I was excited for tonight’s Supernatural episode in large part because I didn’t realize that there was no episode last week (who scheduled things so that there was no Halloween episode? Boo). Thankfully, this is a very good episode that was worth the long wait. It’s very self-reflexive. One half of the episode in particular does some really interesting meta work, and even though from the outside this might look like one of those old-school bros only hunting episodes, there’s actually a lot more going on.
Just to get this out of the way: the monster-of-the-week episodes are always my least favorites. Supernatural has been going on long enough that placeholder episodes with no plot or character development beyond finding and killing a monster don’t do anything for me anymore. The episode needs to have something special, like a secondary character who isn’t usually present for the hunts (like Hunteri Heroici, when Cas decided to become a hunter) or a silly gimmick (Yellow Fever is the one that comes immediately to mind) or some reference to the main plot of the season. Otherwise the episodes just feel like treading water. I thought Atomic Monsters was going to be one of those, but the guest stars saved it.
The episode opens on a dream/AU/vision. It takes place in a beard-inverted universe saturated in red. Well, not totally beard-inverted. While the usually beardless Dean has one and the normally bearded Benny is unrecognizably clean-faced, Sam’s facial hair situation is the same as ever. I’m not kidding when I say Benny’s unrecognizable. If Dean hadn’t addressed his friend by name, and if Benny hadn’t busted out the catchphrase, I wouldn’t have known who he was.
Benny appears only to die (RIP Benny), which seems at first to be a waste of a fan-favorite character. But after thinking about it more, I’ve decided it’s actually a freaking brilliant cameo, for two reasons. The first reason is both more immediately obvious and more of a stretch. AU!Dean and his crew are racing through a bunker, fighting demons. Before killing one, Dean demands, “Where is he?” I thought that the ‘he’ in question was going to be, well, a question for longer. We find out quickly that Dean is referring to Sam, specifically a Sam who is evil and high on demon blood.
That said, a scruffy Dean running around with Benny, killing monsters, and searching desperately for someone rings a bell. What is it? What is it? Oh, yeah.