Sam and Dean face the sobering reality that much of their good fortune is no more than narrative plot armor, written into their story courtesy of the Almighty Chuck.
If there was ever a Supernatural episode that was a spiritual successor to Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, it’s “The Heroes’ Journey”. For practically the entire 43-minute runtime, Sam and Dean experience the most mundane of problems: cavities, burning dinner, non-working credit card, illness, and car troubles. Normal problems for most people but not for the Winchesters. No upset stomachs or random tripping for the world’s greatest hunters…
“See, a hero never sweats the small stuff. It slows down the story.”
It’s always been a mystery how Sam and Dean have been able to do the things they do—fight angels, demons, monsters, and gods—and skip the day-to-day hiccups that are often part of the drudgery of life. When they visit Garth (DJ Qualls, Z Nation, The Man in the High Castle) and his wife Bess (Sarah Smyth, Cedar Cove, Supergirl) to investigate what happened to her cousin, the hunter-turned-werewolf-turned family man suggests that, if so much of their life has been directed by Chuck’s writings, now that the Winchesters have lost the Almighty’s favor, they’ve fallen a few pegs down from mythical monster hunters to… well, normal folks.
Even with the newfound stench of normalcy (with a twinge of extra) trailing them, the brothers head out to break up the monster fight club Bess’s cousin tells them about. What’s normally (there’s that word again!) a simple task turns into the shifter promoter Cutty getting the drop on the pair and caging them in anticipation of them as the night’s main event against a monster of a vampire in Maul. Unable to talk or lock pick their way out, Sam and Dean are eventually rescued by Garth, who not only blows all the monsters to Purgatory with some strategically placed C-4, but also from the aftermath of Maul’s wrath. But even in all of this, they may have found a bright spot: Garth mentions a place in Alaska where people go when their luck has run bad and they need to regain that familiar mojo. It’s a certifiable Hail Mary but considering they already have an impossible task in taking on God, it’s best if they have at least a modicum of luck on their side.
Even with its generally serious nature, Supernatural is one of the few shows that can smoothly switch gears into the absurdly comical while not straying from what’s made it last for fifteen years. “The Heroes’ Journey” is a nice distraction from the momentous task ahead of them while also giving Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki a chance to be about as silly as they want to be. But it goes beyond that; in one of those self-effacing ways, “The Heroes’ Journey” also pokes fun at Supernatural itself and how, despite some of their worst habits (Dean’s absolute lack of a balanced diet, for example), the boys have experienced no repercussions other than what the story dictates. Their list of foes is long and distinguished but even more Herculean is their lack of any physical ailments after getting beaten up, smashed, and tossed around like rag dolls for nearly two decades. Shows that delve into the supernatural, while requiring a suspension of disbelief, can also be more effective when they don’t take everything with the utmost seriousness. “The Heroes’ Journey” is not the best Supernatural has to offer but its ability to explore the series meta plays well for laughs while the underlying urgency of what awaits them still looms in the background. God-like and terrifying.
The Good, the Bad, the Supernatural
• Once again Supernatural pays a visit to old friends (though, at this point, Sam and Dean don’t have many left). Though it’s played for laughs, Garth saving the Winchesters is also a reminder that even the best of heroes need a hand from time-to-time.
• Not only do the Winchesters have to call their lockpicking skills into question, but now Sam must face the possibility that he’s not as persuasive (with those “puppy-dog eyes”) as he’d like to think. And if Dean’s lactose-intolerant now, does that mean no more burgers?! If that’s the case, Supernatural will never be the same.