If there is one thing Supernatural can do, and do very well, it’s high apprehension. After ten years of watching the Winchester boys, more often than not I’m on bated breath sometime before the end (usually by the opening credits if we’re being honest). The other thing the show does well, honed after over two hundred episodes, is comedy. And if About a Boy was anything, it was a good blend of these things.
After an opening scene of a large column of light and a disappearing man the obvious problem might be angels – if not for that puddle of clothing remaining. The hex bag was immediately suggestive of witches, a villain that has so many possibilities by this point and always comes down to a question of motive.
Hansel and Gretel were interesting, if short lived villains. Admittedly, I still wasn’t sure if Hansel was good or bad until the very end – whether he was playing the witch and faking out the betrayal or not. Our chef was a tad over the top and it was almost guaranteed she was going in that oven before the show was over, given which fairytale we were dealing with, but it was a good story nonetheless.
Before their untimely demise, a delightful nugget of information revealed to Dean and Sam that Hansel and Gretel were visiting “the Americas” on request of the Grand Coven to dispose of Rowena. Snarky as ever, Dean latched onto this immediately and filed it away for later use. I particularly liked the way this not only explained why Hansel and Gretel had never been caught by a hunter before and allowed for the Winchesters to catch Rowena’s scent in a roundabout way. Well played.
Credit where credit is due: Dylan Everett was exceptional. With closed eyes, ignoring the vocal differences, this was nearly perfect portrayal of Dean from mannerisms to intonations to movements. I must admit, I was hesitant when I heard the premise for this episode. Having characters aged, in either direction, is not one of my favourite dramatic plots. That said, it was well used here. Dean was still Dean, regardless of the packaging. The jokes were funny, the chemistry between Sam and Dean still felt legitimate and overall, this was thoroughly enjoyable to watch.
There are many tired ploys when it comes to de-aging characters on TV shows. Supernatural is more clever though. Instead, we simply got to see Dean be Dean as normal (but in a fourteen year old body) and we got to see the reactions of the environment around him, including Sam. Kudos to Jared for the thunderstruck reaction to young-Dean – I think the exchange in the motel stands as my favourite in the episode. Both actors pulled it off perfectly: Sam is absolutely incredulous while Dean is trying to carry-on as though he isn’t a pubescent child asking where the grenades are and packing ammo to go. Second favourite scene is of course Dean shifting the seat closer to the dash in the car and practically ramming Sam’s knees through the window in the process. Ahh, great times.
Young Dean, as previously stated, was still Dean, but with different packaging, meaning no Mark of Cain. This inspired debate about allowing the spell to be left on Dean, which was his preference, though clearly distasteful to Sam. The conversation in the car wasn’t exactly resolved – Dean’s opinion was obvious with Sam never outwardly stating his. He made his clear through the passionate anger towards Hansel in demanding he explain turning Dean back. I was curious to how this would be resolved – obviously we couldn’t be left with young Dean forever – and I have to say I’m very pleased with the results. No fuss, no muss. The choice wasn’t dragged on and debated – Dean knew the situation, grabbed the hex bag and was back. Done. No convincing, no discussion – just Dean as he was, MoC and all. Maybe with a little added self-control too, it seems.
Tina, our damsel in distress of the week. It was nice to see Dean bond with someone who didn’t die by the end and who wasn’t a romantic interest in the end either. The connection the two had with the past hotel was fun, almost a red herring (an old unfinished hunt? Coincidences are rare in Winchester-ville!) but just a fun fact in the end. Both versions of Tina were well fit throughout the episode and believably injected in the storyline. Tina wasn’t overly damsel-y, and the way her story concluded was just kind of perfect, because we couldn’t give Dean the do-over so somebody else who needed a childhood redo and recognized the value in it should get one – so why not Tina, the sweet woman with three ex-husbands and $50,000 in debt? In fact, if she resurfaced somewhere along the way in the future, as young Tina, that would okay too.
This episode had more room for some brother moments too. They may have been small, but they counted significantly, at least in my books. For starters, the episode opened on Sam restating his faith that Dean could learn to control himself. Dean left the bunker and was convinced to hunt again, on Sam’s confidence in him alone – not his own personal belief in himself. Much like old days, Dean is driven by Sam’s faith in his big brother. Will he need to have his own self-belief? Yes. But for now, this drew him out. By the end, Sam’s trust proved well placed: Dean turned himself back into adult Dean, because he needed to save Sammy, and did not lose control when he took out Hansel and Gretel; which Sam pointed out to him. As Sam said, not having the Mark is the goal – but ultimately, he wants his brother with him too.
The episode was fun, appropriately angsty and definitely laid out the plot for the future, in addition to the Mark of Cain removal project – though if the Grand Coven/Rowena Hunt and the MoC Removal Project dovetail by the end, will anyone be surprised? The opening showed us how damaged Dean still was from last week’s encounter with Charlie and his brief period as an adolescent without the MoC left him just a bit lighter, so that by the end he is with Sam and shamelessly driving off to, appropriately enough, Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. And who doesn’t love the image of our boys smiling in the Impala riding away on a sunny day for a change?
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