American Nightmare was new writer Davy Perez’s debut episode….good job Davy! Seriously good job! We got character and show history, well written brothers - bickering - teasing - talking - feeling their feels, did I mention talking? It was a good creepy story with lots of creepy stuff...and sad stuff, and of course, in the theme of this season’s opening episodes, it was all about family, mothers, second chances….and human monsters.
After a pretty awesome, and pretty gross teaser - we’re treated to the boys as priests - for the first time in a really long time - and we get our first glimpse of any fallout of Mary’s leaving.
I’ve been itching to see what the aftermath of Mary deciding to leave her boys was going to be for the brothers - how they were both going to handle it, how that hurt was going to manifest.
Straight from the get go, we see Dean is cranky, short tempered - or rather, short on tolerance! He snaps at the priest, at the mortician, at Sam when he tries to reach out to Dean, he’s hurting and he's trying to ignore it, and he's cutting himself off emotionally - except he isn’t...I mean, not really, not like we’ve seen Dean do in the past. Once upon a time Dean would have completely shut down, and reaching him would have taken multiple episodes, and Sam and us would have been all frustrated...but that’s the old Dean....Dean has grown and grown up, and we see that transformation reflected in American Nightmare.
He’s struggling with Mary's choice, it's obvious....he looks wistfully at the mother and the son at the church, and takes an instant dislike to Beth, not just because she’s Wiccan, and Dean thinks witches are skeevy, but also because her job, as a child protection agency officer, sometimes requires her to separate families, and right now any notion that a family should be separated, that children should be taken from their mother or visa versa, whether right or wrong, grates right on Dean’s wounded nerves! He thinks he's lost his mum, for the second time, and all he wants is his family to be together. That’s all he’s ever wanted, or at least something he's always dreamed of - and he thought, for one brief shining moment, they he and Sam had caught a break, something nice had happened and all that the two of them had grieved for over the years, was now theirs....and then....it wasn’t.
Dean wears his heart on his sleeve, it’s something I’ve always adored about him. For all his bluff and bluster, he has a great capacity for love and he's not afraid to show it. He’s not afraid to let everyone and their dog know just how much he loves Sam! He wasn’t afraid to show his love for Charlie, or his love for Cas. But wearing his heart on his sleeve also means we see his pain, even when he thinks we can't,. he's not always able to hide it as successfully as he thinks he can, he can’t always mask it, more often than not it shows on his face, in his attitude, in his tone. He may try and bottle it all up, but exactly how he’s feeling pretty much oozes out of every single one of Dean’s pores.
We’ve seen a lot of change in the brother’s relationship in the past season - a lot of honesty. Those feelings that were once buried deep down, those fears that were ignored or shrugged off or denied, were talked about, and even if they weren’t, they were acknowledged. That was a great big step forward for the brothers and especially for Dean, and it was one of the things I loved the most about Season 11, the openness between the brothers.
For a minute I was worried we were going to get that closed off Dean again, worried he would go backwards - but instead we saw Dean reaching out to his mum with an adorable text - a very brave thing to do, because that’s really putting his feelings out there and opening the door to more rejection.…imagine if Mary hadn't responded. Oh my God the heartbreak! And though he was crabby and sarcastic with Sam - the tiny bladder line made me nearly pee my pants…when push came to shove, he did talk to Sam and told Sam exactly what he feared most - that their mum would not come back. She left…and maybe she wouldn’t come back.
The brothers talked. Dean opened up (even if he was cranky about it) and said out loud exactly what he was scared of. I think I clutched my heart with pride and joy!
And after Sam said to Dean that sometimes time apart is what people needed, Dean obviously thought about it - because by the end, he says to Magda, “Sometimes in order to figure things out, a person needs space”. He then tells Sam he was right - he's pretty good at that - Sam was not just right about the case, he was right about the boys needing to give Mary time and space - he gets it, but it still hurts and he's honest enough to say that, but that he'll try and deal with it better than he was. I loved that moment between the brothers - talking over the roof of the car, where so many of their emotional moments take place. I’m so happy the guys have got to a place where they can be open with like this.
Outwardly, it seems Sam is doing a lot better than Dean with Mary's choice - but his need to make Dean talk, is most likely also his need to talk. I think he reaches out because he needs to talk about how he's feeling, as much as he's trying to open the door for Dean. I also think his very angry reaction to the mother, is not just about the family refusing their daughter care, but that this mother did…a mother, a mother caused her child’s death (or not actually as the case may be!). Magda’s mother was not there for her when she needed her love and understanding and care.…Sam’s going through a complex time with his mother, the mother he never thought he'd know just left him.... her choice. As empathetic as Sam is towards Mary’s needs - he’s hurting and confused too.
I love that we revisited Sam’s psychic powers and I wondered if they were why the British Men of Letters were particularly hostile towards Sam? Do they know about the demon blood thing and all that comes with it? If they’ve been watching the brothers for as long as they have, maybe they do! And what else do they know? Neither brother is untouched by the supernatural....they've both been monsters - demons, vampires - themselves at one point or another!
American Nightmare also gave us beautiful, compassionate Sam. I loved how he reached out to Magda and tried to help her understand that her powers do not make her evil - that she just has to learn to control them. I loved that he shared his story about his own psychic powers and that his powers, in the past or not, make him who he is. It was actually lovely to hear Sam say that about himself, not that he’s “not clean”, but that his powers are a part of what makes him Sam. That warmed my heart.
It’s Sam’s words that stop Magda going the same way as Max Miller - stopped her killing her family, and maybe herself, and it was Sam’s words that comforted her at the end, and that made her feel less alone. When she lay her head on his shoulder - I wibbled a little.
The brothers let Magda go - because these days, they see the greys with monsters, not just the black and white - they understand that not all monsters, or the supernaturally afflicted, are bad. Unlike the British Men of Letters - who see no grey and ultimately, their assassin Mr Ketch, kills Magda…which was horrible, so horrible, and also made me much more worried for Sam and Dean…and for every supernatural creature the brothers have any kind of relationship with. The British Men of Letters have zero tolerance - and essentially, this makes them monsters in human form.
I really loved this episode - I really loved the way the brothers were with each other, the bitching, the teasing, the arguing and ultimately, the opening up. I loved their little fight over who was right! I loved the cardigans, and the fact that they must have changed in the car by the side of the road!
I loved that the monster of the week was human, that always raises the stakes, because killing a human is very different to killing a vampire, or a demon - and in a season where the first monsters we met were the British Men of Letters, I thought it was particularly relevant that the brothers are having to deal with non supernatural bad guys here…and it was made even trickier and more confronting for them because it was a family, and a mother - with all that Sam and Dean are going through with their own family and their own mother.
I will never tire of seeing Dean rushing to Sam, burning rubber in the Impala, and I will never tire of Sam being smart enough not to need Dean’s rushing! I will never tire of girls fancying Dean, because really…LOOK AT HIM! He should be getting ALL the numbers! I loved that we didn’t see Beth sharing her number - as cute as that would have been, but that we did see the brothers joking about how Dean was going to kill her a minute ago and now he might date her! Such brothers! Such boys! Their life is so weird!
But what I loved most of all, and my absolutely favourite part of the episode, was Mary’s text. Like I said, Dean really put himself out there emotionally…checking in, risking rejection, asking if he should still call her mum...that’s pretty damn ballsy stuff....it's scary to be so vulnerable. So to see his face when Mary finally texted back. His face! I will carry that little look on his face in my heart forever. I felt his relief, I felt his heart swell when he realised it was all going to be okay, I felt that jolt of happiness whiz through him. Yep, I cried. I cried for Dean two weeks in a row….but this time, I was smiling. Dean’s such a badass, and sometimes he’s also so totally not.
American Nightmare was an auspicious start from a "rookie" Supernatural writer - and with how the brother’s were written here, I can’t wait to see Davy Perez’s next episode!
Next week’s ep, is the one I saw them shooting in Vancouver!!!! I’m so excited to see the scenes!
Thanks for reading and thanks being patient with my tardiness…work really got in the way of life and sleep, and yes even Supernatural! I'll try to not let it happen again!
See you soon!