I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like that episode. I was ready to be either bored or angry. In hindsight I'm not entirely sure why because I adore Jody, I liked Alex when she last appeared and there's only been one episode that I truly did not like Claire in (the first one!). Perhaps I just wasn't feeling confident that they'd get the three of them working together right. But actually, I think they did (well, Nancy Won did :D).
Since the dawn of time (time only started when Supernatural began right?) fans have been crying foul for the treatment of women on the show. Usually for very good reasons (S1 was particularly problematic - not to mention the fridging of Sarah and Charlie in recent seasons). The show is never (ever!) going to please the entire fan base, but it is encouraging to see them making an attempt to present solid, character-rich women. I think even if viewers don't "like" the characters (and I know some are totally disinterested in having any women on the show), we can see that they are at least trying to address the issues fandom has raised in the past (I'll probably be eating my words when they kill one (or all!) of them off in future eps…). These women feel organic to the series rather than just plonked in there (which I felt Ellen and Jo started off like that).
I always love seeing Jody (possibly by fave character after Sam and Dean). Kim Rhodes adds a levity to the character and the show whenever she makes an appearance. They've been consistent with her characterisation and she's now become a solid part of the SPN verse (please don't die!). Alex and Claire are newbies in comparison, but they have well developed history and feel like they are starting to fit into 'verse.
I confess it's taking me a while to warm to Claire. I am not totally convinced by her (I think Kathryn is developing in the role but she still lacks the finesse of the actress who plays Alex), but I respect their attempts to make her a three dimensional character and I like Kathryn will grow as well as Claire as the series continues (assuming they plan on keeping her around).
I liked this episode because it felt well structured. I'm all about the "pay-offs" - as in, little resolutions within an episode (not waiting until the end of the season for example). For Claire we got to see an annoying "brattish" teenager take another step in growing up. The growth was about learning to trust (and not, as I thought it might be, that hunting is a stupid life choice. We know it can be but that's not going to work of Claire at this point in her life). For Alex it was confronting the past and learning how to deal with it. Usually I don't give a crap about that teenage, angsty stuff but because it involved some lovely scenes between them and Sam and Dean - I was hooked. It was also well handled by the the writer, director and actors so I survived it! :)
Even though it was Sam and Dean light, the scenes they had were wonderful. Not so much because of the humour, but because we got to see Sam and Dean be, well, Sam and Dean. This episode wasn't about any crap between them, it was about them just being brothers who hunt together. It didn't feature any contrived "issues" between them, so I could watch without thinking about what awful thing they will do or say to each other. It seems that's how I like this show best. ;) It also wasn't trying to deal with the rather convoluted myth arc so it could remain fairly simple (though vampires can now tolerate sunlight completely? Must have evolved some more…;D)
I also liked the outsider POV of Sam and Dean and the way it expanded their overall story. Watching them become almost orgasmic over a home-cooked meal was hilarious, but also a little heartbreaking (though it's been my head canon for a while that Dean has become quite the chef in that new kitchen of theirs). Even though I'm not sure the parallels between Claire and Dean (hungry for a hunting life) and Sam and Alex (wanting to go to school and have a normal life) were deliberate, it's certainly there to be able to tease out if we want to. It wasn't an attempt to compare their lives and make a judgement (as in - who had the harder life etc), rather that the boys were able to help them out because they've been there too. I liked that light touch, rather than the anvils that hit our heads sometimes.
It was also wonderful to see Sam being allowed to talk to both Alex and Claire. I'm still pinching myself with how they are approaching Sam this season. :)
So yeah. It won't go down as one of my all time faves, but it was certainly entertaining and added another layer to the Supernatural universe.