This is one of those episodes that doesn’t stick in my head as being a favorite, yet when we rewatched it, I was struck by how solid it is – and how visually powerful. No wonder, since it’s directed by the brilliant Kim Manners and written by the equally brilliant Eric Kripke.
Season 3 was a season we weren’t guaranteed. The first four or five seasons of Supernatural were stressful for fandom – we were never sure the show would eke out another season’s renewal. It was a weirdly exciting time that had the benefit of bonding the fandom together in the shared goal of just keeping the little show we loved on the air. No time for ship wars or character (or actor) wank when the show’s very existence wasn’t assured. Sometimes, not gonna lie, I really miss those days.
As Season 3 began, we were all tremendously relieved and full of anticipation for a season that promised to be horrifying (in the best sense of the word) now that the YED was a) dead but b) had succeeded in opening the hell gate and releasing a whole bunch of demons. Little did we know there was about to be a writer’s strike that would alter the season (and as I write this rewatch in 2023, there is another, so there is still clearly alot of progress to be made!)
That upped the stakes considerably for the Winchester brothers – and that danger became crystal clear right away with this season premiere episode.
We get some vintage AC/DC to start with “Hell’s Bells”, a song I will forever associate with Supernatural.
The early seasons openers were often also truly horrifying in the best sense of the word, as some hapless red shirt person met a terrible fate. This time it’s in a quiet suburban development in Oak Park, Illinois. (Kripke has always known that quiet suburban neighborhoods are truly the most horrifying). Scary music plays as a guy takes out the trash late at night. (Not gonna lie, every time I take out the trash late at night, I think about this episode). A dog barks as he puts in the bag, and then the trash cans start to rattle like there’s something in them, and instead of walking away like any sane person would, the guy goes BACK to investigate.
All of us watching: Why???
Street lamps flicker, then a big black cloud of smoke comes rolling through the night sky. The guy just stands there and stares at it as we’re all yelling at him to RUN, FOOL! He finally, belatedly, starts to run but it’s too late, it knocks him down and a tendril of smoke goes right in his mouth. Ewwww!
He opens his black eyes.
All the demons start to smoke down to Earth, presumably doing the same thing to more foolish people.
SUPERNATURAL, the title card reminds us – the new title card for Season 3! That was a big point of excitement every year, and they never disappointed.
One week later… and we know we’re about to see what the Winchester brothers are up to. We couldn’t have guessed this one, though!
Sam’s sitting in the Impala at night, reading about Dr. Faustus and his deal with the devil at the crossroads by flashlight – while Dean is inside a motel or house or something.
Sam is sitting in the car watching through the window for some reason.
Dean, in an undershirt, flashes Sam a big horny grin and gives his brother a thumbs up, Sam smiling indulgently.
Everyone at the time: Wha?
Then he closes the (transparent so why bother) curtains and helpfully takes off a woman’s shirt.
As Sam watches and smiles (affectionately, according to the transcript).