"This whole saving the world thing is a marathon, not a sprint."
It is season eight of The CW's Supernatural, and that line, advice from Sam (Jared Padalecki) to young prophet Kevin (Osric Chau), is certainly exemplified simply by the show not only being around for this many years but still going as strong as it has over such a long stretch of time. Putting Yellow Eyes and Lucifer, the battle between Heaven and Hell, doppelgangers, Leviathans, demon blood, and lost loved ones aside, Sam and Dean (Jensen Ackles) are embarking on their greatest mission yet: closing the gates of Hell forever. Only, only one of them can complete the trials and therefore that epic task.
In "Trial and Error," Kevin finally cracks the tablet to learn what the first of three trials that one man must complete in order to close the gates is: killing a hell hound. It's not easy, and he thinks he has a mini stroke while doing it, so clearly his answer should be to go to sleep for a week, but instead he pops some pills to get to work on the second trial. I just want to put it out there that I fear he will OD and die before giving the boys the instructions for the final trials, and that worries me more than any hell hound or spying angel!
Anyway, after watching a hell hound so brutally rip his brother apart years earlier, it would only seem fitting that Sam would want to stomp off and get his Lurch-like revenge, but that is actually not the story that transpired tonight. Instead, it was Dean who put forth his soldier mentality and decided he would be the one to kill the thing and take on the trials in general. There was no discussion about it; he pulled rank as big brother and the guy who didn't see a future outside of hunting; he'd rather go down swinging for the cause.
It is no secret that my heart breaks for Dean Winchester. For as much as I think I am more personally like Sam, I greatly admire Dean's focus and determination and willingness to put countless other people before himself. Here he certainly thought he was doing Sam a favor by taking on the hard work so Sam could have a future, just like he had been doing for years, all those years ago, when he took care of him in seedy motel rooms while their dad was off on a job. But Dean was also making himself a martyr here. By saying he didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel, after this fight, the way Sam does, he was pretty much resigning himself to die with gun in hand. And going in thinking you may not come out alive is not the right attitude to have when going into such a fight like this.
Sam didn't argue, but he didn't just sit back and let Dean steamroll him, either. They both went to check out a Waltons-esque story of a family who hit oil where they never should have, assuming someone in that clan made a deal with a crossroads demon in order to do so. When they got there, though, it took all of one evening before the first family member was ripped to shreds, only for it to turn out that his deal was to win the heart of a woman who didn't normally give him the time of day (reminiscent of a certain magical wishing well wish, wasn't it?). The rest of the clan flew in the next day, and Sam and Dean had their hands full with them, especially the poor man's J.R. Ewing and his Real Housewives rip-off daughter.
It didn't take long for the family to reminisce, unprompted, over the "nice, British fellow" who had dinner with them ten years ago. It was Crowley himself who sealed their fates, and though this task seemed quite menial for the King of Hell, well, everyone has their fun somehow! His, as it turned out, was in not telling these people just how bad (or when!) they would die when he warned them they wouldn't go to heaven if they took his deal.
But in addition to one of the sisters dealing with Crowley, so did the ranch hand (Danay Garcia), who Sam and Dean had ruled out for being "the help." She wanted her mother cured of Parkinson's, striking a chord with Dean, who just scenes earlier was settling into his room in the Men of Letters bunker by leaning a childhood photo of him and his mother against a table lamp. I will say I was surprised to learn it was she who made the deal. The way she was overtly flirting with Dean, but he was rejecting her, had led me to believe she could have actually been a demon in disguise, standing guard for the hell hounds. But maybe I'm just on high alert to such sinister ideas because I have watched this show for too long. Dean was simply a man on a mission, and honestly, if I knew I was about to die, I'd want to sleep with him, too!
Dean and Sam both prepared themselves to go after the hell hounds, but in the end it was Sam's blade who struck the fatal blow. Dean wanted to try again, so that he would be the one to go on to complete the rest of the trials, but Sam stopped him with a perfect speech about not wanting his brother to go on a suicide mission but instead trusting him.
I never got the impression that Dean didn't believe in his brother-- or believe that he would be better suited for these trials than his brother. I always saw his sheer instance on always being on the front-lines an act of his own self-identification: hunting was his greatest purpose and the only thing he knew, and if he wasn't out there, doing the tough stuff, he didn't know what he would be doing-- or who he'd be. But the moment at the end when he saw the wind get knocked out of Sam after completing the trial, there was a little glimmer in Dean's eye that seemed to be fear-- fear for his brother's safety, of course, but also, maybe, fear that he wouldn't succeed. And if Sam fails, they both fail; the human race fails.
Additional Remarks: I seriously hope the boys don't have to flee that Men of Letters bunker in a hurry any time soon because they will loose all those fantabulous guns! Sam should know Dean can cook; Dean cooked meals for him all the time when they were kids. Sure, it was mostly Spaghetti-Os and cereal, but everyone starts somewhere. I did love how Sam appreciated the burger after all; salads are not food, Sam; be more like your brother! The glowing of Sam's arm at the end seems like the kind of thing that will spread and take over more of his body as the other trials are completed. So the question is: if he does succeed at completing them, just how badly will he be changed?
Supernatural airs on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on The CW. What did you think of the episode and which Winchester is now about to embark upon finishing the trials? Let us know in the comments below!
Want more Supernatural news and reviews? Follow LA TV Insider Examiner on Twitter!