OK I need a reality check, people. Is it just me or is Supernatural really, for real getting better — not quite in an Erik Kripke way but in a way that's actually engaging and dorky/fun? Because, well, I really liked last night's episode "Man's Best Friend with Benefits." And not just because I'm an animal lover (no, Dean, not THAT kind). I think it's because I feel like the show is finally doing some solid worldbuilding again.

See, it used to be just Sam and Dean, the lone Hunters who have only a few other Hunter friends in the world. And maybe an angel or an ambiguously affiliated demon or two. But then, after the Apocalypse got punked, we had to go to other places. There were pre-angelic pagan monsters and Purgatory guys and all these other lands beyond Earth. But they all felt like distant echoes of what we saw, with bleeding, awestruck eyes, in seasons 4 and 5.

But now? We've got this whole secret history with the Men of Letters. Plus we've opened up a new world of "good" monsters, or at least monsters who are as gray-area good as Sam and Dean themselves. Most importantly, there is a new feeling to the brothers' relationship. It's less broody, and more buddy. Dean is becoming adorkable, and Sam is the baby brother who makes good.

In this new world, there are underground witch bars. And the rules aren't just "kill the monsters — here's how." Instead we actually learn about how monsters live. Like, you know, as vampire pirates. Or, in the case of last night's episode, as witch cops with "it's complicated" relationships with their gorgeous doberman familiars.


James the friendly cop came back this episode, and if you don't remember him it doesn't matter because neither does anybody else. He's a great cop, and he's become a witch after the Winchesters blew his mind with their whole "yep there's demons" routine. Unfortunately, he's having nightmares about killing people, and it's driving him insane. So his familiar, a beautiful dog named Portia, seeks out the Winchsters for help. Even though Dean doesn't like dogs, he doesn't mind so much when Portia morphs into a gorgeous woman (though notably her human ears aren't cut into triangles the way her doberman ones are).

Cue ongoing adorkable Dean comments about "wow so when you guys sleep together . . . um . . . " No, there are no actual bestiality jokes, as Sam notes approvingly. There are just a lot of awkward conversation-starters from Dean that Portia basically ignores. I love how Dean is slowly becoming more of a geek in this season. There were last week's glasses, of course, but before that there was his enthusiastic LARP experience — and a few references to his previously-established anime fixation.

Anyway, Sam and Dean agree to help the witch, even though their old policy would have been kill first ask questions later. And again, this is part of the new world that the writers are building this season. It's not just the brothers against everything. Now they're distinguishing between harmless monsters and evil ones, and those harmless monsters are part of their circle of colleagues/friends. Which is how Dean winds up in the underground witch bar with Portia, trying to figure out whether one of the other witches is messing with James' mind.


There were all these nice moments when the other witches ask James how he can reconcile his life as a cop with life as a witch and an outcast. This is what I mean about good worldbuilding details, people. I wanted to watch a whole series about James and Portia and the underground witch bar.

They also meet another familiar, a gay cat named Philippe. At least they didn't make Portia into a black cat (ho hum), but there were still some weird stereotypes going on. Anyway after a lot of detecting and chaining James up (mostly so that Portia could have sex with him, which I think we can all agree was a good idea), we learn that witches and their familiars have a psychic bond but aren't supposed to have sex. And James' witch best friend Spencer is outraged by their forbidden love, especially because he wanted Portia to pick him as her witch — instead, Spencer got stuck with Philippe the gay cat.

So Spencer started messing with James, and basically framed him for a bunch of murders he didn't commit. Oh no! Luckily the boys have an anti-witch bomb, so Spencer is now an ex-witch. Of course this leaves the pesky problem of the murder rap. Even more luckily, James and Portia don't mind going on the lam because "that's how it's always been." Even though . . . oh, whatever. This makes two more amazing characters who are out there on the lam, along with Dean's vamp boyfriend Benny.

And now it's time for us to process our feelings.

After much agonizing over how Sam is doing the trials required to close the gates of hell, Dean has finally realized that he's being a butthead. He apologizes and says he trusts Sam and that they have to make it through all these tribulations together. Great! Now can we NEVER HAVE THIS CONVERSATION EVER AGAIN, PLEASE? Seriously, I like how in this season the brothers have an easy compatibility where they give each other shit but are totally on the same side. I don't want any more soul-searching or breakups. It's the brothers in their sweet Men of Letters bunker with nice glasses of whisky and Dean has his own room and some witches are nice.