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.
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.
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.
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!
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.