Following last week’s revelation that Cas had escaped The Empty, “Tombstone” gave us a glorious return to form for Dean Winchester, who got to live out his Texas Ranger fantasy while investigating some graverobbing and a murder in Dodge City.
The newly formed Team Free Will 2.0 – Sam, Dean, Cas, and Jack – set out together to hunt what Jack thought might be a zombie, but turned out to be a ghoul in the form of famous gunfighter, Mysterious Dave Mather. Who says you can’t mix business with pleasure? We haven’t seen Dean this childlike and excited since he got to go back to the Old West in season 6’s “Frontierland”, and it was sweet how quick he was to include Jack in his adventure now he’s decided he was wrong about the kid initially. I found it slightly jarring how reckless Dean was with Cas, given that he and Sam have always tested one another in the even of their resurrections, especially since he burnt Castiel’s body himself. This can perhaps be explained partly by his eagerness for ‘a win’ and partly by his belief in Jack’s largely untapped powers.
The boys’ arrival in Dodge was fairly relaxed to begin with. Dean geeking out over the cowboy-themed hotel room, was adorable, as was Jack’s realisation as to the extent of his mentor’s Wild West fetish. Dean and Cas went to speak to the deputy sheriff, while Sam and Jack met the local undertaker, Athena, who – in a nice subversion of type – was a young woman who looked like a 50s pin-up and listened to rockabilly music as she embalmed the dead. In a somewhat predictable development, it transpired that she was dating the ghoul responsible for the graverobbings and the killing of Sergeant Joe Phillips’ nephew.
Athena harboured dreams of attending a prestigious SFX make-up school, but her possessive and non-human bf had other ideas. This jealous monster partner trope has been used a lot in Supernatural, and as recently as two episodes ago this season, with the shapeshifter couple in “The Big Empty”. I was hoping Dave’s dating of the mortician was a ruse, an easy way to get access to dead bodies to eat, but it turned out to be toxic love at work again. Obviously one of the show’s main theme’s is that humans are capable of monstrous behaviour, and the monsters are often driven by very human motives, but by constantly giving them the same mundane, everyday issues, it does somewhat diminish the scariness of them. Watching ghouls and shifters dating and generally being jerks while sidelining their inherent and unique other-worldliness is getting a little tired and ‘soapy’. It was also a shame to waste an upbeat character like Athena, who could have been used to break stereotypes and to say something about death-positivity by giving her a horrible boyfriend, and making her keen to escape her job for something more traditionally feminine.
What started out as relatively light relief from the conflict and angst of the first few episodes of this season soon took a dark turn, when Jack – exuberant from Dean’s acceptance, Cas’ return, and his newfound ability to levitate a pencil – got carried away intervening in a shoot-out at the Dodge bank, and accidentally killed a civilian. This set the young nephilim back on his heels, undoing the good work Sam, Kelly, Cas, and even Dean had done in building the lad’s confidence. Jack, believing himself incapable of being good, was taken back to the bunker by Sam and Cas while Dean and the deputy stayed to take down Mather.
Jack’s belief that he would hurt his new friends drove him to desperate measures, and despite reassurances from Sam, Cas, and Dean that they had all been responsible for the deaths of innocents, Jack used his powers to disappear from the MoL bunker. So although they have one angel back from the dead, the Winchesters now have a ticking time bomb on the loose – the adolescent son of Satan with a plethora of issues and insecurities. A recipe for disaster if ever I heard one.
This episode would have undoubtedly had fans of Castiel in raptures, and it provided ample opportunity for Jensen Ackles to strut his comedic stuff. There were also some cute moments of Jack demonstrating the investigative techniques he’s learnt from watching his adoptive dads, as well as moments of real pathos. However, the central plot of the episode has been done several times over, and Jack’s internal struggle is getting a little old at this point. Hopefully his departure will be a way of shaking things up a bit.
Final Grade: C+
+ Dean having to talk himself into getting into the tunnel in the graveyard was priceless.
+ There were some very cute moments between Jack and Cas, such as when they both realised they hardly sleep, and the physical resemblance between Misha Collins and Alex Calvert adds to the chemistry.
+ Sam seemed perturbed by Castiel’s return and Dean’s willingness to accept it at face value. Hopefully this is something that will be explored later, as Dean throwing caution to the wind seemed out of character to me.
– Who are these dumbass police who let people calling themselves Val Kilmer stomp all over their crime scenes?!
– It was a shame Athena’s character was somewhat reduced to oblivious and easily controlled girlfriend when she seemed so interesting at first.
– Similarly, I wish ‘Dave’ had been more fleshed out (excuse the pun), and his obsession with the dead lawman explored or used to relate to Dean somehow. Seems like another waste of a potentially fascinating character.
Extra Thought: Now that Cas is back because of Jack’s power, it seems odd that Dean’s first instinct wasn’t to ask the boy to bring back Mary.
What did you think? Was “Tombstone” Magnificent (Seven) or just OK (Corral)? Sound off in the comments or over on Twitter!