Supernatural 8.12 Review: In Every Generation There is a Daddy Issue…

SupernaturalDaddy Issues

Dean has always had a complicated relationship with his father. His desire to act like a good little solider is a cornerstone of Dean’s personality. And while Sam and John clashed constantly over Sam’s desire to leave a life of hunting, Sam has come to terms with the life his father led and the life he raised them in (see episode 5.13 “The Song Remains the Same”). But it’s Dean that has felt guilty over John’s sacrifice to save his life and his own struggle to prove himself in John’s eyes. His defense of John and his choice of hunting in this episode is not uncommon. Dean has generally been a member of the “John did everything he could” camp. And he’s not wrong. I’ve never really understood this occasional vilification of John that has occurred over several seasons of Supernatural. Yes, the man was far from perfect. But there’s no doubt in my mind that he was doing the best that he could under the circumstances.

Could John have taken the time to create a more normal life for his sons at times? Could he had gone easier on them? Yes, of course. But all the way back in episode 1.20 John acknowledged that he pushed Sam and Dean (and sometimes pushed them away) all in the name of protecting them. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but that doesn’t always negate the good intentions. In the end, John gave up his life for Dean and no matter what we learn about his parenting techniques, I don’t think anything will ever cancel out that sacrifice. Not only did he die for Dean, but he willingly gave up his chance at revenge – the thing he had been seeking for over two decades – as well as the weapon that could achieve that revenge, to ensure that Dean would live. If that’s not love, then I just don’t know what is.

In the end, Henry understood Dean’s defense of John. He knows that he – inadvertently – informed John’s personality with his absence and he said that “I didn’t know my son as a man, but having met you two, I know I would have been proud of him.” It was obvious, in the end, that Henry’s absence didn’t only help shape John’s personality, but Henry himself was reflected in John. The Henry we saw was a know-it-all at times (sound familiar?), but ultimately a man who knew the value of family and of sacrifice for the greater good.

The Motherlode of Knowledge

I’ll be honest, I didn’t see this whole MoL thing coming. I thought Henry would be a typical hunter, but I love this twist in the mythology. It’s hard to keep things fresh as a show advances in years and Supernatural is no exception. But the tablet mytharc has felt like something new that connects well with what we’ve seen over the years and the MoL discovery feels the same because it’s a twist on a family that we sort of know well. Now, I’ll admit, my one nitpick about this treasure trove of information that Sam and Dean will seek out is that it’s basically a bunker full of Bobby and/or angel powers. It’s a little convenient, right? All of that information now at their finger tips. And yet… I’m not really complaining. Because it’s a cool twist that has the possibility to open up a lot of doors for the boys. In particular, I think this information will appeal to Sam, who has always been drawn to this type of thing. I see Dean as happy if they can use this information to act on it, whereas Sam is more drawn to accumulating the knowledge in the first place.

The Continuity Issue

I’ll admit, there’s a great deal about this episode that doesn’t really fit in with what we know. I was complaining the other day on Twitter that it makes no sense that John grew up without a father as was said in this episode. Because I had been watching episode 4.03 as research for a recent slide-show, I instantly recalled a scene at the beginning of that episode where a fellow diner visitor tells John to “say hello to your old man”. So…what old man? A stepfather? And yet, nothing about what was said in this episode indicates that John had any father at all after Henry left. So yes, that bothered me. Not only that, but the somewhat out-of-left-field existence of Men of Letters (unknown to hunters and even Bobby before now) was a bit strange. That aspect isn’t retconning, so to speak, but it’s surprising.

SupernaturalBut here’s what I do know: I was emotionally satisfied with this episode, but maybe not intellectually. I didn’t like the continuity nitpicks, but I did like Henry and his emotional connection to the boys and the entire discussion of family. And, because of that, I’m willing to overlook certain flaws. After so many seasons of universe building, Supernatural will occasionally step on its own toes. It’s not going to ruin my overall enjoyment of the episode or the show as a whole. I did enjoy the good aspect of the continuity: tying John’s intended legacy into the whole cupid speech that John and Mary were meant to be together. Sam acknowledged this at the end of the episode when he said that his parents were destined to be together because they essentially made the perfect team: John would have been the “brains” and Mary would have been the “brawn”. The perfect unity of Hunter and Man of Letters. Of course, we know it didn’t happen like that, but I appreciate the show bringing that aspect full circle.

In a Better Place

Given the recent tension between Sam and Dean, I’d be remiss not to bring it up one more time. In last week’s episode I mentioned that Sam and Dean seemed to be in a much better place with each other. Yes, the boys are not necessarily one for the big talks that sometimes desperately needs to happen with them, but they’re working on repairing their relationship. This week’s episode solidified that even further. The issue of family – and of John – is the very thing that brought them back together back in season 1 and, time after time, it has united them. Dean’s declaration to Henry that he refuses to let harm come to Sam is one that we’ve heard before, but the vehemence behind that statement is always strong and feels like a balm after the conflict between them. And while Sam wasn’t forced to save Dean in this episode, he spent a lot of it in a position he’s been in before: as his brother’s biggest supporter and partner.

I think that we’ve reached a point where it won’t be necessary to remark on the brothers’ relationship each week. I think they’re in a very good place now and I look forward to seeing how the new MoL information will help unite them, as will the tablet quest.

Read spoilers from Bob Singer on the MoL bunker and what comes next for Sam & Dean.

Despite the rather sad ending to “As Time Goes By”, I feel so hopeful for the future of Supernatural. Season 8 is, and continues to be, very enjoyable. The show continues to feel renewed and creative and even if I nitpick over things, it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of the season. Let’s bring on the Ben Edlund episode next week! I feel a streak of great episodes on the horizon!

Watch a preview for the February 6 episode of Supernatural and check out our newest – and very apropos – slide-show: Most Memorable Winchester Relatives Scenes.

Visit our Supernatural page for spoilers, sneak peeks, reviews and more.

 

  • Carrie

    I don’t like that they’ve swept some of the brothers’ issues under the rug and are ignoring it. It’s not only Dean to blame for what happened, but he’s the only one who has admitted any mistakes. Sam needs to admit to his mistakes and he needs to recognize Dean’s sacrifice. Until that happens, the relationship will still be broken under the surface.

  • King B

    i just wish i liked this episode as much as others seem to have. it felt forced and at the end i really didn’t even care that henry died. and they really need to stop adding in new things and not explaining them.

    since when did angels have feathers that could be “taken”? and whose feathers were they? and why were they in the trunk? who put them there and why? how did they know it was an angel feather in the first place? does it matter whose angel’s feather it was since angels obviously have different power levels? what?

    this whole men of letters business is giving me buffy 2.0 with watchers and hunters/slayers deal and i am not here for that. if spn can’t come up with something please don’t steal from one of the better genre shows from the 90’s. cause it’s not like they are gonna flesh out their world and it will just be some trite set up where sam is the ultimate supernatural scholar and dean is the bestest hunter ever. spn pls.

    i’m sure they’ll flesh things out and hopefully i can get excited about the new mytharc but i gotta say right now i’m more interested in the tablets than i am about some retcony winchester legacy. john being a civilian was part of what made his story tragic. you know since mary clung to him so much since he represented a normal safe life away from the supernatural.

    idk, maybe i need to watch it again but as of now i am unimpressed and bored of where things have been going. i don’t care if the brothers are back to clinging at each other if the story surrounding them makes no damn sense.

    • http://www.tvovermind.com Clarissa

      Based on what Singer said and what we’ve seen, the Winchester legacy is not really a separate mytharc, but will tie in to the main tablet mytharc. I think what the bunker will do is provide Sam and Dean with even more tools to follow through on the tablets. Imagine all of that knowledge and information at their fingertips as they mount their offensive against Hell in order to close the gates. This information helps them in their quest, it doesn’t really create a separate story.

      Also, what we learned doesn’t actually change what we know about John (except for the whole daddy issues). John DID grow up as a civilian because his father never had an opportunity to train him as a Man of Letters. Just because we learn that it was his destiny doesn’t mean he actually fulfilled it. So that doesn’t realy change John’s story at all, it just means that there was an intention for him to become something that never actually happened.

      • King B

        yes, but logic suggests that since the spn world only cares about the brothers that the winchester legacy mytharc will be the lead. and i just am not excited nor impressed with the buffy rip off of men of letters and this bobby library 2.0 of information. *shrug*

        and unless they get on the ball and connect the tablets to the new winchester whatever i don’t get why i’m supposed to care about the tablets when so far they’ve been ignored more than they’ve been discussed this season.

        i’m just saying this new spin did the opposite of getting me pumped for the second half of the season. i’m waiting to see how they tie everything together but so far, no.

        history has shown that all this will amount to is sam and dean being the center of the universe again and everyone dying or being forgotten so that they can stare at each other as the season finale fades off to black. and then i’m left wondering why i even tried to be engaged in kevin, amelia, benny, linda tran, charlie, garth, castiel, naomi, tablets, etc if in the end none of it was gonna matter anyway. cause now sammy’s the bestest supernatural scholar thanks to super convenient legacy library and dean now is the bestest hunter ever cause he has more knowledge than any other hunter ever~. oh, oh they might really shake things up and have dean be the smart one with the books and all that. eh? that’ll be ground breaking.

        the thing about making grandpa winchester some supernatural whatsit is that it takes away the idea that john came from a family as far removed from the life as mary’s was entrenched in it, for me. which was part of what made their story equal parts tragic and beautiful. which can still somewhat hold true since henry was out of his life at a relatively young age but still. it’s the idea that the winchester’s were the polar opposite of the campbells. not the watchers to their slayer… i mean men of letters to their hunters.

        • http://www.tvovermind.com Clarissa

          This is pretty funny, because I’ve seen a whole faction of fans complaining about the fact that the show isn’t even about the brothers anymore. Regardless, the search for the tablet is every bit as personal as the Winchester legacy. If you’ll recall all the way back in 8.01 Dean explained to Sam that closing the Gates of Hell is more about revenge for the demons that killed Mary, Jessica and a lot of their loved ones than anything else. Even Singer said that it was personal for them.

          If you don’t like the Men of Letters, that’s fine. No one said you have to like it. But I don’t see how you can so cleanly divide the MoL legacy from the search for the tablet and insinuate that one will take precedence over the other as if they’re not somehow connected in a way that will ultimately benefit the tablet quest. Have they been slacking a bit in the tablet quest over the first half of the season? Yes. But this often happens with the mytharc when they establish it early and then move away for a bit. History dictates that the show will come back to it very soon and it will be a driving force going forward. There’s not 2 mytharcs here, there’s only a new discovery that will help THE mytharc.

          Also, the fact that the boys have now discovered a family history that didn’t, in any way, inform their own story still doesn’t affect the way that John was raised or how he got into the life or how he raised them. Henry’s history doesn’t matter to any part of the Winchester story except from this point onwards (because they will access the information). It doesn’t change how John was raised and how he got into the life. I don’t believe it affects John’s story at all. An intended legacy has no real impact if no one knew about it until now. Henry’s profession didn’t rewrite history, per se, it just added something new going forward. And you’ll recall that no one knew about Mary’s hunting history until season 4, so we had years to get used to the idea that this seemingly normal family was targeted for reasons unknown. Did you feel that learning about that suddenly negated the tragedy of her death or changed your entire perspective of her in a negative way?

          • King B

            my point is that because they have slacked on the tablet quest in order to have episodes with vampirates, larping, hazy stilted flashbacks with gross pasta salads, cartoon hijinks, passive aggressive slap fights over benny, and motws this new spin feels disjointed to me. i already said that could very well be because it’s newly introduced and also the distaste over how close it reads as a rip off of buffy for me.

            if they had kept up the pace on the tablets and kept it to the forefront with sam and dean actively involved then it wouldn’t feel like two separate mytharcs that are gonna be be connected together. instead of one continuous and evolving mytharc that had a wider reach than one previously thought. like say Y.E.D. eventually turning into the vessel arc.

            i don’t have to insinuate anything. i was making an assumption based on the 12 episodes and spn cast/crew interviews to date. so far the tablet mytharc has not been the focus of the brother’s screen time. enter new WINCHESTER LEGACY.

            what part of the mytharc do you think would be the leading force on a show where only two characters matter to the narrative overall? one that requires an ensemble cast that actually gets used for more than a “kevin’s on garth’s boat doing stuff” line at the 1 minute mark of an episode? lol i don’t think so.

            but it’s not like i think my opinion is even remotely close to fact nor more valid than others. i just personally don’t see any other way that this will work out that will make me as excited as i feel i should be after last episode. cause while i get what you mean i just really can’t agree or see it from your p.o.v. right now. like i said maybe after a couple rewatches it’ll gel for me but right now… nah.

            and me not liking that henry is a m.o.l. has nothing to do with changing john or mary, as singular characters, but more to do with it changing a part of the framing of their relationship as a whole that i enjoyed. it has to do with my interpretation of that relationship and to have that changed took some of the love i had for it away. is that a deal breaker, nope. all in all that was the least of my problems with the episode and more of an aside really.

  • Jessica

    Hi Clarissa. Once again, very good review. I agree with your assessment. Just a couple things. I don’t think it’s too far out of left field to say that nobody knew about the MoL. It looked to me like Abadon killed all of them that night (except that one guy she blinded) and the only living one was Henry and he was transported to the future. It could be that there is a sort of network of MoL, but if they’re all as secretive as Henry was being, then I don’t find it too far-fetched that no one knows about them in present day. Besides, they could be calling themselves something else these days.

    I also had a rather interesting thought while watching the episode. One of the characters said during the episode that Abadon was a hired gun. The thought popped in my head that maybe Crowley sent her after the key so that he could locate the other tablets. Now that he knows there are others, he’d be looking for them, especially the one that deals with angels. And if he were to be able to get his hands on the wealth of information the key provides access to, he would be unstoppable. Crowley is a crafty little bugger, and I wouldn’t put that scheme past him. Just a thought.

    As an aside, I don’t think Supernatural has necessarily tried to vilify John. I think they have emphasized that John was a difficult, complicated, revenge-obsessed, alcoholic. Those were some of his faults. But the show has also emphasized that he was a hero who loved his sons and did the best he could given the pain he was going through. And unlike Sam and Dean who have each other to lean on, John didn’t have anyone. And despite his difficult nature and other shortcomings, John raised two very good men. I think it falls into one of Supernatural’s themes which is very) flawed heroes.

    I have been loving S8 thus far and it seems like Supernatural has found new life under Jeremy Carver. I’m excited to see what lies in store for the rest of the season.

    • http://www.tvovermind.com Clarissa

      Jessica, let me address your points one by one:

      (1) I get what you’re saying about the secrecy surrounding the MoL and it makes sense, but it still feels a teeny bit like a surprise development that was obviously made up now. Henry did say that they’ve communicated with some hunters in the past, so I just find it strange that we’ve gotten no knowledge of it before. And yet, I get the point was to create something separate but related to the show as a whole. It doesn’t really bother me all that much.

      (2) I like your point about Crowley. It’s possible that he hired Abbadon or that Lucifer or Lilith sent her to gain access to this information. Although, if Crowley hired her then wouldn’t he have sent her back in time which means that technically the future may have been changed? The time travel mechanics of this confuse me! I’m interested to see which demons knew about the MoL and how it will fit into the tablet quest.

      (3) I don’t necessarily think the show has tried to vilify John, but I’ve seen a few fans do it over the years and occasionally the matter pops up in the series. Maybe vilify is not the right word, because I don’t think they’ve made him out to be monster.

      • Jessica

        I guess my thing with the Winchesters not knowing anything about the MoL is that it doesn’t seem too far from what we know of them (the Winchesters). What I mean by that is they aren’t really a part of the “hunter’s network” if you will. Until they met Ellen at the Roadhouse in S2, the Boys didn’t even really understand that there was such a thing as a network of hunters. They’ve been pretty isolated their whole lives, so even if other hunters do know about the MoL, there’s no reason the Boys would know. If the MoL have such disdain for hunters and only share information with a select few, perhaps it’s just hunters that the Boys (and Bobby) don’t know. That’s kind of something I’ve wished the show could’ve done better over the years; give us an idea of the scope of the hunting universe. That’s part of why I objected so strongly to destroying the Roadhouse in S2. I’m still not entirely over that yet, but that’s another discussion for another day.

        As far as time travel, I’ve given up trying to understand the mechanics of time travel. It would seem to me that traveling through time at all would mess up timelines left and right. So I just don’t even try it anymore.

  • Suezee

    I think it’s possible that hunters did not know about the MOL because they were all dead (except that old guy), and there were no new MOL’s, like Sam and Dean to carry out the legacy. In the Highlander series the Watchers did not appear right away. Duncan had been alive for 400 years and did not know about the Watchers that whole time. So, if you look at it this way it remains possible for Sam and Dean not to know aout the MOL.

    • http://www.tvovermind.com Clarissa

      Yes, I can see how that would make sense but, at the same time, it’s kind of strange that there is no mention of them in any of Bobby’s books from before they died, for example. Even angels were mentioned in Bobby’s books when season 4 first rolled around.

      Anyways, it honestly wasn’t that big of a deal to me. I know that they messed up continuity a bit with this episode but I found it very enjoyable and I don’t really mind the errors.

  • http://Twitter.com Lori

    First off …..”IF you don’t like it Fritz, DON’T WATCH!!! Maybe the writes can bunjee a script perfect for you, or YOU can write a perfect episode huh? Yeah that’s what I thought.
    I Love SPN, it’s the BEST show on air and comparing it to Buffy the idiot slayer is a driving joke. They if anything compared it the Star Wars so get it right. If your a “fan” then you would just be happy this season is 1000 times better than Season 7 with Dick which wasn’t great but I still am loyal and will always love SPN. This episode was every bit as good as season 5 at its peak. I will watch until this show is over and then some. Nobody is perfect as I’m sure you yourself aren’t so stop criticizing and just enjoy the TV SHOW ok???!!! Or don’t watch it’s that simple-

    • http://www.tvovermind.com Clarissa

      I’m not sure who you were referring to in this article, but if you meant me (the writer of this review), then I thought it was obvious that I enjoyed the episode and I don’t know why you would direct this to me. I had a few comments about continuity, but I thought it was great and said that.

      If you were talking to someone else, you can hit “reply” to someone’s specific comment and it will appear under their original comment.

  • -.-

    EHM there are some strange kind of resume of all powers on earth and angels are not interested???

    Hi i’m a Knight of Hell….HI im an archangel..BOOOM

    Simply LOL

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