THE ONE WHERE Cas and the brothers Winchester team up to rescue the angel Samandriel from creepy Crowley and Doctor Death
VERDICT After more than a month off the air, you’d expect Supernatural to return with a bang. And it does, albeit a small-ish bang, in an episode that successfully balances holy-grenade-tossing action with a satisfying sprinkling of emotional payoff.
The crux of the episode hinges on Castiel, Dean and (eventually) Sam joining forces to rescue Alfie, the angel from Crowley’s clutches. It’s awfully convenient that Alfie is able to send out a message on angel radio just before Viggo works out how to crack his hardwiring, but the result is a pulse-quickening race against time that proves even with a seraph on their side Crowley can still get the upper hand on Sam and Dean.
The revealation that there’s an angel tablet (which, presumably, has a similar effect to the demon tablet) is an interesting new development, but it’s Castiel’s traumatic flashbacks that provide this episode’s most intriguing mystery. What is Naomi up to? Benny’s storyline fizzles out with little fanfare (for now), particularly disappointing given how we left things at the tail end of 2012.
The episode is curiously directed by long-serving Supernatural director Robert Singer, with some odd staging and hilarious crash-zooms, but the occasional strange visual choice keeps you on your toes in the moments the story begins to flounder, or fails to do more than what you might expect.
If the raid on Crowley’s compound is the clear action-packed high point, the heart of the episode comes from Sam and Amelia. I wasn’t really a fan of those pesky Sam flashbacks earlier in the season, but it’s like there’s been two bothersome kids screaming “are we there yet?” in my ear all year, and now I’ve arrived at a point where I’m genuinely invested in their doomed romance. The brothers have had partners before, but none that have left them so conflicted about their chosen vocation. Amelia’s final, forlorn glance into their empty motel room is a heartbreaking little moment, particularly juxtaposed with Sam’s seeming ignorance at what might be going on halfway across the country while he dishes up dinner for himself and his brother.
It’s hardly the kind of episode that’s going to be bothering any “best ever episodes” lists, or hopefully any “best of the year” lists (we like to think there’s still better to come from this season yet) but it’s solid, occasionally very good Supernatural.
STAR TURN Tyler Johnston, who plays tortured angel Samandriel deserves kudos for successfully screaming through the best part of this episode in a way that had me concerned my neighbours would call the coppers.
PORN IN THE USA Dean gets caught with bustyasianbeauties.com open on his laptop. It’s Dean’s favourite porn outlet, having appeared as far back as the season two episode “Tall Tales”. After being resurrected in “Lazarus Rising” (season four, episode one) practically the first thing he does is grab a copy of the print version from a gas station.
NITPICK What kind of a mother lets a stranger touch her baby’s forehead after he tells you your baby has a hernia. It’s parenting 101.
IN-JOKE While Dean and Cas are interviewing the burning bush victim in hospital, Jim Michaels’ name is called over the intercom. Jim Michaels is a co-executive producer of the show.
IN-JOKE 2 Director Robert Singer provides the voice over for the dung beetle documentary Sam is watching before Amelia knocks on his door.
DID YOU SPOT? Garth’s boat is called the Fizzle’s Folly, a throwback to Mr Fizzles, the puppet he uses to talk to a little girl in “Party On, Garth”.
AWARDS SEASON Supernatural won two people’s choice awards during the winter hiatus Favourite TV Fan-Following and Favourite Sci-fi/Fantasy Show
DEAN WISECRACKING “So who snatched Heaven’s most adorable angel?”
TITLE TATTLE “Torn and Frayed” is a song from the Rolling Stones album Exile on Main St.
Crowley: “What on earth could you possibly need now, Viggor? I’ve given you every torture instrument known to man. Short of a Neil Diamond album.”