This review contains spoilers.
Beginning in the flash-forward style, Baby finds Dean handcuffed in the car, blood everywhere and Baby herself looking a little worse for wear. Back at the beginning, Sam and Dean set off on a trip to Oregon in the car, going after some mysterious deaths that fit their usual brand of monsters. When they discover the victim had his heart removed and blood drained, Dean enthusiastically decides it’s a werepire (it’ll never catch on), but after Cas’ diligent research and a deputy with fangs refusing to die, the brothers realise they’re dealing with something a little more probable and difficult to deal with.
When a show has been running as long as Supernatural has, there are times when the monster-of-the-week episodes, in between the season arc episodes, can start feeling a little stale. Enter the concept of Baby; the camera never leaves the inside of the Impala. The idea of setting an entire episode within her four doors is a clever concept, one which allows director Thomas J. Wright to get really creative in how scenes are framed.
The traditional hallmarks of a classic Supernatural episode are all there; Sam and Dean hitting a bar, eating food or meeting with the local Sheriff’s office are seen from behind the windshield and relayed to us after. Dean’s run-in with the deputy is one long awesome running gag that manages to involve Baby’s door, windshield and in one truly laugh out loud moment, the windshield wipers. It is a really innovative episode that cleverly weaves the ongoing narrative with the themes that have carried throughout the series.
The first ten minutes of the episode take us right back to the core of what Supernatural has always been; two brothers roadtripping across the States with a cool cassette-based soundtrack and an even cooler car. It’s a huge amount of fun and allows Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki’s chemistry to shine, bringing out the show’s particular brand of wry humour. The relationship between the brothers has always been what keeps us watching. This new honesty policy is working well for them at the moment and we get a “Jerk/Bitch” exchange for good measure; it’s the old and the new wrapped up in a handy Impala-shaped package. Even Cas gets some classic lines in “What’s a Netflix?” and “I’m not sure how orange correlates with black in a way that’s new…”
One of the major aspects of the episode is highlighting the various ways in which the Impala serves the boys throughout their adventures, highlighting how essential she is in her own way. During the episode, she’s used simply as a car, the backseat for Sam and his lady friend (ahem), a weapon and a vessel for the boys’ memories and visions. It’s tied inextricably to the family’s past, something which the “Then” episode preamble makes clear, especially in the flashback with the young John Winchester buying the car on Dean’s advice. Baby is just as much of a Winchester as anyone else with the name. As Sam says, tapping on the dash, they are “home.”
In that respect, episode also starts to tease out some of the ongoing themes for this season and the series as a whole. Family is the obvious one, particularly given the Impala setting and Sam’s vision of his father as a young man, as the brothers separately confess to longing for a simpler, less monster-filled lifestyle. Dean’s recurring dream about his father teaching him to drive at sixteen instead of when he was little with their mother waiting for them at home is sweet, a parallel running alongside Sam wanting to be able to settle down.
There are more immediate concerns though too as revealed by the episode. The threat of the Darkness is something that has the entire world spooked. In the first three episodes of the season, we found out that alarm bells have been ringing in both Heaven and Hell, showing that it’s not just the light side of that enduring battle who are concerned with what the Winchesters released. Here, we find out the monsters on the ground are preparing too, by creating their own armies to fight whatever the Darkness might bring. It’s a neat way of bringing in the scale of the Big Bad once again and something that might function within the monster-of-the-week episodes as the season continues.
Concept episodes are something that Supernatural has always flourished with and Baby is no different, acting as a creative and fitting tribute to the show’s silent, but ever present, character. She’s been through a hell of a lot with Dean and Sam, but that engine still keeps on running. Just.
Read Becky’s review of the previous episode, The Bad Seed, here.