Jenny Klein’s script “Just my imagination” dares to give us further insight into Sam’s current thinking about his fear going forward into the Cage. She stays true to the character of Sam even to the smallest details of his childhood like of marshmallows.*
Each child who has an imaginary friend appears to be in need of a companion. Maddie, has caring parents who need a book to know how to raise a child.The restaurant reservation conversation shows how they are so out of touch with the needs of a young child. The swimmer appears to have a nice life, but her care giver seems only slightly interested in her needs. The bed wetter has a common childhood problem, but one that can often be socially isolating. There is Sam in flashback deciding that hunting is his life. And then there is adult Sam, who struggles with the decision to go to the Cage. In each case, a Zana is there to help guide their wards as a companion or sounding board for their worst fears.
The opening montage is complete with entities that exist in other realms that we have seen before like Leprechauns, and Fairies, as well as the current dark arc. We are reminded that not everyone sees these entities by Dean’s “microwave/nipples” reference. The initial scene of Maddie and Sparkle is shot so sweetly that the viewer is lulled into a sense of “this might be a humorous, adorable episode” especially since Richard Speight Jr is the director and he has been associated with humor. Alas, what is Supernatural without death? What follows is a series of murders of Zanna, those imaginary friends from childhood, and a case for the Winchesters.
Sam’s personal Zanna from childhood, Sully, comes to the bunker so Sam can help him find the culprit. Through the episode, the Winchesters help Sully and the culprit face their fears. Sully helps Sam face his challenge in one of the most emotional scenes of season 11 so far in a heart to heart that Sam cannot have with Dean. Mr. Padalecki’s performance shows Sam’s vulnerability, insecurity, and fear with what he must do. Speight’s direction is superb as he has Sam sitting down on a box while Sully faces him. Sam looks child -like as he tells Sully that heroes are not perfect and that Sully is good at his job. The body language reflects a hunched; inward, insecure, small man despite his actual height. Sam also confesses to the bad that he has done. Sully seems to know all about Sam’s hunter life-good and bad. He also reminds Sam that heroes feel these emotions, because the quest is important and that true heroes have the “balls” to go forward. Once again Sully** helps Sam face his truth. As a first time director, Speight nails it.
Another example of directorial success is Sam’s awakening in the bunker. His subsequent astonishment at finding Sully in the kitchen is another spot where the directorial decisions underscore the script. The bed scene shows us a sleepy Sam, alone, getting started at 6:30a.m. It is a very personal sequence which lets the viewer know that this is about Sam. Sam is kept out of the camera’s frame in the kitchen as he prepares his coffee. We see him from the point of view of Sully and wonder has Sully always been keeping tabs on Sam? The feast Sully prepares for Sam is full of childhood goodies including marshmallow tacos, (*Remember when Dean put marshmallows in Sam’s mac and cheese because Sam thought is was exotic), and so different from the health conscious adult Sam. Klein’s consistency of character traits keeps Sam so real and the directorial choices are the magic that lets the viewer see Sully as well.
Dean appears in the kitchen just in time to see Sam punching something he cannot see, but eventual he does. His appearance in the doorway in the MOL bathrobe and slippers as he admonishes Sam is hilarious. Again, a directorial choice followed by a scripted line that demands Sam’s presence in the library immediately to discuss. Sam is that child again. Mr. Ackles handles the humor of the episode with ease. From his delivery of Manicorn, to his Bert and Ernie comment, to his facial expression when the Mom unknowingly smears what is left of Sparkle on her face, and many more deanisms, these lines balance out a seriousness to Sam’s inner struggle. Dean can wrap his mind around terra firma- a girl in a car- but struggles with imaginary friends.
The flashback to young Sam and Sully playing the did you ever game is shot in a wide angle to show the large room and the little, lonely boy. On the other hand, the shot is a tight, close up of young Sam’s face when Dean is on the phone or the hunting life enters the room/conversation. This is a cross road for young Sam and despite Sully’s encouragement that Sam can be anyone, Sam chooses hunting with Dad. (Remember “After school Special” and that English teacher telling Sam the same thing?) This moment defines Sam as a hunter and he no longer needs Sully, and breaks Sully’s heart. Sam grows up fast.
“Just my Imagination” is a metaphor for facing one’s true self and responsibility of choice. Young Sam needed Sully, now Sully needs hunter Sam, and Sam needs Sully to reassure him of his choices. Even Dean learns that he wasn’t always there for young Sam despite the belief he had been. This is a quick camera shot of Mr. Padalecki’s face as Sam showing this admission as ambiguous. Again, a director’s good choice to not linger too long.
The transition from the barn to the Impala is a close up of Sam. There is pain in those eyes as Sam thinks the Cage is the answer to the Darkness. Despite Dean saying they will find another way, *** Sam’s close up tells us otherwise. Through his encounter with Sully, he will rise to the occasion with or without Dean’s approval. Hey, it is the holiday season and many viewers will be taking their shiny ornaments out of storage while show goes on hiatus after one more episode. A mid-season finale gives Sam the opportunity to show those shiny, hero balls Sully says he has. It’s important.
The script, costume choices of the Zannas’ characters, and direction make for an excellent episode that kept me interested for the entire episode. **Kudos to Nate Torrence who plays Sully with sincerity and believable expressions rather than silly. Both ‘Dylan’s’ play the young Winchester’s well, but young Sam is adorable and makes a good replacement for young Sammy. The pathos in “Just my Imagination” builds with each scene leading to Sam’s face in the Impala.***
***If you want a good chuckle, find the outtake of we’ll find another way, where Jensen and Jared play with that line and find the obvious other way. Enjoy.
Written and Published By: Debbab