Shape shifting ex-boyfriends from hell.
After Dean finds a case in Madison, Wisconsin, he is ready to hit the road but Sam wants o bring Jack with them. Dean isn't happy about that idea but Sam convinces him to give the kid a chance. Surprisingly, it's Jack that needs the real convincing. After he heard Dean and Sam arguing last week, he confronts Sam on wanting to bring his mom back. Rather than spin a lie, Sam is honest with Jack about what he hopes might happen but also reassures Jack that he cares about him as well. With that settled, the three of them head out to investigate a killing where a man had been slain by his deceased wife. After asking around they believe that it may be a revenant but that theory is debunked after they find the body still in the grave. The next day, an older woman is found dead in her car after a vicious attack. The Winchesters discover that the one thing linking the two victims together is the therapist, Mia, they had both scene after the loss of their loved ones. After an impromptu therapy session where Sam reveals his true feeling about the relationship that he didn't get to have with their mother. While he takes a short break from the session, Sam spots a blood stain going up the stairs that leads him to the remains of a shifter shedding their skin. After confronting Mia, she claims that she has never killed anyone and can prove it. After her alibi checks out, Mia tells them that the only person that could have done this is her ex-boyfriend, shapeshifter Buddy. Buddy doesn't just kill people, he ruins their lives and in this case, he appears as their loved ones before murdering his victims. It's all a lot to swallow but the Winchesters have their work cut out for them.
Though it started slow, The Big Empty did a good job of getting the story going and maintaining the themes that have been at the core of the season. While Supernatural could have left the confrontation between Sam and Jack as a point of conflict and only resolved it at the end of the episode, The Big Empty took the surprising approach by making that one of the first things that the show dealt with. In doing so, the story was able to progress; unhindered by a tension that wasn't going to have a great deal of meaning anyways. Instead, it allowed the story to refocus on the question of whether or not a monster can be good. Jack continues to question his existence but he saw both sides of the coin in Mia and Buddy. One used her ability to help others while the other used it to destroy entirely. While The Big Empty kept the themes going in the season, that isn't saying that the episode didn't have its drawbacks.
I've been hesitant to write anything related to Castiel until we got the full picture but now that we have, I can't say I'm impressed. The idea of the void was an interesting one: something outside of heaven, hell, or purgatory that would allow the writers of this season to be a bit more creative in a new space. What we got was some poor effects that amounted to Misha Collins talking to himself throughout the episode with a slightly different speech. While Misha Collins is great as Castiel and Jimmy Novak, his portrayal of Lucifer and now the Big Empty, has been less than inspiring. Neither performance evokes a real reaction from the audience and I was just sitting there, waiting for something more exciting to happen but it never did. In the end, Castiel persistence was that he would annoy a cosmic entity until it set him free. Kind of the same idea as Doctor Strange but not entertaining or interesting in its execution.
Another highlight of The Big Empty is how it has given the audience a new dimension to Sam and Dean's relationship. Throughout the years we have seen them many ways but never before in a semi-parent relationship where each of them has their own ideas on how they should raise Jack. Sam sees a lot of himself in Jack and wants to be patient while Dean reverts to the ways of John Winchester and comes down with authority like a hammer. It all helps to make the relationship feel more dynamic and has a lot of room to grow. Depending on how it goes in next week's episode, Dean's kind moment with Jack where he told him that "He did good," may feel a bit rushed. It was a good moment but I hope that doesn't mean Dean is ready to trust so soon.
Overall, The Big Empty had an average plot but one that served the relationship story that is at the core of season thirteen. We'll see what happens when Castiel returns to the Winchesters in Advanced Thanatology.