‘Supernatural’ Review: “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits”
‘Supernatural’ season 8 scares up its fifteenth episode of the season in “Man's Best Friend With Benefits,” as Sam and Dean reluctantly agree to help and old friend turned to witchcraft (Christian Campbell), who seems to be linked to a series of murders seen in his dreams.
Last week’s ‘Supernatural’ episode “Trial and Error” saw Sam and Dean attempting to complete one of the first trials outlined by Kevin Tran’s tablet decipherment, killing a Hellhound targeting a dysfunctional Iowa oil family, so what does the latest season 8 episode bring? Will the Winchesters finally be able to rid the world of Crowley’s demonic forces?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Supernatural’ season 8 episode 15, “Man's Best Friend With Benefits!”
In a St. Louis alley, a prostitute bids farewell to her john, before walking off into the night. Suddenly, a man wielding a police badge appears behind her and places her under arrest, but moments later rips out her throat! As if from a dream, the same man wakes in his bed, curling up next to his dog, before waking up the next morning to find a bloody shirt from the dream in his trash can.
The next night, Sam and Dean check into a nearby hotel after agreeing to help the man, identifying him as a former case named James (Campbell) who previously saved their lives. Dean continues to express worry about Sam and the awaiting trials before heading out on a beer run, while a noise at the door catches Sam’s attention. Sam opens the door to find a waiting Doberman, which quickly makes itself at home on the bed. When Dean returns, Sam explains that the creature rushed in uninvited, not realizing that behind him the dog has changed into a beautiful woman.
The brothers confront the figure, who reveals herself as James’ sometimes-human, sometimes-canine “familiar” Portia (Mishael Morgan), the natural companion of any witch. The brothers are startled to find that the police officer turned to witchcraft after meeting them, but Portia insists James has only used magic for good. The brothers remain reticent to help a witch, but Portia reveals James didn’t actually send for the Winchesters, rather she did, worried about his recent bouts of headaches and night terrors.
Meanwhile at the local witch bar, James meets with his adviser Spencer (Curtis Caravaggio), worried about the worsening dreams and his recent distance from Portia. Back at the motel, Portia explains to the boys that James believes he might be killing people through this dreams, though she hasn’t been able to read his thoughts, as we see James dream-killing a local blind man.
After James scolds Portia for involving the Winchesters, James explains the situation to the brothers, specifically that he now seems to be finding actual evidence he performed the killings. The brothers reason he might be hexed by another witch, and agree to investigate if James is kept under house arrest, chained to the bed.
Back at the motel, Sam and Dean investigate to find that James’ witchcraft enabled him to quickly rise through the ranks of his local precinct , before the brothers lapse into another argument about Dean not trusting Sam to undergo the trials. Cooling off, Sam pays a visit to James’ precinct and talks with the elder detective Ed Stoltz, who agrees to run the DNA from James’ bloody shirt.
Portia takes Dean to the witch bar to meet with several other practitioners, including the feisty Phillippe and Spencer himself. Having heard rumors of James’ actions, Spencer denies knowledge of a hex that would allow one witch to control another actions, while Phillippe reveals himself as Spencer’s feline familiar. No further along, Dean learns from Sam over the phone that the blood from James’ shirt indeed matches the murder victim’s.
Later that night, a worrisome Portia secures James’ chains to the bed, before the two become intimate, and Portia experiences James’ memories of the murders. Afterward, Sam and Dean enter the house looking to kill James for his apparent actions, but Portia assures them none of James’ memories contain any context outside of the actual murders, meaning the memories themselves were implanted.
As Sam pays another visit to the police station, noticing that Ed’s tech employee has a large file bearing James’ name outside of a locked room, Dean and Portia meet with a warlock “snitch” named Drexel. Drexel explains that the rumors of James actions have reached the witch community, and will likely force him to leave the area, or commit suicide to atone for his misdeeds.
Realizing that Ed Stoltz would have motive to bring down James’ career, the brothers inform James of the detective’s file and secret room. With no way to break in, James drags the brothers along as an astral projection, as they enter the locked room of the police station and find entire walls of evidence, particularly sworn witness statements from Spencer’s familiar Phillippe. Upon returning from the astral plane, James incapacitates Sam and Dean, and heads off after Phillippe.
James confronts Phillipe inside the witch’s bar, but Phillippe insists he only did as he was told on Spencer’s orders. Spencer telekinetically snap’s the underling’s neck, and admits to helping put together the case against James out of his own love for Portia. Once James and Portia committed the taboo act of becoming involved with one another, Spencer’s jealousy got the better of him, explaining the attack.
Sam and Dean arrive to intervene, but Spencer quickly incapacitates the brothers by trapping them in painful memories of the past, such as their mother’s death and Sam’s time in Lucifer’s Cage. Portia manages to attack Spencer long enough for Sam and Dean to get a shot off, lobbing an incendiary witch bomb that destroys the attacking practitioner.
Later, Sam and Dean offer to help James and Portia, though the pair realize the mounting case and the scorn of the local witch community prevent them from staying in town. Sam and Dean say their goodbyes and head out on the road, as Dean admits to Sam that the painful memories reminded him of how much they’ve been through together. Dean vows to trust Sam and stand behind him for the trials, as we see Sam concealing a bloodied cough stemming from the recent physical trial.
We have to admit, we weren't sure what to make of "Man's Best Friend with Benefits" following the mixed reactions to last week's episode, and the lack of available photos from The CW. In spite of the uncertainty, "Man's Best Friend with Benefits" proves to be a rather solid episode for a later season, spinning an admittedly hokey concept into a decent character piece. If we didn't know better, we would think The CW were positioning James for his own' spin-off, but it seems an unlikely notion at this point. If nothing else, "Benefits" at least proves engaging and consistently intriguing, smartly building up the stable of unique allies the Winchesters have been collecting over the season. The renewed trust between the brothers feels a bit old hat, but we're pleased 'Supernatural' can still be taught new tricks in its old age.
Did you get your fill of spooky ‘Supernatural’ action? What did you think about “Man's Best Friend with Benefits?” Join us again next week for an all-new episode recap of ‘Supernatural’ episode “Remember the Titans” on The CW!