Going ‘Home’ Again: Supernatural Rewatch 1.09

I’m now convinced at this point in my epic Supernatural from the start rewatch that the entire Season 1 was just freaking amazing, but even before the rewatch, I knew this week’s episode was one of my favorites. The aptly named ‘Home’ told us so much about the Winchesters, and is one of the very few episodes that includes Sam, Dean, John and Mary. Just that alone makes me extremely emotional.

I was at a convention once when Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Samantha Smith were both there, with Jared and Jensen, and I couldn’t help but tear up.

Photo: Kim Prior (@PriorStudios)

When you care about the Winchesters, it’s a special thing to have them all together – even if they don’t all interact in this episode. Typical heartbreaking Winchester lives, right?

I’m doing the rewatch with a group of friends (via Zoom, as everything is done in the midst of the pandemic we’re a year into…), so we all settled in to watch with anticipation.

The episode begins with a woman unpacking, having just moved into a new house. Her young daughter insists, as kids sometimes do, that there’s something in her bedroom closet. But this is Supernatural, so the mom’s casual “oh honey there’s nothing in here, look I’ll just open it up and then turn my back on it” does not reassure all of us watching. Instead we all start screaming NOOOOOOO because it’s creepy as hell even though I mostly remembered that nothing happens until later.

Little kid agrees to go to bed, mom hears scrabbling and scratching noises in the basement, and unlike me, decides she needs to go down there and investigate right now. When the lights don’t work for some unknown reason she’s undaunted and continues with a freaking flashlight.

Everyone watching: No no no why would you do that?

Upstairs in the little girls’ bedroom, the closet door slowly opens.

Everyone watching: Why are you just sitting there, little girl? RUN LIKE HELL!!!

The woman in the basement finds an old wooden box and stops to open it up.

Me: Does she think the rats are in there? And if they are, what the hell is she going to do armed with a flashlight??

She pulls out some old photos. Written on the back: The Winchesters. John, Mary, Dean and Little Sammy.

Awwww.  No time for sentimentality though, because a flaming creature walks out of the closet and the little girl screams and then we see the mom screaming from a second story window.

Sam Winchester wakes up from a nightmare.

Later, he keeps drawing the same tree that he saw in his dream over and over, lost in thought, while Dean is looking for cases.

Dean: Am I boring you with this hunting evil stuff?

Sam says no, but continues to pore over the drawing of the tree, while Dean gets increasingly frustrated with the lack of his little brother’s attention.

Dean: A man shot himself in the head…. Three times…

He theatrically waves his arms around, trying and failing to get Sam’s attention, while all of us watching are laughing. It didn’t take long for Jensen Ackles’ talent for physical comedy to make itself known, and it is a joy to behold. All over the world, in 2005, people were falling in love with Dean Winchester because of it.

And with his shaggy haired, intense younger brother.

Sam: Wait! I’ve seen this.

He pulls out Dad’s journal and finds a photo with the tree. And the Winchesters.

Sam: Dean, I know where we have to go next. Back home. To Kansas.

Dean: Okay, random….

Sam doesn’t want to explain further, but Dean has had it with his brother’s repeated nightmares and reticence to tell him what’s going on.

Sam (reluctantly) I have nightmares.

Dean: I’ve noticed.

Sam: And sometimes… they come true

Dean: Come again.

Sam finally tells Dean what he’s been keeping from him. That he dreamt of Jessica’s death for days before it happened.

Dean is clearly rattled, trying to cling to the belief that it’s a coincidence, and that it’s not something to do with their family. He’s tried so hard to regain a sense of control with hunting, and the last thing he wants is to think their family curse is reasserting itself – and that Sam is somehow in the middle of it.

Dean: First you tell me you’ve got the shining and then that I’ve gotta go back home? Especially when I… I swore to myself I would never go back there.

Dean has on the red plaid shirt of doom, and sad violins play as he looks back over his shoulder at Sam and you can see just how anguished he is. But this is Sam telling him they need to go save people, and there’s no way Dean Winchester is going to say no.

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Supernatural Rewatch – With Some BTS Insights on ‘Bugs’!

The eighth episode of Supernatural does not get a lot of love – in fact, it’s one that’s routinely skipped on rewatches or ridiculed for its “bad writing”. But honestly? ‘Bugs’ is a great episode, especially now in retrospect. All those early episodes are frankly amazing, with both the acting and the writing top notch and the cinematography off the charts gorgeous.

Bugs are not my favorite thing, so there are some parts of this episode that are indisputably cringeworthy, but it goes with the territory. The guest stars on this episode are also amazing, especially Carrie Genzel (who wrote a wonderful chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done and would memorably return to the show in Just My Imagination) and Tyler Johnston, who played a young Matt here and would later return as Samandriel.  See the end of this review for some (cringeworthy and also hilarious) behind the scenes insights from Carrie and Tyler about the filming of this episode.

So, what’s not to like?

I watched, as always, with some of my friends and fellow Supernatural fans, via zoom. Which, after a year of the pandemic, is how most of us live life half the time anyway!

The open is, as is often the case, pretty scary – a guy working in a housing development falls down a hole, breaks his ankle and is trapped. While his friend gets a rope to try to save him, he looks around and to his horror hears the sound of thousands of beetles coming for him. He screams for help as they crawl into his ears, his mouth… by the time the other guy shines his flashlight into the hole, guy number one is dead dead dead.

Everyone doing the rewatch: Ewwwwww

Cut to the boys, as always. Sam’s reading the paper in a bar, about the “local death that’s a medical mystery” as Dean comes down the stairs, grinning and shuffling a fist full of bills. I’m struck sometimes now by how carefree early seasons Dean is, despite what they’re already facing. He is genuinely thrilled that he’s won a bunch of money in a poker game or whatever.

Sam: You know, we could get day jobs…

Dean:  Hunting’s our day job. Besides, we’re good at it, it’s what we were raised to do.

Sam: How we were raised was jack.

Dean: Says you!

The brothers are still new to being back together, Dean still sensitive and defensive about the hunting life that Sam left behind and Sam still critical of all the things that he left to get away from.

Also they are extremely distracting because they look like THAT.

The newspaper suggests maybe mad cow disease, which – remember that?

Dean: Wasn’t that on Oprah?

Sam: (incredulous) You watch Oprah?

Ah, the things we (and Sam) were learning about Dean Winchester. So much softness underneath that performatively gruff (sometimes) exterior.

The Impala streaks across some beautiful Vancouver countryside on her way to Oasis Plains. Sam and Dean pose as Uncle Dusty’s never-before-mentioned nephews, rolling easily with the guy’s skepticism and flattering him enough that he forgets about it soon enough. They’re good at what they do; John taught them well. And, as I’ve pointed out many times already on this rewatch, they’re SMART.

They amass some intel, like the guy’s brain disintegrated in an hour or less and that, unlike mad cow disease, there was no sign of dementia, lack of motor control, or anything else weird.

Sam and Dean look down the very deep hole.

Dean: Only room for one, you have a coin?

Sam: Dean, we have no idea what’s down there!

Dean: Okay I’ll go if you’re scared. You scared? Call it in the air, chicken!

Sam: (exasperated) I’m going.

Dean: I said I’d go!

Sam: I’m going. Don’t drop me!

Me: I could sit here and listen to their brotherly bickering and banter all damn day. I miss it so much it makes my heart ache.

That accomplished, they get back into the Impala and pass an open house that’s advertising Free BBQ, and Dean pulls over.

Dean: I know a good place to start. I’m hungry for BBQ, how bout you?

SaM: Free food’s got nothing to do with it?

Dean: Of course not, I’m a professional.

This time the banter is good humored, the brothers gently teasing each other, smiling when the other isn’t looking. Dean looks around at the brand new housing development as they get out of the car, saying that it would freak him out growing up in a place like that, manicured lawns, etc.

Dean: I’d blow my brains out.

Sam: There’s nothing wrong with normal.

Dean: I’d take our family over normal any day.

Both brothers know they’re not talking about Oasis Plains. I really appreciate it now, how neither of them will let it go – they go round and round and round, each stuck in their own perspective of why Sam left and what that means. That strikes me as so realistic – it’s what we do, we get stuck on this stuff, and it gets in the way of our relationships with people we love. I so enjoy watching Sam and Dean struggle with it, knowing that eventually they’ll work it out.

Larry the developer welcomes them to the open house, taking one look at Sam and Dean going house shopping and assuring them that “we accept homeowners of any race, religion, color or…. Sexual orientation.”

Dean: (deadpan) We’re brothers.

Larry: (awkward) Oh.

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Sam and Dean Go To College – Supernatural Rewatch 1.07 Hookman! 

Hook Man was never one of my favorite episodes, but I think I’m appreciating all the episodes more on rewatch just because I know I’m not getting any more – they’re all incredibly valuable to me now. And this one, like so many of the early episodes, was beautifully filmed and had the creepy horror movie vibe down.

It’s a stereotypical sorority house opening and then the even more stereotypical college kids on a date go parking under a creepy bridge in the dark. As they start kissing in the car, we see the silhouette of a man in a flowing coat with a hook for a hand. And honestly, it’s truly scary!  The guy keeps trying to pull her shirt down and she keeps saying no, hey, I mean it – and then there’s the ominous sound of scraping metal against metal, although we can’t see anything out there. The guy gets out because that’s what the guy always does in a horror movie and then the girl frantically rolls up the windows and starts screaming.

There’s a wonderful shot of the car as something invisible scratches a deep gash in the side, with a terrible screech – but there’s no one there.

The terrified young woman finally gets out and starts to run away, only to look back and see the guy dead and strung up from a tree.

Cue horror movie worthy scream.

Opening segment at an end, it’s time to find the Winchesters. Sam and Dean are searching for clues on their dad, Sam on a pay phone (it’s 2005!) and Dean on a laptop at a café.

Dean: Your half caf latte is getting cold here, Francis.

Sam: Bite me.

(That little conversation makes more sense if you watch the deleted scene that explains the Francis somehow, but I can’t for the life of me remember what happened in it).

Dean confides to Sam that he doesn’t think Dad wants to be found. Dad would, on the other hand, want them to check out a case he’s found of a mutilated body and an invisible attacker. Sam goes along, which follows the gradual evolution of Sam’s investment in hunting and saving innocent people versus finding the thing that killed Jessica and their missing father. He still wants the latter more than the former, but he’s beginning to see the sense of control and satisfaction that saving other people can bring when your life feels so out of control. It’s what Dean was trying to explain to his brother in Wendigo, as a coping strategy that keeps him going even in the face of repeated trauma and tragedy in their own family.

They end up at a fraternity house, where they claim to be fraternity brothers looking for a place to stay. The funny thing is, Jared and Jensen are so young at this point that it’s entirely plausible.

A frat boy is painting himself purple. As you do. (Fandom is fandom btw, and if it’s perfectly okay to paint yourself purple for every game, don’t quibble with media fans cosplay or any other expression of fannish passion and creativity!)

Frat boy to Dean: Do me a favor, get my back?

Dean: Oh, he’s the artist. The things he can do with a brush.

Sam gives him a bitchface and Dean sits down to watch while Sam paints, thoroughly enjoying the spectacle.

Dean: You missed a spot, lower back…

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Supernatural Rewatch Episode 1.06 – Going A Little Deeper with ‘Skin’

My Supernatural rewatch from the very beginning (after the entire 15 seasons of the series has aired) continues this week with ‘Skin’. I was excited to rewatch this episode because I remember it as being pretty epic. The music is amazing, there are some super disturbing and dark flashlight-lit scenes that have that quintessential early seasons Supernatural horror movie vibe – and it has two Deans. What’s not to like?

In probably one of the best openings of the series, Inna Gadda Da Vida plays as a SWAT team bursts into a house to rescue a bound and bloodied woman tied to a chair in a dark house. They pursue her attacker, ordering him to freeze and drop the knife. He turns around, bloody knife raised, and we see  — to our absolute shock —  that it’s Dean Winchester!

He leaps to the ground and gets away. What a beginning!

And then it’s: One Week Earlier

Sam and Dean pull the Impala into a Gas N Sip, another of the Supernatural locations that I’ve been at. This one was on my very first trip to Vancouver in 2007, when Kathy and I traversed the beautiful city with a fellow fan who was also a resident. Every time we managed to find a filming location, we stood there in awe, overcome just to be standing where the Winchesters had, taking photos of what had reverted back to a nondescript gas station. The confused attendants probably wondered what the hell we were doing. It didn’t matter; we were joyful just to be there.

Sam is reading emails on his phone because he’s pretty tech savvy for 2005, and Dean’s feelings are a little hurt that Sam’s not paying him more attention (now that we know how worried about Sam leaving again he was, this and every other scene reads just a little differently – and makes a lot of sense). Dean tries increasingly provocative statements to try to get Sam’s attention, finally landing on “Sam wears women’s underwear” because early seasons Supernatural was subtly misogynistic and homophobic in a way that was probably realistic for who Dean was and how he’d been raised but in 2021 makes me do a little eyeroll. But hey, Dean is not perfect, and that’s one of the things I love about him. Another is how much he evolves over the course of the show.

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Supernatural Rewatch – Getting to Know the Winchesters in Phantom Traveler

Next up in our series rewatch of Supernatural, the fourth episode of season 1, ‘Phantom Traveler.’ I believe this is the first episode directed by Bob Singer, who would remain with the show throughout its 15 season run and be pivotal to its evolution, as a director, a producer and eventually a showrunner. The Season 1 DVDs have an episode commentary by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles for this episode, so from time to time I’ll include some of those priceless comments too. They were so young in Season 1, and still new to being the leads of a TV show, but you can tell that their friendship was already clearly solid.

The show is still dark and scary in Season 1, so the opening sequence is scary too. An anxious flyer prepares to board a plane, then some ominous looking black smoke comes out of a bathroom vent and goes right into his eyes. His eyes turn black, and now he’s calm as ever.

Pivotal moment – this is the episode where we’re introduced to demons, who will become so important to the entire series. VFX may have been more primitive in 2005, but the smoke is actually surprisingly well done – and creepy. The black-eyed man momentarily freaks out the flight attendant, then calmly wrenches open the door hatch and brings the plane down, exactly 40 minutes into its flight.

[Jared: I’m really proud of this episode. Good job, Bob. I really enjoy Sam’s relationship with his brother Dean.]

Me fifteen years later: Me too!

After the opening sequence, we always switch to the boys, and this episode is no exception. Well, boy in this case – Dean is asleep, luckily for us on top of the covers and not wearing multiple layers as is way more usual. Singer, perhaps already understanding that the show’s audience was not the mostly male demographic that the WB was expecting after having laid eyes on Jared and Jensen, gives us a slow pan up Dean’s boxer-and-tee-shirt-clad body. The stills and later the gif of that shot became an instant classic in the fandom, for obvious reasons.

I’ve written about this in several of our books, but the show didn’t just lean into the traditional ‘male gaze’ – in this shot, the show turns the tables, something surprising and a little bit subversive for 2005. It’s also something that fandom has delighted in and one of the things that makes fandom such a different type of community, with different norms – a powerful change from what most of us are used to. Especially then. Okay, I’ll move along. I’m just typing to keep this gif in frame…

gif dizzojay

A shadowy figure enters the motel room and for a moment we’re all on edge. Dean too apparently – he surreptitiously reaches under his pillow – and then Sam wakes Dean up with a too-cheery “Mornin’ sunshine!”

Dean has adorable bed-head and is worried because Sam still isn’t sleeping well and having nightmares. He bristles and denies it when Sam realizes his big brother is worried, though.

Dean: No, it’s your job to keep my ass alive so I need you sharp!

(Forgive the number of caps of said ass, it’s just a really nice scene. Like, well lit. Yes, that’s it.)

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