Supernatural – Season 11 Episode 4
Would you believe that 11 seasons in and Supernatural can turn a potential filler episode into one of the most unique episodes of anything that I have seen.
This outing follows a character who has always been around but never had a full episode devoted to her. I am of course talking about the Impala. It’s the car that has been driven around the U.S.A. in the pursuit of demons, ghosts and all manner of things that go bump in the night. Dean calls her baby and she is as much a part of the show as either of the Winchesters. In fact she is definitely a member of the family. It might seem like too much agency to give to a car but I don’t think any car would disagree with the importance of the Impala in this show.
There’s nothing special about the story of this episode as it is a standard monster hunt that takes the form of a largely open and shut case. Meanwhile in the background the Winchesters talk about what has been going on the season and the main arc develops slightly in the background. Such episodes are common in any season of the show that you care to choose and they are normally passable if a bit on the dull side.
This seems to be a week where TV shows use the opportunity to break from the norm to deliver something interesting. This happened with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and now here. Using the perspective of the Impala to show the story happening around her is a stroke of genius and must have been an absolute nightmare to film in such cramped conditions. Some of the internal shots of the car must have been incredibly difficult to pull off.
Obviously the car doesn’t speak but this episode sort of makes it feel like she does. Maybe I’m humanising her too much but I felt that she was watching over the Winchesters and simply taking it all in. They have no secrets from the car as she witnesses everything they do both at their best and worst. I like that this episode is used to clear the air between Sam and Dean with the car acting as something of a confession booth. Sam is completely honest about the infection and his vision from God. Dean takes it really well but seems annoyed that his brother lied to him again but ultimately he gets over it and they can start to move on. With any luck that’s the matter buried and they will be honest with one another from now on.
There are some great exchanges between the Winchesters as they open up about aspects of their lives. Something they haven’t admitted to each other before now is that they both dream of normality. The content varies but the point is that they both would like to live a normal life. Dean’s description of his dream about learning to drive the normal way was a great insight into his character and was delivered perfectly by Jensen Ackles.
Sam appears to have another vision which apparently casts God in the form of his father as a young man played by the returning Matt Cohen. Whether this is actually God, a vivid dream or some manifestation of some other monstrous force is unknown but if it was God then it’s interesting that he chooses Sam as a vehicle to deliver his vague wisdom which includes the trite “God helps those who help themselves”. Dean points out that it’s a proverb not even in the bible and to simply ignore it but it’s obvious that Sam won’t forget it. This is another example of furthering the main season arc in what would otherwise be a filler episode.
Castiel appears in voice form but his role is limited to being in research mode as he heals. We learn that he is binging Orange is the New Black on Netflix and finding confusion in that. As funny as it was I thought that Cas still had his pop culture knowledge so he should at least have known what Netflix is. It’s a minor thing but I couldn’t help but think. Mischa Collins absolutely nailed the dry humour throughout and the scene where he reads the lore about the monster while Dean was fighting one unaware that nobody could hear him was comedy gold.
Another unique aspect of the episode is that we get a real sense of what life on the road is like for the Winchesters when there isn’t an awful lot going on. They drive from place to place looking for cases to work and generally enjoying being on the road. It’s all fairly mundane stuff in terms of plot development but it’s oddly compelling to see them travel and find out where it is they go. Seeing them kill time by singing along to Bob Seger despite Sam’s reservations is great to watch and reminds me of the “Bon Jovi rocks…on occasion” moment from the end of season 3. It’s a testament to how good the show is when the characters can simply do nothing and it still manages to be interesting.
The monster was alright but nothing really special. They share traits of Ghouls and Vampires so Dean creatively calls them Ghoulpires. I loved the way they were used in the episode by having them be annoyingly difficult to kill. The half seen fight between Dean and “The Maker” was hilarious and the other fight sequences that happened in and around the car were similarly excellent.
Despite the monsters being nothing noteworthy their plan got the attention of the Winchesters. It is revealed that they were building their ranks to have an army to fight against the Darkness. This reinforces how big a threat this evil is if even the monsters are scared of it. I wonder what effect it’ll have on other creatures that they encounter.
The poor car takes a beating in this episode. Windows are shattered, significant dents are put in her and she is covered in blood but at the end of the episode she still starts despite all the damage. This is the most reliable thing to the Winchesters and she will never let them down. Sam puts it best when he says “We are home!”
Not everything about the episode worked. The random valet worker taking the car for a joyride felt strangely out of place and would have been better served with another scene featuring the Winchesters. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment at all but it felt like a strange turn for the episode to take.