When Dean Winchester Breaks Your Heart: Supernatural What Is And What Should Never Be

As Season 2 neared its end, Supernatural aired one of its most innovative episodes, ‘What Is And What Should Never Be’. Written by Raelle Tucker, who I wish we’d had longer on Supernatural, and directed by Eric Kripke himself, this 20th episode of the season was a brilliantly done episode that asked the provocative question, what if the Winchesters were never hunters and lived a “normal life”? But of course, because this is Supernatural, it’s a dark and twisted version of that question and its surprising answer.

The ‘THEN’ sequence is a flashback to the very beginning, John and Mary and four year old Dean living a happy “normal” life, then the fires, Mary and Jessica, with a reminder that Sam was headed to law school once upon a time. Then a reminder of Dean’s headspace at the time, as he and Sam argue.

Sam: I’m not gonna just ditch the job!

Dean: Screw the job, man, we don’t get paid, we don’t get thanked, only thing we get is bad luck!

He’s not wrong, especially with what they’ve gone through recently, in prison and with Agent Henriksen on their tail. As this episode aired, Dean was questioning everything, including the job that has been his identity, that he’s sacrificed so much for. Inevitably, there had to be times when he wanted out, even if he felt guilty about that desire, as though he was letting his father down. But Dean is only human, and this episode is a brilliant reminder of that, and of the hopes and dreams and wishes beneath the often stoic surface.

Needless to say, Jensen Ackles portrays all that so vividly that this episode is both painful as hell and impossible to look away from. He has talked about how hard this one was for him, because it took away what Jared and Jensen had relied on for two seasons – the bond between Sam and Dean. Jensen felt destabilized not having Sam’s partnership for Dean to count on, and couldn’t wait to finish filming – just like he would later feel about the Soulless Sam arc which also took “our” Sam away from Dean. That destabilized feeling totally works, though, as Dean himself is thrown by the  sudden changes in his world and in his relationship with his brother.

NOW

Dean driving down the road in the Impala – which has a new license plate! I remember at the time grieving for the original Kansas plate KAZ2Y5. It seems like a little thing, but the Impala was already vastly beloved by the fandom, so it hurt us almost as much as it probably hurt her boys to change the plate. CNK80Q3 Ohio it was, until the end of the show.

Sam is back at the motel, worried that a cop car outside is coming for them, even though they changed the plate and ditched the credit cards they were using. That’s a toll that their newfound visibility took on them, constantly worrying more than they ever had about being caught by law enforcement as they tried to do their job of ‘saving people, hunting things’. It’s another reason for Dean’s discontent, as everything that they’re trying to do – to help people – is getting harder.

The cop car eventually drives away and Sam breathes a sigh of relief.

Dean, as always, keeps his game face on, saying nothing to worry about.

Sam: Yeah, being fugitives? Friggen’ dance party.

Dean (grinning): Hey man, chicks dig the danger vibe.

Half of Dean’s game face is to bolster his little brother, the other half he tries to believe himself.

They’ve been trying to figure out where a bunch of victims disappeared to, Dean driving around and Sam researching. Back at the motel, Sam says that he’s figured out what they’re hunting – a djinn.

Dean: A freaking genie? You think these suckers can really grant wishes?

Sam says they’re powerful enough, they’ve been feeding off people for centuries and are all over the Koran.

Sam: But not exactly like Barbara Eden in harem pants.

Dean (with a wistful look on his face): My God, Barbara Eden was hot, wasn’t she? Way hotter than that Bewitched chick…

Sam (annoyed): Are you even listening to me?

The whole conversation is priceless brotherly banter, with early seasons Dean constantly distracted by his libido and early seasons Sam constantly trying to get him back to concentrating on the job. It was 2007, and we all knew that Dean never actually sacrificed any part of doing the job – and Sam knew that too.

The conversation is also amusing to revisit in 2023 because does anyone watching on Netflix now actually know who Barbara Eden was or that Bewitched was a show that also had a hot woman with powers? I am old enough to know, but Sam and Dean were going back a ways even in 2007 to bring up television shows from the 1960s before they were born! (I imagine they watched a lot of reruns while left in motel rooms as kids though).

Dean decides keep driving and searching for the djinn’s lair, saying he saw a place that fits its MO a couple miles back. Sam is instantly worried – it’s never a good idea for the Winchesters to split up, as we all well know!

Sam: Wait no no no no, come pick me up first!

Should have listened to Sam, Dean!

But Dean goes on alone. The Impala pulls into a dark alley, full of the “atmo” smoke that they used so often in the early seasons. (The first time we visited the Supernatural set, they had gotten a little carried away with it and it took our transport van a bit longer to come pick us up while they cleared it out – there were alarms going off as we talked to the PA on the phone!)

He walks into an abandoned office building or storage warehouse, past an old fashioned typewriter.

His spidey senses tingle and he grips his knife as he goes, flashlight searching the room.

Then we see him walk by the Djinn’s bald head and it is CREEPY and SCARY as hell omg. This scene was so well done, the cinematography gorgeous, the barely visible figure of the djinn looming in the background where Dean doesn’t seem him – but we do. Well done, Kripke!

Suddenly the djinn attacks, grabbing Dean by the throat, forcing his blue hand onto his forehead as Dean’s eyes roll back. Ackles is so good at scenes like this; you can see the moment that Dean loses the battle, his expression going blank and his eyes vacant as the djinn puts him under.

It’s horrifying and terrifying in its realness.

 

 

 

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The Trickster Messes With Sam and Dean for the First Time in Season 2’s ‘Tall Tales’

Tall Tales is one of those episodes that felt like FUN, despite some typical Supernatural monstrous happenings and, of course, people dying. But still, FUN. It was also a great episode to showcase Sam and Dean’s relationship as brothers. For better or worse! And, of course, it introduced us to Richard Speight, Jr. as the Trickster.

The ‘Then’ segment reminds us that Sam and Dean have pranked each other in the past, as brothers do, from Nair in the hair to Dean’s hand stuck to his beer bottle, Sam and Dean taunting each other with “That’s all you got?” and “Bring it on, Baldy!”  And lots of calling each other ‘bitch’ and ‘jerk’ which at this point (rewatching the series after it has ended), just makes me tear up because we know now exactly what those words mean when the Winchesters say them to each other.

Sigh. I miss my Show.

This episode opens with a professor walking to his office building at night, encountering an attractive young woman hanging out waiting for him, inexplicably dressed in a little sundress even though it’s cold and other people have jackets on.

She shows off her legs and he doesn’t notice, and he initially does try to get her to come back during office hours. He’s reluctant to respond to her flirty advances and hero worship until she finally says okay, I should go, and turns to leave. Then he changes his tune, saying he understands what she’s feeling. He shows his true narcissist colors by saying it’s natural, since he’s “somewhat of a celeb around here”. I had to cringe on behalf of professors everywhere when he said that. Nice touch of what his latest book is about though.

He kisses her even as he says it would be wrong for him to take advantage of her, and then… her face starts to disintegrate. Because this is Supernatural. He recoils in horror.

Zombie woman: What, you don’t like me anymore?

Outside the building, a janitor played by Richard Speight, Jr. watches as the professor’s body falls from the window high above, head splattered on the stones in a pool of blood.

Of course at the time that was not newsworthy (the janitor, that is). But now, on rewatch, we all squealed because Richard has joined Supernatural! He will become an integral part of the SPNFamily over the next 15 going on forever years.

ONE WEEK LATER

Sam is researching, as a Joe Walsh song plays on the radio. He’s clearly annoyed at his brother, who’s munching on something on Sam’s bed.

Sam: Dude, you mind not eating those on MY bed?

Dean (as he stuffs more in his mouth and licks his fingers enthusiastically): No, I don’t mind.

Gifs roadtripwithmybrother

Boys. I love how Supernatural always gets it so right. They are such brothers.

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Powerful Performances in Born Under A Bad Sign – Supernatural Rewatch

Born Under A Bad Sign is another one of the pivotal episodes that solidified my passion for Supernatural in such an intense way that the show would get under my skin and just stay there for – well, its over 16 years and counting now, so who knows how long? Forever?

In the “Then” we get a reminder that demons can possess humans, and of Sam and Dean’s recent agonizing conversation by the fence, Sam terrified he’s about to “go darkside” and warning his brother that if he’s not careful, “you will have to waste me someday” and Dean equally terrified he won’t be able to save Sam.

That’s where Sam and Dean are when we get to the “Now”. Dean is frantic, on the phone with Ellen after Sam has apparently gone missing.

Dean: I’m losing my mind here….I’ve called him a thousand times, there’s nothing but voicemail. I don’t know where he went or why, Sam’s just gone…

His phone shows another call and Dean cuts off to answer it.

Dean: Sammy? Where the hell are you? Are you okay? Hey hey hey, calm down, I’m on my way.

The impala roars away from under a bridge. I bet Dean broke every speed limit along the way to get to his brother.

Sam hangs up the phone and we see his bloody hand on the floor as he waits.

A while later, Dean rushes into a motel, hurrying down the hallway, still frantic. He bangs on the door and it opens, so he pushes it slowly open, calling his brother’s name. He finds Sam sitting still, blood on his shirt, head down.

Dean’s panic increases as he sees the blood and he drops to the floor, trying to push Sam’s shirt out of the way to see how badly he’s hurt. Dean is wide eyed, terrified for Sam.

Dean: You’re bleeding, ohmygod.

Sam sounds completely out of it, traumatized beyond being able to express any emotion at all. He tells Dean that he doesn’t think the blood is his, says he tried to wash it off. That he doesn’t remember anything.

I have to say that both Padalecki and Ackles played that scene incredibly well – I could feel Dean’s panic acutely, and Sam’s utter confusion and despair (making Meg a pretty great actress also!). They are both primed for these emotions already, Dean so worried about Sam’s fate and Sam convinced he could go dark side any moment.

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Supernatural’s First Mention of Angels in Season 2’s Houses of the Holy

The unlucky number 13 episode of Supernatural’s Season 2 is actually another iconic one. It’s one that was striking at the time because it was so beautifully directed and filmed (by Kim Manners) but it’s even more striking now as we’re doing a rewatch in 2022 because it’s the first episode to mention something that will become integral to the show – angels. Kripke famously didn’t want to include actual angels in the show originally, thinking that would be too much of a stretch and a venture into religious territory the show wanted to mostly avoid, but the writer’s strike changed the ending of Season 3 and Dean went to hell and they needed something to quickly pull  him out – voila, an angel! That decision changed the course of the show, but at this point in Season 2, angels were still something outside the realm of Supernatural.

Of course we don’t know that for most of this episode, which makes it a nice tease – and then a crushing disappointment for Sam. Knowing now, post series, that the God who Sam desperately wants to have faith in turns out to be a real dick, makes young Sam’s desperation to find something good to believe in even more heartbreaking. Sam is just plain good himself throughout the show, but he can’t see it, and religion/God/angels bring him some hope. Unfortunately that hope is misplaced – it will take Sam and Dean a while to realize that they need to put their faith in each other instead.

The opening segment is scary, a young woman watching television alone, smoking a cigarette (which was probably a little more common on network television in early 2007 than it is now). I’m not very observant because I didn’t realize she was supposed to be a sex worker, but I guess the heavy makeup and smoking a lot were supposed to convey that?

In typical Supernatural uh oh something’s wrong fashion, the lights start flickering. The woman changes the channel to a televangelist proclaiming that “the Lord is with you, look up and see the light” and even when she turns the TV off, it comes right back on. That is never good!

We see her alarm through the angel figurines in her apartment, in one of many striking Manners shots.

“The lord is talking to you right now, you have a purpose, it’s time to receive the message he’s sending,” the TV says. The camera pulls in closer and closer as everything starts to shake, furniture falling over, lamps crashing down. An angel figurine on the end table spins around madly as the woman becomes more and more terrified. Suddenly there’s a bright light, and then a figure appears in the light. The woman’s mouth falls open in awe.

And then it’s some time later, the same woman sans makeup and cigarettes sitting on her bed and reading a bible. The psych tech in very attractive white scrubs (aka Sam Winchester) comes in to ask her some questions, and she asks if he wants to know if she’s stark raving cuckoo for cocoa puffs (which is a reference some people watching the show now might not even get!)

Sam’s empathic.

Sam: I didn’t say that.

His empathy (and that adorable shy smile most likely) allows her to open up, and she says that she thinks that what she saw was real. Sam closes the chart and makes eye contact instead of writing notes – he’s so good at making people feel at ease so they’re comfortable confiding in him – and says he’d like to know what she saw. Did God talk to her?

She says no, but he sent someone – an angel.

Sam is skeptical, but he listens.

The woman insists that what she did was important, that she helped the angel smite an evil man (who she stabbed to death). That even though the angel didn’t give her the man’s name, he told her to wait for a sign – and then she saw it.

Sounds like a very dangerous way to go after evildoers!

Sam goes back to the motel and finds Dean enjoying the bed’s Magic Fingers. He’s lying on his back looking super happy, trembling all over with the vibrations and listening to his iPod, mouth gaping a little because, as always, Ackles is very good at conveying what Dean’s feeling. In this case, pleasure. Mmm.

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The Winchesters are Renegades in Season 2’s Nightshifter (Supernatural Rewatch)

There’s a reason why the 12th episode of Season 2 is so good. Actually there are a few reasons. One, it was written by Ben Edlund. Two, it was directed by Phil Sgriccia. And then there are those two really talented guys who play Sam and Dean.

Edlund didn’t stay with the show as long as I wish he had, but the episodes that he wrote are some of my favorites (as are the episodes he wrote for some of my other favorite shows). Phil Sgriccia was instrumental in shaping the show, staying until Eric Kripke’s new show took him away – and it was a great loss even then.

In ‘Nightshifter,’ the combination of Edlund’s tight, humorous but heartbreaking, quirky writing and dialogue and Sgriccia’s brilliant directing (and Serge Ladouceur’s brilliant lighting and cinematography as always) make this one of those episodes that could be the answer to someone asking for recommendations of episodes that show how special Supernatural is. The whole episode is tense, a mirror of Ronald’s paranoia threaded throughout reflecting the very real danger the Winchesters are in. This time, it’s not just from a supernatural entity, but from all too human law enforcement too. The sense that Sam and Dean are trapped – in the dark bank building, with something dangerous lurking in their midst and something dangerous waiting right outside to invade – sets the dark tone for the whole season as the mystery of the Yellow Eyed Demon and his plans for Sam play out.

It’s also a truly tragic episode, one of a handful that are hard to watch at times. Chris Gauthier’s portrayal of Ronald (and Edlund’s creation of the character) made him achingly real and very sympathetic. He’s a fanboy at heart, and he’s heroic in his own way, risking his life to do what he believes is the right thing and trying his damnedest to ‘save people, hunt things’ just like the Winchesters are doing. We’re rooting for Ronald throughout, and so are Sam and Dean, each in their own way. The contrast in how the brothers try to protect Ronald are telling, deepening our understanding of them – both how different they are and how that contrast often makes them efficient and deadly.

We also are introduced to Agent Henricksen (C. Malik Whitfield) in this episode. He’s another brilliantly written character, memorable instantly. He’s not a bad guy – he’s genuinely a good guy trying to do the right thing, and he’s smart and savvy and wisecracking doing it. The problem is, he sees the Winchesters from the outside and misinterprets who they are and what they’re trying to do. He’s sure they’re the bad guys, and he pursues them like he’s the one who’s saving people. Outsider pov is a popular trope in Supernatural fanfic for a reason – from the outside, if you didn’t know any better,  you probably would agree with Henricksen. These guys are clearly dangerous, twisted, downright evil killers. I love that twist, and seeing that perspective so clearly through this character.

And lastly, the ending is one of the best in the series, with a music cue that is absolute perfection.

So, with all that build up… let’s dive into the rewatch…

We get a brief recap of Saving People, Hunting Things and the Winchesters’ previous encounter with a shapeshifter in Season One’s ‘Skin’ as well as a reminder that Dean is a wanted fugitive from Season Two’s ‘The Usual Suspects’ – and then we jump to the present, SWAT teams and cops and local press surrounding a building as a hostage is dramatically released – to our shock, the guy releasing him is none other than Dean Winchester.

That can’t be good.

Director Phil Sgriccia makes it both realistic and an intensely dramatic reveal as police and press all flurry around when they know a hostage is coming out, and the last thing we expect is for it to be Dean yelling at them to get back as he lets the hostage go.

ONE DAY AGO

Sam and Dean working a case in a jewelry store, Sam having a serious conversation with the manager guy and Dean having a flirty conversation with the woman who works there.  She asks him what it’s like being FBI and Dean takes the opportunity to play it up – dangerous, keeping secrets. And lonely. Most of all, lonely. It’s clearly effective, but then, how could it not be? This is Dean Winchester she’s talking to.

She offers to do a more private interview later, and hands over her phone number (on a piece of paper because this is 2006).

Dean: You’re a true patriot.

Early seasons Dean is good with the BS and always interested in a hookup.

Sam, on the other hand, is having a much less pleasant conversation with the poor store manager, who can’t understand how an employee he’s known for decades lost his mind and murdered the store’s night watchman.

Manager: I heard him die…

The poor guy is distraught, and I can only imagine how horrible that would be. Dean has the empathy to look guilty when he realizes the kind of conversation Sam’s having, and joins them. He can’t resist waving the clerk’s phone number at Sam though.

The manager informs them that the police took all the security tapes, much to Dean’s dismay.

Dean: Friggen’ cops.

Sam: They’re just doing their job, Dean.

Dean: No, they’re doing OUR job, only they don’t know it, so they suck at it.

He’s not wrong.

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