'Supernatural': Sam Finally Gets the Spotlight In "The Raid"
"The Raid" offers a challenging mix of interesting character exploration and stilted plot developments.
SupernaturalAirtime: Thursdays, 7pm
Cast: Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins, Mark A. Sheppard
Subtitle: Season 12, Episode 14 – "The Raid"
Air date: 2016-03-02
"I'm in. Look, tonight was bad, no doubt, but the Alpha Vampire is dead. You're changing the world, and I wanna be a part of it". -- Sam Winchester, "The Raid"
A common complaint among Supernatural fans is the current lack of significant screen-time for Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki). The first season, after all, mostly focused on Sam's reluctant return to "saving people, hunting things" after the tragic demon-related death of his fiancé. While Padalecki is currently given top billing in the show's credits, the show's continued inclusion of an entire universe of demons, angels, family members, and deities, means Sam's been relegated to either being in danger, or standing around and assisting the other characters. It's a shame, because Sam, as the most relatable character, is essentially the audience's stand-in; his reactions mirror how most people would react in such an unlikely environment. Thankfully, "The Raid" offers not only an opportunity to see Sam in action, but also to hear his opinion on the whole Mary (Samantha Smith)/British Men of Letters situation.
Last week, Mary finally told her sons that she's been working with the organization. Dean (Jensen Ackles) took it considerably harder this week than the previous episode would have had us believe, basically telling his mother that she'd betrayed them and ordering her to leave. Sam was more ambivalent on the situation, which led Dean to make the same criticism that many fans of the show have made over the past few seasons: he was sick of Sam playing peacemaker and refusing to pick a side. Naturally, that was our hint that not only was Sam going to pick a side this week, but also that Dean isn't going to like the decision.
Why Mary only seems to text Dean is beyond me, but it's Sam who answers and meets her at the British Men of Letters' temporary headquarters, which look like public storage spaces on the outside, but closely resemble parts of the old Nikita set on the inside. Mick Davies (Adam Fergus) introduces him to the organization's Midwestern-assigned staff: the undervalued and overqualified Serena (Sunita Prasad), nerdy Alton (Kett Turton), and goofy American hunter Pierce (Aaron Douglas). Before you start thinking this could be the cast for a possible Supernatural spin-off, be warned of the show's recent trick of introducing interesting characters only to quickly kill them off for shock value.
Meanwhile, Ketch (David Haydn-Jones) tried to wine-and-dine Dean by showing up at the Winchester bunker with a bottle of rare scotch. (You'd think that by now, Dean would hesitate to accept free booze from an untrustworthy stranger, but perhaps I'm overthinking here.) Oddly, this is enough to convince him that they should go slaughter a large nest of vampires in the nearby area together. These vampires had been hanging out in the abandoned Morest Hotel, which is either a play on the words "more rest" or a subtle tribute to The Doors' Morrison Hotel album. Here's the twist: the nest has (mostly) gone to the temporary bunker at the behest of the "Alpha Vampire" (Rick Worthy), who was last seen in season seven, reluctantly helping the Winchesters after he was captured by a leviathan.
This time around, the Alpha isn't as agreeable. Tired of the Men of Letters' effective strategies against "his children", his plan is to kill everyone at the headquarters and then drain Mick live on the internet to send a message to his superiors. Dean and Ketch threaten this information out a frightened female vampire at the hotel (Alex Duncan), but Sam and the rest only hear this after Pierce (a paid-off accomplice) lets the Alpha inside. After the Alpha kills Alton and Serena, Sam learns that not only do the Men of Letters have the Colt, but precisely how they got it.
This is when Sam finally saves the day. Apparently he knows the "recipe" needed to make the Colt's special creature-killing bullets, and in several well-shot slow-motion sequences, he manages to load the gun and shoot the Alpha Vampire in the head. The Alpha laughs, and there's a long pause that fools us into wondering if he is one of the five creatures who can't be killed by the Colt, but eventually flashes into death. Dean and Mr. Ketch arrive just in time to see it all happen.
Despite the fact that Sam's clearly hurt when he realizes that Castiel (Misha Collins) nearly died because of Mary's secrets, he surprisingly tells Davies that he's ready to be a part of their organization. In what is likely to start yet another storyline in which a Winchester brother isn't completely honest and does something behind his brother's back (one of the show's most overdone clichés), he says that he’ll eventually win Dean over to their side.
The Raid does have some inspired scenes and impressive action sequences, somewhat undermined by the stilted scenarios and plot holes that drive the episode to these moments. Mary and her seemingly self-centered actions are difficult to watch, but considering her origins on the show as the Winchesters' saintly yet deceased mother, some conflict is expected in order to make her a believable character.
More promising, however, is the fact that Supernatural seems to be setting up something big, exploring the origins of all of its creatures and introducing us to bigger and badder monsters. In fact, next week finds the brothers on the trail of the first or "alpha" hellhound, leaving us wondering just who can't be killed by the magical Colt.
Fun Fact: The actor playing Alton in this week's episode previously appeared in season one's "Phantom Traveler" as Max, an airplane passenger who witnessed a possible demonic possession.