Recap: Supernatural S 08 E 12 As Time Goes By

Recap of Supernatural
Season 8, Episode 12

As Time Goes By

I was a legacy. I had no choice.
"Dudes time-traveling through motel room closets? That’s what we've come to?"
Dean [to Sam]

Written by Adam Glass.

Directed by Serge Ladouceur.

Air Date: January 30, 2013.

A stranger emerges from the closet in Sam and Dean's motel room amid a burst of light asking "Which of you is John Winchester?" He manages to escape the motel room, but Sam and Dean catch him when he tries to steal the Impala. While questioning the man, a woman in a blood-spattered evening gown also emerges from the closet and says, "Henry, silly man, you forgot to lock the door." She then proceeds to attack them. Dean stabs her with Ruby's knife but, while this injures her, allowing them to escape, it does not kill her.

Henry, the man from the closet, reveals that he is from Normal, Illinois, in the year 1958, and that John Winchester is his son. He also reveals that the woman from the closet is Abaddon, a demon, and he has traveled through time to keep a box safe from her, but has no idea what the box is or why the demon wants it. He was to be initiated like both his father and grandfather into a society of preceptors, called the Men of Letters, who collect knowledge of the supernatural and pass this information on to an elite group of hunters, but Abaddon started killing his mentors before his initiation. Henry is devastated to find out that his son grew up and died without his father or any knowledge of the Men of Letters. He also is shocked to find that his son raised his grandsons as hunters, whom he considers uncouth and brutish.

They find a newspaper report of a fire on the night of Henry's initiation, and that the other Men of Letters were reported to die in the fire, explaining why today's hunters do not know about them. Henry identifies an alias the Men of Letters used, Albert Magnus, among the names of the victims of the fire, which prompts them to go to where the victims are buried. They discover that Thomas J. Carey III, a World War I veteran, is buried in the tomb of Larry Ganem, and realize that Larry, Henry's mentor who asked him to keep the box safe from Abaddon, must have assumed this man's identity and is now living in Lebanon, Kansas.

They find mention of Abaddon as a Knight of Hell in John's journal. Henry explains that the Knights of Hell were the firstborn demons who were exceptionally strong, and legend had it that they were all killed by archangels. Henry becomes even more disturbed as he reads John's journal and sneaks out of the motel room to get the items he needs to repeat the blood sigil and travel back in time to prevent Abaddon's actions and allow Henry to be part of John's life as he grows up. Dean goes after Henry while Sam goes to find Larry Ganem. Larry tells Sam the box is the key to a repository of all the knowledge of the supernatural that the Men of Letters had acquired over a thousand years, and gives Sam the coordinates to the location. Abaddon has possessed Larry's companion and kills Larry and takes Sam hostage.

Abaddon offers Dean a trade, the key and Henry for Sam, and Dean agrees. Dean knocks out Henry before he can perform the blood sigil to travel back in time, and Dean takes Henry to the agreed-upon location, a processing plant. Dean shows Abaddon the key and places it in Henry's pocket. He forces Henry, with his hands cuffed behind him, to approach Abaddon, and she releases Sam. Abaddon plunges a hand into Henry's abdomen, and Henry, who had a gun behind his back, slips his unlocked cuffs and shoots her in the head. Abaddon reaches into Henry's pocket and finds a deck of cards instead of the key. She then finds she is unable to move and can not leave Josie's body, her meatsuit. Dean reveals that there was a devil's trap carved into the bullet now lodged in her brain. He then beheads her and reveals that, even though they cannot kill her, they can keep her locked away by slicing the body into pieces and burying them in cement. Henry ends up dying from the wound to his abdomen, but manages to tell his grandsons how proud he is of them. Though Larry had recommended that Sam bury the key in the repository and walk away, the Winchester brothers seem determined to explore the knowledge accumulated by the Men of Letters.

Tropes

  • Abandoned Warehouse: The processing plant for the prisoner exchange.
  • Actor Allusion: Alaina Huffman has previously played another character with a scream superpower on a CW show.
  • Alchemy Is Magic/Religion Is Magic: Albertus Magnus was a 13th-century German bishop and philosopher who argued for the coexistence of science and religion and is the patron saint of natural scientists and mentor of Thomas Aquinas. Despite being referred to in this episode as the "greatest alchemist of the middle ages", there is little evidence to suggest he had connections to alchemy or witchcraft, despite the stories that abound.
  • The All-American Boy: Young John Winchester, who has model airplanes, baseball, mitt, and a toy gun in his room.
  • Almighty Janitor: Black-eyed demons are generally at the bottom of the ladder in terms of power and the hierarchy in Hell. Abaddon is the very, very big exception. She's one of the most powerful demons ever on the show, period.
  • And I Must Scream: Sam and Dean use this to beat Abaddon, a Knight of Hell. First, they shoot her in the head with a bullet engraved with a devil's trap, permanently locking her in her meatsuit, which she can barely move. Then (offscreen) they cut her up into little pieces and bury them in cement, encasing her for at least a few thousand years. As Dean puts it, she'll wish they had killed her.
  • Atlantis: Henry says the Aquarian Star stood at the gates of Atlantis.
  • Badass Bookworm: Henry Winchester and the Men of Letters in general.
    Henry: It's just, all the adventures I enjoy are usually of the literary nature.
  • Badass Long Robe: Larry Ganem, who gives Henry the key, as well the elder who tries to exorcise Abaddon.
  • Bad Future/Bad Present: It's the future from Henry's perspective: his son and mentors are dead, the legacy of the Men of Letters seems lost, and his son grew up alone into a hunter and believed himself abandoned by his father.
  • Berserk Button: Henry manages to hit two of Dean's biggest within minutes of meeting him.
    Dean: [with a gun in Henry's face] Let me tell you what I understand. Some asshat pops out of my closet asking about my dad, smashes up my ride. So, why am I not getting violent again?
    • Abaddon hits the biggest one when she captures Sam.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Abaddon, despite being of a special class of demon.
  • Blood from the Mouth: One of the dead elders lying in a pool of blood.
  • Blood Is the New Black: Abaddon in her blood-splattered gown.
  • Blood Magic: Henry uses a blood sigil to travel through time to a blood relative.
    Henry: It's a blood sigil. Blood leads to blood. Or their next-of-kin.
  • Blood-Stained Glass Windows: The setting for the initiation with stained-glass windows where Abaddon slaughters the elders.
  • Boy Band: Dean mistakes the Men of Letters for one.
    Dean: I'm a little rusty on my boy bands. Men of what?
    Henry: Men of Letters.
  • Brains and Brawn: Winchesters + Campbells = Dean and Sam.
    Sam: The Winchesters and the Campbells—the brains and the brawn.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Henry shoots Abaddon, a Knight of Hell only kill-able by archangels, in the head with a bullet engraved with a devil's trap, thus preventing her from escaping her host, using her powers, or even moving her body. He dies shortly afterward from an injury she dealt him when he was getting close enough to do the deed.
  • Captain Obvious: After telling Sam and Dean Abaddon is a demon, Sam asks Henry where she came from, and he replies, "She's from Hell."
  • Chekhov's Gun: Henry's pin with the Star of Aquarius, which John asks him about.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Henry's ability to escape handcuffs.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Henry and Dean argue about Henry's priorities.
    Henry: It's the price we pay for upholding great responsibilities. We know that.
    Dean: Your responsibility was to your family, not some glorified book club.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Henry Winchester. Justified, as he is from 1958.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Namely, that he didn't plan on it and is horrified to realize that his spell brought him fifty-five years into the future with his son having died believing he'd abandoned him.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: Abaddon is one (perhaps the last) of the Knights of Hell, the first-fallen, first-born demons handpicked by Lucifer himself. The Knights of Hell are very pure and strong.
  • Demonic Possession: Josie Sands and the woman with Larry.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: A devil's trap carved into a bullet.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Henry dies in Sam's and Dean's.
  • Disappeared Dad: Henry to John.
  • Dumb Muscle: Henry's first impression of Dean and Sam.
    Henry: I'm quite certain this is all beyond your understanding, my alpha-male monkey friend. And violence will not help you comprehend this any easier.
    • Also Henry's impression of hunters in general, as "unthinking, unwashed apes" that favor the "shoot first and don't bother to ask questions later" approach.
  • Elite Army: The Men of Letters shared their information only with an elite group of the best hunters, which may have included the Campbells.
  • Escape Artist: Henry manages to cuff Sam and Dean when they try to handcuff him.
  • Evil Plan: Abaddon is described as a hired gun, implying that the destruction of the Men of Letters was ordered by an unnamed Big Bad as part of a scheme.
  • Evil Redhead/Evil Is Sexy: Abaddon in Josie Sands.
  • Eye of Newt: Henry's blood, an angel feather, tears of a dragon, and a pinch of the sands of time.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: A box of cards is substituted for the box with the key.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Henry is shown looking at a black-and-white photo of himself and John. Dean finds the photo in his wallet after he dies.
  • Fate Worse Than Death:
    "You may not be dead, but you'll wish you were."
  • The Fifties: The teaser takes place in 1958. Henry calls John "sport", and John calls Henry "pops". John also has a cowboy lamp and wind-up robot on his nightstand.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Henry. Despite trying to forge ahead unfazed, a few things cause difficulties.
    • Such as when he tries to call for help.
      Henry: Hand me your...walkie-talkie.
      Sam: You mean my phone.
      Henry: Even better. [holds Sam's phone in front of mouth] Operator, I need Delta-457.
      Dean: Who are you not-calling?
      Henry: Our emergency number.
      Dean: Yeah. Not anymore.
    • And when he encounters a laptop.
      Henry: Like you could fit a computer in this room.
  • Foregone Conclusion: John never sees his father again.
  • Fridge Horror: Is Josie Sands, the young woman who was to be initiated into the Men of Letters, trapped forever with Abaddon by the devil's trap in her brain?
    • No, it's been established that if a host suffers a fatal wound, they die, but the demon can continue possessing their dead body. Josie's been dead since Dean stabbed her near the beginning.
      • Actually, it's been established that the hosts only die of fatal injuries once they've been de-possessed (see Meg Masters in "Devil's Trap"). Unless Abaddon left Josie's body long enough for the latter to die, yes, Josie's stuck in there along with her.
      • Abaddon possessed the woman helping Larry Ganem while he was talking to Sam. She had to have left Josie's body in order to do so.
  • Fridge Logic:
    • How does Sam get to Lebanon, Kansas to question Larry when Dean has the Impala?
      • He must have stolen another car.
    • If an angel's wings are part of its true form, which is incomprehensible to humans, how do Sam and Dean have an angel's feather in their trunk? Do the angels in Supernatural even have feathers or is this a name for some other type of item used for spells?
      • Considering that whenever we see part of their true form, angels have feathered wings, it seems likely they do actually have feathers. And, considering that Dean's best friend is an angel, it's not unreasonable that, at some point, he plucked a few and gave them to the brothers to help in some undisclosed situation, most likely another spell.
  • Fun T-Shirt: Abaddon dons the shirt reading "The devil made me do it" she stole from the body of the comic store clerk.
  • Genius Breeding Act: Sam realizes that Heaven (and possibly Hell) matched Mary Campbell (of hunter stock) and John Winchester (of Men of Letters stock) together to produce children with superior abilities to serve as Michael and Lucifer's vessels.
  • Geometric Magic: The Aquarian Star is a unicursal hexagram, or Star of Solomon, which was also used in Thelema, a spiritual philosophy or religion created by Aleister Crowley.
  • Good Parents: Henry. Too bad John never found out.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Blood splatter on the photo when Abaddon stabs Larry.
  • Gratuitous Greek: The hunter symbol Henry sees in the window of the hoodoo store appears to be the Greek letter psi.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!:
    • Gil McKinney, who plays Henry Winchester, also played Dr. Paul Grady in ER and Derek Bishop in Friday Night Lights.
    • Alaina Huffman, who plays Josie Sands/Abaddon, also plays Lieutenant Tamara "TJ" Johansen in Stargate Universe and Black Canary in Smallville.
    • Katie Stewart, who plays the punk clerk, also played Cassandra in Stargate SG-1.
  • Homage: The location of the bunker for the Men of Letters is Lebanon, Kansas. This is the geographic center of the United States and an important location in Neil Gaiman's American Gods because of its "negative sacredness". The bunker also has Anti-Magic properties, and is described as "the safest place on earth, warded against any evil ever created".
  • Hostage for MacGuffin:
    Abaddon: Now, listen up—I want to make a good old-fashioned horse trade. Henry and the key for your brother. Or he dies.
  • I Have Your Wife
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Henry tries this with the possessed Josie.
    Henry: Josie, I know you're still in there. You must fight this.
    Abaddon: I'm afraid Josie is indisposed, pet. It looks like it's just you and me.
  • I Lied: Abaddon does not let the brothers go.
    Dean: We had a deal.
    Abaddon: Surprise. I lied.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: Larry Ganem hands the key to Henry.
    Larry: [holding out the box with the Star on it] Henry, do not let Abaddon get this.
  • Impostor Exposing Test: Sam and Dean cut Henry's forearm with a silver knife to make sure he is not a shapeshifter and splash him with holy water to make sure he is not a demon.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: When Henry does not answer their questions in the motel room, Dean slams Henry against the wall and holds him there with his forearm to Henry's throat.
    Sam: I'll tell you what, when one of us falls out of your closet, then you can ask the questions.
    Henry: Yes, my apologies. Is it absolutely essential, sir, that you keep your hands on me?
  • Jerkass Façade: Dean and Henry pretend to be at odds, and Abaddon buys it, as Evil Cannot Comprehend Good.
    Henry: That's the problem with you hunters. You're all short-sighted.
    Dean: Yeah, at least we're not extinct.
  • The Juggernaut: Larry has given up all hope that Abaddon can be destroyed at all.
    Sam: So how do we stop her? How do we stop Abaddon?
    Larry: You don't.
  • Jumped at the Call: Henry.
    Dean: Let me get this straight. You traveled through time to protect something that does you-don't-know-what from a demon that you know nothing about?
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Abaddon in pearls and evening gown.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Dean knocks Henry out and seemingly hands him over to Abaddon to save Sam's life.
    Dean: Henry, you need to understand something. When my dad died, I couldn't save him...no matter how bad I wanted to. I never want that to happen to Sam—ever. If there's a chance that I can save him, I'm gonna do it. He's my brother. He's the only family I got.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Henry tries to change the past, knowing full well it could have unforeseen consequences for the future, because he can't bear to let his son suffer and die as he did in this timeline.
    Henry: I can't abandon my son, Dean! Not again! I need to do this. I'm sorry.
  • Last of His Kind: Abaddon is believed to be the last of the Knights of Hell, as the others were supposedly all destroyed by archangels.
  • Magical Incantation:
    • "Kah-nee-la, poo-goh" to travel through time.
    • "Bah-rah-gah-doh" to change chamomile into a knockout powder.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Abaddon's screaming causes thunder and lightning.
  • Mayan Doomsday:
    Henry: 2013? My god. I guess the Mayans were wrong.
  • Meaningful Name: "Abaddon" means "destroyer" in Hebrew.
  • Memento MacGuffin: John's journal is revealed to be a keepsake from his lost father, with the initials "HW" under a picture on the inside cover.
  • Mind over Matter: Abaddon throws Sam and Dean against the walls of the motel with a gesture of her hands.
  • Mind Probe: Abaddon can read people's memory by partially possessing them through her Super Smoke.
  • Neck Snap: Abaddon accomplishes a Neck Lift followed by a snap of the elder's neck, complete with a Sickening Crunch. She also kills the hotel manager this way.
  • Nostalgic Musicbox: Henry winds up John's music box to help him fall asleep in the teaser. The music box song plays at the end with Sam and Dean by Henry's grave.
  • No Time to Explain: Henry avoids explaining himself to Sam and Dean in the motel room because "time is of the essence".
    Henry: In the absence of any and all other explanations, I'm afraid this has been a marvelous, tragic misunderstanding.
  • No Sell: Abaddon is able to resist exorcism and can't be killed with Ruby's knife like other demons.
  • Not So Extinct: Legend has it that all the Knights of Hell were killed by the archangels.
  • Oh, Crap: When Ruby's knife doesn't work on Abaddon.
    • The look on Henry's face when he realizes that the "run-of-the-mill cutlery" Dean stabbed Abaddon with was the very "ancient demon-killing knife of the Kurds" he'd just finished describing, something he said should have been able to kill her.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Henry hears this through the door along with screaming. He finds one elder trying to exorcise a demon from Josie, who is killing the other elders.
  • Only the Knowledgable May Pass: Initiation into the Men of Letters. Henry suggests there are different levels you pass, with each level being associated with specific skills and knowledge.
  • Parents as People: Sam and Dean know that John wasn't the best dad out there, but they acknowledge that he did the best he could in his situation.
  • Portal Door: Henry's blood sigil transforms the closet in Sam and Dean's motel room to a portal through time in a flash of light.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: After she reads the motel clerk's memories, Abaddon throws out a one-liner before she kills the guy.
    Abaddon: Thank you. By the way, I'm checking out. [lethal throat punch]
  • Purple Prose: Henry, whose dialogue often sounds like something we would expect from Captain Patriotic in The Golden Age of Comic Books.
    Henry: It's just a facade, a way to rook our enemies into believing we are housed elsewhere.
    Dean: Okay, enough with the decoder talk.
  • Retcon: This episode reveals that Henry and his father were Men of Letters, a Winchester legacy involving being preceptors of supernatural knowledge. The episode also explains Henry disappeared from John's life at an early age, and that John grew up to hate him. However, during the episode "In the Beginning" (S03, E03), a man in the diner says "say hello to your old man for me" and John says he is "a mechanic from a family of mechanics".
    • It's not unreasonable to think he was referring to a stepfather. Millie, John's mother and Henry's wife, may have remarried after Henry disappeared. In addition, assuming the Men of Letters didn't pay Henry, it's possible he was a mechanic in his civilian life.
  • Screaming Warrior: Abaddon.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Henry wants to return to 1958 to stop Abaddon and be a father to John, but Dean fears that it'll have unforeseen consequences and stops him by force. Although even Dean is taken aback when Henry points out that his return could mean that the Apocalypse and all the other sealed evils that have killed thousands of people would never have been released. Of course, Henry doesn't know that the angels wouldn't allow the Apocalypse to go off the rails that easily.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sikhism: The owner of the Hoodoo store greets Henry by saying Satnam, which is often used as a greeting among Sikh in the Western world.
  • Soul Power: Henry uses this to make the blood sigil work.
    Henry: I would need those and at least a week for my soul to recharge, but yes, it's possible.
    Sam: You tapped the power of your soul to get here? I thought only angels could do that.
  • Spice Rack Panacea: The owner of the hoodoo store offers Henry Kava root for anxiety.
  • Standard '50s Father: Henry Winchester.
  • A Storm Is Coming: The rainstorm on the night Henry says goodbye to John and leaves for his initiation.
  • Supernatural Aid: Ruby's knife is revealed to be an ancient Kurdish demon-killing knife.
    Dean: And how come she didn't die when I stabbed her?
    Henry: Because demons can't be killed by run-of-the-mill cutlery. At the very least you'd need an ancient demon-killing knife of the Kurds.
    Dean: [pulls knife out of his coat] That's what this is.
    Henry: Where'd you get that?
    Dean: Demon gave it to me.
  • Super Smoke: Abaddon is able to inject a portion of her smokey essence into another person in order to read their thoughts and memories.
  • Tattoo as Character Type: The punk clerk in the comic book store is researching a new tattoo design when they borrow her computer, establishing her as a young rebel.
  • Tears of Blood: Larry Ganem, the elder who gave Henry the key. The damage to his eyes leaves him blind.
  • Temporal Mutability: Dean is worried he and Sam may not exist if Henry goes back in time.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Abaddon calls Henry "doll" and "pet".
  • Thicker Than Water
  • Throat Light: Abaddon has a bit of this with a cracking electrical noise after Dean stabs her with Ruby's knife.
  • Titled After the Song: The tune from Casablanca is whistled by Henry, and plays on the music box Henry gave to John. Sam also says John used to whistle this tune.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Sam eats a salad for dinner, while Dean and Henry have burgers.
  • Vancouver Doubling: All the posters for musical bands in Astro Comics are from from Canada. A poster for The Evaporators, a Vancouver punk band, is seen outside of Astro Comics. There are posters for Huevos Rancheros, Carolyn Mark, and Immaculate Machine hanging inside Astro Comics.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot
  • Vomiting Man of Letters: The aforementioned Vomit Indiscretion Shot is of Henry Winchester after a narrow escape from Abaddon. It illustrates how inexperienced he is with hunter-style activities, despite all his knowledge; it also highlights how frightening Abaddon is.
  • Voudoun: The "Haitian symbol for speaking to the dead" on Larry Ganem's tombstone appears to be a Veve of Baron Samedi. We previously saw Baron Samedi in "Hammer of the Gods" (S05, E19).
  • Would Hit a Girl: Actually, Dean stabs her.
    Abaddon: Well, that is no way to treat a lady.
  • You Look Familiar: Sharon Bell, who plays the housekeeper, also played a nurse in "In My Time Of Dying" (S02, E01).