“Dad wants us to pick up where he left off. Saving people, hunting things… the family business.” We haven’t heard that in ages. Yep, “Then” was grand fun, going all the way back season 1 and the pilot. Along the way we got the “money shots” of Dean saving Lucas in “Dead in the Water” and Sam saving the little girl in “Playthings”; the many and excellent iterations of John and Mary. And in case you ever forgot that Jeffery Dean Morgan was on this show, there he was. Sometimes we forget how long this show has been around, how it’s evolved over the years, and how enjoyable it’s been.
I tend to love shows based on time travel (the original Terminator remains one my all-time favorite movies) and Supernatural‘s time travel episodes have frequently been some of its best. “As Time Goes By” was no exception. Of course, what makes the time travel episodes so special is that they’re always about family. And family, as creator Eric Kripke said, is what this show is really about.
In 1958, a young man escapes to the future to avoid being killed by a particularly vicious demon in the form of a particularly beautiful woman. He tumbles out of a motel room closet to Dean and Sam’s feet, searching for John Winchester. The ensuing tests for demonic and other possession confirm he’s not supernatural. His name is Henry Winchester. And he is John Winchester’s father.
Henry was about to undergo his initiation as a “Man of Letters” when the demon, Abbadon, struck. One of the elders entrusted Henry with a small box, telling him to keep it away from Abbadon; but Henry doesn’t know what the box signifies. “Men of Letters,” Henry explains, are chroniclers of all things supernatural,. It’s a legacy which Henry was to pass on to John.
Unfortunately, Abbadon follows Henry to 2013. Dean stabs her with Ruby’s demon-killing knife, but it doesn’t kill her. This is because Abbadon is one of the “Knights of Hell,” a first order demon, hand-picked by Lucifer, more pure and powerful than “ordinary” demons.
Sam and Dean help Henry track down his “Men of Letters” friends. Through a series of vaguish clues (and a little grave digging), we learn that one of the elders survived, although he was blinded. He tells Sam the box holds the key to the “supernatural mother-lode,” every object, spell, scroll collected for 1000 years housed under one roof. To prevent Abbadon from getting the key, he gives Sam a set of coordinates, and tells him to take the key there and throw it in. This place is the safest place on earth,protected by a series of spells and impervious to any entry except the key.
Unfortunately, Abbadon is there, in the form of the guy’s wife. She knocks out Sam and kills the old man. She then instructs Dean to bring Henry and the box to her, and she’ll trade them for Sam.
When Henry learns that John thinks he abandoned him, he tries to return to 1958. But Dean interferes with all that “you can’t change the course of history” stuff. When that doesn’t convince Henry, Dean forcibly subdues Henry.
So Henry and the box are given to Abbadon in exchange for Sam. But wait! The box in Henry’s pocket is not THE box, it’s a box of playing cards. And Henry isn’t really handcuffed. Although Abbadon fatally wounds Henry, he’s able to shoot her through her jaw. Of course, it doesn’t kill her, but she can’t move. You see, Henry carved a Devil’s Trap on the tip of the bullet. We learn in a flashback that Henry agrees to the swap, saying if he can get close to Abbadon, he can slow her down, even though he knows she’ll likely kill him. But, he says, that’s what you do for blood. Thus proving, that Henry is indeed a Winchester.
Dean beheads the trapped Abbadon, which still doesn’t kill her, but he promises to cut her body up and bury the pieces in cement.
Henry dies in the arms of his grandsons, telling them that he can tell by the way John raised Sam and Dean, he would have been proud of his son. And even if the brothers are apish hunters and not Men of Letters, they are Winchesters.
This is the second time the show has given us a twisty turn of history. After believing that Mary was an innocent victim for three years, we learned that supernatural hunting actually came from her side of the family. She longed for a normal life, so she never told John of her past. John became obsessed with the supernatural after Mary was killed, never knowing it was also part of his heritage, too.
It would have been nice for John to have had some closure with his father, to learn that Henry hadn’t abandoned him, but had actually died “in the line of duty.” But such is the way of life. We don’t always get to have our lives wrapped up neatly, with no questions and no regrets.
Ok, now I’m really sad.