“Regarding Dean” only works because of Jensen Ackles. For a show that’s seen its characters fight vampires and imaginary friends, a character being hexed into losing their memory feels pretty tame. The family of witches that do the hexing aren’t particularly interesting, and neither is much of the story surrounding them. The plot isn’t what’s important here (well it is, but it isn’t, ya know?). It’s Dean.
The episode starts in a forest — one guy, bleeding and stumbling, is being chased by Dean Winchester. Dean gets him cornered but before he can get a shot off, the guy has already engraved some sort of sigil on a tree and curses Dean. The effects aren’t quickly apparent. Dean wakes up in the forest, which sits on the edge of a park, borrows a park-goers phone to call Sam, and then gets some waffles. Because that’s what you do when you wake up in a sketchy place with no recollection of how you got there. You go for waffles. It’s at the waffle diner where Dean’s memory lapses become noticeable — he doesn’t remember the girl he supposedly spent the night with, nor does he recall what the “devil baby mama drama” is that’s currently at the center of the Winchester’s life. Since this is Dean we’re talking about, Sam and Dean chalk those lapses up to “an epic night.” Things don’t get serious until Dean forgets his name.
From there, the episode lets the case take center stage. Since it’s witches they’re dealing with, Sam calls Rowena for some guidance. Of course, she agrees, but as Sam reminds us, altruism isn’t Rowena’s style. There’s something in this for her. That something is another big dark magic spell book that belongs to the family that cursed Dean. I don’t think this particular book had a fancy name like the Book of the Damned did, but even though Rowena doesn’t end up with it in the end, who’s to say that book isn’t going to come back into play later down the line? Regardless, with Rowena’s help, Sam and Dean are able to track down the family and Rowena performs a spell to fix Dean. It’s not a super clever plot, and the conclusion is a bit mundane. Sam somehow gets tied up to a chair again, but he kind of deserves it after thinking his plan of asking the witches to recite the spell for him to fix Dean was going to work. Buddy, come on. That’s not how this works.
So, excusing the “meh” story here, what really makes the episode is Dean/Jensen Ackles. Though I feel like we could have gotten a bit more out of the memory loss premise, what we did get was a fun jaunt away from the main story of the season. There are the inevitable funny moments — Dean’s reaction to the supernatural world (“That’s awesome!”) and to Cas (“Our best friend’s an angel!”). Then, of course, there are the heartbreaking moments. The eye-level shot of Dean reciting his name and who Sam and Cas are is especially hard to watch when he starts stumbling over the simplest of truths. But whether the memory loss is being played for laughs or for tears, Jensen Ackles delivers on all levels. It helps that he’s been playing Dean Winchester for 12 seasons now, and clearly understands how Dean would react in any situation. The episode does attempt to dig at some sort of theme here, with Sam saying it was nice to see Dean more care free with out all the burdens of the past. Dean agrees to a point, but reminds Sam it wasn’t just the burdens he forgot, but everything. It doesn’t go much deeper than that, but hey, this is also the show that made Dean talk to dogs once.
Mary returns next week, and with her, the British Men of Letters.
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.