Something I never thought I’d say is that, thirteen years in, Supernatural is delivering some of its best characterizations and stories in years. The first half of the season has done a beautiful job exploring new and long-forgotten facets of Dean and Sam’s mentalities and their motivations. Unfortunately, A Most Holy Man followed those episodes. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love noir– when done right. But something about this episode just didn’t sit well with me.
The episode opens on some nuns in Malta and a thief who not only steals a skull, but knocks out a nun while he’s at it. Somehow I think this choice with come back to haunt him.
Back in Kansas, the boys are in the bunker and one of them gives this week’s convenient reason for Cas being absent. This week Cas is in Syria, and somehow, someone thought that just saying that wasn’t enough and had to add “dodging bullets”, an unnecessary, tasteless joke thrown in as if the country isn’t in a state of horrifying war. Cas is looking for the Tree of Life, there is zilch on either Lucifer or the Seal of Solomon, so the boys decide to go looking for the last ingredient they need: The blood of a most holy man. Sam does a super-fast dark web search (and Dean acts like it’s 2003 and the internet is new) and finds a chick who deals with legit religious relics. I can’t even find a fucking sweater that fast.
They head to San Francisco and meet with Margaret Astor, a high society fancy pants who wants a piece of Sam’s ass. Sam flirts and Dean rolls his eyes until Margaret tells him that although she doesn’t have the blood they want, she knows of a douchebag who would. She offers to provide an introduction and the boys head up to Seattle.
In Seattle, Dean and Sam meet with said douche who won’t sell them shit because they buy off the rack, but he’ll trade for the blood. All Dean and Sam have to do is steal a skull! From a mob boss! Who stole it from him! Woohoo sounds like all kinds of shenanigans! The boys agree because they have no other choice and bid the Duke of Dunkin Donuts adieu.
After Sam forgets who they are and what they do, which is the only reason I can think of for him acting like they’re above theft and “chicanery,” the brothers head to a coffee shop for that sweet, sweet free wifi. Dean hits on a chick who’s reading about the supernatural (which I think will get less charming when Dean is on Social Security. Maybe), and Sam cockblocks him to talk about flights coming out of Malta. They find a suspicious looking character on the passenger list (again, faster than I can find new bedding), and decide to check out his hotel. Honestly this episode makes me feel like I am never secure on the internet.
The brothers head to the hotel where their suspect was staying, only to find the room in disarray and a very dead thief on the floor (told ya hitting nuns wasn’t smart!). Before they can investigate too much further, however, a detective pops in and forces them to cuff themselves to the radiator. So, obviously, not a real cop. He searches around for about 30 seconds and leaves, because thoroughness is overrated when hunting for a priceless artifact, and the brothers have a funny little moment while Sam picks the locks on their cuffs.
Dean and Sam go on a walk to have their “talk the case out” scene, but instead are picked up by some mobsters, who force Dean to sit in the back seat of Baby while they drive to a not at all ominous meeting. They meet up with Mob Boss Man, who tells them a few things. First, looks like the brothers are already dead, so what’s killing them a little more if they act out? Second, Douche Douchington III was the one who stole the skull from him and, as a good Catholic boy, Mob Boss Man wants to get the skull of St Peter back to put on his mantle. Third, he’ll pay the boys a hefty finder’s fee so they can just buy the shit they need off of Douche. Not seeing a lot of options, they agree. So now they’re working for two folks to get the same thing.
The boys go back to the hotel and, after Dean pulls the fire alarm and keeps a lookout, Sam starts rifling through the room again. He finds a piece of paper with a number on it, since this is the one guy who doesn’t know how to screenshot something on his phone, but before Sam can immediately devine what it is, someone clocks him. Oh! That someone is an odd dude we saw in the hotel lobby earlier. Anyway, Odd Dude leaves, followed by Fake Cop, and Dean rouses Sam.
An eye for an eye is real, though, since right after Dean casually suggests that Sam get a CT-Scan, they stumble upon the prone form of Odd Dude, himself! The brothers take him back to the lobby, where he explains that he is not an Odd Dude, but a priest, sent to buy back the skull from whichever baddy has it at the time. It was his parish from which the skull was stolen, and his entire congregation feels the loss on a deep, spiritual level. Sam agrees to help the priest, and after Sam explains empathy to Dean by comparing what the priest is going through to what Dean might feel if someone stole Baby, Dean agrees. I’m not sure why the only way it seems that Dean is able to understand how Father Luca feels is to compare it to his car, but Dean seems to have emotionally and mentally regressed about 15 years in this episode, so who knows. So now they are literally working for everyone trying to get the skull. You’d think it’d be easy this way, but no.
Sam Not-Googles the number from the paper that Not Odd Priest memorized and finds out it’s a tracking number for a package. Said package is being picked up by Fake Cop as we speak, and brought to a warehouse, for some reason. Turns out Fake Cop is actually working for Margaret Astor! I always thought that these kind of rich folks black market deals took place at dinner parties and in parlors, but nope. They’re just like us!
Now, in the warehouse is Mob Boss Man, Lady Hotpants, and Duke Douchington. Lady Hotpants tells the other two that they’re free to bid on the skull, and then Sam walks in with all the priest’s money collected to buy it. Margaret is going to have to dry clean her suit after seeing Sam, but won’t let her horniness get in the way of business. #BusinessBitch. She tells them all to write down their best offer, and after some confusion about who Sam is actually working for, everyone agrees. Sam (who has Dean and the priest on the phone the whole time) gives his paltry offer of $600k, only to be outbid by Mob Boss Man. Douchington lives up to the name I conveniently gave him by offering $0 because no way is he gonna pay her for shit. Instead, he offers Fake Cop AKA Underpaid Minion a million smackeroos to kill Lady Hotpants and give him the skull, which Underpaid Minion is more than happy to do. Wow, Sam is so deadly now that even flirting with a woman gets them killed.
What follows is Dean coming in at the sound of gunfire, and a long shootout scene montage during which Dean and Sam “What Gives You The Right to Kill?” Winchester shoot and kill a bunch of people without hesitation. Even the priest gets grazed. Not the Douche though, because of course that piece of shit survives. He tells them that he never had the blood and was just having some chicanery fun! Dean punches him and they take the priest to the airport. Once there, he thanks the boys for helping him, and Sam tells him about the reading he did on the good Father in all the free time he had. Turns out that the Pope called him A Most Holy Man! What a serendipitous turn of events! He gives the boys some blood and they part ways.
Back at the bunker, Sam catches up with the rest of us and notes that they always seem to be playing defense, and man wouldn’t it be nice to get ahead of this shit for once (hey you should ask Cas about that!). They both talk about how it’d be nice if there weren’t any more monsters, and when asked if he thinks the spell will work, Dean finally says what we’ve been waiting for: “I have faith.”
Alright, this was… not my favorite episode, which makes me sad, because the show has had a really good run this season. I know the writers venture from the usual formula a lot and sometimes it works, but this was not one that felt right. Dean and Sam’s banter and bickering was fun, but so much of it felt like something we would have seen in earlier seasons more than keeping in line with who they are now. Not to mention that the entire episode was just boring. So much of what makes noir great was missing in this episode, which makes everything feel forced and ridiculous. You can’t just have dark lighting, trench coats, and jazzy music and call a story noir. Generally I like Monster of the Week episodes when they tie into the larger storyline, but without the monster or supernatural element, the episode just fell flat for me.
One thing this episode does show is that Dean and Sam alone are not enough to sustain the series anymore. It’s been reflected in previous episodes, with Dean needing more than just Sam to feel complete, and with the show bringing back so many characters long dead, or simply absent from recent storytelling. Supernatural has, until this week, spent much of the season feeling more like an ensemble cast, and it has actually improved the storyline and show. It’s not surprising, since for the past 13 years, the writers have been going back to the same well for the brother’s relationship, rather than taking the leap and exploring new and more interesting aspects of the characters, both individually and within their relationship with other characters. This season has finally brought development to both Sam and Dean (Dean with his soul crushing grief and Sam finally talking about and facing his trauma of Hell), but most of that development actually stems from their relationships with other people, which only makes sense, since no one is solely dependent and developed by one person in their lives.