Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 8: “Rock and a Hard Place”
Written by Jenny Klein
Directed by John MacCarthy
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm (ET) on The CW
Throughout their time fighting otherworldly creatures, the Winchesters have ended up making a few friends. Some of these are not full-fledged hunters, yet are aware that what goes bump in the night is very real. One such notable ally is Sheriff Jody Mills, an acquaintance of Bobby who became a valuable friend to the veteran hunter. Bobby’s death did not sever the connection between the Sheriff and the Winchesters, and they team up with her once again this week, in a strong standalone episode that brings in a new foe while giving an old character her due.
It’s good to see Sheriff Mills make a return appearance, particularly after the events at the end of Season 8. The gradual inclusion of Sheriff Mills into the world of supernatural entities has been a fascinating one to watch throughout the character’s run on the show, and this week is no different in that regard. It’s particularly interesting to note the ease with which the Winchesters interact with Sheriff Mills despite the lack of a buffer provided by Bobby, a buffer that has existed in all their prior interactions in some form or another. It will be intriguing to see if the Winchester brothers come to rely on Sheriff Mills as more of an ally foing forward. Despite her relative inexperience with supernatural entities, there’s no denying Mills has undergone her own trial by fire, starting with her own zombified son, and has gotten more adept at spotting and fighting them in the process, to the point where she was the key aspect to this week’s battle, rather than the Winchesters. With their circle of allies ever shrinking it would make sense for the brothers to confide in Mills, particularly as her profession can legally open door for them. Whether or not they decide to bring her into the fold, and how she reacts to the full reveal of supernatural entities out there and their behaviour, is something worth looking out for.
Sam’s pessimistic attitude with regards to his health is also fascinating. It’s a nice extension of his willingness to die in the season premiere, and while it may be attributed to the exhaustion of the trials, there’s also the possibility that it’s the result of fighting supernatural creatures for the entirety of his life, with no reprieve in sight. With Crowley’s assertion last week seemingly adding Angels to the long list of full-time Winchester adversaries, Sam’s mental fatigue has the possibility of becoming a determining factor in future fights. Not only could the fatigue result in him becoming an unreliable partner when facing an opponent, concern over his mental well-being could compromise Dean as well. It will be promising to watch what steps Dean takes to heal Sam’s condition going forward; if he gives Ezekiel permission to get in Sam’s head, it would open up a new moral quandary that Sam is all but guaranteed to not forgive him for. On the other hand, getting out of the hunting life could also help Sam get on the road to recovery, but Dean might not consider this a viable option. Last week’s episode proved that Dean is willing to do anything to ensure his brother’s safety, so what course of action he takes, and the resulting consequences, promises to be compelling.
Overall, this is another characteristically strong standalone episode. It’s a testament to the show’s ability that, nine seasons in, it can still surprise the audience with new monsters and cases that don’t feel stale. The reactions of the prisoners to their extended confinement is another fascinating aspect of this week, and it would have been nice to have spent some more time with them to further understand their anguish. Ezekiel continues to be a carefully guarded presence in Sam, still confining his appearances to only when Dean is a possible witness, or if there are no witnesses. With Dean seemingly on the verge of revealing Ezekiel’s presence to Sam, it will be intriguing to see whether the Angel decides to try more drastic measures to stay in the younger Winchester, or accepts his fate. It’s also worth noting that, as Sam continues to find himself in peril, Ezekiel may not always be able to avoid appearing when other witnesses are present, and whether or not he emerges in such a situation or allows Sam to get gravely injured will really prove whether or not he’s interested in Sam’s well-being, or simply his own. If and when such a situation arises, as well as whether Sheriff Mills makes a return appearance and meets some other hunters, are both worth keeping an eye on as the show continues.
– Deepayan Sengupta