A monster of the week and a clip show in one? These are both episodes that I typically hate when done on TV shows, and yet this combination on ‘Supernatural’ actually worked for me. It had the right level of emotional impact, a really excellent villain, and a surprise cameo from the past.
[Be warned, this recap contains spoilers…and this week, they’re pretty big]
This whole episode begins very routinely: a mysterious death, some really bizarre circumstances. Heck, they even break out the old EM detector which we haven’t seen in what seems like forever. It all starts when a man is hit by a car…in his tenth floor apartment. Yeah, that one is right up Sam and Dean’s alley.
Looking into the man’s history, they discover that he has been in AA for ten years, following the drunk driving killing of a little girl. Getting killed by a demonic car seems like proper comeuppance to Dean, but Sam is a bit more hesitant. The man has shown remorse and true repentance for what he had done. Perhaps that doesn’t make him completely innocent, but it’s a far cry from being worthy of an otherworldly death sentence.
While investigating the car death, another man gets mauled to death by a ghost dog. They find that he used to run dog fights, was convicted, served his time, and then spent the rest of his life working in animal shelters. To Dean, it’s a cut and dried case of supernatural justice, but Sam again is unsure of the circumstances due to the repentant nature of the victims. A pattern seems to be forming here, and a detail is showing up as well: red dirt.
Analyzing the red dirt, they determine that it comes from an apple farm. But the apple farm is a hundred acres, so it would take a while to search. As they drive around the farm, a man jumps out in front of their car. At last, they encounter a man on the run from this paranormal vengeance machine and learn a few more details about what’s going on. He tells them that he was convicted for a convenience store shooting, was paroled after thirty years, and then came across a man who jumped him and held some sort of mock trial in a nearby barn (the one on the apple farm). Now the victims of his shooting are after him. He describes some strange symbols at this mock trial and draws them out for Sam. He also reveals that he was at a local bar before getting jumped. It turns out the other two victims were at the same bar. Sam investigates the symbols while Dean goes to the bar to drink and investigate. It is clear to Sam that Dean actually seems to have some sympathy for these vengeful ghosts. He even says that they’d make a compelling case if they came after him.
Dean goes to the bar and begins spilling his guts to the bartender while Sam sends the symbols to Bobby. Bobby calls Sam up and tells him that the symbols are that of the Egyptian god Osiris. Osiris is a god of judgement, serving as judge, jury and executioner for people who have even the slightest amount of guilt. He warns Sam to get out of town if Osiris is there, since Dean has been demonstrating more than a little guilt lately. Needless to say, he’s a bit late in getting the message. Osiris takes Dean outside the bar, and his own trial begins.
With a heaping helping of smugness, Osiris proceeds to call witnesses in a case against Dean. Sam comes in and volunteers to be Dean’s lawyer (was once pre-law after all). The first witness that Osiris calls is Jo. Yes, that Jo. In his line of questioning, Osiris lays out how Jo’s life path that led her to her eventual death was predicated upon Dean’s interference. Technically that is true, but Sam’s cross examination leads Jo to confess that she was actually trying to be more like her father than blindly following Dean, and would have eventually ended up on the same path. Jo’s own bias and compassion for Dean comes through, and Osiris only too quickly dismisses her.
Osiris next calls Sam to the stand, laying out the same argument in his case: that Sam had successfully excised himself from the family business of hunting until Dean came back and pulled him back in, conveniently ignoring the fact that, even back then, there was already a demon hot on Sam’s tail. It was only a matter of time before Sam re-entered that world, and Sam is very eager to point that out. Osiris believes him, but then points out that his own opinion on the matter is irrelevant. The judgement is based on whether or not Dean himself feels guilt in his heart.
Sam calls Dean to the stand and tries to argue to Dean how none of what has happened was directly his fault, and that rather than guilt, Dean just feels sad for what happened. But then Osiris, feeling generous from the show he’s just seen, asks Dean if he wants him to call his last witness. Dean already knows who it is: Amy. The girl that Dean killed last week and lied to Sam about. Rather than subject Sam to the truth, Dean agrees to accept his fate. Osiris pronounces Dean guilty and sentences him to death.
Luckily, Bobby calls Sam up with a solution: stab Osiris with a ram’s horn. Unsure of how to find one, Sam suddenly realizes that every synagogue has one. The shofar – a ram’s horn – is a traditional instrument at Rosh Hashannah. Sam goes off to find one, and this is where things get a little silly. He actually breaks into a synagogue and encounters a rabbi while trying to lift the shofar. Then we cut to him driving back to Dean with the shofar sharpened into a stabbing weapon. I felt as though a scene between Sam and the rabbi about the significance of a ram’s horn was excised from this episode, and its absence is all too conspicuous.
Meanwhile, back in the hotel room, surrounded by a circle of salt, Dean has an encounter with Jo. Even though she does not want to kill Dean, she is being compelled by Osiris to do so. Dean, clearly wracked with guilt, is willing to accept his fate. He even seems glad that it’s Jo who is going to do it. Having been a hunter herself, Jo knows all the ways to work around a salt circle, and it seems as though Dean’s fate is sealed.
But Osiris’ pattern is well known to Sam now, and he stabs him outside the bar as he is about to claim another victim. His spell over Jo is broken, and she leaves without killing Dean. Everything is all wrapped up nicely.
After that, we are treated to an old ‘Supernatural’ tradition that, again, it feels like we haven’t seen in a long time: Sam and Dean having a beer by their car and discussing the case in a nice little wrap-up scene. The subject comes up of why Osiris picked Dean over Sam when they both should have been feeling the same amount of guilt. Sam confesses that he doesn’t feel guilty in his heart. He feels as though he has paid his price after the time he served in Hell. And even though he still sees Lucifer once in a while, he has it under control.
This was definitely more of a stand alone episode than last week. This week, the Leviathan doesn’t get more than a passing mention in one scenes. And somehow, I was okay with that. Perhaps its the chemistry between Sam and Dean which, after six seasons, is as solid as it can possibly be. Perhaps it’s the nice respite from what is sure to be a very intense and powerful story arc. The truth is the dynamic between them just works. Even with such a cut-and-dried case as this, and even with the all too convenient solutions that might have felt contrived and even aggravating on another show, I still enjoyed this episode. When you have strong characters, the setting in which you find them is almost secondary to how they interact. And let’s face it, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have forged a very strong brotherly dynamic between themselves. It doesn’t even matter that this episode could easily have been chucked out of the series as a whole, and the show wouldn’t have suffered for it. I still enjoyed it. That is the mark of a good series.
Having said that, I do hope we get back into the Leviathan arc pretty soon. It also doesn’t help that Bobby has been relegated back to the occasional informational phone call. Sam and Dean are great together, but the story is so much bigger than the two of them at this point. We’ve had two stand alone episodes that focused primarily just on the dynamic between the two of them, and that’s great. But as a long time fan of the show, I don’t want too many of these in a row without revisiting the bigger story.
If you missed last week’s episode be sure to read our ‘Supernatural: The Girl Next Door’ recap to catch up.