In this week's episode of Supernatural, "Citizen Fang", Sam puts Dean's vampire friend, Benny, in the cross-hairs of a crazed hunter who threatens the life of one of his descendants, forcing both Winchesters to come to terms with the past and, in some cases, move on from it. Is Supernatural beginning to leave behind its flashback storylines?
After being released from a mental hospital, Martin Creaser, an old friend John Winchester, is tasked by Sam to keep an eye on Benny and his thirst for blood. When a string of murders point to a fanged attacker, Sam and Dean disagree about who could behind the attacks. As Benny and Dean team-up to track down the real vampire attacker, Sam and Martin still believe that it is Benny who is behind the murders. But when a message from "Amelia" pulls Sam away from the case, "mentally-off" Martin takes it upon himself to deal with Dean's vampire friend in his own way.
Although the case itself is simple and essentially over within minutes, "Citizen Fang" manages to bring Sam and Dean's past relationships to the present, helping both Winchesters – as well as the series – to move out of flashbacks and push for a bigger, brighter and (hopefully) better future. In many of the past season 8 episodes, Supernatural's use of flashbacks - though required to piece together some semblance of a backstory for its time-jump - was more or less awkward in its execution, often juxtaposing emotional tales of the past against weak plots involving the Word of God. Even if you loved them, the initial use of flashbacks was never ideal.
When comparing Sam and Dean's flashbacks, Sam's flashbacks were always the most compelling, even if it was Benny, from Dean's flashbacks, who ultimately shined. A death mystery on Supernatural is never as strong as an emotional tale - and last week's episode proved it. The moment in which Castiel returns to the series, essentially ending Dean's flashbacks, the character of Benny was able to stand alone in his own tale, no longer held back by the use (or misuse) of scenes depicting what happened in purgatory. While many fans were already intrigued by Benny from his previous appearances, it was this week's episode which sold him to the entirety of the series' fan base.
Up until now, Benny had always been a character that could go either way: helpful hand or enemy-in-disguise. And while Benny helped Dean out of Purgatory, as well as commented about how he's changed, audiences have had enough television experience to know that friends can become foes extremely easy – especially on Supernatural. Because Benny is a large figure who commands attention, he needed to wholeheartedly become a victim in order for audiences to finally accept his intentions as true. And that's exactly what happened.
In order to help Benny make this transition, Martin Creaser, this season's proverbial sacrificial lamb, was brought back, helping to tie the series to its past seasons as it makes steps to evolve itself for the future. Admittedly, Creaser's use in the episode is, at times, very poorly handled. However, thanks to Jon Gries' exceptional performance as the crazed hunter, awkward scenes of Sam abandoning him don't do much to deter from the main story. Still, they are quite noticeable. Additionally, Sam's quick response to Amelia's plea for help, - though completely within the realm of what the character would do - felt like nothing more than an attempt to quickly include her in an episode which attempts to put the past where it belongs - in the past.
Now that Supernatural has, essentially, moved towards wrapping up its focus on Sam and Dean's past relationships, helping to cleanse itself from the Leviathan-filled season 7, season 8 will be able to somewhat continue anew. Although Kevin, the Prophet, and the Word of God aren't the most intriguing storylines the series have ever seen, having to include them with all of this season's needed exposition – and as previously stated, clean-up from last season – didn't provide the season with the foundation it needed it shine. Hopefully now, with some tidying of storylines and character development, Supernatural will return next year with the intense drive fans know the series has.
Supernatural returns Wednesday, January 16, 2013, with "Torn and Frayed." You can check out a preview of the next episode below: