Shape shifting, grave robbing, ghoul cowboys. Oh my!
Much to Sam and Dean's disbelief, Castiel has returned. Unlike the last time their winged friend returned from the dead, he remembers everything; even how he annoyed a cosmic being into resurrecting him. As much as they are surprised to see their dear friend back, they know that Jack will be more stunned than they were. Jack immediately embraces Castiel after they meet. Jack also has some good news of his own as he may have found a case. A few people have had their jewelry stolen from their graves which are now empty. This could mean that either the dead are rising...or it could be grave robber. Whichever it is, it happened in Dodge City, Kansas and Dean is more than happy to give the case a shot because the city is known for cowboys. After setting up at the local motel, Jack and Castiel try to do a bit of catching but their time is cut short after a local deputy is found dead. The next day, Dean and Castiel investigate the scene and learn that the victim was the nephew of Sergeant Phillips, who intends to find the killer one way or another. Elsewhere, Sam and Jack are checking out the local mortuary where the graves were found empty. It's run by Athena Lopez but after they ask her a few questions, they learn that she doesn't know anything as she was out the night that the graves were robbed. The two of them search one of the empty graves and find a bone with bite marks, meaning that they are hunting a ghoul and not zombies. Whereas zombies are mindless and only eat the flesh of the living, ghouls are able to take on the form of the ones they have killed as well. With a bit more digging, Jack finds a missing truck connected to one of the victims using the traffic camera system that clearly shows the driver. Without missing a beat, Dean knows that the ghoul is Dave Mather: a bonafide outlaw and gunslinger. The four of them will have to stop this corpse eating, outlaw cowboy ghoul before anyone else gets hurt.
While it had its moments, Tombstone failed to find the balance between the heartfelt moments and the hunt for the cowboy ghoul. To begin, the episode started on a somber note as Sam and Dean were reunited with Castiel once again. It was good to see the three of them back together again and just as well when they brought him to Jack. From here, the tone quickly shifted by the need to insert a hunt into the story as Jack now knows how to use the internet by watching Dean. The quick shift undercut the meeting very abruptly and felt forced. From there, it was Dean that provided the much needed upbeat attitude after the return of Castiel. Between Dean's enthusiasm for westerns and the hunt itself, the opportunity was barely there to explore the relationship between Jack and Castiel before Jack was being sent back to the bunker after accidentally killing the security guard. If the story had the Winchesters killing the ghoul at this point, the focus would have been much tighter and not divided between Jack and Dean's hunt.
Speaking of the hunt, all of the interesting parts of the shape shifting cowboy ghoul was an underutilized monster in terms of what it did and what it could do. For starters, the monster was a ghoul to tie it to one of the pictures that just happened to be on the wall in the very room that Sam and Dean were staying in. That, and how the ghoul didn't shift into any of its victims when it knew there were hunters after it just compounded how little sense that made. Why wouldn't it have killed someone else and then just taken their form? Also, whenever it was hunting someone, the ghoul demonstrated an incredible speed and ferocity that it never displayed when it fought Dean and the others. Instead it resorted to guns. To make things worse, Sergeant Phillips was given a relationship to a victim but it didn't have any real significance to him as a character. He got revenge and that was it. Meaning that we met the character in an angry state and left him in a less angry state which isn't much of an arc for a character. If we had seen him working with his nephew before he died to establish that relationship (even for a minute), it would have done a lot.
Without question, the highlight of Tombstone were the scenes between Jack and Castiel. The two of them are extra dimensional beings that have a father-son relationship but have just met one another for the first time. The scene where they talked about Jack's mother in the middle of the night was needed and it will only further pay off as the season progresses. It's too bad that Jack decided to suddenly run away at the end of Tombstone but we need to understand that Jack is still a child, one that got sent home after hurting another kid on the playground except in his case, someone died. While honesty was the way to go, Jack still felt it was better to cut and run rather than confront his guilt in a mature way.
Tombstone had a lot going for it but there was really too much going on for the story between Jack and Castiel to come through. Hopefully we can see more of what it means for Castiel to be a father in next week's War of the Worlds when the three of them try to find their missing boy.