When a mysterious stranger almost falls in their lap from the motel closet looking for John Winchester, the boys have a few questions of their own. Unfortunately, the answers will have to wait because their mysterious guest didn't come alone.
In Normal, Illinois in the year 1958, a young man says goodnight to his son. Before leaving, his son notices the pin on his tie and the man promises to tell him everything when he is older. As he arrives downtown he uses a code to enter a building where there are men in robes waiting to begin his final initiation. He greets his friend Josie and just as he starts to put on his robe, he hears screams from the next room. Josie is killing everyone and reveals herself to be the possessed by the demon Abaddon. Taking a box from his dying friend, the young man runs from Josie into a room and casts a spell when suddenly he springs out of Sam and Dean's motel closet. Sam and Dean quickly confront him but the time for pleasantries is short lived when Abaddon arrives. The Winchesters and the stranger barely make it out alive and when they learn why he is looking for their dad; his name is Henry Winchester and he is their grandfather. As it turns out, Henry never left John as a child but was stuck travelling through time to the present. In another startling revelation, Henry was a part of an order called the Men of Letters who were tasked with finding and keeping knowledge of all things supernatural who then gave instruction to elite hunters. John, Sam and Dean were meant to be Men of Letters but everything changed when Henry jumped through time. With Josie still after the mysterious box, will the three Winchesters choose to stop her in the present or change history forever?
Seemingly out of nowhere, As Time Goes By turned out to be a great episode with a few shortcomings involving the lore of the series. While several episodes had previously dealt with time travel and family history, we had never seen the history of the Winchesters before. As opposed to their mother's side of the family, the Winchester legacy was surprisingly refined as was the future that the boys may or may not have had. The Men of Letters also added another layer of history to Supernatural that was both refreshing and entirely unexpected.
Though the Men of Letters were an excellent addition to the mythology of Supernatural, the knights of hell didn't have the same affect. Having a new title was an easy answer for preventing their demon knife from killing Abaddon and that felt lazy considering it had previously killed most of the seven deadly sins in the season three opener. It would have been far more affective if several Men of Letters, including Josie, had been possessed while searching for the box. Having finally been within arm's reach, the one remaining Man of Letter could have given the box to Henry before he was killed, followed by Henry's time travel. Henry and the boys could have then been hunted by the three, or more, knights of hell and killed a few on the way to the final scene. This would have all worked well and kept the story on its path without compromising the mythology that the series has established over the years. Also, it's understandable that the Men of Letters considered themselves superior but it was surprising that Henry couldn't acknowledge that the hunters still fought against evil wherever they encountered it. For all of their wisdom, it was a strong prejudice held within a small community.
Lastly, I couldn't review this episode without talking more about Henry Winchester. Played by Gil McKinney (of LA Noire fame), Henry Winchester was a drastic departure from previous family members Sam and Dean have encountered as he was cultured while fighting against evil. McKinney took to the character exceptionally well and even more, gave the behaviours and mannerisms makes the character that much more believable. Henry could have been a great temporary addition to the cast even to show the Winchester what could have been. At least we know that while Mary Winchester's family may have been the hunters, John's family was not as far off as it seemed.
As Time Goes By proved to be another great episode from Supernatural this season regardless of its liberties with the mythology of the series. We'll see if the Winchesters encounter another blast from the past in next week's Everyone Hates Hitler.