Season 3 was a memorable season of Supernatural for many reasons. I was well and truly down the rabbit hole of being head over heels in love with the show, and the fandom was busy trying to get enough people to watch it that we could keep it on the air. It was constantly touch and go, and yet I was continually struck by how amazing the show was – why didn’t everyone else see it??
It was extra scary by the middle of the season because there was a writers’ strike, and while the fandom overwhelmingly supported the strike and our beloved writers, that made it even less certain the Show would survive. Looking back, the strike changed the trajectory of the season, but of course we didn’t know that at the time.
‘Bedtime Stories’ was in the Show’s early seasons tradition, creepy and scary but at the same time able to rip your heart out with unexpected emotionality. The episode was written by Cathryn Humphris, who I was so sad to lose early on, and directed by Mike Rohl, who directed quite a few episodes and includes some gorgeous shots in this one.
The ‘THEN’ reminds us of the history of the Colt, Dean’s deal to save Sam and his insistence that he’s not scared, and just how worried Dean is about whether what he brought back is “100% pure Sam” – the story line that was so intriguing and didn’t really go anywhere…
Three guys bicker like brothers (which it turns out they are) next to a billboard advertising new home construction with the tempting “ONCE UPON A TIME… All homes were built this well.”
One announces that he’s the “brick guy” and the other is the “wood guy” while the third warns that if a good gust of wind comes up the whole place is gonna blow over. (Sound familiar?)
As they argue, we see that something is watching them, the feeling of the scene ominous.
There’s a growl and one brother asks the others, did you hear that?
For some unknown reason he goes off to investigate on his own, dramatic music playing, but finds nothing. (Of course, because this is a horror show, the first time someone checks it’s gonna be nothing, so that we’re falsely reassured…). One of the brothers goes to warm up their truck and suddenly something attacks brother no. 1 and drags him away as he screams. Brother no. 2 runs and hides while something attacks brother no. 3, blood spraying all over the truck and splattering on the dirt. Brother no. 2 hunkers down, terrified, breathing hard.
He finally dares to look around the cinder blocks and sees his dead brother lying on the ground. He hears another growl and then footsteps, and then he’s screaming too.
A giant toad sitting in the middle of the road almost gets run over by the Impala as it roars by, spraying water from a puddle in the road.
Sam and Dean are not exactly getting along at this point in the series. In fact, they are having a quintessential brothers spat. Dean is determined that his going to hell to save Sam will stick, because otherwise Sam won’t survive. Sam is determined to save his brother. Both are hard headed and just as invested in their codependent relationship at this point. I am not complaining about this – it’s one of the things I love so much about this show.
Sam: I don’t understand, Dean – why not??
Dean: Because I said so!!
Sam: But we’ve got the Colt now.
Dean is resolute, warning his brother with a terse “Sam…”
Sam wants to summon the crossroads demon to try to get Dean out of his deal by holding her at gunpoint and forcing her. Dean insists that they’re not summoning anything, that they don’t even know if it will work. Sam retorts that they can just shoot her anyway and the deal will go away, but Dean insists they don’t know if that’s even true.
Dean: You’re pitching me a bunch of ifs and maybes and that’s not good enough because if we screw with this deal, you die!
Sam: And if we don’t screw with it, you die!!
Talk about quintessential Supernatural. Dean will save Sam no matter what, and Sam will save Dean no matter what. And good luck trying to talk either of them out of it!
Sam finally demands, why, because you said so?
Dean: YES, because I said so!
Sam: Yeah well you’re not Dad.
Dean: (yelling) No but I am the oldest, and I’m doing what’s best. And you’re gonna let this go, you understand me?
If that isn’t the face of determination, I don’t know what is.
Sam finally subsides. He sits silent and sullen, staring out the window.
Dean tries to draw him back in, bring the conversation back to something normal (for them).
He asks Sam to tell him about the psychotic killer, pushing him to get back to the case.
Sam still sounds upset, but he goes along, reading the details from a paper, guessing that it might be a werewolf.
They’re back in business…
Mmmm. A moment to appreciate all the pretty in this episode – Sam, Dean, Baby…
Jared and Jensen show off their comedic talents when Sam and Dean go to visit the surviving brother in the hospital, with their adorable FBI fake badges and fed suits. Detective Plant and Page, rock aliases already firmly established on the show.
Fun fact: I actually have Sam’s fake ID with Jimmy Page’s name on it, one of the things I was incredibly lucky to get from the Show when it ended.
Kyle assumes they’re the sketch artists he’s been expecting, which leaves Sam going “uhhhh” and Dean seeing an opportunity to make Sam’s life miserable like a big brother should.
Dean: Absolutely, that’s exactly who my partner is. The things he can do with a pen…
Somehow that sounds vaguely dirty.
Sam glares at his brother, but gamely gets out a tiny sketch pad (which luckily he had for some reason) and as the guy describes what he saw, Sam dutifully scribbles.
Dean: Did his eyes seem (clearing his throat) animal-ish?
Kyle: Excuse me?
Sam: What about his teeth? You notice anything strange about ‘em?
Dean: How about his fingernails?
The guy is exasperated, obviously thinking these guys are weirdos, saying it was just a normal guy with normal eyes and teeth and fingernails. I love seeing Sam and Dean through regular people’s eyes because honestly they seem like psychopaths!
Sam tries to console him, saying it’s okay if he doesn’t remember, but Kyle interrupts him, distraught.
Kyle: No, no, those were my brothers! This guy, he killed my brothers – how would you feel?
Oh Show, I see what we’re doing here. Always with the parallels.
Sam: Can’t imagine anything worse.
Dean looks at Sam and nods, both of them looking a little stricken by what Kyle has said.
God, my heart, boys. Also? Dayum they are beyond beautiful.
Kyle says he does remember that the guy had a tattoo of the cartoon character who’s chasing the Roadrunner.
Dean: Wile E. Coyote!
He’s clearly proud of himself to know that.
Dean goes to talk to Kyle’s doctor, and Kyle asks Sam if he gets to see the sketch.
Sam (laughing a little nervously) Oh yeah yeah, it’s a…work in progress…
And then we all get to see the adorable little stick figure Sam drew.
Kyle: Huh. It’s… huh.
Outside, there’s another toad as Sam and Dean walk out, boys in their suits walking in sync.
Dean checks out the drawing.
Dean: Boy, this is a piece of… uhh… art. Really.
Sam grabs it back, saying Dean couldn’t have done any better.
It turns out they’re probably not hunting a werewolf because it wasn’t the brothers’ hearts that were missing, it was chunks of their kidneys, lungs and intestines.
Sam: That’s just gross.
They ponder what it might have been, coming up empty.
Sam: I think it coulda… yeah, I got nothin’.
Dean: Me neither.
The next day, a young couple are hiking in the woods when they get lost, arguing about which way to go until they find a little house in the middle of nowhere. A little old lady greets them, a fresh baked pie cooling in the window.
She says they’re really deep in the woods and invites them in to rest. The woman hiker is wary and obviously smarter, but the guy insists she’s a harmless old lady, so in they go to eat pie. The guy suddenly doubles over in pain and falls to the floor, while the old lady calmly gets out a giant carving knife and starts slicing him open, the woman screaming the whole time.
Outside the window is a totally terrifying little girl just watching calmly as the lady stabs the guy repeatedly.
SCARY. Supernatural could be so damn scary. Nothing scarier than creepy kids! And so damn dark. Don’t ever tell me this Show was not a dark horror story at its core.
Sam and Dean head back to the hospital, cagily avoiding the sheriff’s deputies in the hallway to go talk to the surviving lady.
She tells them she wasn’t as out of it as her husband so she was able to push the old lady away, who fell and cracked her head on the stove and (maybe?) died.
She also tells them that there was a little girl there who disappeared – a beautiful eight year old with very dark hair and very pale skin, who vanished.
Sam and Dean exchange a look.
(As they so often do, and honestly? Every time they do, I squeal a little bit inside. My Show, how I miss it…)
Later they go investigate the old lady’s house, which weirdly I guess really is this little house in the middle of nowhere in the woods, which seems very implausible but okay. They don’t find any sulphur, but the EMF meter goes nuts at the window.
Sam: There’s definitely a spirit here.
Dean: Who stood outside the window and watched.
Sam has a theory.
Dean: Hit me.
Sam: Thinking about fairy tales…
Dean: Oh that’s nice, you think about fairy tales often?
(It’s Season 3 and Dean can still be a misogynistic homophobic jerk sometimes)
Sam is more patient with Dean than most of us would be, explaining that their cases are fairy tales – the couple hiking in the woods who the old lady wants to eat is Hansel and Gretel, and the brothers arguing over how to build houses were attacked by the Big Bad Wolf. Smart Sam Winchester for the win!
Dean: The three little pigs. Those guys were a little chubby. But I thought those things ended with everybody living happily ever after.
Sam explains that’s not true for the originals.
Sam: The Grimm Brothers’ stuff was kinda the folklore of its day, full of sex and violence and cannibalism. It got sanitized over the years, turned into Disney flicks and bedtime stories.
Dean: So you think the murders are…what? A re-enactment? That’s a little crazy.
Sam: Crazy as what? Every day of our lives?
Much to Dean’s dismay, this means they’ve now gotta do research.
* * *
Their research unfortunately doesn’t yield much, but Sam does figure out it might be something like Lillian Bailey, a medium who would go into unconscious states where her thoughts and actions were controlled by spirits – like, as Dean says, a ghost puppet master.
Dean: Fairy tale trances? That’s bizarre even for us.
They look down and a giant bullfrog is sitting in the middle of the path, croaking at them.
Sam: Yeah you’re right, that’s completely normal.
Dean: No way I’m kissing a damn frog.
They look across the street just then, and see a house with a pumpkin on the porch and a mouse strolling along the stairs.
Sam suggests Cinderella, because I mean, pumpkin? Mice?
Dean: Dude, could you be more gay?
Sam doesn’t answer, just gives Dean a look. As fandom has noted many times, he also does not confirm or deny or clarify.
Dean: Don’t answer that.
(It was 2007 but sheesh, Dean.)
They go inside to check out the house, because Dean may give Sam grief but he also respects his opinions and hypotheses, though he can’t resist teasing Sam that maybe he’ll find his fairy godmother.
Sam is so patient lol. Can’t resist a bitch face tho. Who can blame him?
There’s a noise and they draw their guns in unison, which is always frankly hot as hell.
Damn, I miss the Winchester brothers.
They find a teenage girl in the kitchen handcuffed to the oven. You guessed it, her (wicked) step mom did it.
Sam and Dean see the dark haired little girl watching, looking as scary as every creepy kid in a horror movie ever.
Dean follows her and asks her who she is.
She disappears without answering, leaving a red apple behind.
After the paramedics pick up “Cinderella”, Sam finds Dean waiting for him at the Impala.
He catches the apple seamlessly when Dean tosses it to him.
Dean: So, little girl, shiny red apple, I’m guessing that means something to you, fairy tale boy?
Sam: I think it’s Snow White.
Dean: Snow White… ahhh I saw that movie. Well, the porn version anyway. There was this wicked stepmother, and wooh, was she wicked…
Sam, ever patient with his brother-who-is-about-to-die, clarifies that the poison apple doesn’t kill her, but puts her into a deep sleep.
He throws the apple over the car back at Dean, who also catches it easily.
Back to the hospital they go, but the nurse says they don’t have any comatose little girls, just old guys…and Callie. Who, it turns out, is Dr. Garrison’s daughter, who has been in a coma since she was a little girl.
She’s now a young woman, who looks really damn good for someone in a coma for a decade or more.
Dr. Garrison reads her the Brothers Grimm, and we hear him tell the story of the big bad wolf eating the grandmother – and then see a parallel scene playing out in real time, the “wolf” a bad guy with a Wile E. Coyote tattoo stalking an old lady to her van in a parking lot then beating her up and driving away in her van.
Sam and Dean, watching a grieving father read to his daughter, exchange a look.
Sam, always with the empathy: We wanted to say how sorry we are.
Turns out she was poisoned at 8 years old, swallowed bleach somehow – his wife brought her to the ER.
Dean: Was that Callie’s stepmother?
Snow White it is.
Sam wonders what her motive was.
Dean: Could be like Mischa Barton – The Sixth Sense, not the OC.
Dean: Hey, you know fairy tales, I know movies. She played the pasty ghost, the mom had that thing where you keep the kid sick so you get all the attention.
Sam: Oh yeah, Munchausen by Proxy. Huh. Could be.
(Side note: I love that Kripke era Supernatural references M. Night Shyamalan films so much, since he’s a friend of mine. In fact, my son was in The Sixth Sense, and so was I if you count being a lowly extra just sitting in the audience and filming Haley Joel Osment in the school play. Anyway, Mischa Barton was very nice.)
Sam and Dean realize that her spirit is angry because nobody ever realized her stepmom did it, and also her dad keeps reading her all these deranged stories.
Sam and Dean look on as the badly beaten grandmother is rushed into the ER, the EMT saying it looks like she was mauled by a mad dog – or maybe a wolf?
Dean: What was the last story Dr. Garrison was reading to Callie?
Sam: Little Red Riding Hood.
They get the name and address of her next of kin – who happens to be her granddaughter – from the EMTs. Dean tells Sam to find a way to stop Callie, while he goes to stop the big bad wolf.
Dean: Which is the weirdest thing I’ve ever said.
We see a little girl in a red hoodie climb into the van she thinks is her grandmother’s. The big bad wolf guy locks her in and takes off.
Sam tries to talk to the doctor about his daughter.
Sam: There are things you don’t know, Doctor, about your wife. She poisoned Callie.
He slams the door on Sam, but Sam walks in anyway, using every bit of his six plus feet and broad shoulders, stopping the doctor from using the hospital phone.
Sam: Listen, I don’t have time to do this gently.
Me: Is it hot in here?
Sam looms over him, warning him that Callie is still here, that she’s a spirit. The doctor looks at his daughter, distraught.
Sam: So, you’ve seen her too.
Meanwhile, Dean breaks into the big bad wolf’s house, gun drawn, and sees the little girl sobbing, her face smeared with blood, hiding. She screams as the bad guy returns and there’s a fight, both of them throwing punches, the wolf tossing Dean across the room and over a table. He smashes against the china closet, breaking the glass, in an epic fight.
Child Callie watches, pleased.
Dean finally grabs the scissors from the knitting basket and goes after the bad guy.
Back at the hospital, Sam pleads with the doctor to listen to him, that Callie is angry and desperate and killing people because no one is listening to her.
Sam (earnestly): Please, listen to your daughter.
As Dean gets carried across the room and tossed on his ass, the doctor calls his daughter’s name.
Doctor: Callie, it’s me, Daddy. Is it true?
The bad guy straddles Dean, the two of them struggling to grab the scissors.
Time seems to be running out for Dean as Sam tries to get through to the doctor.
Callie’s spirit leaves the fight and appears in the hospital room.
Doctor: Mommy did that to you? I know I wasn’t listening before, but I’m listening now. Daddy’s here. Please, can you tell me.
Callie’s spirit nods sadly.
Dr. Garrison is tearful, apologizing to his daughter, but saying that she has to stop what she’s doing, that he knows the truth now, so she can let go.
He kisses her forehead in the hospital bed, and the monitors flatline.
Sam looks on, empathic.
Dean throws the guy off and manages to grab the scissors. He raises them, about to strike a lethal blow, when the spell breaks and the guy suddenly looks up at him in shock.
Guy: Whoa, stop, whoa whoa, what’s going on?
In the hospital room, the doctor sobs (guest star Christopher Cousins is a great actor). The little girl is gone.
Sam looks on sadly, empathizing with his pain and loss, knowing too much about both himself and undoubtedly thinking about losing Dean soon.
The Winchesters say goodbye to the doctor. He says he knows he should have let her go a long time ago.
Dean: See ya round, doc.
Doctor: I sure hope not.
As they walk out, Dean turns to Sam, saying that was good advice.
Sam looks at him angrily, swallowing hard, with some amazing acting by Jared.
Sam: Is that what you want me to do, Dean? Just let you go?
Jared Padalecki is so damn good here – you can feel Sam’s grief and anger and helplessness so acutely, tears shining in his eyes, and it breaks my heart.
Dean doesn’t answer, just stares at Sam – and then walks away.
Sam watches him go.
I remember that scene was incredibly painful when I watched it live, and I was furious with Dean too for leaving Sam like that, so afraid and so angry and so determined. No wonder he went down the path he did.
It’s a perfect shot, Sam left alone, standing a a crossroads of sorts, not knowing what to do.
That night at the motel, Sam gets up, looking back at Dean asleep in the other bed. Maybe indecisive for a moment, but then determined. Determined to save his brother.
He drives to a crossroads, and our hearts sink as we see what he’s about to do.
He puts together a box with his ID, buries it in the dirt and stands there in the moonlight, waiting.
It’s a beautiful crane shot, ominous. We can see Sam’s breath puff out in the cold as the camera pans around him, Sam looking in all directions, his desperation clear.
Finally a demon appears – in the form of actress Sandra McCoy, who was Jared’s girlfriend at the time, or maybe fiancé at that point.
Demon: Well well, little Sammy Winchester, I’m touched. What can I do for you, Sam?
He points the Colt at her, telling her to beg for her life, that she better stop wisecracking and start acting scared.
She knows it’s not the original Colt – and figures out that Ruby must have given it to him, threatening that she’ll get what’s coming to her.
Sam says he came to make her an offer.
Demon: You’re gonna make ME an offer? That’s adorable.
Sam: You can let Dean out of his deal right now. He lives, I live. You live. Everyone goes home happy. Or you stop breathing. Permanently.
She taunts him, laughing, asking does he really want to break Dean’s deal? Isn’t he tired of cleaning up Dean’s messes? Of dealing with that broken psyche of his? Of being bossed around like a snot-nosed little brother when he’s stronger and better than Dean?
It’s a little prelude to the manipulation at the hands of another demon that’s coming.
Sam: Watch your mouth.
Demon: No more desperate, sloppy, needy Dean. You can finally be free.
Sam: I said shut up!
The demon insists that the deal is iron clad, that it can’t be broken, that killing her won’t even stop it.
Demon: I’ve got a boss like everybody, and he holds the contract, not me. He wants Dean’s soul bad. Shoot me, if it’ll get you off, but the deal still holds.
She insists she can’t tell him who holds the contract.
Demon: No way out of this one, not this time.
Sam looks down, swallows hard, sighs. Then he raises the gun and shoots her in the forehead.
She staggers, momentarily shocked, and falls to the ground dead.
Sam stands alone, even more worried and desperate than before.
It still breaks my heart to see where the brothers were at in Season 3, all these years later. Dean putting on a brave front, pretending he’s not scared of going to hell, insistent that Sam won’t jeopardize his own survival to save Dean because them’s the rules. The two of them both determined to save the other, no matter what they have to do in order to do that.
It’s everything I love about Supernatural, full of emotion and tragedy and love all at the same time. Have I mentioned I really miss my Show?
Stay tuned for more in depth reviews of Season 3, which was about to be impacted by the writer’s strike big time, and the season arc and wrap changed as a result…
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