'Supernatural' Recap: Back To The Future
January 31st, 2013 10:47am EST
Ever since the stupendous and Emmy-worthy season 4 episode, “In The Beginning,” the “Supernatural” writers have winningly explored the theme of time-travel and shaken the Winchester family tree in episodes like “Time After Time,” "The Song Remains The Same" and now “As Time Goes By.”
Grab your DeLorean and let’s dive in, shall we?
The episode opens in Normal, Illinois in 1958 with a man tucking in his son before venturing to an event shrouded in mystery with the secret knocks and strange costumes. When the bodies start dropping, it’s clear there is a supernatural connection. Henry, a dreamboat with swagger that would make Don Draper jealous, is given a precious item by a man with bloody eyes and escapes And how he does. Instead of running outside or hiding, he performs a complicated ritual involving finger-painting in his own blood and chanting, and flees to the future, more importantly to Sam and Dean Winchester’s motel room. “Which one of you is John Winchester?” Clearly, his flux capacitor is broken.
In the future, next to Sam and Dean’s brawn and flannel, Henry (Gil McKinney) seems an arrogant, dapper warlock, but he backs it up by easily slipping both Sam and Dean with magic and trying to hotwire the Impala.
Before Sam and Dean can waterboard him with holy water, the room begins to quake, announcing the arrival of Abbadon and pearls. When the demon-killing knife fails to work, Sam, Dean and Henry haul ass like Usain Bolt going for his 37th gold medal. Or me running to my favorite Mexican restaurant.
After eight seasons and close to 200 episodes, “Supernatural” can bank on its own mythology. Fans know that demons have black eyes; you can kill ghosts by salting and burning their bones; and angels carry special blades. It’s a rarity that a creature actually surprises or intrigues. Fortunately, Abbadon’s got moves we’ve never seen. She dispels a bit of black smoke, ordering the possessed person to show her what they saw, and essentially steals their memories through a demonic link. The black smoke snaps back into her body. It’s a nifty, new trick, and one that helped her track the Winchesters the entire episode.
For all his charmisa and knowledge, Henry doesn’t handle real violence very well, and dives out of the Impala to vomit on the side of the road. Eventually, he spills his guts figuratively, admitting that he's Sam and Dean's grandfather and he's from the past.
“Time travelin’ through motel room closets, that’s what we’ve come to?” Dean asks for half of the audience wondering the same thing.
If you ever watched season 4’s “Jump The Shark,” you probably remember how angry Dean was that John had a son whom he actually protected from the life and even took to baseball games. Dean raged at the poor kid because John had tried to give him a normal childhood, the very thing he was denied. Sam was just excited to be a big brother. Here, Dean’s seen too much to achieve suck apoplectic levels, but he’s not at all keen on the family reunion since Henry abandoned John as a child. Sam’s just thrilled to meet a grandparent who isn’t trying to kill him. “Dad hated the son of a bitch,” Dean grouses. “And Dad made up for that how: by being father of the year?” Sam shoots back.
Sam, the giant geek, prods Henry about the portal he created, theorizing that if they can’t kill the Abbadon, they could “shove her back where she came from.” Henry explains that they’d need “an angel feather, tears of a dragon, the sands of time…” and a week to let his soul recharge. He is a man of letters, a legacy even, and assumes that his newfound grandsons must be the same.
“I’m a little rusty on my boybands,” Dean says, baffled.
Men Of Letters are “chroniclers of all that which men does not understand.” They’re basically Rupert Giles without the accent. They pass their knowledge onto a few elite and trusted hunters because the rest are “unwashed, mouth-breathing apes.”
This episode goes full-on “The Da Vinci Code” as Henry drags Sam and Dean along on a quest for answers as to what happened to his commrades. He surmises with the few clues that they find that one survived Abbadon’s attack, faked his death and planted clues for other Men Of Letters to find. He’s also still alive despite being 127 years old. Stranger things have happened right?
In the cheekily reto motel room, the Winchesters bond over the song “As Time Goes By.” Henry had bought a young John a music box to chase his fears away at night. But John often hummed that tune while Sam and Dean were growing up. It’s a small, perfect moment in an episode full of small, intimate touches. Of course, it’s ruined by the messy storm of hard knocks the Winchesters call life. Abbadon, as listed in John’s prolific journal, is a knight of hell, one of the first demons to fall and the fiercest creatures. She, like Henry, is the last of her kind.
There are few things that I adore more than watching Jensen Ackles play Dean at his most vulnerable, and he tears into Henry for being an absentee father, for putting his duty before his son’s well-being (Let's try to swallow that coming from the dutiful soldier himself). He sums up Johns life in terse, ugly eulogy: he “survived a lonely childhood, a stinking war, only to get married and to have his wife taken by a demon and later killed by one himself.” While the situation is gut-wrenchingly complicated, the anger feels misplaced. Or maybe it's thirty years of familiar grief spilling out.
It’s clear that Henry time-traveled to the future and could never get back and that he is not long for this world.
Henry reads John’s journal, absorbing all of the evil his son encountered before his death. He sneaks off to re-create the blood sigil and get back to the past to right his wrongs, raise his son and probably spare his life.
Dean goes after Henry and Sam heads to Larry’s house to learn about the box. The box Abbadon is after is “a key to every object, scroll spell every collected ever collect for thousands of years. It’s the supernatural mother lode” or the very thing that will help them read the Tablet of God that Kevin Tran is currently killing himself trying to decipher.
Larry gives Sam the coordinates to “the safest place on earth” where the key would be lost forever from evil…and good.
If you noticed that Larry’s wife slithered more than moved, you probably figured out that she was Abbadon in grandma’s clothing and wastes no time taking Sam hostage.
Here’s when takes an extreme turn for the gray. Abbadon offers to trade Sam for Henry and the box. Unable to talk Henry from fruitlessly trying to change the past, Dean takes him by force. “When my dad died, I couldn’t save him. I never want that to happen to Sam, ever. If there’s a chance I can save him, I’m going to do it. He’s my brother and he’s the only family I got,” Dean vows to his own grandfather. He’s not one for extended family, but he’ll always have his brother’s back.
Not surprisingly, the demon double-crosses them. Shoves her hand into Henry’s stomach when he refuses to hand over the box. He then shoots her, planting a bullet with a devil’s trap carved onto the tip into her head, which renders her powerless. Having planned the double-cross of the double-cross, Dean lops her head off. Like Leviathan, they can’t exactly kill Abbadon, but they can make demon tartare and scatter it in cement.
Henry dies, of course, leaving Sam and Dean the box, and these final words: “You’re also Winchesters. As long as we’re alive, there’s always hope.”
It was an emotional moment, but in a painfully confounding way. Did Dean sentence his grandfather to death to save Sam? Did doing that rob his own father of a life without his father? Could Henry have successfully jumped back into the past and stopped Abbadon? You be the judge. It has been established that you cannot change the past, and especially with the Winchesters, certain things are meant to be. It was meant to be that John Winchester, a legacy of Men of Letters, would marry Mary Campbell, a legacy of hunters. It was written that Sam and Dean would be a lethal (and gorgeous) combination of intelligence and an action. It was ordained that one of those children would also be tainted with demon blood.
Sam and Dean were fated to save the world, and Henry’s life and death was another sacrificial piece of the elaborate puzzle. From A to F, “In The Beginning” to “Red Sky At Morning,” this episode was a destined to be a solid B.
What did you think of this episode? Do you want to learn more about the Men of Letters? Do you wish Henry and/or Abbadon would have lived? Do you think it’s weird that Dean has Castiel’s feathers in his trunk? Hit up the comments section.
Next week, Sam's world is rocked as something towers over him. EGADS!
YOUTUBE W2VVBsfCnvA YOUTUBE
Photo Credits: The CW Network