This Supernatural review contains spoilers.
Supernatural Season 12 Episode 4
Maternal issues are at the center of this episode where Sam and Dean investigate a super-religious family and victims bearing the stigmata. We are confronted with the scary truth that sometimes the scariest thing is not the supernatural, but real-life issues such as loneliness and child abuse.
Supernatural does a great job tying situational plots into overarching or emotional plot. Dean texts Mom like “a teenage girl.” Dean focuses on Mom and son in church longingly. It’s mostly Dean who seems so affected – perhaps because Mary died when Dean was old enough to remember her. Sam was just an infant, so he has no recollection of her. Although he did meet her ghost once, that was pretty emotional for him.
The plot of this episode and the situation with Mary leaving tie together again when the boys visit CPS, where the first victim worked. The idea of splitting families up for their own good visibly bothers Dean. It’s a raw reminder that maybe it really was best for Mary to leave – that she didn’t belong with them and they didn’t deserve a second chance with her.
It also ties into the not-so-wholesome pseudo-cult family, who is visibly abusing their daughter Magda (once thought dead) because she has psychic abilities. Magda’s plight is an echo of the season 2 arc involving Yellow eyes and his psychic kid army, as evidenced in the THEN intro.
The Mother in this story provided such a great villain. She wasn’t a demon or a witch or something with savage power – she was just an abusive kook. When the reveal occurs with Magda bleeding in the basement and Mommie Dearest emerging from the shadows, I got real chills. Child abuse. Now THAT’s scary.
The climax is the most intense dinner scene in which I was definitely shouting at the TV. Very Jonestown-inspired. Sam was as helpless as the viewer, watching as this family was killed “for their own good.”
Why Sam didn’t call Castiel for help is beyond me. That would have been the best truth bomb ever. Well, except that Cass and Crowley were off solving mysteries. Sounds fantastic. Maybe we’ll get an update on their progress next episode.
If you’re wondering what the title “American Nightmare” is referring to, I’m pretty sure it’s that classic painting of the farmer and his wife titled “American Gothic,” which now has a creepier vibe to it after this episode.
So the episode breaks down into this: The real world issues of losing a parent and being the victim of abuse? Terrifying. Magda’s triumph over her mother and psychic ability plus the text from Mary to cap off the episode in a positive light? Priceless.
Then all those good feelings are thrown out the window when Mr. Catch murders Magda. WTH dude. At least the Winchesters have some compassion. I really don’t think Magda would have been trouble.