“Drag Me Away (From You)” takes us back to the days of young Winchester motel stays, an ever elusive John always there (but slightly off screen). Perhaps this was meant as a bit of nostalgia right before the end, reminding us of Dean and Sam’s childhood dynamic — Dean’s basically Sam’s father and Sam totes around ideas of college and another life. It’s all familiar ground, and nothing we haven’t heard before, complete with messy and contrived themes of secrets, childhood fears, and ethical questions.
The premise is a tough sell – Sam and Dean’s childhood friend, Travis, dies at the Rooster Motel, where a young Travis, Caitlin, Sam, and Dean dealt with a ghost problem once upon a time. Fifteen seasons and multiple trips to different planes of existence and dimensions later, it’s hard to believe the brothers have kept close with a random childhood friend who isn’t in the hunting life. Regardless, here we are. Caitlin, Travis’ sister, believes the ghost Dean killed years before is still haunting the motel.
Flashbacks gives us new iterations of a young Sam (Christian Michael Cooper) and Dean (Paxton Singleton) in 1993. This appears to be shortly after the season 11 flashback in “Just My Imagination,” during which Sam’s imaginary friend Sully first plants the college seed in Sam’s head. The two had a rough goodbye when Sam slammed the door in Sully’s face to join John and Dean on a hunt in Milwaukee, no longer needing a friend to vent to. However, in “Drag Me Away (From You),” Sam’s carrying around a college directory book, a nice nod to Sully’s influence, even if Sam believed he had made him up. Still, Sam’s desire to go to college and Dean’s exasperation toward it is well documented at this point, and feels unnecessarily reiterated here. But again, this feels more like a nostalgia trip than anything, especially since this is probably the last time we see the necklace Sam gave Dean when they were young.
The young versions of Sam, Dean, Travis, and Caitlin investigate the haunting. There’s an interesting bit where Sam and Travis are left behind at the motel, playing Boggle, and mysteriously start writing death threats on their pieces of paper. Dean and Caitlin explore a warehouse trying to find other missing kids. Dean discovers the bodies, but saves Caitlin from having to experience the discovery. Dean keeps the bodies secret, and in present day, tells Sam and Caitlin that he had found the kids when they were young, but didn’t want them to have to deal with the trauma. It’s a great grounding moment for Dean, and Paxton Singleton carries that emotional weight really well. But this sets up the emotional fallout in the end, and it doesn’t carry through very well.
At the end of “Gimme Shelter,” Cas told Dean that Jack’s going to die when he kills Chuck and Amara. Dean keeps this secret from Sam, and throughout “Drag Me Away (From You),” Cas and Billie continuously ask Dean when he’s going to tell Sam. After Dean reveals to Sam and Caitlin the truth about the body discoveries when they were young, he apologizes to Sam for keeping that from him, and Sam forgives him, saying no apology is necessary. Hilariously, he also says “We used to keep secrets from each other all the time,” and it’s like, not a subtle set up (at all).
The payoff then is a very transparent we-need-Sam-and-Dean-to-be-in-an-argument-to-make-the-end-more-emotionally-wrought. Dean tells Sam about Jack, Sam is rightfully angry, and Dean’s reasoning for keeping it from him is regressive as hell. This is some of their exchange on the drive home:
Dean: “Because I knew you couldn’t handle it. You didn’t trust Billie’s plan, and then when we found out about Amara, you started second guessing, you raised all these ethical questions!”
Sam: “I shouldn’t?! Jack’s going to kill himself and I should just shut up about it?”
Dean: “Yes! This is how we end Chuck. This is the only way we’ll ever be free. So I’m sorry, Sam, you don’t get a choice, we don’t get a choice.”
Sam: “Ohh, we?”
It’s just another version of the same argument the brothers have been having for 15 years. Dean’s very rigid in the plan, but Sam wants to find another way. Those “ethical questions” Sam raised about the plan to kill Amara were literally just, “hey, are you sure we want to look this all powerful being in the eye and lie to her and set her up for her death?” subtext — being that this same all powerful being stepped down from her plan to destroy the world and also resurrected their mother.
It’s also strange that Dean’s so angry about his life being controlled by Chuck that he’s blindly following Billie’s plan, another all powerful being who could very well have her own motives. And then there’s the Jack of it all. Despite the roads Dean and Jack’s relationship has taken, this just feels like he’s falling back on his original idea of wanting Jack dead. It’s just now Dean is sad about it. It feels very contrived. Sure, having Sam and Dean be in an argument four episodes before the end is fine, but you’d think it would at least be about something new.
At some point during all this, Billie comes to Dean to say it’s go time on killing Chuck, at least once they finish this hunt, it is. The hunt itself resolves pretty easily, which is a shame, since it could very well be the last hunt we see now that it’s Apocalypse Now time. The Baba Yaga hardly feels well explored — she takes on the common child-eating lore, but it’s pretty surface-level stuff. The hallucinations she brings to everyone are never properly explained and the cool death notes Sam and Travis write are left hanging.
Four episodes left. Team Free Will better rally soon.
Some Wayward Thoughts:
Don’t know why I didn’t see it coming, but that vending machine scare was really well done.
The kid who plays young Travis is really great. He played a cute little ghost child in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
The kid monster fighting squad in the flashback is kind of cool, though it does raise some questions for me on Dean and Sam’s childhood timeline. Dean is 14 here, while Sam is 10, but I don’t think Sam goes on his first hunt until he’s 14.
Dean does try to reason with Billie about Jack dying, but he seems to take it when Billie explains that that’s Jack’s only path to forgiveness, but ya’ll. C’mon. I’m tired of death being the only option. There’s no forgiveness in it. It is vastly superior storytelling when your character actually works to earn forgiveness, not martyr themselves instead.
We really have not had a screaming Impala argument to end an episode in a long while, so yay nostalgia, I guess.
“C’mon, let’s Boggle.”