Another week, another round of Winchester family angst on Supernatural -- but they definitely get brownie points for nuance in this week's haunted murder doll adventure.
The case itself, like so many cases of the week on Supernatural, fell to the wayside as Sam (Jared Padalecki), Dean (Jensen Ackles), and Mary (Samantha Smith) worked through their damaged dynamic with a backpack full of salt and lighter fluid. After 12 seasons, resurrection is still a bitch on this show, even if the resurrected party is saintly Mary Winchester; fridged momma and first of the many dead chicks who haunt Dean and Sam's sad, violent lives.
Mary Winchester is a treasure, btw. If that smattering of time-travel/flashback episodes a few seasons ago and the introduction of the Men of Letters tried to shed some light on the influences, big and small, that shaped who Sam and Dean Winchester are, then Mary is the final piece of the puzzle -- the empty space that Sam, Dean, and the audience needed to complete the picture.
I love that Mary is a perfectly capable hunter, with or without the internet. I love the implication that Dean's junk food diet wasn't necessarily born out of a lifetime on the road, where the closest thing to home cooked anything was a bucket of extra crispy and maybe some Boston Market if John was feeling really fancy. I love that Mary struggles with her outsiderness and feels as adrift in her own life as Sam so often has over the years. "Like sons, like mother," is absolutely right.
Of course, this is Supernatural, where all good things must come to an end (or go on hiatus). Struggling to fit into this life her sons built -- a life that she never wanted for them -- Mary left the bunker at the end of "The Foundry" to make peace with her resurrection and herself.
The things that Mary loses in the 30 years following her death are no small price. She left this plane a young mother in a pre-internet world, confident that she had shaken off her hunter pedigree and was ready for a blissfully boring small-town life. Then she died, which sucked, but apparently her Heaven was better than the trainwreck Sam and Dean got to experience back in Season 5.
And now here she is, presented as a reward to her sons for a job well done, plonked down in a world that has changed so much since she was last here, completely alone. Completely alone. John has been dead for years and yes, Dean and Sam are her sons, and there's no question that she loves them, but Dean and Sam in 2016 are not her Dean and Sam. She last saw them in 1983 and, in a way, those boys are long dead too. That's a lot to take in, even with the knowledge and understanding that this is how the world works. Sometimes people just come back from the dead.
Mary's exit at the end of this week's episode, while awful for those of us who have grown rather attached in the handful of episodes since her return to the land of the living, is a good thing. Rather than trying to plow through a literal (after)lifetime of issues in just a few quick and dirty episodes, Supernatural is showing that it's comfortable with its leads being a little uncomfortable. Mary didn't leave the boys on bad terms, but they weren't particularly great terms either. I'm sure we'll see her again, but when that time will come is hard to say.
This is a woman who clearly wants a relationship with her sons, but doesn't know how to create one with the materials she has -- and frankly, neither do her sons. Is she the sacred mother who must be protected at all costs? Is she a hunting buddy? Is she an authority figure? Mary Winchester is roughly the same age that her sons currently are and they've grown up revering her memory without having to navigate her as a person. Can mother ever truly know best when it comes to Sam and Dean? She doesn't know them and they don't know her. This isn't something that can be worked out in a few quick hunts.
Plus, for the cynical viewer in us, sending Mary on an eat-pray-love adventure of her very own means we (theoretically) don't have to worry about the early demise that plagues so many of our favorites. She's safe, guys. SHE'S SAFE.
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)