Supernatural S11E04 “Baby” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on E4 on Wednesdays at 10pm
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Director: Thomas J Wright
Essential Plot Points:
- In a flash-forward, Dean’s cuffed and bloody is in the back of the Impala. Poor Baby isn’t in a much better state. Just what’s been going on..?
- Back to the present, Dean’s washing the Impala in shorts that we, devastatingly, cannoty see as the viewpoint is from within the car. (Are they booty shorts? We can only hope.) He’s getting cabin fever; there’s nothing new on The Darkness or Metatron, and Cas is still healing up, but luckily Sam has found a potential case.
- Sam’s brought a cooler along for the road trip, and he’s packed it with smoothies.
- Smoothies. Dean is disgusted. Luckily Cas distracts him with a phone call; he wants to help, but the boys just want him to heal. Aww.
- Rather than a motel, Dean pulls up to a Roadhouse. He wants some fun, Sam just wants sleep. Or so he says – the next morning Dean climbs back into the Impala to find a girl in the backseat. But oh no! She leaves her hairpin in the car by mistake.
- Dean puts on a little bit of “Night Moves” to jovially celebrate his brother’s nightly escapades. Sam meanwhile wonders if Dean’s never thought about having something more. Settling down with a hunter.
- Sam wakes from a nap to see none other than John Winchester (the Matt Cohen version) sitting in the driver’s seat. Is it a vision from God? Sam’s not sure. Either way, “John” has a message: “The Darkness is coming, and only you boys can stop it.”
- In the Winchester motel, aka the Impala, Sam wakes up for real. Dean’s not convinced that Sam had a vision – he says he dreams about John all the time. Sam dreams about Mary, too. The family issues are almost tangible.
- “G’night, jerk.” “Night bitch.” Ah, nostalgia.
- The next day, and the boys have been doing their research: their victim, the former Sheriff, has been drained of blood and had his heart taken out. Dean quickly christens their new monster a “werepire”. Say it with me..! But before they do any further investigating, it’s lunch time. The new Sheriff, Deputy Donelly, directs them to somewhere with great steak.
- The Impala gets taken for a spin by Jessie the valet – every fan’s dream! She even gets her back to Dean in one piece, plus one Hello Kitty purse.
- Sam goes to talk to a victim’s widow, Lily Markham. Meanwhile, Dean and the Impala go check out the crime scene of her husband’s death. He realises it’s been staged, and tells Cas as much when he gets a call from him.
- As Dean’s chatting away to Cas on the phone, the Deputy turns up. Dean gets out to confront him, unbeknownst to Cas, who keeps on talking away. The Deputy jumps Dean – turns out he’s a werepire. Dean manages to lop his head off with a machete, but he’s not dead. By this point Cas has realised that they aren’t dealing with the “so-called werepire”, which Dean agrees with as the Deputy’s head growls angrily at him from the windscreen.
- While Dean was busy dealing with the Deputy, Sam’s been in trouble. Dean shoots over to find him with a not-so-hot looking Lily Markham. They take her in and promise to help her. Even if they can’t explain the head in the cooler.
- Turns out the boys are looking for a Nachzerer – or as Dean dubs it, a GHOULpire. He looks so happy with himself. These things are already dead, and just need to be reminded of it by sticking a penny in their mouth and cutting their head off. Sounds easy enough.
- Sam gets out to grab some change from a mini-market, but gets caught up flirting with the cashier and doesn’t see Dean getting attacked by Lily. You guessed it – she’s a ghoulpire too. She knocks Dean out and takes them back to the woods, where she reattaches the Deputy’s head to his body.
- The Deputy tells Dean that whilst he was knocked out, he sent a text to Sam that would send him straight into a trap and get him turned into a ghoulpire. Dean’s gonna be his first meal. Ew.
- Dean’s not having any of it – using the hairpin left in the car, he uncuffs himself and manages to overpower the two ghoulpires. He finds a penny in the Hello Kitty purse, and shoves it in the Deputy’s mouth. Turns out he’s the alpha – turn him, everyone else turns back too. Lily’s horrified at the things she’s done.
- He rushes to find Sam and Lily’s family, and they start making their way back to the Bunker – but not before acknowledging that in their Impala, they’re already home.
Supernatural is well known for its occasional off-the-wall episodes; in fact it’s safe to say it wouldn’t be a proper season without at least one! Last year we had “Fan Fiction”, the much-anticipated musical episode, and who could forget “The French Mistake” and “Changing Channels”, which both dealt with Sam and Dean getting thrown into TV-land, though in two very different ways. This season’s offering, “Baby”, isn’t quite so.. meta, but has its very own gimmick that brings a whole new perspective to the show – literally. It’s filmed entirely from the viewpoint of the Winchester’s ’67 Chevy Impala, a main character in her own right. It’s a bold move, and it works beautifully.
On the surface, “Baby” is a fairly generic monster-of-the-week episode: Sam and Dean take a road trip and play FBI to save some people from horrific monsters. It’s pretty standard, and under normal circumstances could have been a fairly weak episode. But what this episode has that others don’t is a whole new take on the rapport between Sam and Dean. The Impala sees a lot of time on the road that we don’t as viewers – hours upon hours that Sam and Dean have to spend together in close proximity, and themonster-of-the-week plays second fiddle to that this time ’round. There’s no sitting around in witnesses houses; no stalking through forests at night; no grave digging. Instead there’s a whole lot of pure Winchester brother camaraderie. After all the tension between them last season, it’s a real breath of fresh air.
It’s the little moments that make this episode stand out so clearly. Sam and Dean sleeping in their car; their smoothie debacle; Dean sticking on “Night Moves” to teasse Sam. It’s not often we get to see these two just be, but it’s something that the Impala has a front row seat to all the time, and writer Robbie Thompson has provided in showing us the best of those moments. For the first time in a long time, the brotherly vibes shine through. We’ve been waiting for another “bitch”, “jerk” moment for years, and this was the perfect episode to slip one in. Thompson really knows how to write these boys, and it shows.
What with the Impala being the primary set for the entire episode, the Supernatural cast and crew had to get creative when it came to technicalities. But never fear – the direction and acting are a superb coming-together of over ten years of experience. Focusing on what’s inside the car whilst having lots happening outside of it is one technique that’s used to great effect. Take Cas rambling obliviously away on the phone left on the dashboard as Dean is off in the middle distance fighting the Deputy, or Sam’s equally oblivious flirting with a cashier inside the gas station as Dean… is fighting Lily Markham. Is it just us, or is there a theme here? But if there is, it’s easy to see why – Ackles’s slapstick acting is on point and a joy to watch. Especially when he windscreen-wipes the still growling Sheriff’s head off the windscreen. Pure brilliance!
As an aside, kudos to Thompson for finding a way to incorporate Cas into this episode. A monster-of-the-week episode normally means Cas gets thrown to the side, which can get more than a bit tiring, especially when he’s ingrained in the plot one episode and then left behind the next for no apparent reason. Thompson shows the other writers just how easily that can be avoided as Cas plays Bobby for the boys as he recuperates in the Bunker. With his ever-growing addiction to Netflix (we’ve all been there, Cas), his worry for Dean and his desire to help his friends as best he can even when he’s incapacitated, Cas really feels like the part of the team that we all know he deserves to be.
There’s no doubt that “Baby” is a triumph of an episode. The cast and crew took what must have been a daunting concept and turned it into one of the best episodes the show has ever produced. It’s got it all – humour, introspection, heart-warming brotherly moments, monsters – all wrapped up in a brilliant script. There’s hardly any plot here (save for Matt Cohen’s very welcome cameo!), and even themonster-of-the-week story is a bit thin, but it really doesn’t matter. What we get more than makes up for any of that. This is Supernatural stripped to its core, and it doesn’t get much better.
- Where to start?! Maybe the script. Robbie Thompson knows this show and its characters inside and out, and his episodes always come with excellent dialogue. Dean picking up his habit of enthusiastically naming new monsters; Cas’s, “I don’t see how orange correlates with black in a way that’s new,”; Sam opening up to his brother… it’s all great stuff.
- Despite the fact that the Impala is a very small space to focus on, “Baby” never feels cramped. The crew managed to find ways to keep every scene fresh, and after a while you even forget that it’s all happening in one car.
- Watching Sam and Dean as they just living is so great. We never normally get to see them arguing over smoothies or who has control over the wheel, or sleeping in the Impala, or happily singing along as they speed down highways.
- The “Winchester Motel” scene.
- Jensen Ackles brings his acting A-game to this episode, particularly with his fight scenes. A three-person fight in one Impala must have been difficult to pull off!
- The Sheriff’s decapitated head is a character all by itself as it growls away on the windscreen and in the cooler.
- Cas’s seamless incorporation into the episode.
- Matt Cohen’s cameo as “John Winchester”! Past members of the cast are always a welcome sight.
- Dean’s still refusing to let Cas angelically heal the wounds he was dealt. Good to see continuity on that front.
- Getting to live vicariously through Jessie the valet as she takes the Impala for a spin!
- Dean ends up having to solve his problems with a hairpin and a Hello Kitty purse – typically feminine items. It’s a nice nod from Thompson to show that femininity can equal badassery!
- The reassertion that the Impala is and always will be home to the Winchesters when they have none.
- It’s only 45 minutes long.
And the Random:
- Jensen Ackles has said that “Baby” was one of the hardest episodes to film this season. Hardly surprising!
- One of the old Impalas shows up in the crime scene Dean scouts out.
- There are a lot of references to Bob Seger songs, particularly from Dean.
Review by Jessica Anson