Supernatural "As Time Goes By" Review: Winchester Legacies

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Jan 31, 2013

Supernatural S08E12: “As Time Goes By”

Let’s be real for a second: Sometimes the seasons following Supernatural Season 5 feel like sucky sequels. The first five seasons tell a cohesive story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. The question of how a show that built so much of its mythology around the (Judeo-Christian) apocalypse could move forward loomed over Season 6 and frankly, Season 6 failed to answer that question in any satisfying way. Season 7 was an improvement, but only slightly, still plagued by the sense that we were all just treading water, killing time until the story mattered again. Outside of the woefully mismanaged Sam-outta-Hell and domesticated Dean storylines, there was barely any connection to the early seasons of the show. We learned that Sam and Dean were bred to be archangel vessels, their entire usefulness tied up in the brotherly showdown-that-wasn’t, and it seemed, at times, that even the writers themselves didn’t quite understand how to make their protagonists important without their heavenly pedigrees.

“As Time Goes By” was the episode we’ve been waiting for, the keystone that ties the mythology of Seasons 1 through 5 to the often aimless wanderings of more recent seasons—and it managed to be completely awesome while doing so.

Also it was heartbreaking, because of course it was. Raise your hand if you pegged that kid in the bed for John Winchester as soon as he popped onto the screen. Keep it up there if you knew he was never going to see his papa (played by Friday Night LightsGil McKinney) again. Yeah, me too. This isn’t the first time we’ve sat through an episode of Supernatural that, right from the beginning, we knew couldn’t possibly end with anything other than sadness. Seasons 3 and 4 were good for those. The best-case scenario for Henry Winchester was that he got stuck in 2013 and became another Bobby for his grandsons to hit up for some deus ex machina action, but we’ve HAD formerly long-lost grandparents show up to hang out and it kind of sucked. I still don’t REALLY understand what the point of the Campbell’s Season 6 storyline was. Anyone? Anyone at all?

When Henry’s 1958 initiation into the mysterious “Men of Letters” was crashed by one seriously pissed-off demon named Abaddon, he whipped up a spell and jumped into the future looking for John. He ended up with Sam and Dean and a mountain of angst. Sam acted nicely as our audience mouthpiece, asking all the questions we were thinking, like WTF are the Men of Letters and if they work with hunters like Henry claims, then why haven’t we (or the Winchesters) heard of them before? Dean sulked, because daddy issues, but I saw that coming, and he made his contribution too, pointing out that John despised his father, Henry, and claimed that the dude ran out on the family when John was a kid. And with that little piece of Winchester Family Wangst, the nagging feeling that Henry was going to meet an unfortunate fate was all but confirmed.

R.I.P. Henry, we hardly knew ye—but what we did know was enough to understand why the angels worked so hard to make sure Mary Campbell and John Winchester popped out their genetically gifted sons (as revealed in Season 5’s “My Bloody Valentine.”) Audience mouthpiece Sam conveniently made the connection again in case we didn’t get there ourselves. The Campbells were a legendary hunting family while the Winchesters descended from a long line of supernatural scholars. John and Mary represented the perfect union of “brains and brawn” that Dean and Sam would need to survive their apocalyptic coming of age. Fate REALLY screwed this bunch over, didn’t it?

Beyond providing a link to the past, however, Henry Winchester also presented an invaluable tool for the Winchesters’ future: the key to deciphering every scroll, spell, and—even though they didn’t explicitly say it, we were all thinking it—tablet, as well as the coordinates to an impenetrable safe zone in which to use it.

I think we all know where this is going.

Unfortunately, we will be going there without Henry. MISS U ALREADY, HENRY. KISSES. Despite reading John’s ode to Winchester Wangst (revealed to have been written in his own journal because SADNESS) and resolving to redo his time travel spell to go back and be a good dad to John, Henry ultimately carried on that long-held Winchester tradition of sacrificing oneself for the famdiddly when he took a demon fist to the gut during that hostage exchange with Abaddon—who, aside from Crowley, I would say is the demon with the best fashion sense we’ve seen so far. Loved the "devil made me do it" T-shirt and the fact that she just waltzed around in a bloodstained cocktail dress for half the episode like it was no big thing. Way to be fierce, girl.

Despite their initial apprehension, Dean and his grandpa ended up reaching an understanding before his death. Dean originally clung to his own father’s resentment of Henry’s perceived abandonment and balked at Henry’s justification that sometimes there’s a hefty personal price to be paid for the responsibility that comes with being a Man of Letters. To Henry’s credit, his original impression that hunters were nothing more than “apes”—and the apparent disappointment that his esteemed family eventually sunk to their level—gave way to an understanding that sometimes legacies and traditions evolve because they must. I would say that Henry’s parting affirmation to his grandsons—that despite not being Men of Letters, they’re still Winchesters, and “As long as we’re alive, there’s always hope,” should be put on their crest or something—but in retrospect, that’s rather generously optimistic for that clan.

What did you think of the newest addition to the Winchester family tree?


– I could be wrong about this, as my love of tacky things is well documented, but I thought Sam and Dean’s Ugly Motel Room of the Week was actually kind of pleasing in a budget retro kind of way.

– If I were Dean Winchester, I’d think time travel was the ultimate in suckass too.

– LOL @ hunters being the mouthbreathers of the supernatural underworld. I can’t say I haven’t had that thought myself from time to time.

– Smart Winchester Sighting! The fact that Dean and Sam are legacies in some smartypants supernatural book club/cult/library of weird is one of the best developments of the series. It’s kind of like when Luke Skywalker found out what the Jedi were and what his connection to them was—complete with the daddy issues. Also, devil’s trap bullet FTW!

– This episode was confirmed to take place in 2013, even though technically we’ve skipped what, like two years in continuity between Sam being in Hell and Dean doing the Purgatory thing? Whatevs. I always just hand-waved the time jumps myself anyway.

– When Henry broke the Impala’s window, “OMG DEAN’S GONNA KILL YO ASS.”

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  • ShaneMccausland Sep 19, 2015

    Men of letters felt shoved into the lore when their was no need or demand for it. All for the sake of giving John Winchester a special snowflake heritage (you know besides being a direct descendant of cain and able from the bible).

    This episode also introduced a brand new type of demon, Knight of Hell. Surpise Azazel, Alistar, and Lilith and the "king of hell" title given to Crowley were not the final tier of demon!!!

    It raises obvious questions, which were answered in the only way possible, boring and sloppy as hell.

    "Why havent we heard of Knights of Hell?"
    Obviously they are all gone except for abbadon.

    "How are these demons extinct exactly?"
    Lost in history through the passage of time. (Tho it is explained in later season).

    "Why havent we heard of the men of letters"
    Obviously Abbadon wiped them out in that attack.

    "How exactly did a demon wipe out an entire organization of dedicated, knowledgeable, and prepared men?"
    Because Abbadon is super powerful duh!

    "If Abbadon is that badass to wipe out men of letters like she is swatting a fly, then why in the world did she wait so long to do it?"
    Because she did thats why! She was to busy being a knight of hell to care about them!

    Uhmmmmm okay? You see these obvious questions shoving into the lore an entire legacy based organization like the Men of Letters and having them wiped out on the same episode as their introduction causes? Not to mention this new demon title Knights of Hell.

    Just piss poor writing any way you look at it.

  • ruthles100 Feb 07, 2013

    Of course we knew who the kid in the bed was and who his father was. The "then" ...previously on Supernatural... part at the beginning wasn't exactly subtle. It would have been far more effective if we didn't actually know for sure who Grandpa Winchester was until he announced it...

  • danharr Feb 06, 2013

    I was surprised the words Pandora's box were never said that's what I was calling that thing. I really hope they use that knowledge to fight Crowley now that Abaddon's on ice.

  • Dre5d Feb 05, 2013

    maybe if they do a season 9 they could go back to the roots of the men of letters story line. Watching this i felt like this could be a set up for a season 9 hopefully

  • Tvking00 Feb 05, 2013

    Classic episode in IMO, reminds my of the old days.

  • natesjokes Feb 04, 2013

    No Cass... but the episode was still awesome. Can't wait to see where this all goes. Also, how did they know the bullet would get lodged in demon lady's head? That close of a shot, you'd think the bullet would go through.

  • angim350 Feb 03, 2013

    Agree with you about the season 6 Campbell subplot. I've said it before and I'll say it again: they made season 6 up as they went along. They must have done. Some bits really, really work, like souless Sam. And, at first, Samuel's presence is intriguing and the first few episodes are actually quite entertaining. But then it was like the writers simply had no idea what to do with him as they completely abandoned the "Crowley torturing monsters" plot (only to return to it later) so quickly killed him off. There was potential there, but it was let down.

  • hermwils Feb 03, 2013

    Holy canon mind blow! Another promising installation to Season 8. I like where this is going. But I wish the Winchesters weren't always having to bury their family members. Pretty much every time they meet up with a branch of the family, they end up six feet under by the end of the episode. I guess that's Supernatural for ya.

  • Teddiebere Feb 03, 2013

    So do you think they're ever going to really clear up why every single aquaintance of the boys' mother is mysteriously dead now?

  • hermwils Feb 03, 2013

    Yeah, I was wondering about that myself. I thought they meant her cousins when they showed up in Season 6 - for some reason I thought they had been resurrected along with Samuel Campbell, but later realized he'd just rounded them up - so the mystery remains unsolved.

  • CarolinaPiazz Feb 03, 2013

    This episode felt like supernatural in the "old" times. I wished Henry had stayed around a little bit longer, though.

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