Well howdy there, partner! When I reviewed Supernatural’s “Advanced Thanatology”, I talked a lot about its realistic depiction of the the toll that depression takes, and said that I thought it was the best episode of season 13 thus far. Then last week’s episode, “Tombstone”, aired and I loved it for so many reasons that were so different than the dark episode preceding it. So, saddle up cowfolk, it’s time to chat about “Tombstone”.
The last time we saw Dean and Sam, Dean had lost hope in everything, truly no longer thought he mattered in the big and small scheme of things, and desperately needed a win. Tombstone opens with Dean and an unknown man combing through a cemetery, hunting something that is… wait for it… supernaturally fast. Dean’s buddy gets pulled into a hole by a mysterious underground hand, to which Dean says “Aw Hell,” and we get the whole “48hrs earlier” card from the show which, let’s admit, is what we really want to see.
The real story starts with the boys seeing Cas at that phone booth. Dean asks if it’s really Cas, and when he says “Yes,” Dean doesn’t question it. Unlike the more pragmatic Sam who, like the scholarly Man of Letters he is, wants to know the how and why of Cas’s return, Dean just goes with it. He’s so in need of something to go right, he doesn’t question when it does. Both boys welcome Cas home with a hearty hug, and Cas explains that he was in The Empty, but something woke him up and he annoyed and ancient being so much that he was sent back to Earth. So, basically this almost makes Cas immortal, since I feel like as soon as he gets into The Empty again, it will basically have a revolving door waiting for him to get the fuck out. Sam suggests that Jack may have brought Cas back . Once the whole “God” question is asked and shot down, and the boys head home.
At the bunker, Jack is using his impressive computer skills to find a case. Dean and Sam are followed into the room by Cas, and the reunion between father and son is at once sweet and adorable. Jack is still very young and it’s cute to see him try to impress Cas (“I know what ZOMBIES are now!”) and showing him how he can move a pencil with his mind. It reminds me of all the super important skills my kids are excited to show me and it drives home how young Jack actually is.
Cas isn’t the only one he’s trying to impress, though, as he tells Dean and Sam about a case he’s found in Dodge City, KS. Someone tried to pawn a watch that was buried with it’s owner over twenty years ago. When the police dug up the grave there was no body, so the obvious answer is zombies. Sam tries to tell Jack to think horses, not zebras, but as soon as Dean hears “Dodge City,” he’s in. Declaring that they’ve done more for less, Dean says “Team Free Will 2.0” (Two salty hunters, a half-angel kid and a guy back from the dead. Again) are heading to the cowboy town.
Once they get to the motel, it’s clear that Dean’s attitude is a total 180 from the hopeless man Sam and Jack saw just days before.
After he names every portrait of a gunslinger in the room, Sam mentions his sudden good cheer, to which Dean replies that he “needed a big win, and Cas was a big win.” Sam agrees, but looks a little more apprehensive about their Phoenix angel. Don’t get me wrong, Sam is thrilled that his friend is home, but he was never as despondent as Dean at their losses. He was clearly hurting and upset, but taking care of Jack and Dean didn’t really allow him the time to wallow in his own sorrow, so his relief and joy at seeing Cas isn’t overshadowing questions he might have about it. Nothing good ever comes to the Winchesters without a price, and I think Sam is trying to figure out what that price will be.
Later that night, while Dean and Sam are asleep Cas and Jack have some time to get to know each other. I’m really interested in watching this relationship play out, and it’s clear from this conversation that Cas is exactly who Jack has been needing. They talk about Heaven and Kelly, and Cas tells Jack how proud she would be of him. Jack tells Cas he can understand why his mother trusted him. Their conversation is interrupted when a call comes in about an officer down. An eager to please Jack hops up to wake Dean and Sam, and before Cas can stop him, Jack has Dean’s gun in his face. Never shake a hunter awake.
While Dean gets his wakey wakey juice, Cas explains to Jack that the hunter is an “angry sleeper. Like a bear,” and Sam explains what the call was about.
I would love to get into the how’s and why’s behind Cas knowing what Dean is like when he wakes up, but I don’t know if there is enough time to talk about that. Needless to say, I’ll just go with “reasons.” Anyway, the call was about an officer with his throat slit and bite marks. Jack, who still thinks they’re on The Walking Dead, excitedly suggests that it must be a zombie, or ya know… literally anything else with teeth, as Dean points out. Sam suggests he and Jack check out the morgue and cemetery while Dean and Cas check the crime scene and they’re off! Well, Sam and Jack are off, since Dean’s not done with his coffee.
As Dean and Cas pull up to the crime scene, an entire faction of the Supernatural fandom dies a little. Dean is in full-on cowboy gear, and it’s clear he forced Cas to do the same, except rather than Dean’s expensive and authentic cowboy hat, Cas is wearing what looks closer to a gardening hat. Dean gives Cas some wardrobe help and acting tips, such as acting like he’s from Tombstone, the movie (that Dean made Cas watch, and now all I can think about are the movie nights we’ve never seen) not the city.
Dean says what we’re all thinking when he tells Cas it’s good to have him back (with a catch in his breath and everything), and I can’t help but think of how true that must be. Cas is so typically Cas in this scene. A little awkward and weird, and the normalcy of it must hit Dean then, how much he’d missed this; having someone to explain pop culture to, or just the camaraderie of his best friend. Anyway, they strut out of the car, all cowboy-y and whatnot and go talk to the Sergeant. Sarge might be my new favorite one-off character now. He looks at these two goobers (Cas calls himself Val Kilmer, for fuck’s sake) and it’s clear that they are not with the FBI or the Texas Rangers, but Sarge seemingly gives zero fucks. His nephew was killed, his boss is on vacation, and it’s basically open season for grave robbing murderers.
Meanwhile Jack and Sam are at the mortuary talking to Athena Lopez, who is basically a 1950’s pin up girl taken out of time. She seems as unbelieving of their cover story as the Sarge (especially the fact that baby boy Jack is FBI), but doesn’t care much either. I love this town. I also love that their cover stories aren’t working as well as they once did. I mean, no way Sam’s haircut is FBI regulation. Athena tells them that she was at a concert and didn’t hear or see anything, and Jack (who is adorably awkward) asks her about flickering lights and colds spots she may have felt while she wasn’t there. I want to put Jack in my pocket. She looks at the kid like he’s a few lights shy of a Christmas tree, but tells them they can dig around the grave (get it?) all they want. They head out to the cemetery and see a giant ass hole in the casket, and a gnawed on bone in the grave.
Everyone meets up at the hotel again and Sam says that they’re hunting a ghoul. Dean says what we’re all thinking and wishes for once they could hunt something that doesn’t look like something else. The boys are hypothesizing who it could be (not Athena because, as a mortician, she would have no problem eating dead folks), and Jack (who has clearly been spending a lot of time with Sam) says he’s pulled up traffic cam footage and found the stolen truck from when the cop was killed. Jack recognizes the driver from a photo at the morgue, and Dean chimes in that it’s Dave Mather, an old timey gunslinger from the 19th century.
While these revelations are happening, Athena is being super unsafe again by working alone in a basement with noise cancelling headphones. I swear I don’t understand how this woman is A) Still in business if she can’t hear customers and B) not robbed blind once a week. There’s a shadowy figure creeping up behind her and OH MY GOD IT’S DAVE!! Who promptly slaps her on the ass, because Dave is a dick. He gives her a letter which turns out to be an acceptance to an awesome makeup school in LA. Dave shits all over her excitement and tells her they can’t afford LA (who exactly invited you, Dave?), and she mentions the weird FBI guys who showed up asking odd questions. Dave leaves just before the boys get there to talk to him, and Athena, who is suddenly more hostile than before, tells them that Dave is on a bank run.
The bank run, as it turns out, is a robbery. Shock. Dave robs the bank, and when he leaves, Dean & Co are waiting for him. It quickly escalates into a shootout, and Jack, ever eager to be one of the guys, hops up from his cover. He’s shot a couple of times, and despite Cas’s warning, flicks his whammy power out at the ghoul. Unfortunately the ghoul is not the only one he hits, as a security guard is thrown into a post, killing him. Dean goes after the ghoul who gets away) as the rest of them check to see if there is anything they can do for the guard.
Later, at the hotel, Jack is inconsolable. It’s the first time he’s ever hurt someone who didn’t get back up and though it was an accident,
Jack can’t see it as anything other than one more piece of evidence that he’s bad. Dean’s words the past few weeks have really sunk in with him, much more than Sam’s positive encouragements. Dean tells Cas and Sam to take Jack home before the cops come around and when Cas offers to stay and help with Dave the Dickish Ghoul, like the supportive husband he is, Dean tells Cas that Jack may need him.
Back at the morgue, a shot up Dave tells Athena that hey they can go to LA, after all! He robbed a bank for her! In his explanation, he lets it slip that he also robs graves, annnnd does a dash of murdering on the side. Athena becomes a total “bitch” then, according to Dave, and tells him to get the fuck away from her. All action is paused, however, when they hear a car outside.
That car is a truck, quickly followed by Baby, as Dean and Sarge meet in the craziest of coincidences. Sarge says the fingerprints from the bank robbery matching the grave robber’s and the teller recognizing the voice as Dave’s is enough to solve this little “family business.” Dean tells Sarge that he doesn’t intend to take Dave alive, which is A-Okay with the lawman. We’re back to the opening scene with them hunting Dave, and Sarge being pulled into a hole. Dean (in a hilarious bit of improv from Jensen Ackles) reluctantly crawls in the hole after him, snarking and muttering all along the way.
On the way back to the bunker, Cas and Sam both try to console Jack. Cas tells him of mistakes he’s made, and times he’s done much worse than accidentally killing someone, which is small comfort to Jack. No one, however, mentions that the very fact that Jack is this upset about it points to him not being evil. Jack asks them to stop trying to help and it’s an awkward and quiet drive home.
Dean pops out of his tunnel and into the morgue, where he sees both Athena and Sarge tied up. He informs Athena that Dave ain’t exactly human, then turns to the lawman. While he’s trying to untie Sarge, Dave shows up behind Dean. Athena decides now is a good time to dump her gross boyfriend which, better late than never, and Dave makes the fatal mistake of monologuing. It’s short though, and Sarge shoots him in the head. Boom. Case closed. Or, as Dean the Dork puts it: “Happy trails, cowboy.” The next morning when Sarge asks what to say, Dean says blame everything (guard included) on Dave, and to say Dean was never there. I hope this means the boys have a new ally in law enforcement. I fucking loved Sarge and his “fuck it all, I’m too old for this shit” cantankery.
When Dean gets back to the bunker, Jack is in no better place. He may have learned computer and research skills from Sam, but the self-blame and masochism of wanting to know all about the man he killed is 100% Dean. They all try to reassure him that he’s not bad, and mistakes don’t make you a monster (even Dean going so far as to say he was wrong about Jack), but none of that sinks in. Jack doesn’t think he’s done a single good thing, and that every time he tries, someone gets hurt. I mean… ya brought your dad home… I feel like that was pretty fucking good… In true Team Free Will 2.0 form, Jack decides that they’re better off without him and zaps himself out of the room, ending a fun episode with full on angst.
Holy shit, I loved this episode so much. The actual monster story was paper thin, but that’s okay. This episode really wasn’t about the monster or the case, it was about Cas’s return and how it affects each of the Winchester men and Jack. It was about what Cas’s return means to each of them and how he changes and alters the dynamic in this new team, as well as Cas figuring out just where he fits in this expanded family. I do wish I’d seen a little more of Jack’s reactions to this happy, hopeful Dean, though. All Jack has ever known of the eldest Winchester is when he’s at his rock bottom, so I can’t imagine the whiplash he got when Dean was running around like a little boy looking at their hotel room. I loved seeing Cas and Jack interact, and I’m really enjoying seeing Jack take on traits from the Winchesters.