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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Supernatural begins its long-awaited endgame with a visit from a warped Mary Poppins

Meagan Fey, Jared Padalecki, and Jensen Ackles on Supernatural
Meagan Fey, Jared Padalecki, and Jensen Ackles on Supernatural
Photo: Colin Bentley/ The CW
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The final season of Supernatural has been really strong. Like, up-there-with-the-best-seasons-including-the-first-five levels of quality. Knowing the show was ending obviously lit a creative fire in the writer’s room, and going up against Chuck (a.k.a. God) has made for a season full of inspired and enthralling action, ruminations on storytelling as a device for understanding the world, and plenty of callbacks to the entirety of the show’s run. It’s been a delight for anyone tuning in, but a bonanza of riches for fans who have stuck with it through all these years. It would be churlish—and unfair—to simply lump these looks to the past into the category of “fan service”: Save for a few glaring exceptions (Hi, Meg!), the series has managed to work them in relatively organically, showing how Sam and Dean’s past has never disappeared, but simply moved out of the spotlight. It’s exciting, but also a bit overwhelming at times. So before the endgame begins, this first episode back lets everyone take a break—and have some good, silly fun in the process, to remind viewers just how charming this series can be, and why it’s managed to sustain itself all this time.

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“Last Holiday” has a lot of fun with the idea that, seven episodes from the end (and seven seasons after it first appeared), the brothers are finally forced to do a little repair work on the Men of Letters bunker they call home. That’s when Dean hits reset on the machine controlling the power—the “bunker grid control center thingie,” to use Sam’s technical term—and free “Mrs. Butters,” the ancient wood nymph the original Men of Letters bound and brainwashed to serve as their personal maid and caretaker back in the ’50s. She’s been stuck in standby mode since Abbadon killed all her charges, but once she’s freed and takes a minute to mourn, she quickly turns her attention to the guys, activating the monster radar that makes their hunts quick and easy, preparing lavish meals, and celebrating every holiday imaginable to make up for lost time.

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Of course, this is Supernatural, so after the delightful montage of this new routine, it’s revealed that Mrs. B is a little cracked, having taken the deaths of all the previous Men of Letters as an imperative to protect Sam and Dean from every conceivable threat—especially Jack, who is still processing the return of his soul. She imprisons Lucifer’s son, and when Dean realizes what’s happened (with a long sigh—“You had to go full Nurse Ratched”), she imprisons him, too, then tortures Sam in an effort to get him to come around to her way of thinking. It’s a surprisingly brutal sequence—watching her pull off Sam’s nails is both gross and squirm-inducingly upsetting—but it’s not long before Dean and Jack break free, and the three manage to make her see the error of her ways.

Illustration for article titled iSupernatural/i begins its long-awaited endgame with a visit from a warped Mary Poppins
Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW

What makes this rise above the usual throwaway goof of a Supernatural episode—and there are many, many of those—is the combination of guest star Meagan Fey’s bubbly performance and the fleet, funny way the show doubles down on the glib and inessential nature of the story. This is best exemplified during the aforementioned montage of the Mrs. B routine, in which Sam and Dean grab their bag lunches as they head out for another easy kill, the days pass filled with holidays and food, and the larger narrative of the series essentially hits pause while this interlude plays out. It’s breezy, entertaining, and wholly in keeping with the mindset of three guys who desperately needed a break.

Plus, it’s not as though everything gets set aside for some laughs. Most importantly, Jack gets time to adjust to having a soul again, and he and Dean have a heart-to-heart about where the elder Winchester is at in terms of being able to even look at the person who killed Mary. “I’m trying to forgive you, Jack,” Dean admits, and in that moment, both men understand the strange bond they share will endure despite the harm Jack has done. (Also, being without a soul at the time you committed a crime is a fairly good excuse.) By the end of “Last Holiday,” Dean is making Jack a birthday cake, and there’s a renewed camaraderie between all three of them.

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Illustration for article titled iSupernatural/i begins its long-awaited endgame with a visit from a warped Mary Poppins
Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW

Sure, it’s not making anyone’s list of the greatest Supernatural episodes, but what this installment does best is remind its audience how charming the series can be; light and unabashedly goofy, it plays to the strengths of Padalecki and Ackles, the former as exasperated straight man, the latter as shaggy-dog charisma machine. There’s a brief reminder towards the end that things are getting really serious out in the universe (when Dean mentions he took a look in the Inter-dimensional Geoscope and couldn’t see anything, Mrs. B murmurs, “That’s not good”), but for one more hour, we got a warm and winning demonstration of the chemistry and comedy that has kept this show going for fifteen seasons. As a way to reintroduce Supernatural only a handful of episodes away from its final bow, that’s reason enough to tune in.

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Stray observations

  • Dean is pretty excited to get some Rice Krispie treats.
  • The conversation between Sam and Dean en route to the first nest of vampires is a classic Winchester brother exchange, and also a line that could’ve been slotted into basically any episode from the past 15 years. Sam: “Ignoring your trauma doesn’t make you healthy.” Dean: “Sure it does!”
  • Jack, don’t you know better by now than to go confront a creature about their duplicity without telling Sam or Dean first?
  • Love that Dean decided Sam getting laid was more important than getting freed from the bunker lockup in a timely manner.
  • This episode was helmed by the director of The Blair Witch Project, Eduardo Sánchez, making it his fifth turn behind the camera on Supernatural since 2016, but his first straight-up comedic entry. (Or rather, the first successful one, as he helmed the wobbly “Rock Never Dies” from 2016, with Rick Springfield as rock-star Lucifer.)
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Alex McLevy is a writer and editor at The A.V. Club, and would kindly appreciate additional videos of robots failing to accomplish basic tasks.

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