“Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” Review
By Amanda Rebholz
While it’s obvious that ‘Supernatural’ is a vessel to showcase the acting abilities of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, occasionally an episode comes along that allows someone else to shine. We have most often seen this with Misha Collins, whose quirky nature and intense acting abilities have created him an intense grassroots fanbase. However, tonight the spotlight was solely on fan-favorite Jim Beaver, who has long been resigned to the sidelines in most story arcs. He is all too happy to step in as a helpful guide or a mentor to the boys, and sometimes has a genuinely funny moment, but rarely is the veteran actor given the opportunity to truly explore the spectrum of emotions his character feels.
“Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” is an episode that changed all of that.
For one, it was nice to see Dean and Sam’s comraderie intact after our hellaciously long hiatus; the brothers seem to have, at least for now, found their niche with each other, working in sync in a way they haven’t managed in years. They cooperated, respected each other’s wishes, and acknowledged each other’s plans; in the end, they saved each other’s asses. It was exactly how it should be in a partnership instead of Dean’s former tried-and-true dictatorship. Sam was also much more reminiscent of early-seasons Sam, empathetic and compassionate, truly putting himself in other people’s shoes. His expressions and desire to connect with Bobby, his seeking reassurance from his father figure, was heartfelt and made the audience want to comfort him too. Sam has come full-circle from the arrogant, self-righteous bastard he was for most of last season, and none of the evidence of the cold-blooded indifferent Sam remains to be seen right now.
Upon viewing the episode, one can only fathom how hard it was for Jim Beaver to film given the fact that his own wife succumbed to cancer only a few years ago. He wrote about the devastating final days with her in his memoir “Life’s Funny That Way”, and it’s easy to imagine that he channeled a lot of his personal experience into this particular storyline. Bobby has mentioned his wife before and told the story of what happened to her, and we’ve seen her ghost before as a vindictive homicidal spirit, but this was different. This was a beautiful, funny, caring woman who genuinely loved Bobby and wanted to protect him. She was a good woman, and one can only speculate that she would’ve been a nurturing mother figure to Dean and Sam under different circumstances.
Karen was beautifully portrayed in this episode, which was a very raw script – it had some gross, horrific, and twisted moments, but the underlying message was heartfelt and sincere and intense. The depiction of Bobby as a human being instead of a hunter, the little nuances that usually are passed over in favor of focusing on the Winchesters, was a revelation for the audience. For example, we know what Sam likes on his iPod and what Dean orders at a diner, but we didn’t know that Karen used to hum when she cooked, or that that was something Bobby would treasure most among his memories of her. Bobby’s grief and pain and loss in this episode, as well as his devastating hope and optimism that Karen was going to be alright, was absolutely heartbreaking. Jim Beaver’s performance was nothing short of phenomenal, and blew me away; the man is a fountain of talent and the show needs to utilize it more often. Glimpses like this are like getting suckerpunched, and you feel aching and breathless until the end of the ride.
I did find it interesting to note Dean’s hypocrisy, however; he was awfully eager to destroy Karen and deny Bobby having his wife back, but wasn’t he the one who resurrected Sam from the dead first? Likewise, he himself is reanimated meat, and several times other characters have asked or implied if ALL of Sam came back from the dead, if ALL of Dean came back from Hell. You’d think Dean of all people would’ve had a little more sympathy for the dead.
With the promise of a sixth season looming on the horizon, Supernatural has raised the stakes once more. The more the audience pants, chomping at the bit for more, the more the writers and cast hand it to us in spades; we have now seen the devastation wrought by three of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, met Michael and Lucifer both, and we are entering the endgame with breakneck speed. However, there are still so many loose ends left flapping and we can’t help but be curious when they’ll be addressed; will we see Jesse the Anti-Christ child again? Where is Gabriel and when will he come in? When will we encounter Raphael and the other archangels once more? And what’s the fourth Horseman got in store for us?
Well done, Supernatural. Way to come back from the hiatus with a bang. Or in the words of our hero Dean Winchester, “Another Horseman? Great. Must be Thursday.”