So how do you spend your time after killing Hitler? For the Winchesters, it’s a quick visit with Sheriff Jody Mills that turns into a Manitoba road trip and a hunter’s funeral for fallen hunter Asa Fox, complete with a couple of uninvited guests.
We start off in Manitoba, circa 1980 where a young Asa Fox is saved from being werewolf chow by none other than a soon-to-be-retired Mary Winchester. Her presence leaves an indelible mark on Asa and the next few minutes—chronicling his hunter life and death—play out like an 80s/90s action show montage, courtesy of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s toe-tapping “Roll on Down the Highway”. But alas, like all hunter, Asa’s fate was sealed the moment he took on the life and his fellow hunters gather to celebrate him.
In Supernatural, we’ve net quite a few hunters, many of which are no longer with us (Ellen, Jo, Rufus, Bobby, Charlie…I could go on as the list is long and distinguished. One thing we’ve never got to experience is a hunter’s funeral. Funny thing is, neither has Sam or Dean. Tagging along with Jody to pay their respects, the Winchesters find out just what their missing. A gathering of loud music, drinking, big personalities and stories, oh yes, lots of stories. All the hunters they meet—Randy, Bucky, Elvis, the magic twins—even in their short-lived screen time, offer a taste of the diversity presented in the hard life of hunters. Despite the personalities, things are pretty chill until Mary Winchester shows up. Sure, there’s the appearance of Jael, a crossroads demon that had a personal grudge against Asa Fox and purportedly killed him who jumps from person-to-person, making for an interesting case of Clue as the surviving hunters, trapped in the house by Jael’s warding spell, but it all ends abruptly, with a Winchester family tag-team exorcism, after one of the hunters admits to Asa’s accidental death. Such a quick resolution could have thrown the episode into that box of somewhat forgettable Supernatural one-shots but the big story never was Asa Fox and the hunter’s funeral. It was always about Mary’s relationship with her boys, particularly the tension between her and Dean.
Enter Jody, the fan favorite.
Not quite old enough to play the role of mom to the Winchesters, Jody’s more like that younger aunt who can relate to you but also has enough experience that you respect her opinion. Even in the brief moment between the boys and their mom, the tension’s palpable and as Dean tries to separate himself from it, Jody’s able to put a kernel of thought in his noggin on how difficult and scary this must be for Mary, to be plopped down into the world 30 years later, trying to adjust to your boys who are now men and a world you have no idea on how to relate to.
“Everywhere and everything I do,” Mary confides to an understanding Sam, “just feels wrong.” She’s at her own crossroads, one where she’s close to giving up, packing it in. It’s clear in the vacancy in her eyes, or so Billie the Reaper says towards the end. She even offers Mary a free trip upstairs to the Good Place and, for a frightening instant, Mary looks as if she’ll take Billie up on the offer. But seeing her boys there, knowing that she’s already missed their lives together, Mary rejects the offer, as if she’s made a personal resolution to embrace the suck, get past this wall of doubt and move on with this life she’s been given; it’s just going to take a bit of time. It’s not the most ideal of news but Dean, the one hurt most by Mary’s ‘do it alone’, throws out the olive branch. His mother is back in the world, so what if she needs time to come to grips with everything, she’s here and she loves him.
- This is the second week in a row where we’ve gotten to see minor characters with the personality to drive an entire episode or spinoff. Toss Ellie and Christoph from last week’s Hitler episode in with Alicia and her nameless twin and maybe someone like Garth (with recurring roles for Jody and her girls, Claire and Alex) and you have a great cast for said spinoff. A few years back they thought to do that with Supernatural: Bloodlines but that plan fell through. Sure, it may not be strong enough for a full season but have it as a miniseries of sorts while Supernatural is on winter/summer hiatus (similar to how ABC approached the short-lived Agent Carter).
- If you didn’t know, Billie’s not a fan of the resurrection cards the Winchesters turn in like a game of Magic: The Gathering. She’s a stickler for the rules: you’re born, you live, you die. No ‘you die but look at this get out of death free card’ or being pulled from Hell by angelic forces. Those cheats offend her greatly which is a bit on the gluttonous side considering how many reapings she and her merry band of soul takers partake in every day. A few benders of the rules, particularly those whose interests like in the greater good, shouldn’t garner such personal attentions from her. Though, in fairness, Dean did slice and dice her boss (in one of his most ridiculously stupid moves EVER!).
- “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Frederick Douglass’s famous quote could almost be seen as a Winchester mantra. Now especially as Dean and Mary both fight the pain of difference, the necessity of separation. But as they fight towards something better, as hunters, as family, it looks as if they’re finally being rewarded. They aren’t quite there yet but the finish line looks as if it’s in sight.
‘Supernatural: Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox’: –3.5/5 Impalas