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Review: Supernatural 13×17 “The Thing”

Dean Winchester finally got his tentacle porn fantasy made real this week, but not in quite the way he imagined, and Ketch learnt that working for a Prince of Hell can be a real bitch. Yes, after the super-fun diversion of last week’s animated shenanigans, it was time to return to the serious business of the main season arc, with the brothers making headway in their hunt for ingredients to open the rift, and Asmodeus trying to thwart their plans.

Despite its title, “The Thing” was no classic horror movie homage, although there were overtly Lovecraftian elements to it. By introducing parallel worlds, the show has essentially given itself carte blanche to explore increasingly weird scenarios, and this week’s monster was a tentacled god from another dimension, a cross between a kraken and a Stranger Things demogorgon. My main issue with this episode was the ease with which the boys managed to track the mystical Seal of Solomon down. Having established it was a ‘jewel of the Cosmos’ from reading one book, it didn’t take long for the boys to find records in the bunker archives, detailing that Solomon’s treasure (including a glowing crystal) had been taken to a Men of Letters outpost in Rhode Island in the early twentieth century. How very convenient!

The scenes in which the Winchesters discovered the secret lair, and set about searching it were nicely handled, and the point at which they realised a young woman – Sandy – was locked up inside was chilling enough. I didn’t see it coming that she had died instantly back in 1925 and was actually just a vessel for the tentacled god, but the diner siege seemed like a wasted opportunity to have that story revealed in a much more satisfying way. The perceived threat being outside, while the real monster is already inside is a great horror trope, but it was somewhat diluted here by the legacy MoL members explaining everything to Sam in granular detail. Their handling of the monster’s escape made little sense to me. If they knew the creature was impossible to kill, why poison the only guys able to help them, why all the sinister robes and tattoos, and why wait until several lives had been lost before outing themselves as good guys?

And while I’m questioning the MoL M.O., I don’t understand what had prevented them from summoning Glythur to collect Yokoth up until that point, when they had a magic rift opening key to hand? And why were they so chilled about letting Sam and Dean take it to get to Apocalypse World? Nothing really felt earnt this week, although I did enjoy the fact that Dean clearly got some kind of jollies from being felt up by tentacle monsters. Never change, DW.

The secondary plot regarding Asmodeus and Ketch was more successful at creating tension for my money. Ketch is an odd one, strangely honest about his dishonesty and seemingly quite emotionally vulnerable for a murderous sociopath. I wasn’t convinced about Asmodeus’ speech about him wanting redemption, but Supernatural has always sought to provide motive for its villains, and rather too fond of tying things up in neat packages. Ketch and Rowena are probably the closest we have to characters who do bad things because they are devoid of the usual human range of emotions for no particular reason, and that’s what makes them refreshing.

Asmodeus was suitably creepy in his assertion that he owned Ketch, and their fight was nicely brutal and grown up. Their dynamic was made even more uncomfortable by the presence of Gabriel, cowering in his cell, being forced to witness the whole exchange. It’s quite alarming to see the cocky Trickster brought so low, and I’m hoping we get to explore the source of his trauma properly. The tonal whiplash we get from Hell is one of my main issues with the show these days. Watching demons being incompetent or enjoying cute YouTube videos of kittens negates the horror we should feel at seeing Ketch spitting out his teeth, or Gabriel’s lips stitched shut.

It’s not entirely clear whether Asmodeus is shooting up archangel grace for pleasure or because he’s gaining strength from it. However, it is yet another example of unbelievable serendipity for the Winchesters, because not only did Ketch decide enough was enough and left Asmodeus’ employ, but he broke Gabe out and delivered him directly to Sam and Dean, along with a spare vial of grace and an archangel blade. Hell definitely needs a better security system. Part of me wonders if there’s more to all this than meets the eye, given the way in which all of the spell ingredients have practically fallen into the boys’ laps, but most of me thinks the main arc has been meandering for most of the season, and with only a few episodes left, they needed to wrap things up!

The ending of “The Thing” was possibly one of the most interesting scenes. Dean choosing to take what Ketch was offering and insisting Sam stayed behind in their world in case anything should happen to him was understandable under the circumstances, and yet Sam took it quite badly. His outrage at Dean ‘preferring’ to take Ketch on a mission over him was reminiscent of his hurt in the Season 8 finale when he threw Dean’s friendship with Benny the vampire in his face, and showed there’s still part of Sam which feels like he’ll never be good enough for his brother. For once, Dean was being very pragmatic, and Sam’s emotions overrode his good sense, and I like it when they switch things up a bit.

There was a lot to enjoy in this episode, but I also felt that everything came far too easily to the brothers, which gave the impression of the main arc having been a bit of an afterthought this season. With a fourteenth season coming, it would behoove the writers to play the long game, and give a bit more space to each thread to avoid the long-running mythology feeling shoe-horned in.

Final Grade: C

+ I loved the little sticky notes on Sam’s back. It reminded me of the old pranking dynamic, but was also stupidly pure and innocent, and also quite poignant due to the fact no one else would ever see them. Dean was acting solely for his own amusement in their insular little world.

+ Good use of pop culture references this week. I especially enjoyed the Ghostbusters shout out and the continued use of Scooby phrases.

– Some odd secondary characters this week. The mouthy diner waitress and the mini love story between her colleague and a customer felt like they’d been more integral to events at some point in the edit.

– Even ancient tentacle monster gods conform to traditional heteronormative relationships and gender roles, apparently!

Extra Thought: Lucifer thinks he killed Gabriel, and Lucifer is now in charge of Heaven, so it will be interesting to see how that showdown is going to play out.

What did you think? Asmode-YUSSS or Asmode-NO? Sound off in the comments, or over on Twitter!

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Katie Young

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