The Winchesters Season 1, Episode 8 “Hang on to Your Life” Recap

The Winchesters

Welcome back to the good fight, hope you enjoyed your time off because this year starts off en flambé!

Guitarist Brock Billings (played by Jonathan Horne) leaves the Knave of Hearts club and subsequently bursts into flames. Back at home base, the hunt for the Akrida has hit a momentary dead-end. Carlos finds a potential case but Mary wants to stay with Sam and John wants to stay with Mary so it’s on Carlos and Lata to take the reins. At the club, they discover some protection sigils and Carlos finds his old music buddy Jericho (Jake Etheridge) who is headlining. Turns out Loki (played once more by Richard Speight Jr.) is playing with humans again this time giving them their dreams at a deadly price. While all that is happening Mary and John are trying to figure out what that kiss meant, and Sam (guest star Tom Welling) is adjusting to the changes he’s seeing upon coming home. They all come together to defeat Loki but in the end, it’s Carlos’ refusal to sing and willingness to die that ruins Loki’s plans.

Let’s begin this review with the simple side of things: the story here is paper thin when it comes to the “monster of the week” which might be why they throw a fan-favorite like Loki into the mix. The details on the deal that Loki is shopping around and why he’s doing it are inconsequential really because the main point of this episode is to build on all the progress that was made before the break.

Still, it’s worth taking a minute to fully appreciate Richard’s return as the trickster god Loki. From his first appearance in the mothership series as an apparent throwaway “monster” to the revelation that he’s not actually Loki but the Archangel Gabriel carrying some hefty family baggage to rival Sam and Dean’s, it’s nice to see him again. Here he’s still playing the part of Loki, complete with the magic mirror, and he does a fine job of offering up his victim’s twisted deals that he’s sure they can’t find the loopholes to. His defeat is his own which I enjoy because I’m never a fan of mortals defeating gods – it just seems ridiculous – but a god being defeated by their own rules? I’m always down for that.


As we’re on the subject of guest stars how about Tom Welling? The former Superman was last seen playing the villain Cain on Lucifer (a character who was also featured on Supernatural though played by a different actor) and the fortune of soldier Vincent Corbo on Professionals, but here he’s probably closer in personality to Corbo. Samuel Campbell spends most of the episode being a recalcitrant general on the mend who is bothered by the growth of those he left behind. You can tell Welling isn’t a fan of being the bad guy as his acting gets much more comfortable once he’s reached the end of the episode and has miraculously grown into a kinder pappa Campbell.

For the main players we have consistent performances and hey, it’s nice to see Khurshid having fun in her role as Latika for once. JoJo steals the spotlight once Carlos is given the chance to croon (which works out since it’s at the end of the episode) proving he wouldn’t have needed to sell his soul to be successful in music. Drake isn’t given a whole lot to do as John – mostly defending Mary to her father and establishing his intentions with her. Meg’s Mary spends her screen time putting Samuel in his place which allows her to go from uncertain about her future with John to 100% down to clown (at least physically) though the episode’s twist ending provides a solid cock-block.

The growth for our main players here is the meatiest part of this episode. From Carlos coming to terms with the death of his dream to Mary fully embracing the here and now it’s a fantastic build on what the mid-season finale cliff-hanger left us with.

Carlos hasn’t been a mystery in many ways – he showed up, we quickly learned he was a vet, and he’s very clearly a confident person put on a path he didn’t exactly choose. Tuesday’s offering gave us, and him, some closure to a piece of his puzzle that’s been popping in here and there. See, Carlos has a musical talent, it’s technically the whole reason he became a hunter but we’ve never really seen him regret the choice until now. Sure, he’s always had a bit of a wistful air when speaking on the subject, but outright regret? No. So, when he runs into Jericho and is forced to see what his past path could have been we get a peek into how deep this cut really is. And when I say peek, I mean he might as well tap dance and sing his discomfort because if there’s anything we’ve learned about Carlos he isn’t shy about his feelings. Still, the open book proves his tale is one of compassion when he throws a wrench in Loki’s plan by not taking out his anger on Jericho. Good for you Carlos, though…maybe don’t be a stranger on the mic eh?

Latika is a heavy player in this mission but she gets left behind in terms of growth – in fact the biggest acknowledgment of her is through Samuel’s observation. I will repeat that she is much more alive in this episode and exudes a kind of happiness we haven’t seen much of up until now so that’s something.

John is similar to Lata where his character growth is more of an observation made by Millie – though I will give him credit for having a mature conversation with Mary about their kiss. He could have gone all alpha male and left it “up to her” or just stayed silent on the matter, but instead he used his words like a real man. On the other hand, his subsequent self cock-blocking is highly amusing.

Millie has a nice bump in her character’s acceptance of what her husband was. When she first learned about the Men of Letters (hilariously nicknamed Mole Men by hunters) she wasn’t a big fan of losing her husband to the secret scholarly club, but after his notes are vital to their fight against the Akrida she clearly has some pride in his work. We know this because when Samuel dares to speak ill of the dead, Millie is quick to remind him that her “mole man” husband is the reason, him, his daughter, and her son are even alive. Nicely done Millie!

Mary gets a good bit of growth thanks to the inclusion of Samuel. Where John tries multiple times to come to her defense (successful only when she’s out of the room) she proves perfectly capable of taking her father down a peg or two. Samuel is at first bristled by this display of independence but each time he takes her words to heart rather than brush her off. By the end she’s able to convince him that the new team is capable enough on their own so he can go off and do some background shit that’ll come in handy in the season finale (assumedly). Mary is surprisingly sad by Samuel’s announcement but on the bright side he’s agreed to keep in touch this time, and she even sends him off with a new hat!

All in all, this was a nice return to form after a long break. It’s a shame to lose Welling so early though I’m curious what other commitments he had, unless it’s one of those “now we’re gonna split the story” situations. Though, to be fair, his old standard of machismo is lost on this show since they seem very intent on creating a much more evolved male personality – which I’m extremely appreciative of. Don’t get me wrong, Sam and Dean (well, mostly Dean) did make some strong headway towards becoming better rounded people, but the way that Samuel is delt with by Millie and his own daughter is very telling here.

Either way the twist went a long way to making me really enjoy this episode, aside of course from Loki’s cameo. It also has me scratching my head and wanting to revisit the mothership to see if there was in fact a letter than Henry gave to Dean to give to John…Also, when exactly in the mothership’s canon is that picture of Dean from? Is it “In the Beginning”? I mean, it would have to be, obviously, but then that would definitely make this quite the alternative version, right? Man…not gonna lie, that twist has my brain a turning, which in TV is something I both love and hate (not real hate though).

Either way solid A for this episode even though the story was fairly weak I really enjoyed everyone’s return and of course…what a twist!

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