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.
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”.
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…
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.
In the midst of turmoil of all kinds and way more stress than most of us hoped we’d be enduring for long periods of time, our comfort shows are even more important. While Supernatural ended its fifteen year run in 2020, the show and its fictional characters are still very much my comfort show, so I’m going back to the beginning and doing a series rewatch from the pilot on – which could keep me busy for quite some time! It’s a way to keep the show alive for me and it’s also a brand new experience, because I’m now watching it through a very different lens than I did fifteen years ago – with the full knowledge of what will happen to these characters for fourteen more seasons. That’s therapeutic for me at a time when I need help dealing with the loss of Supernatural, and hopefully will be helpful to other fans who are also trying to deal. We also put a book out in 2020 about the end of Supernatural and the legacy it leaves behind, with chapters from the show’s actors and fans. We hope There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done and our previous book, Family Don’t End With Blood, with chapters written by Jared, Jensen, Misha and many other actors, will be a help in dealing with the loss too. You can find more information about those books at the end of this article, but for now, let’s go back in time to 2005.
The second episode of Supernatural. How I wish I could go back to that long ago time, when the show I would fall so deeply in love with had just started airing. When the question was, would the show live up to its intriguing pilot?
Spoiler alert: It did.
Wendigo is an iconic episode in part because it is the second one. The first one to be filmed in Vancouver after the pilot was filmed in LA. When Supernatural ended six weeks ago, Jared and Jensen reminisced in an interview about how they felt fifteen years ago when they set off to begin what would turn out to be a fifteen year adventure. The boys – because that’s what everyone would soon come to call them – made the trek north to Vancouver together, road tripping to their new workplace and starting the adventure together, as they would continue it for so long. It makes me emotional now, thinking about how excited and anxious they must have been, in their twenties and taking on the lead roles of a show that would rest on their shoulders.
You did good, boys.
Wendigo was directed by David Nutter, which probably helped maintain the momentum of the pilot and keep the continuity tight. The episode starts out just as scary as the pilot was, in the dark woods of Blackwater Ridge with a couple of clueless guys in a tent as something growls outside and shadowy figures move past the semi-transparent canvas. One of them is played by Cory Monteith, later to be famous on Glee, who is already gone, for real. The sense of how much time has passed since this episode hits hard just knowing that.
David Nutter does a great job of showing the young men’s vulnerability – how much more vulnerable can you feel, trapped in a tent that clearly won’t protect you and unable to see what’s coming for you from outside? We see shadows pass by outside the tent and I already want to start hiding my eyes. Nicely done, Show.
Meanwhile, Sam, looking unbearably young and adorable in a suit, brings flowers to Jessica’s grave. It seems like a tender and sad scene, then suddenly a hand claws its way up from the gravedirt and grabs for Sam. Pretty sure I screamed the first time I saw that. Early Supernatural really was like a 42 minute horror movie each week.
We’re still all dealing with the final episodes of Supernatural as well as the reality of the show ending, which means a lot of sadness and loss, so I thought it would be a good time to start looking back and remembering all the things that made the show so special – and putting something happy on everyone’s timeline. So stay tuned for a month of new exclusive interviews, and join me as I return to the beginning of where it all started and begin a rewatch from the pilot – which means episode reviews with the benefit of hindsight now that the entire series has aired.
Supernatural wouldn’t have inspired so many strong emotions as it ended if it hadn’t been important to so many of us, and there’s a reason for that. A few reasons, actually.
Eric Kripke created some endlessly fascinating characters and cast some of the most talented actors around to portray them. The writing team has fluctuated through the years, but every season has had amazing episodes that are unforgettable. The crew became family with the cast since they all stayed with the show, many since the beginning, making its filming nearly seamless. And finally, the directing. Cast members like Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, Richard Speight, Jr., Matt Cohen and Amanda Tapping took a turn at the helm with some wonderful episodes, and Supernatural also invited some other eminent directors to contribute to the show. One of those is Blair Witch director Eduardo Sanchez, who returned to direct the memorable episode “Last Holiday” in Season 15.
So, first up in our feel good Supernatural stuff leading up to 2021, my chat with Eduardo all about directing his last episode of the show.
(Below are some of the photos he posted to bring the fans with him on his last episode)
I first spoke to Sanchez a few years ago about the Supernatural episodes he’d already directed. I was fascinated by his insights about the show, so I was excited to know that he’d be back to direct Supernatural again in its final season. At the time, I was putting together a book of chapters from the show’s actors and fans with their feelings about what Supernatural’s legacy would be for them (There’ll BePeace When You Are Done). One of the fans who wrote a chapter, Tedra Ashley-Wannemuehler, wrote about an episode and characters that had a significant impact on her life – and it turned out to be Eduardo’s episode, The Chitters (also one of my favorites). Even more exciting, I had already asked the two actors who played the main characters in that episode, Cesar and Jesse (known as the “hunter husbands” in fandom), Hugo Ateo and Lee Rumohr, if they would like to write chapters for the book about their experience doing the show – and they both did. Their chapters and Tedra’s chapter bring so much insight into how that episode portrayed two gay characters and what that representation meant to each of them. I’m sure directors and actors don’t always know how influential, sometimes life changing, their work can be, but in this case I was thrilled to let Eduardo know. And yes, I sent him a copy of There’ll Be Peace When You AreDone after this chat so he could read those chapters himself.
We chatted this time over zoom in the midst of a pandemic, shortly after Eduardo’s last Supernatural episode, Last Holiday, had aired. Eduardo had some fascinating behind the scenes insights into the episode, directing in general, and doing it during a pandemic. (Included here are more of the photos he snapped to share his last episode with the fandom on twitter).
Before we delved into Supernatural, we both asked how each other how Covid was treating us.
Eduardo: I’m in New Orleans right now doing a tv show, the first one I’m doing since Covid started, and it’s so isolated. I went to visit a friend yesterday, and he’s part of the crew too, so we can’t really eat together. Part of the agreement we make is we won’t put ourselves in risky situations. He and I are both A level, which means if we go out, they have to shut down production and that costs money. But it’s the last season so we’re making the best of it.
We both agreed it was both scary and infuriating.
Lynn: We’re in a stressful time – which means we need art and media even more to get through! You’re doing a lot of last-season-of-a-series directing.
Eduardo: That’s true. The Supernatural episode was emotional for sure.
Lynn: It’s interesting that you ended up directing some episodes that were really important. The Chitters for sure, and this one was important too. It was a very emotional episode because everyone was aware that it was our last chance to see these brothers get all the things they didn’t get in their childhoods – holidays, birthdays, packed school lunches, grilled cheese sandwiches. When you got the script, were you thinking about that?
Eduardo: I didn’t think of it in that way when I read it at first, I thought it’s kinda like one of those episodes that could come at any time. Like The Chitters, there wasn’t much mythology or story arc in the episode. And I love those episodes because you can have a lot of fun and they’re not as heavy. I got the script right after I did a show called “Next” in Chicago, that [the weather] was really cold, and I read that it was all in the sound stage and I was so happy, because I thought, that’s gonna be sweet!