In the most refreshing episode since appearing as themselves in reality, the Winchesters take a long road trip to Oregon to investigate a supernatural murder. Along the way, Sam encounters a vision he feels is relevant to their fight against the Darkness. And Dean discovers that when enough happenstance moments collide in his trusty vehicle, he can simply “swing away” and dispatch the foes that threaten him and his family.
Introspective in all the right ways, Supernatural brings to light a fascinating tale told through the eyes of the Impala. There may have been some tricky camera work, but all in the all, I’m vastly impressed with this stand-alone story mixed with sensible humor, charismatic bickering, and a monster plot that doesn’t necessarily scream repetitive to the small screen. At no point did I feel there was wasted time or even wasted space considering every interior shot of that car was seen at least three times. The soundtrack did it’s own talking without the need for an ambient score that really helps sell the atmosphere and breadth that came with a fantastic episode.
Bored at HQ, Sam and Dean begin a road trip to Oregon to investigate a possible supernatural murder. On there way, they stop in Texas where Sam has a one night stand with a waitress and Dean spends his hours in a Roadhouse bar. Afterward, Sam has a dream in which he sees his father as a youthful man driving the Impala. He tells Sam that only he and Dean can stop the darkness. Later, Sam tells Dean his vision believing it might be God or some form of him, but Dean dismisses it and the two share other dreams they’ve had regarding living normal lives with their living parents. Once in Oregon, Sam tracks the wife of the victim while Dean discovers the local deputy is a monster and attacks him at the crime scene. Dean decapitates him but the monster has to be killed in a certain way leaving Dean to collect the head and meet Sam who brings the victim’s wife with them. On the phone, Castiel informs the brothers that the monster must be killed by having a copper coin placed in its mouth and then decapitated. While Sam goes to a gas station searching for old pennies, The wife attacks Dean revealing that she was turned by the deputy and killed her own husband. She drives Dean to the crime scene and reattaches the deputy who then plan to turn Sam. Dean manages to escape and is able to kill the deputy correctly which turns all the people he affected back to normal. The wife it returned home with her family and the Winchesters both agree that the darkness must be stopped post-haste.
Let’s start with the point of view. The Impala has become in itself a beloved icon on the show and it stands to reason that someday an episode like this would be born. I could have seen this style of camera shots working as early as season four, but season eleven works just as well. It brought us closer to the brothers in a way that’s never been seen before in this world. I have zero complaints with all the tight shots and close-ups used and in many ways helped layer the story by having fights and conversations take place outside of the car where we physically are limited by sight and sound save for one angle of view. If the Impala was ever considered to be an extension of the Winchesters or some kind of being itself, this is the way to tell that story and maybe even build more on that as a concept later on. I’m not saying this car needs to live like an opposite form of Christine, but maybe there’s every chance that it can be a conduit for the voice of God. There’s basic evidence to support that which does include other moments in previous episodes.
The nightly conversation after Sam’s dream was very pinnacle in showcasing how the brothers are and will always be the hunting nomads they’ve portrayed since day one. I really liked the subject matter with the exception of a few Dean-isms that he really can’t escape because he exists in a feedback loop of his own cynicism. Aside from that, the dreams they shared of a normal life had a poetic feel to it considering Dean dreamt of his father a lot and Sam his mother. Whether their subconscious is showing them the parent they felt the most connected to or if there’s something else at work here, what mattered is the brothers were having good casual moments that didn’t need crazy settings or distracting emotional states or third party crashers that need to say meta things to lighten the mood. Give the brothers the right kind of dialogue and they can steal the show every time.
Small gripe really, but the only thing I felt didn’t connect as well as it probably could have were the “Signs” like scenarios where minor characters leave objects that in the end help Dean save himself and kill the enemy. While it definitely coincides with Sam’s message that God helps those who help themselves, There wasn’t any lingering moment where Dean maybe thought that’s what happened and begins to possibly understand the message for himself. We do because we see past the signs but Dean is very thick-headed or the episode really just wanted to show a series of happenstance events that in the end created the solution for Dean to take advantage of. If this is the only episode that showcases this kind of crazy accidental resourcefulness then there’s no reason to believe God has a hand in anything, but we know better. God loves that car, and we’ll see these dreams surface again, I’m sure of it.
The dream sequence was very well done. I would have been super excited if Jeffrey Dean Morgan could have cameo’d but he’d likely have overshadowed any indication that it was God speaking to Sam through his father because of the star power at work. After 11 seasons, we’re seeing a glimpse into something that’s very subtly helping the Winchesters and for now we can’t say with absolute certainty what’s at work here, but I think it’s safe to speculate on a massive return of the most elusive character on this show. Great moment to watch and Sam is a much better recipient of this because Dean would have called out his dad in an instant.
Dean was very much the focus here and rightly so. He can carry scenes on his own with bravado and humor and we’d never really tire of it. The best moments for him were his conversation with Castiel, before and after he killed the deputy. It was a long moment that soaked in the crazy lifestyle of Dean and Sam. He also knew how to tailor the mood as they drove because he’s so used to living that way. His music choice was also a throwback to the older seasons when the soundtrack was a pivotal piece of their storytelling and atmosphere.
Why did Sam carry a smoothy in a plastic cup with a straw in the cooler? Did he just decide to get one at a local shop and put it in the cooler when Dean wasn’t looking and even so, what was the point of that small scene? It’s quirky and does show the two are still very different in some aspects, but maybe a little too out of place for me personally.
The joyriding scene had me confused at first. I guess this is kind of a thing, but how can a valet driver have any certainty with how long they can keep a vehicle? And why would Dean tip her if she had to get called by her boss to return? Maybe she wasn’t that far away. Wouldn’t Dean notice the increase in dust on the sides of the Impala?
I find it funny that Castiel would end up watching Orange is the New Black. I don’t know why but I think it would have been more interesting if he saw Daredevil ^_^
Toward the end the camera closes in on both Sam and Dean in their seats commenting on the day and needing to end the darkness. The backgrounds were purposefully set in focus making it a layered shot I believe. I’m not sure why they chose this. Usually the focus is the foreground image or character which establishes the reference but in this case, it was like the background was equally necessary to view even though there was nothing really significant that I could see that we needed to understand. Strange.
One note that’s easily remembered is how Sam returned from Lucifer’s control based on seeing the figures lodged in the Impala, an effect made possible because of their experiences in the car, a symbol of their rugged lives and bonds they’ve made over the years. There’s no reason not to believe that care has an essence somewhere inside of it somehow helping them when they truly need it. Maybe it’s not God at all, but the dang car itself telling them what’s what. Or maybe Sam is just crazy.
9 out of 10. Simplicity works when the story being told is justified and interesting. As season 11’s first stand-alone episode, they did an amazing job telling a self-contained story through the viewpoint of their car which has seen better days. The Impala will always be an important piece of their lives and as Sam stated, they are home when it comes to that vehicle. The monster portion of the plot was decent and it did introduce a new type of creature they hadn’t encountered before. Now super original, but it didn’t really matter. The humor and seriousness was very well balanced and as long as they can tell unique stories like this, it goes to show that Supernatural will never slow down as it continues to drive across America season after season. As always, thanks for reading. See you next week.
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