[rating:2/5]

So, in unfathomably weird news, TVline.com has reported that this week’s episode of Supernatural got its highest ratings since 2010, beating last week’s numbers that did the same. The site pointed out that the total lack of competition due the State of the Union address was probably a help this week, but I don’t understand last week or the pattern that seems to be forming here. Seriously, who says “Oh, there’s nothing on but politics, so I’ll watch a season nine episode of a campy fantasy series that I haven’t been watching all season?” Don’t these people have Netflix or something? I think most fans, despite their continued love, can admit that this show hasn’t been good in, like, four years. Sometimes I wonder why I’m even still watching it. Why are the ratings growing?!

At the start of this tolerable but unimpressive episode, Garth, the boys’ long-missing, awkward ally, shows up in a hospital as a John Doe who was struck by a car, bringing both Sam and Dean to investigate. Awkward. After the brothers endure a rather tense reunion and Dean tries unsuccessfully to kick his brother out, he pulls out a giant syringe full of adrenaline, declaring that he wants answers as to why Garth is being charged by the police with killing a cow. You know, Dean, maybe that’s why everyone around you dies! You’re not a doctor; don’t shoot people full of chemicals whenever they make you mad! Sam instead slaps Garth awake, but he’s jumpy and not terribly helpful.

As the boys wait for Garth to stop throwing up in the bathroom (which is about as fun for the audience as it is for him), the boys catch each other up. Dean is condescending; Sam is concerned. Basically the usual. Sam is also adorably jealous that he’s been replaced by Crowley. While they awkwardly chat, Garth sneaks out the window, naked, steals a car and makes his escape.

Agreeing that they need to work together, Sam questions the farmer whose cow died and learns that the dead cow actually had the organs removed, while Dean gets the security camera photos and tells Sam that they caught nothing. Unfortunately for him, however, Sam is standing just around the corner to confront him about the very clear photos he secretly has of Garth’s car. Once again, Dean is lying to Sam, because if there’s one thing Dean doesn’t do, it’s learn his lessons. See: Mark of Cain.

Frankly, I don’t understand why solo Dean is a storyline right now. Sure, Dean does have a track record of losing those close to him, but in nine years Sam has died like five times and it’s always worked out fine. Surely the brothers have noticed by now that they always come out on top, right?

The boys find a still jumpy(-er than usual) Garth at the home of the stolen car’s owner, where he tries to convince them to calm down and “be grown ups”. Out jumps a werewolf girl, but when the brothers try to kill her, Garth comes to her defense. “She’s a werewolf!” Dean explains. “So am I,” Garth replies. Dun dun dun.

Garth introduces the woman as Bess, his beloved, because apparently that’s a thing people actually say. He explains to her that Dean “could start a fight in an empty house, but deep down he’s just a big old teddy bear” and Sam “can be a bit insecure at times but for good reason, bless his heart”. It’s really disconcerting scene, flashing between Garth’s homey hospitality and werewolf fangs everywhere.

Apparently, he was bit six months ago and was ready to shoot himself when Bess discovered him with her scent, which is weirdly romantic, and stopped him. In fact, she not only stopped him, but she married him and initiated him into her pack. She was born a second generation werewolf, much to the chagrin of the judgmental and bigoted brothers. After so many years of riding around with an angel, you would think they’d be a little more understanding, but no.

Garth invites Dean to come to their prayer meeting, which is basically the scariest cult of happy people you’ve ever seen. There’s a lot of smiling and singing and floral dresses. They even wear silver bullets around their necks to remind them of the preciousness of life. “It’s all good, right?” Garth asks hopefully. I don’t know, man, it’s really freaking me out. It’s apparently freaking Dean out too, because he’s extremely rude to the friendly family, but in his defense, they do serve raw, bloody meat and organs for dinner.

The group leader, or Reverend, tells the story of losing his wife to a hunter but forgoing revenge because of the dark place it leads to. Dean tells them he gets that, but I’m thinking he probably doesn’t. He’s still not even ready to forgive Garth for leaving, because he holds grudges like nobody’s business.

Alas, he’s fixated on the wrong people. It’s not Garth or his wife that he should be concerned about, but instead the town sheriff, who, using a mysterious deer carcass, lures them into the woods and shows his true werewolf colors. Though they defeat him, things get weirder when they notice Norse mythology symbols on his bullet necklace. The engravings apparently indicate an ancient story where a wolf triggers the end of the world and human extinction. Jumping to lots of conclusions, Dean goes off to kill the Reverend, leaving Sam to be attacked by some younger cult members.

Meanwhile, despite the promising moral ambiguity this episode first demonstrated, the pack (minus the Reverend, who really is a good guy) kidnaps the clueless Garth and Bess and ties them up with Sam. This is extremely disappointing, because the more realistic grey area the episode was demonstrating earlier is something the Winchesters, despite all their begrudging allegiances with monsters and angels, have never fully acknowledged. They (and when I say they, I mostly mean Dean) are closed-minded killers when it comes to other creatures. I hate that their bigotry turned out to be right in this case. The werewolves, who want to follow the Norse myth as a sort of bible, intend to frame Sam for Bess and Garth’s murder and therefore push the Reverend to give up the “turn the other cheek” philosophy. Before they can, however, Dean shows up and shoots them with silver bullets. It’s super easy and just too anticlimactic.

The positive part of the lame ending is that, seeing the scared couple, the elder Winchester finally decides not to be an angry bigot and tells Garth that he should hang onto what makes him happy. It’s also clear that he lets go of whatever blame he’s unfairly placing on Garth because he wasn’t around to save Kevin. Dean, you’re the one who let the angel that killed Kevin into Sam. Dean Winchester is a funny character. He hates himself and takes the blame for everything that isn’t his fault, but blames others for the things he is actually responsible for. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not necessarily a sign of bad writing. In fact, it’s a pretty realistic imperfection. Still, it does make me want to reach through the screen and strangle him on a really regular basis.

With Garth, Bess, and the Reverend playing happy family, Dean and Sam decide to part ways. “I’ll send you that postcard”, Sam tells him awkwardly and sadly. Dean follows him, offering some semblance of an apology, extending an olive branch, and inviting Sam back into the impala. “Something broken here,” Sam counters, unable to accept the apology, because if one of them isn’t being difficult, the other one is contractually required to step in and fill the void. When Dean responds with his standard “we are family” retort, Sam counters with a dressing-down of his brother’s obsession with kin bonding: “You say that like it’s some sort of cure-all, like it can change the fact that everything that has ever gone wrong between us has been because we’re family.” It’s a punch in the gut to Dean, but a somewhat satisfying one considering all the lying he did this season. As the episode ends, Sam agrees to work with Dean as a partner, but not as a brother. That sounds like a super empty threat. What is he going to do, stop caring about Dean? Stop worrying when Dean is danger? You can’t actually just stop being someone’s sibling, especially if you’re a obsessive, somewhat creepily attached Winchester sibling.

This episode was noteworthy for bringing the welcome-but-not-terribly-exciting return of Garth, but beyond that it wasn’t anything stand-out or terribly enjoyable. It didn’t have any Crowley or Cas and it didn’t have any story elements we haven’t seen before. It was just….fine. It got off to a promising start with the werewolf conundrum, but the ultimate reveal ruined that and left a predictable, underwhelming episode.

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