‘American Nightmare’ feels like a classic Kripke episode, and continues incorporating the “nothing is what it seems” theme of Season 12.
Ever since the season began, there have been many themes and elements that are reminiscent to earlier seasons, but ‘American Nightmare’ certainly takes the cake. From the Season 2 psychic kids in the ‘Previously…’ section (which sadly ruined the surprise) to the ‘The Benders’-like twist, the whole episode seems to belong to the Kripke era. It’s also a situation that helps us realize how much these two brothers have changed and how their experience makes them act in a different way they would have years ago.
Sam and Dean becoming ‘buddies’ with God last season made many of the exchanges with the religious family quite amusing, but they also got serious when Sam wouldn’t agree with the mother justifying supposedly killing her daughter because it was God’s plan. Not only is that decision downright wrong per se, but it gets even more offensive considering Sam knows God, and he knows Chuck would never do anything like that. Sam’s character development is all over this episode: Sam telling Magda that her psychic powers don’t make her evil is another way of showing that he’s put those “demon-blood” days behind him. In that regard, he could have been like a mentor to her. As per Dean, he’s visibly affected and even mad at Mary for leaving them. Interestingly enough, many of the reasons why she left are still mentioned in this episode when Abraham, the father, picks up her commentary on modern society, consumerism, and how people don’t talk to each other anymore.
‘American Nightmare’ managed to do something Supernatural had struggled to do for a long time: make me care about the side-characters of a case. It’s not only that the acting was overall superb, but the constant twists and turns of the plot and the disturbing ways of the mother were all very engaging. In that regard, I was expecting Magda to become a recurring character, or to at least leave her journey left open-ended like they did with the werewolf girl from ‘Bitten’. Sadly, there are villains to build up. Granted, there could have been other ways to do it (especially since we still don’t know their killing/hunting policy), but showing the mysterious MOL hit man killing poor Magda was a really effective way to make us hate him. Another thing that’s different this season? This time it’s not about fearing the villains (Lucifer, Lilith, Amara…), but more about hating them. Umbridge-level of hating them. And, so far, the writers are doing a great job at it.