Supernatural 8.12 – As Time Goes By

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This week’s previously is a full rundown of all things past regarding the Winchester/Campbell union that lead to Sam and Dean’s existence. Which is a nice refresher for the handful of fans that can’t recite everything Supernatural from memory at the drop of a colt.

The episode opens up with an adorable little boy tucked into bed and a trench-coated man telling him good night and I’m outta here. The boy’s father is coming off as a mix of Ol’ Yellow Eyes and Clark Kent. The boy asks his father about his unusual button, but the father deflects.

While the boy falls asleep to the dulcet sound of coming from his music box we follow the father as he walks the streets. He comes upon a door with the same insignia as his secret society button and gives it a swift, off note rendition of Shave and a Haircut. He’s let in and is greeted by Josie, who is dressed to the nines like Joan Harris about to school some board members, for their initiations. Josie goes first. The man is sitting in the designated wait here area kicking himself for going with his casual suit and not his tux, when the sounds of Latin and scuffling draw his attention. He bursts into the room to find Josie bloody and murderous. A man hands him a carved box to protect just as Josie flashes her demon eyes. The man runs out, Josie saunters after him. The man heads straight for the spice rack and conjures himself a portal, a portal that spits him out of a closet into a room right in front of a very unprepared Sam and Dean. The man wants to know which one of them is John Winchester.

The boys explain that neither of them are John, but leave out the part about being his sons. They aren’t giving up that intel without some answers. Answers that Sam tries to get by looking giant and menacing while Dean uses brute strength. It gets them nowhere. The man suavely tells them that there’s no need for violence, there’s just been a snafu and he’ll just be on his way. Once again, the brothers Winchester take a more roughshod approach to this and try to handcuff the guy, however the man Danny Oceans them and leaves them handcuffed as he makes his escape. Outside the motel room the man is having a bit of a mind blown moment. Despite feeling out of place he somehow zeros in on the Impala. I’ve got a feeling about this guy.

He checks the Impala’s registration at discovers that it’s the year 2013. Kudos to Dean for keeping the car legit. Getting pulled over for an expired registration sucks. It sucks even more when you’re driving around with an arsenal in your trunk. Unfortunately, this guy doesn’t have the same respect for the car as everyone else ever does and elbow cracks the window to glass dust. He’s about to hotwire his way out of Dodge when suddenly Sam and Dean are there, Dean with a gun in the man’s face.

The boys get the man back into the room and tie him up for some friendly experimentation. The guy passes all the demon tests with human colors. The man proceeds to insult Dean’s intelligence and frankly, Dean has had enough of this. The man may be above physical violence but Dean isn’t. Dean explains that he’s smart enough to wave a gun around so he can find out while a stranger is asking about his dad. Dean’s clearly not smart enough to keep his cool and NOT reveal that John was his father. Oops.

His slip is interrupt by a mini-earthquake created by Josie sliding through the closet portal. She helpfully throws out the man’s name, Henry, and tells him he should’ve study his spells better at Hogwarts. Sam and Dean head in for the attack, but she flings them into the walls. Henry tries to reason with her, which is just the distraction needed for Dean to rudely shank her with his demon knife. She doesn’t die, but she does go down long enough for the trio to high tail it. The motel manager tries to stop them from skipping out and instead ends up face to face with Josie. Josie uses her demon smoke to invade the manager’s mind and fish out everything he’s seen, which includes really good memories of Sam, Dean, the Impala and her plates. He gets a perfectly manicured slash to the throat for his help.

Off in the outskirts Dean pulls the car over so Henry can revisit his dinner. Turns out Henry see more action in research than in battle. Henry demands, once again, to see John. Dean tells him no dice, John’s permanently indisposed. Henry takes it kinda hard and Sam asks him why he cares so much. Oh, ‘cause, by the way, Henry is John’s father. That’s right boys, meet your dapper, weak stomached grandfather. This one is was more couth than Grampa Campbell, that’s for sure.

The boys used the commercial break to scrutinize Henry’s ID and quiz him on all things John Winchester. He seems like the real McCoy, but Dean isn’t ready to take family photos just yet, he remembers that John was really bitter about the father that abandoned him. Sam tries to rationalize that not only did Henry not actually abandon John so much as malfunction his TARDIS, but also that John wasn’t exactly a play catch in the backyard kind of dad either. Well, at least he wasn’t for Sam and Dean…

Henry, ever well mannered, rationalizes that while the news of his son’s death is a painful blow he is presented with the opportunity to meet his grandson’s. Sam is willing to be mature and polite, Dean is willing to eat his burger.

Then demon they are dealing with is Abbadon, and while no one at the diner table can explain why Ruby’s knife didn’t kill Abbadon, they all agree she can’t stay on this plane. Sam figures that in lieu of their typical stabbing, maybe they could recreate the portal and shove Abbadon through. Sure, no prob. Henry just needs a few ingredients. His blood, easy enough. An angel feather, well the boys know an angel. Tears of a dragon and the sands of time, now those are a bit more obscure. Henry is a little thrown off by how much and how little the boys seem to know and asks them what their Magic the Gathering player level is. The brothers are confused. Henry insists that the boys are Men of Letters, but the only thing Dean knows is Men in Tights.

Turns out the boys are descendants of the Watcher’s Council. Their grandfather is Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (he’s not cool enough to be Giles, I mean, c’mon Giles was RIPPER) and much like the Watcher’s Council, the Men of Letters think their Slayers/Hunters are killshot Neanderthals; Henry likens hunters to unwashed, uneducated miscreants. Buffy and Faith… um, Sam and Dean are offended this stereotyping generalization. I mean, have you seen Sam’s hair? That’s not an unkempt ‘do.

Sam and Dean remind Henry that not only is he offending them as hunters, but also he’s offending his kin. Henry gets that, he’s just bummed that his family legacy has gone from Ivy League to community college. Again, still offensive Henry, especially considering that hunters know about hunters, but nobody knows about the Men of Letters. Not only does no one know, but their council headquarters have been reduced to an underground head shop and all his resources have dried up. Dean asks the nice goth girl at the counter if they can use her laptop and while Sam googles Henry’s list of elders go by, Dean eyes up the cute goth girl. According to google all of Henry’s colleagues died in a fire. So obviously, if you’re a Winchester, the next stop is the cemetery.

At the cemetery the Winchester men come upon Albert Magnus’ grave. Of course, this isn’t where Saint Albert the Great is buried, the Men of Letters were just really big fans of Melville and Hawthorne and appropriating names. Henry figures the use of Albertus’ name in the fire article was a clue. All the graves have the button/door sigil on them. It’s an Aquarian Star; full on moon in the seventh house kind of mojo. It’s on all the gravestones except Larry Ganem’s; his has a Haitian cross symbolizing convos with dead guys. They dig up Larry’s grave, but Larry’s corpse is a fake. Well, it’s a real corpse, but its carbon dating is all wrong. Henry was raised to I was raised to believe that men dig up the corpses and the women have the babies and with that he orders Sam and Dean to re-bury Larry.

Remember our goth girl? Sadly, Josie found her and terrorizes her with mindreading smoke. But on the plus side, Josie totally liked her shirt, so it was like female bonding while fearing for your life.

Sam, Dean and Grandpa Henry are researching in a motel room. Strike that, Sam and Dean are researching; Henry is channeling Wesley Wyndam-Pryce circa season hotass and whistling attractively. Dean vaguely recognizes the tune, Sam remembers that John used to whistle it every now and them. Henry tells them that he bought John a music box that played “As Time Goes By” to comfort him after fright night at the drive-in scared him as a boy.

The boys shake off the idea that John Winchester was ever scared of anything. Ever.

Dean’s research on the internet leads him to Larry, the last Man of Letters that’s in the correct time stream and Sam’s research of John’s journal informs them that Abbadon is a Knight of Hell, the first born demons hand picked by Lucy himself.
Royal Alpha demons, basically.

Henry is more interested in perusing John’s journal. In true circular Winchester fashion, John’s journal is actually Henry’s. Henry ordered it before he was initiated and never got the chance to scrawl his notes in it, but John somehow made intended use of it. Talk about an inheritance. Henry does the math and figures he doesn’t make it back from this mission. Dean fills Henry in on how John’s life turned out, sparing not one single devastating detail. The good thing is that between Dean’s retelling of John’s life and the stern look his bronzer contouring give him, all the “John’s a crappy father” mess from the past few years is ret conned. Dean storms out on his grandfather, utterly unsympathetic. Sam trots off after him. Henry pages through the journal. It takes him most of the night.

This is what we learn: Sam and Dean sleep in one layer of clothing, over the bedding.

We also learn that Henry has taken off, leaving a note promising to fix this mess.

In order to fix everything, Henry steals an angel feather from the trunk of the Impala (um… why is there an angel feather in the trunk of the Impala?) and sleeping beauty-s the proprietor of an herb shop because she won’t sell him dragon’s tears or the sands of time.

It’s up to the boys to fix Henry’s fixing.

Sam heads over to Larry’s place to get the scoop. Larry tells him that the box Henry has been guarding holds the key to all the neato supernatural artifacts ever horded.
Dean finds Henry just in time to stop him from re-portaling. Henry tells Dean he has to do this; that Dean was right, he was a deadbeat dad and he has to make it all up to John by going back and being the father that John missed out on. Reading the journal really screwed him up. Dean tells him that John’s journal is always a rollercoaster read, the cake is a lie and maybe things happened the way they were supposed to.

Dean’s kinda worried about this working, because if Henry’s plan works Sam and Dean might never be born, which means they’ll never stop the plural of apocalypse.

Meanwhile, Larry gives Sam directions to the black hole and tells him to drop the key down the well so it’ll be gone forever. Yeah, it sucks that the side of good won’t be able to soak up the knowledge in that room, but at least Abbadon will never be able to get in either. Unfortunately, Larry’s loving and attentive caretaker was possessed by Abbadon and has heard everything. She knocks Sam out cold and puts Larry’s 127 years to an end before slithering back into Josie’s body, complete with goth girl’s duds. She calls Dean and lays out her terms: Sam in exchange for Henry and the box.

Henry wants to continue on with his plan, under the assumption that if he goes back to one hour before Abbadon attacked the Watcher’s Council he can stop the entire Winchester tapestry of blood and woe and get his Best Dad mug. Dean isn’t so sure and he’s not down for tossing the dice with Sam’s life on the line.

A father fighting for his son, a brother fighting for his brother.

Henry, stubborn and determined, continues to chant his pogo portal chant. Dean full Nelsons him into a mini-coma. Henry comes to in the passenger seat of the Impala. Dean faux-apologies for it, Henry calls him on his disingenuous remorse. He’s totally picked up on the fact that Dean doesn’t like him much. In Dean’s defense he hasn’t had the best of luck in the grandpa department. Also in Dean’s defense, he will always opt to save Sam above all.

Dean marches Henry into Abbadon’s meeting place, trussed up like a gift, complete with key-in-a-box. Abbadon gives Sam to Dean, but she’s a demon, untrustworthy to the end and reneges on her end of the plan, locking the brothers in with her and Henry. She then takes a brief moment to eviscerate Henry. Henry, showing a bit of Winchester bad assery, uses her gloating as an opportunity to shoot her.

We then get a flashback to Dean and Henry formulating a plan while cruising in the Impala. If Henry can slow Abbadon down just a hair, Dean can take care of everything else.

Abbadon gets over the tickle of the bullet fairly quickly and proceeds to dig around Henry’s pockets for the box, but all she comes up with is a deck of playing cards. Needless to say, she’s pissed. She’s also immobile because Henry is a genius and carved a devil’s trap into the head of the bullet. Dean decapitates her, trapping the bullet in her head, which in turn traps the demon in that body. The plan is Boxing Helena her and bury her parts in cement. It ain’t death. It’s worse.

Speaking of death, Henry’s time is coming to an end. He apologies to the boys for talking down their hunter lifestyle and tells them he’s proud of them and continuing his Wesley parallel he dies in Sam’s arms just like Wesley died in Illyria’s.

Sam and Dean bury their grandfather amongst his colleagues. Sam thinks he finally understands the balance of the Campbell/Winchester lineage. All Dean sees is a family full of corpses.

“When you’ve told someone that you’ve left them a legacy the only decent thing to do is to die at once.” – Samuel Butler

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  • Katy

    All I can think is that Sam and Dean were seriously screwed years before they were born.

    Now I wanna hug them and make it all better.

    • It’s interesting (in my opinion) to have the show lay out this idea of fate, especially in relation to Sam’s character. Like you said, they never had a chance. Screwed by birthright.

  • Lisa

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who wondered about the angel feathers. I think what Dean wasn’t saying was that they were actually in the back seat.

    • I mean, I would LOVE to hear a writer’s explanation for the angel’s feather in the trunk? HOW, WHEN AND WHY EVEN?

  • Elizabeth

    Okay, interesting episode if once again struck by the “Season 8 writers haven’t actually seen any episodes of Supernatural before” curse (4×03–John’s “old man” is alive and still around and John comes from a family of mechanics: I guess that was his stepfather? Or a Rosie Riveter mommy)–but still good and enjoyable. But I am also hung up on the angel feathers.
    1. How would Henry know that D&S know an angel let alone apparently sweep up his molting and keep them in the trunk…have they been writing in John’s journal? Seems like it should be a lot thicker by now if so.
    2. When Henry used a feather in the teaser we can see it float down and it is white (and pretty small considering angelic wing spans), so are all angel wings white and a lot of fanart needs to be fixed–or is like hair color and it can vary?
    3. Did this episode just put every single wingkink!fanfiction in the realm of possible canon? I always assumed angel wings were purely a part of their “celestial intent” as their vessels cannot possibly produce physical wings thus that is why they are always only seen as shadows–again not sure the writers are familiar with this show. Where the heck are Carver and Edlund?

    • I definitely rationalized with a step-father excuse, because even in Henry had a day job, he sure doesn’t seem like the mechanic type.

      The angel feather thing completely threw me. Why would they have it? How would Henry know? It was all really strange. As far as the color, I’m thinking maybe feathers are like hair/fur, meaning that there are genetic variations? I don’t even know, man.

      Ha! Since I’ve never read wing kink fic in any fandom I didn’t realize that they were hitting tropes over the head. Hopefully, somewhere, somehow, it’ll get explained.

  • Elizabeth

    Beating a dead horse here, but Castiel also said in the beginning of season four that angels were walking the earth for the first time in 2000 years because of the impending apocalypse. Where did Henry get the feather he used in 1958 ? I guess I’m gonna have to go with Gabriel, Balthazar, and possibly some other naughty seraphs were ignoring Chuck’s orders and prancing around Earth when they shouldn’t have been. Either that or angel feathers have an amazing shelf life.
    (And no, I’m not really a psycho detail fan–I’ve been re-watching SPN to get my sister hooked on it and guess where we are? Early season 4. That’s why I noticed the discrepancies. And no, I do not think I’m protesting too much.)

    • Ha! I in no way thought you were a psycho detail fan, so no worries. I admit, I’m really bad about details in s3-s5, for some reason those seasons really blend together for me no matter how many re-watches I do. Unfortunately, it leaves me really shaky on a lot of Castiel’s details. I probably just get distracted by Misha’s eyes…

  • Chris

    I love your quote at the end. It pretty much sums up the bad luck of SamnDean. :)