Tuesday’s episode teaches us that trespassers will be punished—in this case by getting trapped in a hall of mirrors that reflects your face back to you as a clown. Meanwhile, John and Mary have hit a wall in their Dean Winchester hunt. Mary is frustrated and they get into a fight that Carlos and Lata interrupt with a case. Ada’s got a side story that involves her playing poker with bitchy witches for a spell that can kill the Akrida, but it bears strange fruit.
The main story follows the case of Wally Gorman (Wil Deusner), he was upset that his folks were getting divorced so he snuck into the carnival after-hours and became the latest victim of “Limbo the Clown” (Eric Mendenhall) and his “Hall of Happy”, where people go in but don’t come out. A little research reveals that Limbo sold his soul for eternal happiness. The gang eventually runs into a man named Clarence (Jullian Dulce Vida) who says Limbo took his brother Roger (Joshua Weatherby) and he wants him back. With their combined information Mary, John, Lata, and Carlos all wind up in Limbo’s tent with John and Mary falling prey to the Hall of Happy. Luckily, Carlos uses the story of his dead parents to snap Roger out of his spell thus shattering Limbo’s lie for everyone. Ada’s story ends with her meeting Rowena (Ruth Connell) and getting a crystal in exchange for her demon plant, but the crystal won’t work unless Ada uses a piece of her soul. When her and the Monster Hunters’ club reunites, she’s mum on that detail, but no one really notices since the planetary alignment the Akrida Queen’s been waiting for is underway.
Many high-concept shows thrive off theme episodes and The Winchesters is no exception. Tonight’s theme is clearly the tale of the lotus eaters, which is an old Greek myth featured in The Odyssey, where Odysseus and his men come across a group of people who hang out on an island eating lotus flowers and ignoring the real world. The moral here is that indulging in pleasure to push out pain or reality isn’t a viable solution to life. The head of the lotus eaters here is Jerome Haskins, aka Limbo the Clown, who suffered as a result of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. In response, he sold his soul for eternal happiness, and his “Hall of Happy” lures other sad souls to join him in delusional bliss.
Mary and John are particularly vulnerable as each of them is carrying a lot of pain. John has his rage that is forever boiling just below the surface, and Mary has her fear instilled in her by her hunter father. And while Lata and Carlos have also seen their fair share of darkness, Carlos has been working on his issues, and Lata has recently discovered the power of opening up so they are not at risk here. But they do, as always, serve as helpful members of the team in both solving the case and saving their friends.
The Ada storyline, didn’t interest me much mostly because it came out of nowhere. Mary does mention that her father and Ada are looking into magic that might help fight the Akrida, but it’s a very throwaway line that also mentions Millie and Betty. How Ada comes to find that witch speakeasy might have been an interesting scene but we don’t get that, all we get is Ada walking up to a door and being greeted with a pair of heavily made-up eyes. She doesn’t even give a password! As for the witch poker, I’m also not sure why Ada’s brand of magic is so looked down upon by the other witches. Is “Earth magic” not a respected branch? And, if so, why not? I can honestly say I would have been more interested in finding out why a magical green thumb gets turned noses because it’s an area of witchlore that hasn’t been explored in the mothership series, but oh well.
The one good thing to come of this side tale is the guest appearance of a fan favorite: Rowena! However, Rowena’s involvement seems highly forced, and I didn’t feel like she was as fun as she could have been. Maybe she saves all her charms for strapping young hunter lads? Either way, it’s a Hail Mary that fails to deliver even if it does technically deliver Ada a super weapon in the war against the Akrida.
As for other shoehorned in additions, we get Millie at the end revealing to John that her and Betty found a witness who can exonerate him. It’s good news since the season finale is next week and we’ll need all hunter hands on deck if there’s any hope of stopping the Akrida! Considering how, kill-the-momentum this episode is, having Millie come in at the end feels especially contrived.
I commend the acting in this episode as there is a bit of work that had to go into these performances. Roger does a great job of balancing John’s barely contained rage especially when it comes to his interactions with Mary, where he is careful not to completely lose control. Donnelly has become proficient at Mary’s tendency to show vulnerability to her friends one minute then a tough business-first face once shit hits the fan. Khurshid’s Lata sinks back into her comfortable background role, but it’s forgivable considering the work she did in the last episode, and Fleites is his usual scene-stealing self if dialed back a bit here for the sake of his co-stars. Let’s all agree that he could have really made a meal of Carlos’ plea to young Roger about their shared trauma of parental loss. Instead, Fleites leans more on Carlos’ panic at being under siege from a clan of creepy clowns.
As for our guest stars they do a fine job of adding to the darkness and mystery. Andres Munar’s Felix the Clown gives a wonderfully deadpan presentation as a clown just trying to get by. McKinney’s Ada doesn’t give us much, but Connell’s Rowena gladly reinhabits the sheer cheekiness that is the eventual Queen of Hell. Mendenhall’s Limbo gives a great, spooky vibe, riding that fine line between creepy child-eating clown and angel-of-mercy nurse who truly believes they are giving their victims a better life. Finally, there’s Vida’s Clarence, who goes from being a possibly sinister force to a surprising ally in the fight against Limbo. He never quite loses that “evil” edge, but it almost works for him as his character likely harbors a lot of guilt for the disappearance of his brother.
Overall, as a stand-alone story, it isn’t terrible, but as a penultimate episode it was a swing and a miss. Gone is the quick, urgent pacing of the previous episode, and in its place is a theme episode centered on the lotus eaters. It might have worked as perhaps the episode before the penultimate one, but being the penultimate one it severely halts the momentum built by the previous episode, which is a shame.
I’ll give this a B- for being much less than what it should have been, but embracing what it was quite nicely. Sure, it’s a bad penultimate before the exciting season finale, but as a moral pocket story it hits all the right notes, except for Ada’s storyline which was only there to remind us there’s a bigger plot at play, and as such was a clunky addition.