Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 8, Episode 13 of The CW's "Supernatural," entitled "Everybody Hates Hitler."
While Season 8 of "Supernatural" thankfully hasn't mined the depressive depths we sunk to in years six and seven, it's still been a rough few months for the Winchesters, which is why episodes like "Everybody Hates Hitler" and "LARP and the Real Girl" are always a welcome diversion.
All of Ben Edlund's humorous episodes have the uncanny ability to blend pathos with surrealistic comedy, and the odd-couple dynamic of Aaron and his belligerent golem offered an amusing detour from the season's mythology, even if the Monster Of The Week -- Nazi necromancers! -- was a particularly random choice, even by "Supernatural" standards.
And though it must be said that a couple of frowning germans with blow darts and run-of-the-mill guns didn't offer much of a threat (especially compared to an intimidating but underused golem) the episode's focus seemed to be more on the character interplay than the bad guys anyway -- which, on a show like "Supernatural," is always a pleasure to watch, and often preferable to the procedural aspects of a weekly case.
I was much more interested in watching Sam and Dean geeking out over the Men of Letters Batcave in charmingly distinct ways than I was in Nazi magic shenanigans (a plot device that has failed to hold my interest in everything from "Hellboy" to "Captain America," alas).
The Winchesters have been ramblin' men for most of their lives -- even if Bobby's house and Rufus' cabin have offered them temporary shelter in the past -- so it's kind of heartwarming to see them finding somewhere more secure to call their own, especially since the MoL bunker seems stuffed to the rafters with all of their favorite things (weapons, booze and power showers for Dean, and a library that would make Belle swoon for Sam).
I'm admittedly a little dubious about the deus ex machina potential of said library -- which could arguably serve the same purpose as Bobby (or Garth) being at the end of a phone with just the right book or spell to solve the Winchesters' weekly problem, as was sometimes the case with Bobby in past seasons. I'm hoping the writers will still find other ways for the boys to gather information, and the show has been around long enough now that I like to believe the writers know how to avoid those kinds of storytelling pitfalls.
The fact that the Winchesters continually inherit these places of brief sanctuary, usually under tragic circumstances, is a poignant reminder of how royally screwed these guys are -- but if they can derive even brief happiness from strong water pressure and a warm bed, I'm glad to see them given the opportunity.
It was good to see Castiel finally getting a mention (and no surprise, given Edlund's appreciation for the character), although that narrative nod felt a little jarring (through no fault of Edlund's), given that we spent two episodes basically ignoring the massive cliffhanger at the end of "Torn and Frayed."
To go from Cas disappearing and forcing Sam and Dean into lockdown mode because they were suspicious of his behavior in "TAF" to both brothers casually discussing whether either of them had heard from the angel in "EHH" seemed like an odd transition for what sounds like a fairly major plot this season. While I understand that the playful tone of "LARP" didn't leave much room for deep and angsty discussions about whether their feathery friend had somehow been brainwashed, a passing mention in "As Time Goes By" wouldn't have gone amiss, considering the episode dealt with familial time travel (which, until now, always involved angelic assistance) and Henry required an angel feather and soul power to work his Marty McFly magic. Since we get to hear that Kevin and Garth still aren't making any progress on the demon tablet every week, a little narrative consistency for the angel storyline would be welcome, too.
At the end of last week's episode, it seemed like Sam was finally starting to embrace the family business again, and that development was further reinforced by Sam's enthusiasm for the Men of Letters' lair this week. It was sweet to see Dean's subtle approval of Sam's renewed interest in hunting; he gave his not-so-little brother plenty of prerequisite teasing for geeking out over the books and retro technology, but their contented toast to each other at the end of the episode was a breath of fresh air compared to the mistrust and reluctance that has hindered them thus far this season. They still haven't actually talked, let alone apologized, so there's plenty of work still to be done (and as Bob Singer previewed, all that baggage will have to be dealt with sooner or later) but for now it's nice to see the brothers remembering what a good team they make and that they're actually capable of enjoying each other's company when they're not angsting over outside issues.
Edlund's writing certainly gave Jensen Ackles a lot to work with, especially in terms of physical comedy -- his scimitar-wielding antics and adorably awkward reaction to Aaron's fake flirtation were hilariously charming, while Sam's appreciation for their new hideout was a welcome flashback to the nerdy enthusiasm he had for research in Seasons 1 and 2, before everything literally went to hell for them both.
Overall, "Everybody Hates Hitler" was a good old-fashioned romp, with enough wit to keep the story engaging even if the villain wasn't particularly memorable. Three cheers for the unexpectedly perfect comedy duo of John Desantis and Adam Rose for bringing the cranky golem and his not-rabbi boss to life with such depth and comedic timing; here's hoping they'll reappear somewhere down the line when Sam and Dean are in need of extra muscle and snark. And huge, golem-sized kudos to production designer Jerry Wanek and his team for creating such a beautiful, fascinating base for Sam and Dean in the Men of Letters bunker -- the sense of scale was especially impressive, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it as the season progresses.
"Supernatural" airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST on The CW.
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