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Yo-ho, yo-ho, the hunter’s life for me. . .

If there’s been an underlying theme to the Supernatural episodes of the New Year it’s this: if you’re a hunter, then you live and die as a hunter. You can’t escape the life, and you can’t survive it by wallowing in the misery that it creates.

“At Death’s Door” left us with the cliffhanger of whether or not Bobby chose to go with the Reaper, and “Adventures in Babysitting” seemed to point to Bobby having made his final departure. However, early on, there was a possible hint of things being not quite settled when Dean discovered that his beer was empty, with neither Sam nor himself having consumed it. One can only hope that this will eventually point to something else. While not having Bobby around leaves a gaping wound not easily healed, it makes the Leviathan threat even more potent.

The Leviathans are an odd “big-bad.” Their end game is unknown. We don’t have a sense of what the Winchesters are fighting against or how they can even possibly win. While it was unclear how they were going to fight Lucifer and Michael to stop the apocalypse, it was an easier mythology to grasp. Leviathans are simply an unknown quantity, which can be frustrating for viewers. Yet as an evil, they are made more potent by the loss of almost all allies for the Winchester brothers. Previous enemies have been fought with the assistance of their father, Bobby, Ash, Ellen and Jo, and of course Castiel. This season finds the Winchesters weakened. We might not know exactly what threat is posed, but we have two characters now stripped of everything they’ve relied upon. No identities, no father figures, no mentors, no angel to bail them out. Plus, as we’re reminded in almost every episode by its absence, no Impala. Every action seems futile — it’s a darkness that the Winchesters have never really had to experience.

Yet not all hope is lost. As we see in “Adventures” and “Time after Time after Time,” there are relatively new friends that remain, for now. Frank serves as a new, not as fatherly, much more paranoid, fount of information — one who even teaches Dean computer tricks that render Sam jealous. Thanks to her loyalty to Bobby, Sheriff Jody Mills also shows up, not only to give the boys a case, but also to offer a helping hand when things go awry. Are they as significant as Bobby and Castiel? Of course not. But they are tiny sources of light in a life that is now very, very dark for the Winchesters.

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It would have been very easy to spend the first episode post-Bobby focused solely on vengeance, which is actually what I thought they might do. Of course this comes into play — Dean is consumed with taking down Dick Roman and discovering what the numbers that Bobby inscribed on Sam’s hand mean for the Leviathan quest. So much so that in “Time” he lies to Sam, pretending to be watching anime porn when he’s really researching Roman’s life. Yet this shifts slightly when presented with a secondary job — a missing hunter. In any other episode this would just be another case of the week, but, given all that has just happened with Bobby, it serves to highlight the fragile life of the hunter and the children that are raised in that lifestyle. For reasons intimately tied to their own pasts and compounded by the recent loss of their own father figure, Sam and Dean want to help Krissy, the young daughter of the missing hunter. Sam wants to save her the pain of losing her father, while Dean hopes that she’ll escape the life, finding an outlet like Sam originally did. Yet, in the end, it’s Krissy who saves them all — eagerly and happily. When you’re born into the life, it’s hard to escape the pull of that life.

Frank serves two purposes in this episode. Firstly, he discovers that Bobby’s numbers are coordinates that point to a parcel in Wisconsin (“a field, not the Death Star”) recently purchased by a subsidiary of Dick Roman’s company. Furthermore, it’s a field surrounded by Roman’s surveillance equipment, which Frank can tap in to, of course. Secondly, he gives Dean some advice. “Quit.” Of course Dean’s not going to quit and he scoffs at the idea of leaving his brother. So Frank tells him to do what he did:  “Decide to be fine till the end of the week. Make yourself smile because you’re alive and that’s your job. And then do it again the next week.” “So fake it,” Dean replies. “I call it being professional. Do it right, with a smile, or don’t do it.”  Though watching Dean try to smile at the end of the episode was both painful and slightly creepy.

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“Time After Time After Time” (one hell of a second 2012 episode) continues to push the idea that it’s time for Dean to leave his melancholy behind and accept who and what he is. It just happens that this advice comes from Eliot Ness. (Was anyone else mightily excited to see Nicholas Lea? I miss Alex Krycek. Also, Lea and Duchovny clearly both take the same anti-aging serum.)

Thanks to a tip from Jody Mills, Sam and Dean start chasing down a monster who leaves behind drained, mummified corpses, only to find out, once Dean gets transported back to 1944, that they’ve been fighting Chronos, the God of Time (played by Jason Dohring — oh how I miss Logan Echolls).

Overall it was a solid episode, marred only by a terrible acting job by a bit player who took his role as “medicated” witness a bit too far — someone needed to reign in that community theater overacting. Also, it would have been great to have more time with Lea and Dohring, solid guest stars who were great when they were onscreen but simply weren’t onscreen enough.

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The scenes in 1944 were entertaining, especially watching Dean interacting with hero Eliot Ness. Anachronistic language and clothing, plus Ness as a straight-man foil, was a great distraction from both the Leviathans and Bobby’s death. And Dean looks mighty fine in a tailored suit. But the episode still brought back the hunting theme, as the salient moment from 1944 is the conversation between Ness and Dean while they’re on a stakeout outside a diner where Chronos’s hangs out.

Dean, waxing morose about how the hunting life has lost meaning since everyone keeps dying, is confronted with Ness’s forthright and unsympathetic response.

“Boo-hoo, cry me a river you nancy. Tell me, are all hunters as soft as you in the future? Everybody loses everybody and then boom, one day your number is up, but at least you’re making a difference. So enjoy it while it lasts kid cause hunting is the only clarity you’re gonna find in this life, and that makes you luckier than most.”

The other significant moment occurs at the end of the episode, as Chronos is dying. In his final throes he looks at Sam and Dean and prophecies what’s to come.

“Wanna know your future? I know your future. It’s covered in thick black ooze. It’s everywhere. They’re everywhere. Enjoy oblivion.”

Mission, purpose, re-dedication to the hunting life? Hopefully sorted.

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Favorite moment:

Dean: “Awesome.”
Ness: “How does that fill you with awe?”