Supernatural “Just My Imagination” Review (Season 11, Episode 8)

One of the many reasons I love Supernatural is its ability to make me laugh one moment, creep me out the next, and then break my heart in the next. That’s an ability I thought would fade over time, but it appears the show has actually gotten better at it. I guess that’s what happens when you have ten and a half seasons to tweak your formula. This week’s episode was very funny, yet it had an emotional depth that I honestly was not expecting.

Let’s start with Sully. Let me just say, I would not be opposed to having him pop back in for a little bit. He was absolutely adorable and pretty much just what you would think a kid’s imaginary friend would be. Nate Torrence did a wonderful job balancing over the top, kid-like goofiness with being deeply perceptive of the feelings/needs of those around him. Torrence’s performance was perfectly nuanced and his conversations with Sam (both the young version and the older version) provided a great deal of the episode’s emotional depth. Sully believed he failed Sam because of the way Sam ended their relationship, and Sully carried that perceived failure with him for a long time. Granted, Sam was pretty harsh. But at the same time, Sam was a nine-year-old kid who idolized his big brother and his dad. When his father called offering Sam the opportunity to prove himself to the two people he loved and respected the most, it was pretty much a no brainer that Sam would go with them. What Sam said when he sent Sully away probably wasn’t exactly what he meant, but in that moment Sam believed he meant it. That changed the course of things for Sam’s life, but for Sully’s life too. Sam’s intensely negative reaction to Sully’s gentle suggestion that he try to forge his own path in life shook Sully’s confidence in himself. I get the sense that up until the conversation he and Sam had in this episode, Sully believed he was wrong about Sam’s desire to get out of the hunting life. The fact that Sully’s very next charge died on his watch didn’t help either. Sully ran away then for the same reason that Sam has been avoiding going back to the cage now: fear. Sully was afraid that he was going to hurt another child. He was afraid he was no longer good enough. All of that because he perceived that he had failed with Sam.

Then there’s Dean. Much of Dean’s reaction to Sully was due to Dean being kind of hurt. The hurt came after the surprise about some random dude being in the bunker, the disbelief that imaginary friends are real, and the incredulity at being asked to help save beings that aren’t human. After quickly working through all of that, Dean was both hurt and confused by Sam’s admission that he was a pretty lonely kid. Dean’s sole purpose in life is to look out for Sammy. Yes. He’s a hunter and he saves people, but mostly, he’s looking out for his little brother. Sam has always been the center of Dean’s world, and anyone who doubts it just has to look back at all that Dean has done in the name of his love for and devotion to Sam. But as much as Dean loves Sam and as devoted as Dean has always been to Sam, Dean also idolized John. The only thing that Dean has ever wanted was for his father to tell him ‘good job.’ In pursuit of that elusive acknowledgement from John, Dean probably wasn’t always as attentive to Sam as he thought himself to be. So even though for the most part Sam has always had Dean, Dean’s need for John’s approval meant that Sam sometimes ended up getting left behind all alone. That’s not something Dean realized though because Dean never had time to be lonely. He was too busy being forced into adulthood at the age of four. By the end of the episode, though, Dean came to respect what Sully and the other Zanna do and appreciate the fact that Sully was there for Sam when Dean wasn’t. It’s not that Dean liked the fact that someone else had to be there to fill in the gaps, but at the end of the day, Sully helped Sam and that’s all that’s ever really mattered to Dean.

For Sam, much of this episode was about him coming to terms with what he believes God wants him to do. Sam is (quite understandably) terrified at the thought of having to go back to the cage and to Lucifer. He’s been trying to talk to Dean about it, but Dean’s not ready to hear Sam just yet. So Sam has been carrying around the weight of his fear alone pretty much since he had the vision of the cage. I mentioned to a friend of mine that I really wanted Sam to have the conversation about the cage with Dean instead of with Sully. I still do. But after thinking about it a bit, it’s actually good that Sam had the conversation with Sully first. Primarily because Sully is a good listener. Sam needed someone to just listen to him without already having their mind made up. He needed someone with a different perspective to help him work past the fear that was clouding his judgment to see the bigger picture. The bigger picture being The Darkness is out and dangerous for everyone. Everyone is scared, and it’s ok for Sam to be scared too. But what Sully helped Sam realize is that he cannot allow his fear to prevent him from doing what he knows must be done. In all likelihood Sam would’ve come to that realization eventually, but talking it out with Sully helped Sam get prepared to have that conversation with Dean. Dean’s reasons for not wanting Sam to go back to the cage are pretty obvious and completely valid. Sam going to the cage nearly killed both of them last time, and Dean doesn’t want to go through that again. Quite frankly, neither one of them do. But since when has being a hero ever been easy?

All in all, this was an enjoyable hour of television. I will say that I didn’t feel as sorry for the killer as I probably should have. It was awful that Reese’s sister died. It was awful everyone thought she was nuts afterwards. It was also horrible that she suffered though all of that alone. However, if she got so messed up because her imaginary friend wasn’t there to help her through the difficult times, what about Sparkle and Nikki’s kids? Who is going to be there to help them deal with losing their imaginary friends? And Sparkle’s kid. There isn’t going to be enough therapy for that poor girl. Color me cold-hearted, but I just had a hard time feeling sorry for Reese when she was going around causing the same kind of pain that messed her up so badly. But I guess grief can cause us to do some messed up stuff. This was Richard Speight, Jr.’s Supernatural directorial debut, and I think he did a fine job. He kept everything moving along, and he did a great job of playing up the comedy aspects and pulling it back for the more emotional aspects. Thankfully, he got a good script to work with. Jenny Klein’s scripts are kind of hit or miss, but she did a good job with this one. It was simultaneously funny and heartbreaking, and that’s a difficult balance to achieve. Next week is the mid-season finale, and excited doesn’t even begin to cover how I’m feeling about it. Lucifer is coming back, and I cannot wait! So what did y’all think of this week’s Supernatural?