Supernatural 7.03 "The Girl Next Door" Review

A tv review article by: Paul Brian McCoy

Sam abandons Dean to investigate a case from his childhood that he thought he had solved: a demon that kills criminals and eats their brains.

Supernatural airs Friday nights at 9:00 on the CW.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed with how the cliffhanger from last week was resolved. If you remember, Sam (Jared Padalecki) was unconscious with a concussion (Oy! More head trauma!) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) had a broken leg. The brothers Winchester were in an ambulance on their way to Leviathan General Hospital and things were looking very bleak.

Well, don't worry. That threat is effectively bypassed by a quick rescue by an extremely dapper, and not dead at all, Bobby (Jim Beaver), who slips the boys out the back door just as Dr. Sexy Leviathan (Cameron Bancroft) and henchmen realize the boys are even in the hospital. You know, after they've been checked in, fixed up, and safely ensconced in hospital rooms for hours.

All this is within the first few minutes of the show, so any hospital horror is skipped, which I suppose can be excused. It's not like they haven't repeatedly beat that angle to death (just last week was the latest reworking, in fact). So not only does this episode break that intense pattern of opening and closing I mentioned last time, dropping us into a more traditionally paced and structured episode, it provides a pretty solid motivation for the Leviathan's stepped up hunt for the Winchesters.

Seems their brief time in Cas' head was long enough to reveal all of their Rock N Roll aliases, so when Lemmy Kilmister buys supplies and a newspaper at a convenience store in Montana, Leviathan is alerted and trouble is on the way.

But more about that later.

This episode is written by Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin, who are responsible for some very strong past episodes, including one of my favorites, "Weekend at Bobby's" (6.04), and directed by Dean himself, Jensen Ackles. As usual in these situations where one of the show's stars steps behind the camera, the director's character isn't the central focus of the episode. And as usual when we have a strong writing presence, we get a nicely character-driven episode.

Structurally, "The Girl Next Door" jumps back and forth between Sam in the present day and Sam as a child (Colin Ford) as he revisits an incident from his youth. You see, the reason that Sam has always been a little more lenient toward monsters is because his first kiss was with one. Okay, okay. It's also because the cute little girl monster he kissed, saved his life by killing her own mother.

There's some nice bonding over the fact that neither Amy (Emma Grabinsky) nor Sam feel comfortable with their respective families, and it provides some effective insight into Sam's psyche to this day. All those years ago, Sam let Amy escape, but now, years later, a series of killings point to Amy going on the hunt just like her mother did before. So while Dean is in a morphine haze, Sam sneaks off to take care of his loose end.

In a double-whammy of sci-fi geekiness, grown-up Amy is played by Jewel Staite of Firefly and Serenity and she's running around using Amy Pond as her assumed name. Touches like that are why I love this show.

The real crux of the episode lies in the conflict that Sam faces when confronted with the reasons behind Amy's sudden murderous inclinations. She's been living for years as a mortician, which allows her access to the brains of the already deceased, keeping herself from starving to death without actually hunting and killing anyone. But when her son gets sick, fresh brains are the only thing that will save him.

So she plans on hunting low-lifes and criminals until he's better.

And Sam, while troubled, is okay with that.

Unfortunately, Dean is not.

And that's the problem that really establishes itself as something Supernatural will be dealing with for the majority of the season. Dean doesn't trust Sam's judgment anymore, what with him being insane and seeing visions of Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino).

That's not something new for Supernatural fans, of course.

A season where Dean doesn't doubt Sam's intentions is a rarity (has that ever happened?), but this time, Dean goes behind Sam's back and murders Amy. And in a remarkably dickish move (and one echoing a nice moment from Kill Bill, Volume One), he leaves her son alive, the only witness, vowing revenge.

It's not entirely rational and pushes Dean's character over into a much darker place than he's been for a while. But it works emotionally. Especially since it's starting to look like it's not Sam's mental problems that will become the focus of the season, but Dean's.

Oh, and what about that Leviathan threat I mentioned earlier?

After the hospital escape, it seems Sam and Dean are Leviathan Target Number One, and they have subordinates tasked specifically to watch for them. In the final moments of the show, the subordinate who spotted credit card usage shows up at the convenience store and, in a suitably creepy moment, murders the cashier by pouring boiling cheese over his head. And then he eats him.

Even Leviathans love the artery-clogging goodness of molten cheese.

So while this episode didn't really push the obvious main story forward very much, it provided a very insightful and well-structured look into Sam's past. And hell, naming your monster Amy Pond knocks it up half a bullet, regardless of the rest of the episode's quality.

But seriously, this was another solid episode that is going to have repercussions later on in the season. Dean can't keep acting this way. He's heading for a serious breakdown if things don't change. And if the previews for next week are any indication, he's going to have his head done in even worse before it gets better.

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