There always seems to be a point in a season of Supernatural where the events taking place feel like a runaway train of no hope that will usher us straight to the finale. Last week’s episode, ‘Damaged Goods’, definitely felt like we had reached that point. Despite playing the same roles for the last fourteen years there’s no tiredness to the portrayals of Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles). At no point does it seem like the actors are simply phoning things in and, therefore, we get caught up in the emotions as the events unfold. Both brothers had us running the gamut again.
Acting on the book given to him by Billie (Lisa Berry), Dean puts in motion a plan that viewers are quickly able to discern is a one way trip to something probably awful. After grabbing various tools and books he goes to find Sam, who is heavily into researching a way to find a solution to the Archangel locked up inside his brother’s head. The two of them have a conversation that’s been had many times, Sam assuring Dean that they will find a way, and Dean appreciating the efforts. But instead of helping Sam, Dean announces that he wants to go for a drive and visit their Mum, Mary (Samantha Smith) without Sam. Sam isn’t stupid, he knows his brother and knows something is wrong, and these worries are further compacted when Dean hugs him and calls him Sammy. The enduring sibling relationship between Sam and Dean is very much the heart of Supernatural and the importance of it runs through this episode, writer Davy Perez knows clearly understands this and inflicts as much heartache as he possibly can on fans.
It becomes very apparent that Dean is on some sort of farewell tour, visiting with Donna before he goes to her cabin that Mary is using. He’s evasive, counters every question as to how he is with one reflected back on the asker, and very resistant to any suggestion that Sam should be present. He rises so quickly to object to this and sends Mary out to buy supplies to make his favourite childhood meal, Winchester Surprise, that now even his Mother is suspecting that something is up. For those wanting the recipe, Sam Smith tweeted it.
There is a very touching phone call when Mary reports back to Sam that he’s right, that something is up, but she asks her youngest son for some more time alone with Dean and that she’ll call if she learns more. Sam agrees but the scene then pans to reveal that he is already driving, there was no way that he would be content to sit and wait when it comes to his brother. Jared Padalecki is very good at conveying Sam’s emotions without saying a word. Often this is because it seems he doesn’t get enough dialogue or scenes that fans would like to see, such as him dealing with Lucifer’s return in Season 11, but Perez doesn’t let fans down here.
Mary eventually discovers what Dean is up to, viewers know that it involved the construction of ‘something’ as director Philip Sgriccia teases up with only slight glimpses when Dean is working in the cabin’s barn. As the scene plays out it is overlaid by the masterful choice of “No Time” by the Guess Who, the haunting lyric of there being ‘No time left for you’ brings about a deep feeling of dread. Before all can be revealed though, the secondary plot line comes crashing into the main one.
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Another passenger on the metaphorical runaway train is Nick (Mark Pellegrino) and his further descent into insanity as he tracks down the demon who killed his family, Abraxis. This ‘hunt’, which has involved him murdering multiple people, leads him to Minnesota, where Donna’s cabin is, and specifically to Mary. She was the last Hunter to encounter the demon. The storylines collide when Nick attacks Donna, but thankfully doesn’t kill her, and then kidnaps Mary.
Mark Pellegrino is still chilling with his portrayal of Nick, his single-mindedness to avenge his family is something that’s so very close to the lengths that the Winchesters go to save each other, but the way he goes about it, taking joy in the murders he’s committing is the antithesis of what the Winchesters do. Due to this, it does not make a huge amount of sense that he does not kill Donna, he has shown no such compassion anywhere else. Donna and Briana Buckmaster are huge fan favourites and after the deaths of other female characters perhaps it was Davy Perez erring on the side of caution or compassion rather than giving in to the bloodlust of some other writers. Either way, we are glad to know that Donna survived the day.
Nick does find out the truth as to why Abraxis killed his family and thankfully is prevented from killing Mary by the arrival of the Winchesters and Donna, but it doesn’t seem to bring him any resolution. It was purely Lucifer’s doing, to make him weak enough to say yes to being possessed. Nick attempts to make a run for it but is shot in the leg by Donna. Before he’s carted away in the back of Donna’s police car, he’s confronted by Sam. As a character, Sam has great amounts of compassion for nearly everyone, believing in second chances, but his apology to Nick isn’t him feeling sorry for the man. He’s sorry for all the victims Nick has killed and tells Nick that he can burn. This perhaps would be a good end point for Nick’s storyline, but given the tease of a potential Lucifer return, it’s unlikely to be the last we see of him. As discussed in the review of episode seven, it seems that Lucifer’s return isn’t a widely popular move, so it remains to be seen as to what will happen next.
Which brings us now to the sucker-punch of the episode, after Mary calls Dean’s bluff and tells him she knows what he’s up to and if he doesn’t talk to her and Sam, she will tell his brother. We get a scene between the two brothers which is nothing short of heartbreaking. Dean has been making something called a Ma’lak Box, which effectively is a coffin that’s warded and can safely contain an Archangel. He was given the plans on how to make one by Billie. His intention is to seal himself inside it and then have the Box tossed into the Pacific Ocean, thus trapping himself and Michael forever. The hurt on Sam’s face, at Dean abandoning him to do all of this and go on a farewell tour, is tangible. But equally is the pain within Dean that this is his only option because he can feel that Michael will eventually break free. The worst part is that the reason Dean elected to not tell Sam was that he knew that his brother was the only person who could talk him out of the plan, and he will not be talked out of it.
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As the music called Americana, composed by Jay Gruska for Supernatural, plays in the background, a trigger for tears ever since it was heard in Swan Song in Season Five, Dean gives Sam an ultimatum. He can either help Dean with his plan or stay out of the way. With visible pain and reluctance, Sam agrees and the screen goes black.
Another amazing episode, proving yet again why Supernatural continues to be a success in its 14th season. As we get closer and closer to the next landmark, its 300th episode, we can’t wait to see what’s next.