Anyway, I find the argument about whether the show's too depressing interesting and I look forward to getting into the meat of the angst. Although these last two episodes certainly ratcheted it up.
I know the most important part of this episode isn't the monster of the week but rather the hints towards the larger plot, but darnit I really liked the episodic part of it as well. That basic storyline of "small town has a deep dark secret that keeps it alive and happy when everything around it is wasting away" really appeals to me, whether it's done as a comedy like in Hot Fuzz or as serious drama as here and in American Gods. Doing whatever it takes "for the common good" including sacrificing outsiders is a fairly standard bit of commentary, but it's executed well here - especially with Emily saying "let it die" when they burn the Tree. Seeing Dean try to operate without Sam was fun and especially the way he self-lampshaded it when he couldn't convince the couple to just leave town. The scarecrow was creepy enough, though I wonder if it mightn't have been more effective if it'd stayed silent? Would it be nitpicky to point out that in fact a Vanir is a god? And of course the way Sam and Dean look at each other when they're going their separate ways... aww. I've said it again, and I'm sure it'll come up much more, but Ackles and Padelecki are great at playing brothers. Dean needs Sam around despite any protestations, and I know from the next episode how much Sam needs Dean.
Then of course there's the Sam subplot with the cute hitchhiker Meg. Such a sweet girl, if a bit dedicated to being rebellious and oddly attached to him after such a short time, no?
So what I've picked up from this is that whatever the demon is that killed Mary and Jess, it knows John is coming and knew Sam was going to join him - thus siccing his daughter Meg on Sam. Was she going to simply kill him, or try and seduce him to Team Evil? I'm guessing not just kill, because she had opportunity for that, and Daddy Demon could've done so himself in the past. I have no doubt we'll see her again, and fairly soon. Good episode, 9/10
. Oh wait, I said I was going to drop the scale. Well, it's very good anyway.
Nope, never saw the wife's pulling the strings coming - though of course once it was explained it was the only thing that really made sense. God save us from Your followers, indeed. There's one question left completely unanswered though: why'd the preacher choose Dean? Was it as simple as Dean was the one who challenged the preacher? I guess that's probably the best answer. Interestingly, this episode is sorta related to one I saw from a later season, where Dean gets to be Death for a day - really great episode, and also featured a Reaper, though a much nicer to look at one. Also, Death looked a lot like this Reaper, though less... decayed, so I was expecting the Reaper to be Death. Anyway, I like how this episode showed us more of how close these brothers really are and how much Sam's willing to do to help Dean - and of course there was a lot of great angst once the connection between Dean's healing and the death of that runner was discovered. Not to mention the angst of Dean having to break up Layla's healing, somebody who truly deserved to be healed (you could almost see him thinking "For this one I'll play God," though maybe I'm biased by having seen that later episode). I was kinda expecting Layla to be healed when the Reaper took the preacher's wife, but that would've robbed us of a great "Julie Benz has come to terms with the fact that her death is inevitable and she's made peace with it" moment. I like the melancholy, and I also like Dean's statement that he'll pray for Layla. I get the sense that things have shifted now fir Sam and Dean - Dean appeared to have made some peace with his impending death, and now he lives with the knowledge that another man died in his place; and Sam gets to live with both the guilt of probably feeling responsible for that and also happiness to have his brother back. How delightful.