Tonight, the Winchesters finally catch up with Kevin and his mother. For me, the biggest surprise is that Kevin’s mother is in the mix and full of beans. When last seen, she had just been possessed by Crowley, then de-possessed and nearly killed by Dean, all in the space of about five minutes, and the stress of it all appeared to have—understandably—left her a discarded cartridge, permanently catatonic. I kind of assumed that if we ever saw her again, Kevin would be delivering poignant monologues while spoon-feeding her baby food while she did her best imitation of Chief Broom from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. But she shook it right off, and now she and Kevin are holed up (in what I take to be the show’s subtle but heartfelt homage to Hall and Oates) inside an abandoned luncheonette.
When Kevin enters, Mom hits him with a blast of holy water, and Kevin, drenched, angrily reminds her that she doesn’t have to worry about testing him to make sure he isn’t possessed, because “We’ve got hex bags that make us invisible to demons. We’ve got demon traps painted everywhere. I’ve got a sigil tattooed on my arm!” Having gone to so much trouble to make sure they won’t be disturbed, Kevin and his mother are doing their best to concentrate on the important work at hand: cobbling together a set of “demon bombs” that will eradicate the black-eyed bastards should they ever try to mess with them again.
I know that Supernatural operates according to a complex but internally consistent set of laws governing its supernatural universe, laws that Eric Kripke thought out long before writing the first line of the pilot episode and that have since been set in stone. But every once in a great while—such as when I see Kevin’s no-longer-walking-dead Mom trading notes with her son about demon bombs—I’ll confess to wondering if the show doesn’t maybe, for its own convenience, just make some of the rules up as it goes along. (And it’s not as if the rules themselves didn’t always allow for a certain elasticity. This is a show that, for the first few years, was constantly referring back to the mysterious gun, created by Samuel Colt, that “could kill anything.” What, in a show full of demons and ghosts and monsters, does that really mean, and how does it work? It literally means what it says, and it works that way because Samuel Colt was a bad mofo.)
Kevin and his mother aren’t the only blasts from the past booked for this episode. Crowley is here, torturing angels and yanking people from all over into a dark room, where he gathers them around what looks like a giant Simon game and auditions them for the role of Kevin’s understudy. And then there’s the return of Castiel; it’s practically homecoming weekend on Supernatural. Cas, the incorrigible flirt, is a shadowy presence on the periphery of Dean’s consciousness for the first half of the episode, before he finally steps in and officially rejoins the group. There’s a good scene with Dean driving down a country road and realizing, too late, that he knows that bearded dude in homeless-wanderer costume that he just drove past. (It’s like a Bigfoot sighting.) There’s an even better, brief glimpse of Cas, all cleaned up, sitting in the brothers’ hotel room, smiling beatifically as he watches TV. He’s missed it.
There’s also a good faceoff between Cas and Crowley, who has taken Kevin prisoner. It’s usually at this point where I say something snide about Mark Sheppard, but screw it; either he’s gotten a lot better in this role, or it’s just time to forgive and forget about his performance on Battlestar Galactica, and move on. When the angel confronts him, he asks, “Which Castiel is it this time? I’m never sure. Madman or megalomaniac?” Just because you want to see him taken down, that’s no reason not to admit that he’s got Cas’ number. Having only recently been plucked out of Purgatory, Cas isn’t up to full strength, but he bluffs valiantly, which gives the show an excuse to do that effect where his shadow on the wall behind him slowly grows huge wings. It’s an effect I’ve always been a sucker for, and the show has never made the mistake of using it too many times.
There are also some disappointments, such as a promising new character—a freelance witch whom Kevin’s mother hires via Craigslist—who turns out just to exist so there can be someone to betray Kevin to Crowley. But overall, this episode is a pretty good example of how to gracefully return to the main storyline of the season after a few weeks of standalone episodes. There is a bigger disappointment, which may be a bad omen for the season as a whole: Most of the big revelations—Cas’ rescue from a terrible fate by some mysterious force, Dean’s discovery that he has misjudged Cas’ actions in Purgatory, the climactic suggestion that Cas is a pawn in some sinister cosmic conspiracy—greatly resemble things that Supernatural has done before. But for now, let’s just grant that anyone who’s still watching this show after eight years probably enjoys this stuff enough that he doesn’t mind seeing it again one more time. One more time after this might be pushing it.
- An increasingly rare pair of rock-star FBI aliases this week: "Roth and Malloy." Sometimes I think the reason I'm still watching this show is that, after eight years, I'm determined to be there when the Winchesters finally identify themselves as "Agents Lloyd and Verlaine."