This year’s midseason finale of Supernatural ( “The Things We Left Behind”) is about parenthood in two ways. It concerns three actual parents, but it also touches on how we are the parents of our own actions, and how the dark things we do are truly the spawn of our psyches. It leaves us with many different questions and is a worthy way to conclude the first portion of the season.
When Hannah left a few episodes ago, she did so because of the ethical issues of being an angel on earth. Both angels and demons must possess a human body (or “meat suit” in Supernatural terminology) to walk on our planet. However, it’s implied that angels will only possess those people who invite them in. Our favourite angel Castiel is, in fact, wearing the meat suit of a loving and devoted man named Jimmy Novak, who once had a wife and child. When Hannah let her body’s owner go back to her husband and life, Castiel became curious and decided to look up his body’s old family.
Turns out Jimmy’s daughter, Claire, was left an orphan and has been bouncing around group homes and foster care ever since. Castiel catches up with her and tries to establish a relationship, but she’s not having any of it, and eventually he calls in Dean and Sam Winchester to help rescue her from a Fagan-type character who’s sold her to a sleazy loan shark. While Claire is a little bit of a cliche ‘rebellious teenager in trouble’ type, her scenes with Castiel are a highlight of the episode, and it’s nice to see the angel struggle with humanity and all the moral implications therein. I’m also happy to see the writers finally making use of Castiel’s humorous side again, especially in an excruciating and hysterically awkward scene with a cashier in which he confidently assures the woman that his daughter is urinating and will be right back. I hope we see a little more of Claire and that she gets some development. This is a unique and interesting subplot that could really go in some great places if the writers do it justice.
Meanwhile, Rowena the witch is still in jail in Hell. Last time we saw her, she revealed that she was the mother of Crowley, the king of the realm down under. While he initially seems content to leave her in there to rot, he eventually lets her go, and it seems as if the two of them will now be teaming up to wreak lots of fabulous havoc. Ruth Connell is an inspired addition to the Supernatural cast. She nibbles on the scenery with just as much delight and joy as Mark Sheppard, so it really does seem as though they are mother and son. She was given some wonderful lines this episode as she and Crowley (a.k.a. Fergus, a name which irks him to no end) square off. A favourite of mine, hands down, is her explanation for Crowley’s absent father: “You were just conceived during a Winter Solstice orgy, and it’s not like I was taking names!”
The final parent we hear about in “Things We Left Behind” is an oldie but a goodie: John Winchester, father of Sam and Dean. His death at the start of Season 2 was a major shift in Supernatural‘s tone and direction, and his influence has been a shadow on the boys for their whole lives. While there is an incredibly sweet scene in which Dean and Sam reminisce about the man and give Castiel parenting advice, the real focus for the boys is on Dean’s own darkness. While he may not be a demon anymore, he still has the dangerous Mark of Cain, and has begun to dream about committing horrific acts of violence. He struggles with the possibility that he may turn dark once again, and even asks Castiel to kill him if it ever happens. In the end, it looks like Dean may have given in to his desires, and the episode ends on a minor cliffhanger with the fate of the elder Winchester in the balance. We’ll have to wait until the new year to find out just how badly he’s snapped.
“The Things We Left Behind” is an example of what happens when Supernatural is done right. The guest stars interact with the main cast very organically, and it’s nice to FINALLY see Castiel in the same scenes as Sam and Dean again. I’m glad that Dean’s demonic issues haven’t been dropped entirely, and Jensen Ackles had some great subtle acting moments in which you could see all of the horror, disgust and relief in his stone-still face. The acting was good across the board, in fact, and the writing was a healthy mix of horrifying, humorous, and emotional. Overall, Supernatural has closed out 2014 with a bang and I can’t wait to see how things will pick up in the new year.