The 17th episode of the second season of Supernatural is one of the best, most emotionally impactful episodes of the series. That’s no surprise when you realize it was written by Sera Gamble and directed by Kim Manners. Together, Manners and Kripke and Gamble shaped Supernatural in essential ways, and the team of Gamble writing and Manners directing was bound to be incredible. Add to that Ackles and Padalecki knocking it out of the park and guest star Emmanuelle Vaugier keeping pace with them every second and you have one of the episodes that fans often use to lure unsuspecting new fans into the Supernatural fold. I’ve seen this episode many times, and it still brings tears to my eyes and breaks my heart a little every time. That’s good television!
The episode begins in San Francisco, an attractive woman named Madison (guest star Emmanuelle Vaugier) laughing in a bar with friends. She blows off some guy Nate who wants her to come back to the office with him, and then sees an even more creepy looking guy staring at her through the window. It understandably freaks her out and she leaves – though walking out into the dark alley to get to her car seems like a bad idea to me, but what do I know? I would have at least had someone walk me to my car!
Nothing happens, though, other than the creepy guy watching her drive away. And some gorgeous Kim Manners mirror shots.
The next morning Madison makes coffee in her office when she notices a smear of blood on the wall – and then more on the floor. She walks with trepidation toward Nate’s office, and we see his hand covered in blood before we see him. When she rounds the corner, Nate is lying dead on his desk, torn apart. She drops the coffee pot, screaming. The pot shatters.
All of us: Now that’s a Supernatural opening if I ever saw one!
It’s pure Kim Manners brilliance, from the way Madison at first sees just a small smear of blood and isn’t sure what it is, to the tentative way she comes closer. The shot of just Nate’s arm and hand, bloody, all she can see as the realization of what this is slowly sinks in, and then the full on shot of Nate very very dead, torn apart and bloody. The close up slow mo shot of the coffee pot dropping and shattering is just perfect. Chilling.
Teaser ended, we cut to the boys, as we always did especially in the early seasons. They view poor Nate’s corpse in the morgue, Sam using his puppy dog eyes to charm the attendant into saying that off the record it looks like Nate was attacked by a wolf.
Attendant: But unless I know that the zoo is missing one of their lobos, I’m going with pit bull. I like my job.
Sam: (smiling) Yeah, I hear you. One more thing – was this guy’s heart missing?
Attendant: Yeah, how did you know that? I haven’t even finished my report.
Sam: Lucky guess.
These boys though, who could resist giving them the information they’re after? I mean, look at them!
Then we get a little glimpse of Winchesters on the road, iconic in its simple familiarity. Early seasons Supernatural life in motel after motel, sleeping in the Impala in between, is the stuff that fanfic is made of. It warms my heart today, fifteen years later.
Dean cleans his guns as he and Sam discuss a new case – “hookers” murdered in the week leading up to the full moon, their hearts missing.
Sam: Could you be a bigger geek about this?
Dean’s excited about the prospect of “badass” werewolves, which they haven’t seen since they were kids.
Sam: Okay, Sparky. And you know what? After we kill it, we can go to Disneyland.
Gamble was so good at exploring the dynamic between the brothers – the affection beneath their bickering and teasing especially. Sam and Dean are very different, but at this point in the series, they’re accepting their differences and starting to appreciate each other’s strengths more. Most of the time anyway.
Rewatching this episode now in 2022, we all started giggling as soon as this scene began – because it is also one of the iconic gag reel moments, as Jared and Jensen start bickering just like their characters while Jensen has trouble with the prop gun.
Jensen: I’ve got a line, you moron!
The truly wonderful thing is that there’s just as much affection beneath Jared and Jensen’s teasing as there is Sam and Dean’s. At this point, they had already become brothers on and off set. And that chemistry powered the show for 13 more seasons!
They go to see Madison, suspicious right away of her neighbor Glen, who has brought her a casserole.
Dean (skeptical): Oh, how thoughtful…
Sam is empathic with Madison as they ask about the death of her boss, Nate. (She was his assistant, which makes it extra creepy that he kept trying to hit on her and convince her she had to come back to the office…) She says he was sweet, but when he had a few scotches in him, he’d start hitting on anyone in a five mile radius.
Madison: You know the type.
Sam (looking at Dean, who’s smirking) Yeah, I do actually…
The brothers being way too invested in each other’s sex lives is a thing for the first few seasons, and this is the Sam version of the dance they do around it.
Madison also confides that her ex boyfriend Kurt has been stalking her. Poor Madison, fending off guys left and right.
Sam and Dean exchange a look. I love the way this episode throws up all kinds of red herring possibilities for who might be the killer – and then throws us a big curveball!
The brothers thank Madison and leave, considering suspects.
Sam: Stalker ex boyfriend? He hates the boss, and he was there that night.
Dean: Think he’s our dog faced boy?
They get in the car in unison, closing the doors in sync.
Madison hears dogs barking outside her apartment and sees Kurt outside the window staring up at her. He’s gone when she looks again.
Sam and Dean pick the lock and search Kurt’s apartment, then hear a noise and a crash outside. Dean finds claw marks on the side of the building outside sliding glass doors to a balcony and calls Sam over to see.
Meanwhile, we see through the eyes of a predator stalking a policeman below – and then attacking him. By the time Sam and Dean get there, the policeman is torn apart and very dead. Once again, Manners’ directing really works here. We first see through the werewolf’s eyes when Sam and Dean are in the apartment, as it watches them, amping up the scare factor – and then again when he attacks the hapless policeman. Manners really knew how to scare without showing too much, which inevitably makes things even more terrifying.
Now that they’re pretty sure it’s Kurt, the boys go back to check on Madison, saying one of them should stay with her.
When she’s out of the room, they argue over who should get the chance to stay with the “hot chick” and who has to go check out Kurt’s place of business.
Dean: You go after the creepy ex, I’m gonna hang here with the hot chick.
Sam: Dude, why do you always get to hang out with the girls?
Dean: (smirking and sipping his coffee) Cause I’m older.
Sam: (glaring) No, screw that, we’ll settle this the old fashioned way.
And then we get another iconic Winchester moment that becomes familiar to us over the course of the series and on rewatch makes me smile instantly. Rock paper scissors!
Dean loses, as he always does. You have to hand it to Dean, it’s a pretty brilliant way to get Sam to do what Dean actually wants him to do, but let Sam think he “won”. Though I’m fairly certain Sam is onto him.
Sam (shaking his head): Dean, Dean, always with the scissors…
He slaps Dean affectionately on the shoulder, as the brothers often do.
Dean: Shut up, shut up – two out of three!
They go again, Sam with a sigh, but once again Sam’s rock beats Dean’s scissors.
Sam: Bundle up out there, all right?
The scene is made even more iconic because it too is one of the most well known gag reel moments, with Jared and Jensen mock arguing about who is supposed to throw what just as affectionately as Sam and Dean do. When Manners or someone else tries to interrupt, Jensen orders “Silence!” as the two try to figure it out, Jared patting Jensen affectionately on the chest just like Sam pats Dean on the shoulder, Texas twangs out in force as they slip out of character.
Art mirroring life, or life mirroring art, who knows, but it made this show very special.
Sam is adorably awkward, trying not to look at Madison and declining her invitation to sit on the couch.
So she sorts her laundry right in front of him at the table, folding tiny panties that don’t need to be folded while smirking knowingly.
Dean calls Sam to check in and immediately knows he’s sitting there awkwardly.
Dean: Let me guess. You’re sitting on her couch like a stiff, trying to think of something to say.
Sam refuses to answer, asking if he found Kurt.
Dean (cocky): No, he hasn’t been at work all week. But because I’m good – and I mean really really good – I got a line on where he might be. So…what’s she wearing?
Sam: Bye, Dean.
Dean drives off, chuckling to himself.
Dean: Heh heh heh, aww Sammy…
Honestly, they are so weird – and I am here for it.
Most of fandom really likes Madison. She sits on the couch with Sam and takes control of the remote when he makes a face at the soap opera she’s watching.
Madison: Okay, this is the deal – my house, my TV. I never get to watch my show, so suck it up.
Honestly all of us watching as Supernatural fans could relate so hard! No wonder we like Madison.
Sam, predictably, gets totally into the show, asking about plot details once it’s over and exclaiming “what a bitch!” about one of the characters. Sam and Madison have a lot of chemistry – their attraction is entirely believable.
He asks why she – a clearly smart person with a house full of great books, an independent person – was dating someone like Kurt. (Although honestly we don’t know much about Kurt at all except he works at a body shop, which is actually a very Winchestery occupation… I’m assuming Sam was talking about her dating a possessive jerk.)
Madison tells Sam that she got mugged and, surprisingly, that changed her life for the better – she got more assertive and broke up with Kurt, for one thing.
Supernatural in 2007, already talking about post traumatic growth!
Sam (laughing adorably): You’re unusual… impressive.
Sam’s cell rings and Dean tells Sam that he found Kurt. We see that he’s at a strip club, happily looking up at a stripper while Kurt sits across the room doing the same.
Sam: Good, don’t take your eyes off him.
Dean: Oh yeah, my eyes are glued. Gotta let you go Sammy, I don’t wanna…miss anything.
He hands her a dollar bill and hangs up, grinning happily.
The early seasons went hard on the Dean is a horn-dog thing, what can I say?
Madison goes to bed after an awkward exchange with Sam that ignores the fact that they’re attracted to each other. Dean, meanwhile, is outside in the dark in another beautiful Manners scene, the moon high in the sky, rock music playing as Dean stands in the shadows of an alley, checking his loaded gun.
That little moment is so Supernatural, and so Dean Winchester. Armed, dangerous, in the shadows. Beautiful. All of the above. Manners was a genius.
There’s a sound of glass crashing and Dean bursts through the door, finding Madison crouching over Kurt’s bloody body. She’s the werewolf! She growls and attacks Dean, but he manages to get his silver knife out and slice her arm before she jumps out the window and runs off.
Sam finds it hard to believe at first, but when Madison wakes up, he sees the cut on her arm from Dean’s knife.
Also Madison has mysteriously lost her pajamas. Hmm. Why? She still looked mostly human when she was attacking Kurt. Was she in her pajamas then? Later the guys who turn come out of it in their clothes. Huh.
Anyway, Sam locks the front door when Madison gets up and asks where he’s going.
Sam (ominously) I’m not going anywhere. And neither are you.
I sometimes forget how terrifying the Winchesters would be to outsider perspectives. Like totally believable as serial killers for sure. Jared does an A+ job of bringing the terrifying here, if you imagine what this looks like from Madison’s point of view.
Sam ties her to a chair while she tells him he’s psychotic and laments how stupid she was to let a stranger in (which, valid Madison).
Madison: You’re sick, okay? Monsters don’t exist.
Sam: Save the act.
Dean arrives and glares at Madison.
Dean: My head feels great, thanks.
Sam pulls Dean into the other room and says that Madison seems to genuinely have no idea that she’s a werewolf, though Dean thinks she’s lying since she isn’t killing strangers. Sam wonders if maybe some animal part of her brain saw both of those men as threats, and maybe the cop too.
Dean: She’s killing people! Sam, she’s a monster and you’re feeling sorry for her?
Sam: Maybe I understand her.
Dean gives him a look, knowing that Sam’s talking about what their father told him he might have to do.
Sam: Look, there might be another way we can get the job done without having to waste her.
Dean: Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?
The brothers are so much more on the same wavelength now, even though they don’t always agree.
Also I don’t know how they can even concentrate on what’s going on around them or how anyone else can, because LOOK AT THEM!!!!
Sam finds a notation in John’s journal that killing the werewolf who bit someone might be a cure, and thinks he knows who that might be for Madison. He asks about her mugging and if her attacker bit her – sure enough, he did. And she eventually tells them where it happened – the same place some other murders have been happening.
Dean is reluctant to leave Madison behind with Sam in case she turns, but Sam pleads with him. Sam assures Dean that he’ll shoot her if she busts loose.
Sam: Dean, I need you to go out there. At least go look for the thing. Dean please, we can save this girl.
Dean looks at Sam and sees how much this means to him, and agrees to go try.
Sam assures a crying Madison that if things go the way he hopes, he’ll untie her and walk out the door and never come back.
Jared and Emmanuelle’s acting is incredible here, Jared showing us all of Sam’s agony in having to do this to someone he’s come to care about, and Emmanuelle bringing Madison to life in such a way that we relate to her and care about her.
In yet another dark alley type street, a sex worker hears an animal howling and starts to run, when she’s confronted by a werewolf – once again, we see from its perspective as it chases her. Just as it catches up to her, Dean calls out “Hey!” and shoots it in the chest. It’s Glen, Madison’s neighbor!
Meanwhile, we see Madison start to change and break loose, knocking Sam down.
He aims his gun but doesn’t shoot, instead waiting for her to charge and locking her in her bedroom, moving a giant piece of furniture in front of the door for good measure.
Back in the alley, the woman runs away.
Dean: Hey, don’t mention it…
Poor Dean, he gets no appreciation in this episode. He leans over Glen, who looks human now.
Glen struggles to breathe, bleeding from the mouth, choking and clearly dying.
Glen: Where am I? Help me…oh god…oh god…
Dean, who hasn’t shown much empathy for the ‘monsters’ in this episode or up til now in the series, is clearly affected by Glen’s agony. Jensen shows us that clearly, as Dean’s whole manner changes to one of comfort.
Dean: All right, easy, Glen. Just take it easy.
He watches Glen die. This episode, like I said, is truly tragic. But so damn good!
Madison wakes up in her wrecked bedroom when Sam opens the door, her eyes wide as she sees furniture torn apart and claw marks all over the walls.
Sam: It should be over now. You’ll never see me again.
Sam leaves, as promised.
The brothers keep watch in the Impala, though, both feeling bad now.
Dean: It was sort of sad, actually. Glen had no clue what was going on.
He snaps back into Dean mode quickly though, saying maybe even Glen’s primal instincts had a ‘thing’ for Madison.
Dean: Maybe he was looking for a little, uh, hot breeding action.
Sam: (unimpressed) Yeah, something like that.
Us: Has Dean been reading Supernatural fanfiction or what?
Dean asks Sam about Madison, and Sam is dismissive.
Dean: Don’t ‘whatever’ me, man, you liked her.
Sam points out that she thought he was a stark raving lunatic and does not know that he saved her life.
At that moment, Madison – who is more savvy than Sam is giving her credit for – knocks on the window, saying for a stake out, their car’s a little conspicuous.
She invites them in when they say they need to be 100% sure she won’t turn that night, since she now believes them – and is horrified by what she’s done.
Dean observes the attraction between Madison and his little brother, and you can almost see the wheels turning as he hopes things will work out for them. The Season 2 theme of Dean feeling so bad for all the losses Sam has endured, and his constant scheming to get Sam another girlfriend (even as he’s terrified Sam is going to walk away from hunting with him) is one of the most consistent things that happens this season.
Look how pleased he is that Sammy is showing some interest. Ackles doesn’t need any dialogue to make that come through loud and clear.
They wait through the night, giving us these gorgeous shots in the moonlight coming through the window as Dean sits watch, gun at his side.
When the sun comes up, Madison gives Sam a relieved hug, thanking him.
Dean clears his throat.
Madison: You too, Dean, thank you.
Dean: Ah, don’t mention it.
He’s both jealous and at the same time ecstatic about Sam and Madison clearly having some chemistry.
He looks from Sam to Madison pointedly, then says he’s heading back to the hotel to “watch some pay-per-view or something…”
He gives a triumphant fist bump as he leaves, because as I’ve said before, weirdly invested in each other’s sex lives.
Madison: That was smooth.
Sam: He means well.
Madison: You mean, he thinks you’re gonna get laid.
They have an awkward conversation about how they can’t go back in time, there’s just no way…and then Madison kisses him and Sam kisses back, and then we get one of the most passionate (and longest) love scenes in all of Supernatural.
It’s a full on music montage, and Jared Padalecki is ridiculously buff and the whole thing is fiercely hot.
The scene is shot with lots of closeups and both actors make it more believable than those kind of scenes usually are, and we get alot of caps that look like this.
They fall asleep after, as the moon rises.
When Sam wakes up, Madison has turned again.
She jumps out the window and escapes.
Sam drives to their motel and frantically pounds on the door of Dean’s motel room, saying that she turned and he couldn’t grab her in time.
Dean: We’ll find her, Sammy.
You can see how desperately Dean wants that to be true, and how much he wants Madison to be okay and Sam to be able to have this, a relationship, a bit of the normal that he knows Sam has longed for.
But they don’t – and in the interim they find out from Bobby that the so-called ‘cure’ doesn’t work. Dean reluctantly says they have to kill her.
Dean: Sammy, I don’t think we’ve got a choice here anymore. I hate to say it, she’s a sweet girl, but part of her is…
Sam: Evil? Yeah, that’s what they say about me, Dean. So me you won’t kill, but her you’re just gonna blow away?
[Yes, Sam, that is pretty much Dean Winchester’s number one rule actually]
It’s clear this is killing both of them, Dean every bit as distraught as Sam because he knows how much pain this will cause his brother.
Madison calls from a phone booth – an actual phone booth because it’s 2007! – saying she doesn’t know where she is, and asking them to come get her.
They return to her house, and we see Dean’s gun sitting on the table as they talk.
Madison is horrified, worried that she killed someone else. Sam tries to reassure her, but Dean tells her the truth.
Dean: Madison, you deserve to know. We’ve scoured every source. There’s just no cure. We could lock you up at night, but you bust out, and some night you will, someone else dies. I’m sorry, I am.
We know by now that he truly is.
Madison makes the decision for herself that she can’t live with taking that chance.
Madison (sobbing): You tried, I know you tried, but this is all there is left. Help me, Sam. I want you to do it. I want it to be you. Sam, I’m a monster.
Sam: You don’t have to be, we could find a way, all right? I can…I’m gonna save you.
There are tears in Dean’s eyes too as he listens, heart breaking at Sam’s desperate need to save her the way he couldn’t save Jessica.
She puts the gun in his hand.
Madison: I don’t want to die, but I can’t live like this. This is the way you can save me. Please, I’m asking you to save me.
Ohgod, Sera Gamble, the dialogue here – it’s so perfect and so heartbreaking. This is the part of the family business mantra that resonates so much with Sam – he wants to save people, so badly. He wants to save HER. And she knows that this is the only way he can do it. At the same time, we know that Sam (and Dean) are also thinking of the parallel to their own lives. It’s exactly what John asked Dean to do, and what Sam has asked of his brother and will ask again – kill me to save me. And Dean’s answer every time is going to be no.
Sam (sobbing too): I can’t.
Sam looks so distraught, absolutely torn apart, and Dean looks so sad for him – and no doubt is relating to the impossible task that Madison is asking of him, and that John asked of Dean.
Sam and Dean lock eyes over Madison’s head as she sobs.
Dean takes the gun from Sam gently, as Queensryche’s ‘Silent Lucidity’ begins to play – another thing that makes this one of the most memorable scenes in the entire show. Sam leaves the room and Dean follows, Sam trying to hold back tears.
Dean: Sam, I’m sorry.
Sam: No, you’re right. She’s right.
Dean: Sammy, I got this one. I’ll do it.
Sam says no, that Madison asked him to, but Dean says he doesn’t have to, desperately wanting to shield his baby brother from this trauma. Sam’s tears begin to fall, his face anguished.
Sam: Yes. I do. Please.
He holds his hand out for the gun, and Dean reluctantly hands it to him.
He looks as devastated as Sam, not just for Madison but for Sam having to do this impossible thing.
Sam: Just wait here.
He turns to go, then turns back to look at his big brother again, tears streaming down his face.
He squares his shoulders and goes into the other room.
The camera focuses on Dean as a single tear overflows and runs down his cheek.
He flinches as the gun goes off.
Another brilliant Kim Manners shot, having the focus on Dean as we hear the gunshot, and we see how much agony it’s causing him, this hardened hunter who has heard a thousand gunshots.
Most fans know the backstory of this scene, which makes it extra poignant rewatching it now. Jared was thinking about his beloved dogs, Sadie and Harley, having to be put down for some reason, and he was sobbing for real. Jensen knew this, and was genuinely upset for Jared, seeing him in so much pain. And all of that comes through in the scene too, making both Sam and Dean’s pain so achingly real.
It’s a Dean Winchester patented One Perfect Tear (TM) and it HURTS.
It’s been a tough day in the real world today, and it makes me miss my Show even more. Rewatching this episode, seeing just how incredible Supernatural was and always will be, both gets me through – and makes me miss it even more.
Beautiful caps by spndeangirl
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8 thoughts on “Supernatural Breaks All Of Ours with Season 2’s Powerful “Heart””
My heart breaks every time I watch this episode. Written, directed and acted perfectly by genius level talent. I fell in love with Sam Winchester during this episode and that has not abated one whit since. I told Jared I adore Walker but my heart belongs to Sam. He pointed to his chest and said they’re both in here. Sigh. Great recap. Kudos
I’ve watched this one so many times, but it never loses its impact. The writing, the directing, the acting – all perfection. Jared’s tears? Jensen’s one perfect tear? Devastating.
A heartbreaking episode but so well done on everybody’s part. The lighting, camera angles and Jared and Jensen’s acting (it felt so real).
I am really curious as to Rob & Rich’s reactions to this episode on Supernatural Then and Now. It’s always interesting to get other reactions to episodes that I enjoy.
Watching the three of the actors seeing the sun come up, I always remember the gag reel of them for the same scene. 😆
You know you’ve watched Supernatural a lot when you think of the gag reels when watching certain episodes.
Great recap Lynn.
I had never thought about the fact that there were so many gag reel moments from this episode – and the next one too! Season 2 was such a special time, all of them, cast and crew and writers and directors, all so in love with the show and so elated to be able to keep telling the story
l Rothry was in this episode. She reappeared a few years later as Olivette, leader of the Grand Coven (and future talking hamster). She’s quite a fixture in Canadian productions.
This was a great episode. It really had everything we fangirls love about this show.
One question about the final scene. I’m not sure if this is true or not, hopefully you can clarify. I remember hearing something about the close up of Dean when Sam goes to shoot Madison and that Jensen didn’t know or wasn’t told when the gun would go off, or that it would, but Manners wanted Dean’s reaction to be authentic, so they didn’t tell him about the gunshot and that jerk reaction from Jensen when the gun goes off is a real reaction to the noise. Everytime I was this and watch Dean’s reaction, I end up reacting as well. His jerk movement is so visceral. Do you know anything about this?