supernatural the big empty

“It doesn’t matter what you are, it matters what you do. And even monsters can do good in this world.”

For the first episodes of this season, we’ve seen our burger, beer, and babe-loving Dean Winchester in a perpetual state of anger. Whether it be his open dislike of Jack the Nephilim or beating down Sam’s “Mom may still be alive” mantra, he’s not been the guy we’ve come to know and love over the past thirteen seasons. Finally, from Dean’s own lips, we get that answer.

This particular monster-of-the-week hunt takes us to Badger country in Madison, Wisconsin. Two random folks are killed by relatives long-thought dead. Their only connection is Mia, a grief counselor whose approach specializes in the catharsis one can only get from truly saying goodbye. But how does she help her patients deal in a way no other therapist can? It’s simple; she’s a shifter.

The tension building between Sam and Dean finally comes to the forefront.

Now, from our Supernatural experience, most monsters are baddies. Shifters, vampires, werewolves and the like generally have no compunction in eating right off the human menu. Of course, there have always been exceptions and Mia just so happens to be a part of that exception group. When her true nature is discovered, she comes clean to Jack and the Winchesters about her past and how what she does now is an attempt to make up for that bloody time in her life, one that was directed by her ex, Buddy, who just happened to be a shifter in love with inflicting pain on others. Thankfully Buddy—spoiler alert—is dealt with and it’s time to move on. But whereas Buddy was an uninteresting throwaway, Mia’s presence and what she represented was both powerful and necessary.

“…because if he admits it, then it’s real.”

There’s no denying that the start of Supernatural Season 13 has been rather heavy with emotional tension. We’ve seen this in the past but invariably would have a moment of levity provided by Dean (or Crowley) snark, or Castiel’s naiveté. With the latter two out of the picture for now, the onus has fallen upon Dean or Jack for that relief of tension. Admittedly, Jack has provided a few chuckle-worthy moments but more often than not Dean tramps and stamps right over any sort of joy. He’s been a bit mean-spirited and it’s never been more apparent when, after sitting down with Mia, Dean calls out Sam in how his brother is dealing with Mary’s death/disappearance.

“He won’t even admit that mom’s dead, won’t even admit it. Because if he admits it, then it’s real. And if it’s real then he has to deal with it and he can’t handle that.”

The words are a knife, cutting into Sam and his own fears bleed out. “You had something with her that I never had,” he yells, “and now I’m just supposed to accept I never will have it?” It’s a powerful and vulnerable admission for Sam; so much so that he has to step away , only later coming to terms with what Mary’s death would truly mean to him.

“What gets burned, stays dead.”

Cas awakens in the Big Empty.

Switching gears for a few ticks, we finally get to catch up with Castiel as he awakens and takes in a big, wide world of Empty. The Nothingness that was around before creation. The place in which all angels and demons go to sleep. A place whose warden—“your friendly, neighborhood cosmic entity”—channels his inner Joker. Watching Misha Collins play both Cas and the Empty was wonderful, especially the personality he gave the Empty. As mentioned, his performance had a Heath Ledger’s Joker/Jerome  from Gotham vibe to it that played extremely well with Castiel’s straight-man persona we’ve come to know and love. The Empty is an unpleasant being, one who enjoys sleep but can’t find its slumber now that Cas is awake. When the Empty can’t entice Cas to fall back into that slumber, the Empty expels him back to earth.

“I need you to keep the faith…

Jack’s feelings of loss are just as acute as the Winchesters…though Jack is still coming to terms with his humanity.

Our final scene between brothers has Dean apologizing for his recent behavior but Sam also afraid to admit that Dean could be right, that Mary Winchester could be dead and gone. It’s a heartbreaking admission for Sam but it becomes even more so with Dean’s own confession. “I need you to keep the faith,” he tells Sam, “for both of us. Cause right now—right now, I don’t believe in a damn thing.”

The Good

  • Welcome back to Earth, Castiel. Once it was clear he wasn’t just a forgotten entity, it was only a matter of time before he returned to our world. Though to be honest, even I didn’t expect him back so soon. Now he just has to catch up with the Winchesters and his pseudo-son.
  • As a secondary character, Mia was invaluable as she became the go-between in both Sam and Dean admitting things to themselves then one another, things they were afraid to vocalize. But her being there for Jack, allowing him to say goodbye to his own mom, Kelly, may have been the jumpstart he needs, not only in controlling his powers but becoming emotionally tethered to our world and the prospect of doing good.

The Bad

  • Though the episode needed an antagonist in the Mia storyline, Buddy was extremely forgettable. But he did pave the way by glimpsing how far Mia had come.
  • This often happens in television (and comics) but how can Jack shake off an angel blade to the heart but get KO’d with a poker to the dome?

The Supernatural

  • So we’ve had Heaven, Hell, Purgatory…and now the Empty. What does it mean that Cas is now free of it? Is it possible the Empty itself hitched a ride to our favorite celestial being? Even if that’s not the case, I’m confident we’ll be seeing the Empty again in the near future.
  • Jack’s power made itself known again. The question becomes how close is he to controlling his abilities versus sporadic use as a last resort?
  • Even though the normal humor has been missing this season (and for good narrative reasons), that’s not to say Supernatural still doesn’t give us the pop culture meta. From Looney Toons, The Clone Wars, Hannibal (the cannibal not the conqueror), and Adventures in Babysitting, there were quite a few mentions that had me cracking a smile. The best of which was Sam’s response to Jack not digging Anakin Skywalker. Not a surprise considering the potential parallel between Jack and Anakin who would eventually become Darth Vader.

Supernatural: “The Big Empty”