Welcome to the winter finale folks, there’s no monster of the week set up tonight because it’s all about the main event. The Akrida! We know where they are, and we know they’re up to no good, but what to do about it…
First, the Recap:
John and Mary go to the radio tower that Carlos discovered but all they find is a bloody canvas bag, Samuel’s bloody canvas bag. Back at the monster club HQ Lata and Carlos are at odds trying to fix that monster-eating box, also Ada’s back! And, thanks to her repaired relationship with her son, she’s got additional Men of Letters resources to dig through. John and Mary return with bad news: the Akrida have all the monster essence they need.
On the bright side, some of the new papers Ada brought are written in John’s dad’s handwriting so while he and Millie help sort that out, Mary and Carlos run off to check out the hotel Samuel was staying at. It’s a dead end directly, but it does lead to them learning that the Akrida have Samuel and will exchange him for the box. Wisely, Carlos hid a hex bag with the enemies making it a matter of tracking the bag to the bad guys.
Everything gets sorted out – thanks to Ada and ghost dad – and there’s a showdown at the warehouse where Mary was stung. Mary and John fight the good fight, Carlos and Lata just miss the monster essence, and we learn two things: One – Roxy wasn’t the Akrida Queen. Two – Samuel is alive (barely) and is happy to weld a monster-eating box to save his daughter from certain death. Also, John and Mary finally kiss!
Whew! What an episode! Maybe not a rollercoaster all the way but when it decided to pull those emotional punches they landed. I’m a fairly cynical watcher, especially when it comes to this show, but I give them credit tonight it was a solid mid-season finale. Or winter finale, whichever one they want to go with. Honestly, aside from Mary wearing make-up for no reason at all, not a lot went wrong here.
Let me get the Mary make-up gripe out of the way. Near as I can tell for most of the episodes up till now, Mary’s been a generally low-key lady. She dresses the way you’d expect someone who was raised to murder things that go bump in the night to dress. For some reason, in this episode, she has make-up on, and it is noticeable.
Normally, I wouldn’t begrudge a girl make-up, it’s a common occurrence, particularly for those on TV shows, but Mary has never been noticeably made up before. The fact that I noticed it, is what makes it so odd to me. Lata, Ada, Carlos, hell, even John (smokey eyes, eh?) have varying degrees of pampering on display, but Mary? Mary has never been seen with eye shadow or lipstick until tonight. And here’s the extra weird part: it doesn’t stay. It’s not like she’s made-up for the whole episode. She has make-up on for a couple of scenes and then it’s gone. Also, she isn’t even made-up for the scene where she kisses John! Though, upon second viewing it could just be a lighting issue…Anyway, back to the real meat and potatoes of this episode.
Most of our center players get a good chunk of attention here – Carlos reveals his part in his parents’ deaths, John finally gets some closure with Henry, and of course Mary gets the boy and her dad. This leaves Ada, and Lata a little wanting, but nothing new there, right?
We’ll start small with the three least cared about characters in our show: Lata, Ada, and Millie. Millie is mostly here because of Henry’s notes, but it does give her the chance to talk mom to mom with Ada, and later see her dead husband one last time. Lata does her research job without any character growth (guess that last episode used it all up!), and Ada does her magic while bonding with Millie and assuring the audience her relationship with Tony is improving.
Onto our third largest cared about character: Carlos! He gets two nice moments in this episode. One is the brief realization that when they beat the Akrida the Monster Club will break up. It’s made all the more potent by the fact that Carlos, while being a force unto himself, enjoys being part of a group. Sure, he’s a star, but he’s nothing without his backup singers. The other is when Mary is feeling bad about her dad’s abduction – needlessly blaming herself – so he lays down some solid character history by revealing that he still blames himself for his parents’ deaths.
See, Carlos was born to be a star, but he needed a guitar, so his folks went to Phoenix to play a gig and well, it ended badly. As much as I don’t like this particular brand of emotional manipulation it is an oldie for a reason – people have a tendency to blame themselves for things they really have no control over. Especially the death of a loved one. You’ve seen this story countless times before, yet it always ends the same. Grief takes many forms and guilt is one of them, but Carlos makes a good point here. When Mary asks him how he let go of his guilt, he says he never did, he just figured out a way to cope with it – ie. Hunting. Most of us will never hop onto the road of revenge to deal with losing someone we love, but we do find ways to keep living without them. It’s a great moment where the show is able to relate to a larger audience experience through the genre.
We get another one of these moments later, again with Mary, though this time she’s the one facilitating a healthier grief coping mechanism. In order to fix the monster-eating box (the ostium) the gang needs to talk to Henry, and the spell to make that happen requires that John feel his feelings about his father. He needs to be honest and vulnerable for Henry to manifest, but the spell fails and John storms off in anger. Mary catches up with him and they talk. John’s got abandonment issues, sure, but there’s more to it than just that. He originally tells the gang that he played the music box in hopes his father would return, when that didn’t happen, he got mad and broke it, but the truth is much sadder. Turns out his mom and dad would fight a lot after his dad put him to bed and he played the music box to drown out the sound, not only that, but he would hear them say his name while fighting so he got around to believing it was his fault they were fighting. Which, inevitably lead to him believing it was his fault his dad left. He broke the music box because of his own self-hatred not just being mad at his dad’s abandonment. And it’s this revelation that allows Henry (played by Gil McKinney, who reprises his role from Supernatural) to manifest before his son. Once again, dealing with your grief and negative feelings about past loved ones is the key to progress – it’s a good lesson to learn.
It should be noted that John’s growth is still a little stunted. While he does deal with his real emotions about the music box, when he’s actually presented with the chance to talk to his father, he prioritizes the mission and only has a brief conversation with Henry outside of it. John appears to want to say more, even gush, but he holds back for the most part. I suppose in that respect they stay true to the idea of John Winchester and his emotional constipation (it was the way to be “manly” back then). Drake does a fine job of straddling the line between silent tears and macho detachment.
John’s growth here definitely eclipses Mary’s, but she isn’t without progress entirely. And, Mary and John’s progress is tied to each other – while he’s been figuring out what to do about his feelings for her, their kiss likely allows her to actually recognize those feelings within herself. We’ll see how that works out for her when the show returns in January, in the meantime, the episode is happy to shrug off these heavier moments with story building scenes, and action sequences.
As this is such a character driven series, the story building stuff does tend to feel like an afterthought – we get the mysterious lab with the possessed scientist, the hive of possessed people digging in an unknown tunnel somewhere, and the final revelations that not only is Roxy not the Queen but the bad guys managed to sneak the monster-essence to the Queen. Losing the monster essence is kind of stupid since Carlos and Lata find it and are about to smash it when conveniently they have to hide and the person who comes into the room just happens to go right for the thing they were after, but I get it. Later on, they’ll probably blame themselves for being just short of stopping the Akrida. Let’s face it, you can’t have a show like this without pointless guilt.
Still, overall, I enjoyed this episode a lot. Solid A, especially since it set up for the return in January quite nicely. The big bads got their cue to be bigger and badder, Mary’s dad got his first fully lighted on-screen appearance (hi, Tom Welling, who’s been busy making Professionals!), and we got the kiss! Yes, the kiss is one of my favorite parts here simply because it lands so well and I wasn’t expecting it to. I didn’t always feel like the John and Mary chemistry was there, though they were definitely pushing it, but man, Drake drives it home when he looks at Meg and John gives into his desires – granted, he also thinks they’re about to die so it feels right for John to take a swing in that moment.
Looking forward to the new year, though it will be a while – they’re not coming back until the 24th!