by Billie Doux
This one was another callback to early Supernatural, which seems to be the thing lately.
A couple of gruesomely religious deaths with stigmata led to a tormented and powerful girl named Magda kept in the basement and tortured by her religiously obsessed mother. I found the stigmata deaths particularly disturbing. Especially the first one, with Olivia from Child Protective Services staggering down the aisle of that church as she was screaming in pain and speaking in tongues. (Good performance there.)
And yet, there were layers: the Petersons gave up modern life, everything they knew, electricity and cell phones, in order to hide and protect Magda. While it was easy to hate Gail, the mother, who decided to beat the devil out of Magda, she was a victim, too, and in constant pain from the accident that Magda caused. Yes, she was horrible, but you could kind of see her point of view.
Okay, no, I'm kidding there. She was a freaking lunatic who tortured her own child for being different, but she was human evil, not like Lucifer. I kept thinking of "The Benders." And when Magda refused to take her mother's punishment anymore, it felt for a moment like they were going to do Carrie. (The good Carrie, not the remake.) Gail Peterson even looked like Piper Laurie. The great big monster knife looked familiar, too.
This was mostly Sam's episode. I liked that Sam was right about the cause of the deaths, and that he was able to reach Magda because he was once "special" himself. In fact, his heartfelt talk with her about her psychic powers not being her fault strongly hinted that Sam has finally forgiven himself for what happened with the Yellow Eyed Demon. Sam has grown up, hasn't he? It's too bad that Mr. Ketch showed up in the end and killed her. Magda might have been okay. She deserved a chance, and didn't get it.
No Castiel, no Crowley, and even though I love them, an episode with just Dean and Sam is fine with me. How enjoyable that they gave us the boys in three different disguises: as 1. priests, Father Penn and Father De Niro, 2. unnamed FBI agents, and 3. social workers James Morrison and Ray Manzarek from Child Protective Services complete with cardigans, a new look for them. (Morrison and Manzarek were both members of the classic sixties rock group, the Doors.)
The fact that the boys actually know God personally and that Sam had a close and horrible relationship with Lucifer made the Peterson family's deluded and sick religious obsession into a particularly droll in-joke. Loved that.
As background, we had Dean texting Mary, trying to find a way to bring her back to him by suggesting that their relationship could be more like friends, that he could call her "Mary" instead of "Mom." Just a little thing, but it implied that Dean felt that Mary's need for distance was that she couldn't deal with the fact that her little boys were grown men now. At the end of episode, Mary texted back that she would always be Mom to them. Mary doesn't want to give up their relationship, but she still needs some alone time. Sam seems to be okay with that. Dean isn't.
-- The "Then" section was full of clips from very early Supernatural. Sam looks so different now. Funny how Dean looks much the same.
-- Trunk shot! It's been awhile since they did a shot of the boys from inside of Baby's trunk.
-- We've seen that church from the opening scene before. Note how they didn't show us the outside.
-- Sam reluctantly revealed himself to be a Vince Vincente fan. Since the Rick Springfield thing was hyped, I'm sure we'll see him again. Bottom of the ocean be damned, pun intended.
-- I liked that Beth, Dean's Wiccan suspect, was 1. innocent, and 2. hitting on him.
-- This week: where were they? I have no idea. Was it mentioned? Mr. Ketch killed Magda at a rest stop in Pleasant Valley, Missouri. No irony there.
-- In this week's hair report, did Jared Padalecki get an actual different haircut? It's still long but it looks layered now.
Priest: "What kind of priests are you?"
Dean: "The old fashioned kind."
Another little callback to season one, which was (I think) the only other time the boys dressed up as priests. The episode was titled "Nightmare," and note that this one is titled "American Nightmare." How about that?
Dean: "Cas is chumming it up with Crowley. They're hunting Lucifer together. That's right, one's an angel, one's a demon and apparently, they solve crimes."
Dean: "Lucifer, the lord of evil, the angel of light, is now the master of butt rock. He jumped into Vince Vincente, the douche bag. The guy used to roll with purple hair down to his butt and a spiked codpiece."
Sam: "It was the eighties."
Dean: "What, are you defending him?"
Sam: "No, I'm not. I mean, his third album was kinda... not horrible."
Dean: "I hate you so much right now."
Dean: "The Wicked Witch of the West in there, Miss Positive Energy, wanted a bigger office, did a little hoodoo. Boom. I say we put a witch-killing cap in her ass and call it a day."
Gail: "Do you know God, gentleman?"
Dean: "Oh yeah. Yeah, we're besties."
Dean: "Sorry I missed all the psycho."
Sam: "Yeah. And you thought our family was crazy."
For me, "American Nightmare" was more uncomfortable than enjoyable, even though it was, as always, well done. Two out of four trunk shots,
Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.