Supernatural S11E03 “The Bad Seed” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on E4 on Wednesdays at 10pm
Writers: Brad Buckner & Eugenie Ross-Leming
Director: Jensen Ackles
Essential Plot Points:
- Rowena’s trying to entice a few witches into her new coven: The Mega Coven. Better than the Grand Coven, because it’s Mega. Get it? But Rowena gets distracted trying to sell the idea of her most Mega of Covens when it’s revealed that the bane of her life (and also son) Crowley is still alive.
- As Sam, Dean and Cas talk all things The Darkness – including using Metatron of all people to find her – Cas is still struggling from the effects of Rowena’s attack dog spell. Sam and Dean are trying to locate her so she can lift it, but no luck yet, so in the meantime they’ve been forced to chain Cas up in case he snaps. But hey, at least they’ve given him a blanket!
- At Crowley’s hideout, Amara is getting a tailored education on human history through Hitler’s speeches and natural disasters, and ends up having a through-the-mirror chat with her older self about how God created it all for his own ego. Ouch.
- Not one to be deterred, Rowena’s out at a restaurant recruiting again. It looks like she’s in, right up ’til a demon comes outta nowhere and murders one of her recruits. Before it can get the jump on Rowena, she saunters out, piling a wall of tables and chairs behind her as she goes.
- The attack dog spell’s hold on Cas is getting deeper, causing him to have a seizure and collapse to the floor. Luckily he has the Winchesters there to provide care and a blanket! Plus, they catch wind of the restaurant incident, finally giving them a lead on Rowena and hope for their friend.
- Agents Winchester and Winchester interrogate the surviving witch. She does a good job of playing the fool, but Sam and Dean see right through her and get her to use a scrying spell to locate Rowena.
- Turns out that Amara has a taste for demon souls as well as human. Crowley looks rightfully worried at this new revelation, but gets down to sacrificing a few demons in the name of keeping a primal force happy.
- Donned in a glamorous blonde wig, Rowena attempts to get the hell out in a taxi. But the driver is none other than Dean Winchester, in a fetching Hawaiian shirt to boot! Not that their disguises do either of them any good. Rowena attacks, but Dean has something she doesn’t – Sam. He locks her up in witch-proof cuffs, and they whisk her away to the Bunker.
- Cas is making himself useful whilst he’s all locked up in the form of research. But mid-investigation he has another episode, and things take a turn for the worse. When Sam and Dean get back with Rowena, he’s disappeared from the Bunker.
- Finding Cas and getting Rowena to rid him of her spell becomes their top priority. When Dean eventually finds him, he’s about to choke an innocent girl to death. Dean stops him, which only means that he becomes Cas’s target.
- Before Cas can deal any dire damage, Sam and Rowena show up, and Rowena reluctantly casts the counter-spell before escaping. She’s making a habit of it this episode!
- After a few days of devouring all the demon souls Crowley can throw at her, Amara’s had yet another growth spurt, and guess what? She’s hungry.
It’s not often that the tag-team of Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming knock an episode out of the park like this! More often than not their episodes fall short, with questionable characterisation and uneven pacing. A few choice examples would be S1E13, “Route 666” (aka, “the racist truck episode”), S9E03, “I’m No Angel” (Cas’s experience as a human is boiled down to eating toothpaste and having questionable sex) and S10E21, “Dark Dynasty” (Charlie’s death. Need we say more?). With that in mind, it’s so refreshing to see something as quality as “The Bad Seed” penned by them! It doesn’t hurt that Jensen Ackles is the man on the director’s chair this time ‘round.
There’s a whole lot of plot going on this episode, and a whole lot of it revolving around Queen of the Mega Coven, Rowena. The Winchesters need her to cure Cas, and Crowley just wants her dead. Not that Rowena cares; she’s all about doing her own thing, which in this case is creating a Coven to rule them all. Ruth Connell is such a joy to watch as she struts her heeled stuff that it’s impossible not to fall in love with her character all over again. Her portrayal of Rowena’s grating positivity in the face of the Winchester’s anger is a particular stand-out moment. “Shall we have a wee sing-song?!”
Team Free Will aren’t having such an enjoyable time of it; once again they’re up against insurmountable odds, and once again one of their number is suffering badly. But for once, they’re actually together to fight through it as a proper team. Recently it’s been weirdly rare for the entirety of Team Free Will to be in an episode as a unit, so “The Bad Seed” already gets points for that. Plus points for having the Winchesters actually caring for Cas! The blanket Dean drapes over Cas’s shoulders (igniting many-a fanfic in the process) may not serve a particular purpose but damn, it’s satisfying to see considering he’s normally getting beaten bloody, kicked out of the Bunker… you name it. Cas fans rejoice!
It all comes to a head at the crux of the episode, where Cas and Dean have yet another “this isn’t you”-themed beat-down. Season eight did it first with “Goodbye Stranger”’s infamous crypt scene, where Dean had to break Cas free of Naomi’s mind-control or die trying. More recently, the Mark Of Cain’s control over Dean lead him to come within inches of killing his best friend. Now we’ve come full circle as Cas on mind control tosses Dean effortlessly into walls. Get it together, guys. Sit down, talk about it…! Still, Dean doesn’t give up, and he’s there for Cas when he comes around, calling his name and cradling his face. (Move over, blanket. You don’t have a thing on pure chemistry.) Dean even refuses to let a mortified Cas heal his wounds – as he says, “He had it coming.”
One thing that really stands out this episode is the script. There are a few eyebrow-raising moments, sure, but in general Buckner and Lemming throw out a quote a minute and it’s pretty glorious to watch. Although a majority of the greatest moments belong to, “I’ve always been a giver” Rowena, every character gets their moment, from Cas’s assertion of the day’s date being “several billion years from the beginning” to Crowley reassuring a lackey that “Amara wants to eat everyone, don’t take it personally.”
But it’s not just the quips; there’s also decent introspection from Amara as she muses over the pure insignificance of good and evil to, ahem, “Uncle” Crowley. There’s a real feel for just how old this little girl really is as she mocks Gods creation. “We are mightier than God”, her older self tells her through the looking glass, and it’s not difficult to believe. We’re looking forward to seeing her become the force of nature she’s meant to be, not just researching them.
We could go on, but overall it’s safe to say that with “The Bad Seed”, the quality of season 11 has jumped up a notch. There are some questionable moments, which we’ll cover in “The Bad” section below, but – and especially for a Buckner/Lemming episode – this is an extremely solid, enjoyable episode.
Next week: The Impala stars in an out-of-the-ordinary episode where everything is filmed from her perspective!
- The script for the most part is excellent, with a whole host of quotable and memorable moments.
- Jensen Ackles once again proves that he’s not just great in front of the camera, but behind it too. Especially considering he had to direct himself!
- Rowena steals the show entirely, from her enthusiasm for her Mega Coven to her blonde wig to her dramatic exits. Swoon!
- Team Free Will working together and caring for each other – particularly in regards to Cas. It’s far too rare nowadays!
- Sam and Dean’s interrogation of the witch – particularly Dean’s winning wink-and-smile, and the sleight of hand involved in tossing the witch’s bag from one Winchester to another. Blink and you’ll miss it, but it’s impressive!
- Dean refusing to accept Cas’s angelic healing powers is a powerful moment; considering he gave Cas an almighty beat down last season for nothing more than trying to help, he did have it coming, and it’s good that he recognises that rather than ignoring it.
- Amara really feels like something older than time, with her introspection on humanity and God. Crowley sums it up nicely when he calls her a “primal force” and “cupcake” in the same speech.
- The bar meet-up between the angel and the demon, whilst completely out of the blue, is a nice touch.
- The hilarious outfit choices that are Dean’s Hawaiian shirt and straw hat and Crowley’s strange obsession with putting demons in aprons.
- What on earth was that Fortune Nookie thing all about?
- If there’s one character the Buckner/Lemming team never quite gel with, it’s Cas, and this episode is no exception. He has some cringe worthy lines, like his strange tomato salsa analogy.
- Speaking of Cas, why did he lock on to that random girl in the street? That was glossed over.
- This is the fifth episode that Jensen has directed.
- “Big One” by Louden Swain, Rob Benedict’s (aka Chuck Shurley) real life band is featured in this episode.
- We’re not sure if it’s intentional or not, but there are three moments that could definitely have been inspired by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s hilarious novel Good Omens. (Which SPN creator Eric Kripke has said was one of the inspirations for the pilot.) The angel and demon dissing their respective sides is very reminiscent of Aziraphale and Crowley in the book (there’s a Crowley in the book too); the witch who wrote the Book Of The Damned was called “Agnes”; and Amara is getting an evil education from various nannies. Co-incidence or not, it’s a nice touch!
Review by Jessica Anson