We started with a flashback to the 70’s, which was a personal highlight for me as I have an itty bitty obsession with fashion from that era. In fact, I was so distracted by the fashion I forgot it was a cold open leading to the plot of this week’s episode. It wasn’t until the girl started to beat down the wall and uncovered the villain of the week that I remembered ‘oh right, we’re watching an episode of Supernatural.’ What can I say? I dig bell bottoms. But anyway, this week’s episode was one of the darker stories we’ve had on this show so far. Considering this show has tackled the apocalypse and torture, that’s really saying something. It was also a heavily arc-related episode, bringing Rowena back into the plot (far earlier than I was expecting) and having call backs all the way back to Purgatory over two seasons ago. We’re definitely in the home stretch now, and I don’t think we’ll have much more filler between now and the finale.
Trigger Warning: This week’s episode had suicidal themes, which are discussed in this review.
The plot revolves around the ‘Werther Box,’ which is a storage unit that causes those around it to commit suicide after it’s opened. While Supernatural can be a really dark show in general, suicidal themes make it a particularly dark narrative that strikes a bit too close to home for some people. The timing of the episode is interesting, though, as it follows on the heels of Jared Padalecki’s #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign, which has brought the subject to the forefront of the fandom. It’s not an easy topic to talk about, but Jared’s campaign has made many people feel more comfortable sharing their own stories and struggles openly to help others not feel so alone. A majority of the online fandom has been supportive of each other, buying each other shirts from his campaign (thanks for the gift, Farseeker!) and listening to each other’s stories with a sympathetic ear. Jared did a great thing with this campaign, and I’m happy to be part of this fandom right now.
Despite Jared’s campaign, it’s still not an easy topic to bring up in a fiction narrative, and the story may trigger some viewers who aren’t prepared for it. When the spell takes hold of those around the box, they begin to hallucinate about things from their past that have been haunting them. In Suzie’s case, she saw her family post-suicide, all of whom blamed her for her untimely demise. Dean had flashbacks of Purtagory with Benny, who encouraged him to take the ‘third option’ out of his situation. Sam was immediately haunted by Suzie’s death, feeling as though he’d failed the person he was trying to save. All of these visions push them closer and closer to killing themselves by playing on their weaknesses.
I told you it was dark, didn’t I? I wasn’t kidding. It was difficult to watch.
Rowena (or at least a Rowena hallucination) saves Sam from his suicidal urges, but only brought enough spell for one person. This means that Dean is forced to fight the urges unleashed by the box on his own. He immediately knows that the Purgatory he’s seeing around him isn’t real. He eventually gives in a little bit and begins to listen to the Benny hallucination, but even while listening Dean fights on. His ultimate choice is to keep fighting for those he loves. It’s a victory in the end, but that didn’t make the journey to get there any less difficult to get through. We got another peak at Dean’s inner turmoil, self hatred, and desire to end his own suffering. I can’t even properly analyze these glimpses into his mind without revealing way too much about myself, so I’ll just leave it as ‘it was hard’ and move on. Because wow, that was a bit hard to handle.
On a somewhat lighter note, a large focus this week was on the unlikely partnership between Sam and Rowena. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the partnership between Dean and Crowley. Both parties are aware that they can’t trust the other and are on opposite sides, but they are also benefiting from it for the time being. It’s basically a game of who will get what they want and be able to stab the other in the back first. The only difference is that I feel that Crowley actually had some sort of fondness for Dean, whereas Rowena’s motivations are 100% self-preserving in every way.
Now we’re heading into the end of Supernatural‘s landmark 10th season. Our boys are battered and bruised, the stakes are high, and nobody is safe. Place your bets on who’ll die in the finale now, because you know it’s going to happen. We rarely have a finale without at least one major character death. They don’t usually stick for long, but it happens anyway. See you at the finish line.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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