The Impala is not just a car on “Supernatural.” As Sam tells Dean at the end, “We are home.” Baby is, more than any other place has been for the Winchesters, home, and it’s hard to believe that, on a show that has had quite a few strange and out-of-the-box episodes, it took until season 11 for an episode entirely from the perspective of the car. But that’s what happened in the Wednesday, Oct. 28 episode, aptly titled “Baby,” and oh, not only did it work well, but it’s also easily one of the best episodes of the series and proves that this show works best when it’s all about the brothers. There’s just something special about a show when that’s still true 11 seasons in.
The Impala has been through it all right alongside the brothers time and time again on “Supernatural.” Baby has been beat down and roughed up more than once, and Dean is right there to put his car back together (and after this episode, he’ll have to do that again, as the Impala ends up just as beaten and bruised as the Winchesters at the end of the hunt, which, in a way, is only fitting).
Though the Darkness is very much still part of the narrative (and more so than they could have predicted it would be on what they originally deem a “thin” case), this feels like an old school episode for the boys – hunting a monster, looking into lore to figure out what they’re dealing with (with a bit of help on the other end of the phone, this time from Castiel, who’s still healing in the bunker) and talking about family (specifically, their father and those dreams of a normal life that do seem to be just a dream these days) – and it’s headlined by a brotherly heart-to-heart that could not have been better and, in comparison, smaller, but no less powerful, moments of Sam and Dean laughing, joking, singing, eating and just being brothers while on the road.
The case itself is one of those regular hunts with a little extra something, in this instance, the fact that it’s a creature they haven’t seen before – a mauling could be a werewolf, but upon arriving in Oregon, they find out that the body was missing its heart and drained of blood – along with a connection of sorts to the bigger picture – even monsters know and worry about the Darkness. Dean’s first thought as to what the creature is is to give the possible werewolf/vampire hybrid a nickname (werepire), but as Castiel digs into the lore, he comes up with other possibilities, the first of which he realizes can’t be it as Dean fights off one and discovers that silver just slows it down and decapitation doesn’t kill it. Dean ends up putting the creature’s head in the cooler. With the unique styling of the episode, the focus remains on Castiel on the phone in the car, while Dean fights off the deputy outside.
It’s after Dean picks up Sam and the victim’s unconscious widow that Castiel identifies the creature, which is in essence a ghoulpire. If they kill the alpha – by following the Ancient Greek tradition of putting a copper coin in his mouth (as currency to cross the river to the underworld) and severing the head – the others will revert to human form. Unfortunately for Dean, he ends up having to fight off two of them on his own, when the widow turns out to be one of them and, after one crazy fight in the car, drives off and reunites the alpha’s head with his body. The second crazy fight, featuring Dean versus two ghoulpires, ends with Dean jamming coins into the alpha’s mouth and decapitating him using the car door. (Side note: Love the pieces coming together for that last night: Sam’s one night stand’s hairpin and the purse of the valet’s best friend in the backseat may be everyday items, but they’re what Dean needs rather than the machete in this hunt.) Even though that is all a lot to have happen in a car and only that which can be seen in and from the car is shown, it works smoothly in this case. That’s not to say it’s something that could work every week or in any other episode, but in this instance, with this episode’s style? It should definitely be considered a success.
As for the Darkness, as Sam notes, “even the monsters are scared.” The alpha ghoulpire even tells Dean that he’d been turning more people lately to build up an army to fight it, though he didn’t think anything could stop it, that it’s coming for all of them, and there’s nothing that hunters of any human can do. Add that to the demons’ reaction to it and the rumor going around hell that Michael or Lucifer is trying to warn them… Well, it can’t mean anything good. Dean remains determined that he and Sam will be the ones to end it (starting tomorrow, since they deserve some time to heal after this hunt).
Though the entire episode is easily a highlight in itself, the best parts are easily those that take place outside of the hunt. When Sam falls asleep after wondering about something “more” than a one-night stand, he “wakes up” to find John – Matt Cohen’s John – driving the Impala. “You look a little spooked,” John notices, adding that Dean seems to have taken good care of the car and of Sam. When Sam chalks this up to just another vision, John argues, “When has death ever stopped a Winchester?” (It’s a fair point. Or it was, given what the reaper told Sam when he was infected.) Following off of Sam’s conversation with Dean about wanting more, John admits that he never wanted this life for his sons, and that while he did his best, the way they turned out is because of them, not him. It’s this fact, that his “father” was saying everything he wanted to hear, as he later tells Dean, that he knows it’s not real.
“I never could fool you, could I?” “John” finally allows. (Is that a hint as to who this really is?) “Dream, vision, call it what you want. The message is still the same: The Darkness is coming. Only you boys can stop it.” As for how, there’s only this cryptic message: “God helps those who help themselves.” With Dean noting that that phrase is out of Aesop’s Fables, the mystery of whom Sam was talking to, who sent him those visions, remains. As part of hands down the best scene of the episode – there should be more like this more often – when he really wakes up and finds Dean has pulled over for the night, Sam admits that it’s not the first vision he’s had, that he had another after praying to God in the hospital, looking for answers when he was infected. Dean suggests the “visions” are just a side effect from the infection he’s only just now telling him he had, but Sam offers up a different theory: just like the Darkness is sending Dean messages, the opposite of the Darkness is sending Sam messages. But God has had many opportunities before now to show up, so why hasn’t he? And why would he show up looking like their father? Maybe it’s not God, Sam concedes, but it has to be something, right? Dean doesn’t think that anyone’s going to show up to help them (and who can blame him, given their history), so they’ll just have to figure it out like they always do.
As great as it is to see John Winchester – whether it’s really him or not – again, there will always be too few scenes between the Winchesters and their father. The fact that one of those (though it’s not really him) comes in this episode only makes it all the more poignant. And while it’s not really John in Sam’s vision/dream, it does lead to a chat between the brothers that is not only the high point of the episode, but likely the season as well (though it may be too early to judge that), as they each admit to dreaming about a normal life, a normal childhood, with their parents. For Dean, it’s their father teaching him how to drive at 16, with Sam in the backseat, and coming home to a family house. For Sam, it’s the same sentiment, only starring their mother. And that scene is perfectly capped with Sam and Dean settling in for the night, with the former in the backseat and the latter in the front, with “Goodnight, jerk” and “Goodnight, bitch,” in their home.
“Supernatural” season 11 airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW. What did you think of episode 4 “Baby”?