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What elevated tonight’s episode of Supernatural slightly above the typical filler episode dreck was its commitment to social commentary, something this show has done very well over the years. The targets in “Halt and Catch Fire” were multiple – college students, Greek life, and, most noticeably, tech-obsessed youth. Typically when Supernatural sets out to parody something, it doesn’t hold back. The out-and-out stupidity of their target is laid bare for all to see, and it’s about pointing and laughing, not nodding at understated allusions you happen to catch. Subtlety is out the window.
At no point were the positive implications of millennials’ gadget obsessions pointed out during this hour. That’s fine, because the comedy we got from jokes about retweets, favorites, selfies, and hashtags all landed eerily close to home. This has always been the style of Supernatural, and it works because the writers commit to such lampooning. These characters are caricatures, not actual human beings. We laugh when they die such outlandish deaths. (That “death by stereo” was right up there with the murderous ballet shoes for corniest death ever.)
After 10 seasons, you begin to look for new developments that episodes deliver beyond their one-and-done mysteries. I don’t care about who is killing co-eds and neither should you. It’s irrelevant beyond this 42-minute stretch. What matters is how working that case advances Sam and Dean’s season-long arcs. While this show has been heavy-handed with those connections in the past, tonight’s was less clumsy than usual. Dean wants to keep saving people and hunting things until the Mark of Cain finally wins. That’s a notable development (that will apparently be undone next week).
You also learn to appreciate the humor in each episode, especially with a show like Supernatural, where it’s had more than 200 episodes to develop. In addition to trolling millennials, Greek life (STD, anyone?), and college students (dumb blonde sleeping with her TA, anyone?), we got to see Dean on a college campus and it was glorious. His reactions to the young, attractive females and the endless buffets were the most appropriate things ever. Dean would’ve loved college. He would’ve flunked after the first semester most likely, but he would’ve gone out in a blaze of glory.
I do wish the show would begin to experiment with its formula a bit. Nearly every episode follows the same “mysterious death – research – showdown – Impala moment” pattern. Supernatural is, for all intents and purposes, a procedural. I understand not wanting to mess with what’s taken you this far, but some risks would be appreciated. Was anyone surprised by anything in tonight’s episode? In fact, when was the last time a standard “case of the week” episode surprised you? I can’t remember a recent example. What I remember are episodes that involved John Winchester popping in during a hunt. That was the first season. If you can think of a more recent example, mention it below.
Dean will apparently have a showdown with Cain next week. That development meshes well with his resolution during tonight’s final minutes to stop looking for a cure for the Mark. I assume he only agrees to confront Cain because of Sam or Castiel’s insistence. Either way, that storyline needs to deliver next week since, along with the Crowley-Rowena arc, that’s all we have going this season in terms of big storylines. If it fizzles out this early, we’re in big trouble the rest of the way.
Line of the week
“If you died and I drove your car, you’d kill me?” – Sam
“If you stunk her up with taquitos, probably.” – Dean
Next week on Supernatural
Cain’s beard has gotten bushier!