Bringing Us All Home: Supernatural’s Baby
It’s the day after the day after as I write this, and I’m still basking in the afterglow of this week’s Supernatural episode. In fact, all of fandom and even some of the entertainment media is basking in the afterglow. It feels, as someone on my twitter timeline said, like the old days. When I’d go online after an episode of Supernatural aired and everyone would be squeeful, unanimous in their gleeful appreciation of the Best. Show. Ever.
It was like that Wednesday night, as post after post after post went on and on about “Baby”. I tweeted that my episode review would be really short this week: Perfection.
I did mean it about my one word review, but of course I can’t limit myself to that, though it’s completely accurate. I don’t have any criticisms (I know, hard to believe) – except that it should have been a million times longer. I have never had an hour go by so quickly, and I immediately wanted to beg TPTB for another episode just like this the second it ended. From the looks of social media, I wasn’t the only one begging for that.
Much of the cast live tweeted the episode, which always adds to the fun and to the sense of family. Knowing that they were all just about as excited as we were for it made it even more fun to listen in on.
Briana Buckmaster (who, as you know from our interviews with her here, we adore) was fangirling along with the rest of us when Jensen suddenly tweeted her a “Looking good, B.”
Briana: DONT TALK TO ME WHEN IM WATCHING YOU AND TALKING ABOUT YOU
Ruth Connell, tweeting along as she watched, also had a reaction to Ackles’ performance.
Ruth: #meandean reversing #baby #jawclenchingbeauty #developingacrush #what?! #SupernaturaI #donttellackles
Our lips are sealed, Ruth. After all, we kinda get it.
Jensen also live tweeted, decked out in full Supernatural gear like any good fan.
Jensen: Hey @rthompson1138 you keep writing scenes like that…we might have to go another 100 episodes. Now cut it out.
To which Robbie replied that if they keep acting the hell out of those sort of episodes, he might have to do just that.
Anyway, since I don’t have any actual criticism, let’s just run through the episode and savor every single glorious minute of it, shall we?
We begin with Rob Benedict’s voice as the narrator, and already I’m grinning. It’s a call back to Swan Song, to many years ago when Eric Kripke was still behind the wheel, the first time we stepped back to appreciate the Impala and all she means to our boys. All she means to us.
The army men in the ashtray. The legos in the vents. Sam and Dean’s initials carved into her side.
The sentimental moment is shattered by those initials scratched and battered and splattered in blood, the Impala’s windows broken, Dean unconscious and handcuffed in her back seat. What the hell? Clearly this episode is not gonna be a walk in the park. But then again, it wouldn’t be Supernatural if it was.
Rewind and we get the scene most of us knew was coming – Dean giving his Baby a loving car wash. We also knew that Jensen Ackles was apparently wearing a pair of very short shorts as he leaned over to sponge her off and then reached up high to scrub…. Okay, getting carried away with the imagination of what that probably looked like. Because that’s all we got as far as the short shorts go – we had to imagine it because we didn’t SEE it! What the hell, Show? Do we have to wait for the gag reel???
Cheated. Totally cheated. *sigh*
Jensen tweet: Hopefully no one ever sees those shorts I was actually wearing.
Me: You are LITERALLY the only one hoping that.
But we got both boys lovingly washing Baby.
And then we’re off and running. Or driving, more accurately.
Entertainment Weekly has been raving about this episode, especially the fact that it took big risks with a completely unique structure and format and perspective. Not many shows would dare to shoot an entire episode from the pov of a car! But of course, Baby is no ordinary car. Eric Kripke referred to her as “the third lead” from the first episodes, and she has always been a main character in the eyes of the fandom.
Not many shows would dare because not many have the kind of crew that Supernatural has – people who can rig cameras to just about anything, and who will move heaven and earth to make a writer’s vision come to life.
Not many shows have Robbie Thompson, who GETS Sam and Dean almost as perfectly as fans do. He can write them in the way that I recognize; they are the Winchesters I fell in love with ten years ago. Not many shows have Jared and Jensen, who can pull off a five page scene of just dialogue taking place in the back and front seats of a car and make you hang on every word and wish it was about 500 pages longer. Or Misha Collins, who can ‘phone it in’ and still make me crack up with his perfect delivery.
Supernatural is not many shows.
When I say that this episode fetishized many of the Show’s iconic objects, I don’t mean it in a negative way – in fact, I mean it in the most positive way possible. The Impala herself, sleek and black and beautiful. Strong and capable and not afraid to get her hands (or wipers or doors or seats or windows) dirty (or bloody). Resilient, as she takes a beating again and again (much like her boys) and yet struggles to get back up and keep going – keep fighting (much like her boys). Everything about her, from her ancient tape deck to the initials in her paint, is iconic.
Other important objects are also appreciated, in this episode and by the fandom. The army man in the ashtray. The Legos in the vents. The Green Cooler, who has made an appearance in many of the important moments the Winchesters have shared. She too is here again, holding their beer (and smoothies) but pitching in to hold the decapitated snarling head of the MotW when needed.
The inanimate objects that surround the Winchesters are a lot like them. Willing to do what it takes, to get dirty and bloody and battered, but keep doing what needs doing.
And then there’s Dean and Sam themselves, in extreme close-ups that made me have to catch my breath, because goddamn, they are just so beautiful! We’re invited to share in that beauty as the camera stays right on top of them, giving us an endless array of gorgeous gifs that we can stare at to our heart’s content.
In one of our interviews for ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’ with Supernatural’s amazing director of photography, Serge Ladouceur, he told us that Jared and Jensen are so good looking, that he can light them as he would light a beautiful woman. That they could take just about any type of lighting and still look good. Many years later, he can apparently still do that. And I’m really grateful he did.
The first third of the episode is just the brothers being brothers. It sounds like such a simple, inconsequential thing, and yet it’s anything but. It’s what we’ve missed – longed for – for years and years, as Sam and Dean were torn apart and turned against each other again and again. Just watching them side by side in the car, rolling down the road and arguing about the lack of beer in the cooler, was so satisfying.
Sam’s caught out face when Dean demands ‘Where’s the rest of the beer?’ was priceless.
They talk the whole way, sometimes unimportant everyday banter, sometimes things that are more important. They tease each other, but it’s not mean spirited, it’s just the opposite. Dean calls his brother “Samuel” and Sam responds with the predictable, “It’s Sam.” But it’s full of affection, a call back to a private joke that’s theirs alone. These are the moments we don’t get to see, the ones that bond Sam and Dean as family.
Fandom responded with a wholehearted “OMG these are the brothers I’ve missed – this is the Show I fell in love with!”
With the sort of humor that illustrates why I love Tumblr, this post went around the interwebz almost immediately in response to the episode.
• Fandom:You should bring back bitch/jerk.
• Writers:All right.
• Fandom:Also maybe have Sam and Dean have a real conversation about Sam getting infected?
• Writers:Okie dokie.
• Fandom:How about throwing in some adorable moments where the Winchesters just laugh and talk and drive?
• Writers:No problem.
• Fandom:There should be a moment where the brothers fall into each other’s arms. We love that.
• Writers:So do we.
• Fandom:Either Sam or Dean should point out that Baby is their real home.
• Writers:On it.
• Fandom:Okay then. Um… what about Matt Cohen? We love him. Don’t suppose you could bring him back?
• Writers:Tell ya what: we’ll throw in a scene where Dean accidentally sees Sam naked. How would that be?
The point is, other than us not seeing any Sam nakedness, this episode gave us things we didn’t even know how much we were needing, until they were right there. Thank you, Robbie Thompson.
“Good times heal all wounds,” Dean says, and I feel like he’s talking to us too. We’ve been through hell right along with the Winchesters, and we’re a fandom dying for a good time. Time to kick back with our favorite characters, laugh along with them, see how much they care about each other. I feel like we’ve been needing that forever.
Dean disappears into the Roadhouse for those good times; Sam insists he’ll stick to research. But when the sun comes up, it’s Sam in the back seat with a waitress minus her uniform, and Dean back to being the big brother he was a million seasons ago when he smirked as Sam kissed Sarah goodbye in Provenance. Sam’s grown up quite a bit, but Dean is still that proud big brother, gleeful at the chance to bust on his little brother but unable to suppress the smile that says so much.
I do have to lodge a protest here though. We’re seeing things through Baby’s eyes, so why the hell didn’t we get to see Sam get naked in the backseat of the Impala??? Did Baby avert her eyes in the interest of propriety? I don’t bloody think so. For godsakes, Show, this was the perfect opportunity for some shirtless Sam! I needed to see that more than I needed to see the (perfectly lovely, but that’s not the point) guest star put her uniform back on. That and the short shorts were the episode’s only fails – but make no mistake, they WERE fails.
I don’t have any real need to see either of the brothers hook up other than the possibility of some Winchester exposed torsos, but it seemed like part of their healing here. Part of getting them back to being the brothers we met in Season 1. Besides, it got us that glorious next scene.
Sam: Don’t Night Moves me!
Oh, but Dean does. And Sam is as helpless to resist his big brother as anyone would be, singing along to Bob Seger.
“In the back seat of my brother’s ’67 Chevy…”
The boys singing and laughing and mock fighting and GRINNING at each other nearly bowled me over. I smiled so wide it hurt, and I absolutely could not stop. How long has it been since we got to see this?? How long since Sam and Dean’s joy in each other was palpable, practically rolling off my tv screen and knocking me to the floor? It seems like forever, and it felt like a drug, instant euphoria. Gimme more, Show, gimme more!
I also love that in the middle of teasing Sam, Dean manages to throw in a genuine compliment.
“Classy and thoughtful as always,” he says, and Sam just smiles.
The Winchesters once again have a little conversation about relationships, Sam wondering if Dean would ever want something, “not marriage…but something…with another hunter…” That’s pretty open ended, but Dean seems reconciled to one night wonders, even if Sam still sometimes questions it.
Dean tells Sam to get some rest, and the next thing we know, Sam’s waking up to another song. This time it’s Judy Collins – and Matt Cohen!
I mean, John Winchester!
Sam is as gobsmacked as I am – yay for not being spoiled!
I texted Matt Cohen immediately to tell him how awesome he is in that scene! Lit as beautifully as the other Winchesters, in gorgeous close-up, every word seeming to carry great importance. He even sounded more like Jeffrey Dean Morgan than Matt Cohen, I swear. That entire scene was perfect.
“Dean has taken good care of her [the car]. Seems like he’s taken good care of you too.”
That made me tear up. The one thing that Dean Winchester would love to hear. He’s done a good job; taken care of Sammy.
The rest of John’s (Lucifer’s? Michael’s?) message was more frightening, about the Darkness.
“Only you boys can stop it.”
What?! Why? I love that we don’t know, love how ominous that was. Sometimes Show just makes me shiver. And that’s a good thing.
And then we get the scene that everyone has been waiting for. Jensen and Jared have told me how much they loved it multiple times. The episode’s illustrious writer, Robbie Thompson, has told me how much he loved writing it. The anticipation has been building for weeks, and sometimes when the thing you’re waiting for actually happens, it can’t stack up to all that ooooh I can’t wait. This time? No way. The reality was even more glorious than the imagination. We actually GOT IT.
We got the brothers living their life, the way they have since we joined them over a decade ago. Sam’s long legs curled onto the Impala’s backseat, Dean’s onto the front. The brothers at opposite sides so they can face each other and chat comfortably, the green cooler providing the refreshment.
“Winchester Motel,” Dean says agreeably. “We do have room service.” [With a little bit of Ackles’ actual Texas twang thrown in, adding to the sense of relaxation and ‘home’]
There’s no sense of deprivation here at all; in fact, it’s the opposite. The brothers are together, safe in the Impala, settling down to sleep where they’ve slept countless times throughout their entire lives. There’s a comfort and familiarity to the scene that makes us feel we’re privy to the most private moments in the Winchesters’ nomadic lives, seeing a scene that has played out again and again and again.
The only difference? Now we’re there too, seeing her boys through Baby’s eyes. She views them with affection, with a protectiveness that mirrors the way we also see them.
Jensen told us about that scene several times in the past few months – that’s how much he loved it. (See our meet and greet reports here for more)
Jensen: (smiling) One of my favorite scenes this season – and I think Jared would say the same thing – is in the ‘Baby’ episode. It is a BM [brothers moment] scene, but not at the end of the episode to wrap up like it usually is. It’s just the two of us in the car, going to sleep. Me lying in the front seat and Jared in the back. And there’s no movement, it’s just two brothers talking about the past. It was like four pages of dialogue, just talking. I always wonder why they don’t do more of that.
Both Jared and Jensen told us how much they were looking forward to this episode, and Jensen talked about it again at the next meet and greet.
Jensen: It’s just the brothers having a chat. For five pages. That one was a crane shot; they used a roofless car. It took three or four hours to film.
Now that I’ve seen it, it’s clear it was one of Supernatural’s striking crane shots; the kind that Kim Manners used to such wonderful effect.
Jensen said that a lot of the episode was filmed with smaller cameras, since their usual larger ones won’t fit in the car. Something like a Canon SLR, but with very high resolution. They can mount it on a sandbag and put it in the wheel well so it can shoot up at the boys.
Sometimes in this episode, Jensen said, it was just him and Jared in the car, they left the crew behind. It was just the two of them, shooting the shit. (Apparently those scenes, if they make it into the gag reel, will require lots and lots of bleeps…).
I can imagine those four hours of shooting, Jensen and Jared stretched out in the Impala, just talking. Or driving into the distance and leaving the crew behind, just them and Baby. It really says something about how those two work together, after all this time, that filming this episode and those scenes was something they both loved.
I could probably go on and on about that scene forever, because it was something we’ve never gotten before. Something I didn’t know how much I was craving until it was there, served up on a silver platter and looking so incredibly gorgeous I could barely breathe. I mean, look at them! Our boys.
Before they go to sleep, the Winchesters do something else they hardly ever do. They TALK. Really talk. Sam tells Dean about the vision he just had, and he knows about the visions of the Darkness that Dean has been having. He finally opens up and admits to Dean that he was infected too. Dean is upset – he brings it up twice afterwards, as though he’s still trying to process it – but he doesn’t over-react.
“You didn’t even tell me,” he says softly, and I can hear the hurt. It’s what most of us would have said; the dialogue rang true. But the Winchesters seem to be done with over-reacting when it comes to each other. They listen, they show genuine emotion – anger, fear, hurt, whatever it is – but they don’t shut down or turn away from each other. I’m waiting for Dean to bring up what the Darkness said about them being “bound”, but I wasn’t expecting everything to come pouring out in one scene.
Instead, Sam and Dean also end up talking about their past, and their family. The bond they share that will never go away, the memories of their shared childhood and the impact it had on both of them. Dean dreams about their dad, of course he does. He’s in the Impala, and Sam’s in the backseat, and Dad is riding shotgun “but there are no shotguns”. It’s a wistful dream of the normal life Dean never got to live, one that he probably vaguely remembers from those four years of childhood. It’s heartbreaking in its simplicity, in the modest things Dean wishes he had that most of us take for granted from our childhoods. Sam listens intently, almost hanging on every word, and then he shares too. Sam has the same dreams – of normalcy. But his are of his mom, the woman he doesn’t remember from his own past but met long after she was already lost to him. Those are the moments he was cheated of, that he wishes for.
My heart simultaneously broke and nearly exploded from affection in those moments. Our poor, broken beautiful boys, who deserved to have what they dream of. And at the same time, our brave, determined resilient boys, helping each other to always keep fighting. And in this episode – finally – letting us see that, as hard as their life is, there’s joy and love in it too. I just….thank you, Robbie. Thank you for that.
Goddamn it, where are those tissues?
As Sam and Dean curl up on the Impala’s welcoming leather seats, Sam pauses and looks at his brother.
Dean takes it in, and we know he hears the message as clearly as every single fan did.
I imagine the sound of all those fans cheering or sobbing or jumping up and down was heard from space at that moment. We’ve waited forever to hear those words again. They became iconic the moment Dean and Sam said them to each other in the pilot, a decade ago. We heard them again in WIAWSNB but they were one sided, Dean caught in his dream world and Sam not returning them.
But now? Now we got to hear it again. From both of them. Reciprocal, equal, together. The Winchester version of ‘I love you’.
Seriously, where are those tissues?
Improbably, there was also a lot of humor in this episode too, and it all worked flawlessly.
Dean correcting their intel and mentioning a proverb from Aesop.
Sam: [incredulous face]
Dean: I read.
Me: Smart!Dean is so damn hot.
The valet parking scene was also funny, especially Dean’s indignant face as Jessie drives away, already going too fast and having a great time. I can’t blame those women for wanting to take the Impala for a spin, though I was also simultaneously just as indignant as Dean at them kicking up so much dust from her tires. That was an odd little scene, but it looked like the actresses had a lot of fun – and of course, we get the purse in the backseat that the plot required (along with the hairpin that Sam’s waitress acquaintance left behind).
The running joke of Dean making up names for the MotW, as he loves to do, also worked perfectly. It was a great opportunity for Ackles and Padalecki to show off their ability to make the funny scenes work as well as the emotional ones. Sam’s adamant refusal to be pulled into saying “werepire” or “ghoulpire” – and later Castiel’s similar lack of appreciation for Dean’s wit – was hilarious.
Misha Collins had joked with Jared and Jensen at a recent convention about how he’d been “phoning it in” lately, so the realization of exactly what they meant added to how funny the Cas-on-the-phone scenes were. It was a brilliant way to bring Cas into an episode that took place entirely in the car, while he was at the bunker. Who knew Misha could be that deadpan funny just on the phone? I imagine voice acting is in a sense even harder, but it so worked. We didn’t need to see Castiel’s face for his delivery to hit just right and make us laugh out loud.
The scene where Dean fights off the deputy while Cas is still talking on the speaker phone inside the car was absolutely hysterical. Jensen with the physical comedy, as Dean takes a slip and fall, and Misha with the spot-on voice acting.
Cas: Dean! Dean, what’s going on? Are you okay?!
Dean: [finally staggering back to the car] Turns out I did kill the deputy.
Me: Supernatural fandom: the most patient fandom in the universe.
[We waited 8 years for Dean to finish that joke. And you know what? I’m guessing every single one of us remembered the reference.]
I laughed my way through the rest of that scene – only on Supernatural can your hero be bloodied and battered and yet you’re still laughing. Dean’s annoyed expression when he sees that the deputy’s head is still snarling at him from where it sits on the Impala’s windshield? Priceless.
What he does next made me spit out my drink, as he casually turns on the windshield wipers. That’s right, Baby is a major player here. She knocks him off her like he was a fly. You go, girl!
The green cooler is a major player too. Dean empties out the rest of the beer and the ice and plop, in goes the severed head. I think I said “Ewww” out loud here, as the poor green cooler was defiled. But like all the iconic objects in the Winchesters’ lives, she’s a hunter too. She’s kept them in food and drink all these years, gave them a place to sit while Dean taught Sam to fix the car or Sam brought Dean a cold beer to hold to his busted face. Now she holds onto the monster’s head, blunting its snarling. Dean gleefully snaps a picture and sends it off to Cas, who in this episode is playing a bit of a Bobby role, doing the research for the boys as he rests up in the bunker. [No, I’m not clear why he needs to rest up when he seems capable of healing Dean, but whatever. It worked.]
Dean: Thanks, Cas. Way to come off the bench.
Cas: What bench?
Another striking difference about this episode – and one that made all the scenes work better, whether they were humor or fighting or emotional – was the lack of background music of any kind. The only music we heard was whatever was played on the Impala’s tape deck. The episode really was, 100%, shot from the Impala’s point of view. And it worked, perfectly. Sometimes Show veers close to slapstick-y with its music cues, which to me always distracts and ends up making the scene LESS funny. Ackles and Padalecki and Collins and this talented crew can bring the humor without any help, and have it come across as thigh-slapping funny.
The fight scenes seemed even more raw and gritty and real without any music too, just the jarring sounds of glass breaking and punches landing and Winchesters trying to get the upper hand. And the emotional scenes carried so much weight with just the boys’ soft voices, the awkwardness as they struggled to communicate with each other highlighted by the lack of any other noise. The fact that they both persevered, determined to bridge any gap between them, added to the emotional impact of those scenes. Boy, did it.
Then we get the ghoulpire woman coming to in the car. What she says about family, and how you do anything for them, articulates the theme of both the episode and the Show. For both the woman and the Winchesters (and, I would argue, the fandom) it eventually becomes all about getting back to family.
But before that happens, we get another improbably funny scene, where the ghoulpire woman is just whaling on Dean while we can see Sam through the Impala’s windshield chatting up the Gas n Sip cashier, oblivious to his brother’s plight. That woman totally had the upper hand with Dean too, literally yanking him into the backseat and pummeling him like crazy. He ends up handcuffed in the backseat, bruised and bloodied and somehow still looking so ridiculously hot that the close-up made me gasp. It’s all kinds of wrong, but there it is.
Dean is yanked up by his collar, and I do not find that hot either. No.
Anyway, they have some conversation of the likes that would only happen on Supernatural, about monsters being afraid of the Darkness and Sam eating his brother… It’s only when the MotW mentions Sam being in danger that Dean loses all semblance of casual conversation. His eyes go flinty with determination, and next thing you know it’s Smart!Dean again as he MacGyver’s himself out of the cuffs with the waittress’ hairpin and crashes the car. The purse in the backseat comes in handy so he can put a penny in the monster’s mouth per Castiel’s instructions. And it’s the Impala, as much a hunter as her boys, who deals the final blow – cutting off the deputy’s head as Dean slams it repeatedly in her door.
It’s horrible and bloody and disgusting, but I’m cheering as he does it – for Baby as much as for Dean.
Jensen also talked at one of the recent meet and greets about the choreography of all those fight scenes – which often took place INSIDE the car! Not sure there are many other crews who could pull something like that off, but every single one of them worked.
Once Dean finally has things under control, he pats the Impala’s back seat and apologizes.
“Oh Baby, I’m so sorry.”
The newly sentient woman climbs back in, horrified, terrified.
“My kids,” she gasps.
“Sam,” Dean whispers.
The Impala, broken and bloodied and battered, tries gamely to start, at first without success. Dean closes his eyes, desperate to get to Sam, and tries again. And again. And then she does it; she turns over and rumbles to life, and Dean gives her a kiss and says to the woman, “Hang on.”
This is the other scene that Jensen told us about a while ago, how he pulled off a “reverse 180” with a guest actor in the car. It was his idea, he said, and as he went to do it, she turned to him with some trepidation and said, “You’ve done this before, right?”
He laughed and said the car stalled on him the second time, but in the end it only took him three times to do it perfectly.
Of course, he did it. He’s Jensen Fucking Ackles.
They race back to find their loved ones, the mom running to her kids, Dean running to Sam. He’s as battered and bloodied as Dean, and falls into his brother’s arms as Dean gets to him, leaning on Dean as they limp to the car.
Dean, protective as always, says they need to get back to the bunker so Cas can fix Sam up.
The brothers, in many ways, are on more equal footing now than they’ve ever been, and that’s evident in what Sam says next.
“Only if you let him fix you up too.” His eyes say he means it, will brook no argument. Sam’s drawing a line in the sand. You take care of me? I take care of you.
Dean sighs, but he doesn’t actually argue. He can hear Sam’s protectiveness now and accept it, and with it, allow himself the beginning of some self-forgiveness.
“Okay, mom,” he allows. “Let’s go home.”
“You know what?” he says, slapping his hand against the Impala’s dash, “We are home.”
That’s it folks. If I didn’t need that entire box of tissues before, I would have needed it then. Hearing those words – especially from Sam – pushed me right over the edge.
Robbie knew to end the episode the way it needed to end. There are things that are iconic in the Supernatural universe, things that all fans know and want and miss desperately when we don’t get them. In the first seasons, Kripke usually ended an episode with the Impala and her boys driving off down the road, the people they just saved watching them go. That’s how Robbie ended this. Baby carries her boys off, battered but not broken like she is, but still fighting, as Bob Seger once again plays on her tape deck.
Please, can I have more?
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links on this page – as Robbie Thompson demonstrates