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The Winchesters is back from winter hiatus and, well, it was better than I thought it would be.  This was clearly one of the better episodes of the season.  Having said that, it still didn’t pack the “wow” factor I was looking for.  After all, with some high profile guest appearances, the expectations were a little higher.  But hey, there were a lot of positives to work with here. 

Let’s start with the good stuff.  The return of The Trickster.  This is all pre-Gabriel-the-archangel stuff, when he was just an aimless trickster running amok everywhere.  Sure Gabriel may or may not have been in there, or perhaps he isn’t there in this universe, but if he is at this point Gabe was there for the fun.  It was classic Trickster (think “Tall Tales”) and it was a joy to see.  I loved every second of seeing Richard in those retro leisure suits, multi-colored shirts, and those hats!  He had such a pimp vibe and I loved it.  It goes to show what a strong, fun villain is like. 

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The biggest problem with the whole Trickster arc was I didn’t get the trick.  The whole lore that was given to us was a bit confusing.  He’s, um, setting people on fire?  Innocent people?  Where’s the just desserts in that?  Does he have something against this community of traveling musicians in particular?  The whole plot was a head scratcher, and the whole mirror thing has to be a trick.  If Gabe was there, he wouldn’t allow himself to get captured so easily.  I think he’s hanging out for a reason.  So possibly more to come on that, if there’s time. 

The other thing I loved, Tom Welling!  He did add some sorely needed substance to the acting.  I so wish he was in the original Supernatural.  He would have done well in scenes with Jared and Jensen.  Fine, it was more than just Tom (and my blind love of him).  The characterization of Samuel was dead on.  Samuel as we know is a bit of a hard ass and he was in character here.  I know, I’ve seen comparisons to Tom and Mitch Pileggi, but I’m not going there.  Of course we are going to have affinity for a role with the original actor.  I think Tom played Samuel very well and his chemistry with the other cast members was great, especially Meg. 

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Samuel is certainly conflicted, isn’t he?  He’s a devoted hunter, was forced into the life by his father, and feels huge regret for doing the same to his daughter.  He’s clearly spooked by what happened to Maggie and the thought of that happening to Mary is haunting him.  He was so desperate to find a way out of all this for Mary that he chased a pipe dream of finding a device that kills all monsters, but he instead found the Akrida, which is so much worse!  Still, he saw how well his daughter is doing as a hunter, and the really great team that she has behind her.  As Carlos said, they’re not just friends, they’re family.  That kind of loyalty is hard to find! 

Leaving her to carry on the hunting business while he chases the Akrida is a nice show of confidence, but at the same time, he’s not doing much to help her with the desire to get out of the life.  But all signs are pointing to her not being able to do that anyway.  She’d be letting all the others down, who are very on board with the life.  I just wish she would give up the talk going forward.  It’s gotten old an stale.  We get it.  But, it’s still a nice parallel to Sam in season one.  He wouldn’t stop talking about leaving until season two, when he finally accepted his fate.  The problem is, Supernatural had 22 episodes in season one and a season two to tell that story (not to mention a 15 year series!).  The time frame here is considerably shorter!  Precious time can’t be wasted on this. 

Ooh, Mole Man?  A bit bitter there Samuel?  What a thing to say to someone that's healing you!  I suppose the comment is also in character for Samuel, so kudos for that as well.  I did love the chemistry between him and Millie.  Again, just like Millie and Ada, it’s nice to see the adults in the room have good conversations.  Millie wasn’t phased by Samuel’s initial insults, but I guess when you’re a female mechanic, you’ve been around the block a bit.  Her reminder that her “Mole Man” saved John and Mary was pretty sweet.  I like how she wants to take on repairing mystery box, but she’s going to need some extra help, someone a little more familiar with the supernatural tricks of the trade.  Which brings me to…

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You know, the so called “mind-blowing” reveal at the end wasn’t all that mind-blowing to me.  I was saying on day one that Dean was the one who gave John the letter.  So what’s he up to?  Hasn’t that been our speculation all season?  He changed history so now this isn’t the story it used to be.  It still doesn’t help us much with the whole, “Is he time-traveling from Heaven?”  Or, “Is this alternate universe?”  I also know the outrage that Sam isn’t in the picture, but that was never part of the plan from what we know so I’m not crying foul. 

Let’s get to the heart of this week’s story though, which was Carlos.  He has been through quite a journey in this young life!  So many pursuits and interests in his free wheeling life, but hunting has always gotten in the way.  It’s sad, yet very noble too.  It echos the whole idea that hunters get into the life somehow, often whether they want to or not.  It also hinted that Carlos wasn’t the only traveling musician that was aware of the supernatural.  Why else would the musician that was killed early in the episode have those sigils for protection?  I’m not surprised at all that the way to thwart the trick was an act of self sacrifice, which Carlos did without question.  It goes to show that when push comes to shove, he puts all other lives above his own.  That is a person you want on your team.  Getting to hear their gorgeous singing voice was icing on the cake!  All and all, another strong character moment for Carlos, which is fun that considering that he never made it into Supernatural history.  He falls in the unsung hero category, like so many other hunters.   

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Of course those bar scenes gave us another fun nugget, Louden Swain played the backing band!  Those were some pretty awesome 1970’s wigs they found those guys.  It was very appropriate to have Louden Swain there with Richard since they are staples for every Supernatural Creation convention.  These guys are like brothers.  To get all of them together in a few scenes is a dream that never came true in Supernatural.  I’m not the only one that saw Rob Benedict on the keys behind Carlos and thought, “Hey dude, that’s God playing in your band!” 

Since we’re on the shoutout train, how funny is it that Carlos’ former musician partner was named Jericho?  That’s a shoutout to Richard Speight Jr.’s other TV show, which ran from 2006-2008. 

When you look past the guest appearances and fun little fan nuggets, all in all this was a decent episode, but not a “wow” factor for me.  Many of the inherit weaknesses in the show are still there.  Lata is still finding answers way too easily.  Too much focus is still on these characters embracing their “hunting” life and no real action.  While I’m really glad we didn’t get to actually see any bug like Akrida creatures this week, the fact that Samuel is going off to handle them himself and leaving the Scooby gang to their current adventures makes me wonder what is actually going to happen in the remaining five episodes.  A lot needs to happen to push this story along!  It’s dragging, and unfortunately I’m not totally sold on the character stories being the basis for this show. 

The case in point, the “epic” love story of John and Mary Winchester.  Those two danced around the idea of being a couple in two scenes and I felt nothing in both of them.  Quit dancing!  More passion, more “I can’t resist you anymore” type behavior.  What we’re seeing  are not star crossed lovers!  But then again, we were sold a fairy tale in the original series and perhaps this is adding more perspective.  If that’s the case, it’s pretty damned boring.  They are just like any other couple on this planet.  That’s not why I tune in every week. 

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So, yes, while I liked, but didn’t love, this week’s episode, I’m mostly concerned about what they need to do in the remaining five episodes to keep this story going.  Right now, it’s not working.  They need to up the stakes a lot, push the pacing faster, tell a richer story and do better.  When you get previews about next week’s vamp hunt, there’s no indication it’s going there.  But, I’ll stop being an alarmist and just see what happens.  Just remember though, season two is in doubt, so if they’re not selling this show properly, five more episodes is all we’ll probably get. 

Oh, and this week I’ll only give a side note about the episode title, “Hang On To Your Life.”  I’m convinced now these song titles are only relevant to the case of the week and have not over-arching meaning when put together.  Here’s a snippet of the lyrics “Hang On To Your Life” by The Guess Who.  A bit on the nose for what happened this week? 

Thinking 'bout the people gone by
Screaming that I don't want to die
Well you can push your head
But don't you push it too far

Thinking 'bout it's here and it's real
Wondering how I really should feel
Well you can sell your soul
But don't you sell it too cheap

Hang on to your life, oh life, oh life, oh life, oh life
Hang on to your life

Thinking 'bout betraying a friend
Thinking 'bout delaying the end
Well you can ride the wind
But don't you ride it too high

Hang on to your life
Hang on to your life
Hang on to your life, life, life, life, life,

Overall grade, a B+.   And now, the preview for episode 3.09…

Here is the official CW synopsis for “Cast Your Fate To The Wind”:

CONTROL YOUR DESTINY – When Vampires make their way into Lawrence, Carlos (JoJo Fleites) corrals the gang to find out why. Latika’s (Nida Khurshid) weeks of sorting through the Men of Letters clubhouse provides vital information when John (Drake Rodger) gets a scary glimpse into the future and enlists Millie’s (Bianca Kajlich) help with his plan. Meanwhile, Mary (Meg Donnelly) struggles with the tedious balance between feelings and action when it comes to John. Kristin Windell directed the episode written by Rachel Lynett (#109). Original Airdate 01/31/2023. Every episode of THE WINCHESTERS is available to stream on The CW App and the day after broadcast for free and without a subscription, log-in or authentication required.

There's no good analysis about the a song title since this song most famously is a jazz instrumental from Vince Guaraldi.  I’m thinking it’s something else.  So more to come on this, maybe.

No preview photos have been released yet.  The CW has been a little poor about releasing photos these days, sometimes releasing a few after the fact (see five new preview photos in our "Hang On To Your Life" gallery that were released after the episode).  It must be because they let go all their PR people.  So, when or if they come available, I’ll update this article and have them here. 

Finally, here’s the promo clip that was shown at the end of “Hang On To Your Life”.  Yay vampires (that's sarcasm BTW):

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