There are two ways to watch The Winchesters "The Tears of a Clown". First, there’s just enjoying the episode as a standalone, having no background as to what happened earlier. In that aspect, I liked it. I really, really thought I’d hate it. I went into this thinking, “OMG, not another clown episode!” But this did turn out to be different. Good different, too. It seems a shame that this show is hitting its stride right at the end, but that does happen to a lot of new shows. I just hope it’s not too little too late.
I thought the whole episode was fluid and blended really well. A plot and B plot transitioned back and forth without pissing me off too much. I didn’t care much for plot B, but at least it didn’t take too much away from the main plot. The conflict between John and Mary felt real and not forced. Carlos got to be a hero, which I loved, since he and Lata were the only two in this scenario not losing their sh*t. I also wasn’t scratching my head over the lore and the way it was presented this time. It made sense. Well, as much sense as a ghost clown story would make. I think I only rolled my eyes a couple of times this episode, and one of those was when Millie popped up at the end to deliver good news that they abandoned this whole John wanted for murder plot. How did she know where they were? It not like they could have called her from the open field on the pay phone. Come to think of it, how did all the other loved ones get there? Only Roger's brother made sense.
The visuals are what sold "The Tears of a Clown". Those stunning shots under Limbo’s circus tent really pulled the audience into the moment, which for me sells a story so much better. It did remind me a lot of the underworld in “You’re Lost Little Girl,” except it was a brighter and happier version. So many times visual storytelling has become a lost art so kudos to the set designers. To me, the tent symbolized an alternate universe, one under a veil. The maze of mirrors sold the creep factor, even if they were a little too brightly lit for my liking. The carnival scenes sold the authenticity too, even if I don’t care for carnivals that much. I even loved the motel room decor. On the flop side, the witches den or whatever that hangout was supposed to be got a huge “meh” from me.
Let’s address that Ada side of the plot. Ada has been so confident all season. So, you put her together with a bunch of pretentious witches and now she’s nervous and groveling? A mere amateur? If she wanted to save the world from the Akrida, couldn’t she have led with trying to appeal to them to help? Why aren’t the witches worried? They know the Akrida are unstoppable, but they aren’t quivering in their boots either. Why is that? I don’t know why they even let her in the building.
The Rowena scenes were a little clunky and weird, even if Rowena’s presence eventually made sense. Sure I was glad to see her again, but the whole insertion of Rowena in this story seemed off, much like everything else in this whole show. It was disappointing to me that she showed up just to provide the proverbial “device that fixes everything just in time for the finale.” Yawn. How many times has that happened in the original show? It’s another overdone TV Trope that will likely backfire because they always do. Also, it requires a piece of Ada’s soul? Another heavily borrowed device from the original series. I'm betting Millie talks her out of it.
Having said that, let’s focus the rest of this review on the whole Limbo the Clown thing, which is the second way to view this episode. Trying to piece together all those hidden clues that might add up to something. It’s become quite a maddening exercise. This plot was loaded with symbolism and themes that have been prominent through the whole season. Nightsky touched on all that in her review, so I won’t dig into all that again. While there were plenty more signs and hints, it was still nothing that connected dots as to what’s happening here.
From what I can guess, it’s likely Dean got involved with an occultist (Djinn, Trickster?) of some form and through dark magic (Rowena?) got himself in some sort of pickle that would help him avoid his grief and pain. Looking for happiness forever. However, Dean Winchester has never been too settled with the status quo. He’s happier when there’s an enemy to fight, when ordinary people can be heroes.
Is this about Dean though? Is he wishing eternal happiness for his parents instead, which would make him very happy? After all, if you remember from the original series, forever happiness didn’t seem real to Dean. That reality was something he desperately needed in his life. Remember when he was possessed by Michael, he was kept happy in his mind by owning a bar yet still fighting monsters? Notice how John and Mary both said that forever happiness wouldn’t seem real after their Limbo adventure? Even if it did feel good? Reminds me a lot of Dean’s realization in “What is and What Should Never Be.” Clever parallel or does it mean something?
Dean has also been known to do a lot to avoid grief and sadness. He dove into hunting when consumed by that deep black hole inside, along with keeping a lot of whiskey nearby. That parallel was offered during John and Mary’s argument. Mary accused John of avoiding his pain by jumping into hunting. John did the same to Mary. In Dean’s mind, is that truly the only way to fight pain?
It does make you wonder, where in the timeline would Dean have gotten himself into this pickle? At first I was thinking after Sam went to the cage, but he didn’t know about Henry Winchester or the Men of Letters then so that’s out. Is this truly his limbo before going onto the great beyond after dying in the Supernatural series finale? Maybe this is his Heaven, before Jack came in and redid everything. One of the other times he died.
It’s almost like Dean is playing the role of Chuck in this scenario and being a passive observer to an epic story, interjecting himself here and there. We know that Sam is there swimming in his subconscious somewhere. This episode featured a guy trying to save his little brother. That happened earlier in the season “You’re Lost Little Girl.” Saving people, hunting things matters more when it’s family.
There’s also John’s unresolved anger as a clue. There’s turbulence inside, and that also could mirror Dean. His inability to let go. Dean could never accept his parent’s fate, especially when Mary came back and died again, even though she reunited in happiness with John in Heaven. He remained bitter and resentful and lashed out at others. There was nothing on Earth to fill that giant hole, so why not make a deal?
Angels are also capable of creating alternate realities, so there’s still that. Maybe this is Castiel or someone else trying to teach Dean a lesson? Sam and Castiel conspiring together because Dean was being such an ass after Mary died? Nah, I still say if this is a dream world, it’s a Djinn.
So yes, I’m out of theories. I’m ready to find out what’s happening here and move on. I at least enjoyed watching the episode this week, so that’s something.
Overall grade, a B+. It might be higher if the B plot wasn’t so stinky.
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