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A VERY SUPERNATURAL CHRISTMAS (The CW)
(Thursday, December 13 at 9:00/8:00c)
The network's description: "It's Christmas time and Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) investigate a series of murders where the victims were pulled up through the chimney. Sam realizes they are dealing with a sort of Anti-Santa, a demon with roots in pagan lore. Dean wants to celebrate Christmas the old fashioned way as this is his last, but Sam refuses, not wanting to accept that Dean won't be around next year. Sam flashes back to a certain Christmas when he waited for his father to come home to give him a special gift. J. Miller Tobin directed the episode written by Jeremy Carver."
What did they leave out: You'll learn where Dean got his trademark necklace.
The plot in a nutshell: A rash of Santa-related murders puts Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) on the trail of what they deem "Anti Claus," a demon who - instead of rewarding the just with gifts like "Santa Claus" - punishes the wicked with... well, death. The initial suspect: the local washed-up Santa. The true culprit however turns out to be a lot more... nice. Along the way a handful of flashbacks reveal how Sam and Dean spent their Christmases as children. (Best line: Sam - "Why do we move so much?" Dean - "Everywhere we go they get sick of your face!") Also, Dean sings. No, I'm not kidding.
What works: I've always admired "Supernatural's" workmanlike mythology and this episode is no exception. Sam and Dean are criminologists of the demon world, not explorers of some great unknown. They don't see something wild and bizarre, they see X that needs to be killed by Y. It's a philosophy that's served the show quite well, allowing viewers to (gasp!) enjoy genre television on a per episode basis without being a slave to its overarching story. And on a more subtle level, the show's rougher edges (how Sam and Dean not only continue to pass as cops/FBI agents/etc. but also happen to run into the prettiest girl in each town is beyond me) have been ironed out enough so that genuine characters have emerged. It's not surprising then as a result, this year's main plot - that Dean only has a year to live - is making the show worth checking out each week. This episode in particular highlights how well the show handles not only the villain-of-the-week but also how to perfectly play its emotional hand. The decision to make young Sam learn about what his father really does as an analogue to learning there isn't a Santa Claus - against the backdrop of present day Sam and Dean celebrating their "last" Christmas together no less - is pure genius, one of many gems this show is churning out as of late.
What doesn't: It's definitely the bloodiest "Supernatural" to come along in a while - you probably won't be trimming your fingernails anytime soon after watching - so consider yourself warned.
The bottom line: While it hasn't quite made "the leap" into pure greatness for me yet, it's definitely on the precipice.