So. It’s been a while since I’ve written a Supernatural review. There are a few reasons for that. One is that finding time to do, well, anything is tough as a stay-at-home mom of a small baby. This is literally the third time I’ve tried to sit down and write this. Let’s hope it works. The second reason is that after the last episode I reviewed, Supernatural did something really dumb: they killed Charlie Bradbury. Maybe if her final episode had been better written or executed it wouldn’t be so bad, but Charlie was an avatar for the Supernatural fandom – she was queer and smart and nerdy, just like us – and her death set of a powder keg of frustration that left a once relatively happy fandom a smoldering ruin. Now, as a storyteller, I get what the writers were going for with her exit, but as a fan it was tough. And it was even tougher to be in fandom. Losing Charlie cast a pall over the rest of season ten – which I actually thought was really good – and sapped my will to write about the show. Thank goodness then for “Don’t You Forget About Me,” or as the fandom called it “Wayward Daughters.” It was an episode that made me happy as a fangirl, and as a fan mom.
Writen by Nancy Won, a great new addition to the writer’s room this season, “Don’t You Forget About Me” saw Sam and Dean called in to help with a hunt by Claire Novak (Kathryn Love Newton) who had been sent to live with Sheriff Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) and Alex (Katherine Ramdeen), another teen who was pretty much raised by vampires and who Jody also adopted. On its face it was a monster-of-the-week episode that took a nice break from the relentless threat of the Darkness, but to the fans it represented the culmination of months of lobbying for a spin off with Jody and her wayward girls that started the moment Claire was sent off to live with Jody last spring. Finally seeing these ladies together on screen was a triumph in and of itself, but the fact it was a wonderful episode was heaven. (Like, metaphorical. Not Supernatural’s version full of winged dickbags).
The entire episode was wonderfully shot, written and acted but the highlight by far was the family dinner with Jody trying to teach Alex and Claire some good lessons about safe sex while Sam and Dean looked on in horror. It was a perfect scene, not just because it was hilariously awkward but it showcased who every single character was. We saw Jody’s toughness contrasted with her exasperation. We saw the different ways Claire and Alex were affected by their past and how they related to Jody and each other. And we saw Sam and Dean rapturously wolfing down food because they never had family dinners (feels!), as well as hilariously sipping wine when the conversation got a bit too awkward. As I said: perfection.
Though this wasn’t an official back door pilot, it had all the ingredients of one. It had the tragic backstory that Supernatural tried to fit into the failed “Bloodlines” without contrived the conflict or clunky world building. More importantly it had a winning cast. Ramdeen and Newton have the same kind of sibling chemistry as Ackles and Padalecki, where a look can convey volumes. The heart of the episode however was Rhodes as Jody, whose compassion and bravery in the face of horror held her family together. Family has always been at the core of what Supernatural is about, and that’s the key ingredient here that could make this show a perfect successor to the Winchester legacy. The Wayward Daughters are survivors – not just because they all lived through the episode – but because their past makes them stronger, and their family gives them something to fight for.