(This was originally posted on Blogcritics.org but is no longer on the site. I’m reposting it here in order to get a full archive of my SPN reviews.)
I remember when The CW switched “Jus In Bello” and “Mystery Spot” in season three. Even though “Jus in Bello” was filmed first, the switch was done because the show was going on hiatus due to the writer’s strike and the network thought that “Jus In Bello” would be a stronger finale, especially since many feared it would end up being the season finale. Eric Kripke called the switch a “happy accident” because “Jus In Bello” was better after “Mystery Spot.” Sam was withdrawn and dire the entire time, which fit after his long ordeal with The Trickster.
This time, the network switched the airings of “My Bloody Valentine” and “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.” The show was supposed to come back from winter hiatus on January 14th, but the network pushed it back a week to January 21st. That left the dilemma of them having a Valentine’s Day episode that wouldn’t air during the week of Valentine’s Day so the change was necessary.
Sadly, there were no happy accidents this time. “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” feels really off airing out of order. “My Bloody Valentine” had such an explosive and shocking ending so it was silly not to see at least a minor amount of fall out from Sam’s detox and Dean’s meltdown. The brothers carrying on from that unscathed and back in normal mode didn’t seem right.
Lack of episode continuity aside, when judged on its own this one is a big winner. It is rare when a secondary character is given the chance to shine on this show and the opportunity for Jim Beaver is long overdue. Yes, his struggles were well portrayed in “The Curious Case of Dean Winchester,” but in this episode the stakes are higher and he is given a lot more to work with.
This week’s theme is zombies, but it isn’t your average zombie story by a long shot. This is Supernatural after all. The show often excels with this concept of taking a plot device that’s existed for years in horror and twists it to serve not only the unique story line but to add a believable human element. As we know about humanity and small towns, there are quirks. So, when a dead person rises from the grave and kills the person that killed him, it’s interesting how we as viewers don’t find the idea absurd, how Sam and Dean Winchester don’t find it absurd (except for the zombie getting away with the murder), and how many of these townsfolk don’t either. Digger Wells is the best example, finding the idea of this type of payback amusing and sharing the story like its town gossip. I’m very sure this didn’t happen in Dawn of The Dead.
Stereotypes are king in this small town of Sioux Falls, where Bobby Singer has a label as the town drunk. I imagine any hunter taking up residence in any town would get that label. When the dead start rising though, all of a sudden Bobby isn’t so crazy anymore. That doesn’t change though how bittersweet it is to see Bobby in this loving domestic situation. He is clean and groomed, the house is clean, and he has the love of his life taking care of him again. Why not overlook the fact she’s a zombie? The bible after all doesn’t specify that the rising of the dead is bad. Her pies are delicious and her bad humming is endearing. The entire situation shows how much this man has lost throughout the years and that glimpse of having it all back, even for a few days, makes it all that much harder for it to disappear.
Carrie Ann Fleming makes a wonderful Mrs. Singer, for even in undead form she remembers her primary job; making her husband happy. She like the other zombies doesn’t want to question why she is back. Her frank talk with Dean is one of the strongest scenes in this episode because it demonstrates how protective both of them are of Bobby. Even when things turns very bad, she makes the right decision, but again has to put Bobby through a tough task of killing her. I can’t recall a more heartbreaking line in a while than Bobby’s cracking voice at the burning funeral pyre. “She was the love of my life. How many times I gotta kill her?”
Bobby’s reveal of Death’s plan as told to him by Karen isn’t all that shocking but it really affects us anyway. Death chose Sioux Falls to get at Bobby, to stop him from interfering in Sam saying yes to Lucifer. So, did Death succeed in breaking Bobby’s spirit? His inner strength is certainly in question at the end of this episode and Sam’s worried expression reflects our concerns. Bobby isn’t alright now but will he be able to bounce back?
Sure, the Bobby scenes were incredible, but for me one of the most memorable parts comes from the plucky sheriff herself, Jodie Mills (played by Kim Rhodes). When Sam pulls out his gun, ready to take care of the tough task of killing her homicidal and ultra creepy zombie son, her simple grasp of his arm and panicked stare tells her troubled story of loss as well. She is a tragic innocent victim in this tale and my heart breaks as equally for her as Bobby.
Another issue that comes up again is the Winchester Brothers going their separate ways. Dean focuses on saving Bobby while Sam worries about saving the town. Unlike season four where this disconnect had them at odds, they’re passively accepting that they don’t see eye to eye and are going to do their own thing. While this might seem like nothing to the casual viewer, I have to wonder what this could mean when the apocalypse spins further out of control and each brother has their own destinies to face. Will they go down together or apart in attempt to reach the same end goal?
Of course the zombies had to go bad just for those that wanted the typical showdown of the undead getting their heads blown off. They aren’t disappointed. Dean, Bobby, and Sam get their share of people eaters in the end. Considering this is also a Jeremy Carver script (yep, he still owns me) there must also be funny. Word of caution Sam and Dean, if you’re going to pull off the whole FBI thing, right down to giving the sheriff your fake supervisor’s name, make sure your fake supervisor doesn’t live in the same town and the sheriff easily knows his voice. Also, the line of the night goes to Dean. When finding out the horseman Death is behind this, Dean again comes up with the perfect reaction. “Awesome. Another horseman. It must be Thursday.”
My overall grade, an A -. All that’s left to be said is my plea to Warner Brothers when putting together the season five DVD set. Please switch the episode order back.
(My apologies for the lateness of this review, but a glorious vacation got in the way.)