Sam: You did the right thing. You saved him.
Dean: Yeah. Yeah, he seemed super saved.
When we first met hunter/witch twins Alicia (Kara Royster) and Max (Kendrick Sampson) Banes earlier this season as funeral attendees in “Celebrating The Life of Asa Fox”, it was fairly obvious that the show had much more in store for them. As both characters returned in this week’s episode, we were consistently fed so much information about their personalities and family ties that it was even safe to assume the network might have been planning a spin-off around them, but the best thing about Supernatural‘s twelfth season so far is its ability to completely surprise its audience, and that’s what we got in “Twigs & Twine & Tasha Banes”.
It’s interesting to note that in episode recap montage, we were reminded of the very first episode of Supernatural, in which Dean (Jensen Ackles) tells Sam (Jared Padalecki) that their father’s been missing for two weeks after going on a “hunting trip”, because it was so similar to this week’s episode, in which Alicia is concerned about her mother (Alvina August) not getting in touch with her for a few days following one of her “hunting trips”. This seems to be a recurring theme throughout season 12: re-visiting the same sort of situations the Winchesters faced in their classic first season. Since the show’s first season ended with an unforeseen cliffhanger and the loss of a parent, does that also mean that this season will end in a similar way?
Otherwise, the show continued its oft-repeated method of showing how other hunters are similar to the Winchesters. Alicia’s call to Mary (Samantha Smith) for help, answered by Dean, allows the series to bring these two pairs together again and show how similar they are. Sam easily relates with Alicia, whose lack of inherited “magic” makes her feel different and disconnected from the rest of her family, and naturally makes her more concerned about her mother’s dangerous lifestyle. Dean gets along well with Max, who shares his enthusiasm for the hunter way of life and his ability to hide his deep devotion to his family under a false sense of bravado.
Meanwhile, Mary is just beginning to understand the true nature of the British Men of Letters. She’s clearly disgusted as Mr. Ketch (David Haydn-Jones) tortures a shapeshifter and offers to let it live if it reveals the location of the rest of its family. In a symbolic twist, the shifter switches back and forth between the forms of Mary Winchester herself and an oddly Southern-accented Ketch. It turns out even shapeshifters are loyal to their own families, and its death gives Mary the chance to snoop around the organization’s headquarters. After discovering the body of Mick Davies (Adam Fergus) and a several screens bearing surveillance-begotten information about her sons and other notable American hunters, she leaves Dean a warning message before being confronted by Ketch. Lovers no more, they fight, but both end up passed out on the floor due to their injuries. Maybe they really are a perfect match.
The Winchesters track the twins’ mother down to a quaint little bed and breakfast, where she was investigating the murders of several local witches. It’s explained that Tasha, unlike Rowena (Ruth Connell) and most of the show’s past witches and warlocks, is a natural born witch, who didn’t obtain her powers by making a pact with a demon or the devil himself. She’s apparently a flighty and forgetful-type of person, who quickly invites the Winchesters to stay overnight for wine-tasting and a vegan dinner delivery. Just as one starts to wonder where all of this is heading, Dean discovers her corpse (and those of two other hotel visitors) in the B & B’s garden shed.
If all of this sounds like 1956’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, then congratulations, you know your classic horror movie homages. This is where the similarities end, however, because Max walks right in behind them and comes face to face with his mother’s body. Apparently, one of the hotel’s guests is a very powerful demon-made witch (Linda Darlow), whose magic is contained in a large glass ring. Sensing the end of her life is near, she’s been murdering witches who refuse to exchange their souls for her cursed ring of powers and places the hearts of some of her victims into obedient, enchanted, doppelganger dolls made of twigs and twine (hence the episode title). Sam fights against three of these twig creatures, but Alicia shockingly ends up stabbed to death by the image of her own mother.
The witch tries to bargain for Max’s soul, arguing that the ring is his only chance to be with what’s left of his mother. He actually seems willing to accept her ridiculous offer, before Dean shoots her dead. (Cursed magic powers or not, she still dies just as easily as anyone else.) It’s clear, however, after he discovers his sister’s dead body and listlessly tells the Winchesters to please leave him alone so he can clean up the scene, we know that he’s about to make a very big mistake. Set to the sounds of Seasick Steve’s “In Peaceful Dreams”, Max puts on the ring, conjures up a twig version of Alicia, and burns everything else down (including the actual bodies of his mother and sister). It’s a sad ending for such promising characters, although it was both unexpected and thought-provoking: Max sells his soul not because of his intense love and devotion to his family (because his sister wasn’t really brought back to life), but as a way to deal with his resulting guilt and loneliness. Would Dean Winchester do the same? Could the series end with a cursed Dean and a family full of proxy stick-people? I certainly hope not.
As for the other Winchester, Mary awakens bolted into a chair in the interrogation room, with Ketch demanding to know everything she knows about her sons and the other American hunters. (How much more could she say that their listening devices and CIA-level surveillance didn’t already catch?) Unbeknownst to her, her sons are on the way to rescue her. As the episode ends, the camera takes a really long time to reveal the obvious, that Toni Bevell (Elizabeth Blackmore) has returned to question Mary in her usual ways (read: torture).
The reappearance of Lady Toni — unseen since the start of the season — as well as the commonalities between the Banes twins and the Winchester brothers, offers an episode that ties into the episode’s immediate and distant past, as well as suggesting some interesting things for the future as the show closes out the season.