Supernatural Review, Season 7, Episode 11, “Adventures in Babysitting”
Written by Adam Glass
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
This week, on Supernatural: Sam goes to help a friend of Bobby’s and Dean teams up with Frank to follow up on Bobby’s final message.
One of the problems serialized shows run into in the American network TV schedule is that of pace. For procedurals, having 22+ episodes isn’t necessarily an issue. However, when writers try to perform the increasingly popular balancing act of mostly-standalone-with-serialized-elements-that-build-towards-a-finale, having such a large order can be troublesome. This week’s episode of Supernatural is a perfect example, with its lack of narrative balance and drive.
The standalone case, that of a young girl whose Hunter father has disappeared, is interesting and fun, but not fleshed out enough to fill an episode. The serialized elements, the ripples from Bobby’s death and the continuing mystery of the Leviathans, are also interesting, but have far too little progression to be particularly engaging. Similar to last season’s uninteresting and ultimately unrewarding Eve digression, the Leviathan story arc feels stretched. With the death of Bobby, our leads have more personal stakes, but there’s nothing that happens in this episode that hasn’t happened before. Frank’s advice to Dean to pretend at happiness a little better is very similar to what he’s heard from Bobby in the past and the continuation of the Dean-as-alcoholic thread has been so glacially paced that this week’s addition to it, Dean drinking his beer without noticing, prompted brief theories of GhostBobby before the assumed actual intent came to mind.
As for the titular babysitting, seeing Dean with a tough, spunky kid is always entertaining and Madison McLaughlin is fine as Krissy, given such limited screen time. Unfortunately, Adam Glass barely takes advantage of this dynamic, relegating it to only a few scenes. Rather than experiencing any emotional or psychological realizations from his interactions with Krissy, Dean outright discusses his mental state with Frank. Any chance at subtlety is lost. Jensen Ackles is fine here, but given how familiar much of the material given to him is, it’s not surprising that the beats feel almost rote. Sam also suffers from repetitive character development syndrome and it’s too bad his weakened state isn’t used as an opportunity to bring back the elephant, make that Lucifer, in the room. The monsters of the week, the vampire-like Vetala, are appropriately creepy and threatening, though they do seem rather easy to kill.
The presence of other Hunters is a welcome change, and it’s disappointing that these characters seem unlikely to return. With John, Ash, Pamela, Jo, Ellen, Samuel, Rufus, Cas**, and Bobby all gone, the only (living) connections Sam and Dean have to the Life are Missouri, possibly Bela (if she survived), and the ever reliable Crowley. The reminder that these characters operate within an established world of Good-vs-Evil, rather than as the two sole fighters holding back the dark, makes their situation far more relatable. Superhuman characters are far less interesting than highly trained specialists excelling in their chosen field (which in this case, is killing monsters). There is a good episode to be had with this subplot and it’s a shame it’s wasted here, with such little time and depth.
**It’s the old genre rule- we haven’t seen a body, so Cas is totally coming back. But, for now, the show wants us to think he’s dead, and the characters do, so I included him here.
The episode does have some good moments though. The choice to end on Dean’s attempt to put on a happy face isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but the lighting for the scene is interesting. The lights reflected in Dean’s eyes, in conjunction with the shadows over his face, make a nice visual parallel to the shapeshifters from earlier in the series run, showing how completely Dean has transformed internally, while (somewhat) successfully maintaining his façade. Yes, we’ve had this exact emotional beat before, but not with this visual flourish. It’s also nice to see Frank back, and seemingly to stay, and the return of costume and disguise comedy, however brief, is long overdue. Next week, with “Time After Time After Time”, Dean looks to be traveling back to the Prohibition era and hanging out with Eliot Ness. Given Supernatural’s previous success with time travel episodes, fingers crossed that we’ll get an episode that takes full advantage of its potential.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Are you on board with the Leviathans? Anyone else kinda hoping for GhostBobby? Post your thoughts in the comment section below!