Lonely child ghost kills.
Drunken Sam forces Dean to
A sober promise.
Playthings was an uneven episode that suffered from a bad case of the shorts (when I deleted the commercials, what remained – including the prologue and the previews for the next episode – was only 39 minutes long!) but nonetheless packed yet another punch for the brothers Winchester, with an uncharacteristically stinking drunk Sam extorting a promise from Dean for his older brother to kill him if Sam turns into something he isn’t. The extraction of that promise and the morning-after realization that it hadn’t been forgotten and flushed with the rest of the binge will be the moments that keep coming back – well, along with the laugh-out-loud fun of the continuing gay joke, and Dean setting up Sam as a doll collector who plays with his collection.
Let me get my dissatisfactions out of the way up front. I think that, largely because this episode clocked in as the shortest one in the history of the show, there were things that felt as if they were built on inadequate foundations, with Sam’s drunken binge being the most blatant one. Especially after the reasoned and healthy attitude Sam espoused in the opening scene with the brothers – the intent to not give up on Ava, but to save as many others as possible – we needed a little more of a hint that this “healthy” attitude was nothing more than a façade covering Sam’s growing belief that saving people could be a way to redeem himself in advance and prevent himself going darkside. To have that suddenly come out full-blown from a binge brought on by the unforeseen and unpreventable death of a stranger felt wrong and unfounded. True, sometimes we’re taken totally by surprise by the reveal of a person’s true character, but it feels much more real if we can at least look back and see the clues in retrospect. Case in point is the way that absolutely everything Jensen’s Dean has done this season has contained and reflected the secret that John laid on him. We needed to see the pressure building, and there wasn’t enough time in the episode for us to sense any of the burden that Sam was feeling until the explosion had already happened.