Supernatural "Hunteri Heroici" Review: What's Up, Doc?

Supernatural S08E08: “Hunteri Heroici”

Supernatural sure loves a parody. In the past, we’ve had adventures in TV tropes (“Changing Channels”), an ode to classic monster movies (“Monster Movie”), and Sam Winchester’s very own version of Groundhog Day (“Mystery Spot”). In “Hunteri Heroici”, it was Sam, Dean, and their angelic third-wheel in Acme Acres, complete with exploding birthday cakes, anvils falling from the sky, and tweety birds circling the head of anyone who bonked theirs.

Even though time and time again, Supernatural has proven me wrong when it comes to plots that sound like they’ll probably be terrible, I went into “Hunteri Heroici” as a non-believer. I know, I know, I should know better by now.

The episode offered a much-needed break from the onslaught of Winchester Angst (Wangst?) that preceded it, but that’s not to say that it was a full-blown comedy. BJ Hunnicutt used his brain powers to make a man shoot himself in the face because JUSTICE and then Castiel gave the man from M.A.S.H. an angel lobotomy. Sam’s awkward flashbacks also made a reappearance and were every bit as annoying and confusing as they’ve been all season, but at least this time they kind of sort of meshed with the main story. There also seemed to be less random staring into space, but maybe I’m just desensitized to Sam Winchester’s strokes these days.

Beneath all the gags and gore, the underlying theme of “Hunteri Heroici” concerned the impossibility of hiding from or outrunning the past. Like Castiel said, man is the Coyote, not the Road Runner. Dean urged Castiel to go to Heaven and find out whether the angels had anything to do with his escape from Purgatory, but Castiel adamantly refused, arguing that he couldn’t possibly face the carnage he left behind while under the influence of the Leviathan way back when. He decided to become a hunter, Dean and Sam’s “third wheel.” El Winchesters pointed out that the third wheel isn’t a good thing. I pointed out that Castiel has been their third wheel for about four seasons now. Castiel pointed out that the third wheel offers increased stability—how can it not be a good thing?

Well when you put it like that...

Yet for all the hand-wringing and Wangsting over consequences and the past and blah blah blah, the only people who really had to deal with their old lives this week were Fred, an old acquaintance of the Winchesters at the center of Toontown (played by M.A.S.H.’s Mike Farrell!), and Whatshername from Sam’s flashbacks. Now, to be fair, by the end of “Hunteri Heroici,” Castiel was all mentally prepared to go upstairs and visit the famdiddly for a spell, but Naomi laid down the law and the law said Castiel couldn’t attend Sunday dinner unless he got the invite straight from her. Ouch, bro.

Sam, well, Sam hasn’t been much more than a tall, hairy stage prop for most of the season. Why change now? I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop in flashback land. This week in particular set off so many red flags with zero payoff. The flashbacks felt dreamlike, shot with the warm colors and the soft filters. Sam’s time with Amelia was even referred to as “dreamlike.” Considering Sam’s history, it was an interesting choice to have the orderly at Fred’s nursing home make the comment about how the catatonic patients “retreat into their own heads” to him. Yet we have nothing concrete, and as fun as the endless theorizing is, we’re at the penultimate episode to the fall finale. Throw me a bone, show. I want to think that Sam’s flashbacks matter because otherwise, what’s the point of including them? It really isn’t necessary to show week after week of Sam in domestic bliss unless we’re building up to something important.

Dean, meanwhile, was probably the least depressed that we’ve seen him all season, and that alone was worth the price of admission—his amazing gag fight with douchey Dr. Mahoney was a bonus. Despite his initial protest of Castiel tagging along, when Castiel ultimately decided to stay behind and watch over the freshly vegetated Fred for a little while, Dean seemed bummed. Unlike Castiel’s previous adventures in hunting, his initial fumbles with how to deal with people and how to function in the world without being pegged for a weirdo eventually gave way to actual competence and Cas’s presence on the hunt was certainly a help rather than a hindrance. He saved that old lady from her dynamite birthday candle—and that was a nice fake-out btw, I spent that entire commercial break wondering if it was awful or amazing that Supernatural exploded a grandma just to come back and see that she was fine. He also provided access to Fred’s psychic mind so that he and Sam could shut down the cartoon projections before evil Dr. Mahoney, who was using Fred’s powers to rob banks on the side, got the best of Dean, who had made the unfortunate mistake of bringing a “gun to a gag fight.” (“BANG.” Love it.)

But just in case we were having too much fun watching hearts explode out of chests and seeing Jensen Ackles make the best facial expressions whenever he saw birdies, once Sam and Cas got through to Fred and stopped this (literal) madness, things got dark. I mean, not “My Bloody Valentine” levels of surprise darkness, but, well, was it really necessary to make Mahoney shoot himself? He was totally a bad dude and yes, he had blood on his hands, but without Fred’s powers, wasn’t he ultimately kind of useless? Why not just leave him tied up for the cops? Even if he babbled about Fred and the psychic stuff, they’d probably just think he was crazy. Dean and Sam just standing aside and allowing Fred to make Mahoney end his own life just seemed like a little bit of a character slip since, historically, the Winchesters have tried hard to avoid killing humans—even bad ones. Emphasis on "tried"... I know they haven’t always succeeded.

However, even with Mahoney gone and Fred lucid, his psychic troubles weren’t over. He knew it was only a matter of time before he regressed again and everyone got their Space Jam on. For a second there, I thought he was going to be wasted too, but Cas came in with the magical lobotomy save, removing Fred’s powers, but also leaving him with a permanent case of the brain damage. How cheerful.

Back in Sam Winchester’s Stepford Life, Amelia’s supposedly dead husband, Don, was revealed to be alive. We almost got a glimpse of Don in the wedding album that Sam found in a moving box before Amelia interrupted. Do you think that maybe we’ll recognize Don? It seemed odd to zero in on the album, get us all geared up to take a peek, and just snatch it away. Is it a CONSPIRACY!? Or is this just my desperation for the flashbacks to not be pointless showing?

Case Notes

– While watching Wile E. Coyote chase the Road Runner, Cas remarked that Wile E. was man, and Road Runner was God, and the cartoon represented humankind’s unending quest to catch God. Mind = blown.

– More Amanda Tapping, please!

– I thought the cartoon sequences in Fred’s head were hit-or-miss, special effects-wise. The Road Runner scene was pretty good considering, but the white noise looked awful. What did you think?

Supernatural in a nutshell: Detective, “Do you always chase the crazy or does the crazy chase you?” Dean: “Depends on the day.”

– No, no, no, Dean, we’ve discussed this (in “The Usual Suspects”). You’re not Scully. You’re Mulder. Sam is a red-headed woman.

– Smart Winchesters sighting! Sort of. In the morgue, Castiel sniffed victim numero uno and determined that he had recently gotten over a bladder infection. Sam and Dean combed his personal effects and sussed out a possible affair with good ol’ fashioned detective work. Sure, they were wrong, but the possible affair was still a more helpful clue than “bladder infection.”

– You know that you’re so over the Sam flashbacks when every time a new face appears in Dreamland, you cross your fingers and hope it's a demon.

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