Let's call Supernatural's "Regarding Dean" "pleasantly mediocre." The episode hit all the right beats with the latest foray into not-the-plot-of-this-season. Dean (Jensen Ackles) got whammied by a witch. The spell in question slowly sapped his memories, leading to some easy LOLs and then the obligatory puppy faces and man-tears of a Winchester brother angst-fest. It was a perfectly acceptable episode. I'm just not sure if it will attain "classic" status in the pantheon of Supernatural greatness. "Mystery Spot" this was not.
And it felt as though the characters on our screens sensed that as well. Despite the official Sad Winchester piano music in the background and a truly heartbreaking performance by Jensen Ackles and a mirror, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean gave off an air of resignation that made it seem like they were feeling more a sense of obligation than the terror of a potential defeat.
Dean got zapped with a memory spell. It was funny until it wasn't. Sam said watching Dean slowly turn into someone who wasn't his brother was worse than all those times he watched Dean die — because, at this point on Supernatural, death is so Seasons 2, 3, 5, 6 , 9, 11 and probably others that I'm forgetting because that's where we are now with this series. Sam and Dean both died two weeks ago and it was met with about as much enthusiasm as President Trump's inauguration.
A fate worse than death seems to be the very thing that Supernatural has struggled to find after literally killing Death a bazillion seasons ago (okay, like two seasons ago). The series has considered the Darkness and Billie's "void" and, however briefly, "Regarding Dean" gave us a more personally devastating "end" by not killing a Winchester at all, bur rather simply removing everything that made him him. Dean's magical loss of self was a throwback to the heady days of Soulless Sam, and there's something to be said about each Winchester's respective response to losing that thing that makes him a person. While Sam turned into a meaty murder machine, the Dean we saw in "Regarding Dean" felt every bit as stripped down to the frame as Soulless Sam did. But his foundation was revealed to be fundamentally different.
Dean, without his internal compass, was more childlike: enthusiastic about the prospect of hunting vampires, witches, and werewolves-- like early seasons of Dean, before he got all bogged down with the baggage of being a Winchester-- but he was also more docile in a way. Wracked with uncertainty, he looked to Sam and Rowena (Ruth Connell) to guide him and repair him. He lost his memory, but never his trust in his allies-- particularly in Sam. Similarly, even at his most homicidal, soulless self, Sam looked to Dean for guidance and direction.
With that in mind, "Regarding Dean" can't be dismissed as complete filler. It had some strong performances and great character moments from our favorite co-dependent-but-working-on-it brothers. It just didn't have that emotionally-devastating OOMPH that also tends to come along with these kinds of forays into Man Angst City. Plus, it's been three episodes now; can we please get back to hunting down Satan's baby momma?
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.
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