Supernatural can be an incredibly effective and well-written show, but it can also be pretty silly. “About a Boy” really seemed like it would be a clunker; its premise was ridiculous and things are always iffy when witches get involved. I was pleased to discover that it’s a very sharp, funny, and nicely-paced episode—proof that Supernatural employs some really talented people and can pull off even the strangest ideas. It’s also a textbook example of how to write a season arc, with the team naturally weaving it into each episode while still letting the standalone ideas breathe. While Supernatural has botched several of its season arcs in the past few years—especially Seasons 8 and 9—it’s been consistently on point this year, and “About a Boy” shows that there’s a very good reason why the show has run for ten seasons.
While investigating a series of mysterious disappearances, Dean is transformed into his teenage self (played by Dylan Everett) by a superbly creepy old man. He wakes up imprisoned in a basement with a few other victims. For some reason, the victims are occasionally fed cake, and every so often the man takes a prisoner upstairs and they’re never seen again. Dean escapes, finds Sam, and the two of them go to rescue the remaining prisoners and reverse the spell.
Teenage Dean isn’t too thrilled to be going through puberty again—aside from the crazy boners and inability to legally imbibe alcohol, he’s truly horrified that he loves Taylor Swift now. However, there’s an upside: the Mark of Cain is gone. Dean is freer than he’s been in months, and he gives serious thought to staying a teenager and growing up again without the Mark driving him to madness.
The kid playing Teenage Dean is marvelous. He absolutely nails Jensen Ackles’ mannerisms and cadences, just on a smaller scale. With a lesser actor, this could have been a trainwreck, but Everett delivers at every moment, making Teenage Dean compelling instead of annoying and working very organically with Jared Padalecki. Writer Adam Glass keeps things fresh and funny, with great interactions between Sam and Dean(s). There’s fantastic dialogue all around, delivered with sharp wit.
In the end, it turns out that Hansel—from Hansel and Gretel—has been working for the witch who kidnapped him, bringing her people to turn into teenagers and cook. These two made great monsters-of-the-week, as they were highly entertaining even in the few scenes in which they appeared. Supernatural‘s first season was largely centred on investigations of urban legends and myths treated as real, and it’s nice to see the show going back to its roots a little bit, even if they risk looking like they’re ripping off Once Upon a Time.
While it’s not going to sit in the roster of Greatest Supernatural Episodes Ever, “About a Boy” is a good example of how to do genre TV like a pro. It’s got a compelling story that ties into the larger season’s arc, smart writing and talented guest stars.