Before we get into details, I need to thank the writers for leaving Chuck out of these most recent episodes. He's been driving me nuts all season, so not having to see him makes it easier for me to like an episode. His presence is felt, no doubt, but he's not there in person, chewing up the scenery. We feel his presence, but he doesn't need to be there in person. It's really, really nice. So thanks, show. I appreciate it.
Now, let's talk flashbacks. This is only the seventh time we've seen a flashback to Sam and Dean's childhoods. This shocks me because we have so much context for what their life was like growing up. But being able to see it, on-screen and in the text of the show, gives us a whole new look into what it was like for Sam and Dean. I liked the flashbacks in this episode because they weren't really focused on the monster, at least in my opinion. The flashbacks that we saw were focused on the hunt, definitely, but the two that stood out to me were the one at the beginning of the episode when they get dropped off at the motel, and at the end, when they are leaving the motel. They solidify the relationship between Sam and Dean in a way that feels really good coming to the end of the series. The only issue I had with the flashbacks were the two actors. Maybe it's just me, but I'm stuck seeing young Sam and Dean as Colin Ford and Brock Kelly from "After School Special", so seeing these two actors playing the roles threw me off a little. Maybe that's just a me thing. I also am intrigued because this is the most recent flashback we've seen in terms of when we met our characters. We met Sam and Dean in 2005, and this went back to 1993, which is certainly a long time before, but it is the most recent flashback we get to see of Sam and Dean before the series begins (right? I might be wrong. Comment below!).
Now, onto characters.
My goodness, Sam just can't catch a break here. We didn't see a lot of Sam this episode, but I think the moments we did see made an impact. The two that stood out to me were the scene between him and Caitlin in the motel and the scene in the Impala at the end of the episode. The first stood out to me because of what Sam didn't say. Caitlin says, "I'm sorry. Don't you ever want to be... I don't know... normal?" Sam replies, "Well, we help people, you know? Save them. I'm just sorry we couldn't... save Travis." It's interesting to me that Sam didn't say anything more here because we see him in the flashback, desiring more. We see him with his craving for normalcy, which we know has been there from the beginning of the show and we've gotten to see Sam evolve through it and learn to be happy with the life he has. I'm intrigued that we didn't get to see Sam talk with Caitlin about his journey to accepting his life as it is and moving past that desire for normal. The second is interesting for a whole other set of reasons. We've seen how secrets have ended up in the past between the boys, and this one feels a little different to me. Maybe because this has to do with someone who Sam sees as a son, but I think Sam's reaction is warranted and accurate. Dean not telling Sam is the most recent in a long line of things that Dean deems Sam unable to handle. It shocks me that this is the way that Dean thinks because we've seen Dean trust Sam with things a lot more mission-critical than this is, but he won't tell Sam about the fact that Jack is going to die. But let's keep the focus on Sam for now. His anger at the fact that Dean kept this from him not only makes sense, but I think it is a little bit of it being the straw that broke the camel's back. Sam (and Dean) has a lot on his plate, and I think that this might have been the thing that made it impossible for Sam to deal with everything. Jack has been like a son to Sam, and he feels as though he's already betrayed that trust once with the Malak box, and now he has to go off and let his son die? This might just be a bridge too far for Sam. But, I have a funny feeling that we're going to see that Winchester determination to find another way come into play in the near future.
Oy vey! Dean Winchester, why must you hold everything in? It is something that I don't think I will ever truly understand about Dean. There are parts of it that make sense, sure. He has to be the big brother. He can't put his burdens on others. Those make sense to me. But lord, sometimes I want to beat Dean with a baseball bat and force him to talk to someone. We see it in the flashback and in the present part of the episode, Dean feeling the need to keep things secret from Sam, and both times, we see that lead to nothing good. In the flashbacks, we don't get to see it until they're all grown up, but Dean didn't tell Sam about the bodies. I get it, and Sam was forgiving, but I think that secret, on top of the Jack secret, was enough to push Sam over the edge. Sam has a lot of patience for Dean's weirdness, but the one thing that I think even Sam doesn't understand about Dean is his desire to keep secrets. Sure, Sam's done it too, but Dean takes it to a whole other level.
Moving on to Billie. Initially, when Billie made her first appearance in Season 11, I really liked her. I thought she was badass and it was a treat to see an entity like a reaper be so determined to see the Winchesters off into their next life. As we've seen Billie change over the last four seasons, I've grown to like her even more. I loved her appearances in "Advanced Thanatology" and "Funeralia," and I think her overall presence throughout these seasons has made the show better. But even going back to the beginning of Season 15, I think she's been a little off. I honestly couldn't give you a reason, but I think she's been a little too forceful in her manipulations of Jack, Cas, Sam, and Dean. Dean in particular has had a lot of interactions with Billie over the seasons and I think the entire interaction between her and Dean in this episode was a little annoying. Just last episode we saw Dean complaining about the "cosmic dicks" in his life, and yet, here he is, allowing Billie to push him around. I get it, she's Death, but we've seen Dean be much ruder to other beings of similar power. I just felt like this whole season, Billie's role has been a little off. Her focus on destiny and Sam and Dean as the messengers of G-d's destruction feels a little off for me, but I am willing to reserve judgment until the rest of the season plays out.
I'm not quite sure what my feelings are about the episode as a whole, but in short, I think these characters were true to themselves, and that's the thing that I'm most concerned with, so overall, I think the episode was generally a success. Wow, only four more episodes to go, y'all. Let's gear up.
As always, comments are open down below and I'm happy to interact there, in addition to on my social media. I'd love to hear what you all thought of the episode.
Enjoy more of Kate's seasons 14 and 15 character studies and episode reviews by visiting her Writers' Page!