In “American Nightmare”, Sam and Dean investigate strange deaths in Mason City, Iowa, Dean struggles with his feelings about Mary, and the mysterious bike from “The Foundry” makes another appearance.
Winchester recap: “Sometimes in order to figure things out a person needs space.”
Olivia Sanchez, a Child Services worker collapsed in a church with holes in her feet and in her palms, speaking in tongues while her back was being flayed by an invisible force. Disguised as priests, Sam and Dean visit the priest who witnessed Olivia’s demise. They also examine her body at the morgue and conclude it’s a case of stigmata. A visit to Olivia’s office, where her employee Beth ꟷ a wiccan who’s burning a candle with a black pentagram ꟷ has already moved in, convinces Dean Beth is a witch who killed her boss to give herself a promotion.
After Ricky Copeland, the delivery boy from Joe’s Market dies from similar injuries, Sam notices that both he and Olivia visited the Petersons. According to Beth, the family is “all the way weird”, ultra religious, and completely cut off from the modern world. They also lost their oldest child Magda to pneumonia after refusing to let her see a doctor because it was “God’s will”. A conversation with Magda’s mother convinces Sam that the ghost of the daughter is killing people. But Magda’s not dead. Her mother has been keeping her locked in the basement, where she’s subjected to whippings she has to give herself, and is forced to confess her “sin”: being the Devil.
When Sam’s captured while he’s inspecting the Peterson’s property at night, he meets Magda. She can move things with her mind, hear people’s thoughts, and her mother told her she’s responsible of the death of two people. Magda explains that she saw Olivia from the basement and hoped Olivia might be inclined to help her if she could hear her thoughts, so she chanted and she prayed, and did the same with the delivery boy. Sam shares his own experience with having powers and he explains to Magda that she’s not the Devil, but a psychic who can learn to control her abilities.
Realizing that her secret is on the verge of becoming, Mrs Peterson decides to poison the entire family at supper but Magda breaks the plates with her mind after her father dies from the poisoned food. Magda’s brother Elijah steps in front of her as their mother lunges at Magda with a knife. He dies, and Magda uses her mind to turn the knife towards her mothers chest, stopping when Sam reminds to control her powers. Child Services decide to place Magda with her aunt in California. Sam comforts Magda and gives her his number. Dean also gets a number, Beth’s. Her personal line too. “Kinda hot.” He’s also managed to find some measure of peace with the feelings he was struggling with the entire episode.
Sam noticed Dean had been “cranky” since Mary left. He was impatient with the priest and practically tossed “Carl” out of the morgue when they went in to examine Olivia’s body. Dean’s no mood to do the “Dr Phil crap” with Sam but he sends Mary a text to check in, and asks if calling her “MOM” is still okay. At the church, he stops to look at a mother and her young son lighting a candle. Sam tries to get Dean to see things from Mary’s perspective and he reminds Dean that they themselves have needed time apart. For Dean, Mary simply “bailed” on the sons who became hunters, and she has no interest in keeping the family together. After seeing Magda, traumatized and battered while her mother is being taken away by the police, Dean admits that while he hates that Mary left, it is true that sometimes, family needs space to sort things out. He gets a reply to his text soon after. Mary’s phone had died and she didn’t have a charger but she’s good, is always “MOM” and loves the both of them. At some point during the hunt, Dean informs Sam that Castiel and Crowley found Lucifer’s new vessel and they bicker about Vince Vicente, who according to Dean is a douchebag while Sam admits he enjoys some of its music.
A man on a bike followed the Impala to the Petersons. He’s back with his gun when Magda Peterson gets out of the bus. As he expected, the Winchesters “couldn’t finish the job”, but Mr. Ketch, the man on the bike, just cleaned up behind them.
Overall grade : 7 /10
“American Nightmare” gets points for an intricate case that takes us through some of the show’s most memorable past hunts. It starts out with a “Malleus Maleficarum” feel of ‘it’s the witch’, before descending into the basement of “Family Remains” with ‘maybe a ghost’, or actually, the abused daughter being held captive for her ‘sin’. There’s a foul stench of “The Benders” in the Petersons’ household, a wink to “Don’t Call Me Shurley” in the “Do you know God?” “Yeah, we’re besties” exchange, a whiff of “Paint It Black” in the church scenes, a sparkle of “Just My Imagination” in the outfits Dean calls the “Bert and Ernie pretext” (matching couple sweaters), and “Nightmare”, a personal favorite of mine, is all over the episode in the form of the priest outfits, the psychic kid abused by their family (Max, Magda) that Sam tries and fails to save (Max killed himself, Ketch killed Magda), who uses telekinesis with frightful precision, and ends up pointing the knife towards their mother figure (the eye for Max’s stepmother, the heart for Magda’s mother). I also enjoyed the one-off character that was Beth, a lovely and dynamic Child Services worker with excellent taste in men if I say so myself.
Season 1’s “Nightmare” is one of my favorite episodes of Supernatural ever. I love it for Max Miller, his story, the way he uses his powers, his battle to hold on to the humanity that was beaten out of him, Sam’s visions, the way Dean supported him through the roller coaster that was trying to stop the deaths before they happened while dealing with crippling headaches (after he was done freaking out internally) and last but not least, the Priestchesters. I never get tired of watching Sam and Dean as priests in “Nightmare”. Sam grunting at Dean while Dean eats sausage, telling Dean to “tone it down, a little, Father”, and saying that the choice of outfits is a “new low” for them.
In “American Nightmare”, Dean wasn’t his delightful self but, Father forgive me for I have sinned, he looked even more magnificent in his priest outfit than he did 11 years ago. How does that work? As for Priest Long Legs (Sam), he really took it to the top, holding the Holy Bible solemnly in front of his chest before introducing himself as Father Penn, while Dean was Father De Niro, a reference to the “We’re No Angels” movie where Sean Penn and Robert De Niro play two convicts masquerading as priests.
Another kink of mine is the Sweaterchesters. It makes me ridiculously happy to see these rugged hunters, who used to wear an oversized leather jacket and an oversized hoodie, walk in step in their classy, fluffy, college professor sweaters. They still look intimidating, but while they look very “male modeling SOBs”-like in their FBI suits, they look supercute (Hey Chuck!) and almost approachable in those sweaters.
I have a lot of appreciation for MOTWs episodes that put some effort into the hunt. I love the creativity in (and frankly, everything else about) “Into the Mystic’ and I loved that the hunt in “American Nightmare” wasn’t what the boys call a “milk run”. They had several suspects and a few twists even they didn’t see coming. Sam was at the top of his Encyclopedia of Weirdness game, automatically recognizing the language as Aramaic, and coming back with the translation in a flash. He also had good instincts about the hunt and he used his own experience to help Magda understand what was going on with her, and put an end to her killings.
I also really love that the show acknowledged Sam’s powers again. They were a big part of his characterization that shouldn’t be forgotten. “The Mentalists” is one of my favorites, and most watched episode of season 7, but it always kills me that in a town full of psychics, no one, not even Sam (he too was cranky at the time) mentioned thee Psychic Kid among them. The episode also showed Sam’s growth when it comes to the perception he has of his powers. He wasn’t always confident that having Azazel-adjacent powers didn’t make one evil. For someone with his Demon Blood, Boy King, Lucifer Vessel baggage, coming to a place where he can say that the powers made him who he was, but “not “evil” made me proud and a bit emotional for him. The man who used to see his painful trials as cleansing him from the so-called ‘stain’ of his demon-infected blood, no longer agrees that pain purges sins.
One of my favorite moments was the back and forth between Sam and Dean about Lucifer’s vessel.
“Why do you love Vince Vicente?
“His third album was kind of… not horrible.”
“I hate you so much right now.”
I enjoyed Jensen’s performance there. Dean is like a sun, vibrant, full of light, fire and spark, and an episode where he’s feeling blue is always a bit difficult for me, like everything has less color and warmth to it, so I was very happy to see him give us a taste of that trademark spark he was missing for most of the episode. He is usually the one who’s partial to classic rock but his unflattering comments about Vicente’s hair reminded me of the snide comment is made about Kevin Cronin singing “from the hair” in “Simon Said”.
I said a mouthful last week about what I think of Mary and her little disappearing act. This week, “American Nightmare” was full of awkward parallels about mothers and children needing space from each other that did not work. Dean’s anger (“Oh no, no, no. No, I’m definitely shooting her.”) was palpable throughout the episode. Unless the show’s implying that Mary has more in common with Magda’s mom than even I believe, Dean coming to the conclusion that family needing space from each other was good from seeing Magda finally saved from her Mother Monster didn’t make sense, didn’t feel at all organic, and was most certainly, not earned.
That awkward wet band aid of a quick fix invalidated Dean’s very justified feelings about Mary’s departure in order to move the story along. It’s another installment of ‘boo hoo, shut up princess, your feelings don’t matter here’. No Sir. No Ma’am. Not having it. Let the man be as pissed as he wants to be, as long as he needs to be, and Sam darling I love you like crème brûlée, but the hell with Mary’s ‘what about my ghost babies in the clouds’ perspective. What about Dean’s perspective? He’s the orphan who had to parent everybody since the age of four. He’s well within his right to be angry at the fact that his newfound mother’s already showing deadbeat-adjacent tendencies. I understand that Sam was ultimately trying to get Dean to a point where the whole Mary fiasco hurt a little less. I still don’t agree with her perspective being the one taken into account. Dean isn’t misguided or in the wrong here. Mary was careless with his feelings, and it should be acknowledged that he has every right to feel angry and hurt about it.
Best Dean moments
Light of my life. I can’t get enough of him. He manages to be endearing, seductive and hilarious, all at the same time. Careful with those jewels there, Mister Winchester… Wouldn’t want ya to hurt yourself.
When he’s not giving you body, he’s giving you face (…and dimples). That’s Señor Winchester, trying to explain to Beth what he’s doing in her office this late in a day. Good thing he didn’t show her his gun. If your mind went to a strange place there for a second, it’s not my fault.
“Why do you love Vince Vicente?”
The entire exchange was gold and Dean’s outrage at the fact that Sam didn’t hate Vince was hilarious. “I hate you so much right now.” Let your lil brother enjoy Vince’s third album without judgement Dean!
Best Sam moments
Sam trying to downplay his appreciation for Vince because he’s under pressure. Look how cute, and he’s giving us dimple too. Own your Vicente love, Samuel. Nothing wrong with it. Heck I’ve become a little bit of a fan of his myself.
Sam paying attention to Dean’s Mary-related moods. He knew Dean was struggling and he kept a watchful eye on him. Ah, brotherhood.
Sam repeatedly trying to get Dean to open up. While I disagree with his Mary’s advocate stance, I appreciate that he was trying to get Dean out of his funk, and doing everything he could to make Dean see there was another way to look at things that would take some of the sting out of the rejection he was currently feeling.
Sam easily sliding through an opening while Dean struggles on that sharp fence. Sam’s facial expression, and everything else about that scene was gold. Oh, brother…
First, hurray for Sinfully Handsome Priestchesters, Bert and Ernie Sweaterchesters The Remix, and of course, our weekly dose of Male Modeling SOBs, the FBIChesters!
“American Nightmare” had other things going for it. An intricate case, call backs to episodes like “Malleus Maleficarum”, “Family Remains”, “The Benders”, “Don’t Call Me Shurley”, “Paint It Black”, “Just My Imagination”, and of course, one of my all time favorites, “Nightmare”. It acknowledged Sam’s powers, an important and fascinating part of his characterization, allowed Sam to use his experience to help and connect with another psychic kid, and it showed some of his growth in having him express that none of what he went through made him “evil”.
The episode also offered some great brother banter in the form of that spicy ‘Why do you love Vicente’ conversation. While I enjoy the concept of that hunt as well as its twists and turns, I lost a bit of interest in it because I simply didn’t connect with Magda, and I’m someone who cries at commercials. I will chalk it up to a personal thing as I had the same problem with this actress in “Bates Motel”, and her character’s story was tragic there too.
The parallels the episode tries to create between the families and their need for space didn’t work for me. If you’re going to write Mary the way you chose to do it, stand by the character and don’t sugarcoat it by comparing the CampbellWinchesters to situations so awful, we can only come away with the conclusion that Mary’s not horrible or demanding too much after all. Doesn’t fit, and it makes Dean deciding that yes, space is good, out of the blue (because again, what does Magda and her mom have to do with anything) ring false and makes it look like once again, his perspective is being discarded because well, things could be worse.
“When they cut the cord, they cut the cord.” Dean, I wish you’d cut that cord. Let her text you first and leave it to her to show that she can be a mother who puts her children’s needs, hurt and feelings first. I don’t want you getting invested, and more attached, until she’s shown she’s worth it because so far, all she’s proven is that she isn’t. Let her meditate with her ghosts and go on about your business, love. Text Beth if you’re in need a female attention. I bet you, her phone’s not dead and she’ll be delighted to talk to you and even more to be around you.
I’m very eager to see the next couple of episode. I’ve been having a feeling about this season that mirrors the feelings I’ve had since the sadly anticlimactic “Alpha & Omega” aired. I’m loving the boys, they are always great (Sam and Dean as well as Jensen and Jared), but this usually delectable meat stew is missing… something. I hope this uneasy and sluggish feelings I’m having about my favorite show of all times dissipate soon. What about you? Are you loving season 12 so far?
The Winchester Brothers Report by Vee
Season 11: 11.01, 11.02 to 11.23
12.01: “If he is not in one piece I will take you apart.”
12.02: “The only thing we had was each other.”
12.03 “Family hunting trip.”