Remember at the end of The Scar when Jack was coughing up blood and we were all like”What is happening?!” and waiting for the next episode to give us a hint? Well, Mint Condition is not that hint and, honestly, it’s a testament to my commitment to this show that I watched it not once, but twice to write this review. You know when “Well, the only woman in the episode didn’t die” is the best thing you can say about an episode of Supernatural, it’s gonna be a rough ride (yes I know there was the mom, too but she doesn’t count because she was there for like, 15 seconds).
So we start in Salem, Ohio a couple of days before Halloween. There’s the required horror movie marathon playing in the background while a gamer guy unpacks some boxes in a comic shop. He pulls out some sweet action figures and decides finders keepers counts when you’re stocking the shelves, and decides to keep a Thundercats action figure. He’s about to leave with his ill-gotten merch when he gets a call from Samantha, a friend of his who is also his boss and who is not thrilled that he yelled at and insulted a customer over whether he could beat up Superman. Stuart “Kryptonite Gloves” Blake starts to argue and defend himself, but is cut off by Samantha telling him to chill. Stu then leaves the store, but not before we get that spoopy whooshing sound that always portends good things. Later that night at his house, Stuart for some unknown reason unboxes the pilfered Thundercat and is yelling at the pizza man. Honestly this guy needs to calm his body. Once he hangs up, we see the action figure has come to life and does what I’m sure a lot of people who have met Stuart want to do: beats the shit out of him.
Meanwhile, Dean is hiding out in his room at the bunker, watching classic slasher flicks and hiding from the strangers who now live in the first home he’s had since potty-training. Sam comes in to check on him, and after recovering from the surprise that is Sam’s clean-shaven face, Dean tells us where Cas and Jack are this week, which is apparently just somewhere out of frame? Sam tells Dean he doesn’t like Halloween or scary movies since that is their everyday life, and then shows him a youtube video of Stuart ranting about the beatdown he got from a six inch piece of plastic. Dean, hearing it’s Thundercats, is fucking pumped and finally leaves his room. Hopefully after cleaning all the food and trash out. Mice are the real monsters here, Dean.
Once they get to the comic store, the fandom references come out in full force, there are Easter eggs for everyone in this episode (my personal fave has to be the Red Hood suit that causes Sam to make a face). Dean and Sam find their “twins” in Dirk and Samantha, a nerdy guy and the woman we saw in the opening. Dean and Dirk geek out together for a little while before he and Sam, posing as insurance agents, ask Samantha about Stuart. We find out that (shocker) Stuart is an “acquired taste” who trolls people online and just moved home with his mom after he was kicked out of his apartment for some IRL trolling/gatekeeping shit with his roommate. Honestly, I’m not finding it hard to imagine Stu bitching on Reddit about being Friendzoned at this point. Dude’s an asshole. But, being an asshole isn’t grounds for murder by 1980s memorabilia, so we’re obliged to save him.
Dean and Sam head to Stuart’s new/old digs and enjoy some hot apple cider while waiting for Stuart to “become available.” We hear some yelling about “not playing right” and Stu comes up from the basement. He’s a charmer. He complains about Fortnight (I love Dean even more for not knowing what that is) and talks about how is ex was a Wiccan, but that he dumped her before they could meet in real life (MIRL, as the cool kids call it). When asked about all the tiny cuts and bruises on his face, Stuart claims that he was lying and made it all up. He kicks them out and so our boys decide to sit out in the Impala to strategize. While they do just that, Sam figures out why Stu was lying to them: turns out his video went viral and the troll became the trolled (no sympathy from here in the cheap seats, btw). The two start to brainstorm what might be causing toys to beat people, Stuart stumbles outside, bleeding profusely, and screaming for help. Dean runs inside to see what the hell is going on, only to have a chainsaw (under its own power) literally fly at his head and imbed itself in the wall, ruining a Texas Chainsaw Massacre poster (get it?).
Once they get Stuart to this hospital and convince his mom to stay with his okay-but-asleep self, Dean tells Sam that the EMF reader was going nuts at the house. They conclude it’s a ghost and Sam heads back to do his thang. That thang is not working out for him so well, though, since once he gets back to the house, the EMF reader is silent, which doesn’t stop Sam from scaring himself when he sees the Thundercat action figure. Nerdy and nervous Sam is my favorite Sam.
Back at the hospital we learn that Stuart is either in a medically induced coma or literally the heaviest sleeper in the world, which honestly is okay with me either way. Dirk is hovering at the door of Stuart’s room when Dean joins him and the two start watching All Saint’s Day III, a classic slasher flick featuring an angry ghost and his hatchets, aptly named Hatchet Man. The 80s were known for two things: cocaine and creativity. The two bond over their love of the franchise, and Dean says out loud what has been subtextual throughout the entire series: that his love of horror movies stems from knowing that the monster always loses. Did we really need Dean to say that? Probably not, but it’s nice for him to at least tangentially mention that he has issues.
Meanwhile, Sam goes to the Comic shop to see if there is anyone recently dead who might not like Stuart. He asks Samantha, who tells him about the previous owner and resident Obi-Wan to the three of them. His name was Jordan and he left the store to Samantha and Dirk when he died. Samantha also tells Sam that Jordan fired Stuart twice, but when she took over the store, Samantha hired him back. Oh, and he was cremated. While all this is going on, the EMF reader is going nuts and wham, suddenly the giant Hatchet Man figure is alive and knocking Sam out. When Sam comes to, he see that Samantha is alright, but that Hatchet Man took the keys and locked them in the store, behind shatterproof glass that not even all of Sam’s brute force can make a dent in. Sam calls Dean, who is still hanging with Dirk, and tells him Hatchet Man (but not really) is coming to the hospital. Dean is more excited than anyone should be to have an animated serial killer ghost coming after them. He makes a big ass salt circle around the still-napping Stuart’s bed, and tells Dirk that under no circumstances is he to leave the circle, virtually guaranteeing that that’s exactly what will happen.
Back at the shop, Samantha sheds light on why Jordan is going apeshit now, as opposed to sooner. Turns out Stuart isn’t only a douche, he’s a thieving douche. Samantha tells Sam that she’s known about it and has been docking his pay for the stuff he takes, but since a ghost doesn’t have access to payroll, Jordan doesn’t know that. It’s an odd feeling, kinda being on the ghost’s side. While all this is happening, Sam is building a bomb out of cleaning supplies and a Scooby-Doo lunchbox in order to blow up the door. It works, and off they go to save the day!!
In a surprise to no one, some ghostly shit starts happening around Dirk, who freaks out and immediately leaves the salt circle (and his BFF). Dean’s looking for Hatchet Man, but Dirk’s the one who finds him. He gives a little speech about friendship and tells Hatchet Jordan that if he wants Stuart, he has to go through Dirk first. Jordan Man seems down with that and starts lumbering after Dirk. And so begins my favorite part of the episode. There are a couple of top-notch security guards watching–you guessed it– All Saint’s Day and yelling at the TV, and the scenes in the movie are interspersed with security footage of Dirk running around, trying to escape Hatchet Man. He has a better elevator than the chick in the movies, though, and manages to escape to the best place to be if you’re being chased by a homicidal ghost: The morgue. Conveniently, Dean is also there. Not as convenient: so is Hatchet Man.
After an old tube TV preview of Hatchet Man III plays, we briefly see Sam-Squared make it to the hospital (and determine Jordan must be linked to his keychain), we get back to the regularly scheduled fight scene between Dean and Hatchet Man aka Jordan. Jordan has Dean on the ropes, but just as he’s about to hack Dean (with Dean’s own borrowed ax, no less!), Dirk lives up to his name and stabs him in the back with big ass knife. This mostly just annoys the ghost, but it buys time for SamSam to find them and tell Dean (who is now being choked) about the keychain. Dean tosses it over and they burn it in alcohol, freeing both Jordan and us.
After they leave them, Dean thanks Sam for getting him out of his funk and Sam tells him to stop hiding in his room. Sam assures him that no one is upset with him saying yes to Michael but Dean is Dean and therefore taking everything onto himself. It’s also worth noting that Dean may be hiding out and keeping distance from these new hunters as a self-defense mechanism. Dean has lost everyone he’s ever cared about, so it’s not hard to suss out that he may not be down for letting new high-risk people in. Turnabout is fair play, however, and Sam finally explains why he hates Halloween, and it’s not because of the life they lead. Turns out when he was 11, Sam had a crush on a girl and, being nervous and awkward, yakked all over her at her party. Poor Sam. But I’m so grateful it’s for a normal reason. Dean tells Sam it’s time to move on and tries to convince him to do a joint costume next year (Rocky and Bullwinkle is definitely my favorite choice).
The screen fades to black and then, in true horror fashion, we see the security guard checking the morgue. The lights flicker and what does he find but the Hatchet Man figurine… dun Dun DUN!!!
So, I seem to be fairly alone in this, but I really just did not like this episode. Maybe it’s that I’ve never liked horror movies or classic slasher movies. Maybe it’s because Stuart reminded me of the gatekeepers of many fandoms who think there is only one “right” way to be a fan. I’m not exactly sure what it was, but I just couldn’t get into this. Monster of the Week episodes are already not my favorite, but to not have the overarching story mentioned or any real character development for Sam and Dean, there just wasn’t a lot here for me.
What did you think? Does having an affinity for slasher flicks give you different excitement than mine? Or all the fandom and geeky references? Did you enjoy the homage to classic horror?
I see most reactions to the episode were fairly positive, so it begs the question: Am I just missing something??