“The Scorpion and the Frog” is miles ahead of any episode so far in season thirteen. It’s genuinely funny, producing laughs the likes of which I haven’t felt since Dean freaked out over a cat. Its premise is a nice change of pace as it does away with the monster-of-the-week formula when Sam and Dean bargain with a crossroads demon for information on finding Jack. It’s a heist episode that pokes a little fun at the genre, and it ends on a somewhat hopeful note, a more refreshing conclusion than what’s happened in a while. The episode is pure classic Supernatural.
Bart, the crossroads demon who took over for Crowley, steals a nephilim tracking spell from a British museum. Originally working for Asmodeus, Bart instead goes to the Winchesters with the spell and tells them they can have it to find Jack if they do one little heist job for him. After meeting Bart’s cohorts — a human safe cracker named Smash and a demon named Grab — Bart tells them the target is Luther Shrike, a human, but a serial killer and all around unpleasant sort of fellow. The job is to get a mahogany chest hidden in a safe behind a door that can only be opened by someone who’s been to hell. Enter Dean. While Sam distracts Shrike with the potential sale of the demon killing knife — Shrike is a collector of rare supernatural artifacts — Smash, Dean, and Grab look for the safe.
Splitting Sam and Dean up for a short time is a great way to let the brothers shine individually. Of course we know Sam is intellectually smart and enjoys the research side of things, so to see him get to show that side of himself is nice. Plus, Sam wouldn’t be Sam if he didn’t correct the serial killer on what a basilisk fang looked like and then geeked out over the serial killer’s collection. He does get knocked out at the end of this scene, and he wouldn’t be Sam if it ended any other way. In Sam’s defense, it’s not his fault that Bart failed to mention Shrike is immortal when he’s standing on his property, so Sam stabbing him with the demon knife was ineffective.
Dean’s emotional journey so far this season has been depressing, probably because Dean has been depressed, although the show doesn’t use that terminology. Since Cas’ return though, Dean’s had a lighter touch to his step, and it definitely shows here when he’s with Smash and Grab. Though breaking into a serial killer’s house to steal something is serious enough, this whole part is played mostly for laughs, from the music to the idea of Dean being a homing beacon for the safe. Dean and the pinprick is by far the funniest thing I’ve seen on this show in awhile, and reminded me of how well Jensen Ackles can do physical comedy.
It’s not just Dean’s attitude that is better this episode, but the episode itself is more lighthearted. It’s perfectly serious when it wants to be, but it also knows when to not take itself too seriously. Case in point, the booby trapped hallway to get to the safe is a scene we’ve seen in every Indiana Jones film and recent heist stories or police procedurals. After some contemplation from Sam and Dean on how to figure out the right steps to take in order to avoid the poison arrows, Sam comes up with a plan. A plan at first that seems to be an elaborate deduction of which stones to step on, but really ends up being pushing a tied up Shrike through the hallway and using him as a shield for the arrows, since Shrike can’t die anyway. It pokes fun at the genre and keeps things from being overly dramatic.
Though the brothers only end up with one half of the spell they need to track down Jack, they end things on a hopeful note. They’ll find Jack. All they need to do is keep working.
This Week’s Wayward Thoughts:
- Smash and Grab. I laughed way too hard at this.
- “Don’t get dead.”
- “This is on you, hand puppet.”
- Grab was a pretty decent demon, in that he wasn’t one of Crowley’s corporate demons. He seemed like he actually had character to him. It’s too bad he’s dead. I could have watched a few more episodes of Smash and Grab smashing and grabbing.
- Speaking of Smash, real name Alice. Because it’s Supernatural, I feared she wouldn’t live to the end of the episode. But she had a genuine story, if somewhat vague. She’s a good one-off character, but I wouldn’t mind if she returned down the road. Although, could someone make a compilation video of all the times an episode ends with Sam and Dean saying goodbye to a female character they saved at a bus station? That scene has happened way too many times.
- Sam’s been to hell, so I’m not sure why Dean was the only option to open the door.
- It wasn’t until the end of the episode that it occurred to me the brothers did not seem at all concerned about the whereabouts of Cas. I know Asmodeus tricked them with the phone call last week, but they usually have a clue when something’s up.
Next week, Mary returns in the midseason finale, “The Bad Place.” Yes, it’s that time of year again. Questions, comments, concerns can be left in the comment section below. Carry on.
Supernatural airs Thursdays 8/7 c on The CW.