Asylum is a pivotal episode – I feel like I’m saying this about every Season 1 episode as we do this rewatch, but it’s true! It’s also the perfect time to post this rewatch review, because I just finished posting an interview with the episode’s director, Guy Norman Bee. This is his favorite episode of all the many Supernatural episodes he’s directed, and that doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s beautifully directed, gorgeous to look at, and deft in its exploration of the growing tension between the Winchesters.
It’s also one of the scary episodes, which Season 1 had a lot of. Just the idea of a deserted dark asylum with a disturbing history is scary enough, but Serge Ladouceur’s brilliant cinematography and Jerry Wanek’s set design make it even creepier. The episode starts out with the Asylum’s Keep Out sign and cops realizing that some local teenagers have ignored it. The place is apparently haunted with the ghosts of the abused patients, and if you spend the night, the spirits will drive you insane.
Of course, that has never stopped adolescents.
The cops explore by flashlight.
Cop #1: Let’s split up.
All of us watching: MISTAKE!
The first cop ends up in the boiler room because of course he does, and finds the kids – the requisite horror movie false alarm. Meanwhile, cop #2’s flashlight goes out and that is never a good sign.
Then a door opens by itself – also not a good sign.
Sure enough, cop #2 goes home to his wife and blows her away.
Meanwhile, the Winchesters. Sam calls around – and we hear names that will become familiar, like Caleb and Pastor Jim – but no one has heard from their Dad.
Sam: Maybe we should call the Feds…
Dean says no, Dad would be pissed if they did. Sam is angry, though, saying he could be dead for all they know. Dean insists he isn’t, but that leaves Sam even more frustrated.
Sam: So, he’s what? Hiding? Busy?
Dean’s phone rings at that moment, and he smiles – it’s a text message with coordinates, which means John Winchester is alive. In fact, the place he’s sending them, the Roosevelt Asylum, has an entry in John’s journal.
Sam: This is a job. Dad wants us to work a job.
He’s bitter, resentful that their father is ignoring them and staying away, but makes contact just to send them on a mission. He seems more drill sergeant than dad, and Sam isn’t willing to gloss over it like Dean is.
Dean: Maybe he’s there…
Sam: Maybe he’s not…
This episode is written by someone who I think was a one time writer, Richard Hatem. He gets the complicated dynamic that’s already there between Dean and Sam though, as Dean retorts that their Dad wants them there, and “that’s good enough for me.”
It is not, however, good enough for Sam. And that’s becoming increasingly obvious. Sam goes along, but not all that willingly.
The Winchesters pull a rather brilliant good cop/bad cop thing on the actual cop whose partner died, which works like a charm. It involves Sam giving the asshole reporter (Dean) from the Chicago Tribune a shove and telling him “hey buddy, why don’t you show the guy a little respect”.