Supernatural Rewatch – The Shocking Season One Finale, Devil’s Trap

I have to admit, I went into doing our rewatch of the Season 1 finale of Supernatural feeling a little ambivalent. For me, doing this rewatch has been a coping strategy, in part, to get me through the loss of my favorite show (which in itself has been a coping strategy!)  Knowing I have the rewatch to look forward to for literally years in the future is a real comfort, and watching it with a group of friends makes that sense of community feel secure as well. That said, it feels like our Season 1 rewatch has flown by – almost as quickly as the original airings of the show did! I never wanted it to end and always felt a little sad as we came to the season finale, and in the early seasons, we were often terrified that we wouldn’t get a renewal and that might be the last episode we ever watched. It was a tremendous relief in later seasons that the network gave the show an early renewal so we didn’t have to bite our nails about it!

So, the Season One finale…

We start with something innovative at the time, now familiar and nostalgic for anyone who watched the show throughout its run – The Road So Far. It’s a badass rock montage to Triumph’s ‘Fight The Good Fight’ with some of the most dramatic moments the boys have experienced so far, ending with Meg’s  ominous message, “You boys really screwed up this time, you’re never gonna see your father again.”

And we’re off – to an episode that is an unrelenting roller coaster toward a cliffhanger end that left us all open mouthed.

Sam and Dean react to Meg’s phone call, Dean grabbing the Colt and shoving it in his waistband and telling Sam, “we gotta go!”

Sam: Why?

Dean: The demon knows – it’s coming for us next.

Sam: Let it come.

Sam is so much like John, once again, willing to take this thing on out of pure rage and desire for revenge, and not caring what price has to be paid. But Dean is not – his focus, as always, is on protecting his family.

Dean: Listen, tough guy, we’re no good to anybody dead. We’re leaving now.

They peel out in the Impala, skidding in the dust, still arguing about whether they should have tried to confront the demon, or whether they could try to trade the Colt for their father. Sam is focused on killing the demon at any cost, and Dean is not.

Sam: Dad…he might be…

Dean: Don’t! Screw the job, Sam!

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Winchester Prank Wars – Supernatural Rewatch with Hell House

Hell House is notable for its introduction of the duo who would eventually become the Ghostfacers, and the comedy chops that guest stars Travis Wester and A.J. Buckley brought to the episode. It’s also notable – for me at least – for how many times Sam and Dean get to laugh and smile and have fun, which warms my heart.

The episode starts, as so many horror movies do, at an abandoned allegedly haunted old house – in Richardson, Texas, which I think is where Jensen Ackles grew up, so nice little shout out in the seventeenth episode of Season 1.  Teenagers with flashlights dare each other to go in, the one young woman saying she’s not going, but caving when one of the guys offers to hold her hand – or any other part of her. She slaps him, but for some reason she also goes in. There’s a ghost that is said to go after girls and string them up in the root cellar, which is of course exactly where they go.

Cocky guy: I don’t see anything scary, do you?

Right behind him, in perfect horror movie style, is a young woman strung up. Scream!

Cut to the Winchesters on the road, rock music playing, Sam asleep in the passenger seat. This is the episode where Sam and Dean are having an escalating prank war, so Dean slips a plastic spoon in Sam’s mouth, pulls out his flip phone and takes a picture, grinning happily after.

He turns the music up loud and starts singing to wake poor Sam up, and as he spits out the spoon, Dean slaps the steering wheel happily.

Sam: Haha very funny. Man, we’re not kids anymore Dean, we’re not gonna start that prank stuff up again.

Dean: Afraid you’re gonna get a little Nair in your shampoo again, huh?

Sam shakes his head, warning Dean to remember that he started it.

Dean: Aww, bring it on, Baldy!

As ridiculous as their little prank war is (and as quickly as it’s abandoned), I love it for the part it plays in getting Sam and Dean back to being brothers again. It evokes their childhood, when they only had each other to get through long car rides and lonely motel rooms and nobody to play a game of catch with. There’s an edge of cruelty that’s often there between siblings, a jockeying for position of who’s going to get the upper hand, but it’s also a way of finding things to laugh about in the midst of a frightening and stressful time – even if it’s sometimes at your brother’s expense!

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Supernatural Rewatch – The Return of John Winchester in ‘Shadow’

I love this episode so much – it’s scary, creepy, touching, and it brings the narrative back to what Season 1 was so much about, Sam and Dean’s search for their mysterious and elusive father, John Winchester and their rediscovery of being brothers. Like most episodes in this season, it’s also beautifully filmed and full of atmosphere, including the opening scene – which takes place in the windy city.

A young woman walks down the street, blues music playing. Her Walkman glitches, which looks very 2005, and the wind starts howling in the alley. She looks around, asking what people always ask in horror movies, as though being polite might get a bad guy to answer you.

“Hello?” she calls, and there’s no answer, but she’s scared as she hurries to her apartment door. Shadows loom behind her n the walls of the alley as she runs, a giant shadow seemingly following her. Breathless, she fumbles for keys and can’t find them, like in the worst of nightmares. Finally she gets in the door and inside, locking the door behind her and setting the alarm.

‘System armed’ it says, and she sighs with relief, checking her vintage (not at at the time) answering machine. Just as she thinks she’s safe, a shadow moves behind her on the walls, it’s giant shadow hand reaching out for her shadow and stabbing her, blood splattering on the wall as she screams and falls.

Quite an opening!

A week later, Sam and Dean drive, rock music playing. When they get out of the car they’re in uniform, which Dean isn’t exactly thrilled about (but frankly these two look good whatever they’re wearing).

Dean: Dad made it just fine without these stupid uniforms.

That brings back a memory, which gives us a rare and cherished glimpse of young Sam and Dean, when Sam was in ‘Our Town’.

Dean (smiling at the memory) Yeah, you were good.

I’m all warm at the thought of Dean going to see Sammy’s school play, though I wonder if that means John didn’t. I’m glad Sam got to do that though. (My daughter did the same school play, so I had an even stronger nostalgic reaction). I’m always so grateful when we get a glimpse of Sam and Dean’s childhood. Dean brings up the memory more like a proud parent here, not a brother who was forced to go sit through a school play.

They’re posing as working for the alarm company, so the landlady lets them in, but she’s not very impressed with their fake company.

Landlady: No offense, but your alarm’s about as useful as boobs on a man.

I like the landlady.

She tells them there’s no sign of a break in, the chain was on the door and the alarm was still on.

Landlady: Everything was in perfect condition. Except Meredith.

What condition was she in, the boys ask?

Landlady: Meredith was all over – in pieces! Like a wild animal did it.

After she’s gone, Sam says he knew this was their kind of gig, and Dean pulls out the EMF and says he agrees.

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Demons I Get – People Are Crazy! (Supernatural’s The Benders)

This episode, the fifteenth of the show, was a departure from what Supernatural had been about so far – a look at just how terrifying and disturbing humans can be, never mind demons.  Also, I’d forgotten that it takes place in Hibbing, Minnesota  – all the sheriffs there really have their hands full, don’t they?

The opening is early seasons level scary, a young boy in bed, scared, clutching his blankets as he looks out the window of what looks like a trailer park. A man outside gets dragged under a car, screaming. The boy closes the window.

Cut to Sam and Dean (with State Police badges) asking the mom what happened and to speak to the boy. She’s reluctant, saying that the more he tells the story, the more he believes it.

He tells them he heard a weird noise that sounded like a monster, but he was also watching Godzilla versus Mothra on TV at the time.

Dean brightens.

Dean: That’s my favorite Godzilla movie! So much better than the original.

Sam gives his brother a look that’s somewhere between surprised and fond. The kid says that something pulled Mr. Jenkins underneath the car, and it made a sound leaving, like a whining growl.

It’s not much to go on, but the boys retire to a local bar, Dean throwing darts, as they discuss the case. Sam finds that their dad had marked this area, and that there’s folklore that a dark figure comes out at night. The town, it seems, has more missing persons than it should.

Sam: But I don’t know if this is our kinda gig either.

Dean: Let’s have another round.

Sam says no and heads back to the motel, Dean saying he’ll meet Sam outside, he’s gotta take a leak – and tossing a “You really know how to have fun, don’t you grama?” after his brother.

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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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