The latest episode, ‘About a Boy’, is definitely a monster-of-the-week instalment for Supernatural and one that, while more filler than anything else, is an enjoyable hour of television.
It’s a call-back to Hansel and Gretel this week, with Dean getting caught up by the witch who turns him back to his fourteen year old self before attempting to plump him up and eat him. The show injects a new direction and life into the classic tale (not going after children because of bothersome amber alerts and milk cartons? Brilliant), without overdoing it. And casting Downton Abbey’s Lesley Nicol as the witch is an inspired move, even if her accent sounded a little off at times. You can bet that I won’t be watching Mrs. Patmore cooking up a feast anytime soon without wondering exactly what is going into it.
In another inspired move, the show runners have connected this seemingly filler episode to the larger storyline of the season: Mrs. P is in town to hunt down that bothersome little witch, Rowena, who has been causing all sorts of drama for the Grand Coven. Despite Dean’s derision of the name, the prospect of a team-up between the Winchester boys and the Grand Coven in an attempt to bring down Rowena is an exciting one (bonus points if Crowley either a) joins in. The enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that jazz. Or b) kicks Rowena’s butt while the Coven and the Winchesters are still trying to get off the ground. Make either one happen, Show.)
The Mark of Cain hasn’t been forgotten, or pushed aside, either. Dean is getting desperate when it comes to solutions to his little problem, going as far as researching far-fetched possibilities such as tattoo and scar removal, refusing to leave the bunker unless under duress, and hesitating against being left on his own in the big bad world. It’s refreshing to see Dean, who has always played the more cocky, confident older brother (externally, if not internally), as the one needing some sort of coddling and Jensen Ackles has become a master of exploring the inner thoughts and demons of his character without words.
For all that, however, it was a little predictable to see Dean as the victim of the witch’s plans. Yes, it allowed us to glimpse Dean’s serious consideration of staying a fourteen year old, drinking age be damned, if only to keep the Mark off him, but it also feels a little done. Off the top of my head, I can think of several moments when Dean has been the victim (Deanmon, Dog!Dean, Vampire!Dean, Mark of Cain!Dean), but less so of when Sam fell victim. I also would’ve liked to experience what it would be like for Dean, struggling against the Mark, to try to not only control himself, but also to save Sam.
Overall, the episode saw a return to grass roots, monster of the week Supernatural that made us all fall in love with the show. It’s refreshing to see simple episodes executed well, with the focus more on performance than on conspiracy. While I can’t wait to get back to my favourite non-Winchesters (Crowley and Castiel, not necessarily in that order), it’s nice to be reminded of the building blocks of the show and to see that, for all it’s changed, at the heart, Supernatural is still the same.
Review by Hannah Fitzpatrick