Supernatural Review, Season 7, Episode 16: “Out With the Old”
Written by Robert Singer and Jenny Klein
Directed by John F. Showalter
Airs Fridays at 9pm (ET) on the CW
This week, on Supernatural: Dean just wants to dance, Sam is on the jittery edge, and even Leviathans have terrible bosses.
After several weeks of hiatus, Supernatural comes back well, balancing humor and gore and giving us one of the best Leviathan episodes of the season. Things kick off to a fun start with the teaser and the early, more standalone threats are creative and appropriately gruesome. Singer, Klein, and Showalter do a great job injecting malice into the Red Shoes-inspired cursed ballet slippers, mostly through the framing of the first crime scene. The placement of the slippers barely outside the pool of blood, ribbons carefully strewn just out of its spread, is eerie and, though the teapot doesn’t have quite the same sense of personality and sentience, the malevolent gramophone more than makes up for this.
It’s fitting that this thread only takes up the opening acts of the episode. In a previous season perhaps this would have been plenty of fodder for an entire episode, but Sam and Dean are experienced enough at this point to quickly figure out what’s going on and manage the situation. This gives us a few really fun scenes, particularly the little girl’s anxious “Sorry!”s to Dean as the shoes keep using her feet to kick him in the head. Before this can get old, however, the case of the week is complemented by a few entertaining brotherly bonding scenes before the transition from standalone to serial with the reveal of Leviathans lurking in the town, up to no good.
Though Sam and Dean’s relationship has been somewhat problematic over the course of the season, with retreads of character beats from years past, this week their rapport feels natural. They’re certainly not the most well-adjusted brothers out there, but neither is keeping secrets from the other and they’re doing their best to help each other through. Sam and Dean’s opening conversation centered around Sam’s current Lucifer situation is a welcome surprise, immediately removing any fears that the writers will repeat the earlier misstep of brotherly secret keeping. Both Sam and Dean have learned the hard way that keeping bad news from each other is a terrible idea that backfires every time. They also wisely back away from Lucifer, leaving him in Sam’s head for the moment, though the notion of Satan torturing Sam by singing “Stairway to Heaven” 50 times in a row is pretty hilarious.
The cursed objects are fun and Sam and Dean’s scenes together are enjoyable, but what makes this episode such a treat is the use of the Leviathans at the core of the second half of the episode. Until now, these villains have felt almost entirely one-dimensional, utterly focused on eating people/being evil. Here we get far more relatable, human foes. Yes, they’re violent, vicious baddies, but they’re also petty, domineering, browbeaten, and nervous. In half an episode, these characters are more defined than Dick Roman is after several appearances and almost weekly mentions.
The reveal that there’s something much larger going on than we anticipated may be exciting for some, but though Leviathans curing cancer may be intriguing, the larger picture is far less interesting when it’s peopled with uninteresting characters, which is the very reason the standalone episodes have been more successful than the serialized ones, at least recently. If the writers can learn from this episode and continue to make the Leviathans more interesting and dynamic, perhaps this will change and the serialized stories will at least pull even with the rest.
Frank’s disappearance and potential death at the end of the episode comes as a surprise, and the writers have done a decent job developing his character in the past few episodes, given the brevity of his scenes. As ever in genre fiction, it’s wise not to jump to any conclusions about his fate until we see a body, but surely this most recent blow will not land well with Dean in particular. Next week’s episode will be highly anticipated by many, for reasons withheld out of deference to the spoiler-phobic. It will be interesting to see how the writers handle not just <spoiler’s spoiler>, but also <female guest star>. This has been without doubt an uneven season, but there’s still plenty of time for the PtB to make the adjustments necessary to finish strong. Here’s hoping they do.
What did you think of the episode? What was your favorite cursed object? Are you excited for next week? Post your thoughts in the comments below!