Supernatural Breaks All Of Ours with Season 2’s Powerful “Heart”

The 17th episode of the second season of Supernatural is one of the best, most emotionally impactful episodes of the series. That’s no surprise when you realize it was written by Sera Gamble and directed by Kim Manners. Together, Manners and Kripke and Gamble shaped Supernatural in essential ways, and the team of Gamble writing and Manners directing was bound to be incredible. Add to that Ackles and Padalecki knocking it out of the park and guest star Emmanuelle Vaugier keeping pace with them every second and you have one of the episodes that fans often use to lure unsuspecting new fans into the Supernatural fold. I’ve seen this episode many times, and it still brings tears to my eyes and breaks my heart a little every time. That’s good television!

The episode begins in San Francisco, an attractive woman named Madison (guest star Emmanuelle Vaugier) laughing in a bar with friends. She blows off some guy Nate who wants her to come back to the office with him, and then sees an even more creepy looking guy staring at her through the window. It understandably freaks her out and she leaves – though walking out into the dark alley to get to her car seems like a bad idea to me, but what do I know? I would have at least had someone walk me to my car!

Nothing happens, though, other than the creepy guy watching her drive away. And some gorgeous Kim Manners mirror shots.

The next morning Madison makes coffee in her office when she notices a smear of blood on the wall – and then more on the floor. She walks with trepidation toward Nate’s office, and we see his hand covered in blood before we see him. When she rounds the corner, Nate is lying dead on his desk, torn apart. She drops the coffee pot, screaming. The pot shatters.

All of us: Now that’s a Supernatural opening if I ever saw one!

It’s pure Kim Manners brilliance, from the way Madison at first sees just a small smear of blood and isn’t sure what it is, to the tentative way she comes closer. The shot of just Nate’s arm and hand, bloody, all she can see as the realization of what this is slowly sinks in, and then the full on shot of Nate very very dead, torn apart and bloody. The close up slow mo shot of the coffee pot dropping and shattering is just perfect. Chilling.

Teaser ended, we cut to the boys, as we always did especially in the early seasons. They view poor Nate’s corpse in the morgue, Sam using his puppy dog eyes to charm the attendant into saying that off the record it looks like Nate was attacked by a wolf.

Attendant: But unless I know that the zoo is missing one of their lobos, I’m going with pit bull. I like my job.

Sam: (smiling) Yeah, I hear you.  One more thing – was this guy’s heart missing?

Attendant: Yeah, how did you know that? I haven’t even finished my report.

Sam: Lucky guess.

These boys though, who could resist giving them the information they’re after? I mean, look at them!

Then we get a little glimpse of Winchesters on the road, iconic in its simple familiarity. Early seasons Supernatural life in motel after motel, sleeping in the Impala in between, is the stuff that fanfic is made of. It warms my heart today, fifteen years later.

Dean cleans his guns as he and Sam discuss a new case – “hookers” murdered in the week leading up to the full moon, their hearts missing.

Dean: Awesome.

Sam: Could you be a bigger geek about this?

Dean’s excited about the prospect of “badass” werewolves, which they haven’t seen since they were kids.

Sam: Okay, Sparky. And you know what? After we kill it, we can go to Disneyland.

Gamble was so good at exploring the dynamic between the brothers – the affection beneath their bickering and teasing especially. Sam and Dean are very different, but at this point in the series, they’re accepting their differences and starting to appreciate each other’s strengths more. Most of the time anyway.

Rewatching this episode now in 2022, we all started giggling as soon as this scene began – because it is also one of the iconic gag reel moments, as Jared and Jensen start bickering just like their characters while Jensen has trouble with the prop gun.

Jensen: I’ve got a line, you moron!

The truly wonderful thing is that there’s just as much affection beneath Jared and Jensen’s teasing as there is Sam and Dean’s. At this point, they had already become brothers on and off set. And that chemistry powered the show for 13 more seasons!

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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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Quintessential Supernatural – Crossroad Blues (Supernatural Rewatch)

Crossroads Blues is one of those quintessential Supernatural episodes that seems to encompass what the show is all about. It’s scary, creepy, horrible – and at the same time, it has a lot of heart. Sera Gamble is one of my favorite writers, and her early seasons episodes are some of my favorites, including this one. Steve Boyum, who directed multiple episodes, takes the helm for this one.

In the THEN, we revisit the tractor trailer smashing the Impala, Sam confronting his father when Dean was dying, and John’s deal with the Yellow Eyed Demon to bring Dean back. Their father’s death is still weighing heavily on both brothers, and both are probably thinking way too much about the suspicious circumstances under which it occurred, as we go into

NOW

Greenwood, Mississippi, 1938. Summer time, blues music playing, a man plays guitar in a smoky dimly lit club. The flashback is filmed in sepia tones, and the whole scene is surreal, haunting.

The man pauses when he hears wolves baying outside, then growling, and we see a woman in the audience growing increasingly worried about him. He resumes playing, startling as we see shadows outside the window, the growling getting closer. The cigarette he’s been smoking falls from his mouth and the man looks terrified as he runs out of the place and down the road in the middle of the night, pursued and surrounded by unseen creatures. The trees shake with their bulk, and we hear their growling and barking. The man drops his guitar and runs, hiding in a deserted barn and locking the doors behind him.

The unseen wolves throw themselves against the door as the terrified man puts a chair in front of it, sobbing. The door breaks finally – and the woman and some other people find the man lying on the floor.

Woman: What happened?

Man: Dogs…black dogs…

Woman: Robert, don’t you die on me!

But it’s too late.

That whole scene is so scary, largely because we never see the black dogs – but we hear them and clearly see how terrifying they are to Robert. Well done, Show, well done.

Back in the present, Sam and Dean are eating at a diner – you can’t get much more quintessential Supernatural than that. I do love the early seasons when the brothers were on the road all the time, living out of their car and cheap motels, sharing diner booths, Sam on his trusty laptop.

Sam finds a mugshot of Dean online and Dean preens, saying he’s like Dillinger or something. Sam warns that it makes their job harder since they have to be more careful, and Dean snarks back that they don’t have anything on Sam.

Dean: No accessory? Nothing?

Sam: Shut up.

Dean: You’re jealous.

(Dean is inordinately pleased about this).

Sam: No, I’m not.

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Supernatural Leaves the Black and White Behind with Season 2’s ‘Bloodlust’

And our Supernatural rewatch continues…

The third episode of Supernatural’s second season is hard hitting, thanks to not only Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles’ acting skills, but several very talented (and well known now if they weren’t then) guest stars. Amber Benson was already a fan favorite from her time on Buffy, and Ty Olsson would become  a Supernatural fan favorite when he returns to team up with Dean in Purgatory as Benny. And of course the amazing Sterling K. Brown as Gordon Walker makes this episode powerful – it’s not surprising that he’s gone on to more mainstream fame on This Is Us.

As I’ve said many many many times, someone really needs to buy Supernatural’s casting agency a fruit basket. A really big one.

This episode is written by Sera Gamble and directed by Robert Singer, who both have been integral to Supernatural and went on to become showrunners. No wonder it’s so damn good.

These early episodes are enriched so much by the music cues, and this one is no exception. The recap gives us ‘Wheel in the Sky’ with strikingly appropriate lyrics for what the brothers are experiencing. “The wheel in the sky keeps on turning, I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow…”

We revisit John’s funeral, and Sam’s question to Dean – did he say anything to you?

And Dean’s stoic ‘no’, followed by his breakdown at the Impala’s expense. It still hurts.

And then we’re off – to Red Lodge, Montana.

A woman runs through the woods, falling down and then scrambling up, desperate and terrified. She finally hides behind a tree, and of course we’re all rooting for her, thinking a monster is after her. She finally thinks she’s eluded it and looks around the tree – and a large knife slices her head clean off.

Oof.  Little do we know, she’s a vampire – but our first instincts turn out to be right. What was hunting her was the real monster.

Cut to our boys, and one of the most iconic Supernatural songs ever, AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’. The car roars down the road, Dean behind the wheel, enjoying his (now restored to her full beauty) baby. By this time, the show knew how much the fandom loved what we at the time called “the Metallicar” and lingers on her shiny chrome and sleek black exterior. We know what Dean sees in her; we see it too.

And Sam, though he loves to tease his brother about it, loves and values that car almost as much. She’s home, after all.

Dean: Wooh, listen to her purr!

Sam makes a face, trying for grumpy but a smile trying to break through.

Sam: You know, if you two wanna get a room, just let me know.

Dean hears it for the affectionate nudge that it is and plays along.

Dean: Aw, don’t listen to him, baby, he doesn’t understand us.

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Looking Back on Dead In The Water – Classic Supernatural!

I wrote an article here on New Year’s Eve about how I’m dealing with Supernatural ending, because I’m still having lots of feelings about the loss of my favorite show ever, especially in the midst of so much stress – political and social upheaval and a raging pandemic. We need our comfort shows more than ever!  One of the things that’s helping is going back to the beginning and rewatching from the start. In a way, it’s giving me new content, because watching those early episodes now is completely different with the perspective of knowing how the story plays out and how it ends. I understand Sam and Dean more deeply than I did when I watched these episodes for the first time 15 years ago. At the same time, I’m struck by how well they hold up and how truly ingenious the writing, directing, acting and cinematography was, right from the start.

Today’s episode rewatch is the third one that aired, and the first directed by Kim Manners, who would come to have such a significant impact on the show’s two young stars, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. ‘Dead In The Water’ is one of the most well known episodes, giving us some iconic scenes as well as some of the first memorable gag reel moments. The episode was written by Raelle Tucker and Sera Gamble, who would go on to be showrunner when Kripke departed at the end of Season 5 (and would also helm another of my favorite shows, The Magicians).  So, let’s dig in…

Kim Manners and Serge Ladouceur during filming. Cap mckaysangel

The episode opens on a cabin that’s familiar to most fans, and I had to take a moment right away because I now realize that it’s a cabin that I think I’ve actually been to in real life – on one of the location tours given by Supernatural’s locations supervisor for many seasons, the one of a kind Russ Hamilton.  I’m notoriously bad at remember things like locations, though, so somebody correct me if the ‘Russ bus’ never in fact visited this particular Vancouver cabin. At any rate, it’s striking, and beautiful in its own way. There is so much atmosphere provided by locations and set dec for Supernatural, making it so much memorable than it would be otherwise.

I don’t think, at the time I first watched this episode, that I realized that the show customarily opens with the guest stars of the week being attacked by the monster of the week, especially in the early seasons. But director Kim Manners does a great job of setting up the sense of foreboding even if you didn’t know something bad was about to happen. The family in the dimly lit cabin is a dad and a sister and brother, with no mom around – because many of the guest characters are parallels for the Winchesters in some way. The girl opts for a swim in the gigantic deserted lake, out there all alone, which seems like a terrible idea even if this wasn’t Supernatural. We see her from beneath, highlighting her vulnerability, as she begins to get scared, hearing unintelligible whispering all around her even though no one is there. Uh oh. It’s scary as hell even before anything happens thanks to Manners, and then whoosh, she’s pulled under.

The lake looks peaceful once again, no sign of the girl. Uh oh.

And then, customarily, the show pivoted to the Winchester brothers, in this case at the Lynnwood Motel, which I’m totally taking as a shout out to me even though I was entirely unknown to any of them at the time. Hindsight. Dean flirts with the waitress, who flirts back, understandably, and Sam cuts that right off with a “Just the check please.”

Dean sighs, put upon.

Dean: You know, Sam, we are allowed to have fun every once in a while. That’s fun.

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