At some point during their seasons, every show no matter how intriguing a story arc, no matter how talented of a writing staff, has an episode or two fall by the wayside. Sometimes the stars just don’t align and the audience is left with a production they’d just as soon forget. And while the redeeming qualities of this week’s ‘Supernatural’ offering is not a total fail, it leaves an awful lot to be desired.
“Time After Time” (and who doesn’t have the Cyndi Lauper hook floating around in their head now?) doesn’t waste time—pun very much intended—getting to the action. On an unknown job, Sam and Dean are tracking a mysterious fellow decked in black. When Dean tracks him to an alley, he’s sucking the juice out of an unsuspecting victim. Dean rushes in to tackle him. Sam rounds the corner just in time to see the two men disappear in a flash of red light, which has Sam and viewers wondering what the deuce?!
A rewind of two days brings everything in focus. Keeping the proverbial ear to the ground, Sherriff Jody Mills calls the Winchesters about a potential case in Canton, Ohio of two mummified bodies found along with a witness to one of the murders. They are able to chat with the eyewitness, a guy who’s obviously a bit loopy but is able to point them in the direction of a man with a fedora, a “Justin Timberlake” type. Using some of Frank’s tricks (and how cool is it Frank is mentioned by Dean?) and impressing Sam at the same time, Dean hacks into the city’s surveillance and gets the beat on Mr. Fedora. When they identify him as the same man present in a photo of a murder from a similar case several decades prior, the boys know some serious wonkiness is in the cards. After a bit more detective work, the Winchesters track Fred Fedora back to the alley.
After the jump, Dean finds himself in a precarious position or, better yet, time. Arrested and questioned by police, Dean discovers he’s been deposited to 1944. When the cop in charge starts questioning him, Dean doesn’t waste time identifying the man as a fellow hunter. It just turns out that said hunter is a bit more famous than most; the one and only Eliot Ness. Rarely is Dean in awe of any situation—sardonic “awesome” rejoinders aside, including several in this episode—but he’s floored to be working with the legendary detective, letting his hero worship be known throughout the episode. In fact, the dynamic formed by past and future hunter working together was the highlight of the episode.
Flashing to the other side, Sam and Sherriff Mills rummage through some of Bobby’s old stuff, searching for anything they can on the case. In a nice parallel as they sift through the junk, Dean meets Ezra, a gruff curmudgeon of a woman who doesn’t take crap, is super resourceful and gives it straight. Yep, she’s pretty much Ness’s female Bobby. Even funnier is the fact that she uses Bobby’s endearment, ‘idgits’, a less than subtle indication of her role in the episode as well as a reminiscing moment for Dean. Aside from the scenes between Dean and Ness, the only other highlight involves the interspersion of scenes between past and future as they discover the identity of the mystery man. He’s Cronos, an old god who has to restore his power (as people stop believing in the old gods their lost much of their mojo) by sucking the life from others. The editing is flawless during this particular scene and ups the ante in a way as the gravity of their situation is made known.
Where Dean and Ness go looking for Cronos, Sam and Mills find the spell to summon the time lord back to the present. There’s just one caveat though; if they pull him back into the present without him in Dean’s presence, big brother Winchester will be forever stuck in 1944.
Before glossing over the uninteresting remainder of the episode, including Cronos being in love with a human and Erza planting a big, wet one on Dean (for luck, of course) there was the scene that may have helped “Time After Time” from being an unnecessary filler. Scouting out the club Cronos likes to visit, Dean and Ness have a heart to heart about hunting. Dean confesses he doesn’t know why he doesn’t anymore and, taking on Bobby’s tough love style, Ness is critical of Dean’s whining. “Hunting’s the only clarity you’re gonna find in this life,” he says. “It makes you luckier than most.” The listlessness has slowly become a part of Dean for the past season and a half and has shown no real signs of letting up. While still effective in his hunting, he’s been going through the motions, never quite showing the passion for anything—food, women, boozing—as we’re used to seeing. Now, whether Ness’s virtual slap in the face will get him on the right track remains to be seen.
Back to our regularly scheduled program, the episode falls flat in several regards, most notably its ‘Back to the Future’ solution. While coincidence, dumb luck and the literal hand divine intervention has allowed the Winchesters to survive this life as long as they have, there were too many cheesy circumstances in this episode where the stars lined up juuuuuust right to get them out of a jam. This is no more evident than Dean writing to Sam and putting the note in the wall of the house they’re staying at in the present. Not only does Sam find it, he just so happens to locate Lila Taylor, Cronos’s once main squeeze and she’s able to tell them the exact time Cronos and Dean were together. I have no issues with her remembering the exact time, the clocks stopped after all, but Sam and Mills finding her so quickly and her being alive, to boot, was a bit too much, even for my abilities of suspending belief.
Needless to say, Sam calls Cronos forth, just as he’s in the throes of strangling the life out of Dean. Using the stake Ezra provided and that Ness threw to Dean before he and Cronos disappeared, Sam plunges it into the time lord’s heart. Before he dies, Cronos shares the future he sees for the boys and it ain’t pretty. “It’s covered in thick, black ooze,” he says almost gleefully. “It’s everywhere. They’re everywhere. Enjoy oblivion.”
Other than Dean’s obsessive internet search of Dick Roman, it’s the only time season seven’s story arc is touched on. Just how accurate is Cronos in his prediction and how much did he potentially leave out? The Winchesters are no doubt in for the fight of their lives, a fight that’s going to need more than good fortune to survive. Maybe that divine intervention they’ve previously been blessed with makes itself known once again. It may save them but it won’t be enough to transform “Time After Time” into anything more than a forgettable filler not truly worthy of a second go round.
- Dean and Eliot Ness as partners is one of the few saving graces of the episode. Their banter and confusion on one another’s vocabulary as well as Dean’s hero worship makes me wish they’d truncated “Time After Time” into a fifteen minute spot of just the two of them.
- Sherriff Mills’s return was very welcome. The Winchesters need someone else on their side. As Dean told Eliot, everyone keeps dying on them. I’m really in Jody’s corner and hope she’s around for the remainder of the season.
- Sam’s genuine awe on Dean’s newfound hacker skills broke up some of this ‘Supernatural’s stiffness. The younger Winchester was also graced with a few good lines as well, including one questioning if Dean was still immersed in “cartoon porn” or “strictly Dick.”
- It almost feels like blasphemy for me to say, but this just was not a good episode. The time lord angle seemed a bit rushed and it wasn’t the time travel aspect that was lacking. Cronos was an uninteresting villain whose motives seemed a bit too ‘Somewhere in Time’ for me (though that was a fantastic movie).
- Finding the girl in the newspaper, Sam finding Dean’s message, Sam and Mills talking to Lila Taylor…there were just too many happy coincidences for me to accept in one episode.
- I’m pretty sure this will be the only time we see Eliot Ness grace the ‘Supernatural’ screen. If only they found someway to catapult him into the future to fight alongside Sam and Dean. Of course, while entertaining, that would further solidify my point listed in the bullet point immediately preceding this one.
- The old gods angle has been visited before and I’ve always found it interesting how the gods lost power when belief in them wanes. I’m still wondering if Shiva will ever make a return…
- Cronos provided some ominous foreshadowing as to the boys success against the Leviathan. It really doesn’t sound too good for our boys.
If you missed the previous episode be sure to read our ‘Supernatural: Adventures In Babysitting’ recap.