The Episode That Made Me Fall In Love With Supernatural – Rewatch 2.04

The fourth episode of Season 2, “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things”, is as creepy as the title suggests, and at the same time undeniably sad. Like almost every episode in the first seasons, the case of the week is a mirror for Sam and Dean and what they’re going through. The death of their father is hanging over them and they’re struggling with it, both of them, and no doubt spending a lot of time wishing their dad was still alive. That’s why the events of this episode hit them hard, and us as viewers too.

Written by Raelle Tucker, who I wish had stayed with the show longer, this is a Kim Manners episode, so it’s brilliantly directed – and breathtakingly gorgeous. The iconic crane shot, the moonlit cemetery, the beautiful Vancouver vista at the end, and of course the ultra close ups of the boys that rival any other beauty Vancouver can conjure.

It’s also the episode that made me fall head over heels in love with Sam and Dean Winchester and Supernatural.

So needless to say, I was excited about getting to this point of our post-series-finale rewatch.

The recap reminds us of John’s death and that Dean is, in fact, not all right, ending with him punching Sam for asking about it. This episode begins with a nice seeming guy named Neil trying to cheer up a sad woman, who pronounces him a ‘good friend’, which is always a warning sign when we can all see within ten seconds that Neil is pining for her.

Guest stars Tamara Feldman and Christopher Jacot are memorable as the doomed Neil and Angela; she is brilliant at being creepy and we don’t know whether to be furious at Jacot’s Neil or feel sorry for him, or maybe a little of both.

Her ex boyfriend Matt barges in trying to explain something, but Angela runs out and gets in her car, distraught, which never ends well. She then makes the mistake of picking up her ex’s phone call while she’s driving at night in the rain and crying and…you can see where this is going. Head on collision, shattered windshield, blood dripping onto the phone, Angela’s dead eyes open and staring while her ex on the phone asks “Angela?”

Creepy creepy beginning of a Kim Manners episode that is true to Supernatural’s horror roots. Look at that shot!

Cut to the Winchesters in the Impala, arguing. Dean says it’s stupid to go visit their mom’s grave, since there’s no body left after the fire.

Dean: It’s just a slab of granite put up by a stranger.

Sam: It’s about her memory, okay? After Dad, it feels like the right thing to do.

Dean pronounces it irrational, they should be hunting the demon, and Sam retorts that no one asked him to come.

Sam: Go ahead, drop me off and go on to the Roadhouse.

Dean: (scoffing) Stuck with those people making awkward small talk til you show up? No thanks.

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In My Time of Dying – Supernatural Rewatch Kicks Off Season 2!

It’s the summer of 2021, pandemic still hanging over the world, and our little Supernatural rewatch slowed down a bit as all of us headed out for much needed family vacations. I’m glad we got a little of that in while we could considering the arrival of the Delta variant – and once again, I need my comfort show more than ever. So, it’s back to Supernatural!

Now that September is on the horizon, we’re back to making our way through the early seasons of our favorite show little by little. We finished Season 1 in the beginning of the summer, so we picked back up with Season 2’s memorable premiere, In My Time of Dying, which features a whole lot of Dean in a white tee shirt and scrub pants, a deepening connection between the brothers, and an emotionally devastating goodbye to John Winchester.

Directed by the brilliant Kim Manners, the episode kicked off with an awesome rock montage recap of the whole first season, ending with that cliffhanger crash, and when the ‘NOW’ title card comes up, it’s CCR once again. I have never listened to Creedence Clearwater Revivial’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ the same way ever again – it literally gives me chills now.

The stunt driver who accidentally became an actor when he ended up in the scene had to come back for Season 2. (The Impala didn’t move like they expected it to so his face was clearly visible – it was supposed to flip over but got hung up on the truck so you could see the driver through the windshield). He had to come back and film the first episode of the next season too, but he did a great job. After Sam gathers every last bit of his strength and raises the Colt to shoot, the demon smokes out of him and the traumatized guy gasps, “did I do this?”

Sam fucking Winchester, right from the start. Damn.

The demon may be gone, but the aftermath is terrifying. Sam calls out desperately for his dad, and then for his brother, his eyes catching on his unconscious bloodied brother in the back seat, as we all sat in horror and waited to find out if either of them were okay.

Sam: Dean!!

Then it’s the next day, paramedics putting an unresponsive Dean on a stretcher. Sam, distraught, yells “are they okay? Are they even alive?!”

Jared is so good in this entire scene, the only Winchester conscious so the weight of portraying all the emotion and horror is entirely on him – and he shows us every bit of it.

At the time, we didn’t know for sure what the answer to that question was, and that made every moment an edge-of-your-seat one. The media landscape at the time was vastly different than today, and Supernatural was entirely under the radar, so there were no paparazzi shots or website leaks or even any articles. I love that we eventually got so much, but in those early days, we were genuinely terrified that one of our favorite characters was going to die and be gone for good, and that added an extra layer of suspense to the story telling.

Every time Sam yells for his brother, I tear up.

When the next scene begins, Dean wakes up in the hospital, everything seeming quiet and surreal. He gets up, clad only in a white tee shirt and scrub pants with bare feet, praise the powers that be, and wanders down the hall, calling “Sam? Dad? Anybody?”

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Supernatural Rewatch – Kim Manners Brings the Scary with ‘Scarecrow’

I sound like a broken record, but ‘Scarecrow’ is another scary Season 1 episode of Supernatural. That scarecrow was incredibly creepy – and inspired one of the show’s most iconic lines since it was also “fugly”. Kim Manners directed this episode, which means it’s gorgeous and terrifying and heartbreaking simultaneously. I feel like Jared and Jensen cherish every Manners episode so much, since he was such an influence on them and their careers – and on this show. Supernatural wouldn’t have been what it is without Kim.

Kim Manners directing this episode and Jared playing Scarecrow

It was particularly therapeutic to escape into a familiar episode of my favorite show this week, since the Supernatural fandom hasn’t always been a comforting place recently. There’s so much infighting and bullying and policing, I sometimes can’t recognize the supportive community that I discovered fifteen years ago and began researching and writing about. Also, we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. So what to do? Rewatch the episodes that aired at a time when fandom was a wonderful, supportive place that felt like a refuge and I was falling in love with this incredible show for the first time.

I also needed a reminder that most of Supernatural fandom is still a wonderful, supportive place. I had zoom calls with some of my friends who share my love of this little show, and who I miss seeing at cons and concerts and Supernatural-related adventures. This Sunday night weekly rewatch also helps remind me. This was the best idea ever – thanks to the little group of friends whose idea it was to do this and for inviting me to watch along with them. I knew it would be needed post finale, but I had no idea it would be THIS needed.

We open the episode on ‘Burkittsville, One Year Ago.”  A hometown diner, apple pie on the house for a young couple who got lost and then got what they think is lucky – someone to ‘fix’ their truck and send them on their way with helpful directions. Except their car dies as soon as they turn into an apple orchard that looks plenty creepy in the dark. Add to that a gigantic scarecrow looming over them – and then appears to turn its head to watch them as they walk past – and I’m with that girl. Scared!

They hear noises behind them in the orchard and begin to run toward some lights, the scare factor enhanced by some Blair Witch style camera work. The couple gets separated, and as the girl runs, she discovers her boyfriend’s dead body. The giant scarecrow, off its post and pursuing them, approaches as she screams.

CREEPY.

This episode picks up right where we left off with Sam and Dean (which I love – the first season is almost spooling out in real time as the Winchesters try to find their dad and their dad tries to find the demon). Sam and Dean are asleep in the motel room when Dean’s phone rings and Sam picks up. (They both sleep as close to the edge as possible, presumably ready to spring into action to have each other’s backs if needed).

Sam: Hello?

Voice: Sam, is that you?

Sam sits up, instantly wide awake.

Sam: Dad?

What follows is a pivotal conversation, Sam concerned about whether John is all right and John concerned about his sons. There is at first mutual affection, John even calling Sam “Kiddo”, but he says he can’t tell them where he is and they’ll have to trust him on that.

Dean wakes up, half sitting up in bed, shirtless, amulet on his chest. I think it’s the only time we ever see Dean Winchester sleep shirtless and that is a damn shame.

Dean: Is that Dad??

Sam realizes that John has gone after the thing that killed their mother, and John says yes, and that it’s a demon.

John: Listen, Sammy, I also know what happened to your girlfriend. I’m so sorry, I would’ve done anything to protect you from that.

He says he’s closing in on it, but won’t let the boys help, saying they can’t be any part of it – that Sam and Dean have to stop looking for him. It’s the only reason he’s calling, we realize.

John: Write down these names. Even us talking isn’t safe.

Sam protests, and John insists he’s giving them an order – to stop following him and do their job.

Dean puts on a shirt (why?), grabs the phone and, like Sam, wants to know what’s going on, but whatever John says to him, it shuts him up fast.

Dean: Yessir. Yeah, I got a pen. What are the names?

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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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Looking Back on Dead In The Water – Classic Supernatural!

I wrote an article here on New Year’s Eve about how I’m dealing with Supernatural ending, because I’m still having lots of feelings about the loss of my favorite show ever, especially in the midst of so much stress – political and social upheaval and a raging pandemic. We need our comfort shows more than ever!  One of the things that’s helping is going back to the beginning and rewatching from the start. In a way, it’s giving me new content, because watching those early episodes now is completely different with the perspective of knowing how the story plays out and how it ends. I understand Sam and Dean more deeply than I did when I watched these episodes for the first time 15 years ago. At the same time, I’m struck by how well they hold up and how truly ingenious the writing, directing, acting and cinematography was, right from the start.

Today’s episode rewatch is the third one that aired, and the first directed by Kim Manners, who would come to have such a significant impact on the show’s two young stars, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. ‘Dead In The Water’ is one of the most well known episodes, giving us some iconic scenes as well as some of the first memorable gag reel moments. The episode was written by Raelle Tucker and Sera Gamble, who would go on to be showrunner when Kripke departed at the end of Season 5 (and would also helm another of my favorite shows, The Magicians).  So, let’s dig in…

Kim Manners and Serge Ladouceur during filming. Cap mckaysangel

The episode opens on a cabin that’s familiar to most fans, and I had to take a moment right away because I now realize that it’s a cabin that I think I’ve actually been to in real life – on one of the location tours given by Supernatural’s locations supervisor for many seasons, the one of a kind Russ Hamilton.  I’m notoriously bad at remember things like locations, though, so somebody correct me if the ‘Russ bus’ never in fact visited this particular Vancouver cabin. At any rate, it’s striking, and beautiful in its own way. There is so much atmosphere provided by locations and set dec for Supernatural, making it so much memorable than it would be otherwise.

I don’t think, at the time I first watched this episode, that I realized that the show customarily opens with the guest stars of the week being attacked by the monster of the week, especially in the early seasons. But director Kim Manners does a great job of setting up the sense of foreboding even if you didn’t know something bad was about to happen. The family in the dimly lit cabin is a dad and a sister and brother, with no mom around – because many of the guest characters are parallels for the Winchesters in some way. The girl opts for a swim in the gigantic deserted lake, out there all alone, which seems like a terrible idea even if this wasn’t Supernatural. We see her from beneath, highlighting her vulnerability, as she begins to get scared, hearing unintelligible whispering all around her even though no one is there. Uh oh. It’s scary as hell even before anything happens thanks to Manners, and then whoosh, she’s pulled under.

The lake looks peaceful once again, no sign of the girl. Uh oh.

And then, customarily, the show pivoted to the Winchester brothers, in this case at the Lynnwood Motel, which I’m totally taking as a shout out to me even though I was entirely unknown to any of them at the time. Hindsight. Dean flirts with the waitress, who flirts back, understandably, and Sam cuts that right off with a “Just the check please.”

Dean sighs, put upon.

Dean: You know, Sam, we are allowed to have fun every once in a while. That’s fun.

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