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Recap / Supernatural S 12 E 04 American Nightmare

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Recap of Supernatural
Season 12, Episode 4:

American Nightmare

Sam and Dean investigate a case that leads them to a devout religious family that lives off the grid. The brothers realize that the parents are hiding a huge secret that could destroy them all. Meanwhile, Dean struggles to accept Mary's latest decision.


Writers: Davy Perez

Director: John Showalter

Body Count

For this episode: 5 humans

For the series so far: At least 1286 humans (of which 19 were witches), 1126 angels (2 of which were archangels), 188 demons, 71 vampires, 59 ghosts, 36 Jefferson Starships, 22 gods, 19 zombies, 17 werewolves, 10 hellhounds, 8 Bisaan, 7 shapeshifters, 7 skinwalkers, 6 changelings, 5 djinn, 5 reapers, 4 dogs, 4 ghouls, 4 Leviathan, 3 Khan Worms, 3 Thule, 2 Amazons, 2 arachnes, 2 kitsunes, 2 rugarus, 2 vetalas, 2 zannas, 1 banshee, 1 cat, 1 crocotta, Death, 1 deer, 1 dragon, 1 fairy, 1 familiar, 1 lamia, The Mother of All, 1 nachzehrer, 1 okami, 1 phoenix, 1 pishtaco, 1 Purgatory creature, 1 qarin, 1 rakshasa, 1 rawhead, 1 shojo, 1 shtriga, 1 siren, 1 soul eater, 1 Titan, 1 wendigo, the Whore of Babylon, 1 wicked witch, and 1 wraith.



  • Accidental Murder:
    • The last thing Magda wanted was to kill people with her powers. She tried calling out to others for help by creating a telepathic connection, only to have them suffer and die from the same whippings her mother would force upon her.
    • Gail stabs Elijah when he gets between her and Magda.
  • Call-Back: Quite a few to "Nightmare", the season one episode to first introduce the psychic kids.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Dean is quick to believe the first victim was killed by a Wiccan coworker for her job. That's until he actually talks to her about how much the responsibility of it sucks and nobody envied the position.
  • Cult: The Peterson family. They follow a Luddite branch of Christianity and isolate themselves from the modern world, which they believe corrupt. Mrs. Peterson seems to be the Evil Matriarch of the group, as the most vocal and authoritative family member, that tries to poison them (and force their compliance when discovered).
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  • Devil in Disguise: What the Petersons believe Magda is.
  • Downer Ending: Magda is killed by a member of the British Men Of Letters, after being reassured about her powers and on her way to living with her aunt.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Sam and Dean, who've literally been through Heaven and Hell and confronted both God and Lucifer, being lectured on God's will and the Devil's machinations by Mrs. Peterson.
    • Sam and Dean in disagreement on whether the killings are a vengeful ghost or an envious witch, when it's neither.
  • Improvised Cross: In Magda's cellar, the cross is made of sticks and barbed wire.
  • Ludd Was Right: The opinion of the Peterson's, who left technology behind to form a closer relationship with God in a remote area where they literally cut themselves off from the grid. It's implied to be related to a desire for a cell phone being the cause of the first outburst of Magda's powers, but it also has the practical effect of isolating them as they keep her imprisoned and abused, so it's ambiguous how much of it is genuine.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: The Peterson's faked Magda's death and keep her locked in a cellar, where she is regularly emotionally abused with religious rhetoric stating she's evil as she's forced to repent with self-flagellation. She spends her alone time quietly singing hymns and converses with company about her internalized idea of being evil.
  • Meaningful Name: Magda was likely named after Mary Magdalene.
  • Never My Fault: Mrs. Peterson blames Magda for Elijah.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Mrs. Peterson tortures her daughter believing her to be the devil, but it is implied that she has a personal vendetta against Magda for causing the accident which caused her nerve damage. Of course, it is possible that she believed her own lies at this point.
  • Sacred Language: Magda and the people she possesses with her powers beg for help in 'Aramaic' (actually closer to Arabic, and utter nonsense in both languages).
  • Shout-Out: A tormented girl with psychic powers is locked away and abused by her hyper-religious mother and made to believe she is a demon until she loses control and people die? Gee, what could that be a reference to?
    • Sam and Dean dress as priests and introduce themselves as Fr. Penn and Fr. De Niro. Sean Penn and Robert de Niro play convicts who pretend to be priests in the 1989 remake of We're No Angels.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: As the delivery boy is ripped to shreds by Magda's power, the cheery song on his earbuds continues to play.
  • Take That!: When Abraham is explaining why they left the modern word behind
    "The world out there, it's all distractions, consumerism and corporations. And the people, if they're not shopping or stuffing their face, they're sitting in front of some screen watching fake people do fake things, while the real world gets more and more screwed up"
  • They Fight Crime!: Almost word-for-word when Dean is expressing his disbelief about Cas and Crowley's roadtrip.
    Dean: One's an angel, one's a demon, and... they solve crimes.
  • Together in Death: When Sam discovers Magda after investigating their property, Mrs. Peterson urges her husband for them to leave, but it's implied he's kept in the dark about her plan to poison their last meal before the "trip", letting them ascend to Heaven as a family.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Dean, after their mom left them.
  • Tranquil Fury: Mrs. Peterson, when Sam questions her religion and questioning how she treated her daughter.

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