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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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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OMG You Shot Your Brother! Supernatural 1.10 Asylum

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?

Touche, Sam.

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”.

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