TV reviewer Katie Young attempts not to go supernova as Supernatural returns from its Hellatus with The Hunter Games..
The boys in plaid are back after the mini-Hellatus, soundtracked by ELO’s Long Black Road, and coming to terms with Dean’s new tendency to go supernova at the slightest provocation thanks to that pesky brand on his arm.
But while Dean is having flashbacks to his murderous rampage at Randy’s, and staring at himself in a broken mirror just to really underscore how fragmented his psyche is, Crowley is having nightmares in which he’s being brutally slain by a band of mutineer demons, led by Guthrie (or Bad Santa as I like to think of him, even though it’s no longer seasonally appropriate).
Of course, Crowley’s fevered dreams are not down to him suddenly growing a conscience. They are the work of his witch mother, Rowena, who is inspiring his paranoia with the help of hex bags and spells. In one particularly awesome-looking scene, Rowena builds a strange sculpture out of twigs and bird bones, which enables her spirit to fly out of the lair, scour the city, and eavesdrop on her son’s meeting with the Winchesters. The flame-haired sorceress looked wonderfully spooky with her eyes rolled back in her head, and this is the kind of thing I need more of in my show.
We also see the return of Metatron when Castiel decides he’s their last hope at finding a way of removing the Mark of Cain from Dean. It’s the first time Sam has laid eyes on Metatron since the angel killed his brother, and their reunion is suitably tense. I still find the sandbox/doorway to Heaven idea a little difficult to swallow, although there is something undeniably appealing about the portal to Paradise being guarded by a punky teen and a small child.There are various interesting family dynamics at play in this episode. Sam is still determined to save Dean, Castiel is persisting with Claire Novak even though she wants nothing to do with the angel who’s walking around in her dead father’s meat suit. And Crowley is at his most vulnerable when confronted with family, as we’ve seen before when he came face to face with his son, Gavin, so Rowena’s presence has him ruffled. In a perverse extension of Bobby Singer’s ‘family don’t end with blood’ mantra, the King of Hell doesn’t hesitate when Dean calls asking for a favour either. It seems he genuinely is looking for love in all the wrong places.
Back at the Men of Letters bunker, Dean’s trigger finger is getting a little itchy, and he decides to extract the information they need from the captive Metatron with his fists and an angel blade. One of the main issues I have with this season is the lack of real fear at play. Compared to the quiet, seductive menace of Lucifer, the chilling innocence of Lilith in child form, or even the unstoppable force of the Leviathans in 7×02 Hello, Cruel World, neither Metatron nor Rowena have the gravitas a Big Bad needs to inspire genuine scares. And while Jensen Ackles has been downright unnerving in some of his scenes, Demon!Dean spent too much time goofing and sleeping around and not enough time getting down and dark for my liking. That said, the scenes between Dean and Metatron are pretty intense, and Curtis Armstrong plays Metatron with that particular kind of snot-nosed frailty that makes you want to hit him and protect him at the same time.Metatron is still an absolute dick, and tells the boys in order to remove the mark, they need to retrieve the first blade. Fortunately, Crowley didn’t take it to the moon or drop it in the ocean like he was supposed to (maybe he’s been watching Titanic), and instead put it in the crypt where his human remains are stashed. There are numerous holes in the personal history of Crowley as far as I can tell, but it seems particularly odd that one of his minions would know where to find his bones, given the power they wield over the demonic King. Still, Rowena uses her new found knowledge about the first blade to get away with dispatching another of Crowley’s most trusted staff (RIP Bad Santa).
After the uncomfortable threat of the torture scenes, the culmination of the subplot, in which Claire tries to have Dean offed by a couple of drifters in revenge for killing Randy, is a bit of an anti-climax. Dean’s struggle to best his ambushers without causing them real damage felt rushed and too easy after last week’s slaughterhouse, as did Claire’s change of heart.
But before we get to the business of scoring this episode, let us pay tribute to the real star of this episode, the rain which gave us Wet Sam Winchester. Praise be. Just goes to show, God’s not dead after all!