Supernatural, Season 8, Episode 12: “As Time Goes By”
Written by Adam Glass
Directed by Serge Ladouceur
Airs Wednesdays at 9pm (ET) on CW
The Winchester brothers have always been an integral part of the hunting world, that much has been clear over the past 7 seasons. With both Lucifer and Michael gunning for the two brothers, and settling for a half-sibling when Dean refused to allow Michael to use him as a vessel, the importance of both Winchesters to both sides of the fight has been well-explored. What has been less discussed, however, is how the two ended up being so crucial. Hints have been dropped with regards to John and Mary’s marriage being pre-determined, and an exploration of the brothers’ Campbell lineage proved that they came from a long line of established hunters, thus explaining Mary’s importance. John’s importance, however, has been less explored, as his family has remained an enigma to Sam and Dean, and by extension, the audience. This episode tackles this longstanding issue in a wonderfully organic matter, reinforcing the Winchesters’ concept of family while expanding the show’s mythology.
It was great to finally get to explore the Winchester side of the family lineage. While there was a definite danger that this would end up being little more than a rehash of when the brothers met the Campbells, the writers smartly managed to avoid that pitfall, while still tying in Henry Winchester to the supernatural-fighting world. It was very interesting to note that Henry himself seemed closer, personality-wise, to Sam rather than Dean, the latter of whom very clearly took after his father. A clear parallel could also be drawn between John and Henry in how their attempts to fight the supernatural are treated by someone knowledgeable but not obsessed, as Henry is, versus someone solely driven to that end, the way John was.
Bringing Henry in is also a wonderful way for the show to revisit how Dean felt towards his father. While Dean was the obedient soldier to John’s commanding general in season 1, the ensuing years have shed a lot more light on John, both good and bad, which has helped Dean reconsider how he felt towards the man, even getting an opportunity to visit him twice in the past. In the mayhem of trying to prevent the apocalypse, then trying to rewrite the book on it, and all the other assorted large-scale problems Dean has faced, how his feelings towards his father might have changed has never really been explored until now, and it was fascinating to watch him once again grapple with how he feels towards John, especially with a new sense of clarity that Dean has developed over the years.
The one issue with this storyline, however, puts it in a bit of a catch-22; on one hand, particularly in light of the attention to Campbell family got, giving only one episode to Henry Winchester, particularly as it seems he is the only member of John’s lineage that the brothers are going to meet, makes it feel like they drew the short end of the stick. On the other hand, however, an over-abundance of storylines can lead to a weakened season, and the season already has Crowley, Naomi, and the pursuit of two tablets, as well as Kevin’s storyline, and the potential for Benny to relapse, the Winchesters already have a lot of spinning plates, and while it might have been nice to have Henry stick around for a while and provide a new dimension to the Winchesters’ skillset, it’s understandable that the writers decided not to add this to the growing mix of the season, although the fate of the key that Henry dies to protect remains up in the air at episode’s end.
Overall, however, this was a fantastic episode from the show. Displaying a keen understanding of that fact that the emotionally resonant moments are often the show’s best ones, the episode very effectively explored the brothers’ connection to their family, and Dean’s idea of what family entails. Gil McKinney was wonderful in the role of the Winchester grandfather, and while his time was emphatically ended by Abbadon, his presence on the show again would be a welcome one. Supernatural continues its tradition of effectively using time travel with this episode, and the final shot, with Sam and Dean standing in the middle of a cemetery after burying yet another fighter who battled alongside them was perfect. How the knowledge of why exactly the two families were brought together weighs individually on the two brothers, as well as what they choose to do with the key, make next week’s episode one worth tuning in for.
– Deepayan Sengupta