Again this week, Supernatural serves up an episode that really fails to advance the Mark of Cain plot. But unlike “The Hunter Games,” “About a Boy” doesn’t really pretend to be all that much about the Mark. Nor does it make the mistake of taking what could have been a fun Freak-of-the-Week episode (“There’s No Place like Home”) and try to force some kind of connection to the Mark storyline. Instead, last week’s episode is a strong standalone story based on a fairytale. And that fairytale is Hansel and Gretel—with a couple of twists. Sam convinces Dean, who has been holed up in the bunker and fruitlessly searching for a fix for the Mark, to join him on the road to look at the disappearance of a ne’er-do-well. While both brothers have some trepidation about doing so, they split up to search for clues, with Dean ending up in a dive with a barfly (Tina, played by Kehli O’Byrne) who had a passing acquaintanceship with the missing JP. When she leaves, Dean notices a large guy following her and joins the parade, only to find himself zapped by some kind of magic wielded by the shambling hulk that was stalking Dean’s drinking companion. When Dean awakes, he finds himself and the barfly, along with the missing JP, all transformed into young teens and imprisoned in some kind of dungeon which serves birthday cake. The hulk soon shows up to collect JP, who we are certain (and rightly so) is being led to his doom. In the meantime, Dean (now played by the returning Dylan Everrett) assures Tina (Madeleine Arthur) that he will get them out of their predicament. Of course, when the hulk returns, it is actually Tina who distracts him, allowing Dean to escape. When Dean and Sam return to save Tina, they learn the true identity of the teens’ captor—he is Hansel of the Grimm fairytale, and he is now forced to work for the witch to procure children to feed the hunger that has already taken his sister Gretel. The brothers learn how to reverse the age-changing spell and then follow Hansel, who seems all too eager to turn on his mistress, to take on the witch. It’s not a complex plot, nor a particularly pivotal one. But it is one with just enough entertaining moments to make you not mind these possible deficiencies. The conversation with the stoner outside the bar, for instance, is fun in how it sets up Dean. After all, where does Winchester senior—who believes in demons, warlocks, and werewolves—get off scoffing at the stoner for attributing JP’s disappearance to aliens? And then there’s the sibling rivalry of certain exchanges: Sam: Dean, I’m way too big to fit in that. Dean: First time you’ve ever had to say that, huh? Sam: Big talk coming from the dude wearing Underoos. Tina and Dean sharing their misadventures at the Royale Motel in Scranton is oddly touching. It’s nice to see Dean honestly bonding with someone (without any of his usual agendas), and the concept of macaroni and cheese and marshmallow fluff is both humorous and stomach-churning. And both the casting and demeanor of the witch are inspired. Played by Lesley Nicol, best known for her stint as Mrs. Patmore, the head cook on Downton Abbey, finding this witch busy in the kitchen, finishing up the soup that used to be JP, elicits chuckles. As does her reassurance to Tina that she would dare waste the teen girl in something as plain as a soup, describing in some detail exactly how she plans to prepare her for dinner. But the best moment is when Nicol’s character explains why she and Hansel have had to resort to such an unusual way of procuring children and why she prefers the young of the U. S. to those of Europe. Who knew that our national hysteria over stranger danger and our lack of concern about childhood obesity could have such effects? But all this does not mean that there’s nothing about the Mark of Cain in all this. Rather, the episode is crafted in such a way that it both comments on the Mark storyline (and advances the Rowena one, to some extent) and doesn’t seem desperate to shoehorn it in. Now, I don’t think for a minute that someone pitched this idea in the writers’ room as “Hey, let’s do Hansel and Gretel” and then the team figured out how to make such a storyline fit the current myth arcs of the show. I’m almost certain that the impetus was more along the lines of “how do we give Dean an easy out from the Mark of Cain so we can show him choosing to again sacrifice himself by not availing himself of that escape?” and someone came up with the idea of the Grimm witch re-inflicting puberty on people in order to supply her larder. But the result is not just another test of Dean’s constant ability to throw himself under the bus. When juxtaposed with the conversation in the bar with Tina on their fairly miserable upbringings, his decision also highlights Dean’s conviction that however bad his history is, it is his. It’s been a while since we’ve seen this side of Dean. When the two brothers originally began hunting as partners, Sam always made it clear how much he hated his youth on the road with his father, while Dean clearly embraced the lifestyle his father had taught him in those years. So it’s interesting, this far down that same road, with everything that he has suffered, to see Dean throw away that chance that Tina ends up celebrating—to take a mulligan on childhood and maybe even a different life. After all, even though Dean made his choice in the heat of the moment, that doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. Both he and Sam seem fairly confident that the archives at the barracks could help them find a way to break the spell still on Tina. There’s no reason to think they could not, just as easily, find the initial spell itself, especially when they know there’s a powerful witch who just happens to be wandering around somewhere relatively close. The fact that this seems to be a non-starter with him may be a clue to how this Mark thing might resolve itself—that it may have something to do with Dean finding a way to safely choose to keep it, making a grand sacrifice in order to save those he cares about. Now that would be a twist. Supernatural 10.12 "About a Boy" 3.5Overall ScoreReader Rating: (1 Vote)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.