Supernatural meta, reviews & fic recs

SPN 9.07: Bad Boys review

the boys salt and burn a grave

Back to basics

Despite having written the excellent Mommy Dearest (6.19), I’ve raked Adam Glass over the coals for such poor episodes as Like a Virgin (6.12) and Freaks and Geeks (8.18), but I think he’s redeemed himself with Bad Boys. I’m not saying I don’t have a few issues with this week’s episode, but for me this was the strongest, most enjoyable episode of the season. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best episodes since the end of season 6.

Not only was it great to see the boys out of the bunker and on a hunt together, but this episode looked much more like the Supernatural of seasons 1 and 2. It had a darker, grittier style. The scenes shot in the barn were particularly well done.

Dean investigates in barn

The episode begins with a mysterious phone call for D-Dog. Dean admits that during a stay in the Catskills he lost the food money in a card game and was sent to a boy’s home. Sam remembers being told that Dean was lost on a hunt. Sam asked why Dean and John didn’t just tell him the truth. Dean says he doesn’t know. It was John’s idea, but it becomes clear when they arrive.

Sam: Wait you were here two months and Dad couldn’t find you?
Dean: Oh no, he found me. He found me real quick. He just left me here because I lost the money.
Sam: You were sixteen. You made a mistake.
Dean: Look I know how you think. None of this was Dad’s fault.

So, why would John lie? Because it was better for him that Sam think his big brother was lost, possibly dead, on a hunt for two months than that John had just abandoned Dean at a reform home. John knew how Sam thought too, and he knew how much Sam would resent him for it. He didn’t consider how much more traumatic it might be for Sam to think that Dean was lost. The problem is that Glass didn’t give us an indication that Sam was traumatized or even troubled by Dean’s disappearance. The flash of young Sam that the viewer gets is of a chubby child leaning out the window of the Impala playing with an airplane. That doesn’t suggest a boy who has been missed his big brother for two months, and adult Sam doesn’t indicate that he was troubled by Dean’s disappearance either.

Another issue I had with this episode was the age discrepancy. This blew up on Twitter before the episode aired because Glass said Sam was nine. While it isn’t mentioned in the episode, it is clear from the glimpse we got that the boy in the car is way too young to be twelve, which is the age Sam would have been if Dean was sixteen. Furthermore, Dean’s “behavior” in the episode is less mature than most of us would imagine him at a 16-year-old. Glass explained it in a Tweet in which he said that he had written Dean as fourteen, but the actor, Dylan Everett, looked older, so they changed Dean’s age. That was, I think, an unwise decision. In solving one problem, they created others. Not only does the kid who played Sam look way too young to be twelve, but he plays with a toy plane, which Sam wouldn’t have done at that age. Of course, if Dean had been fourteen then the actor who played his girlfriend would have looked way too old because she looked about twenty as it was. And I can’t imagine anyone not being surprised that Dean’s first kiss was at sixteen. Would a 16-year-old Dean have left his brother to go off gambling and shoplifting? Who was looking after Sam at this bungalow colony anyway? It’s hard to imagine that after the incident with shtriga, Dean would have let Sam out of his sight without some pretty responsible supervision.

Be that as a may, it was interesting to see young Dean outside that toxic family environment that John created. Dean did well in school, made the wrestling team, and had a girlfriend. I really liked the actor who played Sonny. He reminded me of a young Nick Nolte. One could only imagine what Dean would have been like had he taken Sonny up on the offer to stay. I mean, here was a father figure who said he was proud of Dean. On the other hand, do we really think that Bobby never said that given the fact that we are now being led to believe that the boys spent a lot more time with Bobby than early seasons indicated?

Dylan Everett, who played young Dean, was competent. It was interesting to see that while Dean might have some of the bluster we saw in season 1 Dean, he sure didn’t have that devil-may-care charm or even the bullshit abilities of Brock Kelly’s Dean. The boy who played Timmy was quite good. He came across as a very bright, articulate kid without the childish lisping or shyness children are usually forced to portray in TV and movies. I liked him a lot, but considering what the poor kid went through, he’ll probably grow up to be a serial killer.

Timmy watches his mom die in a car fire

Of course, Dean struck up a report with young Timmy right away, as he did young Lucas in Dead in the Water (1.03). In this case, we discover it was Timmy’s mother who died after Sam finds graphic drawings of a fiery car crash drawn in the hayloft. Wait—a mother who burns alive, why does that sound familiar? And it turns out that Timmy’s mother was blonde, you know before she became a rotted corpse/vengeful spirit.

It turns out that she was clinging to Timmy in order to protect him. Dean talks Timmy into telling her that she has to stop hurting people and leave, “Dean: Sometimes you gotta do what’s best for you even if it’s gonna hurt the ones you love.” That’s reminiscent of Dean telling Charlie in PacMan Fever (8.20) that she has to let her mother go. Now, some may say that Dean is a hypocrite, but not at all because what Dean sees as best for him is keeping Sam with him. The look on his face when he saw his little brother in the Impala wasn’t one of resignation. He wasn’t looking at “his job.” That was a look of love. While in earlier seasons, he was made to seem more of a responsibility and burden to Dean. The writers have gone out of their way this season to underscore Dean’s love for Sam.

Another thing that reminded me of Dead in the Water was the housekeeper being drowned in the bathtub as Lucas’s mother nearly was. I liked these references back to early episodes. That, combined with the feel of Bad Boys with the some of the darker scenes in the barn, gave this old school haunting/hunt a nice feel from the early seasons that so many fans miss. It wasn’t brightly colored and frenetically paced as most of the past few seasons have been. I’d like to think that this is an indication that the show is moving back toward its roots. We’ll see.

The drowning death was filmed well and along with death by tractor and a lawnmower maiming, the scare factor was pretty high. Like a lot of fans, I started watching Supernatural because it was a horror genre show, but it’s slowly moved away from that and become more of a drama interspersed with action. Bad Boys harkened back to seasons 1 and 2, and I for one really enjoyed that.

The closing sequence was also old-school Supernatural with the boys leaving after a successful of saving people, hunting things. It’s clear to Sam after what he learned of Dean’s time at the farm, that his brother liked it there. He asks Dean why he didn’t stay, and Dean says that it wasn’t his thing.

Dean cries over leaving the farm

One perfect tear

In a flashback, Dean is shown getting ready for the big dance. Sonny comes in and tells him that his dad is there, but if Dean wants to stay, Sonny says he’ll go out on a limb to let him stay. We can see that Dean is torn. He does like it there, and he really likes this girl. He goes to the window then and sees Sam in the Impala. He smiles. One tear tracks down his cheek as he tells Sonny he has to leave. The flashback ends, and they get in the Impala.

Sam thanks Dean

“Dean, thank you.”

Sam: Dean, thank you.
Dean: For what?
Sam: For being there. For always having my back. Look, I know it hasn’t always been easy.
Dean: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Dean smiles

And that smile right there, says it all. Dean knows exactly what Sam is talking about, and it makes it all worth it – every sacrifice he’s ever made, everything he’s suffered – because Sam does know, and he’s there, and he’s grateful. We know that Sam is likely to learn of his angel possession and Dean’s role in that soon. This episode was a really nice opportunity for them to make a connection and for Sam to be reminded of just how much Dean has sacrificed for him prior to that secret coming out.

I would love to think that this episode is a turn in the road for the show, and that it will get back to its roots – saving people, hunting things, the family business.

the impala

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11 responses

  1. Grean

    I loved this episode. Yes it had the same feel as the early years and I missed that very much. I thought, although the boy playing Dean looked nothing like him, he was excellent. He certainly had many of Deans mannerisms down, not the horrible Brock caricature.
    I loved Sam in this episode, he was there with Dean all the way. I loved him poking around finding things out about Dean that Dean seems unwilling or unable to reveal himself. The grave digging scene made me especially happy. Only in Supernatural would that statement make sense. Overall I have to say my favorite episode in years.

    November 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    • I didn’t think that Dylan Everett looked anything like Dean either, but he did apparently watch the first five seasons in a week when he got the part. So, I give him kudos for doing his homework. I’m sure that made all the difference in his performance.

      Yes, I loved the interest that Sam showed in Dean’s time at the farm. He’s a curious guy anyway, but he really wanted to get the essence of Dean’s experience there and what Dean was like outside the family. What he found told him that Dean had embraced the experience, not just survived it. Leaving had been a sacrifice for Dean, and that’s what Sam’s thank you was all about.

      My favorite in years too. Glass is an uneven writer, but every once in awhile he hits it out of the park.

      November 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm

  2. nancy

    You can’t see me but I am jumping up and down. I totally agree with you. If John had told Young Sam that Dean had gotten lost on a hunt, Sam wouldn’t be sitting in the back seat playing with a toy. He would have ran out of the car and into his brother’s arms. Even adult Sam didn’t seem that concerned about recalling that memory. You would think that he would have been cursing out John for making him worry about Dean. it seemed to me that John had bought Sam the new toy to get his mind off of his missing brother, which doesn’t make sense. Maybe my headcanon has them co-dependent at that young an age but Sam seemed way too calm in the car, considering he hadn’t seen his brother for two months.
    Thank you. I also DO NOT think that Dean had his first kiss at 16. I don’t see why the actor, who reminded me of Matt Cohan, couldn’t have been a mature 14. THAT would have made better sense.
    I agree with your point about Teen Dean looking out the window at the Impala. He was almost ready to tell Sonny ‘ok’, but then he saw Sammy and forget everything else. That is why we had the weeBoys moments in the ‘then’. Dean will do anything for Sam.
    How long has it been since we had a ‘salt and burn’? Too frigging long. This was definitely old school SPN at it’s finest. Chuck, I really hope that when Sam finds out what Dean did in regards to Zeke, that he understands that Dean did it because he loves Sam too much to let him go.
    Despite the few minor snags, I loved this episode. It would fit in perfectly into season one or two. I hope the rest of the episodes this season are more like this (but I am not holding my breath).

    November 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    • I don’t think it’s wrong to think of them as codependent at that age though. Sam was Dean’s from the moment he ran out of that burning house with him in his arms, and Dean was the only stability and security that Sam had ever known. He had no home, no mother, his father was frequently absent, but Dean was always there for him — until this! That’s why Sam would have had a serious reaction to it.

      I think this episode was placed to show Sam that he wasn’t just a burden or a job to Dean. Dean chose to be with him out of love, not obligation. Hopefully that knowledge will mitigate the betrayal that Sam will feel.

      November 20, 2013 at 2:42 pm

  3. shyla

    There was a salt and burn in Season 8’s Everybody Hates Hitler. People forget.

    November 20, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    • I didn’t forget. Just pointing out that we don’t see them much anymore, and we see the look of the original, classic Supernatural less and less. It looks like the Joel Schumacher Batman to the classic SPN’s Dark Knight look.

      November 24, 2013 at 9:31 am

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  7. wolfeep

    Banging Patchouli! lol Oh my god. Anyways. Yeah. This episode reminded me of Seasons 1 and 2 also. I really liked it. I hope tomorrow is just as good. Hope it sticks.

    November 25, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    • So it’s the day after tomorrow, and I’ve got my review of the mid-season finale up. Read and let me know what you thought of it.

      December 4, 2013 at 10:40 am

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