What a recovery from the previous, less than stellar episode! “Baby” was a real treat, full of references to past episodes, well-handled ties to the current season arc, and a subtle theme of the importance of family, relationships, and home. If this is what being in the backseat on a hunt is normally like for the Winchesters, then sign me up for a hunt.
The episode was the first of the season for fan favorite writer Robbie Thompson, the creator of last season’s hit episode “Fan Fiction”, and the focus on details and show references that was so evident in “Fan Fiction” made a strong showing here. There were one or more references to every single season of the show. You have John’s confession that he never wanted the hunter life for the guys in the long-term, the Roadhouse, the “I shot the deputy” comment and singing in the car moments from the earlier seasons which played especially well to the nostalgia many older fans may feel. The references to the more recent seasons include the Swayze reference and the “All parts of the Buffalo” comment by the bad guy. The episode even opened with a few well-known images: the Army Man in the ash tray, the toy building blocks in the heating vents and the carved initials in the car all reference “Swan Song”, the last episode to center a large amount of the plot around the Impala. It really felt like Thompson was trying to be inclusive to as many elements of the series as possible. In a show where it often feels like the words “research” and “continuity” are foreign concepts to the writer pool, it’s a refreshing change.
For what is essentially a filler episode, they handled the references to the season arc quite well. I was particularly fond of the idea of Cas healing from the first three episodes of the season in the bunker, and momentarily entertained the idea of Cas reading in his very own room, or watching Netflix in Sam’s room with a bucket of popcorn and his shock blanket. The discovery that the guys may be the only ones to win against the Darkness and that the monsters are trying to fight the Darkness as well felt like it fit – that it was natural and unsurprising. The shock that sometimes accompanies discoveries in episodes by other writers was missing. The episode was entertaining and thrilling for the right reasons from beginning to end.
The primary theme of the episode, from both the viewpoint of the monsters and the people, seemed to be on the importance of home, family and relationships. The lady monster obsesses with making things right for the monster family, and continues to focus on family once cured. The guys have repeated conversations on the idea of having a family, and both confess to dreams of long-lost family members and normal lives. Even the figure of John in Sam’s dream focuses first on family – talking about Mary, complimenting Dean for caring for Sam and the Impala and discussing his lifetime regrets – before moving on to the message on the Darkness. It gave the episode a sense of togetherness and family, only enhanced by the fact that Cas is so present in the episode, despite being entirely off screen. A found family member is a good as a blood one, a familiar concept from previous seasons, also demonstrated by the accelerated conversion of potential new members of the monster family and the discussion by the guys of having a long-term relationship.
Dean’s (and frequently, Sam’s) constant calls with Cas were great. It really shows the importance of working together, a part of a team, in order to successfully hunt. It also shows that injured or not, everyone in the group is valuable in some way. It really gives a girl hope for entertaining future adventures by the entire combined team.
Can I just say how much I loved that all of the women and children lived? Even the waitress that Sam slept with made it off screen alive, although her expected lifespan thereafter is likely not that long. The only victim in the episode was male, and the only onscreen death was the male Alpha Nachzehrer. That’s a step up from the usual modus operandi, and fitting for the guy that wrote Charlie so well for so long before others instituted her extremely unpopular and unadvised death.
I also enjoyed that they address the lying in the first few episodes of the season. At least, from Sam. Now it’s Dean’s turn. I’ve not got any faith that they’ll keep the character growth that comes with dealing with the secrets, but at least one of the better writers in the show addressed it.
Great use of humor in the episode, too. I watched in a group, and even the one girl who never watches the show because “it’s so depressing” was giggling during the extended fight sequence between Dean and the very persistent Alpha Nachzehrer. The episode had a good balance of slapstick action and fairly subtle verbal humor moments. With the potential of the Darkness to turn this season into a scarier season then previous years, we’ll need all the high-quality humor we can get.
The history of the car via narration by Chuck from “Swan Song” showed up in the “then” segment. Does this point towards it actually being God in the dream, dressed as John? Or was it one of the two trapped archangels, or even an unknown third party? Time will tell, but hopefully, it’ll be addressed soonish.
On a related note, I squealed when I saw Matt Cohen. I knew there were rumors about John reappearing, but I thought that the rumor was the usual fan speculation. I appreciate Robbie’s tendency to sneak in appearances by long-desired characters whenever he can, like Chuck in “Fan Fiction” and Matt here.
The episode was also very well-done technically. The shaky camera work and extreme close-ups made the action a little hard to follow at times, but really added to the “you’re there in person” feel, as did the fact that the only music heard in the episode was what came through the car speakers. The hair pin from the waitress, the purse of the friend of the brazen valet, and the machete were all well-placed examples of “Chekhov’s gun”, a concept that if an item is shown in a story, then it must be used by the end of the story. The car-washing scene is a great way to do an exposition block, giving out the needed info without being tedious. I do, however, think they were an unnecessary tease for showing us the much-anticipated “car-wash in shorts” scene from inside the suds-covered car without letting us see Dean clearly. Thankfully, one of the camera operators helped us out in that regard.
The quality and fun of this episode made this episode quite enjoyable, especially when compared to the uneven quality of last week. This is a prime example of how a filler episode on Supernatural should be. If all of the episodes were as focused on both good continuity and themes that offered hope and inclusiveness to the characters, regardless of gender, orientation, race, relationship, or positional status within the show, Supernatural would really be a show to brag about.
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