Supernatural Review 8.12 - "As Time Goes By"
Posted by Joseph Lee on 01.31.2013
Sam and Dean meet their grandfather. No, the other one.
The Road So Far: Sam and Dean met up with Charlie Bradbury while investigating some bizarre deaths. A fairy was involved and the end of the episode had Dean quoting Braveheart. It was a fun episode, but not heavy on the story.
Season Eight, Episode 12: As Time Goes By Directed By: Serge Ladouceur Written By: Adam Glass
It's been a while since we've had a story about John Winchester. Since he's dead, they sort of just forgot about him and haven't really brought him up since Season 5. Now we get an episode devoted to his father, who as it turns out is also a hunter (sort of). There are bits about this that I don't like, but for the most part this is a very good episode. Let's take a look.
We start out in 1955, as Henry Winchester is confronted with a very powerful demon named Abbadon and is forced to travel forward in time to the next in the bloodline in order to protect a mysterious box. That's when he lands (literally) in Sam and Dean's motel room and the story truly begins. Apparently, John always thought his father abandoned him, and now we see why. Time travel always creates problems.
One plot point that is revealed here is that Henry is part of a secret society that collects information about the supernatural world before passing it on to a select few hunters, who they mostly see as the lower-class. I realize that as a show gets older it needs to expand its mythology, but I'm not sure I buy the fact that the Winchesters have hunter (or hunter-esque) grandparents on both sides and somehow John never knew about that world. I mean, yes, technically it could have happened, but it seems a bit contrived. On top of that, we already did the "secret life of grandparents" thing with the Campbell side, so it's also repetitive.
However, this is the the only thing I didn't like about this episode. Sure, it's a significant plot point and part of what defines Henry's character, but it still led to a really good watch and some good story progression. Dean was back in full "must save Sammy" mode, they learned more about their father and potentially came across a very, very useful tool that I think will be very important later. It was able to tell a good, important story without the need of guest stars, angels or really the mytharc.
There has been a common complaint that Sam and Dean are overshadowed when a guest star is present. I tend to think this complaint is overblown, even if it does happen occasionally ("Bitten" being the worst example). This one is an example of how to properly use a guest star, and it's on someone that probably could have done more and got no complaints. Sam and Dean are the superiors here to their grandfather, who is a fish out of water and doesn't have as much experience in certain things as they do. At the same time, he does teach them some things that will probably be useful later (like a really neat trick with a bullet).
I also loved Abbadon as a villain. I think she could easily fit in with the seasons 1-4 demons, even though she's technically more powerful than them. Without spoiling anything, I also think she could come back at some point, particularly if Crowley learns of her existance. In fact, I think she will, because it makes sense. The only way out of Supernatural is death, and even then that might not be enough.
While I had some problems with some of the expansion of the story, overall this was a very good episode. It felt very much like a season 3-5 episode. It had a strong villain, decent guest character, emotional weight and even the trademark humor that we expect. I can ignore certain problems if they lead to good television, which is what this was.
The 411: Personal problems with the story aside, As Time Goes By is a very strong episodes that feels reminiscent of earlier seasons. Episodes like this show there is still gas in the tank for this show when it comes to telling good stories, and that keeps me on board as a fan.