Supernatural’s third episode of season 12, “The Foundry,” gives us so many good things. Written by Robert Berens and directed by Robert Singer, the episode is at its core a Monster of the Week, one that still utilizes its ensemble cast and deftly juggles multiple storylines.
Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith) continues to adjust to the modern world and her 33-years-older sons – and it’s not going so smoothly. Sam (Jared Padalecki) recognizes that she’s struggling, but Dean (Jensen Ackles) believes that with a little family time and some hunting, she’ll be fine (or so he says). When Mary finds a case in Minnesota, a possible haunting, the Winchesters embark on a family road trip. Will the family that hunts together stay together? We’ll see.
The case is a creepy one: It turns out that, years ago, a bereaved father walled himself off in his basement and starved to death. As families moved into the house, the man’s ghost took the children who caught his eye, killing them and tying their souls to his. By the time the Winchesters come upon the case, the ghost is powerful, and even salting and burning the children’s bones doesn’t end the haunting.
One particular victim, Lucas, tries to warn Mary about the ghost that’s bound them all there. He resembles young Dean (as seen in the pilot), and Mary connects with him, as well as with his mother and her lingering grief over his death.
It’s interesting to see Sam and Dean’s reactions to their mother. Sam seems hyper-aware and is more in tune with her emotional struggle. Meanwhile, Dean feels reassured by, among other things, her love of bacon, loud classic rock, and jerky. As the episode weaves its storylines together, it builds the brothers’ reactions to deliver a poignant, complex end: Mary leaves.
It makes sense to me that Mary needs time to process and to adjust. The “family hunting trip” offers parallels of a father who loved his child so much he couldn’t let go and wound up becoming a force of destruction; it also shows us a mother’s persisting grief. These emotional punches serve to magnify Mary’s feelings.
Of course, it’s not just Mary who’s impacted by her decision. The brothers are gutted, though in different ways: Sam almost seems to expect it, and he hugs his mother goodbye. (His flinch when the door closes after her is heartrending.) Dean, however, is floored, and he won’t touch or look at Mary after she delivers the news. It’s a hard scene to watch, even though it should lead to strong narratives and character development across the board as the season progresses (or so I hope).
Castiel (Misha Collins) also sees Mary’s struggle, and at the beginning of the episode, during a middle-of-the-night conversation, he offers reassurance: Though he’s still not sure if he belongs there, he is certain that she does. (So, let the rest of season 12 be convincing Castiel and Mary that they do belong, okay?) The next morning, after Dean greets him with “Mornin’ sunshine,” Cas says that he’s pursuing a lead on Lucifer. He refuses Sam and Dean’s help, citing that the brothers are needed there. Dean doesn’t get what he means, but Sam understands that Cas is talking about Mary.
It is so much fun to see Castiel on a case now – he’s come such a long way from interrogating the cat (8×8). He soon crosses paths with Crowley (Mark Sheppard), and I’ll be honest: I wasn’t looking forward to this team up. However, in “The Foundry” at least, the Castiel and Crowley duo works well. Their banter is snarky and caustic, and I love it.
While Castiel and Crowley search for Lucifer (Rick Springfield), Rowena deals with the Dark Lord up close and personally. Ever resourceful, Rowena plays on Lucifer’s vanity and desire for a stronger vessel. Under the guise of helping, Rowena casts a spell to speed the body’s degradation – and then she banishes him to, presumably, the bottom of the ocean. By the time Cas and Crowley catch up to her, she’s sitting on the porch drinking a cup of tea, and Lucifer is long gone.
Rowena declines to join in the hunt for Lucifer. The FBI pantsuit thing is “not my hexbag,” she quips, though she also promises, “you get Lucifer cornered, and find yourself in need, I’m there.” I can’t wait to see the other ways Rowena will wreak revenge and retribution.
From the creepy and compelling case to the meaningful character interactions, “The Foundry” is a well-wrought episode, the sort that I can watch repeatedly despite its gut-punch of heartbreak and angst. This week, the show returns to (what appears to be) a more traditional MOTW format with “American Nightmare.” I’m especially curious to see what has Sam and Dean impersonating priests (again). Supernatural airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on the CW Network.
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