The Road So Far: “What’s Up Tiger Mommy” Review

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK, IDJIT!

Wow, just wow, I was so impressed with yesterday’s episode that I thought Ben Edlund wrote it. Edlund is my favorite Supernatural writer and usually if after I watch an episode I say, “That was amazing,” and then check who the writer is, it’s him, but this time it surprisingly wasn’t.

It was actually written by Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin, who are usually hit or miss for me lately. They have written awesome episodes like, “Yellow Fever,” “Dark Side of the Moon,” and “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie.” But then they wrote two of my least favorite episodes of season seven, namely, “The Girl Next Door,” which killed yet another interesting female character for the hell of it, and “Season Seven, Time for a Wedding,” which forever ruined Becky for me. Surprisingly, the thing I hate about those episodes–their portrayal of female characters–is what I loved about this one.

Mrs. Tran, (who is just Mrs. Tran, we never learn her first name) is such an amazing female character that if there were a spin off with just her and Kevin, I would watch it. I would TiVo the hell out that shit. Mrs. Tran does everything right. The thing I have loved most about her and about characters like Charlie Bradbury (from season seven) is that they insist on getting involved in what is happening, despite even what Sam and Dean may have to say about it. Mrs. Tran’s son is in trouble, so like hell is she going to sit around in some safe house waiting for that rare phone call. So many female characters in Supernatural have passively waited on the sidelines while Sam and Dean, or Bobby, Kevin, or whoever go off to fight. I suppose it has a great old school war-type metaphor, but nowadays (hell, even back then) the ladies aren’t passively waiting for their son or husband to come back. Mrs. Tran is right there in the line of fire with her son – in fact in many ways she seems like she’d be able to handle things pretty well, even without Sam and Dean around.

Also Kevin, is really helping the show become less sexist. The way Kevin talks about his girlfriend who died is very real. Sam was very much the same way, but Sam was also raised in the hunter lifestyle so his grief immediately transcended into revenge. But Kevin is very much more aware of what could have and has happened to the people in his life, most of whom seem to be women. He wanted to check up on his mom, not because he didn’t think she could handle herself, or because he felt he needed to rescue her, rather he simply wanted to make sure she was okay. Furthermore, how Kevin and his mom interact is perfect. When Mrs. Tran insists on coming with them to get the Word of God, Dean asks Kevin to tell Mrs. Tran she can’t come. Kevin simply shrugs it off and states that he can’t tell her what to do.

It would have been really easy for the writers to make fun of Mrs. Tran here. Kevin could have acted like his mom is this crazy overbearing person, but instead the way that conversation was written and the way Osric Chau acted in that scene made it so Kevin was affirming whatever decision his mom made. It’s nice to seem to see not only a strong female character in an episode but the men around her supporting that strength. Not just that but in many ways Kevin’s relationship with his mother completely subverted the usual gender tropes. Mrs. Tran was the tough one (when getting a tattoo or freaking punching Crowley in the face), she was very active in everything that was happening, and when Kevin was kidnapped she saved him, not the other way around. Yes, Mrs. Tran ends up in an almost coma (or maybe she was just a bit traumatized) at the end of the episode, but there is every indication that when her and Kevin return to the show they will be as badass as ever. At least, I certainly hope the writers will put her in more episodes.

My only criticism with the portrayal of the Trans was the title of the episode. I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s clearly a play on words. The real tiger mom is a crazy person who pushes her kids to extreme lengths so that they succeed, and Mrs. Tran is a “tiger mom” only in the sense of how fiercely she protected Kevin. She’s not crazy, just fierce. I just couldn’t help but think the title was unnecessary, it seemed to basically say, “See, she’s Asian and she’s tough, she’s a tiger mom!” Eh, it just rubbed me the wrong way. Other than that the episode barely pointed out the characters race except for Dean’s tiger mom comment and the racist pawn shop owner, who was easily put in his place by Mrs. Tran, so maybe the comment on the title is nitpicky, but like I said, it bothered me.

So other than Kevin and his mom this episode largely focused on Dean. We get to see more of Cas and a little more of Benny, and the question is asked, do the Winchester abandon people that aren’t of use to them anymore?

First, I want to praise the directing of this episode, because whose ever idea it was to have the two interrogation scenes–the one in the present and the one from purgatory–flash back and forth deserves a hug, because that was pretty brilliant. It perfectly reflected how harsh Dean had become in Purgatory and how that has stayed with him even now after he got out. Now you might think that Dean has always been this brutal, but I disagree. Dean was less caring about things from season one through three than Sam, but he wasn’t nearly as violent. And in season four through seven Dean was actively trying to squash the darker aspects of his nature for various reasons (PTSD because of hell, his brother not having a soul, or just depression). Dean seems to have embraced that darker part of himself now, and I am more than a little sure Benny has something to do with it.

I’m excited to see more of Benny, because I need to know what his relationship with Dean actually is. Benny could actually like Dean and think of him as a brother or he could just be using Dean (like how Ruby used Sam… except without the sex). Benny’s comment to Castiel about abandoning Dean could be seen as him actually caring about Dean or it could be seen as him trying to drive a wedge between Castiel and Dean, but I guess we’ll see.

Castiel, meanwhile, abandoned Dean to protect him, because all the Leviathan want Cas dead and staying with Dean would make him a target too. Which, out of curiosity, isn’t everything in Purgatory except for Dean and Cas dead anyway? How is Dean actually killing things in Purgatory? Maybe it’s like Valhalla. Anyway, Dean actually hugs Cas (which Cas has needed since season five) and insists that no matter what he is not leaving him.

Lies! The very last flash back shows what appears to be Dean abandoning Cas. So, do the Winchesters abandon people when they don’t need them anymore?

This question plays into the theme of the season, free will and responsibility. Castiel has done everything for Dean; yes, in some ways he has been selfish, but in many ways after Castiel lost his faith in God he made Dean his new God, and did everything he could for him and by extension for Sam. Does that mean Dean has a responsibility to Castiel? Fans came down harshly on Dean during season six and seven for how he treated Castiel, especially because of how much Castiel gave up for Dean and Sam. The angel Samandriel told Dean, “I think too much heart was always Castiel’s problem.” Does Dean owe Castiel more than Dean has given him? Do friends have a responsibility to each other? To look out for each other, to care, and help each other? We can only guess why Dean left Castiel in Purgatory. For now we will just have to wait and see.

Other things I liked about this episode:

  • Plutus’s servant (Was he the same guy who played the Mayor in season three of Buffy? He looked like him.)
  • The angel Alfie offered the Vatican!!! Is he allowed to do that? It would be funny and rather ironic if the Vatican was owned by the god Plutus.
  • Lies and slander, Buzz Aldrin got to the moon without selling his soul!
  • Dean vs. The Metal Detector
  • Sam wasn’t featured as much in this episode, but he did get to be the new god of thunder for awhile. (I think some Supernatural writers were watching The Avengers this summer.)
  • Crowley called Dean squirrel! I hope everyone got that joke.

See you next week, ya idjits!

5 thoughts on “The Road So Far: “What’s Up Tiger Mommy” Review

  1. I was so worried that Mrs. Tran (IMDb says her first name is “Linda”) would end up being a bad caricature of an immigrant Asian mom, but she wasn’t. It was cool that she didn’t resemble my mom in her willingness to go along with the Wincesters and the amount of sass she displayed. At the same time, she did remind me of my mom because she gave up everything for her kid. I am very happy that the Supernatural writers succeeded where many writers (including good ones) have failed, and I hope the Trans come back.

    • I was worried about the race issue, but I agree that Supernatural portrayed her really well. I also think it’s great that while she was different from your mom she did really remind you of your mom too. I think that is the mark of a well written character.

      I certainly hope that they both come back too!

  2. OMG: thing to think about – CAS’ BEARD. Cas, regardless of how much of his Grace he has lost, has never had such human physical reactions – except as Human!Cas in “The End”. WHAT DOES IT MEANNNN?!

    • I DIDN’T THINK OF THAT!!! OMG!!!

      That is either showing on hard Purgatory has been on Cas or like the writers, also, didn’t think about that. LOL!

      It would be interesting if Cas comes out of Purgatory as a human.

      • I mean, I’m probably putting too much faith in the continuity editors, but they’ve never let Cas have facial hair unless he was human in some way. But he would have to still have angel powers to evade Leviathans in Purgatory, yes? He certainly had them when he poofed away from Dean at the end of last season, but maybe they’re declining?

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