For the hardcore fans of a television show, continuity is critical. We suspend disbelief and wrap ourselves in this imaginary world that plays out on the glowing box in our living room each week, but in return we need structure, and rules. If we're going to invest in this alternate universe, it has to make sense. Otherwise we're just going to feel like fools when something crazy happens, and then we're going to feel betrayed.
I've been there and back, believe me. From The X-Files to Buffy to the worst offender of them all, Smallville, my shows have let me down and left my head spinning. I've come to expect it, and rationalize it, and make excuses for it. But ultimately I think it shows that the writers and producers either don't think we're smart enough to notice, or they just don't care. Some (I'm looking at you, John Shiban) have even admitted as much.
Supernatural is different. Not that they've never had a continuity hiccup, because they have, but overall I think Kripke respects the fans of his show, and even more importantly, he respects the storytelling. He, and seemingly everyone else who comes together to make this show possible, are not just in it for the paycheck. They honestly care about creating something beautiful, and memorable, and meaningful, and it shows.
So let's talk about this episode. Sam sneaks off, again, while Dean sleeps. Dean dreams of hell, and awakens to find Castiel perched, not on his shoulder, but on his motel room bed. And with the cryptic words, "You have to stop it," and the touch of two fingers to his forehead, Castiel sends Dean down the rabbit hole.
Dean finds himself transported to the past, to Lawrence, Kansas, in the days before his parents were married, when his car and his music were almost new, and his father was sweet, happy, and pretty much carefree. Wow. Dean is buffeted by discoveries about his family history, and we are as stunned as he is by each new revelation. And even as Dean tries to piece together what it is he's supposed to stop, we realize he isn't going to be able to stop anything, and that this story will have the same sad ending we already know.
Jensen Ackles is Hollywood's best kept secret. Maybe because he isn't in Hollywood at all, but rather is tucked away in Vancouver. I am blown away by his acting on a weekly basis, but I think his performance this week tops anything he's ever done before. Dean probably experiences every emotion imaginable by the time his trip to the past is finished, and Jensen plays each one perfectly. We see Dean confused, disbelieving, wistful, thunderstruck, hopeful, happy, determined, sad, angry, desperate, vengeful, and finally, utterly and completely broken. Oh, Dean. And for me, one scene in particular stands out above all the others.
I've watched the last conversation Dean has with his mother many times now, and every time I cry. As Mary confesses that her worst fear is that her children will grow up to be hunters, we can see how her words just destroy Dean. His chin quivers, his eyes fill with tears, and he begs Mary to remember, on a distant day ten years in the future, to not get out of bed, no matter what. And we know it is all for naught. *sniffles*
And yet in the midst of all the heavy emotion, we also got the funny. The whole homage to Back to the Future was delightful, as were Dean's hilarious expressions and reactions before things took a turn toward dead serious. And Dean freaking John out with his talk of cattle mutilations made me laugh, as did Dean calling his mom a babe. "I'm going to hell... again." hee!
There were so many treasures to be found in this episode. Mary was a hunter!! In a family of hunters!! John and Mary were totally in love, and so happy. And absolutely attractive enough to have produced two of the prettiest boys I've ever seen. :) Mary's parents were named Samuel and Deanna. *snerk* Dean picked out the Impala for his dad! Dean used John's journal, which he still carries close to his heart. He went and found the Colt! And we finally know why Mary apologized to Sam in Home!! \o/
I loved the guest cast. I could totally see John and Mary as the younger versions of the Winchesters we know so well. I loved Mary's passion, and John's goodness. And how completely awesome was Mitch Pileggi? OMG, what a performance! First as the crusty, stubborn hunter, and then as the masterful, delicious embodiment of evil. He made my skin crawl, he was so creepy. All I could cling to was the knowledge that one day he would finally get his due, at Dean's hand.
Castiel was as enigmatic as ever in the beginning, but opened up a little at the end, only to tell us our greatest fears have come true. It really is going to come down to Dean against Sam. *wibbles* I can only hope God chose Dean for this job because he's the one person who can stop Sam and save him at the same time. Oh, and did I mention that Castiel is hot? Totally, impossibly hot. Dean's not the only one going to hell. :)
So what about Sam? You remember Sam, right? Where was he? Well, I have no idea, but I know he's up to no good and in over his head, and I just hope Dean gets there in time. Did you see Sam's face as he left the motel room to join Ruby? It was the picture of deadly determination, and complete and total defiance. I think Dean said it best: "Oh, college boy, thinks he's so smart!" *sighs* This just can't end well.
Random thoughts: The boys' motel room had a rotary phone. When was the last time you saw one of those? Dean driving a Pinto? Really? :D Did he steal it? I liked that warm family scene of the Campbells sitting around the dining room table, cleaning weapons. :) And the show did an amazing job of recreating 1973, from the clothes, to the cars, to the smallest details of the interior sets. Very nicely done.
The final scene of this episode was incredibly intense. If Dean can't stop Sammy, Castiel and his fellow warrior angels will. *shivers* I'm nervous, I'm scared, and I can't wait to see the next episode! Is it Thursday yet?