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Supernatural – Will retro themes work post-apocalypse?

We've officially gone retro with the look and feel of this latest episode ... but can retro work after all of the Heaven-Hell-Apocalypse-Castiel doings of the last couple of seasons?

- Season 7, Episode 7 - "The Mentalists"

I’ve been waiting all season long for the true throwback Supernatural episode Sera Gamble hinted at as the focus for this season, and last night we finally got it. “The Mentalists” (great episode title, by the way) reminded me of season two at its finest, down to the heart-to-heart the boys had in the last scene of the episode. We had rock salt guns, salt circles, burning bones, a flirtation for Dean and comic relief (not to mention the best FBI agent ties we’ve seen in a while). The boys got themselves out of the fine mess they were in, instead of calling everyone’s favorite angel to save them (or James Marsters). They were again, relying on the human race to be the saviors, which was the running theme of the show until the build-up to the apocalypse. It was a completely enjoyable ride (minus only THE ride, oh long lost Impala) from start to finish and I have to say, it was not even remotely flawed.

It begs a question, though, at least for me, as to whether or not retro Supernatural is appropriate at this point. I’m not so sure I want the boys to go back to season two-ness. There has been so much character growth in the seasons since, so the return to the formula that worked so well years ago doesn’t seem as authentic to me now.

There’s a lot I love about Supernatural, but one thing that has always stood out is the way the boys grew so naturally based out of their experiences. Their characters changed and reacted in ways that made perfect sense for what they had been through, in a way that has been done better than almost any other show I can think of. OK, any other show. Does it seem right that Sam is angry with Dean about Amy, after all they have been through? Does it seem right that Sam quickly forgives because Dean is right, after all they have learned over the years? Is Dean really still always right? I’m just thinking that their reactions and their heart-to-hearts would look a bit different — OK, a lot different — that they did in season two, based on the … ahem, little things they’ve experienced: both have been to Hell and back, literally, there’s been an apocalypse, Sam is still supposedly having Hell flashbacks (though they dropped those repercussions like a hot potato) and Dean is riddled with guilt about everything (OK, maybe that’s not new), including worrying about Sam’s sanity (though you could argue that Sam was always a worry, with his greenness, then Evil Sam).

This brings me back to the leviathans, who were absent this week. That was fine with me, as in seasons past the story arc took some episodes off and it worked. However, given that we’re going retro, there are no supernatural beings to help Sam and Dean and Bobby. That’s fine too, but how realistic is it that if these beings could defeat Cas, who was essentially God at that point, that three little old human hunters will be able to triumph solo? It’s not that I don’t have faith in Sam and Dean, and I actually enjoyed last week when Bobby figured out separating their bodies from their heads was a start. Something just isn’t sitting right in how this is all going to play out, authentically. The writers have always pulled it off in the past, but going backwards without honoring the growth and the new levels of evil the boys are facing on their own would be troubling.

I feel a bit like I’m writing around what I’m really trying to say, and I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say has even happened yet. I do think season seven has somewhat floundered in what it wants to be and I’m hoping it can all come together beautifully. Do you think they can pull off combining retro with authenticity?

Photo Credit: Michael Courtney/The CW

3 Responses to “Supernatural – Will retro themes work post-apocalypse?”

November 6, 2011 at 7:31 AM

Finally a traditional episode! I’ve missed them so much. I wasn’t a big fan of the last season and I’m not big on this Leviathan thing either. Suppose I should just go back and re-watch season 2 again…

November 6, 2011 at 11:07 PM

Yeah after watching the new one I ended up watching season 2

November 6, 2011 at 11:04 PM

I think it’s great they went back to the old season 1-3 ( most of 4 as well) style. Not to say I wasn’t a fan of the last few seasons its just nice to get back to the basics . In this episode I also enjoyed the title and the fact that Ellen still scares Dean even from beyond the grave.

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