After several very strong episodes last week’s Supernatural, ‘Don’t Go In The Woods’, did not follow the same trend. It was not that it was a terrible episode but it just failed to deliver in the same way as the previous ones. The root of the problem once again lay with where Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) were in relation to what would be considered the main plot arc of the season. The focus having now left Dean and Michael and moved over to Jack (Alexander Calvert) following his destruction of the Archangel, and what might be left of the Nephilim’s soul.
This episode, written by Davy Perez and Nick Vaught, had the boys tackling a monster of the week but it felt as though they were reduced to bit parts and yet again had them making some questionable decisions. With Castiel (Misha Collins) absent the brothers make the decision to leave Jack behind. Although Dean’s reasoning for not wanting to take Jack on a hunt makes some sense leaving him alone, and sending him into civilisation when they have no idea the extent of the damage, seems foolhardy. This is exactly what happens and low and behold it all goes wrong.
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Again this is likely because of a need to fit a lot of story into a shorter run time but it makes things feel sloppy and poorly written. The episode also felt very fragmented with a lot of fast and very jarring, scene changes between the events, it became hard to focus on the two plotlines. John Fitzpatrick was the director for the episode, his first time in the chair, but he has worked as an editor on several episodes since 2016. The rest of the episode was visually very stunning, with the scary scenes being extremely atmospheric, but the constant switches made the overall feel very messy.
Alexander Calvert continues to excel in playing Jack, and in this episode, we see Jack’s innocence once again come into conflict with the damage his soul has taken. Jack encounters the three teenagers who learnt the truth about hunting back in Lebanon. His lack of social interaction outside of the Winchesters and other Hunters makes for some very awkward and comedic scenes, such as Jack trying to tell them how old he is.
The return of Max (Skylar Radzion), Stacy (Zenia Marshall) and Eliot (Cory Gruter-Andrew) as the three teenagers was a welcome one, each of them being developed characters and not just throwaway ones. The representation was good to see as well, in Max and Stacy’s relationship, something that Supernatural has got better at over the years.
When Jack realises they know about monsters and hunting he relaxes, but then takes things too far in a bid to impress them. This spirals out of control, because of his lack of empathy and results in Stacy becoming badly injured. Jack cannot understand, after he heals her, why the three of them no longer want him around them. A combination of the fact that Jack is only two years old, coupled with his diminished empathy, means he returns to the bunker as though nothing happened. His decision to then keep the events from Sam and Dean is both akin to a child not wanting to admit wrongdoing but given the severity of the events, it is even more troublesome. Calvert’s portrayal of Jack up until now means that the viewers have sympathy and concern for the Nephilim, rather than simply consigning him to be the next villain waiting in the wings.
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Which brings us to Sam and Dean facing off against a new monster, someone who was the victim of a Native American curse due to the atrocities he committed against a tribe. As monsters of the week go this was outstanding, it was scary and there was the right build of tension and use of jump scares to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. The whole Hunt serves as a metaphor for whether it is right to keep people in the dark for their own safety or not, specifically Jack, but that was all it felt like. There were a few comedic moments, with Dean comparing the monster’s demise to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but there was very little else to it.
‘Don’t Go in the Woods’ felt like a let down after several very good episodes and it just failed to hold the viewer’s attention. Disappointing. Hopefully, next week will see a return to form.