I always perk up a little on Winchester Wednesday when I know it’s an Edlund episode, and Wednesday night did not let me down. Ben Edlund episodes are always so much fun, with just the right amount of terror and history mixed in. Sam and Dean discover the Men of Letters’ Batcave, and with it a new enemy: The Thule Society, a Nazi founded group that uses the occult to fight its battles. They also discover the Judah initiative, the Jewish equivalent of the scholarly Men of Letters, and must save its last surviving member and his Golem (yup, his giant made from magic clay) from extinction at the hands of some Nazi necromancers.
I’ve always said that one of my favorite aspects of this show is that when they reference the history and myths of the occult, they always get it so very right. There’s of course an element of dramatic license, but it never ever comes across as “hey, I heard about this Thule society once in a class 15 years ago, let’s make up some crap about that.” So many other procedural crime dramas (and if we’re going to get right down to it, “Supernatural” would technically fall in that as its most basic genre category) misrepresent the occult and modern practitioners of “alternative” religions that it raises the hair on the back of my neck, and Supernatural can be a great conversation starter that doesn’t rely on decades old rumors and misquoted legends.
We all have episodes that we skip on DVD sets, and we all have episodes that we go to when we want to introduce someone new to the show; this episode falls somewhere in between. A true delight for long time fans, but maybe not the best place to start a new viewer? Everything we love about each character was in full flight, like Dean nerding out over a scimitar while Sam pours over leather-bound texts (that probably smelled amaaaazing) and ledgers. I especially loved Sam’s silent epiphany towards the end of the hour – when he realized his place in the family legacy. Here is a man who has never felt (or wanted to feel) like he belonged in this hunter’s life; he felt for a good part of his life that he was responsible for his mother’s death, he ‘s part demon, he’s not like other hunters in that he wants a quiet life of study based action, not gun or stake based. And he’s found it. Sam finally has a Winchester legacy that is for him, and it fits like a glove.
A couple minor issues did arise, although none of them with the storytelling. The camera work was great, especially during the scenes in the stacks at the library. It’s an old trick to have a villain revealed in a brief glimpse among parallel scenery, but dammit it’s always effective and fun. I loved it’s use this time, but my complaint comes with the inconsistency of the size of the Golem. In the teaser, he’s twice the size of men but the perspective wasn’t maintained through the episode, and in a couple of shots Sam was just a few inches shy of being eye level with the giant. We know he’s a moose, but he ain’t that big. John De Santis is 6’9″, just a few inches taller than Jared Padalecki. No matter, in his stand alone scenes de Santis was formidable. You might recognize him as Solomon Grundy from “Smallvile” or the Juggernaut from “13 Ghosts,” but astute “Supernatural” viewers will recognize him as the Norman Bates-y Freeman Daggett from the episode “Ghostfacers” (side bar, another Edlund episode!).
This show is so good at letting the angst creep in slowly on the viewer. The ending leaves us with Sam and Dean cozy in their Batcave, listening to a phonograph of “Sunny Side of the Street,” but upon reflection you realize that the show’s theme of two against the world remains the actual resolution. All that’s left of the Judah Initiative is a lapsed Jew and his Golem, while the Thule Society remains amassed in secret all over the world. Oh, the feels.