Supernatural gives us a glimpse into the social world of hunters in “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox.” New series writer Steven Yockey partners with director John Badham to give us a hunter’s wake filled with an interesting cast of characters and the backdrop of classic Canadian rock. With an appearance by fan favorite Jody Mills and a frightening crossroads demon, “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox” makes for a pretty interesting episode of Supernatural.
Besides the Winchesters, we’ve met quite a few other hunters over the last 12 seasons. There are family and friends like Bobby Singer, Ellen and Jo Harvelle, Rufus Turner, and Garth Fitzgerald IV. There are old-school hunters that had known John, like Travis and Martin Creaser. And then there are the hunters who have tried to kill them, such as Gordon Walker, and Roy and Walt. We’ve even been introduced to historical hunters Dorothy Baum, Elliot Ness, and Samuel Colt. Yet somehow, we don’t have a clear picture of this subculture beyond fake IDs, plaid, and a lot of weapons. The Winchesters have been warned about other hunters by their father, but they also saw how Bobby supported the entire community with his multiple phones and knowledge of the supernatural. “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox” provides a different perspective into the world of hunters.
Life of a Hunter
Back in 1980, a young boy named Asa Fox was chased down by a werewolf, deep in the woods of Manitoba. Just as the creature raised its claws to take his life, Asa was saved by a gunshot from Mary Winchester. Mary had left her husband John and baby Dean back in Lawrence in order to track down the werewolf. It took her a long time, but she managed to hunt it down, changing the life of young Asa Fox forever. Driving Asa home in her bitchin’ Camaro, Mary explained that she was a hunter. When she told young Asa that she was retiring from hunting, he asked her, “But if you retire, who’s going to save people like me?”
It turns out that Sam and Dean were not the only ones who became hunters because of Mary Winchester. Asa got hooked on this path, much to his own mother’s dismay. Motherhood, loss, and grief are important themes in “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox.” Seeing a mother’s perspective from characters other than Rowena was refreshing. Having both Jody and Mary in this episode was a touch of brilliance.
Death of a Hunter
Asa’s mother Lorraine has just lost her son, after a lifetime of resisting the choice he made to be a hunter. Lorraine’s anger at Mary is palpable since it was Mary’s brief interlude with her son that altered his path. She tells Mary, “Hunting was his whole life. Never got married, never had kids, and now … enjoy the wake.” All Lorraine could do was look on helplessly at the choices Asa made. Her grief is fresh, and regret evident. Lorraine forgives Mary at the end, her acceptance being helped along by the reveal that she has some grandchildren.
Mary’s arrival at the wake provides the warm reception we’ve been waiting for, even if it’s not from her sons. Jody is excited to meet Mary, giving her the fangirl reaction that the audience has been craving. Dean quickly returns to his role as taciturn son. When he storms off, Jody tries to talk some sense into Dean:
“Look, maybe this isn’t my place, and this is epic stuff, but, you know … if I could have my son and my husband back? I mean … really back, I would give anything, absolutely anything, to have that. And it would scare the hell out of me. …. ‘Cause what if I’ve changed? What if they changed? What if it just didn’t work out the way I wanted? If you wanna talk about anything, absolutely anything, I’m here.”
Jody has learned to live with her grief. Though she feels the loss, she has moved past the anger. Ever the mother, Jody tries to help Dean understand his own reactions. Let’s hope Dean starts to practice some acceptance of his own soon. We’re pretty sick of Dean whining about his mom not fulfilling his happy family fantasies.
Mary can see her own sons’ futures at this wake. She tells the boys that most of the people she’s known are dead. Mary is mourning a past never realized and a future she fears. Surviving in this world isn’t easy for Mary. Sam plays the supportive son, picking up on his mother’s past when he glances at Asa’s postcards:
“Yeah, Mom, you don’t have to explain anything. I get it. You need space. And, and so does Dean, you know? I mean, he’s just. … We just got you back, and he’s just scared we’re gonna lose you again, that—that because we’re hunters, you’re gonna walk away. But I know that’s not true. Even looking at these … I mean, you saved Asa in 1980, after Dean was born, after everyone thought you quit hunting. Seems like you couldn’t stop then, and … I’m guessing you can’t stop now either. This job, this life … it’s crazy and insane. But it’s in our blood.”
Demons at the Gate
The crossroads demon narrative feels like a diversion from the main story, but creates some interesting drama with a genuinely scary demon hiding out in different people. Seeing what a natural Jody is as a demon allows us to overlook how unbelievable it would be that she doesn’t have an anti-possession tattoo. Guess she’ll be getting one now. The MotW story kind of peters out, with the crossroad demon getting a group exorcism after exposing Bucky as Asa’s killer. The twins’ vow to tell every hunter they meet the story of what Bucky did, serving to satisfy the family’s desire for vengeance. Perhaps the Winchesters will cross paths with this crossroads demon in the future. He doesn’t seem excited to return to the trainwreck of hell.
Let’s hope Sam and Dean cross paths again with the witch-raised hunter twins in the future. They were certainly two of the most interesting characters we met at the wake and they seem like they’d make for good allies. Of course, they could always join a Wayward Daughters spin-off about Jody and her girls. We’d be okay with that too.
Bringing Reaper Billie into the mix seemed like a reach, especially when she actually helped Dean get back into the house. Yet, Billie’s moments with Mary Winchester at the end of the episode brought everything together. Death’s stand-in managed to show Sam and Dean how Mary was struggling with her own feelings of grief and loss. Billie tells Mary:
“The look in your eyes, I’ve seen it before. It’s a dead man’s look—eyes that say no matter where you go or what you do, it feels like this world doesn’t fit anymore, like you’re all alone.”
You can see the pain in her sons’ eyes as Mary considers taking Billie’s merciful offer to return her to Heaven. Mary chooses motherhood, deciding to bear her pain for the benefit of her children. We have a fun moment with Dean offering Mary “All the bacon” as they head out to breakfast, but It’s not clear how long Mary will choose to suffer on Earth for the sake of her sons rather than be happy and peaceful in Heaven.
In “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox” we learn a bit more about hunters and their belief that their lives are destined to be nasty, brutish, and short. Dean has taken up the mantra, but Sam isn’t so sure he wants that end for himself. Sam and Dean can’t really be surprised that other hunters tell stories about them. There’s a series of books about them, and all of Heaven and Hell knows who they are. Even well-connected monsters are aware of the boys. What should surprise them is that other hunters revere them. The boys have done their fair share of bad as well as good. Did Sam and Dean just lead Mr. Ketch and the British Men of Letters into the heart of the Canadian hunting community?
Supernatural reunites Mary Winchester with her sons in “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox.” She may not be returning to the bunker right away, but she tells them she will. Let’s hope their reunion gives Sam and Dean some peace, at least for a while. They could use a little joy in their lives.