Having resolved Dean’s possession arc in the first couple of episodes, this Halloween episode did what Supernatural does best – a good old-fashioned ghost hunt with lashings of meta references, humour, and brotherly love.
The premise was simple enough: Dean – smarting from his experience as Michael’s puppet, and fed up with having to share his home with a gang of strangers, had taken to holing up in his room, eating junk food, and watching old slasher movies. Sam, in an attempt to get his brother out of his funk, found them a case involving a comic book store worker who’d been attacked by an action figure. The brothers found victim, Stuart, reluctant to repeat his story that he was beaten up by a small plastic Panthro after he’d received a thorough online trolling for his claims, and interviewed his co-workers, each of whom had more in common with Sam and Dean than it first appeared. Though the boys initially believed they were dealing with a cursed object, a recently deceased boss and the discovery that Stuart had been a little light-fingered with the merchandise, pointed towards a vengeful spirit.
Okay, so the murderous ghost’s motive was paper thin, but it gave Dean the opportunity to battle a life-sized effigy of his horror flick hero, a Krueger-esque nightmare called David Yaeger, AKA Hatchet Man, and made for the most fun episode since the Winchesters got transported into an episode of Scooby Doo last year.
Supernatural hasn’t always got it right when portraying fandom and nerd culture. While its willingness to go there and to take risks has always made the show stand out, there have been missteps. Who could forget Becky? But when it’s done right, self-reference and fan-service makes for some of the finest installments. Over the year, the writers have learnt to embrace the weird and wonderful spectrum of Supernatural’s more fervent fanbase, peppering these lighter episodes with Easter eggs without alienating the more casual viewers who make up the majority of the audience.
“Mint Condition” did nothing to further the series myth-arc, but it gave us plenty of what makes this show great. There were laugh-out-loud one-liners, brilliantly executed scenes in homage to the ’80s slasher genre, some creepy moments, and some sneaky character development for our heroes. It’s always a treat to get some insight into the boys’ inner workings, and their shared history without contradicting or retconning what’s come before. We know that Sam isn’t a fan of Halloween because it’s too close to his real life, but it was a nice expansion to learn that being humiliated in front of his crush at a tender age sealed the deal. It was also joyous to see Dean getting to enact his childhood fantasies of killing the bad guy from his favourite franchise, and touching to understand that for Dean, horror movies are escapism because when he was younger he knew that the good guys would always prevail over the monster.
But the best thing about “Mint Condition” was that it put the Winchesters’ relationship front and center. Sam knew that Dean needed a straightforward case which would get them a win after all that had happened to them. And Dean realised there was more to Sam’s hatred of the holiday than he’d previously let on, and kept asking until Sam confessed. The little things – Dean swapping their mugs so he had the cooler one, ribbing Sam about his shaving, and planning their couples’ costume for the following year – really bring home how much Supernatural hinges on the brotherly bond at the heart of it.
Final Grade: B+
+ Shout out to wardrobe this week – those insurance guy suits were a thing of beauty.
+ There was some excellent comedy this week. LOVED the oblivious hospital security men watching the movie, and the final scene in the car was wonderful. Sam and Dean spending next Halloween in Bert and Ernie outfits is my new head-canon.
+ I liked that Stuart was pretty unlikable, but still had friends who were quick to protect him and point out his redeeming features.
– The plot of this episode was practically non-existent, but it didn’t matter a huge deal.
– I get that we need to establish why the boys can head off during big season plotlines, but after fourteen years, do we really need the whole ‘well, we’ve got no leads on X, and the characters who aren’t in this week’s episode are off doing Y and Z’ dialogue at the front of every MOTW story? Clunky exposition is clunky.
Usually when there are parallels drawn between the brothers and other characters, it’s because there is conflict in their relationship. This week, the device was used purely to highlight that Dean has a geeky side, and as an excuse for him to call Sam a glossy-maned girl. But it was fun to see the boys explore facets of themselves we don’t often get to see.
What did you think? Was this a Halloween treat, or a hatchet job? Sound off in the comments or over on Twitter!