I had to watch this episode twice before I could really form an opinion about it. The conclusion I reached is, it was ok. I liked it. Didn’t love it. But it was a solid showing. We stepped back from the mythology a bit to focus on Sam and Dean’s relationship, and I’m glad we did. And let me just get this out of the way. I tend to like the MOTW episodes, but I am SO over people eating human hearts. These same writers did this last season in ‘Shut Up, Dr. Phil’ with the hearts in the cupcakes, and I wasn’t a fan of it then either. That’s just unnecessarily gross.
I will say that Jensen Ackles is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. He’s much more confident behind the camera, and that’s even more impressive when you consider that he had so much more time in front of the camera this go round. He made some very cool choices with the lighting and tone of several scenes. I especially liked the way the scene was shot when the Boys were reading all the letters to Betsy. I also enjoyed the brief scene between Jensen and his dad Alan Ackles. That one made me chuckle. It would be nice to have him come back at some point. At any rate, the MOTW was kind of bland, but the development of the Boys relationship pretty much made up for that.The primary achievement of this episode was to give us a more in-depth look at each character’s motivations this season.
On the one hand, Sam has come to the realization that there really is a life outside of hunting. Sam has always wanted normal, but he just resigned himself to the fact that was something he could never have. He basically decided that he only had one option and that was hunting. However, at the end of S7, when he had no one and nothing left, he discovered a new world. A world in which he was able to have a place to call home. A place where he was able to have love and peace. A place where he was able to have normal. And unlike Dean back in S6, Sam allowed himself to truly be in the moment and experience that life. For nearly a decade, Sam has literally carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. He’s also carried massive amounts of guilt from the consequences of his bad decisions. He never really saw any end but death, and even that wasn’t going to be pretty. With Amelia, though, he was able to see a real life. Now, he can see a light at the end of the tunnel. He can see other avenues to explore. He’s not locked into the hunting life. After having experienced that, how could he not continue to not only want it for himself, but actively pursue it?
On the other hand, Dean has also come to a realization. He’s realized that he’s a warrior and what he does matters. For the last couple seasons, Dean has been wallowing in despair and grief because he didn’t feel like anything he did mattered anymore. He felt like he wasn’t making a difference, and no matter how many times he saved the world it was never going to be enough. Then he went to Purgatory. He got a concentrated dose of evil-hunting, and it made him realize that’s why he’s on earth. It may not be pretty and it may not be all fun, but it’s who he is. He even said so much in this episode. He belongs on the road, with his brother, hunting evil and saving people. That realization is part of why Dean is having such a hard time wrapping his head around Sam’s desire to leave. When Dean left hunting to be with Lisa and Ben, he never really left. He knew that his brother was in the cage. He knew that Bobby was still out there. Additionally, he was mourning the loss of his brother. He always kind of had one foot in hunting even when he was supposed to be out. He never really allowed himself to try and really be happy in the normal life. So when he looks at normal, he views it as claustrophobic and painful. It’s not something to be desired for people like himself and Sam. It’s something to be desired for people who aren’t warriors. Dean doesn’t seem to understand that Sam doesn’t view himself as a warrior. Dean is a hunter because he chooses to be, not because he has to be. Sam was always a hunter because he had to be, not because he chose to be. Dean comes off as being condescending toward Sam for looking into college and so forth because Dean has always needed hunting and he believes Sam needs it too. He cannot fathom someone going through the things they’ve gone through and not having hunting in his bones. Also, Dean is remembering what it felt like when he walked away from hunting, and he can’t see that Sam’s situation is completely different from his own.
On the upside, at least Sam and Dean are being honest with each other. It’s both refreshing and sad at the same time. It’s refreshing because in times past they never would’ve been as upfront as they are being now. They would have sugar-coated what they had to say or just not talked about it at all. It’s sad because of just how brutally frank they’re being with each other. Sam flat out said that he’s walking away after they find Kevin and close the gates. Dean said, and still firmly believes, that Sam is gonna get back in the grove and not walk away. This is a conversation that needs to happen, but the lack of compassion on the part of both of them is sad given how much they love each other. It also emphasizes the point that although they’re talking, they are most certainly not communicating. Neither is able to grasp the other’s reasons for doing what he’s doing. And as difficult as it is to watch the Boys fight, this shows a great deal of character growth and development. They’re actually having the serious, difficult conversations that they need to have but that they tried to avoid in seasons past. Yes, we’re sort of back to S1 in character motivations, but at the same time, we’re not. Both of these guys have matured and their decisions/motivations now aren’t reactions to someone else’s decisions for them. These guys are making these choices now because this is what they want.
Well, that’s pretty much it from me. I’d love to hear what y’all think. Did you laugh at Dean’s face when the chubby runner was drinking that nasty-looking green health drink? I admit, I was making pretty much that same face too.