Supernatural “Twigs & Twine & Tasha Banes” (12.20)
Original air date May 4, 2017.
Sam and Dean assist Alicia after her mom goes missing during a witch hunt; Mary has doubts about the British Men of Letters.
Overall grade : 7.5/10
“Twigs” was a thematic episode, rich with imagery and parallels, and a joy to review, especially after last week, that left me scribbling my review at lightening speed right after the episode ended in order to forget it ever happened. First, as it so happens in the episodes I tend to love, I liked the hunt. I love a hunt that’s different from the previous ones and Supernatural has given us plenty witches over the years. This one had tricks I’d never seen before, and she scared me. She radiated pure malevolence from the moment we met her and that ring of hers had me mentally reaching for the holy water, because I could sense its evil.
I liked the concept of the Twig people, the sound of wood snapping as they twitched around, the vacant stare when they were under command and the visual of their broken body on the floor, twigs poking out of their clothes. The vibe was right. Sinister. In and around the cellar, and evil swirled inside the boarding house like a breeze, making me fear for Tasha the moment she stepped in.
I loved the opening scene with Tasha Banes. Her little seance on the carpet of her room and the glow in her eyes that matched the glow of her pendent. Purple, like the doll in the stairs and like the owner’s ring. The suspense was unbearable as she walked into the night, following the light that led to her death. She is one of those characters I fall in love with at first sight and I was not ready to lose her. When she touched the door to the underground cellar, I was already in mourning. The viewers were in on the secret that the Tasha who welcomed the Winchester-Banes quartet at the house was not the genuine article, and the moment Tasha 2.0 said that she found “a fantastic acupuncturist”, a reference to the way Tasha died, felt like a wink to the audience.
Max and Alicia Banes
We met Max and Alicia at their father’s funeral. I didn’t really take to them during the “Celebrating Asa…” episode, especially Max, but all that changed in “Twigs…”. I grew attached to Alicia and mourned her passing. Max dazzled me and then made his way into my heart. He certainly had the gift, like his sister said. “An impressive witch.” The way he threw the Twig man out the window, forced Twig Tasha to reveal herself… I can only imagine what he will able to do with the old witch’s magic but I’m struck by the tragedy that has become of his life. Fun-loving young man now marked for Hell, embarking on this macabre new existence with a sister who’s now made out of twigs. This brings me to the parallels and themes I mentioned in the intro. They go as follow: dolls, siblings, mother and child, parents, and finally, mothers.
The dolls and sock-puppets
I identified that one theme being explored this season was brainwashing. I called Mary a Kool-Aid drinking cult member all the way back to “The Raid”, and then “Ladies Drink Free” showed us just how much brainwashing was involved in the BMOL operatives’ training.
The theme of loss of free will resurfaces when Dean describes what the nephilim did to Castiel: “It sock-puppeted him.” As one who hopes Lucifer Jr. is evil, I would love to see the brainwashing/sock-puppet theme play out as it is revealed in the end that Luci Jr. was only tricking his guardians to make sure he could come to life with all his evil, universe-destroying powers intact.
“It’s her, mostly.”
The sock-puppet theme continues with the Twig dolls which by their nature are meant to obey their master. My heart breaks for Alicia and for what she leaves behind even if she didn’t consent to it: her heart placed in doll animated by her brother Max. I feel for her, the real girl, especially because she was opinionated, had a mind of her own and didn’t back down from a fight with her twin.
“I don’t know what kind of thing you are, but you are not, my mom.”
I’m writing this fic in my head of Max driven mad by how docile Twig Alicia is, this sock-puppet version of his sister with none of Alicia’s fire, who goes vacant in the eyes and awaits his instructions when he inadvertently snaps his fingers and whom he can barely get to argue with him anymore.
Ketch also showed his inner puppeteer this episode when he asked Mary to be a good doll and just “play, nice.”
“Their mom’s on a hunting trip, and hasn’t been home in a week.”
Well that’s one way to let us know that Alicia and Max are Winchester mirrors this episode, but they made it interesting. Alicia actually starts off as Dean in “Pilot”, reaching out to her brother because she’s worried about their missing parent. Max plays the role of Sam “Oh my God, she did not disappear, she’s busy.” / “He’s always missing, and he’s always fine.”
Max then switches into Dean mode when he announces “I got the bartender’s phone number” which is quintessential early seasons Dean. The switch plays out beautifully, as Dean gives his approval to his new mirror with an appreciative nod. Alicia marks her switch to Sam by expressing her annoyance, “Ugh, ignore him”, the same way Sam used to roll his eyes when Dean was chasing tail. From that moment on, Alicia is the mirror for Sam and Max the mirror for Dean. To solidify his position as Dean 2.0, Max fawns over the Impala, AND the grenade launcher, while the Sams are left with their hair blowing in the wind, Alicia confiding to Sam that she’s not really into the Family Business. They develop a bond pretty quickly, and it is fitting that Sam is the Winchester who’s by Alicia’s side during her last moments.
“Sam, we do terrible things, all the time to save each other. I mean that’s what you do for family. Who am I to stop him?”
At the end of the episode, Max, or Dean 2.0 has lost his father (Asa/John), his mother (Tasha/Mary) and his sibling (Alicia/Sam). He’s right where Dean was in “All Hell Breaks Loose” and like Dean, who snapped when Bobby dared to mention disposing of Sam’s body, Max tells the brothers to take a hike after Dean hints at building a pyre. There’s this wild look in Max’s eyes, the one Dean had before he drove to the crossroads and you already know what Max is about to do. Mirroring the Winchesters in their darkest hours, Max raises his sibling from the dead by selling his soul to a demon (taking the old witch’s magic), a decision that should ultimately transform him into a demon himself, the same way Dean became the demon he would have been had he remained in Hell ―with a knightly upgrade.
When it comes to Sam, he woke up not knowing what had happened, just like Alicia 2.0. Azazel asked Dean how sure he was that what he brought back was 100%, pure Sam. No one has to ask Max. It’s not Alicia. Just her heart and memories inside a creature made of twigs and twine. Horrible and very much like the codependent brothers the Banes are supposed to mirror, and before you say Sam and Dean never went this far, remember “Time Is On My Side” in season 3.
Remember how eager Sam was to turn Dean and himself into the Gruesome Benton Twins (“Then, whatever the magic pill is, I’ll take it too!”), who would have had to steal organs and stitch each other up like Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn in “Death Becomes Her”, their mummified bodies requiring round the clock upkeep. A bit like Twig Tasha’s body, to the difference that she won’t need organs, just to snap her twigs back into place when she breaks them. The parallel, is complete.
Mother and child
The first image of Mary is her being tortured by a BMOL operative, Ketch. It’s not actually her, just a shapeshifter (clearly the kind that doesn’t shed, but lol!canon moving on), but it’s foreshadowing for where we find Mary at the end of the episode, getting roughed up, by Ketch. I’ve already criticized Mary and declared her unfit for choosing to work with people who were torturing her son the day she met them. Oh the vindication of seeing her end up right where Sam was in “Mama Mia”, tied up to a chair in front of Antonia Bevell.
The other parallel is Alicia, who ends up right where we found her mother at the beginning of the episode, with a blade through her stomach while she tries to cover her wound, blood dripping on her hands and her silver rings. Another perfect parallel.
There was a direct parallel between Mary and John that involved Dean in this episode. The scene where Dean calls Mary for help (“Can you call me back? Just some stuff going down… kinda got me spun out.” “Be good to talk to you.”) and has to leave a message because she doesn’t pick up, took me right back to “Home”, where Dean called John for help with tears in his eyes.
The MOTHER is at the center of the episode and it was clear that Dean was impressed with Max and Alicia’s mother. “I see how you are with them. It’s good. They’re happy.” I made a case in the “The Memory Remains” for how unhappy Dean currently is. His comment on Tasha’s mothering also comes right on the heel of him checking his cell phone, hoping to find a message from Mary. Not!Tasha retains enough of Tasha’s motherly instincts to perceive Dean’s distress. She touches his arm and offers a few words of comfort. I didn’t care for the subtle ‘give your mother break’ part of her message, but that moment showed me that, from Ellen to Jody, to Rowena and even a DOLL, all these women are capable of showing more empathy towards Dean than his own mother.
I’ve been singing my dislike for Mary from the rooftops and I will say that while the current narrative has saddled us with a version of her that is decidedly unpleasant, it at least acknowledges that her interpersonal skills are lacking. Alicia described Mary as rather cold, “She doesn’t seem like much of a hugger.” Ketch threw in Mary’s face her distance from children: “You should probably return Dean’s call. Wouldn’t want him to think… Mummy doesn’t love him.” Ketch, the resident psychopath told Mary that he thought she was like him. Flattering, and in “The Raid” Dean asked Mary to act like a mom for once, while Jody had to tell Mary how wonderful her sons were in “Celebrating Asa…”, as it was apparent to her that Mary couldn’t see it.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you and Sam… but I wanna be. I will be. I just-, I need to finish this. I miss you boys. I love you.”
Dean looked at the Banes as “the loving family” he and Sam should have had. After listing her flaws, the narrative seems to be putting Mary on the path to redemption. I’m not in favor of this, but that’s where the story’s going. Now she’s apologizing, vowing to be there for Sam and Dean, getting indignant on their behalf. “Don’t talk about my boys.” “I think you mean, decent.” Late to the party much, Mary?
Least favorite part
I loved so much about this episode that it should have been an 8, my grade threshold for episodes that provide a pleasant viewing experience from start to finish, but it wasn’t, because of the first scene that featured Sam and Dean.
“Can you fix it?”
Is that Dean, gun expert extraordinaire whose “gun don’t jam” ever (“Bad Day At Black Rock”), the genius mechanic who can fix a totaled 67 Chevy Impala with his bare hands, almost, asking genius researcher Sam if Sam can fix a pistol??? There it is again. The systematic downgrading of all that is Dean Winchester in season 12. Hey I guess on a good day he gets to kill a witch.
Best Dean moment
Dean and his wine. Dean’s that down-to-earth guy who hates to be bound by the rules of etiquette. He wolfs down canapés at art auctions (“Provenance”), sticks his gum under tables at swanky soirées (“Red Sky At Morning”) and sneers as the WASPs, “(not) charmed, I’m sure” (“Ask Jeeves”), clutch their pearls. He looks at the fancy tea cups Cassie places in front of him with suspicion (“Route 666”) and looks bored in advance at the mention of wine. The way he grabs the glass, smells the bouquet wishing it were beer and gives a silent toast is adorable, hilarious, and so very Dean.
Best Sam moment
“Their mom’s on a hunting trip, and hasn’t been home in a week.”
Sam’s turn to give his version of the iconic line that started it all 12 years ago. A perfect way to establish that “Twigs…” was an episode with double the dose of Winchester. There was speculation that Max and Alicia would be the next spin off which I’m putting a little less stock into now that they’re both monsters in a way, but that line would have been a great way to launch a series based on their adventures.
Sam giving Dean his glass of wine and encouraging him to drink up. I would frown upon his behavior if it were any other show but this is Supernatural and I found it adorable. It looks like he was making sure that Dean, who looked bored at the time, was set, taken care of, and occupied before he headed out. They’re just so darn cute I can’t take it, and hello, Padabooty! Okay… I’ll go sit in a corner and think about what I wrote.
Haven’t had one of those in a while and this bit involves what could be another parallel to come. I thought I saw a possible parallel between Sam and Mary in “The Foundry” (all those cribs and fire flashbacks from “Pilot”) that had me worried Sam might be in danger this season. Alicia, aka Sam 2.0 dying by her Twig mother’s hand revived my fear that something could happen to Sam in the finale, and that it could involve Mary. No need to say what I think Dean’s reaction to the carnage would be. Something stupid, that I will probably approve of, wholeheartedly.
“Twigs” was a beautiful episode in the purest tradition of the classic MOTW, rife with parallels between the boys and the characters that surrounded them.
I LOVED the hunt, and all the relevant characters. The lovely Tasha, her caring daughter Alicia, and even Max, for whom I didn’t care when I first met him, but who completely won me over with his powerful witchcraft and after he unleashed his inner Dean and did something horrible to keep his sibling alive… kinda.
Our Dean had on his Red Shirt of turmoil, complete with the blue jacket he also wore in “The Executioner’s Song”. Ouch. My concern that Sam could be in peril has also been revived after this episode and I’m worried about the boys.
Mary is right where I’ve wanted her to be for a long time. In trouble after her BMOL stanning blew up in her face “in a spectacular way”, just as I knew it would, and she’s tied to a chair getting roughed up by the very people she cosigned after they did the same to her baby boy. How poetic. How well deserved. Aah… The sweet smell of vindication.
I’m not getting my hopes up that Mary will end up like poor Tasha Banes although that would be my preference. At least her stay at the BMOL base allowed her to uncover what happened to Mick, what Ketch has been doing behind the boys’ back, and the files the BMOL have on the hunters. I wasn’t surprised to see Garth up there because as I’ve said on MovieChat, I’ve been worried about him since Sam and Dean mentioned him in “Ladies Drink Free”.
As Steve Seasick was singing : “you’d never sleep again in peaceful dreams”, my heart hurt at the thought of Max Banes, now a doomed man, and then I wondered, what was keeping our Sam from waking up. I remembered what the witch said when Max and Dean barged into her room “Really? People, are trying to sleep.” Also the name of her inn? “Mountain Slumber”.
Oh no… Wake up, Samuel.
The Winchester Brothers Report by Vee
Season 11: 11.01 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.”
12.04: “I hate you so much right now.”
12.05: “What do you think this is? Tickle party?”
12.06: “Where is my brother?”
12.07: “The brothers that rock together.”
12.08: “Impeach LOTUS, find Rosemary’s baby.”
12.09: “We’re the guys who saved the world.”
12.10: “I can’t see, did you get a plate?”
12.11: “It was everything. It was us, it was what we do.”
12.12: “They got gear, but they tried to kill my brother.”
12.13: “Where does that leave us?”
12.14: “Sammy? Lucy, I’m―”
12.15: “We hate them. Us. Together.”
12.16: “Either you get good fast or you get dead faster.”
12.17: “Did you break into our house?”
12.18: “Leave our marks.”
12.19: “Whoa, that’s a beautiful mind.”