“The Impala, of course, has all the things other cars have… and a few things they don’t. But none of that stuff’s important. This is the stuff that’s important: the army man that Sam crammed in the ashtray – it’s still stuck there. The Legos that Dean shoved into the vents – to this day, heat comes on and they can hear ’em rattle. These are the things that make the car theirs – really theirs. Even when Dean rebuilt her from the ground up, he made sure all these little things stayed, ’cause it’s the blemishes that make her beautiful.“
-Chuck Surley, Swan Song
Over the course of 222 episodes, thousands of angels, demons, vampires, rugarous, wendigos and a couple Jefferson Starships have crossed paths with the Winchesters. Sam and Dean have gotten bloody and beaten, sent to heaven, hell, purgatory and even the set of Supernatural itself. Through all of this the one thing that has remained as constant and the unbreakable unbeatable bond of the brothers is their car, their ’67 Chevy Impala aka Baby. She is sewn into the very fabric of this show, as much a star as Jensen Ackles & Jared Padalecki. This car wasn’t just a meaningless prop thrown into the mix but as Kripke explains, “it’s a modern American Western — two gunslingers who ride into town, fight the bad guys, kiss the girl and ride out into the sunset again…if you’re going to have cowboys, they need a trusty horse.”
Even when all else was lost, no happy ending in sight, and no hope, the Impala was always there to bring the boys together. Sam and Dean left their childhood home when they were young and never returned. The Impala filled that void, providing them with shelter and protection from some of the world’s most harrowing monsters. They lived on the road growing up, hopping from motel to motel, never making lasting connections or settling down for good. This way of life never ceased, even after Sam attempted to leave it for Stanford. The boys continued driving across the country in the Impala saving people, hunting things: the family business (totally unashamed of that cheesiness).
The car was not just a piece of machinery but a tangible representation of Sam and Dean’s everlasting brotherhood. Beginning in the pilot we watched as the boys reunited, Sam reluctantly joining Dean in search of their missing Father. After a squabble in Sam’s dorm and an effortlessly portrayed spat between brothers (“When I told Dad I was scared of the thing in my closet, he gave me a .45!”), Sam hoped in the Impala with Dean. This was the first time we saw the brothers united: Dean driving, Sam in shotgun with miles and miles of road ahead of them. “You know we made a hell of a team back there” Dean said as Sam walked away from the Impala after their ghostly night with the Woman in White. The car never looked so empty and it never would again (RIP Jess) as the boys began their journey against all things that go bump in the night on the back of their noble steed, Baby.
Wednesday’s episode finally gave Baby the attention she deserved, telling the story from her perspective. It was one seriously claustrophobic episode as we the viewer squished into the Impala with the boys giving us an extremely clever and welcomed new take on the formulaic monster of the week we’ve seen for eleven years. Don’t get me wrong, I love the procedural-esque episodes we get each season, it’s just that a change of routine can be fun, and this episode proved that. The “Then” took us back to season five with Chuck Surley’s now iconic speech about the Impala or “ the most important object in pretty much the whole universe.” We were reminded of the significance and importance this car has had to the entire series in just the 30 second prologue.
With my heart already a flutter at the sight of Sam and Dean of years past, the episode opened to the three features of the Impala that are not just what make it special but reinforce the idea that this car is a home. The carved SW and DW, the army man in the ashtray, and the Legos in the vents are the Winchester’s version of hands stamped in concrete and toys sprawled across a play room. Instead of four walls and roof they had 4 doors and purring engine. If you weren’t convinced yet that the car was the Winchester’s true home (sorry MOL bunker), “Baby” gave us the equivalent of a 50 page dissertation on the matter. The episode showed us moments we have never seen before, which says a lot because we’ve had 222 hours of these. Truthfully I think if this were the first episode you had seen of Supernatural you would be a bit disappointed. “Baby” , much like “Fan Fiction” was the culmination of years of fan’s desire’s all thrown into one episode. The fandom has been dying to take a deeper look into the life of a Winchester. Hell, I think I speak for all them when I say we would be pleased with 42 minutes of the guys doing laundry or playing a couple rounds of poker. We have been craving these in-between moments for years. Loving these guys you can’t help but want more than just the action and angel/demon drama, but also a look into what happens in between the cuts and commercial breaks. Before we get into it, I must first applaud nay praise Robbie Thompson for his work on this episode. This may have been the most dialogue filled episode ever, which is what made it so fantastic.
Sam and Dean have made some serious declarations of (brotherly) love, hope, sins, and fears that have provided the characters with such depth and made them believable even in their haunted world. They were all such heartfelt confessions that revealed to us the inner workings of the Winchesters but as it turns out the simple conversations are what teach us the most about them. The hour delved into these simple moments; lingering on conversations in the Impala and showing us private moments where they were just dudes being dudes, brothers being brothers. The scene in particular that stood out was the one following Sam’s ominous dream featuring a young John Winchester (Matt Cohen!!). The brothers decided to forgo a night’s stay at a motel and instead sleep in the car. In the past we have seen one of them fall asleep as the other drove but never the both of them. There was a wonderful shot of this, the two nestled in the car side by side. It gave us a beautiful and honest illustration of this family (this visual really could accompany the dictionary definition of the Winchesters). It portrays their bond perfectly – we know as viewers that they are rarely apart from each other (when they are alive) but this emphasized this closeness, this dependency.
Please indulge me for a moment while I go all film-school-analysis on this single frame – not only does this shot illustrate their togetherness but also their divergence. To diverge is to move in different directions from a common point. Here we have the boys under the same roof and yet they are shown physically separated by the rows of the car’s interior. Throughout the series Sam and Dean have had many disagreements that led them astray and at violent odds and yet in the end they always end up together, side by side, as family. This shot tells their whole story – they are under the same roof, they are family and yet even under the same roof they are able to be separated. Honestly I could write a whole essay on this shot but I won’t…yet.
Anyways back to the scene and not just this single frame – Same wakes up startled and Dean hands him a beer “You were singing in your sleep…that song Mom loved.” With this they have one of the most honest and truthful conversations in 11 seasons. Once again, Thompson wrote this episode so well because it excelled in its simplicity. The conversation wasn’t an argument nor did it move the plot forward but it gave us what we have always wanted: candid drawn out dialogue that makes us feel like we are right along with them without being faded to black before things get real.
Sam looks nervous as he asks Dean about the Darkness but it is clear he’s really gearing up to confess something. “I think I’ve been having visions too lately.” This could not have been easy for Sam to admit that he’s having “visions” as his past experiences with them ended painfully for both he and Dean. For most of his life Sam has tried to prove his worth and in doing so has also needed to prove that he is normal or pure. It began with the demon blood being in him, then trying to rid himself of after being addicted, and finally the trials revealed to us what we suspected all along, that he never felt cleansed of his sins. This fear of being impure or a monster in the eyes of his big brother undoubtedly lingers to this day. Instead of reacting disappointed or angry as Sam probably feared he would, Dean merely nods as Sam opens up. This calm and understanding side of Dean is one we don’t often see but it is the part of him that exhibits his role not only as Sam’s older brother but also a maternal figure (yes, I mean maternal). Padalecki and Ackles give such a natural performances in this scene – both showing such deep emotion without the usual support of high intensity or heartbreak. Dean really listens to Sam, no judgement of any kind. Even when Sam finally confesses to being infected at the hospital, Dean doesn’t blow up as he has on many occasions prior to this but rather he is just concerned (even more so surprised by him saying he prayed).
Dean ends the conversation like any good parent would after a child comes to them in fear of something – he reassures Sam that everything will be fine and to go back to sleep. On top of this he returns honesty with honesty, admitting that he too dreams about their father, regularly even. Don’t even get me started on why Dean dreaming about John teaching him how to drive is so heartbreaking because this I could probably write an entire novel about. But I won’t (yet). What is most impressive and highly commendable for both the writer and actors is that this scene was 5 minutes of sheer dialogue. There was no action at all nor was there even a finite topic of conversation and yet the scene was so compelling and engaging that I personally never wanted it to end. But it did, and it ended on such a high note that I audibly “Awww” ‘d with their callback to season one with the now classic “Jerk…Bitch” line. Warmed my heart, just like the good old days! *In my head they ended it this way because the whole conversation was one big chick flick moment…
This scene was my favorite but the episode was jam packed with other memorable moments. We got to see another duet of the Brothers Winchester (this time it wasn’t full of painful subtext) as they unabashedly sang “Night Moves” with genuine happiness sprawled across their faces. As a heterosexual female, seeing Jensen and Jared sing with those million dollar smiles of theirs made, as the tumblr kids say, my ovaries explode. Sam and Dean also got lucky this episode which has become quite the rare occurrence. Sam had sex with a girl in the back seat! Anybody else want to high five him after that? The man finally got some well deserved lovin’! Atta boy! Also rest in peace Piper, I mean chances are she died shortly after, what with Sam’s peen of death. The episode returned to form, concluding with the boys driving off after a successful hunt, leaving viewers with the sound of Baby as it faded to black.
“Baby” was not only a welcomed change of pace but also a well needed reminder of not only the value of the Impala but also the unparalleled, indestructible bond between the brothers that we love almost as much they love each other, Sam and Dean Winchester.
Some Extra Thoughts: