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After its thoroughly underwhelming return to our screens last week, Supernatural had a fair bit of work to do with “Time After Time After Time”, perhaps even more so than usual with the long-awaited return of its time-slot competitor Fringe. I usually spend the first paragraph trying to lightly unsheathe the machete I’m about to put into the stomach of whatever given show if it has been a bad week, but this episode doesn’t even deserve that. Before I go any further, I’ll clarify that “Time After Time After Time” was actually a very small improvement over last week’s outing (if you ignore everything about it), but as the standalone spectacle it was trying to be, it failed almost uniformly.
The premise was fairly simple, the brothers catch wind of a hunt as is par for the course - this particular case being thrown to them by Sheriff Mills in a nice use of a semi-recurring character - and in the process Dean gets transported to 1944 while trying to save what appeared to be an employment and housing challenged gentleman from death. Having not known what it was that they were hunting at the time, both Sam and Dean - now in separate eras - continue the hunt, with the aim of bringing Dean back and also killing what it is they’re after. Believe it or not, despite what you’d imagine would be the semi-serious nature of the plot, the episode played itself largely as a comedy; its first major downfall.
Most of the humor fell to Dean, as Jensen Ackles has consistently proven that he’s a better actor than Jared Padalecki, and while he did the best that he could, it was just stupid. At this point, Sera Gamble and the writers of the show know that they can do just about anything with the story as long as they fill some of the screen time with horribly cheesy jokes or close-ups of the brothers looking at each other and their audience retention will be 100%. In this case, what we got was lots of fish-out-of-water gags as Dean tried to assimilate to the 40’s, getting himself new clothes and even the opportunity to partner with Eliot Ness (so ensued several “I watched The Untouchables and that’s what you’re like” jokes).
Despite it not actually being at all funny, my main issue with the humorous approach to the episode was that we are at most a few weeks out from last week’s mope-fest in Supernatural universe time and yet both Sam and Dean seem to have perked up massively. Yes, people turn it around in the wake of the death of a loved one, but they leaned so heavily on how awful it was that Bobby was dead last week only to have Dean be as giddy as a school girl the next. The change is to such an extent that it post facto makes last week’s episode even worse. My issues with that aside, the story itself had quite a few problems and was probably the next biggest flaw.
Most of the problems revolve around the theme that the things that happened just didn’t make any sense. It’s a given that Supernatural requires a fair suspension of disbelief, but in general the show has managed to keep the basics fairly consistent. How then, Eliot Ness manages to show up and instantly free Dean from an interrogation room during World War II, after the men that arrested him for wielding a gun in public had already pointed out that they suspected him of being a spy is beyond me. Espionage is a big deal, it was maybe even bigger back then, and he just walks out like nothing has even happened.
Next in the big line of stupid: both Sam and Dean’s revelations that the thing they’re hunting is Chronos - the God of time - come from a ring that he wears on his finger displaying a symbol known as the infinite hourglass (essentially it’s an hourglass that resembles the infinity symbol slightly more than a usual hourglass would). Now I accept that it isn’t exactly common knowledge that the concept of infinite numbers and the symbol associated with them were developed a long, long time from each other, but the God himself would know that. He would have been around essentially forever, yet his giveaway piece of jewelry is a ring sporting a 350 year old symbol, not something that was much older and indicative of the God at the height of his popularity? These kinds of things do happen in Supernatural on occasion but this one in particular made me laugh.
There are many more flaws but perhaps the most glaringly obvious one involved the resolution to the time travel crux. I’ll leave you to watch for yourself for the specifics, but the time 11:34 is a particularly integral part of how Sam plans to get Dean home. Sam performs a spell to summon Chronos, with the idea being that Dean would come with him because the two were touching at the time, in the spell however, there is no specification of which 11:34 they’re talking about. Furthermore, they completely guess that Chronos and Dean were touching at the specified time and the event that allows them to know this specific time is completely paradoxical in nature as well. All of this stupidity is compounded by the fact that Sam and Sheriff Mills rush to complete the spell despite the fact that they are under no time constraint whatsoever, as the past event they’re influencing has already happened.
I was so appalled at how poorly the time travel was handled in this episode that I actually went to the effort of finding out the writer’s name: a man by the name of Robbie Thompson if you’re interested. Robbie, please quit your job! I cannot write television myself, I could not do it any better, but I’d think you’d at least read your own script before turning it in just to see how stupid it is. While it was average at best, I urge you all to watch “Time After Time After Time” just to get as frustrated as I am right now so I know I’m not the only one out there with the urge to just sit and make incoherent noises after what I've just witnessed. As an hour of television it still worked and will have undoubtedly played fairly well for anyone not really paying attention, but as far as fails go, if you were slightly more on the ball, these were some of the biggest you'll see.