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Review: Supernatural 12×16 “Ladies Drink Free”

Supernatural has returned after a short hiatus, and we were back in ‘Monster of the Week but with a personal slant’ territory with “Ladies Drink Free”, when the brothers’ first case with Mick was complicated by the arrival of Claire Novak.

Having grudgingly agreed to get into bed with the British Men of Letters, Dean wasn’t thrilled when pen-pusher Mick insisted on accompanying him and Sam on what seemed to be a routine werewolf hunt. Investigating the death of a teen boy, the trio went to question his sister who had survived the ‘animal attack’, and at first Dean was swayed by the BMoL’s 3-star hotel budget and insistence that the last British werewolves had been wiped out in the 1920s. But Mick proved to be less that trustworthy when he denied seeing any bite marks on the survivor, and later returned to the hospital alone to put her down.

Dean’s moral stance in this episode was interesting, and marked a real turning point in the character’s development. While Sam was always the sibling who saw the humanity in the monsters, having been tainted with demon blood as a baby, Dean was more of a shoot first ask questions later kind of guy. It wasn’t so very long ago that he killed Sam’s childhood friend, Amy, because she was a kitsune, leaving her child an orphan, and that action caused a huge rift with his brother. But Dean’s perspective has shifted massively in recently years, not least because he’s been a vampire and a demon himself, and it was both jarring and reassuring to hear him echoing Sam’s view that the ethics of killing supernatural entities aren’t always black and white.

Things got personal when Claire Novak arrived, tracking the scent of the same wolf, and Sam faced a dilemma when he called Jody Mills and realised Claire had been lying about her whereabouts, and told her adoptive mother that she was viewing prospective colleges. Events went south quickly when Sam attempted a spot of parenting and Claire stormed off, only to get herself bitten by the wolf man. Understanding that she posed a danger to Jody, Alex, and other innocents even if she could control her bloodlust most of the time, Claire asked the boys to end her life. But Sam remembered talking to Mick about an experimental cure and the three of them decided to extract some blood from the wolf that bit her and try it out, even though it had previously only been tested on mice. Lycanthropic mice! Now that’s an episode I want to see! The solution rather fell into their hands when the werewolf turned up at the hotel to snatch Claire, whom Mick had sneakily planted a tracking device on.

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Not much of a plot twist as the biter was revealed to be the clean cut barman rather than the one with a neck tattoo, motorbike, and penchant for dating underage girls. The three men overpowered him without too much fuss and got the blood they needed for the cure. All that was left to do was watch anxiously as Claire writhed in pain, but sure enough, the mixture worked, and Claire lived to fight another day.

In another slightly out of character move, the boys decided to let Claire decide what to tell Sheriff Mills, and the episode closed with Claire leaving a voicemail explaining her decision to keep hunting alone. It seems an odd choice given she’d literally just been munched on by a werewolf and become a monster temporarily, but it’s Jody I feel for. The good sheriff has lost many loved ones over the years, and her wayward charge’s recklessness is bound to end in heartbreak at some point.

I guess the point of this episode was to let us see newbie Mick in the field, and to underline how Dean has mellowed over the years. And while the older brother’s philosophy is changing, baby bro Sam is now seen as a fogey by new blood, Claire. A definite sense of passing the mantle pervaded this installment, but let’s hope the Winchesters aren’t ready for their pipes and slippers just yet.

Final Grade: C

+ There were some nice callbacks in this episode. Claire told Jody she was looking at colleges in Madison, referencing the name of the werewolf Sam fell for and had to execute in Season 2’s “Heart”, and Mick listening to the Martin Luther podcast Sam claimed he was listening to when he was actually listening to Vince Vincente earlier this series.

+ Very much enjoying the mental image of Dean Winchester skinny dipping in the hotel pool.

+ I’m warming towards Mick as a character, and the fact he’s being presented as a ‘nerd soulmate’ for Sam, and demonstrating real conscience makes me doubt he’s being lined up as a bad guy after all. I liked Claire much more than I was expecting to in this episode too. She’s a little bratty, but I got a sense of real affection for the boys from her on this occasion.

– Why on EARTH would the Winchesters mention Garth by name having just told Mick he was a hunter turned werewolf? Sometimes the writers forget Sam and Dean are supposed to be smart!

– While I appreciated the humour derived from Sam and Dean not being used to luxury hotels, it seemed a bit out of character for them to be separated while with a member of an organisation neither of them completely trust. The brothers are hardwired to safeguard the places they sleep and look out for each other, and their sharing rooms isn’t just a cost saving exercise. This arrangement just felt off.

– I’m actually a big fan of the MotW format, but the show does seem to have dropped the thread of the season arc. Still no sign of the cosmic consequences Billie the Reaper warned us about…Supernatural used to be really good at balancing the micro and macro, and we need that equilibrium back.

Extra Thought: The werewolf bartender claimed he was turning girls to form a new pack after the MoL wiped out the rest of his tribe. Will the Winchesters pick up on the fact that monster genocide is not quite the solution it seems before there’s a backlash or epic proportions? Now that have proven cures for vampirism and lycanthropy, it seems like their efforts should be concentrated on curing rather than ganking.

So what did you think? Did “Ladies Drink Free” have real bite, or was it as meek and puppyish as Sam’s attempt to bollock Claire? Sound off in the comments, or tell us on Twitter!

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Katie Young

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