Welcome to the first episode review in our series Supernatural: End of the Road.
Supernatural came back strong on October 8, 2020, premiering after a long hiatus since the beginning of the year. If you need a recap of the first half of the season, I’ve got you. This late mid-season episode “Last Holiday” provided the perfect balance of monster-of-the-week (AKA filler) we expect, with enough character growth to move the main plot forward one space. We also got a decent amount of quality humor. Comic relief episodes are important in Supernatural since the characters deal with so much death. I enjoyed this episode – so let’s get into a recap!
“Last Holiday” opens with things going awry in the Bunker. Different appliances keep breaking, and Dean Winchester appears in his now iconic apron.
Chuck have mercy, he is so adorable!
The boys proceed to the control room to fix the electrical issue. When Sam suggests they might not be able to fix it themselves, Dean proclaims, “You’ve killed Satan, I’ve killed Hitler!” and then decides the best thing to do is literally “reset” the Bunker. The power goes off and on, and everything seems to be fixed. Dean returns to his burger-making, exhilarated, and calls himself “the meat man!”
Dean is shocked to discover a short middle-aged woman folding his Scooby-Doo underwear in his room! Sam and Dean both demand to know who she is. The woman introduces herself as Mrs. Butters. Turns out she is a wood nymph who once helped the Men of Letters, and whose magic keeps the Bunker running properly – without her, the Bunker can only function in “stand-by mode” (this literary device is called foreshadowing, my children). By re-setting the Bunker’s systems, the boys inadvertently awakened Mrs. Butters, who had been waiting for the return of the original Men of Letters. She decides to remain to help Sam and Dean.
Mrs. Butters quickly ingratiates herself with the boys and their nephilim son, Jack, who’s been hiding in his room deep in his feels. Arguably, Sam and Dean’s plot is the monster-of-the-week story, while Jack’s character development is moving the main plot forward. Jack warms up to Mrs. Butters, especially after she gives him several delicious smoothies.
We then get a series of hilarious cuts where Sam and Dean go out on hunts and also celebrate all of the holidays they’ve missed over the years. Mrs. Butters continues to take care of them – though she continually negs Dean, which I found especially delightful in the script. Most of the humor in the episode is played out in this middle-section. Interestingly, it is this happiness and perfection that first introduces the ominous feeling to the episode because we, as fans of Supernatural, know that something must be wrong. This is a rare example of how pacing the episode can be used to tell the story; if these happy scenes were in the beginning, this wouldn’t have worked.
Jack spends his time in the bunker stalking Mrs. Butters. He eventually discovers old documents about her, including an old video reel. In a show where the son of Lucifer is investigating a wood nymph that lives with him in a secret magical bunker while his adoptive family is out killing vampires, the *most unbelievable* moment of the episode was when Jack knew what a film reel was.
Jack discovers that, wouldn’t you know it, Mrs. Butters is potentially violent! Gasp! Wow! Jack is disturbed, though I’m not sure why. She killed enemies of the Men of Letters – which in the video reel included a literal Nazi. Alas, Jack is in his feels, and tries to warn Sam and Dean of the danger. However, Sam is busy going out on a date with Eileen (aw!!), and Dean is excited about a television (but actually). Jack pursues Mrs. Butters alone. Mrs. Butters is able to capture Jack and handcuff him in the basement. She reveals that the smoothies she’s given him have magically weakened his power!
The rising action of this episode is in when Mrs. Butters tries to convince Sam and Dean to kill Jack. Mrs. Butters argues that Jack is a monster, and relies on the fact that he killed their mother to spur the boys to action. Dean is the first to decline, so Mrs. Butters locks him in the basement as well. While Dean is in the basement with Jack they share a touching main-plot moment: Dean tells Jack that, while Dean hasn’t entirely forgiven Jack and hasn’t forgotten about Mary, Dean is working on his feelings and is trying to make it okay. This is the character progression for both Dean and Jack that moves the main plot forward as our characters begin to overcome their shared traumas. Dean and Jack then work together to break free.
Meanwhile, Sam returns from his date and tries to confront Mrs. Butters, but fails. She traps him in a chair. Jared Padalecki gets to practice his unique subspecialty in acting – pretending to be trapped in a chair.
The story culminates with what amounts to a really intense discussion of the purpose of Jack’s life – to kill God and save the world – and convincing Mrs. Butters that violence is not the solution. Mrs. Butters stops attacking the boys and cries about missing the old Men of Letters and her family. Jack decides that Mrs. Butters must be returned to the forest. With the departure of Mrs. Butters, the Bunker reverts to “stand-by” mode. Ah, bathe in the glory of that foreshadowing.
The theme of this episode is that monstrosity comes not from what you are, but what you do. It is very Harry Potter in that way. This theme applies both in the microcosm to Mrs. Butters, and in the macrocosm to Jack. Mrs. Butters is a powerful supernatural being who would definitely be categorized as a “monster” by hunters – but her choice to be good, helpful, and peaceful means she is a monster who is not monstrous. Jack, likewise, has the power to choose his actions, and therefore has the same opportunity. This is related to the series-long overarching theme of freedom: freedom of choice defining an individual’s identity.
I appreciated the use of these themes in this episode. It was appropriate to call on the meaning of monstrosity and the interplay of free will when Dean finally faced Jack about his complicated feelings. Nesting that scene within this episode gave it not only clear meaning, but more significance than if it were in another episode. “Last Holiday” is a prime example of how Supernatural can get it right in its use of themes to tell the main story. Employing themes like this elevates it from just a T.V. show to a truly great saga.
We got two interesting magic things in this episode. One, we learned than angel cuffs cannot be broken by an archangel blade. It was creative of Dean to try, but now that option is off the table, which at least closes a door for the future. Two, we got a potion that weakens the son of Lucifer. WHAT. That’s bananas. At least now we know he can be weakened…
Maybe that would’ve avoided some problems earlier…
“Last Holiday” was full of great lines and moments. Personally, my favorite was FINALLY learning about the telescope. With Mrs. Butters’ magic, the telescope finally activated. At the end, Mrs. Butters explains that it will be unfortunate that the “interdimensional geoscope” will no longer work with her gone. Dean says he looked through it earlier, but didn’t see anything. Mrs. Butters looks worried and goes, “Oh, that’s not good,” and then leaves.
I love this moment because it is a nod at the main plot – that Chuck is destroying the alternate dimensions – in a quick and delicate way. It was a moment of great writing.
On my completely arbitrary scale of one through ten, I’m going to give this an 8. I would definitely re-watch this episode. The pacing not only worked, but it specifically created a sense of doom we needed. The writing was great. There was no real sense of danger, but I don’t think that was the point of this episode. Overall, it was a good time. I’ll be watching again next week for sure.
Thank you for joining me for this review. Check back soon for Supernatural season 15 episode 15.
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