As we embark upon Episode 12 of the tenth season of Supernatural, there are still a lot of interesting stories to be explored. The scenes from previous Supernatural episodes at the start of “About a Boy” bring us back to the ongoing saga of the Mark of Cain and the mystery around Rowena. We’re still captivated by these stories each week. In “About a Boy,” Supernatural weaves together these story arcs, while being a very intriguing Monster-of-the-Week episode unto itself.
[If you prefer to listen to this recap in an audio file, you can do so below, otherwise read on]
We open with a bartender arguing with a customer named J.P. We see a lot of bars in Supernatural. Apparently alcohol and the paranormal are a dangerous combination. After getting thrown out of the bar, the former patron pushes past a homeless man on his way to his car. When J.P. tries to get into his car, a mysterious big man walks up behind him. There’s a flash and J.P. is gone. The homeless man comes running over when he hears the scream, only to find a hot mess of clothes on the ground with no signs of the man who was just inhabiting them.
We revisit the Mark of Cain as Dean sits in his room surrounded by books while Ashes the Rain and I by the James Gang plays in the background. Dean’s past conversations with Cain and Crowley are replayed as he continues to search the lore for information about the Mark. Dean is still working hard to find a solution. He didn’t even work this hard to keep himself from going to Hell, but then again, he was young back then and easily distracted. Sam brings up a potential case, but Dean’s lackluster response has Sam concerned. He points out that Dean hasn’t left the bunker in a week, adding that he can’t live the rest of his life in his room. Though, let’s not forget that Dean loves having his own room, so perhaps he would be happy to spend the rest of his life in there. Sam gives Dean one of his little pep talks:
Sam: “You need to get back in the game, for your own good. You can beat this, Dean.”
Dean: “Do you really believe that?”
Sam: “Yeah, you’re damn right I believe that.”
Dean: “You know you also believed in the Easter Bunny ’til you were 12.”
Sam: “No I didn’t. Look, I was 11.”
Dean: “And a half.”
Sam: “And a half. Right. So?”
It seems as if Sam’s words of wisdom have an impact on Dean, or else Dean just doesn’t want to hear it anymore, so agrees to go. They suit up and go check out the scene. Maybe Sam should be more a little more worried about the people Dean could massacre if he loses control. Then again, we’re also itching for them to get out of the Bunker and get hunting, so what the heck.
Sam and Dean interview the homeless man, who reports smelling flowers, flowerly flowers, after the flash of light. Based on his own, perhaps imagined, previous experience, the man believes that J.P. was abducted by aliens. But this isn’t the X-Files. Sam suggests to Dean that instead of aliens it could have been caused by fairies, which refers us back to the episode “Clap Your Hands if You Believe …” (S06E09). Dean seems nervous about getting back into the swing of things, so Sam offers to stick together. Dean says he’ll be fine going on his own, as interviewing locals in a dive bar is in Dean’s wheelhouse. Dean walks up to the bar, orders a shot, looks at it reflectively for a moment, and then drinks it. Then he looks down at his arm, pondering the Mark of Cain. It appears that Dean is giving up his efforts at abstinence that we had seen in the last episode, “There’s No Place Like Home” (S10E11).
Dean asks the bartender about the man who disappeared, and the bartender has nothing good to say about him. A woman nearby listens in, then tells Dean that J.P. wasn’t that bad. We see that the mysterious big man from the night before is sitting nearby. Dean and the woman, Tina, enjoy some drinks and conversation together. It’s surprising the show is giving Dean an age-appropriate woman to interact with, though his interest does not seem romantic. She tells Dean that she’s leaving, and just then Sam calls to check in. While talking to Sam on the phone, Dean watches the mysterious big man from the bar follow Tina outside. Dean tells Sam that he thinks he has a lead and hangs up. Dean follows them outside, hears Tina’s screams, sees a flash, and then finds her uninhabited clothes on the ground. The mysterious big man walks up behind Dean and there’s another flash. Dean finds himself locked in a dreary room and discovers he is a teenager, saying his classic line: “Son of a bitch.”
Dean finds young Tina and young J.P. locked up as well, in a decrepit room next door with holes in the crumbling wall between them, allowing them to communicate. Now we know why they gave Dean an age-appropriate woman to talk to. If Tina had been the age of the women he usually talks to in bars, Dean would be locked up with an infant. The mysterious big man comes in and takes J.P. away. Dean assures Tina he will get her out of there. A big piece of cake is pushed into Dean’s cell, which he only stops eating after Tina points out that it is probably poisoned.
Meanwhile, Sam’s on the hunt for Dean. He goes into the bar, passing the “Must be 21 to be served” sign on his way in. He violently “questions” the bartender, who tells him that he found Dean’s phone and jacket by the dumpster out back. Sam finds Dean’s gun beside the dumpster and decides to smell it. Not the response we were expecting. It’s covered in yellow pollen and he notes that the gun smells like flowers. Back in the tween prison, the mysterious big man is coming for Dean, who is busy trying to escape out the window. Tina tells Dean she’ll distract their jailor so Dean can escape and go get help. She screams so that the man comes into her room instead of Dean’s, allowing Dean to make his way out the window. Sam is back at the hotel reading about transfiguration spells on Professor Farqus’s website Witchcraft and the Occult. This is not the first time Sam has referenced this site and we wonder if we’ll get to meet Professor Farqus in a future episode. There’s a knock on his door and Sam finds young Dean standing on his doorstep.
Sam asks Dean what happened, and Dean tells him he doesn’t know, “Some Scarface looking dude, bright light, next thing I know I wake up looking like Bieber.” Dean is looking for weapons to get Tina out and doesn’t have time to chat. As they walk out of the hotel, Dean picks up a key an older woman has dropped, who then tells Sam, “Your son is so polite.” Dean’s transition has created some age-related challenges for him, resulting in Sam getting to drive the Impala. If Jared Padalecki is going to continue to be relegated to the sidekick role this season, we’re glad he’s getting to drive the car more often.
When Sam asks Dean how he feels being 14, Dean tells him it’s freaking weird and that he found himself liking a Taylor Swift song. They then have a frank discussion about puberty. Not really, but some uncomfortable conversation does ensue. Sam tells Dean the culprit appears to be a witch and assures him that they will figure out how to reverse the spell. Dean points out that in his 14-year-old body, he no longer has the Mark of Cain and suggests that perhaps they shouldn’t reverse the spell. Does anyone really want to be 14 again? Or does everyone want to be 14 again?
Sam: “So are you saying you want to stay like this?”
Dean: “No. No, but if it’s between being a psycho rage monster-slash-borderline demon or a teenager?”
Dean: “Look, I’m not a fan either, but, Sam, this is problem solved. And I’m still me. I can still hunt. I’m just … dewier.”
Sam: “OK, look, you have a point. Kind of. But dude …”
Sam: “I know.”
Dean seems to have almost made his peace with the notion, while Sam seems less on board with having a teenage brother to deal with. Would a 14-year-old Dean be trying to taking care of his “little” 32-year-old brother, or would Sam take on the role of the elder caretaker this time around? Dean points out that the upside is he has a new liver and suggests that when they are done with the case they take it for a test drive. Sam notes that Dean will be able to drink in about seven more years.
Sam and Dean drive up to the tween prison house just as the mysterious big man is coming for Tina. Dean shows Sam the window he escaped through and suggests they both go in that way. Dean’s adolescent state seems to have affected his humor—it’s like we’re watching Robot Chicken.
Sam: “ Dean, I’m way too big to fit in that.”
Dean: “First time you ever had to say that, huh?”
Sam: “Big talk from the dude wearing Underoos.”
Dean goes in through the window while Sam takes another entrance. The mysterious big man grabs Dean inside the house, but Sammy shows up and they manage to hold the man at gunpoint. It turns out that the man is Hansel, of the Grimm Brothers’ “Hansel and Gretel” tale. He tells the Winchesters that the witch has enslaved him for centuries. He says that when he and his sister tried to escape, the witch tortured him and made him eat his sister Gretel’s heart.
Hansel tells them they cannot kill the witch, as they are only men. They respond that they’re hunters and Sam shows Hansel their anti-witch bomb, which appears to motivate Hansel to offer help in killing the witch. We’re not sure how just being hunters, and having a little potion will help them kill a witch, because their track record with defeating witches has been mediocre at best over the years. When they ask how to get Dean back to his proper age, Hansel tells them they must squeeze the hex bag he’s wearing around his neck, which is the same one he squeezed to make Dean young. Hansel tells them he will give them the cure when they kill the witch. Seems like giving them the hex bag now would have been a good faith gesture on Hansel’s part, but, regardless, the brothers agree.
The witch has Tina tied up on a chair and is busy chopping up onions and cooking something up on the stove, probably J.P. soup. When she turns around we see that she is actress Lesley Nicol, the cook Mrs. Patmore from Downton Abbey! Nice casting. When the Winchesters go upstairs to confront the witch we find out that Hansel is not so eager to help them after all. Sam and Dean are captured and she destroys their witch bomb. Sam asks the witch why she bothers to turn adults into kids. She tells them that in the old days kids died and disappeared all the time, but now if a child goes missing it’s a big deal—amber alerts and all. So she takes adults but turns them into children, who are much more delicious than adults. Sam asks her what she is doing in the US, and she tells them Americans taste better, more buttery. However, the real reason is, “An old friend is causing trouble and the Grand Coven asked me to take care of her. Poor stupid Rowena.” They ask her if she means the red-haired witch that likes fancy hotels, and the witch is surprised they know who Rowena is.
Sam tries to use this surprising information against the witch and Hansel, but fails, making the witch turn up the oven to make dinner a la Winchesters. Yet Sam’s tactic allows Dean to steal the hex bag from Hansel and then reverse the spell. Once he becomes adult Dean, with the Mark of Cain, he is pretty much unstoppable, even without the First Blade. He kills Hansel with a kitchen knife and then shoves the witch into her oven. So there are some pretty good things about the Mark after all.
Outside, Tina asks if they can turn her back. They tell her that the hex bag went up in flames, but they will look for a way to reverse the spell. After looking at her reflection in a window, Tina decides that she’s had a crappy adult life so far and being young again is an opportunity for a do-over, “Everybody wants a second chance, right?” Dean sure did. Now that Dean is his regular old self, while Tina remains young, we’re so happy they did not hook up when they were both adults or when they were both teens. That would have made everything pretty awkward right now. It’s still a bit awkward as they give tween Tina some money and leave her at a bus stop. We can’t help but wonder what Tina is going to do now. With Dean returned to his old self, he has the Mark of Cain on his arm again. Sam thanks him because he “pulled a Dean Winchester,” saving them all. Sam acknowledges that he wanted his brother back, and here he is. He also points out that Dean did not “Hulk out” this time and managed to keep control. Sam tells Dean that they will figure it out. When Dean starts the car, the radio is playing Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.” Sam and Dean look at each other, but Dean shrugs and drives off with the song playing as the show ends.
Some might say that Supernatural is recycling concepts given that we met Old Dean in “The Curious Case of Dean Winchester” (S05E07) when they wrangled with a warlock, but this story used an approach that works well with who Sam and Dean are now. “About a Boy” fits nicely into Dean’s desire for redemption and connects us back to Rowena and Crowley. In the last few seasons we’ve seen how Dean has moved on from feeling like Sam’s caretaker, providing more balance and less tension between the brothers. We love it when Sam and Dean get along, even if it means Sam has to play the companion to Dean’s Doctor for a bit.
Supernatural continues to have top-notch actors as guest stars and in extended roles. Dylan Everett plays young Dean, whom we last saw in the episode “Bad Boys” (S09E07). Everett is excellent at mimicking Dean’s mannerism and speech. We’re still advocating for a spin-off of Sam and Dean as kids. If only Jeffrey Dean Morgan would get on board. Playing confused is one of Jared Padalecki’s acting strengths, along with being very scary when beating someone up, so it’s fun to see his reaction to meeting young Dean. Padalecki and Everett are able to create a chemistry that is similar to the chemistry Padalecki and Jensen Ackles have as Sam and Dean.
It was also fun to see Lesley Nicol as the witch. We are hoping all of this is a precursor to Timothy Omundson returning to Supernatural as Cain, if he isn’t too busy with Galavant, of course. We’re also looking forward to seeing more of Ruth Connell as Rowena as the season continues. Though it could’ve been interesting to see some more Crowley/Rowena interaction this week simply because Mark Sheppard and Ruth Connell are so fantastic together, we liked the Monster-of-the-Week format. Supernatural continues to offer stand-alone episodes with regularity in Season 10, while effectively moving the overarching narrative along within the framework of these stories. It’s clear why Supernatural continues to attract new viewers—Season 10 could be the best season we have seen since Season 5. Who knows what next week will bring, but we can’t wait to find out.
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Dean already begins to look like a kid in the bunker, sitting on the floor of his bedroom flipping through huge illustrated books while Sammy looms over him larger than life.
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