So Jack is back and nobody cares, well, someone does but not in the good way.
Procedural television 101 tells us that any new person who suddenly appears on a show is almost certainly the bad guy, and while Supernatural has occasionally shirked this rule, tonight’s episode definitely followed it. Meet Mrs. Butters (Meagen Fay), aka Mrs. B, aka a Stockholm victim left over from the Men of Letters days who was magically on “stand by” since 1958.
In general, I’m not a fan of long running series that abruptly decide to add a new layer of mythology to an already well-crafted mythology, mostly because it is so obviously shoehorned in it’s damn near painful. The amount of plot twisting needed to make these additions work is ridiculous, but again, this show is on its fifteen season so I can’t really blame it.
Mrs. Butters is great at first – she’s a wood nymph who “adopted” the Men of Letters as her family and their bunker as her home – she’s the mom Sam and Dean, and Jack, never had. No offense to Mary Winchester but goddamn is Mrs. B crazy maternal. Though, it is a credit to the show that both of these women are a clear product of their times (assuming of course you accept that wood nymphs understood 1950’s human gender politics, however the argument could be made that Cuthbert Sinclair played by Kavan Smith, schooled in her in the “proper” way a lady should behave). Mrs. B is sweet, loving, subservient, and yet takes her responsibility as the head of household very seriously – on a scale from stern warning to downright execution. Mary, on the other hand, is extremely independent. When she returns to find her sons grown men, she doesn’t bother catering to their needs. She takes care of herself first and foremost and once she’s worked her shit out, then she tends to her boys. She also weirdly seems to understand the concept of “not all monsters = bad”, which is pretty fascinating given her background as a hunter. Meanwhile, Mrs. Butters went and chugged the Kool-Aid that the Men of Letters sold her, which, again, depending on the level of “conditioning” she went through makes sense. To her, all monsters must be destroyed. Though as different as these ladies might seem, they are both willing to go to extreme lengths to protect their families. Mrs. B and Mary are fully capable of killing to keep their loved ones safe.
This is a fairly light episode, both in terms of plot and significance. Not much happens here that really matters. Sam and Dean get the home life they’ve never known, with Jack along for the ride while they all get to experience Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, hell, Sam even goes on a date! Side note: Sam seems to enjoy Halloween! They get real regular meals for the first time, laundry, a clean bunker, and everything is working fantastically. That is, until, it doesn’t. Naturally, the good times can’t last and Mrs. Butters believes that Jack needs to die – because for some reason Jack still hasn’t learned his lesson that sometimes lying is a good thing and tells their new “friend” that he’s the son of the Devil. Ug. Did not miss that kid at all. Dean’s reaction to finding out Mrs. B wants to kill Jack is priceless, I mean, he at least tries to stop her. So does Sam by the way, but all efforts fail until the plot requires them not to. Seriously. That’s literally how this goes down.
Sam, Dean and Jack are 100% fucked, when Sam makes a plea about how Mrs. B’s logic isn’t foolproof, and that the men she loved so dearly probably did her dirty, and it works! She’s totally willing to do a complete 180, we know this because at the end of the episode when she leaves she tells Jack to “go out and save the world!” in the way a proud mother would.
For all its lack of importance this episode isn’t necessarily bad. Its immensely satisfying to see Sam and Dean enjoy hunting when it is assisted by stable food, monster radar, and time set aside to celebrate birthdays and holidays. Though there is the moral question of just blindly hunting monsters without actually seeing if they are bad first (something radar can’t provide, and the Men of Letters never even considered). The loss of Mrs. B results in any of the changes to the bunker being reverted. Her magic goes, and with it goes the monster radar and the inter-dimensional telescope, and with her goes the regular meals, laundry, cleaning, and of course regulatory celebration of special occasions. I’m convinced that Jack birthday cake was a short term habit.
There are brief mentions of larger plot issues – where Cas is, the fact that the telescope isn’t showing any other worlds, anything about Jack – but overall this is a fun little side episode. The deepest things I get out of it are the feminist differences between Mrs. B and Mary W., and the mistreatment of Mrs. B as a lesson about the perils of xenophobia.
At one point in the episode Mrs. Butters says a very specific line in defense of her actions: she is “making the bunker safe again”. Couple that line with the Men of Letters belief that anything different is bad, and I got a distinct feeling this was a jab at the concept of xenophobia. Not to mention the hypocrisy of people who claim anything “other” is bad or lesser.
The Men of Letters say that all monsters are bad, but then Sinclair decides to “keep” Mrs. B because she proves useful. He proceeds to torture her until she is indoctrinated, which leads to her allowing herself to be tied to the bunker to the point of enslavement. So, despite being a “monster” herself, Mrs. Butters adopts the twisted mentality that all monsters are bad and must be killed. My guess is Sinclair used her own forced actions against her (when they make her kill a nazi by lying to her) in order to solidify the idea that monsters – which she is by definition – are bad, and she is lucky that they made an exception for her. However, when Sam and Dean explain that Jack is a good guy, she at first blindly accepts this. She is only swayed when Jack confesses he’s not all good, and in a moment of projection her own self-hatred is aimed at Jack. She knows what monsters are capable of and she won’t allow Sam and Dean to be at risk. It’s interesting if you make the effort to overthink it (which I have a bad habit of doing).
Otherwise, like I said, this episode is just a fun little aside that has no real importance on the rest of the season. It’s a shame Mrs. Butters leaves because honestly her decision to return to the forest isn’t believable by the episode’s end (me doubts however many years of conditioning could be undone so quickly), but you gotta put everything back to the way it was, right? Technically, it’s your final season, so you don’t, but as Dean observes, they can’t have nice things. Oh well.
The only other thing I’ll note about this episode is the lack of Cas, but frankly, I’m not bothered by it. A lot of final seasons tend to have some stars fading in and out. The 100 just ended and Bob Morley who was a huge main character on that show wasn’t heavily featured in the final season. This goes better if the cast is bigger, but unfortunately, since season four, Supernatural has been a three man show. The fans definitely took notice and they are not happy, but the fact is this episode comes after an unplanned hiatus, so Cas was going to be gone anyway, it’s not some fuck you to the fans. He’ll be in next week’s episode, so let’s all sit back, relax, and see where the final six takes us. Ok?