If you haven’t seen the latest episode of the CW’s Supernatural, then be warned: serious spoilers await you. The following review includes some critical analysis and look at what the show’s fans have been saying mixed with some educated guesses about future plotlines; if you haven’t seen “The Devil in the Details” yet, then go watch it, be pleasantly surprised (or not) by the plot’s new directions, be shocked at the (seeming) death of a major character, and then come back here to read this and tell me if you agree (or not) with anything I’m saying.
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The holiday season has come and gone, and the wait is almost over for fans of Supernatural. The show has been on hiatus for nearly a month, but will return with a new episode on January 20th. While we’re still waiting, I thought it’d be fun to make a list of New Year’s resolutions for the show: a list of things that fans will hopefully see during the second half of its current season; some suggestions you may or may not agree with.
Supernatural returned this week after a short Thanksgiving break, but there were no signs of the holiday season in this episode. Also, despite reports to the contrary, Sheriff Donna (Brianna Buckmaster) didn’t make an appearance. (I’m not sure why that is, but she’ll likely turn up in another episode soon.) Instead, we got a very dark, slightly disturbing exploration of childhood and regrets.
The central plot revolved around the brutal murders of imaginary friends, starting with Sparkles the unicorn/man (Everrett Shea), and continuing with Nikki the mermaid (Ida Segerhagen), and the near-fatal stabbing of Weems the magical Deadhead (Eduard Witzke). (If this sounds confusing and ridiculous, that’s because it is.) As it turns out, “imaginary friends” are actually zannas, creatures from Romanian folklore who guard children.
Has anyone noticed how misleading Supernatural‘s recent promos are? Advertisements for “Plush” made it look like one of the series’ sillier episodes, with the brothers spouting puns and chasing a giant bunny rabbit. Instead, what we got was a disturbingly dark (even by Supernatural‘s standards) hodgepodge of ideas lifted from other horror movies.
It opened with a stereotypically lazy husband (Kirt Purdy) finding himself brutally stabbed by a stranger wearing a plush rabbit head. Since this happened in Sheriff Donna’s (Brianna Buckmaster) district (you might remember her from last season’s “The Purge” and “Hibbing 911” episodes), she called Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles). This is where the writing starts to get iffy: since the suspect’s mask won’t come off and he doesn’t respond to any questions, the brothers manage identify him due to his college T-shirt and a “Kylie forever” tattoo on his wrist. But first, the rabbit guy nearly strangles Dean (Jensen Ackles). As odd as this is, it doesn’t stop the brothers from making Bugs Bunny and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? references.
Kylie (Megan Peta Hill) tells the Winchesters that the man in the bunny mask is her boyfriend, who’s been acting strangely ever since he tried the mask on in a thrift shop (similar to the plot of both The Mask and a book in the Goosebumps series.) Before they can warn Donna, the man attacks her and her Deputy, Doug (Brendan Taylor), who’s forced to kill him. As he dies, the mysterious bunny head falls off.
Sam and Dean salt and burn the head, believing it to be inhabited by a vengeful ghost. But the same ghost has other costumes to try on. His next victim is a coach (Bruce Blain), who is almost kettle-belled to death by a girl (Cate Sproule) in a high school mascot costume. After Dean’s shotgun of salt frees her, the ghost jumps into a clown suit.
The “previously on” at the beginning of the episode warned us that Sam (like most sensible people) doesn’t like clowns. (Just a joke! Please don’t write angry comments, clown fans.) This was a big build-up to nothing much, as Sam quickly disarms and dispatches the ghost in a hospital elevator, to reveal an elderly man who’d donned the costume to entertain his granddaughter; unfortunately, the ghost is dispatched only after the man slits the throat of the aforementioned coach.
Eventually, the brothers tracked all of the costumes and murders to a “children’s performer” named Chester accused of “inappropriate actions” with children. (You can draw your own Nightmare On Elm Street comparisons here.) After a vengeful father and coach killed him and made it look like a suicide, his ghost wanted revenge. After the brothers set the last costume, a caribou-like creature that was referred to as a deer, ablaze, the ghost vanishes. Only the last few minutes of the episode focus on the main storyline of the season, as Sam reveals to Dean that he has been praying to God for help and confirming that his visions are of The Cage in Hell where Sam was trapped for months between seasons five and six. Dean, however, is his usual dismissive self, wondering why God would intervene now when he didn’t bother during the apocalypse of season five.
The only non-misleading aspect of the promos was to let us know that we were in for a stand-alone episode (the only one so far that hasn’t featured Castiel [Misha Collins], Crowley [Mark A. Sheppard], or Amara [Samantha Isler]), but it certainly wasn’t as fun as the promos suggested. It was nice to see Sheriff Donna again (some fans are currently lobbying for her to star in a spin-off with several other notable female characters), who offers a light-hearted and welcome female presence to a very male-dominated series, but other than her reluctant relationship with the deputy that shares the same name as her ex-husband, she wasn’t given much to do. Even the main plot of the episode went somewhat unresolved; we’re left wondering if Chester was innocent or not.
Following a break for Thanksgiving, Supernatural seemingly will continue the theme of silliness, with an episode featuring imaginary friends materializing and going on a rampage. Here’s hoping it’s more successful that this episode.
More often than not on Supernatural, if you see a “regular person”, chances are that his or her life is about to be ruined. Tonight’s episode opened with yet another scene like this, as a teenage girl (Dani Alvarado) found her soul sucked out by Amara (Yasmeene Ball) seconds after she complained about how horrible life is with her mother.
Back at Crowley’s headquarters, which feature tablet-carrying demons and beautifully decorated table lamps, we’re treated to Crowley (Mark Sheppard) giving Amara a stern talking-to. Apparently, his goons have had to find and kill all of her soulless victims, and he wants it to stop. This leads to a lot of half-baked references to parenting that seem to be intended as a spoof of stereotypical father-daughter relationships on TV. (At some point later on in the episode, while he’s supposed to be listening to reports from his minions, he’s actually reading a book with a chapter entitled: “Why She Fights: Understanding Your Rebellious Teen”.) But unlike most family dramas, Crowley’s answer is to push her around with his telekinetic powers and assign a demon to keep guard outside of her room; an approach certainly not in any decent parenting manual. Regardless, Amara has grown into a new woman, one who refuses to eat human souls and has a growing interest in life on earth.
Meanwhile, Sam and Dean are investigating the death of last week’s tragic innocent, Len (Jared Gertner), the soulless yet conscientious prisoner. Dean (Jensen Ackles) soon turns his attentions to Castiel (Misha Collins), who has spending way too much time watching garbage TV while recuperating back home at the Winchester bunker. It’s not all a waste of time, however; Castiel pauses and rewinds a local newscast when he notices Metatron (Curtis Armstrong) filming a local news story.
After declaring himself God at the end of season nine, only to lost his powers completely last season, Metatron has been living what he calls “a pitiable excuse” of a human life, which, appropriately for the pop-culture obsessed former scribe of God, is a direct rip-off of the movie Nightcrawler: filming violent stabbings, accidents, and the like, and selling the footage to local TV news stations. Being human has somehow made him even more of a monster, as he’s willing to let a man bleed to death in order to get a good story (and steal his wallet). As he’s in the midst of picking the poor man’s pocket, a seemingly renewed Castiel is there to save the day. In possibly the best moment of the season, Castiel announces that he’s found the demon tablet that Metatron has been hiding (under his mattress, apparently), and beats him to a bloody pulp. Metatron’s cockiness finally gave way to pleading, as he eventually revealed this season’s big reveal: Amara is God’s sister.
Sam and Dean also received some valuable information, as a trapped demon sent to kill a soulless teen told them about Crowley and Amara’s partnership, which allows the brothers to figure out the location of their secret demon headquarters where she’s being held. A more experienced Supernatural viewer might wonder why the brothers had such an easy time breaking into this demon-filled place and getting into Amara’s room, but I guess this helps narrow down the episode into a manageable 42 minutes. Sam’s (Jared Padalecki) debilitating visions of “The Cage” cracking apart in Hell, however, were truly surprising.
Unfortunately, the rest of the episode was a lot more predictable, as Crowley declared that his “bromance” with Dean was over, and threatened to kill him. Amara finally unleashed her powers upon Crowley, and forced him to allow her and Dean to leave safely. Amara continues to be fascinated by Dean, whom she sees as the epitome of “the sweet triumph and the even sweeter folly” that is God’s creation. As she walks the streets to the tune of “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon”, we’re left wondering: has she changed for the better or does she need to be killed? We’re not likely to find out soon, as next week’s episode deals with a rather unlikely monster-of-the-week: a six-foot tall rabbit.
Despite the familiar beats in this episode, it’s nice to see Supernatural finally making some progress this season. There’s been a lot of repetition in the subplots (Castiel’s weakness, an ancient woman with vast power, battling angels), but it looks as though things are heading into fresh directions. As we near a short Thanksgiving break and the upcoming winter hiatus, this episode offers enough intriguing possibilities that should keep Supernatural fans on the edge of their seats.