Normally when it’s time for me to write a Supernatural episode review, I like to take a day or two and digest what I’ve witnessed. After all, this show has many layers and there’s always something hidden that surfaces after a couple of re-watches and some analysis. For “Dark Side of The Moon” though, it’s been several days and I’m still scratching the surface when it comes to the gravity of this episode. I even had to write my full length recap before the review which is a rarity. I needed that good a grasp.
This concept of the main characters dying and going into the afterlife has been done repeatedly in television drama and never goes the same way. Welcome to Heaven Supernatural style. This episode is explosive from the word go, when Sam and Dean are brutally (and graphically) gunned down in their motel room beds by two vengeful hunters. That shock alone is jarring enough so by the time we get to the emotional rest of the episode, we’re pretty shaken. The writers, Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin, who became part of the writing team last season, really come to their own in this outstanding script. This episode is directed by first time to Supernatural director Jeff Woolnough, who brings something unique to the unfolding of this extraordinary story.
This episode is a character continuity fiesta. Old issues with Sam and Dean resurface and new information is learned, but it’s all in line with what we knew before. Each brother gets a revealing look into the other’s deeply private moments and it is a shock on both ends. Heaven is all about relieving life’s greatest hits and Dean starts with a very happy memory involving thirteen year old Sam (welcome back Colin Ford!) and the setting off of likely illegal fireworks on the fourth of July. This is a brilliant scene the way it is shot and edited, right down to Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” the colorful lighting of the scenery and faces, and the overjoyed reactions of both young Sam and the older Dean, who rarely smiles anymore. Much happier times indeed.
The reality of being dead hits Dean once Castiel finds a way to communicate, via the car radio. He’s off to find Sam, who’s caught in his own happy memory of a Thanksgiving dinner when eleven with an enamored girlfriend and her family. From there the memories continue. Dean remembers a touching moment when Mary fixes him lunch (cutting the crusts off his sandwich) and he’s there to comfort her with hugs when she’s has a fight with John. Sam fondly remembers the time he ran away from home and lived on his own for two weeks in a trailer with a dog named Bones (I love Golden Retrievers) and when he ditched Dean and John for Stanford.
Dean instantly sees the problem. Sam’s best memories are some of his personal worst. Dean can’t understand why Sam doesn’t value family, and Sam explains he didn’t have moments like getting the crusts cut off his peanut butter and jelly so he doesn’t see family the same. This has been an ongoing rift between the brothers since season one, their differing perception of loyalty toward family, but given Dean’s fragile state of mind and wavering faith after the incidents in “My Bloody Valentine,” seeing this side of Sam again only adds fuel to that internal fire.
Castiel is the one that sends Sam and Dean on a quest through Heaven, communicating via a distorted TV image reminiscent of 1984 (Nice touch). The problem is if Zachariah finds them he’ll send them back, and they need to take advantage of a rare opportunity first. They must find an angel named Joshua who talks to God. Castiel is cut off from Heaven and desperately needs Sam and Dean to do this for him. Dean agrees for reasons that become clear later, God is his last hope.
The trip through Heaven comes with surprises, including reunions with Ash (Chad Lindberg) and Pamela (Traci Dinwiddie). Each give Sam and Dean their own perspectives of this life of paradise, for despite being caught in their own private worlds, they’re content and happy. Ash even reveals that this isn’t the first time Sam and Dean have been there and angels “windexed” their brains each time they returned back to Earth. I really appreciate that this show didn’t hide the fact that Sam and Dean do tend to die a lot (even in the opening credits) and something did happen as a result of those deaths. That’s been a topic of discussion for a while among the fandom and answers are finally delivered.