Supernatural takes a look at the other side of the Winchester family tree this week as Sam and Dean meet their Winchester grandfather in a time travel episode. “As Time Goes By,” written by Adam Glass, has an early season vibe and a strong performance from Gil McKinney as Henry Winchester. We also get a heavy dose of new mythology, which is welcome, as the quest story introduced in the premiere has been stalled for far too long. Unfortunately, we also get some continuity issues, leaving me as uncomfortable as Dean is with time travel.
I’ll start with the Winchester boys, as their relationship issues have formed the backbone of the season so far. Building on the shared decision to have fun in “LARP and the Real Girl,” Sam and Dean feel easy with other in “As Time Goes By.” The angry vibe is gone and they work off each other well. The brothers have different attitudes to meeting their grandfather, which is a call back to the different relationship each had with John Winchester. Dean has a very emotional reaction to the man he considers to have abandoned his father. Sam is more analytical and willing to consider Henry’s point of view. But both boys talk to each other, rather than fight, which is a relief after the angry exchanges we’ve grown used to this season.
Glass emphasizes the new rapport between Sam and Dean by setting up a choice for Dean and Henry: save Sam’s life or John’s childhood. Dean tells Henry he was wrong to prioritize his job (Man of Letters) over taking care of John. Henry defends his need to take up the legacy of his family, until a read through John’s journal reveals what a difficult, dangerous and pain-filled life he ended up leading.
Unfortunately, Abbadon knows the way to grab Dean’s attention is to grab Sam, which she does. She tells Dean she’ll trade his brother for a mysterious box Henry was given by his Men of Letters comrades. What to do? Henry feels the best choice is to try and kill Abbadon in the past, as that will solve so much. John will have his father, because Henry won’t die in the future. The Men of Letters will not be wiped out, so their knowledge won’t be lost. But Dean points out not only is there no guarantee Henry will be successful in killing Abbadon by himself, the change to the past may well wipe out Sam and Dean, as they may never be born. And they stopped the Apocalypse. Henry feels if he stops Abbadon, that will stop the Apocalypse, too, and the two men stare at each other.