[This is a review of Supernatural season 9 episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
Each year, there are times when Supernatural goes above and beyond what’s required of a single episode. Often, more times than not, the episode in question will come from fan-favorite writer - now executive producer - Adam Glass, who always seems to know how to craft the perfect tale, no matter how far-reaching or fantastical it might be. This week is no different, and though no connection to the seasonal storyline is made, it doesn't really matter – this is an episode worth delaying Heaven’s fallen!
In this week’s episode, “Bad Boys”, Glass takes us back to Dean’s childhood where, for two-months at the age 16, the elder Winchester was separated from his younger sibling and placed in a reform school. Alone and on his own, Dean not only flourished in his new surroundings, he also made a lifelong friend in Sonny (Blake Gibbons), who runs the school. Now, years later, Dean returns to help Sonny dispose of the ghost that’s threatening the lives of all those there. This time though, Sam joins his brother on the return trip, and it allows him to see a side of Dean that he, as well as the audience, never knew existed.
From the very beginning, Sam and Dean’s youth has always been an exciting topic to watch takeover an entire episode, with good reason. All of Sam and Dean’s learned skills as hunters, along with most of their tricks, were already established when the series began, meaning that all the powerful intricacies of the two brothers’ success were birthed from unknown - though important - origins. This episode is much more than that, however, as it not only highlights the unrelenting life that the two led while growing up, but also delves further into Sam and (especially) Dean’s hope for normalcy, as well as what all they both must have given up along the way (for the betterment of the humanity, unbeknownst to them).
Degrassi: The Next Generation’s Dylan Everett, who steps in as the new young Dean Winchester, is as perfect of a casting choice as any fan could hope for. His mimicry of all of Jensen Ackles’ minute mannerisms, coupled with sincere innocence and confidence, wonderfully embodies this poignant tale in Dean’s life, when the internal struggle between self and service is forced to an end, once and for all. Before that, however, a truly gripping look at what Dean’s life might have been, ideally, reveals just how long and rough the road that these two boys traveled must have been, in order for them become the men they now are today.
For all intents and purposes, this episode of Supernatural is as much about Sam as it is about Dean, even though the focus is wholly on the older Winchester. Finally, after so many years of being left behind a closed motel room door, Sam is able to see that Dean, too, once earnestly attempted to grasp hold of some semblance of normality and, surprisingly, succeeded in transitioning himself away from the intense weight that comes with name Winchester. For Sam, it’s a shocking look at a side of his brother that has since been pushed aside by life’s responsibilities; for Dean, it’s a welcomed return to a place that once, long ago, made him feel that he was more than just a hunter.
And the case, too, about a boy yearning for the return of his deceased mother, played wonderfully into the nostalgic journey of Dean Winchester, as it allowed him to channel all of his hard-earned knowledge and speak the words that he, himself, wishes he were told growing up: “It’s going to be all right.” That, itself, is a beautiful inclusion in the episode, which once again helps to strengthen the already rich mythology with heart - not might - allowing the series to push Sam and Dean even further emotionally, for a (hopefully) impactful conclusion, whenever that may be.
Last week, Supernatural had a few issues when trying to step back to the seasonal story-arc, and this week’s episode does little to show that those missteps have been addressed. Still, when it comes to Adam Glass episodes of the series, it’s best to just sit back, relax and enjoy what have always been some the best episodes of the franchise.
_____Supernatural returns next Tuesday with “Rock and a Hard Place” @9pm on CW. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below: