“American Nightmare” Review
By Annie Kenney
I was always a big fan of The X Files as it was often dark and creepy while still maintaining a sense of humor and, often, moving the character’s forwards. American Nightmare did these things and more and it was one of the best episodes of Supernatural I’ve seen for quite a while.
In my humble opinion the series always worked best on a small scale. The early monster of the week episodes were classics and, for me, one of the things that made Supernatural unmissable. These forays into urban myths and legends combined with the brother’s relationship and their search for old yellow eyes were, for me, classics of their time. As the series and the cast of characters grew some of this was lost and the series grew almost too big for itself. Last season was particularly huge with both God, the devil and God’s sister making appearances. Now the writers have decided to take this all down a notch or three and American Nightmare was a definite product of this decision.
One of the best things about the episode was how it dealt with the brother’s feelings about the loss of their mother (for the second time). As usual Sam and Dean’s approach could not have been more different. Dean is so obviously hurt and not dealing with it at all well. He is also being atypically Dean and refusing to talk about the way he feels. His behavior was very old school Dean Winchester – wanting to shoot first and ask questions later. His absolute conviction that the case was simply down to a jealous witch was something we have come to expect of him and, as usual, it made me want to hug him and smack him around the head at the same time. Jensen’s performance was excellent and very believable and he makes Dean such a sympathetic character.
As for Sam – well there are no words – what an excellent episode this was for Sam fans. It is quite rare for us to get a glimpse inside Sam’s head but this time we got to go very deep. I loved the fact that the writers acknowledged the history of Supernatural and went right back to the very beginning with the special children and their – somewhat unwanted – gifts. The episode was extremely dark and dealt with some quite disturbing themes. I must confess that stigmata has always riveted me but I also find it very distressing. It was interesting to see the brothers deal with something like this so soon after their experiences with Chuck (God). When Sam was talking to the mother his words had a lot deeper meaning than she would ever know. If anyone can talk about God and the devil with a great amount of knowledge it is Sam Winchester and in this episode, he was absolutely wonderful. When he was on the screen it was hard to look away and it was obvious that he wanted to make things right for poor Magda. What looked like a simple haunting turned out to be something far more sinister and it was something that Sam simply had to deal with. He has his own personal demons (both literally and figuratively) and American Nightmare dealt with them in the deepest, darkest of ways.
I liked the episode from start to finish; another hark back to the good old days of Supernatural was the boys dressed as priests (and who knew priests could be so hot), there was also a lot of gentle humor, Dean trying to climb over the gate while Sam walked around it, Dean getting the ‘witches’ number and finding it hot even though he was actually going to shoot her. The family was suitably troubling and the deaths were gory and – to be frank – uncanny.
And then, the jaw dropping twist; the mysterious and (as yet) unseen Mr. Ketch who dealt with the monster because he knew the Winchesters would let her go. I think that the British Men of Letters are a great introduction to the Supernatural universe and they are going to make excellent baddies. How nice (and frankly self-indulgent) it would be to see Sam and Dean make a trip to England at some point.
So, for me, this was a fantastic episode; Sam-centric (which is unusual and most welcome), old fashioned, chilling, disturbing and on a small scale. Not an angel or demon in sight and all the better for it.
Long may it continue.