Of course we knew that Sam and Dean never experienced what most of us take for granted as the normal Christmas celebration, but I must admit it still shocked me to see a Christmas where John didn't even make it back to the random motel in which they were camped at the time. The flashbacks to Sam's most memorable Christmas past were wonderful and heartbreaking all at the same time. Wonderful to see what the boys have always meant to each other, and heartbreaking to be reminded of how quickly they were forced to grow up.
The young actors who played 12-year-old Dean and 8-year-old Sam were phenomenal. I was particularly happy to see Ridge Canipe reprise his role as Dean. He did an amazing job of portraying a young boy who is terribly burdened by the truths he's had to learn at such a tender age. He's sleeping with a gun under his pillow, forced by circumstance to play the role of father and protector to Sam, and forever haunted by the close call we saw in Something Wicked. He must be ever vigilant against the forces of evil, but never allow Sam to know they exist. This episode showed us a turning point in his life, the moment he let Sam in, the moment the brothers truly joined forces for the first time.
Colin Ford played a convincing Sammy, who pushes for knowledge, notices more than you ever realize, and knows Dean better than Dean knows himself sometimes. Imagine learning that monsters are real, your father spends his life hunting them, one of the worst killed your mother, and no one is really safe, all at once. When you're eight. Finding out there is no Santa Claus was just the bitter icing on an already inedible cake. Poor Sammy.
Discovering the story of the amulet was a wonderful Christmas gift from the show! I loved that it came from Bobby originally, and I don't think I could have wished for a better backstory than that it was a gift to a young Dean from a young Sam. By giving it to Dean, Sam is saying that he knows Dean is more of a father to him than John will ever be, and by never taking it off, Dean is saying that no one is more important to him than his brother. And isn't that the whole show in a nutshell?
I also loved the funny little moments in the flashbacks. The boys' snarky humor with one another was already in evidence. My favorite? "Dad probably thinks you're a girl." hee! And how cute was it that Dean was already reading Hot Rod magazine?
I guess it's kind of obvious I really liked the flashbacks! :) So what about the rest of the show?
First off, awesome titles! That vintage "A Special Presentation" graphic was too cool, and the title card for the episode was fabulous. This is the attention to detail for which Supernatural's art department is famous.
All the parts with people disappearing, with small touches of blood or body parts left behind, seriously creeped me out, especially against the backdrop of Christmas, which has always been my favorite, most warm and fuzzy holiday. The gore was really icky, right down to the sound effects (which I might have noticed more than most, because I had my eyes covered through most of those scenes). What a contrast to the outward appearance of the perpetrators and their overly decorated, picture perfect home! I loved how that gleaming exterior hid the terrors of the basement, where even the Carrigans' true faces came to light.
Before the boys found their way to the heart of evil, we saw the investigative journey that brought them there, and it was fun to watch the boys work it all out together, doing research and following clues. Right away, we had the scene of them interviewing the latest victim's wife. Dean, in a suit, all lips and furrowed brow and impossibly broad shoulders. Yum. Then, when I haven't even recovered yet, here comes Sam, a wall of manly deliciousness, also suited up. Guh. Thank you, show!
The decrepit Santa's Village was just plain sad, and their Santa was gross. The bit that ended with Sam's unfortunate "We only came here to watch," was hilarious, though. As was the part later when the boys busted into Santa's trailer to discover him watching Christmas porn (Mistle my toe? Roast my chestnuts? Jingle my bells?). The off-key caroling was funny, but I kind of wish Jensen had treated us to his real singing voice.
How funny was it that Bobby's trademark bluntness found it's way into the episode, even without his presence? "What'd Bobby say? That we're morons." hee!
The final confrontation between the boys and the Carrigans was really upsetting. I couldn't believe they let the violence go as far as it did. I didn't watch most of it, but I caught flashes inadvertently, and listening to it was almost as bad as watching. I was so relieved when the doorbell rang and the boys managed to escape. And killing the Carrigans with broken branches from their own Christmas tree felt like sweet justice to me. That'll teach them to sully my beloved holiday with their wicked sacrificial ways!
Well, I can't put it off any longer, it's time to talk about the two scenes that broke my heart this week. *sighs*
When Dean and Sam sit at the end of their beds in the motel room, at first it looks like the same old argument about whether or not to celebrate Christmas. But then the view switches to the boys in close-up, their profiles turned to one another, the sad music starts, and I start to lose it. Sammy's pouring his heart out about this being Dean's last Christmas. Dean's doing his best not to retreat, he's not cracking jokes or putting on a happy face anymore, but he just can't say much of anything. In the end, there really isn't anything to say. The boys sit, faces bleak, eyes beginning to glisten, and all I can do is cry.
After evil has been conquered, Sammy remembers back to the Christmas Dean once gave him, and decides he can try to do the same for Dean now. He decorates their motel room, trimming a makeshift tree with ornaments made of plastic fishing floats and tree-shaped air fresheners. Awww. He serves up spiked eggnog, and the boys exchange gifts. Dean is adorably excited, and it's all very touching, the scene made only slightly incongruous by the bloody bandages on both boys' arms.
Then Sam tries to say something, but there are no words. He exchanges a look with Dean, nods, sadly smiles, and looks down. The boys are speaking volumes, but silently. When Sammy looks up again, his eyes shine with unshed tears, and I'm gone. As the boys retreat into companionably watching the game, I'm weeping again, and trying to remember it's just a television show.
And I know I'm overthinking this, but I felt like Dean gave Sam the gifts he did, skin magazines and shaving cream, because they're both symbols of adulthood. It was like Dean's way of saying, you're a grown-up now, you don't need me to look after you anymore, you'll be fine when I'm gone. *sniffles*
Random thoughts: Sam has a wonderful laugh. I still want to know what the lore behind the amulet is. I loved the little flash of Dean's tummy we saw when he hit the floor in the basement. And Dean seriously doesn't know who Mary Poppins is? I guess Disney movies were too girlie to make the cut. :)
So, I'm completely unspoiled for future shows, but I hope we see a glimmer of hope soon. I don't know how much more of this my heart can take! This season has been the best yet, and I appreciate each episode immensely, I just want to know that Sam and Dean will be together, and safe, in the end. Please?