Maybe the best way to start this review of last week’s Supernatural, ‘Unhuman Nature’, would be to talk about the bad first, getting it out of the way, and then we can focus on the good.
Overall it wasn’t a terrible episode, but once again Supernatural fell victim to writers messing up the canon of the show, forgetting events that fans will remember happening. Maybe it’s not so important to a casual viewer, but when Rowena (Ruth Connell) doesn’t know who Jack’s (Alexander Calvert) father is and then needs a whole scene with her, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and then Jack joining in to explain things to her… it becomes jarring to a long time fan. Unfortunately, these little mistakes seem to be creeping in a lot this season, and given that this episode was written by Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Bucker, it’s no wonder it’s got fans riled up.
The duo is highly unpopular amongst a lot of the SPN fandom, most notably for the treatment of women in their scripts, especially the pointless deaths of Charlie (Felicia Day) and Eileen (Shoshannah Stern) and for forgetting and twisting canon. This has got to the point that they received their own hashtag on Twitter from outraged fans, #firebuckleming
The biggest issue, that has caused the most debate, revolves around an incident that took place toward the episode’s conclusion and that is the possible return of Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino). Twitter user @2357silver summed up one school of thinking with her tweet:
Fandom – We hate Lucifer.
SPN – Here’s Lucifer with a rEdEmPtIoN arc
Fandom – We still hate Lucifer.
SPN – Fine, we will kill Lucifer.
Fandom – Yay-
SPN – But here’s his vessel Nick.
Fandom – *groans* we don’t want Nick either…
SPN – oh… well then here’s Nick + Lucifer!!!
— ɹǝʌlᴉS (@2357silver) December 1, 2018
The return of Nick to the show has caused some confusion, as it was widely believed by fans that he should have died long ago, and yet here he is in season fourteen, alive having survived Lucifer’s death. That aside I have found the journey of Nick’s descent into homicidal madness to be very compelling, Mark Pellegrino has brought something truly terrifying to the character and has played it so very well. The fact that Nick is just a human rather than a supernatural being makes it even scarier; Nick as Nick is not a bad addition to the show. What has left people reeling is that in his final scene he is shown praying to Lucifer, wanting to be with the Archangel again. The scene then cuts to the Empty where something looking very much like a black ooze covered Terminator wakes up, revealing glowing eyes. Does this now mean that Lucifer is coming back?
Personally, I hope not. It was exciting when Lucifer returned back in season eleven, but I feel he has outstayed his welcome this time. At one point the character was terrifying and a true nemesis to the Winchesters, but then he became this petulant teenager and ceased to feel like a threat anymore, even with Jared doing his best to portray Sam’s very real fear of the archangel, even if the scripts didn’t do that justice. Nick is scarier than Lucifer at this point, and I would hope that showrunner Andrew Dabb’s promise that Lucifer is very dead and not coming back still remains true. I’m hoping that what woke up was perhaps the Cosmic Entity that slumbers in the Empty, as it looked similar to when we first saw it last season, but the cynic in me wonders if I’ll be proved wrong.
Lastly, for the negatives, the episode felt too fragmented and there was very little focus on Sam and Dean (Jensen Ackles) as the plot was pulled in so many directions. We had the split of what was happening with Nick, as he searched for the killer of his family, and the dire situation that Jack found himself in. With Jack close to death and the good guys all searching for possible cures, it made for a very busy episode with people all over the place.
I have already talked about how good Mark Pellegrino’s performance as the now clearly deranged Nick was, and this is especially the case when he finds out the killer was a beat cop (Craig March) who was possessed by what is assumed to be a demon, called Abraxis. It’s unclear if this is the demon’s name or type, or if it will feature further, but this information served to show us that Nick’s murderous behaviour is far from over. Despite knowing it wasn’t the man’s fault, the way in which he kills him with a hammer was genuinely stomach churning and the most chilling thing on Supernatural for a little while.
The bulk of this episode was Jack’s ill health and the continuing fall-out from that. Jack collapses, and because Cas is unable to heal him, Team Free Will take him to a hospital. We are treated to a beautiful Castiel moment when the lady admitting Jack asks about his family history, specifically what happened to his father. Cas responds with “He was stabbed and then he exploded”.
The joint concern of Jack’s ‘three Dads’ is very apparent on the faces of Sam, Dean, and Castiel, all three men hit hard by the fact that they might lose the Nephilim and there’s nothing they can do about it. Jack is dying, his body is going into systemic failure, but they aren’t prepared to give up. So when mundane medicine clearly isn’t going to work they take Jack back to the bunker and proceed to try other routes, even calling Rowena back into the fold so that she can try witchcraft. There is a very poignant scene between Sam and Cas in which Sam talks about how despite having lost people before, this feels different. Cas directly says how nothing is harder than losing a child, a son, and the anguish on Sam’s face, as a result, brought a lump to my throat.
More heartwarming moments take place when Dean chooses to take Jack out for a day of “normal fun”. Jack knows he’s dying and wants to be able to experience things for himself. Dean facilitates this, partly because he still feels guilty for how badly he treated Jack when they first met and even lets Jack drive Baby. The most heartwarming moment though is the two of them going fishing, Jack talks about how he has realised that he isn’t going to miss places or things, life isn’t the big moments it’s the time together with the people he cares about, the Winchesters and Cas, that matters most. As someone who has lost a lot of people close to me, I’ll fully admit that the acting delivered by Alexander and Jensen did have me in tears.
Then there are the worrying developments in the plot, but these are not to the detriment of the episode but rather fill a viewer with the usual angst and concern that Supernatural delivers in spades. There were two moments that saw Dean having blurred vision and his hearing went off, much like being underwater. A possible interpretation of this is that Michael is still in residence in his vessel and listening to what’s going on. The moments did feature talk of archangels and their grace and of Jack’s situation, so Michael is either still inside or at the very least he has a way of listening through Dean’s ears. There is also the use of the word ‘experiment’ in regard to the cure that the Winchesters and their allies administer to Jack that causes all manner of concerns.
On the recommendation of Ketch (David Haydn-Jones), Castiel goes to see a shaman named Sergei (Dimitri Vantis) who might be able to help Jack. For some reason, Sam remained in the bunker when this took place, which made it feel as though the character was being sidelined while other important events took place. Sergei provides a cure in the form of a spell and a vial of archangel blood that was given to him in the past by Gabriel (Richard Speight Jr.), but after a fleeting moment of the cure seeming to work, Jack collapses again. Rowena says that there is nothing more that can be done for him, which leads to Castiel phoning Sergei. Sergei describes the cure as an experiment, that it had no guarantee of working, which prompts Castiel to promise that he’ll hunt the shaman down if Jack dies. Michael has spent this season doing experiments and you can’t help but wonder if this was yet another one of them. Was it Gabriel’s grace that was injected into Jack? Or perhaps Michael’s or something else entirely? Either way, the episode ends with Jack in even more dire straits and no clear path as to what to do next.
Another episode with equal parts good and bad, the bad yet again being the frustrations of feeling as though the writers are dropping the ball and making silly mistakes that shouldn’t have happened. It’s still unclear as to where things are going, but there is more than enough in the episodes so far for fan theories to start to develop.