Supernatural “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox” Review (Season 12, Episode 6)

It’s rare nowadays for a show to stay on the air long enough for an episode to feel like a “classic” episode. Supernatural is in that fairly small club, which is why I can say that last night’s episode felt like a classic episode. It touched on the familiar themes of family and reconciling the benefits of hunting with the inevitable outcome of that lifestyle. All with a dash of humor, a pinch of demonic possession and spoonful of Dean Winchester’s angsty brooding thrown in for good measure. What does that recipe give us? One darn entertaining hour of television.

I’ve always enjoyed locked-room mysteries. It’s always intrigued me to watch the hysteria and suspicions build as the trapped folks desperately try to figure out the killer’s identity. It usually follows a pretty standard format. A group of people gather at a large house or estate for a wedding/funeral/reunion etc. Sometimes everyone is friendly, but most times they’re not. Then someone gets killed and everyone becomes a suspect. Oftentimes more bodies drop before the killer is finally unmasked. Then of course, the “big reveal” scene also reveals the houseguests’ secrets. It’s all pretty standard, but if the characters are interesting and the plot maintains a sense of urgency then it can be entertaining. Supernatural took that standard trope, put its own spin on it, and gave us a really good episode. The characters we met at Asa’s wake were solidly drawn, interesting characters. Each character had their own personality and I would not be opposed to having any of those surviving characters, especially the twins, come back for another episode. I also liked the pace at which the story unfolded. The plot pretty much stayed in constant forward motion even when the characters were delivering a lot of exposition. Part of that is thanks to the very solid script by freshman writer Steve Yockey, but it’s also thanks to John Badham’s choice to keep the camera moving thereby creating the illusion of motion even if the objects in the scene are static.

One of the many issues the Winchesters have struggled with throughout their lives is the sacrifices they must make in order to live the life of a hunter. On the one hand, hunting is a difficult, dangerous, and lonely existence. Most hunters don’t live long enough to join AARP, and they don’t usually have spouses or children either. Which is understandable. As Dean once said, they don’t get paid and they rarely get thanked. On the other hand, they save lives. Since 2005 we’ve journeyed with the Winchesters as they’ve saved lives all over the country, and the opening montage of this episode showed all the lives Asa saved. At various points in the Winchesters’ lives (Sam moreso than Dean), they’ve asked themselves whether the price they pay is worth it and they’ve contemplated getting out of the life. Each of them has tried at least once to become a civilian, but the truth of the matter is, once you know what’s out there, there’s no going back. As much as it sucks sometimes, most hunters have come to the conclusion that it would suck more to sit idly by while the evil things hurt innocent people. After Mary saved Asa’s life, he decided that someone needed to be there to save people like him, so he became a hunter. Sam and Dean seem to have pretty much accepted that there’s no getting out of hunting for them, but it’s still sobering to know that despite how good they are at their jobs, somewhere down the road a hunt could go bad and that would be the end. No one wants to die bloody, but no hunter worth their salt could sit by and let people die when they know there’s something they can do to stop it.

Dean and Jody had a very powerful, intimate moment right after Mary showed up at the wake. Jody understands how Dean feels because she’s been there. Much like Dean, Jody has memories of the family and the life she lost. She understands what it means to have a hole cut into your heart that can never be filled again. Since he was four years old, Dean’s been hanging on to the memory of the mother he lost. In his memories, she was loving and perfect. Now that she’s back in his life, she’s not quite as perfect as he remembers. She’s flawed and, like everyone else in his life, walked away from him the first chance she got. Jody was right that Dean is afraid of what it will mean for him if he allows himself to get too close to his mom, but he’s also hurt that apparently Mary doesn’t want to get close to him anyway. Unlike Mary, who has been closed off and unreachable, Jody reached out to Dean. She didn’t push, but did remind him that he has someone who loves him and understands that he can talk to. It was a wonderful moment between them, and Jensen Ackles and Kim Rhodes knocked it out of the park. I’ve been lamenting the lack of regular, recurring supporting characters for several seasons now because without them, we don’t get scenes like the one between Dean and Jody in this episode. It’s precisely because we know what Jody has gone through, we’ve watched her character develop over time, and we watched her relationship with Sam and Dean evolve that her conversation with Dean felt sincere. I hope the show will take note of this and begin to repopulate the Supernatural universe with interesting, layered characters like Jody.

Mary’s presence also emphasized the difference between how Sam and Dean are handling her absence. Every episode since Mary left has shown Dean having a difficult time dealing with her decision. A lot of that no doubt is due to Dean’s ever present abandonment issues, but part of it is also due to Dean’s illusion being shattered. He has spent his whole life with his mother up on a pedestal as perfect and loving. Now that she’s actually here, she’s not living up to the scant memories Dean has of her nor the illusion he’s built up for her in his head. Dean cannot wrap his head around the idea that Mary would willingly choose to not only leave them to “go find herself,” but that she would also basically be incommunicado the entire time. Then, to add insult to injury, Mary drove all the way to Canada to meet up with some guy who she saved more than thirty years ago, but she won’t pick up a phone to talk to her children on the regular. Dean is not only upset about it, he is genuinely hurt because that’s not how he remembers his mom. Sam, on the other hand, is not burdened with half-remembered memories of a loving, perfect mother. She’s always been a question mark in his life, so there is no real mold in his mind of what she’s supposed to be. He is actually free to get to know his mom as she is now instead of attempting to reconcile this version of his mother with the one from his memories. Additionally, Sam and Mary have a bit more in common than Dean and Mary. Both Sam and Mary tried to get out of hunting and live a normal life, and in each of their lives, they were never able to actually escape. Sam understands that and he understands feeling off balance after having been tossed back into the life, so he’s more willing to give her time to re-acclimate.

I’ve really been trying to give Mary the benefit of the doubt, but I’m kind of with Dean that she’s being a jerk. I understand that she’s been dropped into a world that’s moved on without her. I understand that she’s off-kilter about it. I understand her need to get her head on straight. All of that being said, she claims she’s trying to get used to everything so she can come back home, but I’m not buying it. If she wanted to know about John and the life he lived after she died, the best resource for that is Sam and Dean. I don’t understand how driving around aimlessly checking up on old cases is going to help her get her head on straight. She claimed that she had to leave Sam and Dean because they kept reminding her of what she’d lost, but how is what she’s doing any different? Keeping the Boys at arm’s length is not going to help her acclimate to life as it is now. John is dead. The people she knew believe her to be dead, so it’s not like she can just show up at their house to have a cup of coffee and catch up on the last 33 years. The children she left behind are adults now and she can’t get those years back. It’s sad, but it is what it is. While Mary is “taking some time,” she’s also hurting her children. Sam is taking it better than Dean, but that doesn’t mean that he’s 100% ok with it. I get that she needed some time, and she’s had it. It’s time now for Mary to stop being a coward. She needs to face that this is the life she’s got now. Running from it or trying to recreate the past isn’t going to change things.

Something else this episode revealed is that Sam and Dean are famous. The show established way back in season two that John Winchester was basically a legend among hunters, but it makes sense that Sam and Dean would have made a name for themselves by this point. Neither of them seem particularly thrilled about being “legendary” though. Which makes sense considering why they’re considered legends. Dean is the guy who just can’t seem to stay dead and Sam is the guy who was possessed by Lucifer and lived to tell the tale. Those aren’t particularly thrilling memories for either of the Winchesters. I can understand why they would be a little uncomfortable about the hero worship. Even so, I hope the introduction of some of these other hunters indicates that we’ll be spending some time exploring a broader hunting universe.

I really enjoyed this episode. The writing was on point, and the performances were (as always) outstanding. Steve Yockey did a really good job, and I hope he can maintain this kind of quality writing in the future. I can’t emphasize enough how much I enjoy Sam and Dean’s relationship with Jody. When they showed up at her house to chill on the sofa and eat up her food, it was pretty much like two boys coming home from college to do laundry and raid the fridge. It was such a nice family moment and reemphasized the concept that some family you’re born into but some family you choose. I also appreciate the fact that when Dean was fighting possessed Elvis, he wasn’t trying to stab him. That’s a change from the last few seasons. Ever since the show brought on Ruby’s knife and angel blades, the body count has been getting higher and higher. The Boys are so much more stabby and in doing so, they kill the host. I’m hoping this episode signals a return to the Boys performing more exorcisms and inflicting fewer stab wounds. There’s quite a bit more I could say about this episode, but this review is already longer than I intended. We’re on a break for Thanksgiving, but when we come back on December 1st, we check up on Castiel, Crowley, and Lucifer. Could be interesting. So what did y’all think of this week’s Supernatural?