Once in a while, it’s beneficial to look backward before going forward. Sure “After School Special” isn’t embroiled with the presence of angels and Ruby leading Sam toward the dark side, but it is a welcome look back at Sam and Dean’s history. Thanks to crisp plotting that mixes all the elements of horror, drama, action, and comedy perfectly while giving thought-provoking character studies, this episode is a big winner.
It’s taken me a while to wrap my hands around this one since there’s plenty to examine. That instantly earns kudos for Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin, the writers of this episode, for I love being challenged to think. Also worth noting is a brilliant first time Supernatural appearance for director Adam Kane. He offers a few new tricks that add huge depth to the unfolding of this very busy story.
This time the drama occurs in a high school, an unpopular girl giving a mean girl the swirly of death in the girl’s bathroom. That gets Sam and Dean’s attention since the girl thinks she was possessed and the attack took place at Truman High, one of their old schools.
Classic rock (remember that?) takes the story into the first of many flashbacks to 1997, when Sam was an undersized ninth grader and Dean was a well-built and very handsome 12th grader. The way the numerous flashbacks are woven into the main story is fantastic and the flow between both time frames is seamless. One great example is when young Sam and Dean are introduced to their new classes. It shows the sharp contrast — Dean is rebellious and disrespectful to authority, Sam is withdrawn and doesn’t say much about himself.
Sam instantly makes a friend, a geek named Barry, who’s bullied by the thug Dirk behind him. Sam stands up for Barry, not hesitating to stare down the larger kid and ready to take on his wrath. From his first scene, Colin Ford shows why he was brought back to play Sam after doing such an uncanny job in "A Very Supernatural Christmas." The kid is a natural and has every mannerism down perfectly. The flashback scenes, just like in the Christmas episode, are often bridged with older Sam holding the same contemplative look as the younger version. It’s even better the second time. Brock Kelly is the younger Dean and his performance is decent, but it isn’t as good a mirror as young Sam.