Every month, I’ll be looking back over the Supernatural episodes that aired that particular month and commenting on some aspect of the show. Sometimes that will be something that made me very happy; other times it might be something that drove me crazy. Maybe a little bit of both. I’m a fan of this show until the end, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take my rose colored glasses off sometimes and complain when it doesn’t meet my expectations.
Most of the time, though, I can find things I love about every episode. October saw the return of the show after a very long Hellatus and a lot of anticipation, so it’s fairly easy to find things I liked – I was just glad the show was back! The cast of Supernatural is undeniably hot, so it’s also fairly easy to find things that made me need a cold drink. There’s almost always a moment that’s scary, and one that’s horror-movie-level-bloody too. I watch Supernatural for all those things – but I fell in love with the show because it makes me FEEL.
1. The Season Premiere and Sam F*cking Winchester.
The premiere episode is always fraught with strong emotion. The winner for drawing the most emotion out of me in that episode was Sam Winchester, hands down. Sam has been without his brother for three weeks when we encounter him, and he’s clearly been frantic to find him, following every lead and coming up empty repeatedly. Jared Padalecki is so skilled at playing Sam after inhabiting him for thirteen years, and I could feel his helplessness and desperation acutely. He pushes away his mother’s attempts to reassure him that they’ll find Dean, snapping “we don’t know that!” And he’s right, we don’t. Sam points out that they don’t even know if Dean is alive, his voice breaking. I can’t imagine a more awful situation, and Padalecki makes us feel every bit of it.
I could go on and on about how sexy Sam looks with his “grief beard” but what really came through in that first episode was his terrible sadness and his fear that Dean is gone forever. When he tells Cas, “I’d do anything” to bring Dean back, I believe him with all my heart.
2. Jack’s Longing for the Mom He Never Knew
The second episode brought several emotional scenes and gave some of the other actors an opportunity to show their stuff. The most poignant scene in this episode was Jack’s (Alex Calvert) attempt to deal with his continuing struggle to figure out who he is now that he’s lost both his mother and his father (Lucifer, who betrayed him before he died). Feeling like he doesn’t belong anywhere or to anyone, Jack goes off to find his only blood relatives – his mother’s parents. Alex Calvert looks utterly stricken as soon as his grandparents open the door, bringing Jack’s overwhelming loss to the surface and letting us see all his pain. Even more heartbreaking is the reveal that Kelly’s parents don’t even know she’s dead, and of course Jack can’t tell them. Everything about that scene hurt. And Calvert nailed it.
3. Post-Possession Breakdown
Also in the second episode, Mark Pellegrino gives an incredible performance as Nick, Lucifer’s former vessel, remembers the tragic circumstances that made him say yes to the Devil – the murder of his wife and baby. When he puts his head in his hands and bemoans his loss and that Lucifer’s possession has also made him a monster, it felt so real that tears sprang to my eyes too. When people are confronted with horrible loss and sadness, you can hear their pain as they grieve. On television, crying is often sanitized and muted – this was neither. The howls and moans of pain that Nick gave out rang completely true, so much so that it created empathy in me instantly. I honestly don’t even care about the character of Nick (and am not very happy about the over-crowded roster of the show this season) but Pellegrino was so damn good, I couldn’t help but tear up.
4. Dean Winchester Returns!
By the end of episode two, Dean Winchester has returned – and that brings me to number four. Number four isn’t exactly a time I reached for the tissues, it’s more a slow simmering sadness and yearning – but that can be equally painful. For two episodes, Dean Winchester was not a character on Supernatural, and that was excruciating. I fell in love with Sam and Dean, and that’s the core of the show. It’s not Supernatural without Dean Winchester – it doesn’t give me the same satisfaction, it doesn’t feel familiar. I don’t love it without Dean there. There’s research that finds we get the same sort of psychological sense of belongingness when we watch our favorite familiar show as when we sit down to dinner with our favorite familiar people. That’s part of the psychological benefit of being a fan – but without Dean there? That benefit was lost for me. When he reappeared in the mirror for a few seconds in the middle of the second episode, trying to break through, I got so emotional I was shaking. Just give me my Dean back, Show!
Episode two ends with Dean staggering back into the show and Sam on his knees asking his brother “Are you okay?”
Dean responds with “Of course I’m not okay!” And I sat there grinning like a fool, because those are the brothers I fell in love with! At that moment, Supernatural truly returned.
That brings me to number five, and to episode three.
There are a bunch of contenders for ‘reach for the tissues’ moments in the third episode of Season 14, including Jack’s stoic coughing up blood for some mysterious and ominous reason, and Castiel’s (Misha Collins) shocked-speechless moment of relief when Dean is back, alive and (sort of) well.
But the time I literally had to reach for the tissues happened, as it so often does, as Sam and Dean are driving in the Impala. After having them separated for the first two episodes (and having no episodes at all for the long hiatus), a “broment” in Baby was infused with feeling – for the Winchesters, and for me. There are really two Impala scenes. In the first, Sam begs Dean to open up and talk to him about what he’s going through after being possessed by the archangel Michael. Dean isn’t ready, but Jared Padalecki really brings the emotion with Sam’s plea and his vulnerability. He also makes me love Sam Winchester even more than I already do. Sam is endlessly patient in this episode, because he of all people knows exactly how traumatic possession is. I didn’t have to grab a tissue, but I may have sniffled a little. I also may have yelled “Talk to your brother, Dean Winchester!”
There are understandable reasons why Dean doesn’t, and they all have to do with trauma and its aftermath. But after the brothers confront Dark Kaia and nearly get killed by some souped-up monsters, Dean does open up to Sam. The brothers are once again in the car, because I think that when he’s driving, Dean can be a little more vulnerable. He’s the driver, so he has to look straight ahead most of the time, giving him an out for the eye contact that would make the vulnerability a thousand times more intense. He tells Sam “I put us all in danger today. You were right” and that right there is a very tough thing for big brother Dean to do. He prides himself on being strong and on making the right calls and on doing the right thing, so admitting that maybe he didn’t? That takes tremendous courage for Dean.
Sam immediately is emotional as he listens – in part because his brother is opening up and talking to him, like he asked, and in part because he has so much empathy for how Dean is feeling and what he’s been through. Not sympathy, but empathy. Because Sam KNOWS.
Sam: Dean, you did what you had to do.
He’s right. Dean said yes to Michael to save Sam, to save Jack, to keep Lucifer from taking over our world. I don’t think he regrets that, but what has happened since, Dean feels is on his shoulders.
Sam’s empathy must really get through to Dean, because he voluntarily shares more with Sam about how the experience of being possessed felt and how it impacted him.
Dean: And it wasn’t a blank. I don’t remember most of what Michael did with me, because… I was underwater, drowning. And that I remember, I remember every second of it. Fighting, clawing for air… I thought I could make it out, but I… I wasn’t strong enough. And now he’s out there hurting people. And it’s all on me, man. I said yes. It’s my fault.
The camera pans over to Sam, and his eyes are brimming with tears, his expression etched in pain.
That’s when I reached for the tissues. Literally.
Jared Padalecki’s acting was once again heartbreaking. I could see – and feel – every ounce of Sam Winchester’s sadness and empathy for his suffering brother. Jensen Ackles was just as strong, showing us Dean Winchester’s trademark stoicism cracked into a rare moment of vulnerability. He shares with his brother how he’s really feeling, which is a rarity in this show.
After fourteen seasons of filming together, it’s still true that Ackles and Padalecki together can generate more emotion than a whole room full of other actors. And I relish Supernatural for that (even if it does mean I have to stock up on tissues).
Though I really needed a hug after that last episode!
Stay tuned for November’s Supernatural round-up, when I’ll bring you five times in Season 14 so far that Supernatural made me need a cold drink. And make sure to have one handy when you read!
Screencaps by kayb625