Supernatural 12.4 “American Nightmare” Review

Ah, so here we are finally. I’m using a slightly different tactic this week. Normally I write these on first impressions, having watched the episode through only one time. Today I’ve got the episode to my left, playing on my phone through the CW app, and this review in front of me. Let me know how you feel about it.

As usual, SPOILER ALERT. From 1.1 to 12.4, there will be spoilers.

So the “Then” segment started off in season 1, talking about Sam’s powers. Are we really bringing up Sam’s powers again? I was super curious to see if Sammy’s powers were back. I’ve always kind-of felt like he could still have them if he wanted, but that he was just too ashamed of all the crap they were responsible for. And that he’s always hated being different. So he let them go when Lucifer was raised because of them. Also, from a writing point of view, it just makes him too Over Powered. A Winchester AND superpowers? Too much good in one Moosey package.

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Like a million times.

So we begin in this church. Recognize it? It’s been here a few times before. At this point, twelve seasons on, any set is likely to have been used like a million times. I love it. Now, as soon as our first five minutes girl walked in, I knew she was suffering stigmata. It’s fascinating, as they’ve never even mentioned the phenomenon before. If popular culture is to be believed, the Catholic church has actually investigated claims of stigmata. And so our boys claim to be, priests here to investigate it. Just how long has it been since we saw them as priests? I know the first time was the first episode we saw where there was another child with powers. And that has to be significant.

We get the season plot covered here in the first ten minutes, when Dean catches up with Castiel and texts his mom. Awkward text no less. Ugh I just want to hug the poor boy. As usual, he covers it with comedy, making fun of Lucifer’s new vessel and Sammy for liking him.

Pause. I don’t really care for Jared’s new haircut. Just as every other haircut has been able to tell us what season it is, this poofy thing will point out season 12.

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How I feel about that haircut.

Here’s Sam, trying to convince Dean he’s not doing OK now that Mary is gone. You know what Sammy? You’re not OK either. Quit putting it off on Dean.

Dean’s assumption that the girl at CPS was a witch at this point was so obviously wrong I didn’t even know what to think. A real witch would never tell any sort of investigators she was Wiccan. Clearly preoccupied, the Winchesters lose another victim in the delivery boy. I was confused no one was around to hear his weird babbling though. It’s rare we see something the Winchesters won’t later pick up on. The one thing that does come out of the dead delivery boy is the intersection of the victims, leading them to the right house.

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Love the sweaters, guys. This is their perception of social workers.

As they walk up to the house, Dean falling over a tiny little fence he would have hopped with ease in season one, Sammy tries a neat little trick where he attempts to get Dean to talk about his feelings. If there’s one thing we know about Dean, it’s that he won’t talk about his feelings until he’s ready. He does give us a peek though. He’s scared Mary won’t come back, ever. Being the master of running away from his feelings, and being very clearly his mother’s son, it’s not an assumption entirely without merit.

Now, these off the grid people. The dad talking about watching fake people do fake things? I like my fake people, thankyouverymuch. I can and have written thousands of words about what stories do for us. They’re not just distractions. At their best they teach us about ourselves. I couldn’t tell you why that line was included but for now I’ll just assume it was another meta nod and move along.

To Sam, interviewing the mom. Untrustworthy, in a word. She’s a liar and we all know it. The question is, what is she lying about? The important thing about this scene is that we can see Sam’s feelings about his own mother’s exit here. He absolutely dresses this woman down for letting her daughter die. Even without knowing what’s going on here, he puts this woman’s feelings under his bootheel and twists. He feels a mother should take care of her children. He is furious this woman did nothing to care for her own, and he wants to make her pay for that. It makes me wonder just exactly how he feels about Mary. He seems to really be in awe of having her back, seems to be accepting of her being a human being. But how does he really feel about her making a deal with a demon for his life? Sometimes I feel like his well-adjusted veneer is worse than Dean’s clear anger, sadness, and fear. I’d like to see him talk to someone about how he really feels sometime.

So here we find the daughter, still alive. Chained up in the basement. Sigh. This woman is an even worse mother than we thought. Given the opening talking about psychic powers, it’s pretty clear at this point that this girl has powers and as she whips herself, it’s obvious she killed those people. Of course the question is why. Was it an accident? Was she mad at them somehow? Or is it a cry for help?

Meanwhile, Dean walks into the office to kill the CPS girl who he thinks is a witch. Watching him realize he’s wrong is fun, even though we already knew that. Haha I wonder what he told her he was doing there? I’ll bet it was hilariously awkward. I can even see the face he probably made.

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Winchester at work.

Back at the farm, this crazy lady has tied up a Winchester in her basement. Good choice. So Sam takes this opportunity to influence the daughter, who thinks the devil is inside her. If only she knew what we did; that Lucifer is actually inside the “King of Butt Rock”. But she reveals why she thinks that and suddenly Sammy can identify with her. Understand why she feels like an outcast. Sam himself has felt this way. Like he was broken, damaged, a freak. But he’s had the benefit of years to work through his feelings and he can tell poor Magda she’s just psychic, not evil. It’s the choices one makes, not who they are, which makes them good or evil.

It’s lessons like this which make our stories important, by the way. Makes our fake people more than just fake people. Things like this which teach us who we are and what we can be.

Sam speaks with authority on this point. Explaining she doesn’t have to hurt anyone with her powers. It is interesting, however, that the writer decided to make Sam respond to the question of whether or not he has his powers any longer, “No, at least, I don’t think so.”. Leaving the door open for them to come back. But again. A Winchester AND superpowers? So OP.

Who else knew these people were about to eat their last meal when the crazy lady said, “It’s time,”? Poor dad, who was also in the episode, “Changing Channels”, dying with his face in the bowl. Such a perfectly Supernatural moment. Sam did a great job helping Magda work her way through the tense scene. The mom clearly needed killing, but the girl would never have been able to forgive herself for murdering someone on purpose, no matter how much they deserved it. Winchesters 1, bad guys 0.

(Oh dude! A commercial for iZombie! I love that show!)

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The monster isn’t so monstrous after all.

Anyhow, here’s our soft-hearted Winchesters, letting the monster go because they can’t kill the innocent. Even innocent monsters. Again, our fake people are teaching us how to filter out good from evil. The Winchesters are good because they don’t kill the innocent. Someone can be considered a monster because of power they wield, but because they make the right choices, they are considered good. And after doing the right thing, Dean begins to heal a little. Apologizing for being a dick is a big thing for Dean. Finding out Mary answered his text was the icing on the cake.

The hopeful note we should have ended on is short lived. Our stealth Man of Letters, who we saw ride by Baby earlier, is back and following our innocent monster. And this is why the British Men of Letters are bad guys. More than torturing Sam, they kill the innocent. Without remorse. Over twelve seasons we’ve watched the Winchesters struggle with whether or not to kill the monster. They’ve made the wrong choice. They’ve made the right choice. But they’ve always struggled with the choice. These Brits are black and white. We learned seasons and seasons ago that life is not black and white, even in a world where monsters are real.

So this monster of the week was quite fun. As was talking about Sam’s powers again and exploring what is good and what is evil. At the beginning of the episode, Dean clearly needed to shoot something. By the end of it, he’d begun to deal with his feelings without actually shooting anything. It makes me happy we’re continuing what we learned in season eleven, which was, you don’t have to shoot your way out of everything. I’m interested to see how they’ll handle the new threat, and whether or not that lesson will hold.

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See you next week, Family.
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