All other standalone episodes take note: “About a Boy” has what it takes for an episode to succeed ten seasons into a TV show’s run. This episode dealt with the season’s mythology only briefly but had enough winning ingredients to rise above the problems that plague throwaway episodes. You had outstanding guest stars – headlined by a return appearance by Dylan Everett as Teen Dean – and a mystery that revealed itself slowly. You had a new twist on a familiar story and plenty of humor sprinkled throughout. This was a solid hour of television.
The success of “About a Boy” hinged on Everett’s performance as a teenage version of Dean, and he delivered a knockout performance. His mannerisms and especially his vocal intonation and word choice were spot-on Dean Winchester. What Jensen Ackles said about Everett, and I agree, is that his performance was particularly impressive since he was playing old Dean trapped in his younger body. This wasn’t like Season 9’s “Bad Boys” when Everett was playing a younger, less hardened version of Dean. He was challenged this hour to convey all the idiosyncrasies that define the Dean Winchester we know after ten seasons. He handled the challenge with ease.
I’ve always enjoyed watching other actors imitate Sam and Dean’s characters because it reveals what the writers feel is the essence of those characters. Giving us Teen Dean was a chance to remind the viewer that Dean is at his core a heroic character who sacrifices his own well-being for the safety of others. Even though he was scrawny and alone, Dean charged into that basement after Tina just like his older counterpart would’ve done.
Although Gretel’s rationale for turning adults into children before cooking them was shaky at best, I found the scenario it presented absolutely fascinating. Dean and Tina were both presented with a chance to begin their lives anew at age 14. It was a fresh start for Tina, who had three ex-husbands and a mountain of debt, and Dean, who could live without the Mark of Cain. Dean chose to revert back to his older self out of necessity. Tina wasn’t given that choice, but if she was, my guess is that she’d have chosen to remain a teenager. Such a dilemma poses the question: would you have stayed young if you were in Tina’s shoes and had the choice? You could wipe out your poor decisions and past mistakes while living out your early life with a ton of new perspective.
Part of what makes Supernatural great is that the show's fantasy premise often facilitates such moments of introspection and reflection. Think back to your favorite episode and search for a larger question that loomed over the proceedings. I bet you’ll find one. My favorite Supernatural episode is “Mystery Spot” from Season 3. On the surface that episode was a spoof of Groundhog Day that contained much larger implications for the season-long story arc. Sam and the viewer were left with a tough question – how would you confront such a horrifying reality? Watching your brother die every day in an endless loop… would you snap? Would you keep trying to save him in the hopes your interference would eventually break the cycle? Sure, it’s a silly hypothetical question at first glance. But often this show’s silly questions reveal character traits in unexpected ways.
On the story front, Hansel and Gretel were fun “monsters of the week.” Sam should’ve suspected Hansel’s betrayal, but much like Dean last week, he was blinded by what seemed like a heartfelt pitch. Things became increasingly more interesting when we learned that Gretel was sent by the Grand Coven to deal with Rowena. I suspect in the coming episodes we’ll meet this mysterious group of witches who are worried the affairs of Crowley’s mother. Given her penchant for sabotage, I can’t say I blame the Grand Coven for wanting Rowena under control. Perhaps they know she’s found her son and is honing in on bigger plans for Crowley and herself (or maybe just her).
Either way, it was nice to see this week’s episode tied into the larger arc of this season, even if the connection was a small one. “About a Boy” won’t be remembered in the pantheon of great Supernatural episodes. However, it reminded me that I thoroughly enjoy other actors getting a chance to channel their inner Winchester. Especially when that episode ends with Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” blaring through the Impala’s speakers.
Lines of the week
“And that his bathroom was, quote, like staring into the devil’s butt.” – Sam
“There was a Taylor Swift song on the bus that I hopped to the motel, and, um… I liked it Sam. I liked it a lot.” – Teen Dean
“Because if you’re going to fry that candy-coated bitch, I want in.” – Hansel
Next week on Supernatural
“We’ll just kill the internet” followed by Dean smashing a computer with a crowbar is the most Dean thing ever.