My Supernatural rewatch from the very beginning (after the entire 15 seasons of the series has aired) continues this week with ‘Skin’. I was excited to rewatch this episode because I remember it as being pretty epic. The music is amazing, there are some super disturbing and dark flashlight-lit scenes that have that quintessential early seasons Supernatural horror movie vibe – and it has two Deans. What’s not to like?
In probably one of the best openings of the series, Inna Gadda Da Vida plays as a SWAT team bursts into a house to rescue a bound and bloodied woman tied to a chair in a dark house. They pursue her attacker, ordering him to freeze and drop the knife. He turns around, bloody knife raised, and we see — to our absolute shock — that it’s Dean Winchester!
He leaps to the ground and gets away. What a beginning!
And then it’s: One Week Earlier
Sam and Dean pull the Impala into a Gas N Sip, another of the Supernatural locations that I’ve been at. This one was on my very first trip to Vancouver in 2007, when Kathy and I traversed the beautiful city with a fellow fan who was also a resident. Every time we managed to find a filming location, we stood there in awe, overcome just to be standing where the Winchesters had, taking photos of what had reverted back to a nondescript gas station. The confused attendants probably wondered what the hell we were doing. It didn’t matter; we were joyful just to be there.
Sam is reading emails on his phone because he’s pretty tech savvy for 2005, and Dean’s feelings are a little hurt that Sam’s not paying him more attention (now that we know how worried about Sam leaving again he was, this and every other scene reads just a little differently – and makes a lot of sense). Dean tries increasingly provocative statements to try to get Sam’s attention, finally landing on “Sam wears women’s underwear” because early seasons Supernatural was subtly misogynistic and homophobic in a way that was probably realistic for who Dean was and how he’d been raised but in 2021 makes me do a little eyeroll. But hey, Dean is not perfect, and that’s one of the things I love about him. Another is how much he evolves over the course of the show.
Sam says he’s listening but also reading emails, and that brings up another source of anxiety for Dean as he realizes who those emails are from. He’s envious that Sam had/has a whole life that doesn’t include him, and friends who are not hunters and never will be. Sam succeeded in getting “out” and I think there’s a big part of Dean that’s proud of him and wants that for him, but there’s another part that misses his closeness with his brother and desperately wants Sam to stay with him and to have his family together again.
Dean: You still keep up with your college buddies? What do you tell them?
(Transparent in its disapproval based in fear)
Sam: That I’m roadtripping with my big brother.
Dean: Oh, so you lie to them.
Sam huffs back that Dean is kinda antisocial, the two of them slinging subtle judgments at each other that keep them still not quite on the same page. There’s still a fair amount of resentment there, for both of them – Sam that Dean bought into their dad’s hunting-is-all-there-is life and Dean that Sam didn’t. The fact that they didn’t have any contact for several years speaks volumes to how much their split bothered them both.
Sam gets an email from his friend Rebecca about their mutual friend Zach, who apparently is accused of killing his girlfriend, though Rebecca says that’s impossible, and Sam wants to go check it out. Dean argues, insisting it’s not their kind of thing – he’s clearly both annoyed and intimidated at the idea of Sam being back with his college friends. Maybe he’ll decide to just stay?
They argue, and then Sam looks up at his big brother with the patented Sam Winchester puppy eyes, and it is all over for Dean.
The Impala peels out of the gas station and does a U turn, heading back the way she came.
Rebecca has a strange story about what happened, including that Zach was seen on security footage going into the house where he allegedly killed his girlfriend, but she insists he was actually with her at that time – so he was in two places at once. Sam convinces her to take them to the crime scene by saying that Dean is a cop, and we see how much in sync the brothers are despite their separation when Dean smoothly goes right along with it.
Dean to Sam: Oh you’re a real straight shooter with your friends…
At the crime scene it’s clear the woman let her attacker in, and they also find out that a week before someone broke in – and stole some of Zach’s clothes. Hmmm. There’s a photo of Sam, Rebecca and Zach, a call back to when he was living another life, and maybe one that’s still pulling at him.
Sam to Dean: So you think maybe this is our kinda thing?
Dean: Nah. But we should look at the security tapes to make sure.
Despite not wanting to buy into it, Dean is starting to get suspicious too. The video shows Zach, whose eyes glow white when he looks up at the camera.
Sam: They say a photo can catch a glimpse of the soul.
Dean: So, a doppelganger?
Smart boys are smart, and I’m here for it.
Meanwhile, a short distance away ‘Zach’ watches a man and woman say goodbye. A while later, the man comes home to find blood on the wall and screams for his wife, finding her tied to a chair, cut up and blooded. She starts screaming when she sees him, begging him not to hurt her anymore. The confused man hears someone still in the house and confronts – a man who looks exactly like him!
Early the next morning – too early, according to Dean, who is grumbling into his coffee about it being 5:30 am – the brothers explore the back of Zach’s house.
These little glimpses of who Sam and Dean are help flesh them out as people we can are about. Dean is adorably grumpy in the morning and I am here for it.
An ambulance roars by and the brothers follow it to check out a neighbor’s house, where apparently another guy tried to kill his wife, though all the neighbors say he was “such a nice guy”.
Dean: Definitely our kind of problem.
The smart Winchesters figure out it’s probably a shapeshifter, which there’s “lore” about in every country. I love how often Sam says lore in early seasons.
Sam: Can they fly? Because otherwise, where did it go, the trail just ends?
Dean: Well, there’s another way to go – down.
Smart boys again. There’s a manhole cover beneath their feet. So they know how to kill it, and they’re back in sync with their plan, though still at odds otherwise. Meanwhile, Rebecca has discovered that Sam lied to her and hangs up on him, angry.
Dean: You lie to your friends because if they knew who you really were they’d think you’re a freak.
Sam: So I should be more like you.
Dean: Gig’s not without its perks!
He hands Sam a gun and into the sewers they go.
Here’s where this episode gets a little bit – okay a lot – disgusting. It’s a creepy flashlight-lit scene once again, as water drip drip drips and the brothers try to avoid the goo that the shapeshifter leaves behind when it sheds its skin. Sam nearly runs into some, and Dean warns him away from “the puke inducing bile next to your face.”
The shifter appears, injures Dean, and Sam goes after him, but he gets away. After a separate chase, Dean reappears and they head back to the car, but we see his eyes glowing. (Cue everyone in the rewatch yelling at Sam HE’S NOT YOUR BROTHER!)
Early seasons Winchesters are SO DAMN SMART though, so we didn’t have to worry. Sam tosses Dean the keys and he catches them left handed when his shoulder had been hurt earlier. Sam confronts him.
Not!Dean: Pull the trigger then…
Sam doesn’t, and the shifter gets the jump on him.
Sam wakes up tied up, backhanded by the shifter.
Sam: Where is he?? Where’s Dean?!
Shifter: I’d worry more about you.
Sam: Where is he???
As much as they push and pull at each other, it’s crystal clear just how much the brothers care about each other. Worry more about yourself does not compute with Winchesters.
The shifter, who downloads some of the memories of the person they’re imitating, taunts Sam with what he sort of knows.
Shifter: The more I learn about you and your family… he’s sure got issues with you… You got to go to college, he – I – had to stay with Dad. You think I didn’t have dreams of my own? But he needed me.
He confronts Sam, gets right in his face.
Shifter: I’m just jealous. Me? I know I’m a freak.
And then he speaks the words that we know now were very true for Dean then.
Shifter: Sooner or later, everyone’s gonna leave me… even Dad ditched me too…
This scene hits even harder now that we know what Dean told Sam in the final episode of the show – that back then, he really was worried all the time that Sam wouldn’t stay with him, that he’d be abandoned. It wasn’t just the shifter expressing its own insecurities, it was an expression of what Dean really felt too. That insecurity is a theme that runs through the entire fifteen seasons, right through when Dean was possessed by Michael; the archangel also said that Dean was afraid that Sam would leave as soon as he had the chance for something better. I kind of love that Supernatural never gave up on its tradition of letting the monsters express those internal insecurities and hang-ups that the Winchesters try to keep inside. It makes me all emotional now knowing that Dean was wrong, that it was Sam there with him at the end, freely choosing how to live his life.
The shifter finally steps away, taunting Sam further, saying that Dean would bang Rebecca if he had the chance, so let’s see what happens. He leaves, and soon after, Sam hears actual Dean’s voice calling to him. The look of relief on Sam’s face is intense, so Dean has to make a joke of it, too much feeling in the room.
Dean: Well, he’s not stupid, he picked the handsome one.
And damn, Ackles in the darkness in so much of this episode, brilliantly lit the way only Serge Ladouceur can, really is a sight to behold.
The shifter’s attempts to seduce Rebecca don’t go very well despite the fact that he looks like Jensen Ackles. He takes it personally when he tries to confide in her about shapeshifters and she asks “So is it like a genetic freak?” The shifter’s rather sad backstory is revealed, “born human but different, hideous, hated, until he learned to become someone else… He’s all alone, close to no one, just wants someone to love him. He’s like me. Everyone needs a human touch, it’s so hard to be different…”
It really is a sad story, but tying people up and torturing them isn’t something you can shrug off and be okay with. Rebecca rebuffs the shifter’s advances (again, despite the fact that he looks like this…)
He attacks her in retaliation, cutting her and tying her to a chair and this is where we came in at the start of the episode.
This episode is a reminder that Supernatural really is a 42 minute once a week little horror show.
It’s honestly a little hard to follow with its time jumps in the dark, but the SWAT team arrives and he gets away and heads back to the tunnels.
We see him shed his skin, which means shirtless Jensen briefly, which everyone appreciated very much – it’s something that remained exceedingly rare in fifteen seasons of Supernatural. For a show with such an attractive cast, that’s really saying something.
Unfortunately the shifter very quickly morphs into something not very attractive, especially when his teeth start falling out of his mouth and OMG I think I’ve had this nightmare.
Jensen has talked about how much he did not enjoy filming that scene, and I kinda feel for him.
Sam and Dean escape and go looking for the shapeshifter, and I’m feeling kind of grateful to the shifter because he’s got most of Dean’s clothes and that means we get Dean in just a thin gray tee shirt and jeans. A rarity on Supernatural, so I am enjoying every second of it.
There’s a little ad lib where Dean steps in a puddle and complains, put upon, “come on!”
They get back to the Impala but the cops are waiting. Sam stays behind to be caught since they’ve seen the Wanted posters for Dean, and Dean takes off.
Sam: Stay out of the sewers alone – I mean it!
Protective little brother.
Dean as soon as he’s out of sight: Sorry Sam, you know me…
Dean finds Rebecca tied up in the sewers and she surprisingly doesn’t freak out thinking he’s about to cut her up because she apparently saw the shifter turn into HER instead.
Unfortunately for Sam, he’s with the Not!Rebecca, who knocks him out and plans to kill him — after turning back into Dean all the better to torment Sam.
Shifter: Murder in the 1st, of his own brother. I’ll be sorry to lose this skin. You should appreciate him more than you do.
I love how the early seasons used the perspective of all kinds of others, from monsters to civilians, to comment on Dean and Sam’s relationship and often help them see the other through different eyes.
Sam gets loose because he’s a badass, slicing his ropes on the shifter’s own knife, and a fight ensues. The shifter calls him “little bro” and Sam lashes out angrily with “You’re not him!”
Shifter: Even when we were kids, I always kicked your ass.
He pins Sam to the ground and chokes him, Sam spluttering and losing the battle, when suddenly Dean bursts in and yells “Hey!” The shifter turns around and Dean shoots him dead.
There’s a poignant moment where Dean locks eyes with Sam as he pulls the amulet from the shifter’s neck and takes it back.
Sam nods, understanding passing between them.
We don’t even know the backstory of the amulet yet, but we already know in this episode that it has significance. To both of them.
Sam says goodbye to Rebecca while Dean listens, asking him if Jessica knew what Sam did. He says no and she replies, “Must be lonely.”
Sam looks over at Dean, then shakes his head. “Nah, it’s not so bad.”
Rebecca: We miss you. Call sometime?
Sam: Might not be for a little while.
It’s subtle, but Dean hears Sam’s response for what it is. That fear he’s carrying that Sam will run back to his friends and his college life are eased just a little. Nevertheless, he’s still conflicted, wanting what’s best for his little brother and also wanting Sam with him.
Dean: Sorry, man, I wish you could just be Joe College.
Sam shakes his head.
Sam: Even at Stanford, deep down I never really fit in… I was a freak.
Dean: Yeah, well I’m a freak too, I’m right there with you.
Sam (smiling): Yeah, I know you are.
I kind of want to flail about how great the dialogue is in some of these early episodes. It’s not spelled out for us, there’s not a lot of exposition, but we understand that this brief conversation tells us so much about Sam and Dean and where they are in their relationship. It’s so rare to have such an in depth and nuanced exploration of a platonic relationship – so subversive to make that relationship the core of the show and spend so much time carefully dissecting it without ever hitting the audience over the head or making the characters seem unreal – I’m just in awe sometimes. And grateful.
“All Right Now” plays as the Impala drives her boys to their next adventure.
Have I mentioned the music in this episode is amazing?
Six episodes in and this is already the most fascinating show ever. I wish I could go back in time and experience it all again for real, but this is the next best thing. Stay tuned next week for Episode 1.07, the equally creepy and scary Hookman!
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20 thoughts on “Supernatural Rewatch Episode 1.06 – Going A Little Deeper with ‘Skin’”
Great episode, but one of the first ones I watched that reminded me that supper and Winchesters are not always a great combination.
The special effects were fantastic and so disgustingly real.
Watching now and knowing the ending really changes some of the interaction doesn’t it? Not sure if that’s a good thing or not.
I’m finding it an interesting thing at the very least – there’s a satisfaction to understanding the characters so much better now, so that viewing them in hindsight feels different. New almost. And I like that.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lynn.
I alway find this episode emotional. It’s a classic example of how Dean felt so trapped in the Winchester Bell Jar and it’s the first sign of him really railing against the confines of his world.
Sadly Dean’s inability to communicate and express his needs, the stories he told himself and Sam to survive became his enemy to the point Sam seems to have totally bought into the fairytale Dean has built . At first Sam isn’t able to recognise what Dean’s attempting ( badly ) to communicate about friends and friendship and does see his brother as the strong and invincible man Dean wanted him to see as a child. Sam doesn’t see that at least part of what the shifter tells him is the truth. That realisation comes much further down the line . Dean sort of got what he wished, his brother seeing him as capable strong and independent, but it didn’t help him in any way achieve his real hearts desire, to be loved and have someone in the world who not only needed him, but wanted to be with him, a friend .
Dean’s feelings are complex when it comes to Sam and college and I read it not so much jealousy aimed at Sam per se, because he was sincerely determined Sam have a good life, more immense frustration and anger at himself, that his own dreams were being thwarted, a desperation not to have to shoulder the burden alone. Maybe even in a sense, Dean was almost throwing a sort of toddler tantrum of “it’s not fair you left me behind to deal with all this cr*p alone” in his mind, feelings that he cannot govern or understand himself, because of the frustration, not that he was against Sam having something nice.
I believe when Dean said in the pilot episode he didn’t want to do this alone I think that was his own unique cry for help, that what he needed was a companion so he didn’t feel so much of an outsider, so much of a freak, that for Dean the weight of the responsibility the job brought crushing him. That he just wanted off the hamster wheel he was on for a while and he does finally very clearly identify exactly that by season 15.
Dean sadly often managed to sabotage himself in achieving his dreams as he got older , we see that lwhen he goes to Sonny’s boys home( and later with Lisa) Dean knew he’d had an escape route, but his heart and sense of duty wouldn’t let him take that opportunity and that must always have been a constant at the back if his mind seeing Sam’s determined efforts to be free and stay free . Dean admired Sam’s strength of character, his determination and wanted to be more like him ( that crops up in scarecrow jumping ahead ) It must have only served to make Dean feel worse about himself, that he’d failed himself, that he was weak, making him act with hostility to any perceived threats to the only bond of substance he had and valued. All of this must have played in his actions thoughts and words this episode.
Poor Sam must have wondered where the hostility came from because he wasn’t getting Dean’s frantic subliminal message, he didn’t see the look on Dean’s face as Dean waited to be introduced to “Little Becky” and of course, they never talked about what was going on with Dean, because Sam saw the shape shifer’s words as anything more than lies and of course, Dean absolutely refused to show what he perceived as weakness by actually, you know, explaining what he wanted.
Strong writing by one of the best writers in the show, amazing camera work and lighting, a classic episode that holds up in retrospect and still echos through to the future story, rich with emotion and feeling. Jensen is stunning both visually and emotionally in this episode, as hero and villain, it actually quite hard to tell where one version of Dean begins and the other ends as he plays the shifter sublimely well. Oscar worthy work.
Oscar worthy work indeed. I think that’s a big part of Dean’s conflicted feelings about Sam at this point – he wants Sam to be safe and happy (and that might mean ‘out of the life’) but he also desperately wants Sam to be in it with him. Sam’s really the only person who CAN be really with him, the only one who ‘gets it’. That is so powerful, that validation – but Dean cannot yet explain his feelings to Sam. I love knowing that eventually, by the time the series ends, they get each other.
Thanks for the recap Lynn. I love this episode, but then I love so many of the early ones. I know there was talk of watch-parties, so I presume you are doing these re-watches with a streaming service, but going back old school and watching the DVD’s gives you so much more of the classic music that was originally used. I’ve also noticed the ocassional few lines or scene actually being cut when watching online. !!! Outrageous!
That’s very true. I’ve watched a few episodes when they were airing on aTNT or Netflix (when we got it on there) and the music is different and the scenes just before commercials are cut short.
Actually we are all serious enough fans that we couldn’t stand watching streaming. We are watching the DVD’s by screen sharing over zoom so we can all have the proper music. It’s unbearable to watch them without it!
This really was a great classic episode for all the reasons you mentioned…but you left out one of my favorite lines, when Dean sees the mug shot drawing of him on TV, and complains, “That’s not even a good picture!” 😀
OMG yes you’re right, that is a classic line – and delivered with perfection by Ackles!
There’s also a cruel irony that to save Sam’s friend Dean’s anonymity got sacrificed making not only his day to day life harder, but significantly reducing any chance of getting out of the hunter life, keeping him isolated and on the fringes of society.
Cruel irony indeed. As much as Dean acts all cavalier and even proud about it, he knows exactly what that means.
Typical of Dean though, to embrace what positive he could and have some fun with what was a very dire situation. A situation that eventually came back to bite him hard. Has me wondering about how many other incidents in his past Dean downplayed or made fun of, just to get by?
Dean had enormous internal fortitude and had this wonderful unique way of looking at the life he’d been given and see it as a blessing, particularly as a young man he was very much a glass half full kinda guy. Wherever there was a negative, he always found a positive . Dean knew how to live life to the full and just live in the moment, no regrets.
Absolutely. And as much as the terrible trials that the Winchester endured damped that tendency down in him, I love that he still had that ability, and that we got to see it in the finale in those years in the bunker post-Chuck.
I really like everything that everyone has said here. I want to add a quick comment about Dean’s abandonment issues. As we know, he is terrified of being left alone as shown consistently throughout the series. My take is that because of the trauma of what happened Nov. 2, 1983, psychologically in many ways he is still is a 4-year-old boy in the body of a 40-year-old man. And an actual 4-year-old simply cannot survive, mentally or physically, if left alone for very long.
Those early attachment wounds leave a lifelong impression – especially when continually reinforced by a life that was full of losses and uncertainties by its very definition (aka hunting). No wonder the few attachments that Dean does have are so incredibly important to him that they feel like life and death.
I’m thoroughly enjoying your reviews – in the day I used to wait with baited breath for Bardicvoice’s reviews – she used to do such in depth ones – I saw things I had never seen myself. I am not sure I am comfortable viewing these old episodes through the lens of knowing how it goes and ends so when I watch myself I just enjoy the episode for itself. I also love Marion’s detailed views and replies, all helps with severe withdrawal! Thanks!
I used to love Mary’s reviews too! (And enjoyed quite a few spirited in depth discussions with her over lunch at cons back in the day). I think whatever way of viewing feels good for you, that’s what you do. It’s all up to us now, how we interact with the fifteen years of canon we were lucky enough to get!
Haha, one giddy fangirl here!!!
I was blindly ignorant of this wonderful community in the early days, so I’m getting a real buzz responding to Lynn’s recap reviews. I had no one to share my thoughts with back in the day so I may on occasion, get a little carried away …. Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts Icarus.
This episode really creeper me out when I first watched it. And I usually skip over it when I rewatch. But I might need to go back. And this relationship that Sam and Dean have is why the finale is so phenomenal. The people who worship Castiel just don’t get it, or refuse to see and accept it. I feel sad for them. The show has always been about Sam and Dean and also about the people in their lives. But the brother’s relationship has always been the center of the story.
You make a very important point. Dean and Sam had no home, no Mom and a shell of a Father consumed by grief and vengeance. These two boys were raised in virtual poverty, owning only what could be carried in the Impala, never guaranteed to be in school for long enough to have friends or a sparkling future, all they had, all they ever had of value, was each other. That closeness of things no one else could understand created a symbiosis that just couldn’t be replicated with other friends.
I was looking at some videos of the Brothers hugging and it’s the very last one of the series that speaks the loudest for how important their bond is to each other. After what must have felt like an eternity for Sam between Dean passing and his own passing, they are reunited. Dean initiates the hug but Sam’s literally wrapping Dean up in hugs once they embrace, hungry for that familial love. The bond the Winchesters had, forged in the fire of their home was never completely broken, ever.