The unlucky number 13 episode of Supernatural’s Season 2 is actually another iconic one. It’s one that was striking at the time because it was so beautifully directed and filmed (by Kim Manners) but it’s even more striking now as we’re doing a rewatch in 2022 because it’s the first episode to mention something that will become integral to the show – angels. Kripke famously didn’t want to include actual angels in the show originally, thinking that would be too much of a stretch and a venture into religious territory the show wanted to mostly avoid, but the writer’s strike changed the ending of Season 3 and Dean went to hell and they needed something to quickly pull him out – voila, an angel! That decision changed the course of the show, but at this point in Season 2, angels were still something outside the realm of Supernatural.
Of course we don’t know that for most of this episode, which makes it a nice tease – and then a crushing disappointment for Sam. Knowing now, post series, that the God who Sam desperately wants to have faith in turns out to be a real dick, makes young Sam’s desperation to find something good to believe in even more heartbreaking. Sam is just plain good himself throughout the show, but he can’t see it, and religion/God/angels bring him some hope. Unfortunately that hope is misplaced – it will take Sam and Dean a while to realize that they need to put their faith in each other instead.
The opening segment is scary, a young woman watching television alone, smoking a cigarette (which was probably a little more common on network television in early 2007 than it is now). I’m not very observant because I didn’t realize she was supposed to be a sex worker, but I guess the heavy makeup and smoking a lot were supposed to convey that?
In typical Supernatural uh oh something’s wrong fashion, the lights start flickering. The woman changes the channel to a televangelist proclaiming that “the Lord is with you, look up and see the light” and even when she turns the TV off, it comes right back on. That is never good!
We see her alarm through the angel figurines in her apartment, in one of many striking Manners shots.
“The lord is talking to you right now, you have a purpose, it’s time to receive the message he’s sending,” the TV says. The camera pulls in closer and closer as everything starts to shake, furniture falling over, lamps crashing down. An angel figurine on the end table spins around madly as the woman becomes more and more terrified. Suddenly there’s a bright light, and then a figure appears in the light. The woman’s mouth falls open in awe.
And then it’s some time later, the same woman sans makeup and cigarettes sitting on her bed and reading a bible. The psych tech in very attractive white scrubs (aka Sam Winchester) comes in to ask her some questions, and she asks if he wants to know if she’s stark raving cuckoo for cocoa puffs (which is a reference some people watching the show now might not even get!)
Sam: I didn’t say that.
His empathy (and that adorable shy smile most likely) allows her to open up, and she says that she thinks that what she saw was real. Sam closes the chart and makes eye contact instead of writing notes – he’s so good at making people feel at ease so they’re comfortable confiding in him – and says he’d like to know what she saw. Did God talk to her?
She says no, but he sent someone – an angel.
Sam is skeptical, but he listens.
The woman insists that what she did was important, that she helped the angel smite an evil man (who she stabbed to death). That even though the angel didn’t give her the man’s name, he told her to wait for a sign – and then she saw it.
Sounds like a very dangerous way to go after evildoers!
Sam goes back to the motel and finds Dean enjoying the bed’s Magic Fingers. He’s lying on his back looking super happy, trembling all over with the vibrations and listening to his iPod, mouth gaping a little because, as always, Ackles is very good at conveying what Dean’s feeling. In this case, pleasure. Mmm.
Sam scoffs and slaps Dean’s foot to rouse him. It’s a typical early seasons awkward moment between the brothers who live in such close quarters just about 24/7 and have undoubtedly walked in on each other at all sorts of times.
Which is also why Dean is thoroughly unfazed by his brother’s arrival.
Dean: Hey man, you gotta try this!
Sam: Dean, you’re enjoying that way too much. Kinda making me uncomfortable…
Dean: What am I supposed to do? I mean, you’ve got me on lockdown here, I’m bored outta my skull.
Sam reminds Dean that he was the bank robber on the 11:00 news and waves a hand in exasperation and walks away. The Magic Fingers stop and Dean scowls.
Dean: Aw damn it, my last quarter! Hey you got any quarters?
I love that scene – it’s part of setting up the idea of Dean’s hedonism, but it’s also a little glimpse into the brothers’ lives, in too small motel rooms that make for both awkward situations and getting on each other’s nerves while at the same time being quite literally ‘in this together’ day in and day out.
Dean: So did you get in to see that crazy hooker?
Sam gives Dean an update, saying he’s not so sure she’s crazy, that she’s at peace even though she’s in a locked psych ward.
Dean: Oh yeah, you’re right, sounds completely sane.
Already a little on edge with each other, Sam and Dean get into an argument about whether or not the woman is nuts to believe in angels, Dean saying she wouldn’t be the first nutjob in history to kill in the name of religion. Dean insists there’s no such thing as angels. Sam protests.
Sam: Dean, there’s ten times as much lore about angels as there is about anything else we’ve ever hunted.
Dean: Yeah, you know what? There’s tons of lore on unicorns too. In fact, I hear they ride on silver moonbeams and shoot rainbows out of their ass.
Sam (deadpan) Wait, there’s no such thing as unicorns?
For a split second, you can see Dean go into big brother panic about spoiling some mystical belief in unicorns for his little brother, that’s how deadpan Sam is.
Channeling Mulder and Scully, Dean insists he only believes in what he can see, while Sam protests that they’ve seen things that most people couldn’t even dream of. They do agree on going to check out the house of the guy that the woman killed, where she insists the angel left her a ‘sign’. Dean is excited just to get out of the motel room, so off they go.
The Impala pulls into town and up to the dead guy’s house and I get stuck for a few minutes missing Dean Winchester’s iconic leather jacket. Damn that person who stole it from a photo shoot and never gave it back. Somewhere someone has it hanging in their damn closet when it could have been on Dean Winchester where it belongs!
There’s a plastic figurine of an angel on the porch.
Dean (sarcastic) Oh hey Sam, I think I found it. It’s a sign from above.
Sam makes a face.
Dean: I think I learned a valuable lesson – always take down your Christmas decorations after New Year’s or you might get filleted by a hooker from God.
Sam (deadpan): I’m laughing on the inside.
That was some nice writing by Sera Gamble right there.
They look around, finding a covered storm cellar, and Sam remembers that the woman said the man was “guilty to his deepest foundations” – so maybe she meant that literally?
Okay, that was not an example of great writing, but oh well. It’s a stretch, but they go with it, descending the stairs with flashlights into the dark cellar.
It’s a great Kim Manners and Serge Ladouceur shot of the boys, lit only by the light of their flashlights as they look around. Sam has better eyes than anyone in the universe, because he notices scrapings on the wall, and investigates. There’s a fingernail embedded there.
Dean grabs a shovel and they start digging, finding a human skull.
Dean: Well, whatever spoke to Gloria about this knew what it was talking about, I’ll give you that.
The next person to be contacted by the figure in the light is a guy with a comic book laying on his stomach as he lies in bed, liquor bottles and beer bottles close by. Once again the room starts to shake, bottles falling over and smashing to the floor, as a bright light approaches and his expression goes from terror to awe just like the other woman’s.
After that we see him walking through a neighborhood and stopping when the sees the bright light outside a house. He nods in acknowledgement, then knocks on the door and when a man answers, introduces himself — and then calmly stabs the guy right in the chest. Once again, there’s a statue of an angel on his yard.
Back in the motel, Dean stares forlornly at the Magic Fingers (which is not currently vibrating the bed he’s on) while he listens to the police radio.
Poor Dean – look at that sad sad face!
When Sam comes in, Dean looks hopefully at his brother.
Dean: Did you bring quarters?
Sam (throwing a sandwich at him) I’m not enabling your sick habit! You’re like one of those lab rats that pushes the pleasure button instead of the food button until it dies.
Dean (disgruntled) What’re you talking about, I eat. And I have news.
Actually they both do. Sam found out that several students disappeared from the university library where the first dead guy worked. Dean heard on the police radio that “whatever this thing is, it’s struck again.”
Sam: I’m guessing he went to the police and confessed?
Dean: Yep. Roma Downey made him do it.
(Another now dated reference, but she was on a show called ‘Touched By An Angel’)
Dean is excited to once again have an excuse to go out.
They investigate the new victim’s house, climbing over the fence and showing off their athleticism. They look like big cats, panthers or something, lithe and limber as they leap up easily. Oh, sorry, that’s an aside. But it’s true.
Sam opens a side window with a knife and all of us doing the rewatch start giggling and quoting the gag reel excerpt where Jared cannot open the window no matter how hard he tries and Kim Manners keeps directing him to open it and he gets increasingly exasperated because it will not open! It’s hilarious.
Somehow they eventually did get it to open, and Sam and Dean break in. Sam, with his impressive geek skills, manages to quickly access a locked file on the guy’s computer, smiling triumphantly. He bends in, starts reading emails, then swears.
Sam: Well, he’s got all these emails, dozens. To this lady named Jennifer… who’s 13 years old… They were supposed to meet today.
Dean’s confused, saying that some spirits are out for vengeance, but this one almost seems like a do-gooder.
Sam: Avenging angel? How else do you explain it, Dean?
Dean is still skeptical, asking the name of the church that the first victim went to.
Sam: Uh, Our Lady of the Angels?
Dean: Of course that would be the name.
In his hand is a flyer from the same church.
So the Winchesters go to church, which is actually a very beautiful church in the middle of the city of Vancouver.
When the early Supernatural conventions were held at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver, this church was right across the street, so a bunch of us made pilgrimages there. Its stained glass is gorgeous and some friendly parishioners were happy to show us around. We attempted to explain WHY we were there, which didn’t go quite as well since ‘supernatural’ did not mean a TV show on the CW to them.
(Our shots were not quite as atmospheric as Kim Manners…)
Sam and Dean are shown around by Father Reynolds. He seems a little suspicious that the brothers are thinking of joining the parish though, and asks where they lived before.
Dean: Fremont, Texas.
Father Reynolds: That’s a nice town. St. Teresa’s parish. You must know the priest there?
Dean: Sure yeah, no, it’s, uh, Father O’Malley…
It’s not a bad guess actually, but the priest says he knows a Father Shaughnessy.
Dean: Shaughnessy, exactly. Uh, what’d I say?
It’s a priceless little interaction, showing just how often Sam and Dean have to be quick on their feet as they try to pull off all sorts of untruths. Fr. Reynolds says the neighborhood has gone to seed a little, but that’s why what the church does there is important. He doesn’t believe what the killers are saying that an angel made them do it, though. Dean immediately thinks he’s found an ally in his skepticism about angels existing.
Dean: So you don’t believe in those angel yarns, huh?
Father: Oh no, I absolutely believe. Kinda goes with the job description.
Sam notices a large painting on the wall and asks if that’s Michael, and the priest says yes. The archangel Michael with the flaming sword, fighter of demons, holy force against evil.
Watching many years later, that little exchange feels prophetic – the brothers will run into the Archangel Michael for real eventually, and Dean will even be possessed by him near the end of the series’ run. Turned out not to be such a good guy, but even in this early season, the show was already not buying into the popular conception of angels.
Sam: So they’re not really the Hallmark card version that everybody thinks. They’re fierce, right?
The priest thinks they’re more loving than wrathful, but concedes that they’re sometimes described as God’s warriors. He quotes a bible verse, Sam nodding in recognition, Dean looking confused but then covering with a quick nod. It’s a subtle way of showing that Sam and Dean are different in their beliefs about religion, not just angels. Especially in the early seasons, Sam’s refusal to give up on hope and goodness is striking – and a little heartbreaking.
On the way out, the brothers notice a pile of tributes and find out that another priest was recently killed, Father Gregory. The priest says he didn’t even get to administer last rites, and that since the other priest’s death, he’s been praying for deliverance from all the violence in the neighborhood.
Dean puts two and two together and thinks it might be a vengeful spirit from the priest’s murder, but Sam’s not so sure. He suggests instead that the priest started praying for God’s help a few months ago and that’s when this all started.
The framing here is so interesting, Sam standing much higher on the step, Dean looking up at him. Something about Sam believing in a higher power maybe?
Dean scoffs, demanding ‘aw come on man, what’s your deal?’
Dean: Look I’ll admit I’m a bit of a skeptic, but since when are you all Mr. 700 Club? What’s next, are you gonna start praying every day?
Sam: I do.
Sam: I do pray every day, I have for a long time.
Dean looks taken aback by Sam’s admission. He prides himself on knowing Sam well, it’s part of how he needs to believe he can keep Sam safe, so this cuts. It’s also a glaring difference between the two of them, and Dean is still insecure about Sam going back to school when ‘this is all over’.
Dean: Huh. The things you learn about a guy. Well, come on, let’s go check out Fr. Gregory’s grave.
Bless Kim Manners and Serge Ladouceur for the intense and striking close-ups of the brothers in this episode. The two of them are absolutely breathtaking, especially when their beautiful faces fill the screen.
The brothers explore the crypt, with close ups of angel statues and beautiful shots of them walking through the dark church.
Sam suddenly sees a light and turns around just as a statue of an angel starts shaking. He looks up at it, then turns toward a bright light. This is an incredible shot, beautiful Sam all lit up, looking awed, the breeze blowing back his hair.
Dean comes back to find Sam collapsed on the floor and immediately goes from complaining and telling to Sam to “get the lead out” to “Sammy? Sammy! Hey, hey!”
It’s what the brothers always say to each other when one is hurt and the other is concerned. And this is Dean’s worst nightmare, not being able to protect his little brother.
Dean is immediately crouched on the floor, assessing Sam for injuries, the way you know they’ve been trained to do, professional and terrified simultaneously. Sam wakes up, reassuring Dean with “yeah, yeah” the way we’ve seen them do many times already – a way of letting the other know they’re okay.
Dean helps him up, pulling him to his feet by his jacket lapels. He helps Sam into another room, keeping a protective and guiding hand on his arm.
Dean: You saw it, didn’t you?
Sam: Yeah. Yeah, Dean, I saw an angel.
Dean pulls out a flask and offers it to Sam, one of the only things he can do at the moment to maybe make Sam feel better. Sam doesn’t want a drink – Dean shrugs and takes a drink himself. He’s still skeptical, but Sam says that a feeling washed over him when he saw the lighted figure, like peace, like grace.
Dean: Okay, Ecstacy boy. Maybe we’ll get you some glow sticks and a nice Dr. Seuss hat, huh?
Sam insists that it spoke to him and knew who he was, but Dean counters that spirits are able to read people’s minds. He’s even more skeptical when Sam says that he’s been chosen to smite some “sinner” who hasn’t done anything wrong yet – but he will.
Dean (angrily): You know, you’re supposed to be bad too, maybe I should just stop you right now!
Sam insists that it might be an angel, that maybe this is God’s will.
Dean: Okay, all right, you know what? I get it, you’ve got faith. That’s…hey, good for you, I’m sure it makes things easier. I’ll tell you who else had faith like that – Mom. She used to tell me when she tucked me in that angels were watching over us. In fact, that was the last thing she ever said to me.
Sam looks stricken.
Sam: You never told me that.
Dean is still angry, both at his mother long ago for reassuring him that angels were looking out for them when nothing stopped his entire life from falling apart, and at Sam now for insisting they exist.
Dean: What’s to tell – she was wrong. There was nothing protecting her.
Dean’s eyes are full of tears as he goes on.
Dean: There’s no higher power, there’s no God, there’s just chaos and violence and random unpredictable evil that comes out of nowhere and rips you to shreds.
This is a great scene that tells us so much about the brothers and how different their perspectives on life are because of how different their life experiences have been. Dean is bitter, remembering the charmed life he lived for the first four years of his life, feeling safe and protected and having the luxury of believing angels were watching over them.
Sam never had that, doesn’t remember it. He’s been protected to some extent by Dean, but he also is terrified that he has something evil in him, so hanging onto hope about things like God and angels and redemption is the way he’s getting through right now.
Dean says he has proof that they’re dealing with a spirit, and the brothers visit Father Gregory’s grave. It’s covered with vines – wormwood. A plant that is apparently associated with the dead who are not at rest, and it’s only growing over his grave.
When Sam still isn’t entirely convinced, Dean wants to summon the dead priest’s spirit and find out for sure. Right there in the church. With a séance.
Sam (scoffing) Oh a séance, great. Hope Whoopi’s available.
(A reference to the movie ‘Ghost’ for those watching Supernatural many years after this episode aired).
This scene is also beautifully shot, light streaming in through the window on the boys.
Dean: We don’t have to operate on faith. Don’t you want to know for sure?
Sam finally agrees and the brothers head to a grocery store to get their séance supplies. As you do.
Sam: Dude, I’ll admit we’ve gone pretty ghetto with spellwork before, but this takes the cake. I mean, a SpongeBob placemat instead of an altar cloth?
Dean: We’ll just put it SpongeBob side down.
Sam starts to laugh, but then stops when he sees a bright light framing a man standing at a stoplight. Sam points and then goes after him, telling Dean “that’s it, that’s the sign” but Dean doesn’t even see anything.
Dean stops him, saying he can’t kill someone because a ghost told him to, but Sam pleads that the man is going to hurt someone and they have to stop him.
Dean is still in disbelief, but he also to some extent trusts Sam’s instincts. He says okay, come on, and gets in the car – which stops Sam from going after the guy. Sam goes around to get in the passenger side, but Dean has locked the door.
Dean: You’re not killing anyone, Sam. I got this guy, you go do the séance.
Dean’s determined to protect Sam, however he can. Sam is pissed, but he doesn’t follow the man.
Dean tails the guy, the Impala driving into the darkness, weird music playing in this segment. The man picks up a young woman and hands her a bouquet of flowers before they drive off, Dean following. The Impala is so gorgeous in the foggy night, lit by streetlamps, shadows of the trees falling across the road. I am endlessly impressed by what Kim and Serge can do together.
Sam also trusts Dean, so both of the brothers are doing what the other wanted to do. Sam lights the candles and starts reading a summoning spell from John’s journal. Jared Padalecki took Latin in high school, and he reads it well, just saying.
The other priest walks in on him, asking what he’s doing, and Sam stammers a bit and then answers.
Father Reynolds: A séance? Young man, you’re in the House of God.
Sam: It’s based on early Christian rites, if that helps any…
Another great Gamble line.
Before they can leave, a bright light appears and a figure in it.
Father Reynolds: Ohmygod, is that – an angel?
But Sam realizes the truth.
Sam (sadly): No, it’s not, it’s just Father Gregory.
Apparently Fr. Gregory thought he was an angel and came to help in response to his friend’s prayers.
Sam: Father, I’m sorry, but you’re not an angel.
Father Reynolds adds that he’s making innocent people killers.
Fr. Gregory: Those innocent people are being offered redemption. Some people need redemption, don’t they, Sam?
Poor Sam. The dead guy seems to be able to see into his deepest fears, and why he so wanted to believe angels were real.
Fr. Reynolds tells his friend that it’s wrong, what he’s doing, that what he’s doing is not God’s will, and reminds him that “thou shalt not kill” is the word of God. Finally Thomas is convinced that he’s not an angel, and agrees to having Last Rites so he can be in peace. Sam and Father Reynolds watch in awe as Fr. Gregory glows and then vanishes.
Meanwhile, Dean loses the car he’s tailing when they turn into an alley, cursing when he does.
The guy tries to kiss the woman he picked up in what seems to have been a blind date, and she pushes him away. Out of nowhere, he slaps her across the face, then stammers “sorry, sorry, I’ve never done this before”. She realizes she’s in trouble when he locks the car door and pulls out a knife, lunging at her with it as she tries to fight back.
Suddenly the driver’s side window shatters and Dean punches the man and slams his face into the steering wheel. He unlocks the doors and the woman gets out; Dean scrambles over the car and grabs her asking if she’s okay, telling her to call 911.
The guy starts the car again and drives off, Dean cursing again and then driving after him.
It’s a great car chase scene, the Impala screeching across traffic lanes and intersections, Dean driving like a badass, skidding around a truck, fishtailing, headlights sweeping across the intersection and engines roaring. Just as it looks like the guy will get away, a truck cuts him off and a big steel pipe comes flying off the truck and impales the man right through his chest and coming out the other side. Gory!
I’m sure he said ‘shit’ but we didn’t hear that part.
The final scene is, as it usually was in early seasons, the brothers reconnecting. Sam’s packing up when Dean comes in, asking how was your day?
Sam (resigned): You were right. It wasn’t an angel, it was Gregory.
He looks defeated. Dean takes a sip from the flask, offers it again to Sam. This time he takes a drink too.
One of the best music cues of the series plays in the background, Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’, which will always remind me of Supernatural especially after the finale.
Sam confesses that he wanted to believe so badly.
Sam: It’s so damn hard to do this, what we do. You’re all alone, you know? And there’s so much evil out there in the world, Dean, I feel like I could drown in it.
Dean listens, empathic now.
Sam: And when I think about my destiny, when I think about how I could end up…
Dean interrupts him, sitting on the bed next to him.
Dean: Yeah well, don’t worry about that, all right? I’m watching out for you.
It’s such a significant thing to say and way to say it. There are no angels, but Sam has Dean – who is doing what the angels can’t. Watching out for his little brother.
Dylan sings in the background, “Mama take this badge offa me, I can’t use it anymore…”
Sam: Yeah I know you are. But you’re just one person, Dean. And I needed to think that there was something else watching too, you know? Some higher power, some greater good. And that maybe…
Dean: Maybe what?
The brothers look at each other, both full of emotion. There are tears shining in Sam’s eyes.
Sam: Maybe I could be saved.
Oh Sammy. My heart breaks for him. He laughs it off, says of course Dean’s right, they’ve gotta go with what they can see, what they know. But this time Dean’s not so sure. He tells Sam that the guy he was tailing really was bad news, that he barely got there in time – that the guy’s dead.
Dean: No, but I’ll tell you one thing. If I…the way he died, if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes I never would’ve believed it. I mean, I don’t know what to call it…
Sam: What, Dean? What did you see?
Dean: Maybe… God’s will?
“Knock knock knockin’ on Heaven’s door” plays as the brothers look at each other. Sam blinks, his eyes full of tears.
Honestly, Dean saying that or coming to that conclusion never rang very true to me. He has been steadfastly skeptical about the existence of God (turns out that skepticism about God’s goodness was well founded in Supernatural) so I just don’t think he would have jumped to that conclusion, especially after all the violence he’s seen. I’m putting it down to Dean always being tuned into what Sam needs and trying, if he can, to give it to him. In this case, Sam really needs to believe that there’s something out there that could be watching over him, something good. His experience with the priest dashed that hope; Dean is giving a little of that back to him.
(Later Sam’s faith won’t be such a great thing, but in this episode, the Winchesters don’t know that yet).
This episode is one of the most beautiful, visually stunning episodes, from the architecture to the Winchesters’ faces, all filmed lovingly. For those of us who were watching episode by episode and getting to know Sam and Dean little by little, we found out a little more about how they were different, but also saw once again just how much they trust and need each other.
No wonder I was already head over heels for this little show.
Stay tuned for more Supernatural rewatch – and if you’d like to always remember the show in the words of its own actors, pick up the books with chapters written by the cast and the fans about why it’s so special. Links here on the main page or at the website below.
Beautiful caps by spndeangirl