was it a timely reminder that saving people and hunting things is worth the risk, or a sentimental relic? Sound off in the comments or on Twitter.