Supernatural “American Nightmare” Review (Season 12, Episode 4)

Zealotry is never a good thing. It’s good to be passionate about a cause or to have strongly held beliefs, but zealotry is a horse of a different color. Especially religious zealotry. Countless wars have been fought in the name of religious zealotry. People have been ruined and families destroyed all because of religious zealotry. It’s been a while since Supernatural sincerely creeped me out, but I must admit this episode did just that.

The stories that creep me out the most are the stories that don’t actually involve supernatural monsters. Vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters I can handle. But when you start to examine the sometimes monstrous nature of humanity, that really creeps me out. It’s why ‘The Benders’ is one of the scariest episodes Supernatural has ever done. I think we can go ahead and add this one to that list. Just as an aside, it never ceases to amaze me how people decide that anything they don’t understand or don’t agree with clearly has to be “the devil’s work.” Because obviously there is absolutely no other explanation. Anyways. Moving on.

New writer Davy Perez did an excellent job crafting an engaging yet unsettling story. Each new revelation of the depths of Mrs. McCreeperson’s insanity and religious zealotry made me recoil just a little bit more. There was an important moment where Junior McCreeperson expressed some niggling doubts about his mother’s actions, but Mr. McCreeperson tried to assure him she was doing God’s work. However, I got the sense he was trying to convince more than just his son of that fact. That moment provided an interesting yet subtle contrast to the surety with which Mrs. McCreeperson made her daughter beat the hell out of herself. All of this happened without the episode ever feeling like it was dragging or that extra scenes were put in to fill up time. Even the scenes of Dean and Sam arguing over how to proceed with the case and Sam attempting to get Dean to open up about Mary’s departure didn’t feel like they were shoved in the episode as an afterthought. Pretty solid first outing for our new writer.

Speaking of Dean, he’s having a difficult time accepting Mary’s decision to leave them. Like I said in my review of last week’s episode, he understands why she left on an intellectual level. But that doesn’t make it any easier. When I watched this episode the first time, I felt like Dean was behaving in a kind of un-Deanlike manner by reaching out to Mary and actually voicing how he feels. But after thinking about it for a minute, it’s not entirely out of character. Most of Dean’s life, he’s just been a four-year-old boy who wanted his mom to come back. Even though he threw himself into hunting and built up all kinds of emotional walls to protect himself, Dean’s never gotten past losing his mom. And let’s be honest, despite his declarations otherwise, Dean is a big ol’ softie. He’s always been the more emotional one between him and Sam, so I’m not surprised Dean is keeping in touch with Mary.

The BMoL are clearly a bunch of heartless, self-important psychos. Instead of trying to figure out how to help Magda, the BMoL just sent their equally psycho hitman to “finish the job” and “clean up the Winchesters’ mess” by murdering Magda. Herein lies one of the many problems with the BMoL. Magda wasn’t a job. She was a person. She was a scared, confused, traumatized, and victimized person. She wasn’t inherently bad and she certainly wasn’t evil. She didn’t even know she was responsible for the deaths of the social worker and the delivery boy, and she was horrified when she found out. Did the BMoL spend any time trying to figure a way to help her? No. They simply sent their psycho hitman to murder her.

Magda is not the first person Dean and Sam have run across that either was a supernatural being or had supernatural abilities but wasn’t inherently evil. Lenore, Andy Gallagher, Benny, Garth just to name a few. If the BMoL would’ve run across any of them, would they have just killed them? In all likelihood, the answer is yes. But that seems less like a MoL course of action and more like a BMoL course of action. In the episode ‘Inside Man’ from season ten, Sam and Cas sought the help of a psychic that the American MoL were teaching to control his abilities. I don’t know how the American MoL found that psychic, but when they did, they didn’t just go put a couple bullets in him. They tried to help and guide him. Why couldn’t the BMoL do the same for Magda? If they’re concerned about Magda hurting someone else, teaching her to control her abilities decreases the likelihood of her being dangerous to other people. She clearly didn’t intentionally hurt anyone, and if she had better control over her abilities, the likelihood is that she would’ve been able to reach out to them the way she was trying to.

Handling the shades of gray that exist within the hunting world is, I think, going to prove to be the fundamental difference between the Winchesters and the BMoL. One of the many lessons Sam and Dean have learned over the years is that the world is very rarely just black and white. In order to make the right choice, you have to evaluate the situation in front of you based on those facts alone. It’s all well and good to have standard operating procedures, but if you don’t stop and consider your actions on a case by case basis then you’re really no better than the monsters. For the most part, Sam and Dean do that now. However, much like Magda’s mother, the BMoL are zealots in their own way. They view the world in black and white which is more in line with the way Dean saw the world at the beginning of the series. Back then, Dean saw things in black and white. It was either human or not, and all non-human things were fair game. However, as the series progressed and Dean grew up a little, he began to see that very few things in life are that simple. Especially when it began to hit closer to home. When they discovered Sam’s psychic abilities, the demon blood, Sam’s destiny, and so forth, Dean had to start stepping back and re-evaluating his world view. The BMoL appear to be either unwilling to or incapable of re-evaluating their world view or looking at situations on a case by case basis. Sometimes, saving people doesn’t equate to killing things. Sometimes, saving people means not killing the nest of vampires that doesn’t eat humans. Sometimes, saving people means helping someone like Magda learn to control her abilities.

All in all, I enjoyed this episode. I appreciated the fact that the show didn’t spend too much time focusing on Dean angsting over Mary. It devoted enough time and showed him acting just oddly enough to demonstrate that he’s not quite ok, but it wasn’t the focus of the episode. The episode was actually pretty Sam-centric. Much of it was Sam working out the truth of what was going on and attempting to save not just Magda, but everyone else. I also really appreciated the callback to Sam’s psychic abilities. The question has been lingering for a while now about whether Sam still possesses those abilities. He doesn’t think so, but the show did leave the door open for that possibility. It also seemed to bring up some memories for Sam of how he struggled to accepted who he was and to control the power within him. It also showed Sam connecting with Magda not out of desperation to believe she could be saved, and thus he could be saved too. He connected with her because he’s been where she is. Scared of the power within and feared and demonized by those who didn’t understand the power. He wanted to give her a second chance because he knows from personal experience how precious that is. On a completely unrelated (and admittedly shallow) note, can we all just stop and appreciate Sam and Dean donning the priest disguise again? Holy hotness indeed. So what did y’all think of this week’s Supernatural?