The second episode of our plucky spinoff is a run-of-the-mill “monster-of-the-week” setup. Classic Supernatural. We start off with the monster tease—two hippies walking in the woods when one sees his dad and is attacked. After the title sequence our focus shifts to the scooby gang—Mary has followed the clues to an abandoned warehouse with already killed zombies and no leads on the Men of Letters. But, it’s not a total waste as some of the zombies aren’t quite dead yet, and Mary swears her father is leading her to his whereabouts. This desperation brings our newly formed monster-hunting squad to a hippie commune, after a pit stop at John’s mom’s garage for some fun parent guilt tripping. While the leader of the pack (aka Clyde played by Michael Regan) seems the obvious culprit, it turns out the baddie is actually a lady plant monster from Colombia named “La Tunda” (Juliene Joyner) who isn’t a fan of disobedient children. Unfortunately, John’s recent issues with his mom makes him the perfect target, but he isn’t totally helpless as he awaits his inevitable rescue.
Overall, this episode isn’t a bad follow-up to our relatively strong pilot. I do feel that the momentum from the first episode is a little lost in this one, but a slow burn for character building isn’t the worst thing from a show. There are essentially three storylines here: John’s momma-drama, Mary’s father issues, and our monster—who feels more like a footnote than the focal point. Which, again, if the show is going to center largely on these characters and treat the monsters as an aside (save for the Akrida), isn’t bad as long as the character building is there. After all this is a spinoff, and a lot of the monsters that inhabit the Supernatural world have already had their debut episodes long, long ago. So, let’s dig into some of this development…
Mary is taking charge as the defacto leader of our ragtag team, but her idea of leadership seems to be just mimicking the management style of her father. According to Carlos, Samuel Campbell is a “my way or the highway” kind of leader. He isn’t down with this and tells Mary as much, but when she gives the gang the riot act they clam up and concede to her wishes. Luckily, further into the episode we get a better picture of the group dynamic with respect to Carlos and Mary at least.
Mary clearly has a history with Carlos, we saw a peek of this in the pilot and we’re getting another piece of the puzzle here. They don’t always get along but this isn’t usually an issue, unless musical theatre rears its divisive head, but ultimately Carlos is a good check for Mary. He genuinely seems to care about her forging her own path instead of just following in her father’s footsteps—which makes him the Sam to her Dean really. Which is a little funny considering he’s also more of a go-with-the-flow type—a definite Dean quality. So…a little bit of both!
Latika, conversely, doesn’t get any respect. Mary seems dismissive of her contributions which makes me more curious about their history—we learned that Latika had some kind of relationship with Mary’s sister but we don’t know exactly what or if that’s contributing to their apparent rift. Carlos is obviously team Latika and like with Mary, he wants her to succeed on her own merits, but his handling of her is very kid-gloves if any. He does offer her a little feedback though, as he is initially bothered by her weirdness but later praises her for it. Still, Latika’s growth in this episode is really her own with a tiny bit of help from Ada via old-school landline.
Speaking of these two…Latika and Ada serve as the magical minorities here—literally, in Ada’s case. Ms. Monroe is tasked with fixing the mystical monster-box from the beginning of the episode and winds up…channeling a demon? I’m not entirely sure, from what I can gather she claims that if she can commune with the demon that possessed her in the pilot she can figure out how to fix the box? She also has this weird throw-away moment with John’s mom where she explains that she knew Henry (kind of), and reveals the plant—jasmine—that’s growing vines on the garage is for protection.
Latika, meanwhile, is still the weakest character in the series for me. I mean, Ada is the “Bobby Singer” type, she’s there to help the team and maybe get a little exposition, but mostly matters more as the series evolves. Latika, on the other hand, is a main character! She needs to be better explored. Why is she a pacifist? What happened with Mary’s sister? Why does she agree to go on these hunts if she really doesn’t show a taste for it? I’m aware that these answers will come in subsequent episodes, but so far the little we’re given isn’t very much, especially when you compare her to the stronger characters in the series like Mary or Carlos. Latika connects with Ada for a consult after seeing a mysterious flower—which proves that she’s strong enough to ignore Mary’s dismissal. That’s something at least.
Finally, there’s John, who becomes the victim of La Tunda because he’s having a fight with his mother. See, Millie isn’t happy that John took off in a van with a bunch of people he just met and hasn’t been home in…two weeks? Three? Regardless, she gives him the old “you’re just like your father!” guilt trip. “Daddy Issues” is something of an understatement when it comes to the Supernatural universe. Sam and Dean started their journey because “Dad went out hunting and never came home”, which is, in a loving tribute exactly how The Winchesters starts their story—well, for Mary at least. John’s experience is abandonment—Dad went out for cigarettes and never came back kind of a thing. Though, in this version of his origin he has the letter from his dad giving him a little taste of closure. It doesn’t seem to have done any good for his mother though.
Millie is a complete blank as far as character developments go, even Latika gets some personality here, but Millie is just your standard “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick about you?” mother-type. Which doesn’t ring right with what we’ve been shown of her. Though perhaps they are going for a juxtaposition? Tough mom with a tender heart?
Character development aside there is something else I would like to praise this episode for. A change of pace to the usual Supernatural victim roster. First off, this episode’s baddie is a lady monster, not to say the series hasn’t had female villains but to get a series rolling off with one is impressive, but more importantly all the victims in this episode are men! Considering the horror origins of the series, the standard victim for many episodes were women. Yes, there were male victims over the years, even in the first season, but what sets this episode apart is the victimology setup. Usually when you have male victims in a horror movie or a show, and the monster is a woman she’s generally out to get men specifically. She will hunt men, maybe killing the occasional woman to get to the desired male victim, but it’s all about killing men. In this case, La Tunda isn’t out to get men it just happens that all her victims for this episode turn out to be male. Staying true to the Supernatural playbook these boys are “bad”, rebels who disrespect their parents, oh John…if you could only see the furture!
The second episode isn’t too bad. I’d say it stays to the solid B the pilot established. Character development might be a slow burn here but the weird thing is that it doesn’t have to be. Since all your monsters have had their day in the sun, so to speak, you’re free to really flesh these kids out, so do it! But keep up with the new spin on old tricks, it’s fantastic.