Hot on the heels of me saying that Supernatural felt like it got its mojo back comes Unforgiven, which is probably the worst episode of the series since season one, and likely just the worst of the series period. It’s a mess structurally, it’s a bore as a story and it features a terrible, shitty monster.
Now that Sam’s soul is back he wants to investigate what he did while soulless. Dean, repeating Death’s warning, continues to urge Sam not to revisit the past. Then a mysterious text message arrives on Sam’s phone with only coordinates - which point to a town in Rhode Island where, in a cold open flashback soulless Sam beat the hell out of a local cop.
The episode then winds its way through a halfhearted investigation of a series of murders - all brunette women - intercut with black and white flashbacks to Sam’s original visit to the town. He came with Grandpa Samuel, and the two did the usual hunter schtick of pretending to be FBI agents and all that. But at the end of their investigation they left town with the sheriff missing and the aforementioned cop in traction. The problem is that Sam doesn’t remember any of this, although everybody else in town does.
The structure is really a mess, and all of the flashback stuff feels like it keeps coming a scene too late. The central mystery is super lame as well - it turns out that Sam and Samuel were on the heels of a spider-monster… who just happens to look like a regular person with random latex on her face and contact lenses. While they killed the beast they miscalculated what it was doing with its victims; it wasn’t feeding, it was turning them into her own kind. In the modern day the missing sheriff shows up as a spider monster - again, with just dabs of latex on his face and contact lenses - and reveals that the text was from him, and he had been committing murders to get Sam’s attention. Seems all the ladies who died were women who banged soulless Sam while he was on the hunt.
There are elements that are intriguing, especially some of the soulless Sam stuff. But all of that is too late - we already saw how ruthless he was, so short of having him actually murder innocents in the flashback it’s all a retread. On top of that the flashbacks are poorly placed; they should be adding tension to the next modern day scene, giving us a foreshadowing of what is happening now. Instead they’re mostly expository bullshit.
Most of the episode has Sam and Dean separated in a generic town talking to generic characters about an incredibly generic mystery. And worst of all, we finally get an actual monster and it’s the worst make-up I’ve possibly ever seen. There wasn’t even an effort to make the thing spidery looking, except for a contact lens that adds an extra pupil. Scary. The monsters look like burn victims more than anything else.
The episode is tedious, and is just a build up to the last scene, where Sam goes into a spastic state and recalls his time in Hell. I like the idea of Monster of the Week episodes reappearing after a couple of seasons where MOW and mythology episodes were almost indistinguishable, but they have to be better put together than this boring, confused piece of crap.
The Lore: One thing I’ll give season six of Supernatural is that it isn’t dilly-dallying. At the end of the episode Sam has a sudden flashback to his time in Hell. I thought for sure we were going to have much more ‘scratching at the wall’ before that happened. Of course the big crack in the wall hasn’t occurred, and if I were a betting man I’d wager that it happens right around the final confrontation with The Mother Of All.
Meanwhile we get a little bit extra Samuel, but the only reason he’s here seems to be for continuity purposes; ie, Sam wasn’t hunting with Dean this time last year. Instead of getting a peek into the mind or reasoning of Samuel we actually see him being a bit more reasonable than Sam. I would have liked to have the character pop up here with some plot motivation behind him - or at least have something to do other than growl his way through expository scenes.