Supernatural – Season 14 Episode 13
Supernatural celebrates its 300th episode with a family reunion, a creepy killer ghost clown and a temporal paradox.
Here we are at another Supernatural milestone. The 200th episode was unadulterated fan service in the best way. It’s hard to believe another 100 episodes have happened since then with no end in sight for the show. Milestones are difficult because they should be acknowledged while also serving the narrative that is going on at the time. It’s also difficult to come up with something that fans will accept as a reward for their continued loyalty.
Episode 200 was over the top so for episode 300 the writers have decided to deliver something more low key that celebrates the emotional investment the fans have in the characters. Stripping the show right back to the bricks and focusing on the Winchesters was definitely the right call as that’s what this whole thing is about and why fans keep coming back.
The episode starts off in a relatively standard way with the Winchesters working a case. They track down a shop owner selling various occult items and manage to get into a fight with them. Victory yields several spoils which includes a magic pearl that grants wishes by giving the user their heart’s desire. Dean assumes that means having Michael out of his head so it starts looking like the answer to all their problems.
In true Supernatural tradition things don’t go as planned. Instead of freeing Dean from having Michael battling to take over him it plucks John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) from the year 2003 into the present day. This makes sense as both a surprise and a thing that happens as the death of John has weighed on both Sam and Dean for a long time so it is often on their minds meaning that it’s a likely subconscious wish that they both have.
John’s introduction was perfect; mirroring Dean’s introduction in “Pilot” when he attacked Sam in the dark was a nicely subtle callback to the very first episode. It’s an easter egg that will excite fans that have been there since the beginning while highlighting where the skills that Sam and Dean both have came from.
There are two perspectives to be had with John’s return with Sam and Dean neatly representing both of them. Dean is overjoyed to have his father back and enjoys the prospect of their family being complete again where Sam has concerns about John being plucked from 2003. They both know how radically the timeline can change and John being removed at that point could have catastrophic implications. It’s a debate that doesn’t actually need to be covered as both parties understand where the other is coming from all too well. This early coverage of this issue suggests that Dean does understand what has to be done but would like to have just one family dinner before they have to go through with it. After all the loss, darkness and strife they’ve both had to endure, Dean feels that they are owed one brief moment of happiness however fleeting.
John being around is significant for all of the Winchesters. Sam finally gets the opportunity to say the things he has always wanted to say. Back in season 1 Sam resented John for the life he forced him and Dean into and did everything he could to escape it. He started off at college and had every intention of returning there once they found John and defeated Yellow Eyes. In the years since then Sam can barely remember what he said or why he wanted to leave because of all that has happened. He has fully committed to his life as a Hunter and regrets that he was never able to resolve the friction in his relationship with John.
The best thing about the conversation that they have is how raw and honest it is. I really like how it started off with Sam not quite sure what to say to John. It was awkward in the way that real conversations are which is definitely a testament to both the scripting and Jared Padalecki’s performance. John takes the initiative in moving the conversation on by directly addressing the elephant in the room that is his potential failings as a father. He plainly asks Sam about him screwing up when raising them and Sam’s response is that of unrestrained forgiveness. Everything that has happened to him means that none of that is important to him any more but John comes from the perspective of Sam’s departure being very recent. He sincerely apologises for everything and Sam tells him that he did his best which in hindsight is more than enough for him. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s heartfelt sincerity in his delivery of the lines is note perfect and Jared Padalecki compliments him perfectly in this conversation. It’s a really touching overdue moment that allows Sam some form of closure on that relationship which, for him, is what he gets out of this episode.
John’s conversation with Dean is very different because Dean has always felt more of an obligation to John and has never seen a life beyond Hunting so started off the show being content with the choices he has made. John notices his sense of obligation and apologises for the life that John chose for him being the one that he ended up living while making it clear that he’s very proud of him.. He mentions hoping that Dean would end up having a more normal life and a family of his own. Dean’s response is to confidently declare that he has a family which indicates that he has no regrets and couldn’t imagine his life going any other way. This is met with a simple “alright” from John indicating that he said what he feels needed to be said. It’s a very powerful moment that shows just how different Sam and Dean’s relationship with John was.
The portrayal of Mary’s relationship with John is a lot more streamlined and is equally powerful but in a very different way. When they find themselves reunited they kiss with no words exchanged. There are no words that could encapsulate the sense of loss on both sides and the sheer relief combined with disbelief that they are finally together again. Mary’s death was the sole motivating factor for John’s pursuit of the supernatural because he wanted to avenge her. It’s actually something he never got to do but the thought of finding the yellow eyed Demon was what kept him going because he saw that as the catharsis he needed in order to get over Mary’s death. Having her back effectively nullifies those feelings and what follows is a much more centred and thoughtful John Winchester who is aware of his mistakes and able to understand the impact they had on his sons.
Mary was resurrected and learned of John’s death at that point so she feels a similar sense of loss and has been dealing with that ever since. This both connects them and separates them as the circumstances of losing the one they loved are different. Even though she has been building a relationship with New Bobby her feelings for John have never gone away and her passionate reaction to seeing him in front of her sums that up perfectly.
Sam and Dean’s supply run to town makes them aware of the extent of the changes to the timeline. At first they are fairly benign such as the shopkeeper not knowing who Dean is but this quickly changes when Castiel and Zachariah (Kurt Fuller) show up appearing as they were when they were first introduced which means that Cas has no connection to the Winchesters and Zachariah is still up to his old tricks so this is quickly deemed as being a worse timeline. This makes sense as Sam and Dean can’t imagine a scenario where Cas isn’t in their lives plus despite all the bad things that have come their way they have done a lot of good in the world, much of it with the help of Cas so reverting back to a situation where none of that happened is a bad thing as far as they’re concerned. There’s also the unspoken reasoning that they have no right to decide what the better timeline is so ultimately everyone concerned concludes that John has to go back.
There is a brief discussion about sending him back armed with all the knowledge he needs to change things in a more positive direction for their family but Dean quickly counters that with musings about what the implications of that would be. Ultimately it would fall to others to save the world which may seem ideal as they can live a happy life but Dean has gotten to the point where he is content with the person he has become, the choices he has made and the impact he’s had on the world around him. In short he’s completely happy with who he is and is completely happy with who Sam is so wouldn’t change a thing even given the opportunity. Spending time with John gave Dean the boost he needed to realise that inner confidence and sets him up to tackle what comes next with renewed zeal.
That doesn’t stop John’s return to his own time from being a devastating prospect. John fully accepts it after being told that if he doesn’t go back then Mary will eventually fade away once the timeline corrects itself. As I mentioned above John’s chief motivating factor is avenging Mary’s death so if him being alive means she disappears then it’s a betrayal of one of the fundamental things he stands for so sacrificing himself for her isn’t a choice as far as he’s concerned. It’s one last noble gesture from John mirroring his decision to give up his life for Dean. Cutting to Sam breaking the news to Mary at the same time was really powerful as well as it shows how appreciative she is of John’s gesture and how torn up she is about having to face losing him head on. This episode is all about family and it absolutely nails that aspect of it.
Dean’s one wish of the family dinner is wonderfully portrayed. Having it play out dialogue free with focus on the physical displays of the emotions felt during the dinner was completely the right decision as what they say to each other isn’t as important as the emotion behind what is being said. It’s a perfect moment punctuated by John pointing out that they can be miserable about the inevitable or they can enjoy the time that they have and he plans to enjoy it. What he says sets the tone and what follows encapsulates what all of the characters have wanted for a long time.
It’s noticeable that there isn’t a lot of John in this episode and his appearances are confined to a single location which suggests taht there wasn’t a lot of time in his schedule so the production team had to find a way to maximise his impact in the least amount of time. Those looking to see him on a hunt with his wife and kids will come away from this disappointed and to an extent I expected to see something along those lines but I thought that he was used brilliantly in the time available.
If there is a criticism to be levied at this episode it’s that it does take a while to get to where it needs to be. I did find the idea that Sam and Dean have become local legends in the town near to the Bunker with kids speculating on who they are and what they do but having them steal the Impala, take it to a party and unleash a creepy clown ghost felt like a bit too much filler. It could actually have been a filler episode in its own right but I couldn’t help thinking that the time spent on this could have been better spent delivering more John Winchester.
I do wonder if the kids that appear here are due to become bigger fixtures in the show as there’s subtext to Max (Skylar Radzion) and Stacy’s (Zenia Marshall) interactions suggesting an attraction on at least one side of that relationship. Whether this comes to anything or we’ll ever see these characters again remains to be seen but it feels like a lot of work has gone into giving them personalities to never see them again especially when they could have been bypassed entirely in favour of simply using the pearl early on.
A powerful and moving character driven anniversary episode that gives excellent focus to the theme of family. The return of John Winchester works really well as all of the living Winchesters have a unique connection to him that can be explored nicely. Sam regrets the friction between them so gets closure on that, Dean has his life choices validated by John’s pride in him and Mary gets a last moment with her husband after coming around to the idea of losing him following her own resurrection. Mary being alive frees John from his relentless vendetta to avenge her allowing him to reflect on his life choices and see the damage they’ve done. Having this culminate in a family dinner following the realisation that John has to go back is beautifully handled with a complete absence of dialogue to focus on the the emotion of the moment.
The changes in the timeline are an amusing diversion ranging from small shifts such as a shopkeeper not recognising Dean to Castiel and Zachariah being up to their old tricks with Castiel having none of the life lessons gained over the years. It helps sell the inevitability of what needs to happen while allowing Dean to comment on how content he is with the way his life has turned out. If there’s any criticism to be levied at this episode it’s in how long it takes to get going. A lot of time is spent on setup which may be necessary time filling due to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s schedule but it doesn’t alter the fact that it’s time that could have been spent on the Winchester family. I did like the idea of Sam and Dean becoming local legends in the town near to the bunker and it appears that the characters set up here will be featured in subsequent episodes.
- John Winchester being back
- the individual moments shared with Sam, Dean and Mary
- Dean’s statement of pride in who he is and the life he leads
- the perfect family dinner moment
- the episode taking a little too long to get moving
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