The are times when this show is downright terrible (I'm sorry, but it is) and other times it's bloody spectacular. This one? Spectacular! I know that might be a strange way to describe an episode that was actually fairly quiet, steadily paced and thoughtful - but those are actually the reasons why I thought it was rather spectacular. It was an episode that peered into the heart of this show and delivered on a level that I cherish. It examined the brothers' relationship using a parallel that spoke of revenge, dedication, love and finality (be it a happy ever after or one of tragedy).
It also told a story that had a deeply satisfying conclusion (something I've discovered I really need in an episode). It resolved Jesse's need for revenge. It also gave as a "happily ever after" - something that we can perhaps wish for Sam and Dean - it doesn't mean they will get one, but it left the idea open that one day it might be possible for them to their own happily ever after.
On every level this episode delivered for me. It didn't reach the intensity that Red Meat did (hee, thankfully!), but instead it told a very personal story - one that touched on the reasons people hunt, the connection hunting partners have to each other and the way a hunter's life starts and (possibly) finishes.
It also tapped into something Supernatural essentially is - a male story. Each of the men in this episode - Sam, Dean, Jesse, Cesar and the father who lost his daughter - had a connection through loss and examined how each handled it. By looking at this we can reflect of how Sam and Dean have dealt with their own personal losses over the years.
There are a mass of parallels between Sam and Dean and Jesse and Cesar - but the most striking to me is the way each partnership is about endurance - staying with your loved one, no matter what. Cesar's devotion to Jesse through his thirst for revenge mirrored both Sam and Dean's devotion to each other through - well, everything they've been through. It's no mistake "just like a married couple" comes up when describing Sam and Dean. Being married means hanging in there through thick and thin.
I don't think it was an accident that Jesse and Matty not only looked a bit like young Sam and Dean (hair colour notably) but their age difference matched also (4 years apart). Jesse and Matty discussing escaping to a better life was perhaps a reflection of Sam and Dean's early lives (with Matty promising things will get better) and then later Jesse was consumed with revenge and grief after losing his brother (of which we've seen in both Sam and Dean).
I know fandom likes shipping and I'm sure each shipping camp will own the parallels as "proof" or hints that there's gay love between Sam/Dean or Dean/Cas (or Sam and someone else? It was the younger brother who was gay after all), but I think the parallels are more powerful when read as intended - the examination of the variations of love we get between men; between brothers, lovers and a father and child. That the love is just as powerful and soul consuming no matter how you feel it or who you share it with. So fucking deep! I love it.
And look at our little show that could! Giving us a gay, interracial hunting couple without judgement or comment (or death!). It was a tender examination of a couple overcoming the issue of revenge and loss to triumph in the end. YAY! And as much as I'd love to see them again I hope never to see them again. I want them to escape the horrid hunting life - I want them to have their happy ever after.
On top of all the wonderfully deep issues this episode examined it also delivered fantastic performances. I thought the father was excellent. He portrayed a deeply conflicted and guilt ridden man who dealt with his loss differently to Sam and Dean. Jesse and Cesar were absolutely wonderful (their love and respect for each other leapt off the screen) and I also loved the three female guest stars - Sheriff Tyson, the witness and that adorable woman flirting with Sam.
The brothers were given equal opportunities to have their stories told through a connection with the other characters (yay!). They both had similar stories and could empathise with their counterparts. Dean contemplating helping others get their revenge and Sam seeing his own story unfold in Jesse - looking at your brother as "other" - Matty with green eyes, Dean with black ones.
And once again the comment about losing the person who you love more than anything in the world came up. Dean heard it at the end of Red Meat (by the woman who lost her husband) and that was mirrored by Sam hearing it from Jesse in this episode (ack! I hope they're not gearing up for another death at the end of the season).
The monster was wonderfully creepy. I hate cicadas, so things making that noise and crawling out of the ground worked for me!
I think the thing that really cemented this episode as being special was the way it concluded. I totally expected Sam and Jesse to come storming in, blades in hand, full of blood lust saving the men they love. Instead it was almost an anti-climax (in a good way!) with them arriving just in time for Jesse to find his brother *sniff* and quietly and respectfully burning the bodies. It was touching and gave Jesse and Cesar closure.
Sam reminiscing about how he felt as a child - fearing the loss of his dad and brother (even with the mistake of vampires), was poignant and maybe (just maybe?) harked back to the way he actually did feel completely lost when he though Dean had died at the beginning of S8. Sam feeling utterly lost and not knowing how to respond works for me.
My only quibble is the way we are getting the stock standard dialogue before each episode that Cas doesn't appear in. Dean is incredibly worried and is in such a state that Sam has to find a hunt in order to get him out of the bunker. I know they have to tie together myth arc eps with MoTW eps and it's always a little, er, clunky but I'd love these moments to add some dialogue about what Cas actually did. Maybe even acknowledging that Lucifer is out of the cage. There was a time the Lucifer being free was a whole season's myth arc (S5) and now it feels like a mere inconvenience (the threat of Amara seems like the much bigger concern - not Lucifer).
But really, I'm not complaining. I know it's tricky tying these different types of episodes together. I adore MoTW eps (and how weird that these are often referred to as "fillers") and would happily watch a whole season of these. I know the boys need something that keeps them in the game (the world needing to be saved) so I understand why they do it.
S11 is really delivering for me. Having episodes like this (and Red Meat, Safe House, Just My Imagination) that use the MoTW to examine the brothers' relationship and the world in with they live in is what I'm here for. And because this season has a much more positive approach to the brothers (wow 19 eps in and they not only like each other, I think they are trusting each other again too), we are seeing these more positive examinations of their relationship. All I can say is...more please!