Last night, Supernatural went back to basics with a Halloween-themed episode, “Mint Condition,” that showed off the qualities that keep fans coming back season after season (after season… after season). The stripped-down story had a ghost, a heap of sly horror humor, and some undercover Winchester action. There’s no B plot. There’s no twist. It’s really just a basic haunting that has Dean super stoked and Sam less-than-enthused — the kind of thing that used to be the show’s bread and butter. So let’s pause the “where’s Michael” drama and enjoy the fun, shall we?
Dean’s in a funk because there are too many people at the Bunker, and has locked himself in his room with pizza and a schlocky 80s horror movie marathon — complete with believable-yet-fake horror movies, shot faithfully and featuring a Jason knockoff named David Yaeger, a.k.a. “Hatchet Man.” Sam doesn’t get the appeal, because he hates Halloween (“Our life is a scary movie,” he says correctly), for reasons that will become apparently later. For now, Sam decides to lure his brother out with the promise of a really good case: a haunted Panthro doll that went HAM on some comic book geek. No, really:
And that’s just how the episode starts! It all goes uphill from there, as the boys dress up as (HOT) nerdy insurance salesmen to investigate. The victim, Stuart, worked at a comic book store run by his friends, which sounds pretty great! Unfortunately, he also had a habit of stealing the merchandise, like that fancy Panthro figurine. The boys follow up on a video Stuart posted online, describing the attack — but when they go to talk to him, Stuart claims he was lying about all of it (probably because he was getting dunked on HARD by Redditors). And look — Supernatural is not known for subtlety. Like Sam’s pocket protector or Dean’s chunky nerd glasses, the show likes to really hammer home its themes, which is why Stuart makes a big deal about playing “Fortnite” and dumping his weird Wicca girlfriend before they could MIRL (“Meet In Real Life”). GET IT? HE’S A HUGE GEEK. But it doesn’t take long for Stuart to get attacked again, and when Dean goes to investigate Stuart’s man-cave he also gets attacked… by a flying chainsaw! Which gets stuck in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre poster, natch.
(Keep an eye on the props in this episode as there are some good in-jokes, like that very visible House of Wax remake poster…)
From there, it’s all pretty much a slam-dunk case. Their trusty EMF reader goes nuts, indicating that they’re dealing with a ghost. Dean stays with Stuart at the hospital, while Sam goes to the comic store to talk to the new co-owner, Samantha. Turns out she inherited the store from the original owner, Jordan — a guy that took his store very seriously, and had fired Stuart a few times in the past. But he’s been cremated, so there’s no body to burn! Whatever shall they do? And it’s about this time that Jordan’s ghost hops into the giant life-size “Hatchet Man” statue that’s been in the shop the whole time, completing every expectation I had as a viewer from the moment Dean geeked out over it.
Sam and Samantha get locked in the store, while Dean fanboys out about the fact that THE DAVID YAEGER (not really) is coming to the hospital to finish off Stuart. And while Sam preps a lunchbox bomb to free them, like Lucifer’s Little Boyscout…
… an 80s synth soundtrack welcomes Hatchet Man to the hospital, as scenes from his film are basically re-enacted (to Dean’s delight).
And though Dean seems like he’ll have the upper hand against the fake slasher monster, given his years of demon-slaying and Apocalypse-thwarting, I guess his ghost-fighting skills are kinda rusty. He starts out absolutely wailing on the haunted statue, but it doesn’t take long before Hatchet Man gets Dean in a hatchety choke hold. Luckily, quick-thinking Samantha has figured out what the item Jordan has haunted: the shop keys! So she and Sam burn them, which burns Jordan’s ghost and turns Hatchet Man into a normal collector’s item again.
The happy ending gets even happier as the Winchesters drive home, because Dean finally gets Sam to reveal just what it is about Halloween that upsets him so much. Turns out it dates back to traumatizing incident from 6th grade, when Wee Sammy had a crush on a girl named Andrea and was excited to get an invite to her Halloween party… only for his nerves to affect his tummy, causing him to puke all over Andrea and the apple-bobbing bucket. And do you know what Dean loves more than fighting Hatchet Man? THIS STORY. But it inspires him to try and redeem the holiday for Sam in the future — by promising that next year they’ll dress up in matching costumes like Rocky and Bullwinkle (Crowley would be so proud of Moose and Squirrel!) or Thelma and Louise.
Make it happen, show. Make. It. Happen.
And finally, a Very Important Beard Update: Sam shaved, to Dean’s delight! Though Dean says his face looks smooth like a “dolphin’s belly,” which has forever altered how I’ll look at Padalecki moving forward.
Header Image Source: CW