We’re almost at the end of Season 1 in our Supernatural rewatch from the start, which we began almost seven months ago when the series ended – and it has been a much more emotional experience than I expected it to be! So no surprise that we began watching ‘Salvation’ and I burst into tears when ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ started playing. Even after all these years, I’m never ready to hear that familiar song herald the end of a season of my favorite show, and now that the show is over, my tears were if anything even more free flowing. God, I love this show. I always will.
The episode opens in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Meg in a church lighting candles, telling the kindly priest she needs to talk, that she’s done some things. He tells her there’s forgiveness for everyone and she asks, ‘are you sure?’
Father: Salvation was created for sinners.
Meg: I’ve lied, stolen, lusted…. I slit a man’s throat and ripped his heart out through his chest.
She lets him see her black eyes, and he backs away in alarm.
Father: I know what you are. You can’t be here – this is hallowed ground!
Meg (laughing) Maybe that works in the minor leagues, but not with me.
He runs, into a secret room with an arsenal of guns, and we see that he’s a hunter. Meg breaks in, and easily catches the knife he throws at her, taunting him that he throws like a girl.
Father: What do you want?
Meg: The Winchesters.
Father: I’ll never tell you.
Meg (smirking): I know.
She slits his throat, and he gasps and gurgles and dies. I remember being so caught off guard by the graphic violence of that scene when I first saw it. Truly horrifying.
The show and the actors did such a good job making me care about Pastor Jim even in those few minutes we had with him, which helped us understand how John was going to feel when he found out.
In Manning, Colorado, John has weather reports taped to the wall, marked up, books strewn around, post it notes everywhere. He tells his sons, this is everything he knows, that he spent their whole lives searching for this demon, but there wasn’t a trace until a year ago, when he picked up its trail.
John: It came out of hibernation. It’s going after families just like us, on the night of the kid’s six month birthday.
Sam: I was six months old that night? It’s going after these kids like it came for me.
At that realization, Sam starts to feel even more responsible for all the tragedy that’s dogging him.
Sam: Mom’s death, Jessica, it was because of me…
Sam is distraught, and Dean rushes to reassure him.
Dean: We don’t know that, Sam. What happened to them is not your fault!
Sam: But it’s my problem.
Dean: No, it’s OUR problem!
John fills them in on the rest of the story – that he’s always been one step behind it, could never get there in time to save anyone. That there are signs days before, cattle deaths, electrical storms, just like happened a week before Mary died. And in Palo Alto before Jessica. And they’re starting again – in Salvation, Iowa.
It’s almost unbelievable that John never told Sam and Dean so much of this story. Would it not have made sense to clue them in? Sam might have been on alert if he’d realized what was happening in Palo Alto before Jessica’s death. I get that John was trying to protect them – maybe even trying to let Sam have that ‘normal life’ – but they’ve been grown for a while now, and are seasoned hunters in their own right.
The Impala follows John’s truck as they head towards Salvation, past an iconic sign and its provocative message that will always be recognizable from these early episodes.
They stop when John gets a call from another hunter, Caleb, telling him that Jim Murphy is dead. Throat slashed, bled out, traces of sulphur.
Sam: Pastor Jim?
Dean: The demon?
John: Maybe it knows we’re getting close.
It’s clear from this little conversation that Sam and Dean know Pastor Jim, which has resulted in plenty of fanfic exploring their childhoods where they stay with him sometimes while John is away. Maybe that’s part of why I had such a strong reaction to his death now too, after fifteen years of both show and fic!
Sam and Dean are upset by this news, and John looks devastated.
John says they’ll split up, find the records of every infant who will be six months old in the next week. Sam, always the skeptic/realist, questions the feasibility of that plan, but when John asks if he has any better ideas, he has to admit he doesn’t. Meanwhile, Dean is tuned in to how upset his dad is, always the one trying to make sure his family members are okay.
John: Yeah…. It’s, it’s Jim. I can’t… this ends. Now. I’m ending it. I don’t care what it takes.
Meg has definitely gotten to him, just like she wanted to.
It’s that recklessness, that willingness to risk everything, that concerns Dean every time he hears it – from Sam and John.
Sam and Dean get in the car, both upset at how much this has impacted John, and follow his truck as he peels out and races to Salvation. John heads to the hospital, clipping on his fake ID badge. Dean heads to the library to go through birth certificates.
Young woman at the desk (flirting): Hi, anything I can do for you?
Dean: Oh god yes… Only I’m working right now, so…
Early seasons Dean is always on the lookout for a hookup, so it’s an indication of just how dire their circumstances are that he’s turning her down, albeit reluctantly.
A while later, Sam is walking out of a building when suddenly he has a vision – an infant in a crib, a woman alarmed. A clock ticking, a train whistle in the background. The woman looking out the window, frightened.
Sam pulls out a map (yes, a paper map, this was 2006) and looks for an address where there’s a six month old baby and also a train because the Winchesters are very smart in Season 1. He runs to the area and manages to find the house in his vision. A storm is coming up, wind blowing, mist in the air, Sam clutching his head as his hair blows around, and the woman from his vision walks up with a baby in a stroller. It’s actually a really beautiful scene in terms of cinematography, and conveys all the foreboding that Sam is feeling.
Sam: She’s gorgeous, is she yours?
That is a really odd thing to say for a guy who looks like he’s all of about eighteen, commenting on a baby to a woman who’s a stranger. He says he just moved in, she says the baby is Rosie.
Monica: Sometimes it looks like she’s reading your mind. She never cries, just stares at everyone. She’s six months old today.
That was just a little line, but it was a great way to build up the suspense about what was different about these babies, Sam included. I love that they sustained that mystery for so long, just giving little hints from time to time along the way.
She leaves, Sam telling her to take care of herself and looking worried.
Later, back at the motel, Sam has the vision again. He sees Rosie’s room, ballerinas dancing in a light box, a creepy clown mobile that no one should ever put in their poor child’s room, the wind coming up, the chimes rattling as a shadow looms over Rosie’s crib. The mom in her nightgown opens the door to the nursery and sees someone leaning over the baby’s crib, and then she’s sliding up the wall and onto the ceiling just like we saw with Mary, yelling ‘Rosie, Rosie’ as she starts to bleed from a gash across her stomach and then goes up in flames.
The brothers finally tell their father that Sam is having visions.
John: A vision?
Sam: Yes. I saw the demon burning a woman on the ceiling. And these things happen exactly as I see them.
Dean explains that they started as nightmares, and now they happen when he’s awake.
John: When were you gonna tell me about this? You pick up the phone and call me!
Sam and Dean look incredulous, and Dean can’t stay quiet any more. He’s been listening to everything Sam has said to him even when he seemed to be sticking to their father’s plan rigidly.
Dean: Call you?? You kidding me? Dad, I called you from Lawrence. Sam called you when I was dying. Getting you on the phone, I have a better chance of winning the lottery!
John bristles, but he doesn’t deny it. I think he was shocked to see his older son, who’s always been the ‘good soldier’, tell it like it is.
John: You’re right. Though I’m not too crazy about this new tone of yours.
They are all in agreement about stopping the demon, though, so no other family goes through the hell they’ve gone through ever again. Sam’s phone rings – and it’s Meg. She demands to speak to John, saying it’s time for the grown ups to talk.
Meg: Howdy John, I’m Meg. A friend of your boys. Also who watched Jim Murphy choke on his own blood. Today I’m in Lincoln visiting another old friend of yours. He wants to say hi.
Caleb manages a “John, don’t say anything…” before Meg cuts him off.
Meg: We know you have the Colt, John.
John: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Meg: Oh okay – then listen to this.
She slices Caleb’s throat as ruthlessly as she did Pastor Jim’s.
Meg: That’s the sound of your friend dying. You just declared war, John. It has casualties. Anyone who’s ever helped you, they will all die unless you give us that gun.
John at first rages, saying he’s gonna kill her, but after he listens to Caleb die, he agrees to bring her the Colt. Meg gives him the directions and hangs up, turning to look at Caleb, dead, lifeless eyes staring.
Meg: What the hell are you looking at?
It was another truly upsetting scene, just as hard to watch now fifteen years later.
John comes up with a plan to hand Meg a fake gun, since no one has seen it or knows what it looks like. Dean expresses doubt that she’s not going to notice, but John says he just needs to buy a few hours.
Sam: You mean for Dean and me. You want us to stay here and kill this demon by ourselves.
John: No, Sam – I want to stop losing people we love. I want you to go to school. I want Dean to have a home.
Dean looks at Sam at that, because I think even in the first season, to some extent at least, that’s how Dean defined home.
John: I want Mary alive… I just want this to be over.
Sam looks at Dean. In unspoken agreement, they agree to go forward with the plan, although the brothers clearly don’t like it.
Sam and John load up the truck, and Dean comes back with a gun from an antique shop.
Dean: You know this is a trap, don’t you? That’s why they want you to come alone. Dad, promise me. This thing goes south, just get the hell out. Don’t get yourself killed, all right?
John: Same goes for you. They made the bullets specially for this, there’s only four left. Without them, the gun is useless, so make every shot count. I’ve been waiting a long time for this fight, now it’s here and I’m not gonna be in it. It’s up to you boys now. It’s your fight, you finish what I started, you understand?
Dean glares, hearing that speech for the goodbye that it is.
John hands Dean the Colt.
Sam: We’ll see you soon, Dad.
John claps Sam on the shoulder.
John: I’ll see you later.
The boys watch him drive away, the weight of the moment and what they all know it probably means on them.
The next scenes of John at the warehouse are so well done, with that same amazing cinematography that makes this show stand out. He walks through steam filled dark tunnels, climbs up a ladder, rosary in his pocket – and tosses it in a big water tank, chanting in Latin over it. Because like I said, Winchesters in Season 1 are so damn smart!
Sam and Dean, meanwhile, stake out Rosie’s house.
Sam: Maybe we could tell them there’s a gas leak?
Dean: How many times has that worked for us?
They’re worried about what’s happening with their dad, wishing they were there to back him up (or he was here to back them up.)
Sam: After all these years, we’re finally here. It doesn’t seem real.
Dean: We’ve just gotta keep our heads and do our job, like always.
Sam: Yeah, but this isn’t like always.
Dean agrees, and Sam goes on.
Sam: Dean, uh, I wanna thank you.
Dean: For what?
Sam: For everything. You’ve always had my back, you know? Even when I couldn’t count on anyone, I could always count on you. I just wanted to let you know, just in case…
Dean: Whoa whoa, you kidding me? I don’t wanna hear that man, no one’s dying tonight – not us, not that family. That evil sonofabitch isn’t getting any older than tonight, you understand me?
Meg meets John, saying she can see where his boys get their good looks – but she thought he’d be taller.
(Jeffrey Dean Morgan is plenty tall, but Jared and Jensen make everyone look like they could be taller)
Another demon joins her, and John hands over the fake gun. Meg hands it to the other demon, asking him what he thinks. He looks it over, then cocks it and shoots… Meg!
Meg: You shot me! I can’t believe you just shot me?
Of course they now realize it’s a fake. John pretends he didn’t know, but Meg is furious now.
Meg: You’re dead, John. Your boys are dead.
John attempts sassy – you can tell where Dean gets it.
John: Well, I guess you’re lucky it was fake.
Meg: That’s funny. We’re gonna strip the meat from your bones, but that was funny.
Nicki Aycox is so good, Meg is genuinely funny at the same time as she’s horrifyingly scary.
John turns the valve and lets the holy water start spurting out, which stops the demons, and he runs away. They eventually catch up to him though, the other demon pinning him to the wall. He dangles there helplessly.
Back at the family’s house, Dean tries to call John, but there’s no answer. Suddenly there’s static on the radio and the wind comes up, leaves blowing around and the lights in the house flickering. Sam and Dean exchange a look.
Sam: It’s coming.
They run into the house, confronted by the terrified and confused father of Rosie who yells at them to get out of his house (understandably). Dean tries to get him to listen, says they’re trying to help him, while Sam yells at the mother not to go in the nursery – but she does, asking in alarm to the shadowy figure there, ‘What are you?”
He turns around and we see it, in a beautifully filmed reveal – the yellow eyes!
Sam runs in and the mom is on the ceiling. Sam sees the dark figure’s yellow eyes, then shoots, but misses. Dean grabs the baby as the crib goes up in flames, running outside with the baby just like he did with baby Sammy so many years ago. Fire explodes out of the windows, everyone coughing, as they spill out the front door, the woman telling her husband “they saved us, they saved us!”
Sam looks up and sees the demon looking out the window, still alive, and starts to charge back in, but Dean grabs him and holds him back.
Sam: It’s still up there, let me go!
Dean: It’s suicide, Sam!
Sam: I don’t care!
Dean: I do.
Sam lets Dean hold him back though, and they watch the house burn.
After, back at the motel, Dean tries calling John again, but there’s still no answer, and he knows something’s wrong.
Sam (quietly): If you had just let me go in there, I could’ve ended all this.
Dean: Sam, the only thing you would’ve ended was your life. You just willing to sacrifice yourself, is that it?
Sam: Yeah, damn right I am.
Dean shakes his head, saying it’s not gonna happen as long as he’s around.
Sam: It’s the only thing we’ve ever cared about.
Dean: I wanna waste it, I do – but it’s not worth dying over. If hunting this demon means you get yourself killed then I hope we never find it.
Sam protests, says that it killed Jess, it killed Mom.
Dean: You said yourself, no matter what we do, they’re gone and never coming back.
Sam loses it at that, grabbing Dean and slamming him up against the wall and getting in his face in a mirror of the scene in the pilot when Dean loses it and slams Sam up against the bridge in the same way, in an equally intense scene.
Sam: Don’t you say that.
Dean makes no attempt to get away, his expression softening in spite of being pinned to the wall as he tries to get through to his brother, full of empathy and sadness, not anger.
Dean: Sam, the three of us, that’s all we have, and it’s all I have. Sometimes I feel like I’m barely holding it together, man. Without you and Dad…
For Dean, that’s the worst that could happen, way worse than not being able to stop this demon, and he needs Sam to understand.
It’s the most real that Dean has been with Sam, and it works – Sam hears it for the emotional confession that it is. He lets Dean go, takes a step back, trying to get himself under control though he’s still upset.
Dean is upset too, though not about being pinned to the wall. He’s upset for Sam, and worried about both his father and his brother, afraid he might lose them.
Jared and Jensen never fail to absolutely nail it in these intense scenes between the brothers. I was holding my breath through the entire scene, not knowing if more violence was going to erupt – and then you can see both of them soften, able to hear each other even through their strong emotions. Sam pats Dean before he lets him go, an apology, and Dean gives him a small sad smile in understanding.
Sam: Dad should have called by now.
Dean tries again, and Meg picks up.
Meg: You boys really screwed up this time.
Dean: Where is he?
Meg: You’re never gonna see your father again.
The camera closes in on Sam and Dean, shocked and terrified.
To Be Continued…
Nothing like wrapping up its first season with this level of suspense, right? And to think, the next episode and season finale will only ramp it up even further!
Have I mentioned I love this show?
You can read the actors’ personal thoughts about
being on Supernatural and what its legacy will be in
Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace
When You Are Done – links at the home page or at:
6 thoughts on “The Winchesters Look For ‘Salvation’ – Supernatural Rewatch”
So many emotions here, season 1 is the last time the Winchesters are as truly happy and carefree until the series finale, only they don’t know what lies ahead and it’s heartbreaking to see the last vestiges of what little innocence Sam and Dean have left stripped away, pieces at a time, starting with the good Pastor Jim, who they all cared about and who tied them to their limited childhood (Jim being the person who was there for them after the events of the Shtriga)
It’s impossible to ignore John is a broken man, worn down by the life and now his grief for Jim. The children whom he failed in his attempts to stop Azazel weigh on him and he makes himself vulnerable to his sons, maybe even for the first time, confessed that he was not the superhero Dean built him up to be, that he’s just a tired man doing his best but he wished he was better.
In the previous episode we were shown how much in common Sam and John had, the root of their reasons for clashing, their passionate natures, the empty spot in their hearts losing their partners created. Here John shows how much Dean is his father’s son, the bravado and snark John uses defensively to masks his failures and buries his guilt deep, a guilt he should not carry. John wasn’t responsible for Azazel’s scheme, John was a victim as much as Dean and Sam, but instead of embracing victimhood, John decided to stand up and be counted. It’s poignant foreshadowing for Dean as later, Jo calls him out on his tendency to shoulder blame where it does not lie, but all he saw was the failure and the evil that threatened to drown them.
There’s no doubt revenge was driving John, but he wasn’t blind to the suffering of others, it did matter to him, his sense of duty to others remained intact though it was undeniable, his attitude of prioritising revenge was in direct conflict with and superceded his role as a father.
It’s doubly sad as Sam was doing the same thing, blaming himself for things beyond his control. These Winchesters and their insistence on self blame is both sad and touching, they were god men who definitely gave above and beyond the call of duty.
Having the family unit together was like herding cats for Dean, he prioritised his family and spent the episode trying to get through to his brother and his Dad the wisdom that living was always the best choice, that revenge was hollow to those you leave behind if you are not there to share it and he’s brutally honest with Sam, laying open his soul about how he really felt, what he wanted, what he needed.
When corned by circumstance, Dean actually did not repress his feelings, he coughed up without a moment’s hesitation, persistently Dean stepped outside of the boundaries of preconceived perceptions of what makes a man that manifested in the smaller gestures. For example when John handed over the Colt, it was a symbolic passing of the torch, Father to Son that says Dean is now the acting head of the family, in charge of the family business in John’s living will, to be made official should he not survive. Dean accepted the gun with pride but allowed himself a moment to let his four year old self reach out for his father, as his free hand went to touch John’s , he didn’t want his Dad to go and his whole body language told just long enough for John to understand without a single word, his sons acknowledgment of the honour, but his reluctance to take the honour if it means his Dad is lost an action. They didn’t fight, they communicated.
I believe that played into John’s encounter with Meg, John listened and he made plans to escape, albeit not successfully. John was definitely set on coming home if he could, he was trying to give Dean what he needed.
It was so refreshing to see Dean challenge his father over the things he failed on and not permit his rights and feelings to be ignored, too often throughout the series Dean shelved his hurts, wants and needs in exchange for keeping the people in his small inner circle close. John needed to be called to account and reacted with a rebuff to Dean for attitude, because he actually didn’t have a satisfactory answer why he didn’t come when Dean begged for help or when he was dying. Certainly not one that he wanted to share at this point, but I suspect by now he knew everything about Sam’s involvement , Azazel’s grand plan and even as poor Sam was venting about his part in all this and taking responsibility unfairly for something he had no control over( as Dean points out, always in his corner) John says nothing. Bad John, Bad.
That lack of sharing information proves costly to the Brothers relationship, significantly put Dean’s mental wellness under duress and hampered their ability to arm themselves accordingly which directly ended in Sam’s tragic and possibly unnecessary death. The Brothers were literally learning on the fly, always fighting a rearguard action because John thought he knew best, perhaps because he couldn’t do what he asked of Dean, to kill Sam if he was unsavable but we will never know his reasons. Whatever John’s motivation, it was a mistake .
Sadly both Sam and Dean go on to make the same mistake, more than once, withholding information to shield loved ones in a way that either gets them hurt or dead and it’s a pattern of behaviour that John inadvertently sets up for them in his example and because of the insular, isolated life he imposed on the Brothers doing what he thought was a way of keeping them safe. They literally had only a handful of people to turn to, for guidance and support, two of whom were killed because of the hunt for the Colt. The isolated lifestyle also put the Brothers at extreme risk from other predatory hunters, Like Gordon Walker who tried to groom a vulnerable and grieving Dean to become one of his acolytes and who tried to kill Sam. Dean and Sam didn’t have any idea when they could really trust. John failed in one bit of important strategy, to always know, information unshared endangered the Brothers and other people’s lives.
I’m in awe of every single person who turned up for work this episode, they gave everything. The characters of Caleb, Jim, Tom felt real and rounded, even though they only had fleeting appearances. Meg was evil incarnate, something that sadly gets diluted through later seasons with lesser demons. Jeff, Jensen and Jared pulled out every magic trick in the book. It’s impossible to believe the very small age gap between the actors, Jeff imbued John with such authority and gravitas Jensen and Jared played off his interpretation of John so well. They created a very real, layered complex family with all the normal difficulties and affections, demonstrated how each family member had their own agenda and what it took to try and make that work within the family unit, then they sprinkled in the undercurrents of the totally abnormal weird lives they had and how it left it’s profound mark in each of them. They were, in the words of the immortal Bobby Singer, “playing wounded” they needed each other to get through the tough stuff, no matter what. They were all damaged. Family was the whole point, everyone had something to contribute, no one member was more or less important than the other. For all his faults John provided a counterbalance in much the same way as Bobby did, each of them had strengths and weaknesses that the other covered for and Dean was right when he said “We’re stronger as a Family” they just were.
So much yes. The casting of Jared, Jensen and JDM was perfection, because the three of them made this work in a way that I don’t think many others could have. We as viewers can have such complex feelings about John because Jeffrey made him complex (and the writers and Kripke). They were all so very very damaged, and that intergenerational transmission carried through to some extent for fifteen years of the show. I loved your analysis of the handover of the Colt – you are so right about Dean’s other hand and that aborted reach for reassurance, the little boy knowing he has to now be a man. My heart.
One bit of fun, lightweight, Head Canon I’ll leave here. Dean clearly picked up his saying Son of a b**ch” from John who used it this episode.We know from the Pilot in his opening shot, John watches movies. In a much later season, Sam said Dean was a fan of all the Eastwood movies especially the “Monkey Movies” those being Every Which Way but Loose and Every Which Way You Can. The character of Ma, in those films played by the very adorable Ruth Gordon, says S.O.B as her catchphrase in stressful situations in a comedic way, often with a shotgun. I imagine in what down time they had, John and a young Dean sat on the sofa watching those Monkey Movies together learning S.O.B from Ma and bonding over their catchphrase and mutual mirth at Clyde
I love that bit of trivia and head canon!
Great review and always a treat to find one in my inbox! Something you might not know or remember is that in the movie “Roadhouse,” when Dr. Clay is through tending to Patrick Swayze’s bouncer character, Dalton, she looks at him and says, “You know, for that line of work, I thought you’d be bigger.” This line spoken by Meg to John is said more than once in Supernatural, and since we know Dean has probably seen that movie a thousand times and says “Swayze always gets a pass!” it makes the reference amusing every time. Jensen reminds me of Patrick Swayze sometimes with his ability to act, sing, dance, and be just a lovely person. Anyway, I just wondered if you knew that and thought I would share! Blessings!
I did not make the connection and it makes perfect sense! Thank you!