Episode 11×04 AKA “The One About Baby”
For those of you that noticed that I did not post a SPN review for 11×03, this was intentional. I do not support the work of the SPN writers who are responsible for “Dark Dynasty“, and also wrote last week’s episode. In a culture where media is ruled over by ratings, I refuse to give them publicity. Give Charlie the tribute she deserved, and I’ll reconsider.
So, on to “Baby”, written by Robbie Thompson, a precious sunbeam in my world. Warning there be spoilers ahead.
The world of the Winchesters’ has a formula: find a case, imitate the feds and interview some people, kill some baddies, and drive away listening to a 70s rock ballad. This week, Robbie Thompson broke that formula with an episode written, and filmed, from the point of view of the Impala, aka Baby. That’s right, all 42 minutes are filmed from inside the Impala, presenting fans with a view of Supernatural that we’ve never seen before: everything that happens between the “exciting” moments of the boys working a case. There’s still a case, of course, as the boys check into werepires or ghoulpires or whatever Dean has decided to name the newest baddie. But the MotW case takes a backseat (pun intended) to the touching and honest portrait of the Winchesters’ lifestyle and relationship.
The Boys, in the Impala, Being Happy
It’s true. The Winchesters are happy. Joking, singing in the Impala, laughing together kind of happy. This is the Supernatural we’ve been waiting for–one where the brothers have a positive, healthy relationship that builds them up even when the world is going to shit.
So when the boys have a talk in the middle of the night, there’s a distinct lack of the dishonesty and emotional manipulation that we’ve come to expect from the show. The boys are being honest. Sam tells Dean he is having visions again, and that he was infected with the rage monster virus. Dean tells Sam that he doesn’t believe God is out there. They both confess to dreaming about their parents and having a normal life.
And when Sam says, “Goodnight jerk,” didn’t we all just cry a little? These are the boys we’re looking for.
A John Winchester We Don’t Hate
One of the biggest surprises of the episode was the reappearance of Matt Cohen as John Winchester. It’s been five years since Cohen last appeared on the show, and his return was a welcome one. He’s a vision of Sam’s, but he comes with a message: The Darkness is coming. Only the Winchesters can stop it. It’s a theme we’ve heard in seasons past, but it’s one that gives the Winchesters, and thereby the show, its purpose.
It’s been a few years since we’ve seen any version of John Winchester, and maybe I’ve forgotten the sound of his voice, but Matt Cohen sounds like Jeffrey Dean Morgan. It was, as Sam described it, “Dad when he was [their] age.” It was a John before Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s characterization that makes us remember that John Winchester wasn’t all bad. Perhaps in need of a parenting class (or twelve), but not bad. Did Robbie Thompson write the role to sound like JDM and then brought in Matt to portray a face of John that we don’t hate in order to inspire in Sam (and us) a sense of trust and hope?
It felt good to see John Winchester again. It was an homage to how Supernatural began all those years ago, and since the Impala first belonged to John, it felt necessary.
So will we be seeing John again? Well, in his words, “When has death ever stopped a Winchester?”
The Winchesters Have a Purpose
We’re seeing the beginnings of a myth arc unlike anything we’ve seen since seasons 4 and 5. Monsters are afraid of the Darkness. Sam is having visions. Dean has a strange connection to Amara. These bigger arcs are usually briefly referred to in a MotW episode, and then moved past in favor of the boys investigating whatever case is at hand. In “Baby,” Robbie infuses the larger arc within the smaller one, creating a graduating increase in tension for the season as a whole. With the inclusion of John Winchester, we see more clearly how the myth arc is returning a sense of purpose to the Winchesters–something that has been sorely missed in the last few seasons.
The episode highlights that Sam is on the cusp of recapturing his faith. We saw him pray in “Form and Void”, and now he’s beginning to discuss a life outside of hunting. Sam’s renewed faith in the world mirrors my own faith in the show. The technical originality in “Baby”–the cinematography, the soundtrack (or lack thereof), the script–gave me a new love and excitement for the show that I’ve, quite frankly, been apathetic about since “Dark Dynasty.” In 42 minutes, I fell in love with Supernatural again.
Last year, Robbie gave us the 200th episode “Fan Fiction”, which was described as a love letter to the fans. He’s sent us another one this year, filmed in every frame of “Baby.” This episode is not about plot. This episode is about the Winchesters being in the Impala and being themselves. “Baby” is about how Supernatural makes us feel, and about why, after eleven years, we are still in this fandom. Sam says at the end of the episode, “You know what? We are home.” He’s right. Supernatural has come home to where it belongs.
Thank you, Robbie, for this episode.
And also, thank you SPN cast and crew for this gif:
Until next week, SPN Family.