Golden Time is an episode which combines two possible stand alone episodes into the hour. Each story drives home the point that despite Chuck’s apparent control, nobody can afford to not be in the game. Perhaps because the season is only 20 episodes these two stories are combine but, each with a bit of work could be a stand alone. The combination often leads to a choppiness in the hour as we follow Castiel on his own, emulating Dean more than anyone might imagine,fishing, hunting, risking his own energy to save an innocent. Sam , is on a mission to help an innocent soul. Dean takes himself out of the game for most of the episode as his helpless mood continues by binge watching Scooby Doo and eating boxes of cereal. Therein lies the small comedy relief as Ackles does his shtick in pijamas and robe with chocolate cereal. Nothing else is humorous in this episode. Nor should it be.
Castiel, who has taken himself out of the game, finds the fishing vacation is not working as the fish can sense he is there. He is drawn into a search for a missing boy once he hears that a body has been found, drained of blood. He emulates Dean and actually does a decent job in saving the young man and killing the monster although his healing mojo seems to take much out of him. For a moment we glimpse some what of a trace of happiness at his own success.( Thinking The Empty.) Castiel realizes that he cannot take himself out of the game. This vacation is not real and thus the use of a Djin as the MOW fits into the schism between make believe bliss and the harsh reality. It is worth watching this story unfold as the director implants many mis-directions. It takes on the flavor of an old fashioned monster of the week while opening the door for Castiel’s return to the fold. The outside locations provide for beautiful nature shots to contrast with the gore in Sam’s story.
The other story revolves around Sam going on a “milk run” to recover a crystal from Rowena’s apartment so that he can create a ghost catcher for the currently ghostly Eileen,( who was wrongly dragged to Hell by hell hounds as punishment from the British Men of Letters). The new canon is that once a soul is in Hell, it cannot enter Heaven because Chuck made it so. Dean reminds Sam that rather than letting Eileen go crazy as a ghost,plan b would be to make her a private isolation cell with a crystal,(Ghost catcher in Harlan to make the Amara bomb).
This story becomes an homage to Rowena and Sam’s odd, but close relationship. It involves a witches’ coven, hex bags, spells, strong acting from Jared Padalecki as he is under a spell and in pain, and tender moments with Eileen. Sam has become Rowena’s protege and he is immune from her protection spell as she left all of her knowledge in journals to Sam. There is use of sign language, spell work, twig doll complete with Sam’s hair, and bloody eyes. Again, a story worth watching on its own.
Sam manages to sign to Eileen to get Dean and a strongly choreographed fight scene ensues. Sam uses a one time use spell to help Eileen out of her situation as a ghost and a tender scene between Eileen and Sam melts the viewer’s heart. They too have experiences in Hell over which they can bond. Some viewers may choose to ship the tender scenes as more than friendship, but that is for another day. The story adds to Sam’s skill set and re introduces his tender side. It also pulls Dean into the hunt in order to save his brother, whether he wants to be in the game or not.
The episode brings back a few old themes such as fake bliss vs harsh reality, how the hunter’s life is not easy to leave behind, how MofW are still out there even if there is no looming end of the world, and how nobody can afford to not be in the game even if the odds are stacked in Chuck’s favor. The producers brought back some former guest stars as well. Shoshana Stern’s reemergence feels good as her demise did not go over well with viewers. Also, the actress who plays the head witch is the same actress that played Chuck’s publisher and also the lawyer in season 2 Usual Suspects. The younger witch who accompanies Sam to Rowena’s apartment, is the actress who played either bloody Mary or the serial killer child in the painting. The Mom is Castiel’s story is an actress who played a lesbian Mom in an earlier episode whose daughter was being drained by a MoW- maybe season 8? I remember her from the outtake about crazy on the internet. So these casting choices are deliberate to bring back as many guest stars as possible in the final season. Some are more obvious than others but long time fans can have this layer of easter egg as we close out the Winchester saga. Truly a nod or two at revisiting the golden times of Supernatural.
Aside from a bit of whip lash as we go between the two stories, the new canon about hell souls not going to Heaven, and Dean wearing pjs, the episode is a way to expand Sam’s skill set, and get both Castiel and Dean back in the game. They all make a difference. One additional note, Baby has the cleanest, shiniest wheel rims in a long time. So, if you haven’t watched yet, it is worth the 42 minutes if you forgive the new canon and if you have seen it, what do you think?