In "Time After Time," Sam and Dean are divided by 68 years of time when Dean is transported back to 1944 along with the god they were hunting: Chronos. And yet, the bond Sam and Dean share is showcased beautifully throughout.
It's captured in little moments.
As we watch the brothers set up their latest squatters house, they don't seem frustrated or destitute. Sure, Dean wants to hear that the bathroom has more than a hole in the floor, but there doesn't seem to be the anger or exhaustion he showed in "How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters." This house may not be theirs, and it may not be ideal, but somehow just by their behavior towards one another it becomes like home.
Rock, paper, scissors makes its return. It's funny that, while Dean did not choose scissors, Sam managed to win anyways. This gives Sam the sole bedroom available. Dean's disappointment in losing is boyish and a treat. There isn't any tension between them over this. Instead, he whines almost playfully, "How does paper beat a rock? It's stupid."
Later, after they've questioned the "unreliable witness," they return to their house to do more research. Nothing they find either in John's journal or on the internet seems to fit the man's story. Sam, does, however, find a strange catalog of mysterious deaths strewn throughout multiple decades. The scene feels comfortable, as the boys settle into their familiar routine.
That is, until Dean asks to see the lap top.
Sam quips, his light tone teasing, "What, are you gonna look up more anime, or are you strictly into Dick now?"
Instead, Dean taps into the local camera feeds, aiding their investigation with a handful of key strokes. Sam's teasing tone turns to that of astonishment as he asks, "How did you do that so fast?" Dean's expression becomes smug and he teases back, "A little tutorial from Frank. Don't worry. We'll pretend this never happened."
As Dean shows off his new skills again, punching some more keys to pull up the other security cameras around the other location, Sam spots their target and pulls the laptop back. Dean pouts and whines, "You can't let me bask in the glory for one second, can you?"
The banter is easy and free. There's no secrets keeping or anger contained within. It is simply the brothers playfully interacting while they work. It's a breath of fresh air both brothers need.
As they stake out their target's house, Sam and Dean spot the God behind the attacks and split up to search the alleyways he disappeared into. Dean catches up to him first, and he spots him in the midst of his last feed. Dean charges and tackles him, only to be trapped with him as he transports both to 1944.
The division of time has removed him from his brother, and yet, the connection between Sam and Dean is just as tangible.
Dean is disorientated at first, caught by the police. He ends up in an interrogation room, facing down the cops, to realize he's in 1944. He also gets caught up in his admiration of Eliot Ness, the famous law man. He is surprised and delighted to realize that his hero, the picture of which he has largely shaped by the movie Untouchables, is in the same line of work.
Meanwhile, Sam is desperate to get him back. His phone rings, and he exclaims in frantic hope, "Dean?"
It's not his brother, but Sheriff Mills. She asks Sam where Dean is. His expression is of quiet disappointment as he explains what happened. Since she had given them the case, she offers her assistance. Sam almost refuses, but she won't hear of it. She brings numerous boxes from Bobby's storage, and they set to work on researching Chronos.
Sam and the Sheriff put together the information they need to get Dean back---and yet, Sam is frustrated. This confuses Sheriff Mills, as this should be good news. Sam explains, "No, it's more like we need to get the time on their end right to the exact second." Upon her response, "Or we get an angry God but no big brother?" Sam's expression becomes one of quiet devastation, and he says softly, "And he's trapped there forever."
The exchange highlights just how close these two brothers have been and still are. Its a subtle example of the bond, tugged out in soft spoken dialogue and slight body language. The crestfallen look on Sam's face upon knowing he might lose Dean forever strikes a deep chord---one not lost on the Sheriff as she segues into sharing some alcohol given to them by Rufus via Bobby.
Dean, still enamored with his new time and surroundings, is swept up into the hunt. He seems to be enjoying himself with the novelty of hunting with Ness. Yet, despite all of his excitement, his present troubles do not desert him in his time travel. He expresses to Ness, "But they just seem to keep dying. To tell you the truth, I don't know why I'm doing much of anything anymore."
It reveals the cracks in his facade that have been crumbling away all season---and while he's been with his brother, he just can't seem to share that. Ness scoffs at him and gives him a piece of advice he'd be well to take with him back to 2012, "Everybody loses everybody. And then one day, boom. Your number's up, but at least you're making a difference. So enjoy it while it lasts, kid, 'cause hunting's the only clarity you're gonna find in this life. And that makes you luckier than most."
It isn't until he gets the weapon necessary to kill Chronos that Dean realizes the truth: he could be stuck in the past forever. He ends up seeing a stack of letters on his way out the door, and stops. We see him, later, go to a house that looks familiar. It is the same house that he and Sam squat in back in 2012. He fast talks his way into the house, and proceeds to march up to the bedroom he knows his brother won through "Rock, Paper, Scissors." Setting it up to match, he lies down and looks around, spotting a corner of the molding: the perfect hiding place for something he intends to give to Sam.
Back in the present, Sam has exhausted himself doing research. The Sheriff comes to find him asleep at the table. She shoos him upstairs, and in a mirror image of Dean, we see Sam on the bedroll, glancing over at the same molding. This time, Sam's name is carved into it. He rushes over, pries it open with a knife in the same gesture his brother did in 1944, and pulls Dean's letter free. When he bounces down the stairs, the boyish glee on his face cannot be contained. The Sheriff is about to chide him for coming back downstairs so soon, but stops to take and read it.
While she does so, Sam is bouncing on his heels, a wide grin on his face. He might not have Dean back just yet, but the tools are in his hands---all from his big brother himself. They aren't in the same place or time, and yet they are working together on the same page, helping one another out.
The last line, from Dean, puts the punctuation mark on it: Take care of yourself, Sam
It may be possible to remove the big brother from the right time, but it doesn't stop the big brother from looking out for little brother by any means.
However, before Sam can celebrate Dean's return, they must talk to Lila Taylor the woman mentioned in Dean's letter. There, they hear what happened on November 5, 1944. It shocks and devastates Sam. Lila informs them, upon seeing Dean's picture, "Ethan choked the life out of that man."
They might get Dean back to the right time, but would they manage to get him back alive? It would, solve the problem of making certain Dean is touching Chronos when summoned, but it isn't a guarantee. It is, however, the only option they have, and so the Sheriff and Sam set up the necessary ingredients to work the spell.
Dean arrives back to Lila's house in 1944, searching for Ness only to be jumped by Chronos. They grapple and fight, only to have Ness walk in holding a gun on Lila. It quickly spirals out of control as both Dean and Ness force Chronos to admit that he isn't Ethan, that he isn't human, and that he has killed two people in town---including one that went to Lila's diner. She turns against him and calls him a monster.
Just as Dean is about to deliver the killing blow to a distracted Chronos, he turns, and unleashes his fury. He starts to choke him, angered at the turn of events. At the same time Ness manages to throw the stake Dean's way, Sam and the Sheriff's spell has been worked, and they start to warp back to 2012. Upon arrival, Chronos is irate, choking and attacking Dean ruthlessly.
Sam immediately jumps into the fray, only to be knocked back. The stake is nearby, and before Chronos can turn his full attention back, Sam delivers the killing strike. He snarls, "Was that the best you got?"
It's fitting that Sam gets to be the one to deliver the blow. Chronos may have accidentally taken Dean back with him, but he had attempted to kill him for being a stowaway, too. Even so, his story is tragic.
The guest stars for this episode each delivered beautifully.
Linda Darlow gives us a no nonsense Ezra Moore. She gets straight to the point, refuses to take crap from either Ness or Dean, and sets about helping them on their hunt. She seemed nonplussed and unimpressed by Dean's litany of the future, as if a time traveler walked through her door everyday. It was funny, as Ness mentored Dean in the episode, it was clear that Ness saw Ezra as his. He might not have had a choice in hearing her advice, but he certainly took it. Her use of the word "idjits" tugs on the heart, and seeing Dean react made it hit home all the more. If she wasn't back in 1944, she'd make a great resource for the boys. She managed to also pull a fast one on Dean, finagling a quick kiss on the lips!
Melissa Roxburg presented a true 1940s bombshell. Lila Taylor proved to be Chronos's femme fatale in every way. She was soft spoken, sweet, and beautiful. She was the very reason the God of Time ventured back to 1944 so frequently. Roxburg managed to show Lila's innocence well. She had simply fallen in love with a man, hoped to settle down, and have a happy life with him. Her horror upon seeing Ethan's true identity was etched on her face.
Sheriff Mills came to life in Kim Rhodes performance. She was sympathetic, motherly, and tough. Her scenes with Jared's Sam tugged at the heart. The way her voice hitched on words, such as Bobby's name, and her soft spoken line, "It's weird, huh? It's like their life's a big puzzle. You just keep finding pieces of it scattered all over the place," stands out. Even without her lines that she had gotten them into this case, Rhodes shows the Sheriffs integrity in the way she interacts with Sam. She may be out of her depth, but she will do whatever it takes, and follow his lead to bring the case to a successful close. It would seem, in Bobby's absence, Sheriff Mills has decided to join the Winchesters as a more frequent ally.
Jason Dohring brought us a sympathetic and tragic Chronos. His lack of control over his own powers, and his deep love for Lila was felt in his pleading at the the end. While it was inevitable that he would die, I couldn't help but feel sorry for him on some level. Dohring's Chronos was soft spoken and gentle with Lila, until he realized that the hunters in Ness and Dean were closing in. His devotion to her shone in the scene when Lila tells him that he forgot to take out the trash. It's such a human task, and yet for her, he, a God, would humble himself to do it. His soft, "Sorry, honey. I don't know where I left my head. Be right there," resonated with such love. Dohring made it clear that Chronos was trying to protect her. His attacks on Dean and Ness were about her---and retaining the ability to return to her once his powers toss him through time.
Nic Lea was the real treat in Elliot Ness. Famous for his role as Alex Krycek in The X-Files, he captured Ness beautifully. He certainly made him fit the Supernatural world wonderfully. He clicked with Ackles, and their chemistry was almost instantaneous. Lea brought charm, playfulness, and eagerness to the character that made me want to see him come back in some way. He had excellent comedic time in response to Dean's movie references and modern slang that took it to another level. The deadpan response, "I am," to Dean's "Talk to me," is perhaps my favorite comedic exchange between them. The bad cop/good cop scene played between him and Ackles was brilliantly done. Ness's admission that he went after Capone for having the "best hooch in Chicago," made me laugh. It rolled off of Lea's tongue with such nonchalance. He provided a good mentor to Dean, even if it was brief.
Jensen Ackles brought a side out of Dean that hadn't been seen for awhile in this episode. He was playful, fanboyish, and energetic. His joy upon meeting Ness for real was tangible and it was hard not to get caught up with him. Dean's revelry in finding himself in 1944 was joyous. Ackles isn't bad looking in his usual Dean attire by any means, but something about him in the 40s suit and smoothed down hair fit him very well. The brief moment that Dean was down, attempting to deal with his loss of direction, Ackles managed to pull on it subtly, taking the short lines given and make them heartfelt and powerful. Throughout seven seasons, Dean has said the word "awesome" in a variety of ways, and this episode made certain to capture as many as possible. There was his sarcastic awesome when Ness opens the file and explains the deaths, his pleased with himself awesome upon seeing himself in the suit, and his excited awesome upon seeing Ness's weapons stash. Ackles seemed to enjoy playing with this element of the episode.
Jared Padalecki brought out Sam's emotions wonderfully in this episode. Seeing him and Ackles play off one another showed just how much chemistry these two truly have. There was a comfortable nature to Sam while with Dean, and as he shifted into frantic little brother, we saw that fall away. Jared manages to tease out Sam's emotions in various expressions. His tight frown and downcast eyes belies how distraught Sam is about Dean's time travel. His joy is as contagious upon getting Dean's letter. Whatever Sam's feeling, Jared manages to show that to the audience. His best solo scene, perhaps, is that when he finds Dean's letter. The inability to find a comfortable position belies the mental struggles going on in Sam's mind.
It seems we go from 1940s Dean to shirtless Dean in the next episode. I'm not going to complain!