I've always given you guys my honest impressions and opinions in this Ramble, so I'll confess to a bit of an eye-roll when I saw the previews for this week's episode. They've often mined fanfic ideas (or at least appeared to) before, but de-aged Dean? I was braced to have to cover my face with a pillow through most of this episode. And I may have gotten a bit judgey because we already had old!Dean at one point. But then an amazing thing happened. I liked it. No, more than that...I honestly loved this episode.
Now, I know some of you will say I'm easy to please. And I'm not saying there weren't flaws, which I'll get to in my lists below, but this episode proves how well this show works when the story is focused on the brothers being brothers. Not dealing with catastrophic events that threaten to rip them apart or hiding secrets from each other under the mistaken guise of protection, but showing concern, throwing shade, fighting side-by-side. Brothers, man. It's what drew me in, hooked me, and kept me here and this episode was full of Dean being Dean and Sam being Sam and I loved that.
I'm going to give huge props to Dylan Everett's performance of 14-year-old Dean. He was a-friggin-mazing. That's what pushed me from 'like' to 'love' with the episode; we didn't get "de-aged" Dean. We had Dean -- our Dean, with his cynicism, swearing, sarcasm, brave front, self-sacrificing nature, and got-work-to-do attitude -- just as his 14-year-old self. He was so good, in fact, that when they flirted with the idea of not changing him back, I actually thought that it might be interesting for a bit to see Sam be a "big brother" and Dean cope with re-living his physical youth sans overwhelming responsibilities.
Until Jensen came back as Dean and I felt myself sigh like I was uncurling inside a sunbeam. *smiles dreamily*
I enjoy Castiel and Crowley's characters, I do. I like how they impact and interact with the boys, even when their individual story lines leave a bit much to be desired. But, for me, this episode was refreshing, start to finish, perhaps because we had a break from those two story lines. And we still touched on almost every major plot thread introduced thus far, with the exception of Metatron and what's happenin' in Heaven (which was okay by me). We covered the Coven and Rowena, and most of all, the way they dealt with the Mark of Cain this time around was...almost gentle.
We have been repeatedly reminded how violent and deadly the Mark is. We have been beaten with the impacts it has on Dean. We carry the bruises along with Dean on what it pushes him to do and I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a bit of solidarity with Dean's need for sobriety to be able to control something in his life.
The way Sam checked in on Dean, encouraging him to get out from the cave he'd created for himself, holed up in his room, searching the same books of lore endlessly for something, anything, that would offer him a solution was the kind of brotherly interaction I thrive on with our show. Sam reminding Dean that he believes in him, that he needs to forgive himself, that he can beat this was the kind of support I have been yearning for Sam to show his brother for a long time. It's what I would have loved to have seen after Dean returned from Hell and started his road to becoming a functional alcoholic, or after Purgatory when his PTSD was eating him alive.
This is the Sam I enjoy watching. It's not as if he's not going through stuff -- guilt, fear, grief, anxiety -- but rather than his energy being pushed through the filter of his personal misery, he's focused on Dean, their relationship, the Mark, their jobs, and how they can come out of this latest crisis intact. I loved how he was paying attention to Dean's non-verbal cues. For example, when he suggested they split up and search for clues, as they typically do, Dean froze. His expression was, for one split-second, the epitome of terror. Times past, Sam might not have noticed, so focused would he have been on the hunt and getting to the answers. But he saw it. And he suggested they stick together to offer Dean a safety net.
And I'm not gonna pretend that the moment he slammed that cocky bartender's head on the bar with a "try that again" didn't curl my toes a bit. Not that I'm all yay! violence! but either of them showing force on behalf of his brother has always tuned my engine.
Dean was sublime throughout this episode. Beginning with the (apparently two weeks of) searching through lore while under self-imposed lock-down, to his little whisper of believing in himself at the bar, to the way he connected to Tina as a person -- not an easy lay, not a mark, not an enemy, not even someone to undress with his eyes -- was so real. Having him sit with her, doing shots while they talked about their messed-up childhoods made him feel more like early-seasons Dean than he has since he got the Mark. And when she made her exit, the sincerity in his voice when he asked her if she was going to be okay made rub my heart a bit.
The fact that he was willing to give up being his old, er, well, regular self just to keep the Mark off of him was as heartbreaking and honest as was the instinctive scream of denial that echoed in Sam's eyes at that thought. It was so clear that Sam wanted his brother back. His older, big brother. But even though he demanded to know how to reverse the spell, I don't think he would have made Dean go through with it had Dean not made that choice himself. The pained flinch in Sam's glance when he looked over at Dean after Tina took her second chance is my evidence.
This episode was a good affirmation to Dean that he can do it. Sam's belief in him isn't unfounded. True, he didn't have the Mark when he was 14, but he did at the bar with Tina downing the shots and he did when he stuffed the witch into the oven and overpowered Hansel. And in both instances he was simply Dean. Not Rage Monster Dean. Because of that, I have many likes to list from this episode and only a few not-so-much's. While it technically didn't further the plot beyond alerting the boys to the Grand Coven and triggering their Rowena alarms, I quickly found that I didn't care.
We needed some solace, some brotherly moments, and some reassurance that Dean might possibly be able to maybe sorta believe in himself. A little.
- Study sequence set to the James Gang Rides Again's "Ashes and Rain." I actually had to SoundHound it, but I dug that one.
- "About time this gig got an R rating."
- The homeless man claiming alien abduction reminded me of Tall Tales's "...again and again and again and then one more time."
- Sam offering for them to stick together for the investigation portion. *hearts*
- The whole '101 ways to fix Mac 'n Cheese' conversation.
- "I should go before you fall hopelessly in love with me."
- Kid!Dean saying 'seriously' and sounding exactly like adult Dean. That actor is either a world-class mimic or he really studied Jensen's performance as Dean. Again and again and again and then one more time. *grins*
- The way Sam says "Buddy." He's done that a lot in the last two seasons and for some reason it grabs my attention each time.
- [Slams head against bar.] "Why don't you try that again."
- Smart Kid!Dean is smart -- using the bed frame to make a crowbar.
- "I thought you were just another drunk." "I prefer functional alcoholic."
- "That...is a long-assed story."
- Sam's face when Kid!Dean shows up at his door...and then walks inside...and then asks for grenades. I mean, that shocked look was priceless.
- "I got no grass on the infield and a girl's gonna die, Sammy. I'm not in a chatty mood."
- Kid!Dean getting behind the wheel and pulling the bench seat forward to reach the peddles, shoving Sam's knees up into his nose. "Seat. Seat." I don't know how they got through that scene without dissolving into hysterics. That was perfect.
- Kid!Dean confessing to liking a Taylor Swift song. My 8-year-old now has something in common with Dean Winchester.
- Dean putting his 'virgin liver' in the pro column of being 14 again with Sam's counter that he could drink alcohol in about 7 years.
- "Dean, I'm way too big to fit in that." "First time you've had to say that, huh?" "Big talk coming from the dude wearing Underoos." *is cracking up*
- Even Kid!Dean looks like a badass when he does that cross-arm, gun and flashlight maneuver. Annnnddd...now I feel like a dirty old woman.
- The fact that the MotW turned out to be Hansel and the witch of Grimm's fame. I mean, I know I bagged on the Oz story last week, but, hey, if Oz can be real, then why not everything the Grimm brothers wrote about? Starting with Hansel, Gretel, and that cannibalistic witch? Works for, Grimm, right? I dig it.
- "You can't kill her. You're just men." "We're more than that. We're hunters." *cue superhero music!*
- The perfectly timed sound of the cuckoo-clock as the boys are getting the low-down from the witch. That was awesome.
- Dean's sardonic humor shining through his 14-year-old appearance during the witchy interrogation.
- The fight. They are not, in fact, superheroes and the fact that Sam gets clocked but good leaving Kid!Dean to get his 14-year-old ass kicked is pretty much how it would probably go down from then on if Dean had not reversed the spell. Seeing Kid!Dean dazedly watch as Hansel went after Sam was the perfect catalyst for him to do what he probably always knew he'd have to do: turn back. And he did it for the same reason he does 90% of the things he does in his life: protect Sam. Taking out Hansel and shoving that witch into the oven where the Grimm brothers claimed she'd perished so long ago was quite nicely played.
- I liked that Tina got her second chance, even though the look of loss and resignation that crossed Dean's face broke my heart.
- "You pulled a Dean Winchester." I completely <3 Sam for saying that, exactly that, in that way.
- Sam confessing that he wanted his brother back.
- The way the light and shadows from the leaves on the trees played across Dean's face there at the end. It was almost surreal how incredible he looked in that moment and how the light reflected in his eyes. It changed a typical brother moment by the car to something slightly more. I mean, if I were to get a bit Jack Handy on you, I'd say it was symbolic of the darkness pressing down on Dean for so long being broken up by the light of hope sparked from feeling youth again, remembering what it felt like to not have the Mark, and seeing that he could finish a hunt and save people from monsters without becoming a monster himself. Or...it could have just been a neat shot on a sunny day.
- Biggest flaw: The. Clothes. So, basically, Dean reverts to his 14-year-old-self leaving a smoldering pile of Fed threads, and appears in perfectly fitting, age-appropriate, 2015-style clothes. Not only that, but when the spell is reversed, the clothes thoughtfully accommodate to fit his adult size. I mean, I get that there's only so much production budget and time and everything can be explained away because, spell. And, sure, it might've been creepier if a 14-year-old kid woke up somewhere naked as a jaybird. But that is my biggest complaint. If nothing else, Dean should have Hulked-out of the kid clothes when the spell was reversed. So there.
- Dean eating the cake. Seriously? He's trapped in a basement and a kid was just hauled away screaming. He's not going to think poison or drugged? Now, I could have seen it if it had been pie.... Kidding. I kid.
- Anyone else now more curious about this whole 'Grand Coven' thing? I am a bit. Makes me not quite so resentful of Rowena's storyline. If I were her and I knew this Grand Coven 'unpleasantness' was still lurking about, I'd be sticking around my son's Hell pad as long as possible. In fact, I'd be working every angle possible getting my son, the King of Hell, with demon hordes at his beck and call, on my side for when the Coven comes knocking. I wonder if we'll see any past witches (that they let live) return.
- So, aside from Jensen, who is your favorite Dean of the...what, five others?...who've played him? While the kid from "Bad Boys" was fantastic, I'm really pretty sure that this kid blew them all out of the water for me. ETA: Okay, I have been schooled. Apparently the reason I thought the "kid from 'Bad Boys'" was fantastic is because he is the same actor who played Kid!Dean in this one. So! There you go! *grins*
Thanks again, so much, for reading and all your wonderful comments! Look forward to hearing from you.