[This is a review of Supernatural season 11, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
When you've been around for more than 220 episodes like The CW's Supernatural has, sometimes you just want to challenge yourself creatively. I picture this starting in the writers' room with someone throwing out the crazy idea of giving us a story from the Impala's point of view. And now, here we are.
While Dean's beloved 1967 Impala wasn't necessarily the star of the episode 'Baby', every scene was shot from the interior of the car ... which took quite a beating through the course of the hour. But, it wasn't just fan service for fans of classic cars. There was a genuine heart-to-heart between the brothers on a night they slept in the car (moments we rarely get to see), as well as a further reveal about the season arc involving the coming "Darkness".
The hour managed to pack in Supernatural's trademark humor, and even got some fun work out of Castiel over the phone. As our viewpoint stayed within the Impala, we got to stay with Castiel on speakerphone as he told Dean about the new monsters they were facing ("Ghoul-pires" Dean dubbed them). Only, while Castiel was talking, Dean was outside the car getting into it with the local deputy, who happened to be the "Ghoul-pire" leader.
It was hilarious listening to Castiel spout off information while Dean was getting tossed around, got the upper hand and then had to find out the hard way that silver bullets don't kill these things ... nor does beheading.
The car POV may have been a creative conceit, but it did make for a fun way to explore the adventure this week. Unfortunately, it did mean that the action had to take place at the Impala, and the poor girl took quite a beating. Luckily, the boys seem to have an unlimited budget when it comes to repairing Dean's "Baby." They're going to need it.
The monsters of the week were ultimately inconsequential, but "Deputy Dumbass" was building an army in preparation for "The Darkness." That means the monsters are every bit as scared and worried about what is to come than the hunters. Which means the Winchesters should be very worried indeed. They know so little about this primal force of evil ... that appears to be stuck in the body of a little girl.
As it's a season-long arc (at least), the show is effectively spacing things out by not focusing on it every week. This episode hearkens back to the early seasons of Supernatural when it was about driving the countryside and taking on random monsters. It's about brotherhood, rock-and-roll, and a sweet-ass ride.
'Baby' gave us all of these. How can you not think of hot cars and hot women when you listen to Bob Seger. Dean serenading Sam after his one-night-stand with Seger's "Night Moves" was one of the most genuinely "brother" things you can do. Considering he accidentally walked in on them (by getting in the car), he absolutely had the right to razz his little brother.
That brotherhood took center stage again after Sam had a vision/dream of their father ... in the Impala, of course. In the vision, John Winchester warns his son about "The Darkness," meaning it was more than just a dream. Could it be God, as Sam had recently prayed? Probably not, but it might be some entity that could prove helpful.
What came out of it, though, was a meaningful conversation between the brothers, even if Dean was blowing off Sam's thoughts that maybe God was speaking to him. He shared his own recurring dream of their father, and it speaks of a simpler life that the boys haven't really been able to enjoy. Sam followed with dreams he has of their mother.
It was a quieter moment between the brothers, and something that was nice to see. These boys are the heart of the show, and their relationship is why it's gone on for more than a decade. Slowing down to see that brotherly bond they share helps us to see how they stick together during the more tumultuous adventures they usually share. With no monsters looming, or possessions, or Crowley or anything, it was just a gentle conversation that felt real as two brothers remembered their parents.
Without that at the core of Supernatural, the show falls apart. The X-Files succeeded because people loved Mulder and Scully as characters, and the same goes here. We can see monsters anywhere, but to want to come back week after week and year after year takes something more. That's why character is so important on television.
Ironically, the Impala has become a character as much as The Winchesters, so it was fun to spend some time and see what she gets up to when the boys aren't there. While it's absolutely a stereotype -- and one that valets probably don't like -- it's easy to imagine a valet parking attendant taking this "Baby" out for a joy ride. It was kind of a nonsensical sequence that set up a bit with Dean digging through her friend's purse, but this episode clearly falls into the "fun" category of Supernatural episodes.
I'm not sure if we ever need to take another look at their lives through the eyes of the car, but it was a fun diversion and a nice variation. It was probably a lot of fun to challenge themselves creatively with the limitation they created for this episode, but it did make for a fun viewing experience.
Fans of Supernatural love these stranger episodes, as there can be a bit of a formula with most episodes, so it's always nice to stray from that a bit and take a different look at these very familiar characters and their mostly familiar world. I expect we'll have several more one-off episodes leading up to the mid-season break in December, and that's when we'll get back to "The Darkness".
Supernatural continues next Wednesday with ‘Thin Lizzie’ @9pm on The CW. Check out a preview below:
Photos: Diyah Pera /The CW