Supernatural – Season 11 Episode 16
Supernatural brings back a couple of old friends as Sam and Dean follow up on an old case that turned out to be unfinished.
This is another of those episodes that could be considered filler as it has no real forward momentum on the Amara story and there are no major revelations about any of the characters. It’s quite common for a couple of standalone adventures to creep in at this part of the series and I don’t generally have a problem with it if they happen to be good.
In this case it was a very good standalone entry that tied into the overall mythology this show has built around itself. The return of Bobby and Rufus handling the exact same case as Sam and Dean “a handful of years ago” was a really nice touch that gave the standard investigation and extermination formula a degree of freshness.
Of course the structure was the same as always and we actually see it twice in this episode but it worked really well. I liked seeing Sam and Dean following exactly the same steps as Bobby and Rufus in the same order as it shows how important Bobby is to Sam and Dean as well as how much they have learned from him. Bobby essentially wrote the book on their methods and they work as well now as they did then. It’s a great way to celebrate Bobby’s importance to the show without finding another way to shoehorn him into a present day story. There was even a nice continuity nod showing the origin of the whiskey bottle that Sam and Jody shared in the season 7 episode “Time After Time” and Sam and Dean choosing to honour their dead friend by going after the other Soul Eater that Bobby had trapped.
The monster of this week -as I mentioned above- is a Soul Eater and it does exactly what the name implies. It pulls people into another plane of existence and slowly devours them before moving onto the next house to do the same. Bobby and Rufus were able to trap it in the house but it was freed when the seal was disturbed and history starts to repeat itself. It’s not the most interesting of villains and fails to leave any kind of an impression despite how terrified the characters are of it.
Bobby was a smart guy who knew exactly what he was doing but lacked the resources or the information that Sam and Dean now have. the Men of Letters have so much more insight into supernatural threats and discovered a way to kill the soul eater. Sam and Dean can basically finish the job that Bobby started all those years ago. The rest goes pretty much as you’d expect it with one of them -in this case Dean- being pulled in by the Soul Eater while the other works on the outside. The same happens in the past with Bobby being the one pulled in.
Dean and Bobby have parallel experiences in this part of the episode and it’s brilliantly shown by the cutting between the past and the present. I especially liked Dean’s confidence when saying “come and get me, you son of a bitch” contrasting with Bobby saying “stay away from me, you son of a bitch”. Both of them see visions of horrific outcomes which translates to a dead Sam for Dean and a dead Sam and Dean for Bobby. The fact that both men see a dead Sam and this plane of existence apparently exists outside of normal time could be an omen for the coming episodes. Either that or it could simply be the whole probing fears thing that these monsters often do.
Bobby and Rufus make for a great team as the resident grumpy old men. Dean’s description of them being “Grumpy Old Men of Letters” was the perfect label to give to this pairing. Rufus was on top form with his abrasive personality coming across loud and clear as a compliment and a contrast to Bobby’s own surly nature. My favourite exchange was when Bobby was telling the story of his previous encounter with a soul eater and Rufus told him to tell the story how it really happened without all the bravado that Bobby usually tacks on. It all serves of a reminder of how badly missed these guys are.
The story had an overall theme of the “oldest rule” that hunters all have to remember. Hunters have to bear in mind that the simple truth is that not everyone can be saved so it’s pointless to assume that you can. Bobby and Rufus have a very pragmatic approach around doing what they can and trying not to feel guilt over losing some people. There is also a connection between the two pairs with them really needing a win to pick their spirits up. Bobby is feeling helpless because he’s unable to help Sam and Dean with the Apocalypse of that time. His conversation with Dean mentions Lilith so that suggests that the flashbacks are set somewhere during season 3 or 4. It’s a reminder that Apocalypses come and go but some people are left standing when the dust settles.
A solid if disposable episode that plays with the established formula slightly to bring back two characters who have long since died. The cutting back and forth between the two time periods to show the two pairs working the case in the same way was a nice touch. It was great to see Bobby and Rufus again with their grumpy personalities fully intact. The Soul Eater wasn’t the most engaging creature despite how afraid of it the characters were and there was a lack of overall significance to the story but it was still fun to watch.