It’s no secret I’ve been having issues with some aspects of Supernatural‘s season eight, but I was still eagerly awaiting Ben Edlund’s latest script, “Everybody Hates Hitler.” Edlund is a superb writer. He moves from comedy to drama with ease and usually manages to pull threads of each through his episodes. Some of his scripts are darker, some more comedic, but all nail characterization and move the season’s arcs forward in a satisfying way. This week’s episode is no exception. Edlund can’t singlehandedly fix Sam’s terrible story line this season, but he’s making me very happy with the show’s reboot.
The story offers us more secret societies, one involving Nazi necromancers and the other rabbis dedicated to fighting such things as Nazi necromancers. The rabbis’ weapon of choice was a golem, wonderfully played by John DeSantis. I’m not sure how all these secret societies stayed so secret when they all were involved with each other, but that’s not enough of a nitpick to derail my enjoyment of the episode. The golem and his present day hapless new owner, played by Adam Rose, had excellent chemistry, and they each played off Sam and Dean well.
Seeing Sam Winchester having to look up, way up, set up the physical comedy of the episode, without sacrificing the gravitas DeSantis gave his character. I’d love to see Aaron and his golem again on the series. Watching Aaron get his supposed flirt on with Dean was funny and continued the light but sure touch the writers have found this season with sexuality.
I had no doubt Edlund would craft an engaging story. I was a little less sure what I would think of the reboot in the mythology or the brothers’ relationship. But so far, so good. The Men of Letters Batcave is a marvelous set and I do love the vibe of Sam and Dean delightedly making the place their own, something they have never had. Dean geeking out over shower water pressure and Sam geeking out over card catalogues is adorable and right in character.
Do I have caveats? Yes, a few. The show was conceived as a road show, with the boys in the Impala growling their way through truck stop America, to paraphrase Eric Kripke. When he created the Roadhouse in season two, he decided to burn it down at the season’s end because he felt it didn’t work for the series. In the Season Two Companion, he said, “”What we realized is that this series is so much about the road trip. Giving them a place to go, runs counter to that and really changes the tone in a way you don’t want.”
I’ve no doubt Kripke was right about what his five year vision required. But Supernatural has needed a good reboot since the end of season five, and seasons six and seven didn’t really find a satisfying new long term vision. It remains to be seen whether shifting some of the road show emphasis to a cool new home base will pay off. Will the boys seem as comfortable in shady hotel rooms as they investigate cases? Will there still be as much of a need for shady hotel rooms?
And characterwise, will the standing set encourage the writers to give Dean and Sam unique characteristics and goals by assigning Sam to be a Winchester Man of Letters and Dean to be a Campbell hunter? That would be taking complex characters and going backward to a more simplistic view. Dean and Sam have always had both brain and brawn, even if Sam has always loved the intellectual sphere and Dean has always loved getting engaged with the hunt. I hope to continue to see Sam and Dean showing both Winchester and Campbell characteristics.
That said, it was wonderful seeing Sam’s delight in the archive at his fingertips. I can see the arc the writers were aiming for with the younger Winchester, as he finds a place which allows his personal interests to intersect with his duty, instead of demanding he give up his personal desires for his duty.
That doesn’t make the first half of the season click into place for me, though. Instead of the love triangle, I think it would have worked much better if the writers had decided to pursue the theme of perception with Sam and had him realise his view of “real life” didn’t match reality all that well. “Everybody Hates Hitler” would have been an excellent pay off for that arc. I would have liked to see Sam realize the life of a handyman would not have satisfied him, as Dean had to realize he could not live a nine to five punch clock life in the suburbs, even if he loved the idea of a family.
I’d like to have seen the younger Winchester realize Sam Winchester is a dead serial killer, so resuming his university life with Amelia in tow was not an option (he can’t exactly access any of his transcripts or ID and if he has to contact an underworld person to manufacture some, how does he explain to Amelia and her dad he has to become someone else?). Sam’s “real life” was based on lies. Far from grounding him in reality, he had to live like an espionage mole, creating a life in constant danger of exposure and lying to his dearest companions. Is that really a healthy option for him?
I would also like to have seen the show follow through on the illusion and living a lie hints about Sam and Amelia’s relationship and allowed Sam to really consider what his life with Dean gives him versus what his life with Amelia offered. Was he truly using the relationship as a way to avoid grieivng for his brother, as Amelia’s dad thought?
Instead, we got Sam telling Dean to find a happiness equation that didn’t include him, as he’d done the same with Dean and then insisting Dean could not define his family for himself. Sam’s attitude to Benny contradicts his previous characterization, unless he realizes how much it is based on not wanting to lose Dean. We still need a scene where Sam and Dean discuss Benny, and Sam does the kind of soul searching Dean had to do about Amelia and letting Sam go.
If all this had happened, Sam’s realization there is a place for him in the world which suits him would feel absolutely right, the inevitable result of what had gone before. This new reality is more real than the “real life” with Amelia because Sam doesn’t have to lie and he doesn’t have to deny his life experience to make it work. He’s not a mole in his own life.
Whether Sam and Dean will ever find a way to have romantic relationships remains to be seen. I hope they both do. I am sure the only hope they have is find a way that feels true to the men they are. That won’t be punching a clock in the suburbs for Dean or fixing radiators for Sam.
For these reasons, “Everybody Hates Hitler” cements the feeling of a reboot introduced in “As Time Goes By,” rather than building on the first half of the season. I’m not sure what that will mean in the long run, especially when earlier elements like Benny and possibly Amelia return to the story. But for now, I’ll take it. I’m really enjoying my show again.