Last week’s episode of Supernatural, ‘Nightmare Logic’, revolves around the disappearance of Maggie (Katherine Evans), a young Hunter originally from the Apocalypse World of season 13, but it also expands upon what the archangel Michael has been up to and how some of the other AU characters have been settling in… or not.
A major theme of the episode was the somewhat changed dynamic between Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) with the youngest Winchester continuing his leadership of the refugees from the Apocalypse World. Usually leadership has always sat with Dean but due to his absence Sam had to fulfil that role. Now that Dean has returned we can see Sam is uncomfortable remaining in charge but it is what everyone else has come to rely on.
We can see from Maggie on her hunt that Sam has them equipped with body cameras that upload a Hunter’s recordings directly to the server back at the bunker, and there are regular check-ins that the Hunter is meant to make, but if one is missed it sets off an alert for Sam. Which is what happens with Maggie.
This shows the advancement of the Hunter Community and how technology is a useful tool to those often fated to die horrible deaths with no one knowing what happened to them. They might still die horribly but it allows their deaths to be avenged or learnt from, it shows how far we’ve come from the rough and ready approach back in season one. Sam explains to Dean he has sixteen active hunters out on cases, not including Jack (Alexander Calvert) and Castiel (Misha Collins) who are off in Sarasota or Bobby (Jim Beaver) and their mother Mary (Samantha Smith) who are in Texas, and probably doesn’t include the Hunters who he was briefing before he found out about Maggie’s disappearance. Sam is averaging about three hours sleep a night making sure that these refugees have everything they need to become Hunters: weapons, lore, and crucially back up, should it be required.
Sam has effectively become the modern day Bobby, the Bobby who died back in season seven, but with hunting as well Sam is stretched too thin. He also downplays his role and his success, not out of modesty but because he’s never taken credit for any of his successes, he doesn’t believe he deserves any and the way Jared plays this makes you emotional. This is a man who has saved the world countless times and suffered great losses, Sam and his brother deserve all the credit for the good they’ve achieved.
Dean, of course, teases his brother about it all, but his expression is one of genuine respect and pride for all his brother has achieved in the time he was absent. The fact that Dean hasn’t tried to muscle in and take over also speaks volumes and shows character growth because in the past it’s always been Dean in charge. Rather than the domineering older brother he is now the supportive one. This is demonstrated even more when Sam takes Maggie’s loss badly, and assumes the worst right away when the camera footage is viewed. Dean immediately tries to bolster his brother, insisting they get out there and bring Maggie home, and if they can’t do that then they can kill whatever killed her.
Sam’s self-doubt increases tenfold when the two brothers discover that Bobby and Mary have also arrived to investigate Maggie’s disappearance, and Bobby is only a couple of steps off of being outright hostile toward Sam. Bobby lays into Sam, blaming him for sending Maggie out when she wasn’t ready and heaps the guilt on to him causing Dean and Mary to jump to Sam’s defence. Again the pain on Sam’s face is given such life by Jared and you can see Sam losing more confidence in himself and turning further inwards. It’s heartbreaking.
This exchange also serves as a stark reminder that this isn’t the Bobby we all knew and loved, this isn’t the boys’ father figure who did more for them when it came to nurturing than their real father ever did, this is the embittered soldier who had been fighting an unwinnable war for over a decade. There’s a line that Dean says toward the end of the episode that is him referring to himself getting past what Michael did, “Been trying to…Not forget, but move on.” It struck a chord on hearing it in regard to Bobby and the other faces who have also come back. We need to remember that they aren’t the same characters and Jim Beaver’s portrayal of Bobby admonishing Sam was a perfect illustration of that.
In fact, that is part of the problem with this episode, because this Bobby isn’t the man we are all used to you find it hard to care about the character and just feel angry toward him. Yes those feelings diminish somewhat when you realise later on that he’s trying to battle a death wish following the death of his son, a child that real-world Bobby never got to have, but it still doesn’t form enough of an emotional connection with the viewer and that’s not meant as disrespect to Jim Beaver who is outstanding.
The same issue lies with Mary, although the difference with her is that I don’t think any of us are sure what her purpose is within the Supernatural setting. In every season since her resurrection by the Darkness, Mary has felt out of place to the point where it seems like even the writers aren’t sure what to do with her. In season twelve she walks out on her sons needing some ‘me-time’ to come to terms with what has happened to her and then joins up with the British Men of Letters despite the fact one of their members tortured her youngest son. In season thirteen she spent nearly all of it in the Apocalypse World and now in season fourteen, she’s leaving again, heading off to Donna’s cabin to help Bobby recuperate and to work on their developing relationship. Again there’s not been a lot of development there to encourage anyone to care about her character, and often she feels like she’s a distraction from the two brothers.
All of this coupled with how busy the Bunker is now it’s almost as though things have become too cluttered and everyone, viewers and Winchesters alike are having to adjust to all of this. Although we suggest better coping-methods than Sam’s plan which is to only get two hours of sleep a night rather than three.
Despite these criticisms, coupled with the slow pacing and one very out of place feeling music cue, ‘Nightmare Logic’ was still good overall and there are some brilliant performances by supporting actors. Returning to Supernatural, in a much bigger role than her part back in season two, is Lean Cairns as Sasha Rawlings who delightfully takes no shit from the Winchesters throughout, especially Dean in the comedic moment when he asks her to make him a sandwich. Also the (at first) mild-mannered nurse Neil (Chris Patrick-Simpson) – who is revealed to be a Michael enhanced-djinn – is an intelligent and interesting bad guy. He takes great delight in his work for the archangel and reveals that there are lots and lots of traps out there waiting for the Winchesters and their extended family.
But the most interesting moment is when he decides to take a look into Dean’s head to discover what his fears are. The Djinn recoils in horror from having touched Dean’s forehead and utters the word “You” twice in a tone that could either be heard as shock or almost disgust. What the Djinn sees isn’t revealed to the audience but this followed by Dean’s execution of the monster, and how he empties an entire clip of bullets into the Djinn’s head in a manner very reminiscent of his time under the influence of the Mark of Cain, has allowed much food for thought for what might lay within Dean’s psyche. Could it be that Djinn saw that Michael was still hiding within, that there’s a unique sort of trap set up inside Dean’s head, or is it something else entirely that Dean has buried deep? With luck, we will find out sooner rather than later.
The last scene of the episode is the brothers back in the bunker after Bobby and Mary’s departure, having phoned around all their allies warning them of the other traps that are lurking. Dean is on the phone to Garth, which hopefully means we might see a return of the Hunter turned Werewolf played by DJ Qualls, last seen in season nine. This, coupled with a recent tweet from the actor, makes it feel highly likely.
How are you guys? I’m feeling, well, super. I’m hearing a rumor that I will be returning to a show that I love being a part of. Such amazing fans. It’s been way too long.— DJ Qualls (@TheOnlyDJQualls) September 16, 2018
Despite it all being a win Sam is still heavily weighed down by what happened and everything he has on his plate and how they still need to find a way to take out Michael. Dean hopes that Sam’s certainty that they’ll succeed will be right, and Sam’s expression says the same thing. With the reduced number of episodes this season, there only being 20 rather than the usual 23, we are already a quarter of the way through and usually, that means things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Hopefully, it won’t be too bumpy a ride for the #SPNFamily because we know it will be for the Winchesters.
Although not as strong as the previous two episodes it was still enjoyable and delivered some good Winchester Brother moments, but due to the issues of the overarching narrative coming to the forefront, the episode is a bit of a let down.