I must confess, last week’s angel saga made me feel like Supernatural was running out of gas after twelve years on the road, but “Regarding Dean” was a timely reminder of why I have stuck with the Winchesters for over a decade. It’s not easy to create a feeling of real jeopardy for characters who have died (hundreds of times over in Dean’s case) and been brought back, but watching Sam’s race against the clock to save his hexed brother was genuinely moving and tense.
Having been targeted by a family of witches, Dean got himself hit with a curse which meant his memories were erased, and Sam had to call on best frenemy, Rowena, to help fix his brother before he literally forgot how to breathe. In added twist, Rowena knew the coven in question, having stayed with them a century before when she first came to the US. With Dean out of commission, it was down to Rowena to rush to Sam’s aid when he got himself kidnapped trying to retrieve the grimoire needed to reverse the spell, and almost became a soul donor for Gideon, the witch Dean killed at the start of the episode.
While this was a fairly straightforward monster of the week episode, it definitely had the makings of a classic. It was refreshing to explore the kinds of issues which can affect the boys in the course of doing their job, the danger inherent in just being who they are, and to examine these familiar characters in a new light. New writer, Meredith Glynn (who also wrote madcap Hitler episode “The One You’ve Been Waiting For”) handled the boys with confidence and demonstrated an excellent understanding of them and their relationship. There were actual laugh out loud moments, and I shed a tear or two watching Dean confront his reflection in a mirror as his knowledge of Sam, Mary, Cas, and even his own name slipped away. It’s tricky hitting balance between humour and melodrama, and this episode did it perfectly.
“Regarding Dean” also made wonderful use of Rowena, and was a game-changer for her character. While Sam correctly called her out on wanting to get her hands on the Black Grimoire, she seemed genuinely invested in helping the Winchesters, opening up to Dean when she was sure he wouldn’t remember their heart to heart, and surrendering the book to Sam without a struggle. She even put herself at risk rescuing Sam, and tried to keep Dean safe at the same time. We’ve seen her softer side before, and she once confessed her apparent contempt for Crowley is a front, but her experience with Chuck and Amara seems to have affected her deeply.
Reminiscent of Season 3’s “Mystery Spot” in tone and quality, “Regarding Dean” was easily one of the best episodes of recent years. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it had Dean Winchester riding a mechanical bull called Larry. It was clever, nuanced, and reinforced the incredible bond these characters have, which has been the driving force of Supernatural since the pilot. Ultimately, Dean and Sam can’t be truly happy without one another, and while they carry a tremendous burden, they wouldn’t be rid of it because saving the world and doing it together defines them. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Final Grade: A
+ The parallels between the witch siblings trying to bring back their dead brother and the Winchesters was a really nice touch, and Dean being erased while Sam was about to have his soul taken away again echoed Season 6. The memory loss also recalled Lisa’s mind-wiping by Cas to forget Dean. While they may act for the greater good, as Rowena told Dean, the Winchesters are still capable of doing terrible things to stay together, and this episode addressed that in a really smart way. The image of the pinned butterflies flapping was a chilling illustration of the way the boys mess with the natural order of things. Also, the idea of losing your identity is actually horrifying, as is the concept of losing control of your body via demon possession or being resurrected after death, and I love it when the show remembers that!
+ All three of the central actors did a phenomenal job here. Sam’s broken little expression when he thought Rowena had failed to fix Dean wounded me! Ruth Connell was a total joy, and Jensen Ackles demonstrated once again that he can do outstanding physical comedy and then break your heart in the blink of an eye. I mean, can we talk about the gift that is that footage of him riding the mechanical bull?
+ I loved the nod to Memento and Sam leaving Post-its everywhere for Dean. The ‘NO!’ on the grenade launcher was a stroke of genius. I also laughed hard at the bartender thinking she’d taken advantage of Dean, hopeful Dean believing he was about to watch Sam and Rowena get it on (deviant Dean is my favourite), Dean being shit at reading lips, and the guy with the dog in the beginning.
+ I cannot overstate how much I adore the fact that Dean Winchester, stripped of all memories, still knows in his marrow that Sam is his brother and trusts him. He didn’t even hesitate to shoot the witch on Sam’s word alone.
– I don’t really have any minuses this week. I guess it was slightly convenient that Rowena knew the Loughlin family, but when the going is this good, who cares?
Extra Thoughts: Interesting that Rowena said she was chased out of Scotland by the British MOL. Perhaps she is going to become an ally once more as their sinister intentions are revealed?
So did you want to draw a heart around this episode, snuggle it to your bosom, and feed it cake as much as me? If not, what’s wrong with you? Who took your soul? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter.