Still reeling from last week’s reveal that the Darkness is God’s sister? Too bad! We don’t learn much about that little wrinkle this week. However, a familiar female character appeared in this episode and survived the entire hour, so…yay!
Briana Buckmaster is back to bring some Fargo flair to the proceedings as the sunny, resourceful Sheriff Donna “a bit of a doormat” Hanscum, whom we last saw being inducted into the world of monsters courtesy of Sheriff Jody Mills. This is how she knows to call the Winchesters when a man in a giant, fuzzy rabbit mask stabs someone to death with a beer bottle.
Her call comes as Dean is railing at Sam after catching him praying on his knees beside his bed, “now I lay me down to sleep” style. (An aside: the brotherly plaid color coordination is tight this week. Well done, guys.)
On the phone with Donna, Dean asks, “What do you mean ‘killer bunny’?” while Sam clarifies, “Fat-sucker Donna?” Worst nickname ever.
So they’re off to Cottage Grove, Minnesota, where Donna takes them to meet the Donnie Darko rabbit’s fuzzy younger brother with a mask that won’t come off, no matter what you try. He’s sitting in a cell in jeans and that enormous blood-soaked rabbit head. It’s creepy. So, so creepy.
“What’s up, doc?” Dean asks but gets no response. And the only response Sam gets from, “Let me guess, Rog. You were framed?” is a dirty look from his brother.
But when Dean turns back from glaring at Sam, aaah! The bloody rabbit man is at the bars, grabbing him, and Dean squeaks out the the world’s funniest, smallest exclamation of terror. The rabbit man is strong, and he doesn’t react to holy water, so he’s not a demon. But his Minnesota Tech T-shirt and “Kylie” tattoo lead the brothers to his girlfriend, who says her boyfriend, Mike, started acting strangely the instant he put that mask on in a thrift shop the day before.
At the station, Donna and Officer Doug, who unfortunately shares a name with her bad ex-husband, are forced to shoot Mike in self-defense when he attacks them. Dead, the rabbit head comes right off, and he’s a regular 19-year-old.
That night, the Winchesters and Donna set fire to the mask, which is engulfed in flames so quickly that it’s obviously unsafe even without whatever curse it carries And other than Donna’s guilt over killing an innocent — albeit possessed — kid, problem solved, right?
Wrong. The high school football coach is put into a coma when the mascot, a jester, beats his head in with a kettlebell. Do you see what happens when you let CrossFit into your life?
The brothers suggest that this might be a case of ghost possession and hit the jester with rock salt. Sure enough, off pops the mask to reveal a confused teenage girl. The Winchesters encourage Donna to let the possessed lass go but not before the girl explains that the jester costume was recently donated to the school.
And this is how the Winchesters come to knock on the door of Rita Johnson and her son, Max. The costume belonged to her brother, Chester, a kid’s entertainer with a truly frightening number of masked costumes. Chester killed himself a couple of months back by jumping off a bridge and was cremated. The brothers get a list of all of the donated costumes to collect and destroy.
NEXT: Sam battles his biggest fear
We now cut to a masked clown paying the comatose coach a visit. He cuts the coach’s throat with a scalpel and then calls for the elevator. And of course, the doors open to reveal our favorite coulrophobe — though in Sam’s defense, that clown costume would be terrifying even without the blood spatters and dripping scalpel.
Sam works up the nerve to attack him, but Bozo gets the upper hand. Thankfully, Sam’s packing salt and chases off the ghost, leaving another confused murderer. He lets this one “escape,” too, and Donna starts worrying about losing her job. Also, new Doug is suspicious about the coincidence of all the mask-based murder, but Donna tells him to stuff it. Dean and Sam ask if she’s maybe equating new Doug, who’s obviously sweet on her, with her ex. Donna tells both of them to stuff it, too. Let’s hear it for Sheriff Donna “no longer a doormat” Hanscum!
The Winchesters visit Rita again and pick at her story. Although her son, Max, says his uncle was a good guy, Rita confesses that the two victims accused Chester of crossing the line with their children, but instead of calling the police, they went to Rita. She had her own doubts and told them where they could find Chester to give him a talking to. A flashback shows the two men accidentally dropping Chester off a bridge. It happened while Chester was wearing a furry deer costume, which adds a layer of absurdity to the tragedy.
“I should’ve trusted my brother,” Rita concludes in the week’s biggest understatement.
A call to Donna and new Doug confirms that they’ve rounded up all the donated costumes except the deer head Chester was wearing before his death. And, in one of the best jump scares of the series, that very deer head turns up on Max, who’s standing right behind Dean.
He tosses both Winchesters around and launches himself at his mother. Dean salts him (not assaults him, to be clear), and the ghost flees. Sam takes the deer mask outside to burn it, but the ghost of Chester materializes to toss him around some more. Honestly, the Winchesters must be constantly concussed.
Dean makes a salt circle to keep Rita and Max safe and gets thrown across the room for his trouble. Finally, Sam lights up the deer head, and the vengeful spirit of Chester, still clad in the deer suit, whumps out of existence.
The boys’ time in Minnesota ends with Donna hoping that something less murderous will bring them back to the state someday. “Like Prince. Or Cheese Curd Fest!
Then Dean and Sam bestow upon her the title of hunter, and lucky, lucky Donna gets to hug both of them, lingering on Dean (or maybe I’m just projecting). After they leave, she apologizes to new Doug for treating him like a punching bag. He offers to let her call him by his middle name — Lonnie — but she laughs and says Doug will do just fine. Well, I was hoping we’d learn that she and Jody Mills had shacked up to co-parent Mills’ adoptive daughter, but I suppose new Doug will do.
Finally, back in Baby, Sam tells Dean that he’s praying to God because he’s worried that the visions are telling him he needs to go back to Lucifer’s cage to get answers about the Darkness.
Dean rejects that in the absolute. “No. Just not gonna happen.”
Although Sam agrees with his brother, his eyes are still troubled as we fade to black.
So, what say you, Super-fans? Was this a good diversion from the Darkness-heavy season so far? It seems like ages since the Winchesters were able to solve a case simply by setting stuff on fire. It’s a nice throwback to simpler times after weeks — nay, seasons — of mega-powered demons and Leviathans and Marks of Cain and what have you. Back to basics and all that.
Also, I don’t know about you, but I’ll never be truly comfortable around a masked character again.