Supernatural: “American Nightmare” Recap – Season 12, Episode 4
The fourth episode of Season 12 Supernatural aired last week. A group of writers from Nerds and Beyond got together to share their reviews of the episode, which you can read below.
This week’s episode – written by newcomer Davey Perez – brings one word to mind: dark. This was more of a “monster of the week” episode, but as the show has touched on previously, sometimes everyday humans are often more frightening monsters than the supernatural ones.
The episode opened with a woman stumbling into a church filled with worshipers, blood trailing from her feet and hands. As she walks, whip lashes manifest on her back in an apparent stigmata and after crying out in an unknown language, she falls down dead.
We soon learn that this woman is a social worker named Olivia. The boys talk to Olivia’s co worker Beth – who is a Wiccan. Due to Olivia’s untimely death and Beth’s sudden promotion, Dean is pretty convinced that Beth is involved in Olivia’s demise. Shortly after the Winchesters take up the case, a local grocery store stock boy dies in a similar fashion to Olivia. Beth tells Sam and Dean of a family Child Protective Services has their eye on – a deeply religious family who live off the grid. Beth tells them of Magda – the eldest child of the family – who died of pneumonia because her family refused to get her treatment, citing it was God’s will for her to die. After hearing this, Sam believes it may actually be Magda’s ghost causing the deaths and the brothers split up; Dean to confront Beth, Sam to find Magda’s ghost. However, we soon learn that it cannot be her ghost because Magda isn’t dead. She is being held captive in the family’s basement because they believe she is the devil. Like I said; dark. But it gets worse. Magda is forced by her mother to whip herself to atone for her ‘wickedness’.
Sam is captured as Dean discovers Beth is not the killer. Sam learns Magda has psychic abilities and empathizes with her because of the abilities he has. He learns that Magda had psychically reached out to the two victims trying to get their help because they were the only people her isolated family had contact with. The family’s secret now revealed, Magda’s mother means for the family to poison themselves and die together. Her husband is the first to perish. Magda tries to stop her mother, and her mother picks up a knife, intending to stab Magda, but accidentally killing her son in the process. Magda over powers her mother and Sam talks her out of turning the knife on her mother. Dean comes and Magda’s mother is arrested. Beth arrives at the family home, and we learn Magda is being sent to live with her aunt in California. However, at a rest stop, Magda is killed by Mr. Ketch of The British Men of Letters chapter.
Very early on in this episode, we see that Dean is still missing Mary, and her absence is affecting his mood and demeanor greatly. He is short-tempered and his emotions seem to be clouding his judgment a bit. Davy did an excellent job in conveying this not only in the way we he wrote Dean’s behavior, but one of my favorite moments was when the brothers have gone undercover as priests to speak with the priest at the church where Olivia died. Dean notices a mother and son lighting candles together, and his expression speaks volumes about how he is missing Mary.
Another thing that was excellent about this episode was the familiarity of the Sam and Dean’s banter with each other when discussing Lucifer’s latest Vessel Vincent “Vince” Vincente, who Dean is clearly not a fan of, but Sam is.
This was Mr. Perez’s first time writing for Supernatural and overall, it was a great episode. This was definitely an episode that focused heavily on Sam, but also tied in what was happening with the other character’s story lines as well. Old story lines – like Sam’s psychic abilities which hadn’t been touched on in a while – were brought in and meshed seamlessly into current events. And, while I was disappointed in yet another death of a female character, it did fit well with the story arc for the British Men of Letters, and also confirming without a doubt that Mr. Ketch is bad news.
What witchery is this? This episode is what Supernatural could have been for years. We have the Winchester brothers showing personal growth. We have Dean learning to deal with his crap. We have Sam, sympathetic yet badass Sam, being the voice of reason all over the place. And what’s this? We hear from Cas, and Mary too? One would think that Supernatural is actually trying again!
Dean: He’s still torn up about Mary walking out on them. He and Sam actually talk, and Dean says what’s really bothering him: What if she doesn’t come back? As a result of his issues, Dean acts rash and impulsive. Thankfully, he doesn’t follow through with his plan on dealing with Beth. And I have to say, it was a very nice touch having Dean come to terms with Mary leaving, before he receives her replies to his earlier text. It added that little bit extra, confirming that he’d made the right decision.
Sam: The Sam in this episode is a side of him I haven’t seen properly in years. The Sam who is rational, who sees the other side of the coin, who is thoughtful and yet still full of righteous fury when he KNOWS something isn’t right. Not only is he calling Dean out on his behavior, but he downright goes off on Magda’s mother about being neglectful. And then we get to see him with Magda, the Sam who knows what it’s like to be different, who just happens to be uniquely suited for being trapped in the basement with Magda, to tell her she’s NOT evil.
Other things: Three times, from three different people, do we hear how it’s best for people to spend time apart. Not only that, but one was Sam, and the last Dean. Is Supernatural learning to grow? So far, it looks like the boys are getting the emotional growth they’ve needed for a very long time.
Sam’s reaction to Vince Vincente as Lucifer’s vessel: Is it a coincidence that Sam, once Lucifer’s vessel himself, is drawn to Vincente’s music?
I was very satisfied with “The Foundry,” and am looking forward to more of Davy Perez’ work.
American Nightmare was a pretty interesting episode (and I am not just saying that because Sam and Dean were all dressed up in snazzy sweaters) because we got to see how the brothers were dealing with their mother’s decision to take some time apart and how it was affecting their hunting.
While Mary’s decision to temporarily leave upsets both of the Winchester brothers, Sam is more understanding of the situation while Dean seems to be (mostly) ignoring the situation all together. What is puzzling to me is that Sam was not as upset as I thought he would be, especially after the moment in which he tells Mary that her being back fills up his biggest blank. Part of me expected Sam’s personal feelings on her decision to mess with his hunting instincts, but instead it was Dean who had let his guard down and nearly killed an innocent person because he did not want to accept that a seemingly happy family was at fault.
Fortunately, he realized he was after the wrong person and was able to hide his original intent from Beth before things could go bad. Unfortunately, we learn that the Petersons are hiding a terrible and even heartbreaking secret: their daughter was alive and being held prisoner in their basement, where they would make her punish herself while praying. I could not help but feel sorry for Magda – who unintentionally caused the deaths of Olivia and the delivery boy because she was praying that she could reach out to them about her situation.
Something that really haunts me with this episode is the fact that the antagonists were not monsters or even the person responsible for the murders: It was people. It was Magda’s parents and, in the end, Mr. Ketch of the British Men of Letters. Speaking of which, I absolutely hated the ending of this episode. Magda being a psychic raised a ton of questions, and the character itself had a lot of room to grow. I was disappointed to see her being murdered by Mr. Ketch, especially because she was just a teenager trying to reach out. He did not ask any questions or anything – he just went in for the kill, which once again makes me worry that the British Men of Letters will end up messing everything up. Their ways of handling “monsters,” and even their presence, is very concerning. I am not sure how I feel about their addition to Supernatural, but I am still interested in seeing how it will play out.
All in all, I thought this was a really nice episode. I am still more in favor of last week’s episode, but I am excited to see what happens next.