It is the much vaunted 300th episode of Supernatural. And some people are going to be very very excited.
I am not one of them, to be honest
So in a standard little encounter, Sam and Dean take down someone who murdered a Hunter, to take his shiny collection. They kill him and find a whole host of shinies and promptly take it all back to the Winchester cave
There follows the best part of the episode for me, where Sam and Dean, with an actually home, are now known by the locals and have even become something of an urban legend for the local kids.
We do get some shenanigans with a teen stealing Dean’s car (how very dare they!) followed by a brief appearance of John Wayne Gacy’s ghost (ok… I’ve said before that I’m not exactly 100% comfortable with using real life serial killers for casual, throwaway entertainment like this. I find it pretty distasteful and disrespectful, especially when those serial killers are recent enough that the loved ones of their victims may still be around) which is quickly vanquished but does result in the local teens learning about ghosts and hunters. Maybe this will be a hook for later episodes
Because now we get to the meat of the episode. Among the treasures iks a Chinese pearl which apparently grants wishes - or your heat’s desire
KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!!!
I do not believe for one second that the Winchesters wouldn’t avoid this item like the plague. No magical item that grants wishes comes without the worst of all possible catches. Never ever ever make wishes. Never!
Instead they think this is the ideal solution to their Archangel Michael problem, after all Dean’s greatest desire is to get Michael out of his head
Waaait… how come no-one thinks “hey this could lead to Michael being released, also bad?)
So Dean grabs the pearl and thinks of his heart’s desire… and Negan appears
I mean John Winchester Appears. Yes, daddy dearest. And this is where I depart from a large amount of Supernatural fandom, many of whom like John while I tend to be very firmly in the “fuck John, Bobby is their real dad” camp.
Of course the Winchester brothers react with lots of emotion and rhapsodies and, yes they are very very very very very very good at the emotion, the shock, the pathos, the joy, the grief, it’s all there
And it’s all there times ten when John finds Mary alive - the very reason he took up hunting to have vengeance against Azazel, the yellow eyed demon who killed her. SO MUCH EMOTION
Sam belatedly realises there could be a catch to this but, of course Dean isn’t hearing that at all, because this is the best thing there’s ever been ever for him and he is beyond ecstatic. There’s a lot of emotional joyful scenes with John and Sam trying to address their fraught past with John recognising he made mistakes and Sam agreeing but also pointing out, to Sam, those mistakes were half a lifetime ago and when he thinks of his dead dad it’s not the arguments he remembers (ahhh the danger of nostalgia. I think if John hung around we’d find those arguments bubblong). And even John and Dean have a moment where John says he wished Dean could have had a normal life and a family (liar! You dirty rotten liar! Dean was the “good” son who eschewed all pretence of a normal life to be the good soldier you raised him to be. All the fights with Sam were over him wanting a normal life!)
Everything is idyllic and shiny and happy and they go to town and shop… and no-one there recognises them. Duly suspicious they do some research and find that Dean is now a wanted criminal known as a serial killer beheading various things. While Sam is doing TED talks about the glories of Kale
Sam is clearly the worst person here
We have a time line paradox. They have become the people they would have become if daddy Winchester didn’t die - which means Dean went on solo hunting and Sam went to college and became a hipster. A terrible fate worse than death
As they try to assimilate to this idea, another ominous element arrives - the angel Zachariah arrives with Castiel (and yes +100 points for snarking that Castiel looks like Constantine)
I will point out this technically means in this timn line Heaven wasn’t wiped out which kind of makes the Winchesters rather responsible for the slaughter of Heaven
They are here to see who is messing with the time line and lo, they meet the Winchesters. Hey, remember when angels were scary and had awesome wing effects and Castiel was kind of terrifying? Yup, this is that timeline
Sam does manage to stab Zachariah with an angel blade because he isn’t expecting it. But both together they can’t bring down Castiel who smacks them around the bar and back, completely failing to recognise them and reminding us, again, that Castiel is a truly dangerous being far more than comic relief. Sam manages to use an angel banishing symbol to save them from being horrendously murdered
The catch is well and truly realised.
Ok brief theory as to why John coming back causes time line shenanigans and not Mary - Mary was literally plucked into the future, while this wish seems to be altering the time line so John never died. This may also explain why John is less of an arsehole. (And looks older).
And, for extra heartbreak, a timeline where John is alive and both Winchesters aren’t hunting is also a timeline where Mary doesn’t come back from the dead.
Which effectively makes it a choice between John and Mary, which is deeply tragic. Well, also it’s a choice between being murdered by angels or not. Which also kind of weighs the scales.
They have one more meal with John insisting they focus on the good time and happiness. And Sam and Dean have a really good moment where Sam wonders if it would be good if John goes back in time with the lessons he learned and changes their childhood. But Dean isn’t supportive of that - because they could always wish John learned more and more and was a kinder father - but that would have resulted in a different childhood. In a different Dean. A Dean doesn’t even know how he would be different. But what Dean does know is that he liked who he is, he’s happy with this Dean.
Which is actually a first - I mean I do really picture Dean as being kind of self-hating, duty-orientated with very little in the way of self-care. But it’s less self-hating and more self-effacing: martyrdom which perhaps doesn’t actively HATE himself, but just doesn’t rate himself highly enough in the grand scheme, or has internalised his martyrdom as a major element of his humanity
In the aftermath they destroy the Mcguffin and John returns to the past. I think the whole episode was touching but I think probably more powerful for those who were fans of John