Family has always been the crux of Supernatural. From the trials and tribulations of two co-dependent brothers who were born into a life of unfathomable horror, to the epic machinations of God and his angels, the point of the show has always been that all creatures are bolstered or toppled by their bonds with others. This episode continued what seems to be an emerging trend by tying a seemingly straightforward, standalone case to the wider mythology, and in doing so, examined the state of various familial relationships.
We started with the Nightmare on Elm Street-esque death of a teacher, and a good, old-fashioned ‘Edlundian’ blood spatter. A couple more deaths led the Winchesters to a museum the victims had taken children on field trips to, and where a new exhibit of sunken artifacts had a surprising connection to a figure from their past. In a brilliant feat of recall, Dean remembered that an eighteenth century ship called The Star, which was wrecked off the coast of New England, was the one Crowley’s son, Gavin MacLeod, was killed on.
Gavin first appeared in spirit form when summoned by Bobby Singer in Season 6, and was later brought back to the twenty first century by Abbadon, and freed by Crowley when the Winchesters tried to send Gavin back to his own time. The repercussions of Gavin escaping his watery fate have not been felt until now, and given that he was played by two different actors in fairly forgettable episodes three years apart, you’d be forgiven for struggling to remember this particular character. But it transpired that because Gavin never boarded the brigantine, his girlfriend, Fiona, was left alone to be abused by the crew. Her teacher’s failure to help her resulted in a deep seated hatred of child authority figures. As monster motives go on Supernatural, it’s not the worst I’ve heard, but it’s pretty flimsy – what about all the other passengers who turned a blind eye? And the vengeful, raped woman trope is kind of overused and lazy.
Gavin’s decision to sacrifice himself by going back in time to be with Fiona so they could drown together on the doomed Star divided Crowley and his mother, Rowena. Our favourite flame-haired witch was drafted in when Crowley refused to help on learning the brothers had allowed Lucifer’s unborn spawn to survive. Although she seemed very maternal with Gavin, Rowena ultimately encouraged him to return to 1723 so she could watch Crowley lose someone he loved as revenge for making her kill her young charge, Oskar to remove the Mark of Cain. After her appearance in “Regarding Dean”, I thought perhaps Rowena was set to become one of the good guys, so it was a nice jolt to discover she is still harbouring a lot of darkness in her immaculately turned out breast.
As well as the loss of a son, and a mother who hates him, Crowley also had Lucifer to contend with. Apparently the writing staff heeded my confusion last week, and had the King of Hell explain in granular detail exactly how he’d swiped Luci’s soul from The Cage by meddling with Rowena’s spell, and how he’d found Nick’s body years back and had it restored to its former glory as a fitting vessel. I’m not sure it all made sense, but I appreciated the effort to address my concerns. Lucifer didn’t seem too perturbed by his incarceration, excitedly anticipating the birth of his son and making a telepathic connection with Dagon – sister of Prince of Hell, Ramiel, from last week – who has taken baby momma, Kelly Klein, under her demonic wing. I worry that Crowley may have bitten off more than he can chew in this instance, and that his desire to humiliate the devil for payback might be his undoing.
Speaking of people who are in over their heads, WTF Mary Winchester?! The resurrected Mrs. M is lying to her sons in favour of sneaking around with Mr. Ketch and scrambling Rugaru brains with some rather unpleasant technology. While she came clean about working with the British division of the Men of Letters at the close of the episode, the wounded expressions on her boys’ faces, and Sam’s reminder that they tortured him quite horribly didn’t seem to sway her. I do wonder if Gavin’s decision to return to his designated fate is a foreshadowing of what’s coming for Mary. I can’t see things ending well for her, as this is Supernatural and redemption usually comes at a hefty price.
While “Family Feud” tied up a couple of loose ends and introduced another powerful demon, the A story was a little weak. It’s never a great idea to bring back a peripheral character for the sole purpose of killing them off, and in this case, Gavin’s rather minor role to date robbed his sacrifice of the emotional impact it deserved. We did get some progression on the season arcs, and at least now the boys are aware of Mary’s ties to the MOL. The positioning of mother and sons on opposite sides of the sand table, and Rowena’s assertion that a mother is best placed to ‘crush your shriveled heart’ suggest these are some feuds which are not going to be resolved easily…
Final grade: C
+ Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles killed the last scene, and Mark Sheppard, Ruth Connell, and Mark Pellegrino continue to turn in brilliant performances week after week
+ Dagon was an intriguing character on first meeting. Hopefully she will live up to the initial promise.
+ The use of the Rolling Stones track over the end montage was a nice throwback to the Season 6 finale when Sam had to put the fragmented pieces of himself together to find Dean. While the various family units (including their own) are also fractured at this point, Sam and Dean are still united.
– Fiona’s rationale for killing teachers didn’t ring true for me, and Gavin’s death was a little hollow as a result.
– While we’re on Fiona, can we talk about that accent!
– For a smart demon, Crowley may have made a pretty dumb decision in bringing Lucifer home. It also seemed a little out of character for him to be so cut up about Gavin, seeing as he was such a terrible father and hasn’t mentioned him for three seasons.
Extra thoughts: I am still sad that Mary’s character has been pretty much assassinated this season. While she has her reasons and I guess being dead for thirty years is going to mess you up slightly, her continuing to work with the people who so recently carved up her youngest is low.
What did you think? Was this episode more golden child or black sheep? Sound off in the comments, or let us know on Twitter!