Supernatural Season 12: Regarding the Winchesters

Supernatural is about half way through the 12th season, so I figured it would be a good time to stop and take stock of where the Winchesters are.

DEAN

After the events of ‘First Blood,’ Dean was understandably upset with Castiel over him killing Billie. One of the many hard lessons Sam and Dean have learned over the years, and one that their experience with The Darkness last season reinforced, is the concept that making a choice and worrying about the consequences later is not a sustainable method of operating. Thus, Cass’s actions in ‘First Blood’ left Dean worried and moderately annoyed at Cass which, in Dean-land, translates to Dean being grumpy and passive-aggressive toward Cass. However, in ‘Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets,’ we saw that however upset Dean may have been with Cass, that doesn’t mean he’s going to stand by and let someone hurt his friend. If you’re blind and it wasn’t clear to you before that Cass is a part of Dean and Sam’s family, it should’ve been crystal clear by the end of that episode. Dean finally told Cass that he wasn’t angry with him so much as he was worried about the consequences of Cass killing Billie. He and Sam are just getting back to a place where they’re dealing with situations/creatures that aren’t so far above their pay grade. Now Billie’s dire warning of “cosmic consequences” is looming and threatening to destroy the relative peace the Boys have found.

Then there was last week’s excellent episode ‘Regarding Dean.’ It had a good balance of humor and angst with a little Dean riding a mechanical bull thrown in for good measure. No doubt the title was taken from the Harrison Ford movie ‘Regarding Henry’ in which Ford’s character gets shot in the head during a robbery and suffers amnesia and a complete personality shift as a result. As is generally the case with Supernatural, they took that idea and put their own spin on it. One thing that I’ve always found both terrifying and heartbreaking about any sort of amnesia situation how insidious it is on several levels. On one level, the person afflicted suffers because our memories help shape who we are. They provide context for our personality and self-identity. To have those memories slowly and systematically stripped away means that who we are is also slowly and systematically stripped away. One another level, the loved ones of the afflicted individual suffer. There are few things worse than watching someone you love go through something horrible and being unable to do anything to stop it. That’s the situation Sam and Dean found themselves in with this episode. I’ll talk about Sam and Jared Padalecki’s wonderful performance in a minute. For the moment, let’s focus on Dean and Jensen Ackles. I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but the fact that Ackles doesn’t have a room full of Emmy’s is a crime. His performance is always excellent, but it was particularly outstanding in this episode. He took us on a journey all the way from Dean hilariously dismissing his memory lapses as a really bad hangover to breaking our hearts after he realized the truth. One of the things I’ve always loved about Dean is his ability to find the joy in the simple things like flying down the road in Baby with the radio blasting or devouring a delicious slice of pie. That was on full display here as Dean began to lose his memories of all the bad things that have happened in his life. We saw Dean laugh more than we’ve seen him laugh in years. We saw Dean completely in awe that the supernatural is real and his best friend is an angel. Most importantly, we got to see Dean realize that he and Sam are heroes. I was so happy to hear Dean say that because ordinarily, Dean completely dismisses the idea of him being a hero. However, the flip side to Dean losing all the awful things was that he also lost all the good things. As Dean stands in the mirror attempting to list out the important people in his life and watching his face as he completely loses everyone who means anything to him, I was destroyed. Completely and utterly destroyed. Dean defines himself by his job and gains his self-worth from his ability to protect the people he loves. When he can’t even remember what his job is or any of the people he loves, in that moment, pretty much everything that makes Dean Dean was gone. It was a tragic and powerful moment that Ackles played brilliantly. Ultimately, Dean realized something very important. Ignorance isn’t always bliss. As exhausting as carrying around the weight of a lifetime of hunting may be, he would rather carry it than lose it and all the good stuff too. Just as an aside, I think it speaks volumes about Sam and Dean’s bond that when Dean no longer had any idea who he was, he still inherently trusted Sam.

SAM

Sam spent the majority of ‘Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets’ playing peacemaker between Dean and Castiel. From years of dealing with Dean, I’m fairly certain Sam immediately recognized that Dean’s attitude was more about Dean being worried than being angry though. Sam no doubt shared Dean’s concern, but Sam chose not to express his concern by giving Cass the silent treatment. He tried to make Dean see things from Cass’s perspective, but in true Dean fashion, Dean was having none of it. Eventually, Sam just gave up trying to mediate between two stubborn, bratty people.

Moving on to ‘Regarding Dean.’ Things weren’t looking so good for Dean throughout the episode, but Sam was, arguably, in an even worse position. Because he was stuck watching the spell slowly take Dean away from him. It’s horrible for anyone to watch a loved one go through that, but it’s even worse for someone who looks up to their big brother as much as Sam looks up to Dean. Jared Padalecki did a fine job showing us just how much Sam was affected by what was happening to Dean. At first, Sam basically shook his head fondly at what he thought was Dean just being Dean. Then there was frustration as Dean seemed to be slacking on the job. Then there was concern after Dean momentarily forgot his own name and couldn’t remember all the members of Bon Jovi (circa 1983). Then there was fear and desperation as it became clear that Dean’s memory wasn’t just lapsing, it was leaving altogether. Then, of course, relief when he finally got Dean back. Padalecki took us through that entire rollercoaster of emotion mostly with facial expressions and body language. Case in point. When Dean and Rowena came down the stairs after she’d performed the spell to return Dean’s memories, Padalecki’s face went through anticipation, defeat, anger, fear, and relief all in the space of about 3 seconds. It was fantastic. I also enjoyed watching Sam work the case. After Sam realized that Dean had probably been hexed, he started methodically working through all the information available so he could save Dean. He was relatively calm and focused, not just because he’s a professional, but also because Dean needed him. Sam is a good hunter on any given Thursday, but he’s never more dedicated and focused than when his brother’s life is on the line.

MARY

We haven’t seen or heard from Mary since she decided to listen to Mick’s pitch for the BMoL. I’ve already said I believe Mary getting in bed with the BMoL is a mistake, and this week’s episode is probably going to show what a bad decision that was. But it’s also a mistake for the powers that be to keep Mary absent for such a huge chunk of the story. The show keeps having either Sam or Dean mention that they spoke to Mom the other day or that they’re sending Mom some information, kind of as a reminder to say ‘Look! See! Remember their mom is back!’ You know what would remind me that their mom is back? Actually having her be a part of the story. Have the Boys interacting with her on a regular basis through more than text messages and phone calls. The show has, essentially, turned Mary into John Winchester. In the first season, John was physically and emotionally distant from his children, he didn’t keep them in the loop on his plans or whereabouts, and he went off on his own to hunt. In this season, Mary is physically and emotionally distant from her children, she doesn’t keep them in the loop on her plans or whereabouts, and she’s gone off on her own to hunt. However, unlike the situation with John, I really don’t care whether Mary reunites with Sam and Dean because I have no real emotional investment in that relationship.

Even though John was absent for the majority of the first season, there was history to build upon because Sam and Dean grew up with John. Due to John’s less than stellar parenting skills, each of the Boys had a complicated relationship with their father which was fleshed out through conversations between Sam and Dean and/or little tidbits revealed while they were working a case. That’s not the same with Mary. There is absolutely no relationship, complicated or otherwise, between Mary and the Boys upon which the show can build to an emotional climax. They grew up with half-remembered, glossy childhood recollections and John’s stories about her. She’s not a real person to the Boys, and she hasn’t done much to change that since she’s been back. Since she hasn’t developed a relationship with the Boys, she also hasn’t developed a relationship with me. So there’s no way for the show to build up to an emotional reunion like the one we got between John and the Boys in season one’s ‘Shadow.’ Sadly, anything the show decides to do with Mary is going to have a much less significant emotional impact than it would have if the show had invested more time in developing the relationship between her and her children. Furthermore, the show has done an extremely poor job of justifying Mary’s absence. Honestly, it’s kind of a shame because Samantha Smith is actually a good actress and has good chemistry with Ackles and Padalecki. You know, when they’re actually in a scene together.

So that’s pretty much where we are with the Winchesters right now. Even though Castiel is an honorary Winchester, I didn’t talk too much about him because there’s really not much to say. ‘Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets’ was a fairly Cass-centric episode, but it didn’t tread any new ground with the character. We already knew that the angels are jerks. We already knew that Cass used to blindly and unquestioningly follow orders. We already knew that the angels in general, but especially those who used to be in Cass’s garrison, despise him for all the choices he’s made since he started hanging out with the Winchesters. We already knew that Cass isn’t the same dutiful soldier that he was all those years ago. We already knew that he’s willing to give his life to atone for his past mistakes. Like I said, there was nothing new for Cas in that episode. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a great vehicle for Misha Collins or that he didn’t do a great job. It was and he did. Unfortunately, it just didn’t break any new ground for the character. This week’s episode brings the BMoL back into the mix and maybe we’ll get to see what Mary’s been up to when she isn’t taking her turn on Words with Friends.

  • Penelope

    I loved your analysis of the latest Winchester going-on; your comments are insightful, well-thought-out, and fun to read. I know you used to comment every week and I, for one, miss those musings.

    • Jessica Breaux

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Penelope! :)

  • Elizabeth Orozco

    I agree and disagree< I love Jensen and Jared and they are great in their roles and the last few episodes were amazing. I love this show so much and this is why I have watched it for so long. Their characters are so great and more then just fictional characters to all of us fans. Jensen is a great actor and so is Jared. To me Cas is just as important , I did learn something and it did add something to me. I knew he was a angel who followed rules, I just didnt know how he was then and how much he has changed till now and I dont mean the body.. Misha does a fantastic job and I did learn something about him like really how committed all the way now to the Winchesters that he is as last nights episode was another indication. Earlier seasons he would have never done what he has in this one. I like the actress who plays the mother but a little annoyed with the character after last night so wont say on that I love Castiel as much as I love the Winchesters and they are all fantastic and the actors are great