The Winchesters are Renegades in Season 2’s Nightshifter (Supernatural Rewatch)

There’s a reason why the 12th episode of Season 2 is so good. Actually there are a few reasons. One, it was written by Ben Edlund. Two, it was directed by Phil Sgriccia. And then there are those two really talented guys who play Sam and Dean.

Edlund didn’t stay with the show as long as I wish he had, but the episodes that he wrote are some of my favorites (as are the episodes he wrote for some of my other favorite shows). Phil Sgriccia was instrumental in shaping the show, staying until Eric Kripke’s new show took him away – and it was a great loss even then.

In ‘Nightshifter,’ the combination of Edlund’s tight, humorous but heartbreaking, quirky writing and dialogue and Sgriccia’s brilliant directing (and Serge Ladouceur’s brilliant lighting and cinematography as always) make this one of those episodes that could be the answer to someone asking for recommendations of episodes that show how special Supernatural is. The whole episode is tense, a mirror of Ronald’s paranoia threaded throughout reflecting the very real danger the Winchesters are in. This time, it’s not just from a supernatural entity, but from all too human law enforcement too. The sense that Sam and Dean are trapped – in the dark bank building, with something dangerous lurking in their midst and something dangerous waiting right outside to invade – sets the dark tone for the whole season as the mystery of the Yellow Eyed Demon and his plans for Sam play out.

It’s also a truly tragic episode, one of a handful that are hard to watch at times. Chris Gauthier’s portrayal of Ronald (and Edlund’s creation of the character) made him achingly real and very sympathetic. He’s a fanboy at heart, and he’s heroic in his own way, risking his life to do what he believes is the right thing and trying his damnedest to ‘save people, hunt things’ just like the Winchesters are doing. We’re rooting for Ronald throughout, and so are Sam and Dean, each in their own way. The contrast in how the brothers try to protect Ronald are telling, deepening our understanding of them – both how different they are and how that contrast often makes them efficient and deadly.

We also are introduced to Agent Henricksen (C. Malik Whitfield) in this episode. He’s another brilliantly written character, memorable instantly. He’s not a bad guy – he’s genuinely a good guy trying to do the right thing, and he’s smart and savvy and wisecracking doing it. The problem is, he sees the Winchesters from the outside and misinterprets who they are and what they’re trying to do. He’s sure they’re the bad guys, and he pursues them like he’s the one who’s saving people. Outsider pov is a popular trope in Supernatural fanfic for a reason – from the outside, if you didn’t know any better,  you probably would agree with Henricksen. These guys are clearly dangerous, twisted, downright evil killers. I love that twist, and seeing that perspective so clearly through this character.

And lastly, the ending is one of the best in the series, with a music cue that is absolute perfection.

So, with all that build up… let’s dive into the rewatch…

We get a brief recap of Saving People, Hunting Things and the Winchesters’ previous encounter with a shapeshifter in Season One’s ‘Skin’ as well as a reminder that Dean is a wanted fugitive from Season Two’s ‘The Usual Suspects’ – and then we jump to the present, SWAT teams and cops and local press surrounding a building as a hostage is dramatically released – to our shock, the guy releasing him is none other than Dean Winchester.

That can’t be good.

Director Phil Sgriccia makes it both realistic and an intensely dramatic reveal as police and press all flurry around when they know a hostage is coming out, and the last thing we expect is for it to be Dean yelling at them to get back as he lets the hostage go.

ONE DAY AGO

Sam and Dean working a case in a jewelry store, Sam having a serious conversation with the manager guy and Dean having a flirty conversation with the woman who works there.  She asks him what it’s like being FBI and Dean takes the opportunity to play it up – dangerous, keeping secrets. And lonely. Most of all, lonely. It’s clearly effective, but then, how could it not be? This is Dean Winchester she’s talking to.

She offers to do a more private interview later, and hands over her phone number (on a piece of paper because this is 2006).

Dean: You’re a true patriot.

Early seasons Dean is good with the BS and always interested in a hookup.

Sam, on the other hand, is having a much less pleasant conversation with the poor store manager, who can’t understand how an employee he’s known for decades lost his mind and murdered the store’s night watchman.

Manager: I heard him die…

The poor guy is distraught, and I can only imagine how horrible that would be. Dean has the empathy to look guilty when he realizes the kind of conversation Sam’s having, and joins them. He can’t resist waving the clerk’s phone number at Sam though.

The manager informs them that the police took all the security tapes, much to Dean’s dismay.

Dean: Friggen’ cops.

Sam: They’re just doing their job, Dean.

Dean: No, they’re doing OUR job, only they don’t know it, so they suck at it.

He’s not wrong.

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Supernatural Gets Creepy (With Dolls!) in Season 2’s ‘Playthings’

Ah, Playthings. One of the creepiest episodes of Supernatural for me personally, because what is more creepy than an old mansion and a bunch of old incredibly terrifying DOLLS?? Add an equally terrifying little ghost girl and an old woman confined to an attic (plus some gruesome murders) and you’ve got an episode that gives me goosebumps every time. It’s also got some great brother moments between the Winchesters, so at least there’s some respite from the anxiety.

It’s next up on our Supernatural rewatch (it just turned 2022 as I’m typing this), so let’s revisit what made this episode so memorable – and so creepy!

We start out with the reminder that something evil might be brewing in poor Sam, the underlying theme of Season 2 that’s impacting both brothers, Sam terrified that he might hurt someone and Dean terrified that he won’t be able to protect Sam.

THEN

A reminder from Dean that “dad told me something”, Sam’s anguished question “Am I supposed to go darkside or something?” and Dean’s big brother determination to protect Sam no matter what. Then we’re back where we left off, Sam and Dean finding Ava’s discarded engagement ring in a pool of her fiance’s blood.

So very Supernatural.

NOW

The exterior location for this episode is every bit as creepy as the rest of it – an old mansion from the 1930s now the Pierpont Inn. As movers take out boxes of stuff, we learn that it has a rich history in the community, with generations getting engaged or married there, but it’s now up for sale. As the moving guy takes out the boxes, we pan to two little girls sitting at the top of the stairs on the landing watching – and not very happy about the move.

One of them is Tyler, daughter of the owner. The other is Maggie, her imaginary friend – who we already suspect is not exactly a trying-to-be-helpful Sully.

Tyler goes to play with her dollhouse that’s a replica of the Inn, and we pan over shelves full of creepy dolls, including a clown doll that would have given Sam Winchester nightmares (and possibly me also).

The whole episode is brilliantly shot, never fully lit and always looking just a little bit foggy, making the antique decor and dark wood just that much creepier. The creative camera angles add to the feeling that something is amiss here, sometimes looking up and sometimes down but rarely straight on.

Tyler puts a doll in the rocking chair, but when she looks again he’s not there – instead he’s at the bottom of the staircase, head askew.

Uh oh.

Just then, we hear her mother scream. At the foot of the stairs is the hapless moving man, twisted up, head askew just like the doll, in a pool of his own blood and a cracked doll next to him on the floor.

Well done, Supernatural. CREEPY as hell, but well done.

Cut to Sam and Dean looking for Ava, their motel room covered with maps and notes and a missing poster and looking a lot like John Winchester’s motel room might have.  Sam checks with Ellen, but she doesn’t have any leads either. Dean is worried about his brother.

Dean: Sorry, man.

Ellen does share information about the freak accidents that have been happening at the Pierpont Inn, though, and Sam wants to check it out. Dean is surprised. Sam wonders why.

Dean: Well yeah, it’s just, you know, not the patented Sam Winchester way, is it?

Sam: What way is that?

Dean: I just figured after Ava there’d be, you know, more angst and droopy music and staring out the rainy window…

Sam glares.

Dean: Yeah, I’ll shut up now.

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Sam Learns the Truth (and has a VERY Close Call) in Supernatural Season 2’s ‘Hunted’

This episode was written by Raelle Tucker, who I really wish had stuck around longer, and directed by Rachel Talalay, one of the first women to direct Supernatural. And they both did an amazing job! Also special shout out to the music cues that make the episode haunting and creepy, as much as its subject matter does.

The THEN reminds us that the Winchesters are still out there saving people, hunting things. That John Winchester knew the truth about Sammy and didn’t tell his sons. That he whispered something to Dean before he died and Dean lied about it. That Sam knows the demon said he has plans for Sam and other children like him. Like Max, like the ‘others’….

I love the huge mystery that the show was spooling out at the time, leaving me always feeling like I was on the edge of my seat desperately wanting to know what the hell was going on, and knowing that my boys were right at the center of it. It was so compelling, it’s no wonder I fell so hard for this show!

NOW…

The opening is a gut punch right away, a psychiatrist talking to his patient, a young man who’s hesitant to confide in the doctor about what he refers to as his ‘ability’.

Scott: When I touch something…I can electrocute it, if I want.

As if that isn’t chilling enough, he gives an example – the neighbor’s cat.

Scott: Its insides fried up like a hamburger.

The haunting sounds of ‘White Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane play in the background as Scott tells his disturbing tale, “One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small…”

Scott knows the doc doesn’t believe him, and holds his hand out ominously.

Scott: Wanna shake on it?

I think I started screaming NOOOOO don’t do it the first time I saw this, as the doctor calmly asks why he wanted to kill the neighbor’s cat, but Scott says he didn’t – that “he” wants him to.

Doc: Who?

Scott: The yellow eyed man. He comes to me in my dreams… he has plans for me…

Everyone watching: OHMYGOD

I can’t even describe now, almost 15 years later, how chilling that reveal was. How just the words “yellow eyed man” struck fear into our hearts as viewers, because we knew Sam and Dean were in serious danger and we didn’t yet know just what it meant.

Scott leaves the doctor’s office and walks out into the dark, clouds of mist hanging over the deserted street as he rushes down a hill, hunched over, looking scared.

He looks around, calls out “Hello?” thinking someone’s following him, as the music grows louder and a train rushes overhead. We see the shadow of a man behind him in his car window as he finally gets there and then he’s stabbed, brutally. Blood spills out of his mouth as he dies and it’s brutal, graphic, so much more sinister because of the cinematography and the music and damn this show is so well done.

From that disturbing beginning, we’re back at the iconic fence with the Winchesters, Sam and Dean drinking beer next to the river.

Dean: Before Dad died, he told me something. Something about you.

Sam: What? Dean, what did he tell you?

Dean: He said that he wanted me to watch out for you, to take care of you…

Sam points out that their dad said that a million times, but Dean insists this time was different, increasingly agitated as he tries to confide in Sam this burden that he’s been carrying.

Dean: This time was different. He said that I had to save you…that nothing else mattered, and that if I couldn’t, I’d…

He falters, anguished, and Sam presses him, fully aware that this is bad, very bad.

Sam: You’d what, Dean?

Dean is looking at Sam almost begging him to make this all go away, and yet he pushes on, knows he has to come clean to Sam.

Dean: That I’d have to kill you. He said that I might have to kill you, Sammy.

Sam looks as anguished as Dean, the two of them facing off in this beautiful spot over this horrific reveal.

Sam: Kill me?! What the hell is that supposed to mean?

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Supernatural’s Season 2 Episode Croatoan  – The Mystery Deepens

I feel like I say this for every episode in the first couple seasons of Supernatural, but I love this episode SO much. Creepy, a mystery that you can’t easily figure out, more insight into the brothers – and their father. In this episode, you understand just how far Dean will go to save Sam, and just how deep the bond between the brothers runs. Which makes eventually learning about the impossible thing that John asked of Dean all the more heartbreaking. I love the way the first two seasons spooled it out, so slowly, teasingly. I was on the edge of my seat all the time and it was glorious.

Now, doing this rewatch in 2021, this episode also hits a little too close to home, when the words “a demonic virus” don’t sound so far fetched. That just adds to the ominous feel of the episode.

THEN

Saving people, hunting things – John telling the YED “I’ve known for a while” – a reminder of Sam’s visions, the demon having plans for kids like him. We see John whisper to Dean, Sam ask him at the funeral pyre, ‘Did he say anything to you?’ and Dean’s “no”. We know it’s a lie, but we still don’t know what those fateful words were, as we’re reminded that neither Sam nor Dean is handling the loss of their father well.

NOW

In surreal slow motion, the visuals distorted, Dean loads his gun and opens the door to a lab. A young man is tied to a chair, pleading with Dean “no, no, I swear it’s not in me, please don’t” as Dean sets his chin.

Dean: I got no choice.

He twitches, raises the gun, fires.

Sam wakes from a vision, gasping, in a motel room. Dean comes in, holding a six pack, chewing on some beef jerky.

Dean: Sam?

Night, the boys in the Impala, trying to figure out what the vision meant. Sam’s sure it happened in Oregon because he noticed a poster with a picture of Crater Lake before he saw the guy tied to the chair. Dean’s having a hard time making sense of it, but he knows by now to trust that Sam’s visions are to be taken seriously.

Dean: And I ventilated him?

They argue about what might have led to it, Sam saying that Dean thought there was something inside the guy.

Dean: Well, all our weirdo visions are always tied to the YED, so was there black smoke? Did we try to exorcise it?

Sam: No. You just plugged him, that’s it.

Dean’s defensive even about the vision.

Dean: Well I’m sure I had a good reason – I’m not gonna waste an innocent man.

Sam glances toward Dean, saying nothing.

Dean: I wouldn’t!

Sam: I never said you would!

Dean: Fine!

Sam: Fine!

It’s an argument over something that hasn’t even happened, but it gives us some insight into the tension still simmering between Sam and Dean. Dean is worried about Sam’s visions and what might be happening to him (especially in light of what John said to him, though we don’t know that yet) and Sam is worried about Dean, who’s on edge and volatile (partly because of the burden he’s carrying that John put on his shoulders). No wonder they’re sniping at each other.

They eventually give up the brotherly bickering and continue to Oregon, driving past the sign that Sam saw as they pull into a small town.

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Linda Blair Allies with the Winchesters in ‘The Usual Suspects’ – Supernatural Rewatch

This episode is written by Kathryn Humphris, who I wish had stuck around longer, and directed by Mike Rohl, who directed quite a few episodes of the show.  It’s an episode that gave Jared and Jensen both some time off (because they weren’t in all the scenes together) and yet managed to be all about how close the brothers have become and how in sync they are at this point working together.

The recap reminds us just how badass Sam and Dean Winchester are, with their many disguises, and of the recent shapeshifter episode when Dean took the blame. Then we’re in Baltimore, Maryland, at the City Centre Motor Hotel as a SWAT team advances.

The motel capture in progress is interspersed with an FBI guy questioning someone – we don’t know who. We hear him say, “credit card fraud, breaking and entering, grave desecration….suspected of torturing and murdering a young woman…you supposedly died there”…

The SWAT team break down the door at the motel as he goes on, saying “you look pretty healthy to me.”

Meanwhile, the SWAT officer confronts Sam Winchester.

Agent Ballard: Goin’ somewhere, Sam?

Back to the interrogation, with Agent Sheridan (Jason Gedrick).

Sheridan: So now we know Karen Giles wasn’t the first person you murdered – but I guarantee you she’s the last.

The camera pulls around so we can see that the prisoner he’s interrogating is, as we suspected, Dean Winchester.

Clearly this episode is the brothers having a terrible horrible no good very bad day. Again.

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