Supernatural has been on a roll since it came back from hiatus, but the show stumbled last night with “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits.” As far as I could tell, the reason for the episode was to justify the title, and, unsurprisingly, that led to weak writing, poor characterization and overdone jokes. The scenes between the brothers played marginally better, but even those did not flow well from the end of last week’s excellent “Trial and Error.”
The episode was written by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, the team responsible for the terrible “Route 666” in season one. They also wrote the disappointing “Shut Up Dr. Phil,” another episode centered on witches. Their writing in general tends toward catchy titles followed by clunky dialogue and pedestrian plots. Buckner and Ross-Leming’s history does not make them a natural choice to bring out the comedic aspects of beastiality, even with Jensen Ackles’ excellent comedic timing to draw on.
The plot centers around a policeman (James Frampton) from Sam and Dean’s past who turned to black magic after he worked a case with the brothers. He acquired a Doberman familiar whose alter ego is a lovely woman named Portia. Currently, he’s also acquired some terrible dreams in which he murders people—people who then turn up dead in real life.
Portia texts Sam and Dean for help. The scene where Sam lets in Portia as a dog and tries to get Dean to agree to keep her overnight is one of the few really funny parts of the episode. Sadly, the plot soon devolves into scene after scene of Dean struggling not to make a beastiality joke, instead of the writers making one good joke and moving on to more important things, like filling in plot holes.
Why has Dean never heard of a familiar? We were just told last week he’s the best hunter in the world, especially strong in lore. Why does neither brother, but especially Dean, care they have uncovered covens of witches, some of which have to be up to no good? If James became obsessed with the dark arts, why is there not a good exploration of how that impacts him even as he tries to do good? And are witches really more squeamish about beastiality than Sam and Dean?