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Supernatural 8.13 – There’s No Place Like Home

February 8, 2013

This week’s episode of Supernatural got a thumbs up from both of us, which means it must have been amazing. Actually, it was amazing.

The first part of this season – and most of the last few seasons – have been pretty hard on the brothers Winchester. And that means they’ve been pretty hard on the fandom too. In this episode, Ben Edlund (who has always seemed to understand Sam and Dean better than anyone except their creator) decided to do something rare and wonderful in SPN – he gave them a break. Not that there wasn’t still Sam nearly getting killed and Dean flying through the air and an evil menace called the Thule lurking at every turn. But at the end of the day, Sam and Dean had somewhere to go back to, to lick their wounds and shore up their strength and get ready to go back out there and fight the good fight. Giving the Winchesters a home base feels important; giving them a renewed sense of purpose changes the entire feel of the Show.

Honestly, it’s been way too long since “the family business” has seemed like an apt description of what Sam and Dean have been trudging along doing. One of the things that hooked many of us on the show was that personal connection – the boys’ quest was tied to their father, their mother, their family. That made us care, and I think it made them care too. I felt that again in this episode – they care, both of them.

This episode was subtle (thank you Ben Edlund and Phil Sgriccia!), but it set up a great deal of change for the Winchesters. Their understanding of where they came from and who they are has been altered by their encounter with their grandfather – not only are they descendants of hunters, but of Men of Letters. Scholars. For Sam, that knowledge changes his sense of self, validating some of the choices he’s made and always struggled with. Sam was the one who didn’t fit in with the family business, who questioned being a hunter and wanted instead to be a scholar. He has always been every bit as brave as Dean and John, and perhaps just as driven to make a difference – he just wanted to do it as a lawyer instead of a hunter. Sam has always seemed to be the one who “fell far from the tree”, but now he knows that’s not true. Being a man of letters is the Winchesters’ legacy, just as being a hunter is.

This is a life-changing realization for a young man who has struggled with figuring out who he is and where his place in the world should be. We all have a powerful need to belong, and an equally powerful need to establish a sense of identity – now, maybe for the first time, Sam has both. Have we ever seen Sam embrace his purpose in such a positive way? He’s found an identity that fits him, no longer the “odd man out”. Kripke’s original characterization of Sam came in part from his own personal experience, wanting to make films and television instead of joining the family business like he was expected to. The difficulty of going against the family’s wishes has always shaped the character he created in Sam – and shaped Sam’s relationship with his brother.

Dean has always struggled against Sam’s perceived ‘difference’ too, threatened by it and wanting to pull Sam back into the only identity Dean has ever known – whether it fit his little brother or not. For the first time, Dean too is seeing Sam’s difference as equally valid and important. Instead of Sam’s discomfort with hunting pulling the brothers apart, they’ve each found their niche and can work together. Dean overtly gives Sam his approval, asking if he’s going to be a “Man of Letters” now. Sam glances over at him, clearly expecting disapproval or ridicule; Dean nods and says “Good.” Instead of the traditional two beers, Dean pours them glasses of scotch. It’s a ‘grown up’ drink, celebrating the change. For Sam, that approval and acceptance must be immensely satisfying; for Dean, having a little brother who is clearly content and truly “both feet in” is just as satisfying.

There were plenty of other things to love about this episode too. Dean being both flattered and adorably flustered by “the gay thing” seemed way more in character for Dean than any of his previous reactions to being ogled by a dude. Hurt!Sam and protective big brother Dean (and how much did we swoon when Dean called Sam “little brother”?) Aaron, another reluctant hero from a long line of fighters, embracing his destiny along with his smarts and his loyal Golem.

We don’t even need to fall back on how gorgeous the boys were, that’s just icing on the cake for this episode. But okay, smart!Sam in a tweed jacket and sweater vest recognizing a Library of Congress number when he hears one? HOT. Dean wrapped up in a dead guy’s robe still wet from the apparently awesome shower? Ditto. Yeah, there was plenty to look at, and hopefully many many screencaps so we can relive the view repeatedly.

But even more wonderful was the sense of hope the episode left us with. The boys working so closely together, speaking in code, understanding each other instantly. The sense of purpose they’re sharing, and the respect they’re showing each other. For so much of the past few seasons, the Winchesters seemed adrift in a world full of powerful evil, without the weapons to fight it. They lost so many fights, and so many loved ones. Now they have something on their side, and the story that Show is telling is once again their story. Sam and Dean are important, intelligent, a force to be reckoned with. There’s power in the new knowledge they possess, and in their legacy, and in their solidarity.

We’re sure that Show will knock the boys down as soon as they manage to stand up for a while, and we realize that episodes like this one wouldn’t feel so amazing if we didn’t have to endure all that angst and agony to get to them. But for now, we’re going to pour a couple of glasses and put our feet up and just enjoy a little bit of hope. Just like the Winchesters.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Sue Ashworth permalink
    February 8, 2013 5:25 pm

    I am loving your reviews, ladies. You see what I see in the show, and you’ve hit the nail on the head with your observations. I’d just like to add that Supernatural’s OTP has finally confirmed itself. It’s Dean/hot showers!

    Seriously, I loved the show. I’ve loved the past three shows, and I am so glad to see the re-emergence of the values that have kept me watching since the Pilot. I was seriously thinking of abandoning, but no way can I quit now. Bring on the Winchester Family Business. Bring on that bromance we all love so much. Bring on the competent men we’ve been missing, and keep them in character the way the last show did. Thank you, Show!

    • spnfans permalink
      February 9, 2013 8:02 pm

      Amen! And yes, Dean/hot showers does seem to qualify for OTP status🙂

  2. February 8, 2013 6:56 pm

    I loved it, too! I have a few caveats, but at least I enjoyed the episode from start to finish–no surprise since it’s Ben Edlund. Love that man. Like you, I feel he really has a handle on the characters and their arcs. Loved flustered Dean, geeky Sam (warming his hands over the body!), the Golem!! and well, just everything.

    My caveats are the stuff that may take longer to notice the impact. For example, Sam seemed to me to crave a normal life, out of the shadow world he and Dean live in. Both times he made a move out of hunting, he seemed to dislike the whole idea of being involved with the supernatural and just wanted normality. Being a Man of Letters doesn’t address this–he’s still involved with the supernatural, he’s still hunting, just with more scope of using his academic talents, which I agree is no small thing–but isn’t a normal life, either.

    Unless the writers really intend to force the Sam=Winchester, Dean=Campbell to a large degree, Sam’s still a hunter. I hope the writers don’t box the boys in with a label and keep them as complex as they’ve always been, both a mix of brains and brawn, so I’m just a little worried about the MoL identity, even as I enjoy seeing Sam so happy to be surrounded by books.

    Also, I love the new Batcave–yay for water pressure!–but Kripke tried giving the boys a home base before and he decided the Roadhouse didn’t fit the core of the show, and it was really important for the tone to keep the show a road show. So he burned the Roadhouse down. I hope the writers have discussed how much a core change it does make to give the boys a home and know why this time the show will handle that change in tone. I think the show does need a reboot, so I’m not resistant to the change. I just hope enough season two writers are still around to know the dangers of the story line. Bob Singer is there, but he doesn’t always strike me as having the same view of the boys or the core idea of the show as I do. Whereas I was always in tune with Kripke’s vision.

    Anyway, so much to love about the episode and there’s no doubt there’s a sense of invigoration.

    • spnfans permalink
      February 9, 2013 8:09 pm

      I think I was as thrilled that *you* liked this one as I was to like it myself, Gerry! lol I share your hope that the writers don’t make either of the boys one dimensional (Sam=brains, Dean-brawn), but I don’t honestly think they will. Sam is absolutely still a hunter, but he’s doing it on his terms. And Dean loves to hide his smarts under goofiness, but it would be inconsistent characterization to dumb him down. The thing about ‘normal’ is that its definition is relative and fluid, and I think Sam is redefining it for himself now. We’ll see how far his redefinition goes, but it may go a long way toward some sense of contentment for Sam. I didn’t see the Roadhouse as a home base for the boys as much as this place is – it wasn’t theirs, it wasn’t private. This is a place they can come back to, in a psychological sense a ‘secure base’ that allows them to explore outwards and keep hunting on the road, knowing it’s waiting for them. I think that’s still in tune with Kripke’s vision, just as the Impala has been that for them as well. Can’t wait for more of this season!

      • February 9, 2013 10:36 pm

        And believe, I was thrilled to love it! I know what you mean about the fluidity of normal–but wouldn’t it have made so much sense to have had that exploration be part of the story line? Have had Sam realize his definition of normal and desire for “real life” really didn’t turn out to match the reality? That would have paid off the Hunteri Heroici flashbacks so well and meshed with the season theme. Still so puzzled why the writers went with the love triangle instead, so Sam was focused on whether staying with Amelia was fair to Don and the pull back to the hunter life was expressed in terms of his duty, just as it was when he decided he did owe Kevin Tran something.

        Between the love triangle and Sam not having to deal with his actions surrounding Benny, I still have issues with the development of the season. Sadly, Ben Edlund can’t write very episode. He always does such a good jo integrating everything that’s important and getting the characterizations right.

        On the homebase, I think Kripke felt the boys having a home base of any kind was a mistake–he said it changed the tone of the show, which had to be a road show. I think that the show has to reinvent itself and anything’s fair game, as long as the writers think it through. Kripke knew his show pretty well.

        Overall, though, so glad to have an episode I love and I do think there is lots of potential in the new set up.

  3. Liorah Golomb permalink
    February 8, 2013 8:04 pm

    Excellent review, and I totally agree with all of it. I will add one more aspect of this episode that impressed me: the incorporation of Judaic mythology in a manner that made it as normal and valid as any other lore referred to in the show. I’m sure it’s not the first time that Hebrew or Jewish supernatural-related beliefs have been mentioned (it has to have come up somewhere in an “it’s in all the lore” speech), but this is the first episode that’s focused on it exclusively, and I think they did a spectacular job. I wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed to see Aaron appear in a future episode or two.

    Re Sam’s fab LC skillz: I’m a subject librarian working in an LC library, and I don’t know the call numbers in my OWN areas as well as Sam knew his QCs! I’m humbled!🙂

    • spnfans permalink
      February 9, 2013 8:11 pm

      Yes! You’re so right, it was wonderful to see them do that so well, with an equal respect for this lore stacked up against others they’ve included. I’d love to see reluctant hero Aaron and his Golem back again too. I wouldn’t know a call number if it hit me over the head, but I love that Sam does – and that you can appreciate his mad skillz in that department🙂

  4. February 8, 2013 8:32 pm

    I agree — a little bit of hope sure goes a long way. I loved this episode – loved the way the MOTW echoed the boys’ story with Aaron accepting his responsibility for the Golem and the Winchesters accepting their new pied-a-terre and the responsibility that goes with it.
    I think that the introduction of the Men of Letters is a really smart move by Show (haha) as it will allow the Winchesters to expand their repertoires and allow for a lot of new stories.

    @Jair95 I think the new digs – which I call the “Winchester Library of BadAss Awesomeness” will function more like the Cambell compound did for that family group of hunters or like Bobby’s house did for Sam & Dean rather than the Roadhouse. Bobby’s house was a personal place where the boys could come to touch base and recharge, research and so on. I think that the part of the Roadhouse concept that didn’t work well was the public nature of it – other hunters knew about it – ones like Gordon who was a danger to the Winchesters — even the general public could be there, etc The Roadhouse had nothing to do with Sam & Dean per se, their Dad never took them there – it wasn’t ‘theirs’. (Personally, I cheered when it burned down.) This new base I hope will stay private — I hope RS was kidding about them bringing Garth there.

    I’m sure there will still be motel rooms – not everything will be within driving distance! But I really, really like the idea of the boys having a home base of their own.

    • February 8, 2013 9:44 pm

      Hi Melanie! I feel the attraction of Sam and Dean having their own space, too. I just really hope the writers have thought through the ramifications of changing how very much a road show Supernatural is. When Eric Kripke decided the Roadhouse didn’t work, he wasn’t concerned about the public nature of it. His concern was: “”What we realized is that this series is so much about the road trip. Giving them a place to go, runs counter to that and really changes the tone in a way you don’t want.”

      The Batcave is even more of a place to go than the Roadhouse was. I do think the show needs some reinvention, so I am by no means saying the show can not handle changes in tone. But it has to be handled really carefully because being on the road is a core concept.

      Like you, I hope very much this base stays private. Otherwise, there are logical as well as story problems. The boys were advised to throw the key in and walk away, as this stuff getting out to the wrong people would be a disaster. Since nobody appears to know it exists, even Crowley, the last thing Sam and Dean should do is draw attention to it. Yet they are living there. That’s already a bit of an issue.

      So they really should keep it private from absolutely everyone, including Cas. He can be compromised without him even knowing it, as we’ve seen. If anyone should be told, it should Kevin, as he’s so important and in such danger, and the boys have elected not to tell him and keep him at Garth’s. So why would they tell anyone else, like Garth?

      I hope the writers have discussed all these things, because the Batcave is a really exciting addition, but it does change Kripke’s vision.

    • spnfans permalink
      February 9, 2013 8:12 pm

      That’s how I saw the new home base too – different from the Roadhouse, and not something that will keep the boys off the road, but will give them a place to come back to. I’m trusting the writers to use it that way too🙂

  5. Nikkimcalister1 permalink
    February 8, 2013 11:20 pm

    Well said, well written. So nice to see the boys comfortable with each other, smart and trusting each other for their equal strengths. Love them in their new home and can’t wait to see what more is in store!

    • spnfans permalink
      February 9, 2013 8:12 pm

      Thank you! We can’t wait either — bring on the rest of the season!!

  6. February 9, 2013 2:06 pm

    It was very well written & I could see Ben & Phil all over this, esp. Ben. It got Sam back in the frame of mind that he wanted without feeling guilty he’s a hunter. And Dean, just accpting
    him for he is a Man of Letters himself. It was kinda slow going at first, I’ve been sick, but very
    good, I am glad I hung in there. Anything for the Winchesters of course and Jensen.

    • spnfans permalink
      February 9, 2013 8:13 pm

      I think these last few episodes really did feel like what many of us have been hanging in there for — which feels really really good!

  7. bjxmas permalink
    February 9, 2013 8:29 pm

    Another awesome breakdown of everything I loved about this episode, along with Ben Edlund’s skill as a writer, and why I’ll always be devoted to our Winchesters and Supernatural! This does make it personal again and it brings the boys back together, out of love and mutual respect and yes, that core value of the Family Business! I absolutely freaking LOVED it!

    I loved Aaron and his Golem and will be very happy to see them back. They make a great team and the actors put their own stamp on Ben’s very unique and intriging characters. I loved how Aaron’s story parallels the Winchesters to a degree and yet it is different, someone coming into the action later and yet still accepting and embracing his destiny, the legacy handed down by his elders.

    I love the Batcave and think is’t awesome to give the boys access to so much info and weapons and potential. I loved when Ben introduced John’s storage locker and always wanted to revisit that, but this is on an even grander scale!

    Now Jeremy’s tease about the season, about it being their Raiders season makes even more sense. S8 feels like a huge movie set-up with Nazis (the ultimate bad guys…especially when you throw in necromancy), the tablets, scholarly research (Indy was a professor!), kickass hunters doing their heroic save-the-world thing, and now, a warehouse to rival the one in the movie, with limitless intel and artifacts.

    I’m still smiling over all the little interactions between Sam and Dean, the gentle teasing, the same wavelength communication, the small touches that tell us that they are back together, united in the fight,each complimenting the other and fitting together with both brains and brawn. They both possess both skill sets, it’s just a matter of personal preference where they gravitate. Sam excelling and more importantly enjoying the research, Dean perfectly capable of thinking outside the box and coming up with brilliant strategy, but more apt to let Sam dig into the dusty books while he checks out the weapons and revels in the action stuff.

    It’s pretty amazing to be this excited about a show eight seasons in, and yet I feel like I did when I was first discovering the depth of their brilliance. It’s delightful to still be surprised, to not know where the action might take us and yet know where ever the Winchesters go, it is going to be one hell of a ride!

    Thanks again for sharing your love for the show.

    B.J.

    • spnfans permalink
      February 10, 2013 8:13 pm

      Pretty sure we don’t love anything *more* than sharing our love for the show, except for perhaps hearing about everyone else’s thoughts too, so thank you! It really IS amazing to be this excited about a show 8 seasons in – and while I do agree with plenty of the headscratching moments of the first half of S8, they seem to have found their footing and we’re all on the edge of our seats holding on for the wild ride. Bring it!

  8. Kathy permalink
    February 10, 2013 6:59 pm

    Loved, loved, loved this episode. Great review and spot on. I can’t even describe all the emotions I felt at the end.
    -Happy at all the humor, Dean looks, Sam warming his hands over the fire and geek moments for them both.
    -Admittedly blushing over Dean in the robe and schlupping out in the slippers.
    -Heart warmed when Dean called him Sammy and ‘little brother’
    -Feeling it was ‘right on’ when they were in sync with the coded plan and shooting the necromancer simultaneously in the head
    -Bursting with motherly love and joy at seeing ‘my boys’ together in the batcave at the end. Finding a place to put their feet up and be at ease with each other, giving the silent toast and the content on both their faces after a job well done and with each other. Tears of joy streamed down my cheeks and I said out loud ‘Oh Sammy, maybe you can find your peace now!’

    Love you Ben Edlund!

    • bjxmas permalink
      February 10, 2013 7:14 pm

      So very true! I want to add that the music really set the tone for the episode, Jay Gruska and Chris Lennertz always add to the scene instead of stealing focus. When Sam and Dean drive up to the Batcave the music is familiar, one of their standard scores that evokes all the warm memories of times before (here Croatoan and the brothers united with Dean staying with Sam and refusing to leave him!). The end scene is old and yet safe and warm, the old-time music reminiscent of the 40’s time travel to the Nazi’s and Elliot Ness and yet upbeat and perfectly setting the mood, they are home, the past and the present are merged and the Winchester Legacy lives on!

      Supernatural is special not only becaue of the story of the Winchesters, but how every member of the cast and crew excel at their jobs and pulling the whole production together.

      B.J.

      • spnfans permalink
        February 10, 2013 8:15 pm

        Yes! So true, the music underscores the emotions we’re already feeling, anchors us in the familiar that we’ve been craving. I love that SPN is a team effort and a family, fandom included.

    • spnfans permalink
      February 10, 2013 8:15 pm

      Oh good, so I wasn’t the only one getting emotional at that ending scene??🙂 All those moments were so satisfying – I think I was as content as the Winchesters🙂

  9. February 10, 2013 11:06 pm

    They’ve always gotten along and broken up, and then made up. It’s like a real brother-brother relationship. That’s been there since the beginning. Maybe it’s just me but when fans say they seem to be getting along more than they have in the past few seasons, I feel like they forget it intentionally just so they can complain. Last season wasn’t all that great (it had plenty of good moments though, let’s be fair) but Sam and Dean were on the same page damn near the entire time, and the first half of season 6 doesn’t count since soulless Sam and our Sam are essentially two different characters. That said, I do like seeing them in harmony again.

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