Supernatural "Trial and Error" Review: Here Doggie, Doggie, Doggie...

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Supernatural S08E14: “Trial and Error”

I know that for the sake of moving the plot along, we can’t just have an entire episode of Dean and Sam hanging out in the Batcave eating cheeseburgers and geeking out over vinyl, so fortunately, a little taste of Winchester domestic bliss goes a long way. I’ll just go ahead and file Dean’s nesting habits away for the next rainy day... which, given the unfortunate implications of God’s little obstacle course from Hell—or rather, to Hell—that day will surely be upon us soon. We can harp on Dean for being a cynical bastard all we want, but the man made a good point: The Winchesters don’t have a great survival rate when it comes to grand gestures of heroism. Then the brothers said a spell and Sam’s arm glowed and that looked uncomfortable. When have glowing limbs ever worked out for anyone on this show? Hm? Yeah.

However, in case you haven’t heard, Supernatural was renewed for a ninth season this week (PARTY! PARTY! PARTY!) so... I’m gonna go ahead and guess that Sam and Dean will prove Dean wrong and make it. Or at the very least end up resurrected. Again. Or reanimated? Reanimated could be a fun conflict of interest. IDK. My point is, Supernatural has been renewed and both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are on board, so I’m assuming their respective Winchesters will be joining us as well.

Kevin’s survival, however, is still up for debate. Boy was NOT looking so hot when he interrupted Bonding with Cheeseburgers time in the Batcave to announce that he'd made a breakthrough on the God tablet. He’s been hiding on Garth’s houseboat, Fizzles’ Folly, and you know, for as sucky as Kevin’s luck is with the unfortunate matter of a prophet destiny getting in the way of his college aspirations, at least he's experiencing some aspects of university life, like living off hot dogs, coffee, and No-Doz; forgetting to shower; and sleeping a grand total of three hours each night. Somebody drop off a keg for the kid and he’s set. It’ll be fun. He’s already reached the point of taking conveniently timed nosebleeds/mini-strokes in stride. And uptight bookworm types make the most fun drunks.

So Sam and Dean had to kill a hellhound and bathe in its blood. SUPER BUMMED at the show’s definition of “bathing in blood,” but that’s just me and my shallow self wishing Supernatural would embrace its stars’ abs as wholly as its Wednesday-night partner in primetime does (LOOKIN’ GOOD THIS WEEK, OLLIE). And though I say “Sam and Dean” had to kill a hellhound, in actuality it was Sam OR Dean because God hates tag-team matches. Whoever committed to the first trial would be obligated to complete the last two and since Kevin hasn’t gotten that far yet, we don’t know what those last two are. Knowing this show and the fact that “kill a beast and bathe in its guts” is supposedly the easy part, I’m sure things’ll get good and cray by the time season GR8 wraps up.

Our diligent duo took off to find an upcoming crossroads deal—and a soul-snatchin’ hellhound by extension—and managed to find an entire family of pre-processed Puppy Chow all in the same spot because Crowley was apparently working a lot of overtime back in 2003. Dean made it very clear that HE was the one who would gank Clifford the Big Mean Dog and HE would do the trials because whoever did the trials was probably going to die and blah blah blah Sam is the smart one and the tall and the one with the prettiest hair so it’s more important that he survives to ensure those gangly moose-like genes continue onward into the future. Dean even threatened to shoot Sam in the leg if Sam tried to defy his orders, but since Sam is a chronic defier of orders, it was pretty much a given that he’d don his super-special Hellhound goggles and come running. Dean was pretty pissed. Dean was also in the middle of getting his ass clawed, so his protest could really only go so far, but this episode went from adorable to depressing rather quickly. Nobody does emotional whiplash quite like Dean Winchester. One minute we’re preening over our surprise cooking skillz and the next we’re talking about suicide missions and how we’re not the Best Winchester. Good grief, Dean, this argument sucks when FANS insist on having it; don’t you join the fray too!

The thing is, there is no “best” Winchester. Sam and Dean are different, and sometimes one exhibits traits that are more favorable than the other’s in a particular situation—but fundamentally, neither brother is objectively better. Their symbiotic relationship hasn’t been played up much since Season 5, when the conflict that resulted from their usually-complimentary-but-occasionally-dissonant roles highlighted the parallels between the Winchesters and the God Squad—specifically brothers Lucifer and Michael. Season 5 gave us a lot of growth for Dean as he stepped aside from his Protective Big Brother role and essentially allowed Sam to fling himself into Hell to save the world. In the two seasons since the apocalypse, Dean got Sam brother back and watched him fall apart—essentially reverting to the Dependent Younger Brother status we saw in the aftermath of Jess’s death and the self-trust issues caused by the Special Children storyline in Season 2. It’s not a step back for Dean to be rehashing his bossypants stance. Outside of Sam’s big gesture at the end of the world, there hasn’t been much opportunity for Dean to NOT be perpetually parenting his younger brother.

Though Dean was forced by circumstance to again find it in himself to let Sam shoulder a bit of responsibility, the precedent was there and we knew Sam was capable. However, after eight seasons, we’ve yet to truly see Sam emulate the role of fearless leader—or at least be really good at faking fearless—as completely as Dean has. Even when Sam sacrificed himself at the end of “Swan Song,” the gesture was somewhat short-sighted in that Sam would essentially “die” in the fight and force Dean to accept a life that Dean never really wanted: one without Sam. I’m not saying that Sam’s time in Hell was a walk in the park or anything, I’m just saying that he wasn’t the one who had to pick up the pieces back here on Earth. This time around, he's determined to live and he’s determined to make sure Dean lives too, which sets him up to be redeemed for what he feels is his own failure to save Dean from Hell in Season 3, and for Dean’s beef with him over shacking up with Amelia while Dean fought his way out of Purgatory.

By emulating and embracing what’s come before without reusing the same old tropes verbatim, Supernatural has finally allowed Sam to grow up by confirming that the bright and shiny future that Dean wants for Sam is the same kind of future that Sam wants for Dean. For so long, the sentiment has been that only one brother is happy, only one brother survives at a time, like a bad Highlander rip-off or something. Season 8 has worked hard to get the brothers to forgive the past and see eye to eye about the present, and with the Winchester Mission Statement finally reading “Save the World AND LIVE,” it seems that the series has turned its gaze toward the future... and the future looks pretty good.

Well, except for the glowing hand thing. That didn’t look good at all.


What'd you think of “Trial and Error?”



CASE NOTES


– “Memory foam. It remembers me.” It’s the little things that please Dean Winchester. Also, can we talk about him sticking his mom’s picture in his first-ever-honest-to-glob own room? I was weeping. Just weeping. Okay, not really, but Dean has spent so much time jabbing us with his sharp edges over the course of the past few seasons that it was nice to get the reminder that he’s a big softie underneath all the bravado and psychopathic tendencies.

– “It’s a suicide mission for you. But I want to survive it. And you should too.... I see the light at the end of this tunnel and I’m sorry if you don’t, but if you come with me, I can take you there.” TAKE ME THERE, SAM. TAKE ME INTO THAT TUNNEL. ANY TUNNEL. JUST TAKE ME.

– Loved the hellhound glasses. They should be required attire for all demon-hunting activities from now on.

– Any theories what the last two trials could be?

– Where’s Cas? I’m really, REALLY loving the Men of Letters stuff and I’m excited about the trials, but the Cas and Naomi thing was starting to get real and then we just dropped it, which is super-annoying, Supernatural. Soooo...yeah.