Two half-episodes for the price of one

Just caught up on last night’s Supernatural, and I have to say, I wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did. (Spoilers follow, but mostly for this specific episode unless you’re very behind on the show.)

On paper, I was all set to love this episode, because it was pitched as what the people of Lebanon, Kansas think of the Winchesters, and I love the Outsider POV trope. That’s one reason I always liked the Henriksen arc, where the FBI was hunting Sam and Dean–because from the point of view of law enforcement, hunters absolutely would look like serial killers. So sure, let’s see what the good folk of Lebanon think of those weird guys in the classic car who swing through to buy groceries, whiskey, and alarming quantities of ammunition.

The execution let me down, though, and I think the problem is that it was trying to be two episodes at once. “What do the people of Lebanon think of the Winchesters?” and “John is accidentally summoned from 2003 to the show’s present” are both perfectly solid pitches for an episode of Supernatural; I just don’t think they should have been the same episode. Both halves felt underdeveloped. We barely got to know the townspeople at all, or see much of what they thought was up with the Winchesters. And John had barely arrived before it became clear that he had to be packed off back to the past again. Not to mention, pulling John out of the timeline should have had huge ripple effects on all the cosmic-scale events Sam and Dean had a hand in. This was hinted by the appearance of Zachariah and the new timeline’s Castiel, but there just wasn’t time to engage with the full repercussions, which could easily have filled a whole episode.

I like the idea of both the stories this episode was trying to tell. I would happily have watched both of them in full. But getting the bare bones of each one without room to fully develop either was disappointing.

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