Thank you for your patience with this delayed post! I have an excellent excuse: we here at S&C attended the “Salute to Supernatural” convention in Burbank, California this past weekend. We’ll be talking about how amazing it was this week, and that coverage may include some interviews with the likes of Osric Chau, Richard Speight Jr. and Misha Collins. (Hint: it does.)
Just when you think you know everything about Dean Winchester, the writers throw you for a loop. In this episode, Sam learns about Dean’s secret stint in a boy’s home, spent after he gambled their food money away and incurred John’s wrath. It is an episode that is wistful and sad, but not for the reasons you’d think.
Gosh. So many reminders of Dean’s life as Sam’s protector. Young Dean and Sammy in all of their incantations. “Watching out for you? It’s kind of who I am,” Dean says. Dean taking care of Sam. The heart of the show–pretty much the description of every plot of every episode over nine wonderful years–in one beautiful montage.
Sam Discovers D-Dog
Dean gets a blast from the past when he receives a phone call from his old pal Sonny who calls him by this affectionate nickname. Sonny took care of Dean as a teenager when he was in a boys’ home, and all the while Sam thought he was lost on a hunt. “That’s what we told you!” Dean says, reminding Sam with one sentence that he is Sam’s substitute father. That he and John were on equal footing in Sam’s eyes. At the same time reminding us that he was a sixteen year old kid, who made stupid decisions as only kids can, and that he bore too much, too soon. Sam’s initial reaction? Blaming John. Dean’s? Protecting his father, too, and taking the blame on himself. So much character history delivered in one small scene. Great work by the SPN writers, as always.
I never heard of Dylan Everett before, but I know I will hear more from him in the future. Everett was amazing as young Dean, channeling Ackle’s potrayal of the character with every sneer and wistful gaze. At once cocky and sentimental, he gave us a touching glimpse of the tough bastard with a heart of gold that Dean would become. Thoroughly excellent work by this fine young actor.
Just the man Dean needed in his life. The father figure he yearned for. The one who allowed Dean to finally be a kid, who encouraged him to put himself first, and who said the words Dean most longed to hear in his childhood: “I’m proud of you.” Dean constantly reminds Sam that they can never be normal–that that life just wasn’t meant for the children of the Campbells and the Winchesters. It seems that once upon a time, he wanted that life too. Sam’s heartbreak at discovering that reminds us all of just how much these boys have sacrificed to save the world, and what a burden a legacy can be.
We’ve seen him protect kids before: Ben in “The Kids are Alright”, Todd in “Wishful Thinking”, Bobby John in “Two and a Half Men”. After this episode you can add little Timmy to the list. Dean is wonderful with children. He sweetly teaches Timmy how to shake hands, acknowledges Timmy’s toy superhero, and protects him from bullies that attack him. It’s devastating when you remember that Dean doesn’t see himself with a family, as a husband and a father. He sees only a life of pain and challenge ahead of him before he dies fighting with a gun in his hand. Seeing how good he is with little ones makes that prophecy even more of a tragedy.
The Death of Ruth
As Dean said in “Yellow Fever”, “That was scary!” Elements of this episode hearken back to the early days of the series, which were less focused on the relationship between our boys and much more “monster of the week.” Ruth’s death is particularly gruesome. Seeing her suffocate against the plastic of the curtain while Ave Maria plays in the background was chilling and creepy, and a perfect intercut between the grace of the character development moments that broke your heart.
Long time fans have been pleading for the return of the amulet that little Sam gave his big brother one Christmas when they were kids. Seeing young Dean wearing his prized possession–procured by Bobby and given by Sam, his two favorite people in the world–was another wonderful tip of the hat to long time viewers. Is it too much to hope for that Sam rescued the amulet from the trash can Dean threw it in when he lost his faith in God? I hope not. I long to see that testament of love around grown-up Dean’s neck, too.
Dean’s First Love
Oof. Adult Robin opened with a zinger by pretending not to remember Dean when he showed up in her restaurant. I was set to call this out as the most unrealistic part of the show–I am willing to buy a killer ghost, no problem, but a girl kissing Dean Winchester and FORGETTING ABOUT IT? Not going to happen. Of course, Robin did remember Dean, how they shared his first kiss, how they planned to go to a high school dance together, how they dreamed of escaping the life their families planned for them and build their own futures as a rockstar and a photographer. She also, sadly, remembered how he ditched her for his family, breaking her heart. Everett was amazingly adorable in the flashback scenes. He got Dean note perfect. I hope we see him again.
Dean Tells Timmy to Let Go
It’s been said: those who can’t do, teach. Dean reminds Timmy to use the “Kung Fu grip” he taught him and tell the ghost of his mother to go away and stop hurting people. He tells Timmy that he needs to think of himself and that he needs to do it even if it hurts those you love. It’s advice he is following and not. Of course, Dean has never been selfish–Sammy was always the priority. But by allowing Ezekiel to save Sam, knowing that he would never have agreed to it and was, in fact, ready to let go himself and rest in peace, Dean finally put what he wanted first. No doubt it is a decision he will pay for down the line.
It All Comes Down to Sammy
Dean admits he got lucky when he told Timmy how to send his ghost mom away. “Kind of like you did with this place,” Sam says. “Here I was, thinking this was the worst part of your life and it turns out it was the best. Why’d you ever leave?” Dean tries to blow it off, but we see it as he remembers. The night of that school dance, when Dean was finally going to be a normal sixteen year old, John came back to claim him to take him on a job. Everett was breathtaking in this scene. Young Dean tears up as Sonny offers to let him stay forever, and maybe he even considered it. Until he looks out the window and see his little brother hanging out of the car window, adorably playing with his toy plane. Teenaged Dean chuckles through his sadness, watching Sammy as indulgently as a parent watches his kid, and he thanks Sonny before he goes back to his calling in life, one perfect tear (just like Ackles) rolling down his cheek. In the present day, Sam thanks Dean for all he has done for him, acknowledging it hasn’t been easy to be his big brother. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” says Dean, refusing to burden Sam the way he was, and they drive off into the night.
What a beautiful episode. I’ll admit it: I cried. I’m not a stone, for God’s sake! Next week? It’s the return of two badasses–dragons and Sheriff Jody Mills! Also, Dean is a virgin. Wait. What?! See you next week when we discuss “Rock and a Hard Place”.