Supernatural S1E9: Home

by thethreepennyguignol

Well, my Supernutters, it’s time to go Home.

After a…well, let’s generously call them strange run of episodes, Supernatural is headed back to Lawrence, Kansas, and finally giving us a chance to talk about the John Dilfchester of it all.

The Great John Winchester question has been hanging over these here fine recaps since day one, and frankly, the show has been pretty coy about giving us much on the topic of the Winchester patriarch. Right now, we’re getting to know Sam, Dean, and their dynamic, and that’s mostly what we’ve been dealing with, but an episode where they return to their childhood home after Sam has visions indicating that a woman living there is in danger just has to deal a little with their father, right?

But actually, Home has more to do with the Winchester’s mother, Mary, than it does with John. Well, by the time it gets there, anyway. This episode is really about Sam and Dean again, but setting them against the backdrop of their home and the horrors that they endured in it really allows us to delve into them a bit more. Dean is a raw nerve this episode, reluctant to even be there in the first place, his memories of his mother’s death all the more vivid than his brother’s, and Sam is curious but cautious as he approaches his old home. There’s a narrative tension here, between knowing and not knowing, remembering and not remembering, as Dean and Sam navigate their own respective relationships with what this place means to them, and the answers it might shed on the secrets that plague both of them.

But when it comes down to it, their dad isn’t present in this story. His a spectre over the top of it, sure, casting a long shadow in the form of desperate voice messages from Dean and old co-workers who half-remember his story, but he’s still absent, as he has been all season long. But his absence here is all the more galling, in the face of what the brothers are doing. This is the one place that the Winchesters were ever really all together as a family, and John can’t even be bothered to drop off a lasagna for the potluck, you know? When it comes down to it, the poltergheist that Sam was psychically alerted to is actually dealt with by Mary’s spirit, after she sacrifices herself to get rid of it. Even in death, their mother is more present, nurturing, and protective of her boys than their father.

And, of course, the sting comes in the form of a reveal: that John has actually been in Lawrence and fully aware of his son’s presence the whole time they’ve been there. If there’s ever been a moment in this show where John Winchester has really felt pretty damn bad, it’s this: he knows his sons need him, knows that they’re dealing with an incredibly emotionally-fraught encounter, and still, hides from them, from his past, from what happened to them there. Juxtaposed against Mary, taking the lead and making the selfless sacrifice, it’s hard to see John as a decent man – he might not be an outright villain, but he’s not everything that his sons seem to want him to be.

Home is a genuinely great episode for this first season – the scares are good and gory, the freak-of-the-week plot is simple but effective and it serves as a reminder that Supernatural is at its best when it’s relying on the Winchester dynamic. Though we’re heading away from home for a while, a stopover in Lawrence is just what the show needed to get back on the right track.

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(header image via IMDB)