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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Supernatural Rewatch – Sam’s Visions Worsen in ‘Nightmare’

Supernatural Season 1’s fourteenth episode, which is called “Nightmare”, initially stumped our little group doing the rewatch from the start (now that the show is at an end). Nobody could remember exactly what the episode was about, with a title that seems like it could fit just about any era of Supernatural. (Yes, we did figure it out fairly quickly though). In fact, the Road So Far reminds us about Sam’s weird dreams, or as Dean puts it, ‘that ESP thing’ – and that sometimes his dreams come true.

That’s what Nightmare is all about – much to Sam and Dean’s dismay.

In the open, a man pulls his car into the garage, and the garage door closes behind him. By itself. He looks back at it, confused, and it’s such a mundane situation that it’s genuinely terrifying. He goes to get out and the car doors lock. He turns off the engine and it starts right back up, exhaust spewing out in the closed garage, the radio flipping stations. The guy panics, trying to get out as the car fills up with smoke, coughing and screaming for help, until he falls over, dead eyes still open.

Sam Winchester wakes up.

It’s a vivid nightmare, and Sam immediately starts calling ‘Dean! Dean!”

He grabs for Dean’s hand, and it strikes me that both brothers sleep on the side of the bed closest to each other, Dean with his hand literally outstretched in the space between them – as though he’s always on alert, just in case his little brother needs him.

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Sam: Dean, we have to go right now!

Dean (half asleep): What’s happening?

Dean doesn’t really believe Sam had a vision – he doesn’t want to believe that – but he gets out of bed and into the car anyway. The Impala races down the road as Dean tries to reassure Sam.

Dean: Sam, relax, I’m sure it’s just a nightmare, a normal everyday naked in class nightmare. Why would you have premonitions about some random dude in Michigan?

Sam calls the license plate he saw in; it checks out. Dean is dismayed.

Sam: Drive faster.

Dean does even though he doesn’t want this to be true. Despite Dean’s driving skill, though, they get there too late, just as they’re taking the guy out in a body bag. Sam looks devastated. Dean asks neighbors what happened, and the woman says it was suicide, but it’s hard to believe since the family seemed so “normal.” They found him in the garage locked inside with the car engine running.

Woman: Poor family, I can’t imagine what they’re going through.

The woman who lost her husband sobs, and Sam almost sobs with her.

He walks away and Dean goes to stand next to him, trying to console him, saying they got there as fast as they could

Sam: Not fast enough. Why would I have these premonitions unless there was a chance to stop it? He was murdered by something that trapped in the garage. I don’t know what’s happening, Dean…

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The One With The Killer Truck – Route 666 in Supernatural Rewatch

Route 666 is an interesting episode. It’s not a fan favorite, and the whole ‘killer truck’ thing doesn’t entirely work for me. Up until this point in Season 1, Supernatural had pulled off being pretty damn scary, and this episode tries hard with lots of the big truck looming out of the mist, but when it revs its engine and puffs smoke it just ends up looking a little silly.

That said, there’s a lot to appreciate in this episode. It tackles some serious themes that weren’t seen in media that often in 2005, calling out racism overtly and not within some sort of monster metaphor.  That was a rare thing in 2005, certainly on the WB. It’s also one of the relatively rare episodes where one of the brothers has a relationship that feels real and understandable. I’ve often said that Jensen Ackles has chemistry with just about everyone and everything, but he definitely did with guest star Megalyn Echikunwoke. I wasn’t really in the fandom in Season 1, so I don’t know what the fan reaction was to Cassie at the time, though I’m guessing the idea of Dean Winchester being ‘taken’ in any way, shape or form was not a welcome idea. I’m also fine with the show concentrating on the brothers, but I really liked the way Cassie and Dean’s relationship was explored in this episode. Once again, it gives us a chance to see Dean’s vulnerability. Faced with the loss of the only other person who had shared and really understood his life when Sam went to college, Dean opened up to Cassie — and was reminded that most people would not understand the kind of life he lives. That must have made being on his own even harder. Knowing how hurt he was by the break-up, it makes his insecurity with Sam once they’re back on the road again even easier to understand.

The open is the scary truck chasing after a car in the dark somewhere in Cape Girardieu, the radio gone staticky. The driver, a black man, skids to a stop and suddenly the truck is right in front of him, ramming into the car, windows shattering, until it drives him right off the road in a fiery crash. The truck pauses for a minute, ‘breathing’ hard through its exhaust pipe, and then drives off.

I think it’s the anthropomorphizing that makes it not work for me – before that part, it was scary, and also disturbing as the guy is killed in a more realistic way than most of the deaths on Supernatural.

Cut to the Winchesters, Dean on the phone and Sam reading a map finding a route to Pennsylvania.

Dean: Problem is, we’re not going to Pennsylvania.

He says he just got a call from an old friend whose father was killed the night before, and that it might be their kind of thing. When Sam questions it, Dean says she never would’ve called if she didn’t need them.

Dean: Never.

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Sam has good instincts already when it comes to his brother.

Sam: And by ‘old friend’ you mean…

Dean: A friend that’s not new.

Sam’s surprised to find out that Dean dated someone for more than one night, and Dean is evasive, uncomfortable with his carefully constructed devil-may-care persona being called into question, with Sam of all people.

Sam quickly figures out that she’s calling them and saying it’s their kind of thing because she knows what their kind of thing is, and then he’s angry.

Sam: How does she know what we do?

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Dean doesn’t answer, but that’s answer enough.

SM: You told her. You told her? The secret. Our big family rule no. 1 – We do what we do and we shut up about it. I lied to Jess and you go out for a few weeks with a girl and tell her all about it?

Dean: Yeah, looks like.

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Supernatural Gets Serious with ‘Faith’ (Supernatural Rewatch)

Next up on our Supernatural rewatch is one of my favorite episodes, and I’m not the only one. Season 1’s ‘Faith’ deepened our understanding of the Winchesters, and also let us know that this little genre show was about more than monsters. We already knew it was about family too, but this episode had the Winchesters (and viewers) questioning the very basis of what hunting was all about – for the first time, Sam and Dean confronted existential issues like what it means to have faith and whether saving one life justifies taking another. The character of Layla, memorably portrayed by Julie Benz, was one of those one episode characters that stick with you through all fifteen seasons. A tragic character but a heroic one, struggling with her own crisis of faith and caught between her need to accept her fate and her awareness that someone she loves (her mother) might not be able to deal with her death.

That’s the main theme of the episode, and ultimately the driving force of Supernatural right through the finale. Loss is so much about the ability of those left behind to survive the pain of losing someone they loved; something that the Winchesters will struggle with for a very long time, again and again. (Which is one of the reasons I love them so many.) The show confronts death and loss and grief repeatedly, with guest characters as well as with Sam and Dean, whose deep love brings with it a terror of losing each other. I think I relate to that so much because isn’t that something we all feel for the ones we love?

This episode is also beautiful in its own way. The 12th episode in to Season 1, ‘Faith’ is so dark it almost looks like it’s filmed in black and white at the start, Sam and Dean and the Impala as they head out on a hunt, motivation running high because they’re trying to save kids – siblings no less. So you know the Winchesters can relate.

Dean: I want this rawhead extra friggen’ crispy!

They know they only get one shot with these particular monsters, so the tension is high right from the start. Sam and Dean descend the stairs with only the light of their flashlights into the requisite dark damp basement. They rescue two little children, and we know they’re siblings because Dean instructs the little boy to ‘grab your sister’s hand’. Sam gets them up the stairs to safety but something grabs Dean’s leg and yanks him back. He fires his electric stun gun but misses, yelling at Sam to get the kids out of there. Sam tosses his stun gun to Dean, but the rawhead knocks Dean over and he lands in a puddle of water on the floor.

I remember going OH NO at the time, but we already know how strongly motivated Dean is to take this thing out. Dean fires anyway, hitting the monster – but the current runs back through the stream of water to Dean, electrocuting him. He falls unconscious just as Sam runs back down the stairs.

Sam: Dean!

All of us: GASP

What happens next is an iconic scene in Supernatural fifteen years later that we’ve seen many times, one of the brothers cradling the other, the familiar “Hey, hey,” that they always say to each other when trying to convince the wounded one that it’s not so bad (and themselves too), that word repeated and filled with so much love and concern.  It kinda breaks my heart, thinking about all the many times this scene will be repeated, right up to that last time in the barn.

“Hey, hey,” indeed.

Sam rushes Dean to the hospital and tells the cops a plausible story about them hearing screaming and finding the kids in the basement, and for once the cops are on their side.

Cop: Thank god you did.

That’s the good news. The bad news comes from the doctor, who tells Sam that Dean’s heart is damaged.

Sam (fear plain on his face): How damaged?

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