Supernatural (opens in new tab) Season Eight Episode Seventeen “Goodbye Stranger” TV REVIEW(opens in new tab)
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Director: Thomas J Wright
THE ONE WHERE Sam, Dean, Castiel and Meg team up to track down the angel tablet before Crowley can get his claws on it.
VERDICT It’s been six episodes since Supernatural last tackled its hell-gate arc plot full on (8.10 “Torn And Frayed”, if you don’t count the angel-and-demon-less “Trial And Error” that is). In the meantime it introduced the Men of Letters – a secret society subplot interesting enough to almost make us forget about Crowley, Castiel and closing the gates of hell – but now that they’re back we’re starting to feel a little spoilt for compelling story lines this season.
It’s not just the familiar warring factions of heaven and hell that return in “Goodbye Stranger”, Meg makes a welcome comeback, and then a shocking exit as Crowley finally does what the brothers never could by shanking her with an angel blade. Supernatural isn’t short of superb side characters, but Meg has been a staple of the show since season one and boasts a relationship with the Winchesters that no other character can. As a demon turned good (sort of) she occupies a moral grey zone that leaves her actions completely unpredictable even after year’s of guest appearances, a refreshing quality for a character to have. And she’s funny. Of course, this being Supernatural there’s every chance she could come back, but for now Crowley has claimed his first major victim this season; while showrunners Jeremy Carver and Bob Singer have left another lasting mark on the show’s mythology.(opens in new tab)
Naomi almost forces Castiel’s hand into claiming an even more significant victim – Dean. It’s obvious from the opening moments that the horror movie pre-title sequence is a con, but that doesn’t make it any less devastating to watch. The camera pulling back to reveal a heap of dead Deans might be one of the most attention-grabbing moments in Superntural ’s impressively grisly history of attention-grabbing moments. When Cas and Dean finally do clash it’s even more nerve-wracking knowing what the brainwashed celestial terminator is capable of; the relief as Dean talks Cas down with a heartwarming injection of family spirit is powerful enough to reduce grown men to weeping wrecks.
The rest of the episode almost lives up to the highlights of its standout moments. Both Dean and Meg take brutal beatings (with the aid of some mighty impressive make-up effects), but it’s the fact that Cas can’t even heal Sam’s wounds that leaves the most quietly devastating impact. Unfortunately this moment highlights just how little Sam has to do this week; while the inevitability that, of course Cas isn’t going to kill Dean, means the episode can feel a little like it’s going through the motions until that moment is out of the way.
But even these are nitpicks in an otherwise superb slice of Supernatural , an episode which adds further credence to the idea that this is the show’s best season for many a year.(opens in new tab)
POP CULTURE OVERLOAD We’re all for a good pop culture reference, but this week feels completely saturated with them. Maximum Overdrive , Star Wars , It’s A Wonderful Life , The Lord Of The Rings , Rudy , Doc Holiday, Glengarry Glen Ross , Zero Dark Thirty , Indiana Jones and The Lion King all get a nod. Blimey.
“ Well he puts the ass in Cas, huh?”
SAM’S HANGDOG EXPRESSION OF THE WEEK(opens in new tab)
NITPICKS Why did Naomi use Dean, not Sam, for Castiel’s terminator training? How did she know Cas would have to confront Dean to get the angel tablet? And why did Crowley let the brothers leave in the Impala, it’s not like he couldn't have caught up with them.
PORN IN THE USA Busty Asian Beauties ’ predecessor was Voluptuous Asian Lovelies . Classy.
BLONDE AMBITION Anyone else think Meg looks much better with blonde hair?
SLASH META-FICTION Dean dubs Meg and Castiel “Megstiel” – a name which will be awfully familiar to anyone intimate with Supernatural fan fiction.
ALIAS… Special Agents Lynne and Tandy, a reference to Richard Tandy and Jeff Lynne who were members of ELO
FEATURED MUSIC " Goodbye Stranger (opens in new tab) " by Supertramp plays over the closing scenes, and also happens to be the name of this week’s episode.(opens in new tab)
FAMILY GUYS An unintentional reference given that it’s also part of a running gag, perhaps, but Sam and Dean shouting “Shut up Meg” could have come straight from Family Guy .
Meg: “I miss the simplicity — I was bad, you were good, life was easier. Now it’s all so messy. I’m kinda good, which sucks. You’re kind of bad, which is kind of all manner of hot. We survive this, I’m gonna order some pizza and we’re gonna move some furniture around. You understand?”
Read all our Supernatural Season Eight reviews so far here. (opens in new tab)