Oh “Trial and Error,” how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. After a rough start to the season, Supernatural has found its legs and more importantly, its heart.
In this week’s episode, written by Andrew Dabb and directed by Kevin Parks, Sam and Dean open up to each other and the words coming out of their mouths finally feel right. The show does what it's always done so well: tear our hearts out with moving believable moments between the brothers.
Dean feeling the best thing he can offer Sam is self-sacrifice so Sam can have a future is laid side by side with Sam feeling the best thing he can offer Dean is his belief both Winchesters deserve a future. And like a patchwork quilt, the beauty of the relationship lies in the way the pieces fit together. I wish I felt the brothers’ touching moment of connection was the organic result of Sam’s story this season, but I’ll take it, because it does feel like the organic result of the previous seven seasons.
The episode opens with Dean nesting in the Batbunker, decorating his room with guns and a photo of his mother, the different sides of his personality each contributing something to the picture instead of trying to cancel each other out. Dean is delighted at the idea of his own space, reminding us he has had the responsibility for others on his shoulders since he was four. He’s delighted to cook, reminding us his junk food addiction is the result of a life spent on the road. Last week’s episode let us see the appeal of the Men of Letters heritage for Sam. This week, we see how the idea of a home affects Dean. And so does Sam.
Sam’s story this season has been centered on Sam establishing his boundaries and fighting for his right to self-definition. I’ve felt, however, that important pieces were missing, such as a flashback giving us Sam’s state of mind when he decided not to look for his brother and to regard Kevin as not his responsibility. I thought introducing the love triangle muddied the exploration of perception in Sam’s view of “real life.” And I’m still waiting for Sam to have to deal with his refusal to allow Dean to define his own family, particularly given the space Dean eventually gave to Sam about Amelia. Sam trying to see Dean’s point of view has been missing.
That changes this week. Kevin Tran, at the expense of his health, starts to crack the code on the demon tablet. In a nice nod to the Hercules legend, one of the boys must take on three trials to seal the gates of Hell.