This is one of those episodes that doesn’t stick in my head as being a favorite, yet when we rewatched it, I was struck by how solid it is – and how visually powerful. No wonder, since it’s directed by the brilliant Kim Manners and written by the equally brilliant Eric Kripke.
Season 3 was a season we weren’t guaranteed. The first four or five seasons of Supernatural were stressful for fandom – we were never sure the show would eke out another season’s renewal. It was a weirdly exciting time that had the benefit of bonding the fandom together in the shared goal of just keeping the little show we loved on the air. No time for ship wars or character (or actor) wank when the show’s very existence wasn’t assured. Sometimes, not gonna lie, I really miss those days.
As Season 3 began, we were all tremendously relieved and full of anticipation for a season that promised to be horrifying (in the best sense of the word) now that the YED was a) dead but b) had succeeded in opening the hell gate and releasing a whole bunch of demons. Little did we know there was about to be a writer’s strike that would alter the season (and as I write this rewatch in 2023, there is another, so there is still clearly alot of progress to be made!)
That upped the stakes considerably for the Winchester brothers – and that danger became crystal clear right away with this season premiere episode.
We get some vintage AC/DC to start with “Hell’s Bells”, a song I will forever associate with Supernatural.
The early seasons openers were often also truly horrifying in the best sense of the word, as some hapless red shirt person met a terrible fate. This time it’s in a quiet suburban development in Oak Park, Illinois. (Kripke has always known that quiet suburban neighborhoods are truly the most horrifying). Scary music plays as a guy takes out the trash late at night. (Not gonna lie, every time I take out the trash late at night, I think about this episode). A dog barks as he puts in the bag, and then the trash cans start to rattle like there’s something in them, and instead of walking away like any sane person would, the guy goes BACK to investigate.
All of us watching: Why???
Street lamps flicker, then a big black cloud of smoke comes rolling through the night sky. The guy just stands there and stares at it as we’re all yelling at him to RUN, FOOL! He finally, belatedly, starts to run but it’s too late, it knocks him down and a tendril of smoke goes right in his mouth. Ewwww!
He opens his black eyes.
All the demons start to smoke down to Earth, presumably doing the same thing to more foolish people.
SUPERNATURAL, the title card reminds us – the new title card for Season 3! That was a big point of excitement every year, and they never disappointed.
One week later… and we know we’re about to see what the Winchester brothers are up to. We couldn’t have guessed this one, though!
Sam’s sitting in the Impala at night, reading about Dr. Faustus and his deal with the devil at the crossroads by flashlight – while Dean is inside a motel or house or something.
Sam is sitting in the car watching through the window for some reason.
Dean, in an undershirt, flashes Sam a big horny grin and gives his brother a thumbs up, Sam smiling indulgently.
Everyone at the time: Wha?
Then he closes the (transparent so why bother) curtains and helpfully takes off a woman’s shirt.
As Sam watches and smiles (affectionately, according to the transcript).
Everyone watching at the time: Okay, was that weird? That was weird.
The early seasons are undeniably weird and utterly fascinating.
Bobby calls and interrupts Sam’s research.
Bobby: Hey Sam, whatcha doin?
Sam answers “same old same old” but what does that even mean in this context?
Bobby, who knows Sam, reminds him he’s not going to find a way to save Dean from his deal in a book, and asks where Dean is.
Sam: (wryly, still watching Dean cavorting inside) Polling the electorate…
Bobby says he thinks he’s found something, so Sam knocks on the door and then doesn’t wait for anyone to respond before coming right in for some reason.
BTO’s ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet’ is playing, which is such an obvious joke it’s kind of hilarious.
Sam: Dean? You conscious? Bobby called and he thinks maybe we…
Sam’s eyes widen in horror as we hear women moaning (happily) and he sees Dean presumably in the middle of sex. With two sisters.
The subtext, it burns.
Sam: Oh God…
Cut to the brothers in the Impala, Dean exuberant and driving probably way too fast, his “woohoo” echoing as the Impala leaps over a hill.
Sam asks for his knife.
Dean: What for?
Sam: (deadpan) So I can gouge my eyes out.
Dean is absolutely tickled pink that Sam got an eyeful of him and the “Doublemint twins”.
Dean: It was a beautiful, natural act, Sam.
(I mean, yes, but probably not one your brother wanted to see, Dean. Though why he just strolled on in when he knew that’s what was happening is a question that never gets answered. Also Dean canonically sleeps with twin sisters. Oh, Kripke.)
Sam: That’s a part of you I never wanted to see, Dean.
(I find it hard to believe they haven’t seen all parts of each other living out of motel rooms like they do and probably not giving a damn).
Dean just laughs, delighted, slapping Sam on the thigh. He’s all fake happy, in denial about his time running out, grinning and driving too fast. Sam is surly, though he says ‘no problem’ when Dean thanks him for the quality time with the sisters, saying he deserves to have a little fun.
Poor Sam, feeling so guilty and trying so hard to make his brother’s life as full as it can be – before it’s cut short.
Bobby found some things that could be demonic omens in Nebraska, their only lead, and Dean is restless after five days of the Devil’s gate being open.
Dean: What are the demons waiting for? It’s driving me crazy. If it’s gonna be war, I wish it would just start already.
Sam: (bitch face in place, and I say that oh so fondly) Careful what you wish for.
I need to stop here to say that the cinematography in this episode is beyond amazing. Look at Sam’s profile, the way he’s lit in the dark car, it’s just breathtaking. All the kudos to the brilliant DP Serge Ladouceur! (He has a chapter in our book Fan Phenomena Supernatural, all about how he makes the show and the boys look the way they do).
We all get the feeling that Dean is spoiling for a fight so he won’t have to think about what’s coming for him in less than a year, and Sam seems to know that too.
The next morning they get to a farm outside Lincoln Nebraska. Dean gets out of the Impala chowing down on a big burger – early Season 3 was not subtle about the fact that Dean needed to be either fighting, fucking or feeding his face so he wouldn’t have to think about the hell hounds coming for him or how guilty his brother feels about the deal he made.
Note: The Impala no longer has its spotlight, apparently because the boys (Jared and Jensen, not Sam and Dean) wouldn’t stop playing with it.
We hear cicadas, which Sam and Dean note can’t be a good sign, I guess because biblical plague? (Our house in the summer must sound pretty plagued too, with all the cicadas chirping in the woods behind the house).
They meet up with Bobby there, who comments on Dean eating cheeseburgers for breakfast.
Dean answers with bravado, saying he sold his soul so he’s got a year to live so he ain’t sweating the cholesterol. (Also, Dean’s face lol)
Every time he says something like that, you can see Sam flinch, because OUCH.
The three check out a farmhouse where the swarm is located, knocking on the door.
Us, rewatching in 2023: Shades of OG Saturday Night Live!
They choke on the smell when they break in the door.
Then we get lots of that unspoken conversation that I love so much between Sam and Dean as the boys go through the place, guns drawn, the floor creaking.
Even when they’re arguing, like they are about Dean’s deal at this point, they are like a well oiled machine as hunters.
There’s the sound of a woman crying, and they kick in the next door, immediately grimacing.
It’s from a television that’s still on, as flies buzz around a whole family of dead bodies just sitting there on the couch, very dead.
There’s a noise from outside and the boys draw their guns again as suspenseful music plays.
And we get some truly gorgeous close-ups once again, thank you Serge. Dean’s… Jensen’s…eyes, seriously.
Dean opens the door, goes out, very very slowly…. Annnnnd a man gets the drop on him anyway, holding a gun on him as he lies on the ground.
Bobby: Isaac? Tamara?
Isaac and Tamara: Hey, Bobby.
Dean, from the ground, hand raised in a comical hi: Helloooo, bleeding here…
So we meet married hunters Isaac and Tamara, whose motto is the family that slays together stays together.
Sam: Right, I’m with you there!
Already, as Season 3 begins, Sam is totally on board with hunting, his long ago dreams of a “normal life” pretty much extinguished by what’s happened since – and by his determination to save his brother. Dean charms information from a woman named Jenny on the phone, promising to have an appletini (grimace) with her and finding out the family died of dehydration.
Dean: They just… sat down and never got up…
What should we do, Dean asks, and Isaac bristles.
Isaac: WE are not gonna do anything. You guys seem nice enough, but this ain’t Scooby Doo and we don’t play well with others.
Sam points out that they could cover a lot more ground if they worked together.
Isaac: No offense, but we’re not teaming up with the damn fools who let the Devil’s Gate get opened in the first place.
Dean’s turn to bristle.
Dean: No offense?
Isaac doesn’t back down, saying sure he’s made mistakes, but never brought on the end of the world.
Us: Oh, and it won’t be the first time…
Dean: All right, that’s enough.
Damn. Look at them!
Sam and Dean exchange a look, Sam upset and Dean defensive. And protective. He and Isaac look ready to square off, Isaac insisting they brought war down on “all of us”. Tamara pulls him away, as Sam calms Dean down too, telling Dean quietly that this isn’t helping.
Tamara: Okay, that’s quite enough testosterone for now.
Night falls; Bobby closes the curtains. The demon Ruby appears out of the mist, but of course we don’t know who or what she is yet. Except that she’s played by Katie Cassidy, who was awesome in the role later awesomely played by Gen Padalecki.
The next day, the guy who got possessed taking out the trash touches a woman at a shoe store admiring some nice shoes and passes the demon possessing him into her. The woman proceeds to insist that she wants the pair of green shoes, which are the last pair. When another woman buys them, she follows her to the car and then out of freaking nowhere, attacks her, violently slamming her head into the glass windshield until she’s very dead, people on the street all screaming. Kripke really got his way this season with the blood and gore, a preview of what would be full bloom eventually on ‘The Boys’ on Prime Video without Standards & Practices interfering!
Later, the boys go to the crime scene to investigate. Dean flirts with the girl at the counter because that’s mostly what he does in early Season 3, fake earnestness about how fragile life really is totally working with her. Because, I mean, Dean Winchester.
Sam watches, clearing his throat in annoyance, because that’s what Sam does a lot in early Season 3 in response to Dean’s way of dealing with his deal and also when Dean is trying to get lucky instead of working the case.
Sam (bitch face): Dean, what are you doing?
Dean: Comforting the bereaved, what are you doing?
To Sam’s “working…” explanation, Dean fakes a dramatic cough.
Dean: Sam I’m sorry, it’s just, I don’t have much time left..cough cough…gotta make every second count.
To my utter consternation, his ridiculous guilt trip works on poor vulnerable Sam.
Sam: Yeah okay, sorry.
I didn’t much enjoy Dean’s guilt tripping as part of his Hell deal denial, or his hedonistic and verging on narcissistic behavior in early Season 3. But I guess having a sentence of going to Hell will do that to a person, so I try not to judge. Especially not fictional characters who aren’t, you know, real…
Bobby appears, all spiffed up, and Dean whistles in appreciation.
Bobby says it doesn’t look like she was possessed, but he also doesn’t believe in this many coincidences. Dean spots a security camera, and glances at Sam.
Dean: See? I’m working!
They watch the video, see that guy touch the woman’s shoulder, and Sam nods. “Might just be a guy….or it might be our guy…”
After Dean leaves, Ruby reappears and follows Sam. His hunter instincts make him suspicious he’s being followed, but when he turns around, no one is there.
And then it’s night, Bobby and Dean staking out a bar in Bobby’s car. (It’s the Terminal Pub, one of the first places we visited on our initial pilgrimage to Vancouver. I still remember how giddy we were to stand under its awning and picture this scene).
This is what it looked like when we visited, though I think it’s long gone now.
Suddenly someone pounds on the window, and Bobby and Dean both startle – it’s Sam.
He grins happily at having frightened them, then squeezes into the car, squashing Dean up against the front window as he makes a disgruntled face. Jensen and Jared and their physical comedy is unmatched.
Dean: That’s not funny!
Us: It totally was.
The possessed guy shows up, and Dean is eager to pursue him.
Dean: All right, show time!
Bobby cautions that they should wait, that these demons are behaving erratically and they don’t know what to expect – and they’re no good dead. Dean bristles.
Dean: Oh, so he kills someone and we just sit here with our junk in our hands?
Us: Vivid visual…ahem…not complaining…
Unfortunately (for them), Isaac and Tamara show up and that’s the end of Bobby’s wise advice. A guy grabs Isaac almost immediately, saying he doesn’t like hunters in his bar – and it turns out all the employees and customers are demons! Uh oh.
Bobby, Sam and Dean try to break through the locked door, while one of the demons taunts Tamara, saying she likes her, can think of about a thousand things she’d like to do to her. Isaac threatens them and one of the demons holds up a big bottle of drain cleaner, and I find this next scene really hard to watch, even now knowing what’s coming. I remember being sick to my stomach the first time I saw it, and it still makes me queasy to this day.
Tamara has to watch, horrified, as Isaac pours it down his throat and he chokes on it, screaming, dying in agony, blood pouring from his mouth as he collapses.
Seriously, where was Standards and Practices when this episode got made? That’s ‘The Boys’ level horrifying for sure.
They turn to Tamara.
Demon: All right honey, your turn.
At that moment, Bobby’s car comes crashing right through the doors, tires screeching. Sam and Dean and Bobby jump out and start throwing around holy water, forcing Tamara into the car as Dean holds them off. Sam yells for Dean to come on as he smashes the last demon and shoves him in the trunk and yells GO GO GO GO!
I think this was the scene that Jared and Jensen have talked about, when Jared had to keep leaping into the car – a very tall man having to leap quickly into a very small car. He kept hitting his head on the roof as he did so, as the director kept urging him to go faster. Then Jeannie Chow came over to fix Jared’s hair, and as she took her hand away some of Jared’s scalp actually came off on her hand! She was like omg and then tried to be calm about it, and Jared did the rest of the scene, but as Jensen has told the story several times “he was scalped!”
The number of times Jared or Jensen just kept on filming even when injured is pretty impressive, ngl.
Back at the house, Tamara wants to go back for Isaac and Dean offers to go with her, much to Sam’s anger.
Sam: It’s suicide, Dean!
Dean: So what, I’m dead already!
Sam is PISSED. Bobby, meanwhile, has figured out who they’re dealing with – the seven deadly sins, live and in the flesh.
Dean: What’s in the box?? Brad Pitt? Seven? No?
He laughs inappropriately, still all bravado and denial. Bobby whacks him. Dean rolls his eyes.
They figure out the family was touched by Sloth, the shopper by Envy, Isaac by Gluttony.
Tamara: I don’t give a rat’s ass if they’re the Three Stooges or the Four Tops, I’m gonna slaughter every last one of them!
Bobby tells it like it fucking is. Yells like he never does, saying they’ve never faced anything close to this, so they’re gonna take a breath and figure out their next move.
He softens then, says more quietly, I’m sorry for your loss.
Tamara storms off. Sam and Dean exchange a look.
They interrogate the demon Envy, who’s cocky and condescending and doesn’t answer Bobby’s question, so Dean steps in, right on the verge of violence.
Dean: He asked you a question! What do you want?
Look at those two men, the Winchester brothers. They are two scary dangerous dudes, and sometimes we forget that.
Dean tosses holy water on the demon, unmoved by his screams. Sam watches, similarly unmoved.
Demon: We already have what we want. We’re out. Thanks to you. I am legion for we are many. Some people like crochet or golf. Me? I like to see people’s insides on their outside.
He accuses them of being no better, calling Dean ‘practically a walking billboard of gluttony and lust.
Dean shrugs, and honestly? This episode has been all about him being just that.
Tamara starts beating on the demon, and he laughs, saying my point exactly.
Demon: We’re not sins, man, we’re natural human instinct. You can repress and deny all you want, but the truth is, you’re just animals. Horny greedy hungry violent animals.
Dean kinda nods.
Sam swallows hard.
The demon insists the others are coming for him, and Dean leans in threateningly.
Dean: Maybe, but they’re not gonna find you. Because you’ll be in hell. Someone send this clown packing.
Tamara: My pleasure.
Tamara reads an exorcism, as the demon yells.
In the next room, Dean says Sam and Bobby should take Tamara and head for the hills.
Dean: I’ll stay back, buy you a little time
Sam: You’re insane, Dean. Just forget about it, okay?
Bobby: Sam’s right.
Dean insists they’re outmanned and outgunned; they’ll be dead by dawn.
Sam: Look, if we’re goin down, we’re goin down together, all right?
It’s something Sam Winchester will say more than once during the course of Supernatural, and it never fails to make me emotional. Dean nods, gets it.
Dean: Well, let’s not make it easy for them.
The exorcism ends. The guy?
Tamara: He didn’t make it.
That’s something that will be a point of contention for the fandom for many years – if some of those possessed people were alive, did they really do enough to save them? In this case, I’m skeptical.
The next scene is one of the most beautiful scenes in the whole series. It’s a candlelit scene, the farmhouse dark except for their flickering light, which makes the whole scene look a little surreal. And absolutely gorgeous.
Sam and Dean don’t talk, but they say alot every time their eyes meet.
It’s quiet, Sam and Dean exchanging loaded looks as Sam fills flasks with holy water and they wait.
There’s salt around the windows and doors.
Streams of light come through the slatted windows.
It’s undeniably beautiful, and so are Sam and Dean.
Then suddenly old folk music starts to play from outside.
Dean cocks his shotgun.
Dean: Here we go.
A demon who’s possessing Isaac approaches, and heartbreakingly, starts begging Tamara to help him, saying that he got away but he’s hurt bad and needs help. He tells her something that only Isaac would know, accuses her of letting their daughter die, and Tamara sobs, bursts out the door and attacks the demon, stabbing him uselessly.
Salt line broken, in come the demons…
Sloth goes after Bobby, who traps him in a devil’s trap on the ceiling.
Bobby: Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.
Dean fights a feisty and smiling blonde chick who’s Lust, because of course that’s who Dean is fighting.
Lust: I’m not gonna hurt you… not unless you want me to…
(At the time the Hurt!Dean community on LiveJournal was very popular and I imagine there were a lot of exclamations at that moment from fans watching…)
She runs her hand along Dean’s shoulder (that theme of Dean being violated again), and Dean dives in and kisses her.
But just as we think he’s succumbed, he backs her up so he can shove her face into a tub of holy water.
Meanwhile, Sam tries to trap the demon Pride in another devil’s trap, but he’s not so easy to trap.
Pride: Heeeeere’s Johnny! Fool someone like me? Me?
He cracks the ceiling and breaks the trap, taunts Sam by saying they’ve all heard of him, “the Boy King,” but now he doesn’t believe the hype – Sam is fair game now.
(Btw, the idea of Sam being “the boy king” has always been popular in the fandom, even though the series itself unfortunately never explored it much further. Alas.)
Pride attacks Sam, choking him, but the mysterious woman (ie, Ruby 1.0) slashes his throat with a knife, killing him.
The demon Greed gasps and turns to Ruby, saying “You!”
Sam: Who the hell are you?
Ruby: I’m the girl that just saved your ass. See ya around, Sam
The next morning, Sam and Dean put the demons into a shallow grave and salt and burn them. There’s a hunter’s funeral for Isaac and a grieving Tamara.
Sam: Think she’ll be all right?
Dean: No. Definitely not.
It’s a blunt reminder that what they do has consequences. Serious, life-altering forever consequences. It’s the same reminder we get throughout the series, leading up to the series finale that carried the same message. That’s what made these hunters heroes, because this kind of tragedy was always just around the corner.
Bobby managed to save the lives of a few of the people possessed by the seven deadly sins, so that’s something.
Dean turns to Sam, wondering what kind of knife can kill a demon.
Dean: I’m just gonna ask it again – who was that masked chick? Actually the more troubling question would be, how come a girl can fight better than you?
Sam laughs, reminding his brother it was three demons, all at once.
Dean (slapping Sam’s shoulder): Hey, whatever it takes to get you through the night, pal.
The brothers use their physical connection to say so much more than the words, Dean letting Sam know there’s no actual criticism here, rather Dean’s need to use humor to cope with the fact that Sam was just in grave danger. Sam understands that, which is why he doesn’t take the bait.
Sam: You want a troubling question, I’ve got one for you. If we let out the seven deadly sins, what else did we let out?
Dean: You’re right, that is troubling
There’s an iconic scene of Dean striking a matchbook and throwing it into the shallow grave to get the fire started.
Tamara heads out, Bobby warning her that the world just got a lot scarier, be careful. He reminds Sam and Dean to keep their eyes peeled for omens, and Sam looks to their father figure for reassurance.
Sam: We can win this war, right?
Bobby doesn’t answer. Sam and Dean wave goodbye as he drives away.
Dean: So where to?
Sam suggests Louisiana, that Tamara mentioned a hoodoo priestess that might be able to help with Dean’s demon deal.
He takes issue, and the boys begin to argue, Sam insisting they go and Dean insisting they’re not going.
Dean finally turns to walk away and Sam grabs him by the sleeve and pulls him back, exasperated.
Sam: You know what? I’ve had it. I’ve been bending over backwards trying to be nice to you, and I don’t care anymore.
Dean: (sarcastic) That didn’t last long.
Sam’s not having it through, accusing Dean of acting like he couldn’t care less, asking if he’s got some kind of death wish.
Dean denies it, saying it’s not like that, and then Sam is pleading with him, to please tell him. He’s so frustrated and so confused about why Dean is fighting him on this when it’s so important!
Dean finally does – he tells Sam that if they trap or trick the demon or try to welch their way out of the deal, Sam dies.
Sam looks shocked, as Dean goes on.
Dean: Okay? You die. Those are the terms and there’s no way out of it. If you try to find a way, so help me god, I’m gonna stop you.
Sam (distraught): How could you make that deal, Dean?
This time Dean doesn’t lie.
Dean: Cause I couldn’t live with you dead, I couldn’t do it.
Sam: So what, now I live and you die?
Dean: (trying for casual) That’s the general idea, yeah.
Sam is furious, yelling at his brother.
Sam: Yeah well you’re a hypocrite, Dean. How did you feel when Dad sold his soul for you? Cause I was there, I remember. You were twisted and broken. And now you go and do the same thing to me. What you did was selfish.
Dean: Yeah you’re right, but I’m ok with that.
Sam: I’m not!
Dean is resigned, refusing to see what the deal is doing to Sam.
Dean: Tough. After everything I’ve done for this family, I think I’m entitled.
He softens a little, looks at Sam.
Dean: Truth is, I’m tired, Sam. I don’t know, it’s like there’s a light at end of the tunnel.
Sam: It’s Hellfire, Dean.
Dean shrugs, saying whatever, Sam’s alive, he feels good, for the first time in a long time.
Dean: I’ve got a year to live, Sam. I’d like to make the most of it. So whatta ya say we kill some evil sons of bitches and raise a little hell, huh?
Sam: You’re unbelievable.
Dean: Very true.
Dean gets in the car, smirking.
Turns on some classic rock as Sam gets in, still upset.
And who can blame him?
The episode ends as the early season episodes most often do, as the boys drive off in the Impala. This time they drive over a rather distinctive Vancouver bridge that was another place we visited on one of our location hunting trips there.
Stay tuned for more from Supernatural Season 3!
You can read Jared and Jensen’s chapters
(and Jim Beaver’s and many more)
on how Supernatural has changed their
lives in Family Don’t End With Blood and
There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done-
Info and links on the home page or at: