It is arguable that the hardest Supernatural fan fiction to write, and the kind that requires the most skill, is "Weechester/Teenchester" fiction. This is because the writer is always faced with the problem of making the charcaters recognizable to fans who know the characters. Yet at the same time the writer must make Sam and Dean sufficiently different both to reflect the fact that the boys are not yet the men they will become, and simply because the author has to find a way to keep the reader interested. Not an easy thing to pull off.
Add into that tweaking one of the most iconic moments in all of Supernatural fandom - the death of Mary Winchester - and you begin to appreciate just what an accomplishment "Where's Mommy," a "weechester one-shot" truly is. It is an almost perfect angle on what is certainly Supernatural's most pivotal moment. One that manages to capture the flavor of the show while giving the reader a fresh and interesting take on what should be well trod ground.
"Where's Mommy" fills in an interesting moment in time and answers the question of just what did happen in those immediate moments and hours after the famous fire that launched the Winchester family on its poignant yet bizzare trajectory. In it, the author shows what happens as Dean and John watch their lives go up in an untherworldly blaze and explores the immediate "shock effect" that it has on both. An effect that will reverberate for the rest of their lives.
This is truly fascinating ground and requires an enormous attention to detail. The author cannot alter in any significant way what fans of the show know down to the molecular level - and who will not be charitable toward an author who is too frivolous with dogma. In this, the author is completely succesful by in effect, weaving in and out of those moments that readers saw first as viewers of the show. Consequently, what is new is blended with what is not, thereby satisfying both reader loyalty to "holy writ" and the need to bring something different to the table.
As plot, it blends seemlessly and the reader finds himself thinking - as the reader should think when reading a Weechester piece - "Oh, that's what happened." The quickest way to know that a Weechester story has failed is if the reader is suddently reminded, in the midst of reading a story, of something in the show that it is inconsistent with the story. In "Where's Mommy" that never happens and it is a real tribute to the author's skill.
Another tribute is the author's deft handling of characterization. Typically, "one shots" are, for obvious reasons, somewhat weak in that department, but not this time. The John and Dean Winchester we see in "Where's Mommy" are recognizable as the characters we will come to know, but not dogmatically so.
In the author's rendering we can see John Winchester the trained ex-Marine, but also the doting father we are told that he was in season one's episode "Home." We see this in John's authoritative tone of voice with Dean, and also as he nervously changes baby Sam's diaper as a way to link his mind to the normal as his world goes up in flames. We also see it John's insistent pleas to the firefighter when Dean's gone missing.
The contrast is expertly portrayed. This is a man who is capable of taking charge, but he is also still the family man whose world has not yet been shaped by the experiences to come.
The handling of little Dean is as equally deft. This is a four year old boy, but he demonstrates in small ways those qualities of loyalty and courage that will become not just marked, but central, to the man that Dean becomes.
Experts will argue whether it is nature or nurture that is most predominant in the shaping of human character, but the author of "Where's Mommy" is not in doubt. It is nature that triumphs and little Dean shows all the courage, ingenuity and loyalty that will be his trademark charcteristics by bravely going back into the fire to find the mother he loves. Dean is portrayed as a four year old, but there is just enough there to see the man he will become.
Indeed, similarly, it is not hard to imagine how John will nurture these very traits in his son as he sets out on the path that will change their lives. Moreover, it is possible to see that he will do this out of not obsession, but out of the love and compassion that guides him as he comforts Dean in the hospital after the fire.
It meshes brilliantly and in "Where's Mommy" the lingering clouds of the future are captured without the author ever bludgeoning the reader over the head. From little Dean's bedside, it is possible to imagine, without being told, what the future will bring.
For all of that, "Where's Mommy" has a few arguable flaws. The author well prortrays John Winchester in the emotional turmoil of the fire, but the impact about seeing his wife floating on the ceiling is seemingly missing. To be sure, amidst the chaos it is not something John would have dwelt upon. Still. it is not something that would not have escaped an ex-Marine's attention, either.
Especially since the story is told in the third person omnicient, it would have been more realistic to have thrown in a line something to the effect of John thinking, in passing, "Did I just see what I saw? This kind of thing does not happen, must be from the smoke.." and then dismissing it as he deals with the immediate problems. In a moment of tumult and desperation, such random thoughts would not be unusual.
Also, the portrayal of the firefighter is a bit odd. Firefighters are trained not to be dismissive of the potential for people - especially children - to be trapped in buildings. A trained firfighter would not dismiss John, but would immediately begin to question him. Still, for dramatic effect, it works and I cheerfully concede what the authour would be right to charge: "You could not have done it better." Nope, I probably would not have.
Finally, as regards Dean, everything works except for his response when John tells him definitively that Mary will "not be coming back.' The author has Dean scream before he withdraws into himself. There is nothing absolutely wrong with this, per se. Still, one wishes that authors could resist the dramatic scream just once in a while. (Nothing so ruined Dean's eloquent soliloquy over Sam's body in AHBL Part II as his scream at the end, "What am I supposed to do?" Up to that point, it was brilliant. After that, overwrought.)
The conclusion to "Where's Mommy" would have been no less effective, indeed would have been more so, had Dean simply hugged his father first and sobbed, and then simply pulled out of his father's embrace and turned away. Same ending, but a different tweak and, at least debatably, more realistic. This is, after all, a boy who was brave enough to venture into a burning house. Such toughness does not seem consistent with an outburst.
To be sure, we know that Dean will be the more emotional of the two brothers. Still, we also know that Dean will be the one who hides it better. Both in current context, and with regard to the character that readers will come to know, a SLIGHTLY more subdued reaction would have worked better.
That said, all of these complaints are trivial - indeed, are at best debatable. They do not detract from a well done story, but are merely suggestions that would have added that "little bit more."
Regardless, the bottom line remains: Who needs a little bit more when you have this much in such a small package? This is one author who gives you more bang for the buck, and one "short" that really stands tall.
Thank you for your in depth review. I appreciate both your kind words and your critique of various perceived flaws.
Regarding a couple of your observations/mild criticisms, I’d just like to mention a couple of things.
1. With John not dwelling on the horror/oddity of seeing Mary burning on the ceiling, I think my mindset was that he was in complete and utter shock and hadn’t really absorbed everything he saw or experienced that night. That would come crashing in a little later when the immediate drama ended and the night grew quiet once more. It is possible that I could have portrayed that a little better, but all in all, I’m still happy with it.
2. The firefighter—I was attempting to portray the firefighter as skeptical for a few seconds as to the possibility that Dean would have somehow gotten past them all when they’re stationed at both doors and gone back inside the house. I know they wouldn’t question the possibility of someone being trapped when they first arrived, they would immediately begin a search. Perhaps the portrayal here is somewhat inaccurate; it is hard to say not having firsthand experience. However, that being said, I have written a lot of firefighter fanfic and have had it read often by actual firefighters who’ve told me that I do a pretty realistic job of portraying them. Admittedly though, I didn’t have any of them read this particular scene.
3. Dean’s scream? I understand what you’re getting at. In my head though, it just seems like a four-year-old would have a dramatic, angry, and somewhat violent, reaction like that. I merely went with what was “screaming” in my head.
All in all, you had many, many nice things to say about this oneshot and I truly appreciate it. Again, thank you for taking the time to read and leave a review.