Last spring, Supernatural made an honestly weak attempt to launch a spin-off show, which felt more like a terrible clone of Vampire Diaries or Teen Wolf than something that belonged in the Supernatural universe. But last night's episode teased us with a very different sort of spin-off, one with all kinds of potential.
Last night was the long-awaited female-bonding episode of Supernatural, in which Sheriff Jody Mills met Sheriff Donna Hanscum, the other female sheriff that the Winchesters have tangled with lately. And "Hibbing 911" was just as fun as we'd hoped, not to mention showcasing some pretty great chemistry between the two cops. You could almost see a show with a The Heat vibe coming out of this: the surly Jody and the overly-sunny, way-too-sweet Donna teaming up to take down bad guys.
We already thought Jody deserved her own spin-off, thanks to her new status quo taking care of a teenage girl who was raised by vampires. But now we're twice as sure.
The actual plot of "Hibbing 911" is pretty simple: Jody and Donna are both at a sheriffs retreat in the small town of Hibbing, where bodies are suddenly turning up dead, thanks to animal attacks. At first, even the Winchesters are stumped, but then it turns out there's a pack of vampires that practices a "waste not, want not" approach to killing people — they leave absolutely nothing behind.
But most of the episode is actually taken up with Jody and Donna's very different approaches to people and situations. Donna is being sort of a doormat to her slimeball ex-husband, who keeps giving her a hard time about her weight and dancing obnoxiously with another female sheriff — until Jody finally tells him to his face that he's a douche. And meanwhile, Jody is radiating grouchy vibes and having a hard time keeping her new teenage "daughter" under control.
Part of what's fun about all this is that discovering monsters are real is the best thing that could happen to Donna — she gets all empowered and excited by the knowledge that there are vampires and creatures out there. Especially after she decapitates a vampire herself. The episode ends with Jody promising to teach Donna everything she knows about killing monsters, and they go off into the sunset together, leaving us wanting to see them team up a lot more.
The episode also moves forward the theme of "monsters who try to reclaim their humanity" — this time, it's the Sheriff of Hibbing, who's a reformed vampire until his old pack sees the announcement about the retreat and comes looking for him. He has gotten religion and grown a conscience, and no longer kills people, so it's weird to find out he used to be the Charles Manson of a vanload of murderous vampire kids, traveling around and consuming every part of the people they killed.
Oh, and Dean gets all jazzed by killing some vampires, but lies to Sam and says he feels like his old self for the first time since he came back — even as the Mark of Cain throbs on his arm.
At this point, Supernatural is content to be sort of an old pair of shoes, comfortable and not terribly challenging. It's fully broken in, but it's still a decent enough ride most of the time. The relationship between the Winchesters, in particular, has seen enough lying and enough self-sacrifice on both sides that we're pretty much bound to get repetition of a theme at this point. But last night's episode gave us a hint of something a bit new and different — and it would be awesome to see more.