This was a good episode when I first saw it, but not an overly emotional one. That is all changed now, watching it post series finale – because this is the episode where we meet the vampire whose nest will take down Dean Winchester fifteen years later. It’s amazing to me that the show managed to do that – to have the same actress come back to portray a character we never thought of as at all important, all those years later, to do something so pivotal to the show’s eventual ending. It makes this episode hard to watch, knowing what will happen so many years later.
‘Dead Man’s Blood’ stands on its own as a well done episode, though, especially because it has all three Winchesters, something that feels like a treat now because we got precious little of that in other seasons. Its vampires are pretty memorably too, and not just because of what Jenny eventually does.
We open in Colorado. Daniel Elkins having a drink, well known to the bartender, who describes him as “a nice old man, just a nut.” He senses trouble coming as a group of people walk in the door, and Elkins stares. They talk about having “dinner plans” (because they’re vampires, get it?) and when the bartender turns to ask Elkins if he wants another, it’s just his glass still there on the bar.
Elkins gets to his cabin and hurries inside, scared, locking the door behind him – but the vampires are already there. He gets a gun from his safe, muttering ‘come on come on’, and frantically loads it as the vampires are breaking down the door and smashing windows. They knock him down before he can fire, and the female vampire picks up the gun, saying it wouldn’t do him much good.
Vampire lady: Boys, we’re eating in tonight…
Cut to a diner in small town America, Dean reading the newspaper and Sam on the computer, just another night with the Winchester brothers on the road, saving people, hunting things. Dean’s still trying to convince Sam to swing by where Sarah is and see her again.
Dean: Cool chick, man. Smoking. You two seemed pretty friendly.
Sam puts him off. Again.
Sam: We have alot of work to do, Dean, you know that.
He also has found that a Daniel Elkins was found mauled in his home in Colorado, and Dean pauses, saying he knows that name. He pulls out the journal and finds an entry on Elkins, and it’s a Colorado area code. So to Colorado they go.
They find the cabin, looking around by flashlight in the mess they vampires left behind.
Dean: Looks like the maid didn’t come today…
Sam: There’s salt over here.
Dean: Like protection against demons salt or oops I spilled the popcorn salt?
[This scene is included in some of the behind the scenes features on the Season 1 DVD which we watched as part of our rewatch – Jared and Jensen look like babies, but they’re already clearly having so much fun, joking with each other and with the crew, pelting the crew with snowballs and then running away. It seems like so long ago now, but I’m so grateful we have these little glimpses that we can hang onto forever.]
It’s clearly a ring, they realize, and they also find a journal that looks a lot like their father’s – and dates back to the 1960s. Dean, who is smarter than hell back in Season 1, also realizes that there are scratches on the floor. He takes a scratching with graphite and finds three letters, six digits.
Sam: It’s a mail drop.
Dean: The way Dad does it.
Me: Smart boys, mmm.
They visit the PO Box and find a note in it with the initials “JW”. Back in the car, they wonder if that could be for John Winchester, and BOOM, someone bangs on the car window and scares the hell out of them.
Dean and Sam: Dad??
It’s John Winchester in the flesh, who read the news about Daniel. He didn’t want to make contact while they were at the cabin, he says, worried they might be followed.
John: Nice job of covering your tracks, by the way.
Dean: We learned from the best.
Sam: You came all the way out here for this Elkins guy?
Sam is rightly skeptical. And also very smart. Because he’s right. John opens the letter, saying Elkins taught him a lot about hunting but they had a falling out.
John: That sonofabitch. He had it the whole time – did you see an antique Colt revolver?
Dean says they found an old case but it was empty, and Sam asks why he wants it. John tells them about the vampires, which he’d thought were extinct, wiped out by hunters like Elkins, but he was wrong. He also updates Sam and Dean on the “vampire lore crap”, saying that a cross won’t repel them, but that the blood lust is true. And that they’re dangerous because they were once people, so you won’t know someone is a vampire until it’s too late.
Watching this episode now, after the series finale, all that hit so unexpectedly hard. The very first episode with vampires, which will be the monsters that kill Dean Winchester in the end, almost 15 years later. In fact, the same vampire who is created in this episode – Jenny (Christine Chatelain) – will be the one to lead the group that kills him. But of course the Winchesters don’t know that now.
Cut to a young couple driving, who hit a man standing in the road. The driver gets out and checks to see if he’s okay and his eyes suddenly open – and his fangs come out.
Back at a motel, Sam and Dean are asleep as their father listens to the radio, monitoring what’s happening.
(I just like this scene of the boys passed out on the floor, their dad standing watch – I love the little glimpses we get of life on the road while they’re hunting. Quintessential Supernatural.)
He wakes them up with a “Sam, Dean, let’s go!” A sleepy Sam asks him how he knows where the vampires are, and John snaps “Just follow me, okay?”
Dean: Don’t tell me it’s already starting…
Sam is still asking their dad how he can be so sure and there’s tension between them, with Dean feeling in the middle. As often happens with the one trying to be the peacemaker, things get taken out on them – As John stalks over to his truck, he zings a parting shot at Dean, who was the one more or less defending him.
John: Dean, why don’t you touch up your car before it rusts? Wouldn’t have given you the damn thing if I thought you were gonna ruin it.
Ouch. That must have cut so bad – not only does Dean love that car, but he tries so hard to do what his father wants and make him proud, to the extent of running interference between him and Sam. Dean and Sam get in the car, both ruffled, Sam driving.
Sam: It would be nice if Dad just told us what he was thinking.
Dean: So it is starting. Sam, we’ve been looking for Dad all year, and there’s static already?
Poor Dean, he wants his family back together so badly, and Sam and John just cannot seem to see eye to eye – which was what pulled them apart in the first place, at least partially.
Sam: I’m happy he’s okay and we’re all working together. It’s just the way he treats us, like we’re children!
Dean: Oh God…
Sam: He keeps us on some crappy need to know basis – maybe that worked when we were kids but not anymore, not after all you and I have been through, Dean. You’re just gonna fall in line and let him run the whole show?
Dean: (defiant, but it will turn out he’s listening to every word Sam says): If that’s what it takes.
While the Winchesters are in pursuit, the vampires are partying, trying to get their captives to drink some beer to spice up their blood for drinking. The defiant woman spits it back at the vampire and he goes to strike her, but the female vamp says wait for Luthor. Finally Luthor comes in, like a rockstar, and she jumps on him, the two of them making out in front of the captives and the other vampires.
Luthor: I missed you too, baby. Go ahead and treat yourself – drink the guy.
He’s angry though when she tells him that they caught the scent of Daniel Elkins and made him suffer, as a surprise for Luthor. He’s also concerned, saying she shouldn’t have done that, that hunters will come looking for them and revenge isn’t worth them being dead. (It’s a theme of the show at this point too, and an open question)
She also shows him the gun, saying that it looks like it was made around the time Luthor was born, and Elkins died with it in his hands.
Luthor: That’s no ordinary gun.
The Winchesters are driving, Dean on the phone, when Dean tells Sam to pull off at the next exit, “because Dad thinks…”
When Sam asks how and why, Dean says John didn’t say, and Sam has had enough of being kept in the dark. He floors it and speeds ahead of the truck and cuts it off, Dean looking dismayed.
Sam jumps out of the car and confronts his father.
Sam: We need to talk!
John: About what?
Sam: About everything!
Dean the peacemaker tries to get between them, physically and psychologically.
Dean: Sammy, come on, we can Q and A after we kill all the vamps.
Supernatural ‘Dead Man’s Blood’ (Episode #119) Image #SN119-0045 Pictured (l-r): Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester, Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as John Winchester Credit: © The WB/Sergei Bachlakov
But Sam is on a roll, furious with their father, demanding to know why he disappeared without a trace for so long and now, out of the blue, he needs their help.
John: Get back in the car.
John: I said, get back in the car.
The two look like they might come to blows, so Dean steps between them, taking Sam by the shoulders and moving him back toward the car, placating him at the same time.
Dean: All right you made your point, tough guy.
Sam: This is why I left in the first place!
John: You walked away.
Sam: You’re the one who closed that door, Dad, not me – you’re the some who said don’t come back!
Dean gets between his brother and his father and drags them apart, saying “that’s enough” to Sam – and saying it to John too. You get the feeling he’s been in this position far too often, and it’s both familiar and unwelcome to be back there again.
Sam and John safely back in their respective vehicles, Dean scrubs a hand through his hair, exasperated.
Dean (muttering to himself): Terrific.
This episode has so much to show us about the Winchesters and their complicated triangulated family. How many times did Dean put himself between his brother and his father, trying desperately to facilitate them getting along?
The next scene made me unexpectedly emotional, which it certainly didn’t the first time I saw this episode. But watching it now, post finale, hits very different. The vampire couple make out while the captive woman watches, and they tease her about liking to watch, then ask her if she’s ready, promising to “take you so high, you’re never gonna come down.”
Luthor cuts his mate’s wrist and she force feeds it to the woman, kissing her with the blood in her mouth.
“Welcome home, baby,” Luthor says.
That woman, now vampire, is Jenny – who returns 15 years later in Supernatural’s series finale as the leader of the nest of vampires who kill Dean Winchester.
Watching her origin story is now something that feels almost epic in the scheme of the show. And every time, in this episode, that Dean laughs about who can believe vampires are real, I just want to cry and say oh god, you’ll believe it, in the worst way possible.
Back in Season 1, the Winchesters find the vampire’s nest and continue to get caught up on vampire lore, which Supernatural makes its own. They can be in the sun, though it hurts like a nasty sunburn, and the only way to kill them is beheading.
Sam and Dean open their trunk, telling John they have an extra machete if he needs one. John pulls a way larger one out of his own trunk, in some odd Oedipal measuring contest or something.
John: I think I’m okay.
Sam and Dean: Wow.
John has calmed down, and seems to realize that his boys are men, measuring contest notwithstanding, and they deserve to know more than he’s told them.
John: So you boys really wanna know about this Colt?
Sam and Dean: Yessir.
John says he thought it was only a legend until he read Daniel Elkins’ letter.
John: Samuel Colt made a gun, a special gun, for a hunter like us, only on horseback. He made 13 bullets. This hunter used the gun a half dozen times before it disappeared. They say this gun can kill anything.
Dean: Like supernatural anything?
Sam: Like the demon.
John says yes, and that he’s been looking for a way to destroy it – if they can find the gun, they may have it. Sam is now on board, which John could have accomplished a while ago if he’d been willing to treat his sons like the hunters they are.
They climb in the window of the barn in the daylight while the vampires are sleeping, and doing the rewatch I was momentarily thrown back to that other scene with vampires in a barn, in the series finale, where Dean Winchester dies. I never expected to be so instantly emotional about old barns, but here we are.
Dean knocks something over and almost wakes up the vampires, but luckily they sleep on. Sam finds the woman tied up and unties her as Dean tries to break into the cage to free the other captives.
Sam: Hey shhh we’re here to help you.
Jenny: Screams bloody murder.
That did not go well.
There’s a fight, and the Winchesters escape, but John informs his sons that once a vampire gets your scent, it’s for life. (Thereby plunging Lynn back into finale feels…) John sends Dean out to a funeral home to get some dead man’s blood, and Sam protests, saying that Dean shouldn’t be doing that alone, he should go along and help.
John: Dean’s got it.
And then Sam and his father have a rare conversation.
John: Sammy, I don’t think I ever told you this, but the day you were born, you know what I did? (Sam: No.) I put 100 bucks into a savings account for you. Same for your brother. It was a college fund. Every month I put in another 100. Until… anyway, the point is, this is never the life I wanted for you.
Sam calls him on it though, asking him why was he so mad when Sam left for college then?
John: After your mother passed, all I saw was evil everywhere. All I cared about was keeping you boys alive. I wanted you prepared – ready. It’s just…somewhere along the line, I stopped being your father and became your drill sergeant. When you said you wanted to go away to school, my only thought was that you were gonna be alone, vulnerable. Sammy, it never occurred to me to think about what you wanted. I just couldn’t accept the fact that you and me, we’re just different.
Sam: We’re not different. Not anymore. With what happened to Mom and Jess, we probably have a lot more in common than just about anyone.
John: I guess you’re right, son.
Sam: Hey dad, whatever happened to that college fund?
John: I spent it on ammo.
The two share a laugh. It’s a healing moment between them, and it gives us a more positive view of John Winchester than we’ve had so far – or that we’ll have later. Jeffrey Dean Morgan has said that he saw John as flawed but loving, and that’s the way he plays him here.
Dean comes back with the dead man’s blood, and they set up a scenario where Dean pretends to have car trouble, and they wait for the vampires to stop.
Vampire: Car trouble? Let me give you a lift.
Dean: I usually draw the line at necrophilia.
She grabs him by the jaw, manhandles him, and he stays both flirty and defiant.
Dean: I don’t normally get this friendly til the second date.
Ackles is always willing to commit 100%, and you can see how uncomfortable this must have been. It comes across that way onscreen too, one of the many times Dean Winchester’s bodily autonomy is compromised in a semi-sexual way.
The dead man’s blood incapacitates her though, while John decapitates the other vampire, explaining that vamps mate for life, so she’ll mean more to the leader than the gun. Then the Winchesters go right back to arguing about whether they should stay together or split up, Sam accusing John of leaving them again and treating them like children.
John: You are my children! I’m trying to keep you safe.
But Dean has had enough of that at this point too.
Dean: Dad, all due respect, but that’s a bunch of crap. You know what Sammy and I have been hunting. You sent us on some yourself. Can’t be that worried about keeping us safe.
John insists it’s not the same thing, and the boys realize it’s because he doesn’t expect to make it out of this fight alive.
John: I can’t watch my children die too. I won’t.
Dean: What happens if you die and we coulda done something about it? I think maybe Sammy’s right about this, we could do this together. We’re stronger as a family, Dad.
John: You do your job and you get out of the area. That’s an order.
Sam and Dean are more on the same page than ever, but they obey their father’s orders. Sam and Dean kill the vamps left back at the barn and free the rest of the captives while John, with a drugged Kate, meets with Luthor to trade the Colt.
Luthor is weirdly sympathetic here, asking if Kate is all right and cursing John out when he says she’s drugged with dead man’s blood. He puts the Colt down, saying all right, just don’t hurt her.
A fight breaks out, though, and the vampires knock John down. Sam and Dean show up, but the vampire gets Sam in a choke hold and Dean immediately puts his blade down.
Luthor: You people, why can’t you just leave us alone? We have as much right to live as you do.
John says no, and shoots Luthor in the head with the Colt. He dies rather theatrically, proving that the Colt works, while the female vampires run away and I yell NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO don’t let Jenny run away, Dean, you will be so very very sorry!
John (smiling) So, boys….
Sam and Dean: Yessir.
John: You ignored a direct order back there.
Dean: Yessir, but we saved your ass.
John: You’re right.
Dean (clearly not used to hearing his father say that): I am?
John: It scares the hell outta me. You two are all I’ve got. But I guess we are stronger as a family. So we go after this damn thing, together.
And Season 1 comes closer to its end with all three Winchesters united against the demon – and clueless about all the tragedy awaiting them.
Meanwhile, I end this episode rewatch full of barn feelings and way more emotional than I expected to be. But there’s nothing more Supernatural than that, is there?
Check back soon for more Supernatural rewatch!
Caps by kayb625
And remember Supernatural forever in the words
Of its amazing actors – in Family Don’t End With
Blood and There’ll be Peace When You Are Done.
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