Opening credit’s death! A guy gets zapped with bright light after being kicked out of a bar by a guy who says the dead man owes him money, leaving behind only a smoking pile of clothes. Now he’s never going to pay the debt back. Also, very lacking in gore for supernatural.
To the Winchester Bunker, where Dean is having a long angsty research fest trying to find some way to remove the Mark of Cain. He is doing his very best angst face (he has so much practice) when Sam comes in with a case of the vanishing-smoking-clothes people which Dean thinks Sam should check out… alone. He hasn’t left the bunker in a week and he doesn’t intend to change that while he’s still wallowing in Charlie guilt. Their argument does let Dean taunt Sam about his prolonged Easter Bunny belief (hey, I like these brother moments).
Anyway he convinces Dean (I’m not quite sure when that happened) and they go play FBI agents and question witnesses – who, alas, is all about probing aliens (dean would still prefer the little green dudes to angels). Sam is worried about Dean questioning people alone in a dive bar, but Dean calls it “his comfort zone.” Though Dean himself doesn’t seem sure. He orders a drink – despite his obvious ongoing worry.
He questions the bar tender - the man who kicked the vanished guy out of the bar and he doesn’t have nice things to say about the victim. All of this is overheard by a pensive woman sat at the bar. When the bar tender moves on she, Tina, speaks up in the victim, JP’s defence – he wasn’t trustworthy but he wasn’t all bad. And this conversation is overheard by a grizzled looking man in the corner. Everyone in this bar is very bored and waaay too interested in other people. Tina and Dean get to drinking and reminiscing about sad childhoods.
After catching up with Sam who has found nothing, Dean sees grizzled guy leave after Tina and runs to see what’s happening – just to hear a scream, see a flash of light and find her empty, smoking clothes. Right before the same thing happens to him.
The bright flash of light transports Dean into a ragged, locked room – and turns him into a teenager. (Can I second this “seriously”? Oh Supernatural, it’s a gimmick episode.) In a neighbouring room, through a hole in the wall, is teen Tina and Teen JP as well. Grizzled guy grunts his way into the room and drags JP off. At least he brings them cake (Tina naturally fears poison, Teen!Dean is on my side when it comes to cake – it will be eaten!)
Sam follows Dean’s disappearance trail while Teen!Dean escapes (helped by Tina’s fake screaming to cover his exit) and returns to a rather stunned Sam. And Dean being taken as Sam’s son. Dean has to adapt to the horror of being a teenager including the unimaginable – liking Taylor Swift. While Dean rants about puberty Sam reveals he found yarrow at the scene so the person who used magic on Dean is probably a witch
Yes, I did word it that way on purpose.
The difficult bonus is that Teen!Dean doesn’t have the Mark of Cain. Dean considers not being turned back – because a teenager is preferable to being a monster. (The downside is he can’t drink for 7 years and Sam does taunt him about it).
Dean and Sam enter the witch’s house and catch grizzled guy – who works for the witch but isn’t a witch himself; he calls her the worst person in the world and reveals he’s worked for her for centuries during which time she has been super awfully evil. She even made him eat Gretel, his sister – yes this is Hansel. Hansel agrees to help them take down the witch and tells them how to re-age Dean.
The witch is upstairs in the kitchen, preparing to cook Tina as she already has with JP (she’s made soup). Of course she has a huge oven.
Sam, Dean and Hansel enter the kitchen, and Hansel switches sides when the witch reveals she never made him do anything. Sam and Dean are captured. They’re quite regularly captured. Fortunately, most bad guys prefer long preambles before death. This includes exposition about how she uses magic to make adults young because killing children attracts too much attention now. She also reveals she’s been sent by the Grand Coven of witches to take care of Rowena (Crowley’s mother) for causing problems
The cannibal eating kids doesn’t count as causing trouble, it seems.
The inevitable escape attempt happens – and Dean manages to grab the spell pouch that turned him into a child, becoming an adult again before giving Hansel a good stabbing and choking the witch on her own hexbag before forcing her into the oven – we all knew she was going to end up in that oven. Dean looks very Mark-of-Cainy.
Of course with the hexbag in the oven, they can’t turn Tina back. But after thinking Tina decides that resetting her life with all of its issues is probably not a bad thing. A second chance is a good thing to have. They get her to a bus with all the cash they have for her to find that fresh start.
And yes, the Mark of Cain has returned. Sam acknowledges he took it back to save them all and that he wanted his big brother back anyway. Back to drive away – with Taylor Swift on the radio (of course).
Dean is angsting and Sam has to convinced him to leave…
…but isn’t his isolation until they get some clue on how to cure/handle/control the mark not necessarily a BAD thing? Or, even if he isn’t isolated, perhaps he needs to stay away from situations that may cause tension to flare and drive him to excessive violence? He’s
Y’know, Supernatural’s gimmick episodes actually work quite often, though not so much in later seasons. They work because they’re great fun and because Supernatural so often has some big deep dark meta going on that a little relief isn’t a bad thing. This season, despite being 12 episodes long, doesn’t have the meta to carry it. Sure there’s the mark and plenty of angst about it but it’s just… there. No antagonist, no direction.
I will say, though, that Teen!Dean was actually really believable as Dean – that was some good acting. It certainly wasn’t a bad gimmick episode, in fact it was great fun (with lots of taunting brother moments) – but I like seeing Dean and Sam’s interactions over the Mark of Cain, Dean’s fear and guilt, Sam desperately trying to maintain hope and check to see how safe Dean is – it’s an interesting conflicted storyline.
But yes, it was fun, snarky and maybe a little light relief isn’t that bad a thing at this point.