Supernatural: Season 1, Episode 16: “Shadow”


Directed by Kim Manners
Written by Eric Kripke

“Sam, this is bigger than you think.” – John Winchester said.

I’ll say.

Shadow is one of the rare urban-setting episodes, which always seems to bring out interesting romantic things in the team in charge of Supernatural. The Winchester brothers are cut off from a regular community, roaring past in the Impala, unconnected. They touch down, take off, touch down again, moving on, moving on. But their regular milieu is the wide open spaces of the midWest and Western states, the back roads, the gravelly crossroads, the ramshackle farmhouses and biker bars spread across the plains. But when they do enter a city, like they did in “Skin,” the first time, it just highlights their … oddness. So many people clustered in one area. So many people piled on top of each other. There isn’t room to spread out, to hide. Of course, cities provide more shadows because there are more light sources. We saw that in “Skin” as well. “Shadow”, which takes place in Chicago, is all about shadows. Shadows that have a life of their own.

A word on shadows themselves, and their symbolic power.

Naturally, “Shadow” makes me think of this iconic figure.

Shadow 730001

There are even some images in “Shadow”, of the shadow floating up the wall, growing in size, looming, that are reminiscent of some of the images from that original source material. A clear influence on Manners and team in creating the look of the episode. It has a comic-book vibe: the dark gleam of Gotham, the steam bursting up from subway grates, the lonely figure stalked by a shadow taller than a building. So many of those early and influential comic book stories took place in cities. The anxiety of urbanity.

Now about “The Shadow.” Orson Welles, of course, in his early days in New York (where he began the most meteoric rise to fame in entertainment history), did radio shows with his Mercury Theatre group (which included folks like Joseph Cotten and Agnes Moorehead). They would adapt well-known works of literature and put them on the radio. Orson Welles used radio in a way it had never been used before, in one case so memorably it made the front pages. And one of Orson Welles’ many many gigs during that fertile period, was being the voice of “The Shadow”. Here he is, in character at the microphone.


The opening “credits” for every “Shadow” radio episode would be Welles intoning:

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”

Check out Welles in action here, if you want to have some fun. I love Welles’ old radio stuff.

So you got all that?

Kim Manners and Serge Ladouceur obviously studied The Shadow in order to create the look and feel for this episode.

This is what you get when you show up here for a re-cap! A looping-together of cultural Americana, the whole point of the show, and one of creator Eric Kripke’s main interests. He wrote this episode, so you just know he has stacks of old Shadow comic books in his office.


The monster in “Shadow” is two-fold: there is a clearly demonic element (still unseen, or at least unrecognized as such), and then there are the Daevas, who swoop in from Iran after being cooped up for 3,000 years. They are shadow-creatures, who cannot be seen. They only exist in the shadows on the wall. That’s how you know they have arrived. The episode has so much fun playing with that idea. Supernatural is always dark, visually (although it is less so now, more’s the pity, stupid unimaginative network), but that darkness takes on different forms, depending on the episode. Sometimes it is the gloom of woods, a rustling alive darkness. Sometimes it is the impenetrable darkness of an abandoned building. Or it’s eerie gloom of self-pity and romanticizing your own trauma (I am thinking of “Skin”).

But here, more so than any other episode thus far, we walk into film noir. Film noir made a business out of elongating shadows. There are certainly some noirs that take place in the countryside, but noir is mostly an urban art form. The anxiety of urbanity, in other words. Shadows blast their way across walls in ways that are entirely unrealistic, you’d need a klieg light in your apartment to get a noir effect. But that’s the point. Noir is one of the most psychological of genres. The anxiety is in the framing, in the lighting, in the angles, in the omnipresence of the shadow of Venetian blinds. Like this, from The Dark Corner, an unforgiving noir, starring Lucille Ball, Mark Stevens, and Clifton Webb.


The lighting is so complicated that it destabilizes what you are seeing. And the truth in noir, whatever it may be, when it is revealed, is never comforting. There is no catharsis. The truths revealed in noir are always hard, cynical, and almost existential in their despairing realization that goodness is fragile, and mankind sucks.

“Shadow” is almost over-the-top in its homage to noir, but it’s all in service of the story. The demons are shadows on the wall. Therefore they created an episode where shadows seem to be literally ALIVE. It’s similar to the preponderance of mirrors in “Bloody Mary,” where the monster lived in a mirror.

On that deeper Winchester Arc level: The past is in shadow. Mom was killed. She saw a shadowy figure in the nursery. But Dad wouldn’t have known that. Not right away, anyway. She didn’t have a chance to tell him. The Winchester brothers grew up in the shadow of that event, and its darkness has overtaken their present and future. Sam made a break for the light, crawling his way out of the shadowy past that dominated his family, but now he has been pulled back into the Shadow-World of tracking down what killed Mom. He will still battle for the light, though. He can still sense that there IS light. Dean can’t, and we’ll really really get that in this particular episode. To Dean, it is ALL shadows.

In the episode before this one, “The Benders,” we were plunged into the Heart of Darkness, with a terrible family who hunts human beings. We last saw Sam and Dean walking down a muddy drive, in the middle of the night, teasing each other about the horrible things they just saw. It’s a way to survive, it’s a way to inject light into the shadows. The shadows are not just external. They are internal. Sam has a literal Shadow hanging over him, in his blood, although he doesn’t know it yet. He has sensed all along, though, that it was there, that something was there. His understanding of what happened to him opens up that shadow inside of him into a gaping abyss, pitch-black, no way out. And Dean, who is a survivor, attempts to skip off the surface of his own shadows, because he doesn’t understand what is in there, he lies to himself, he invests in those lies, and so his entire personality is basically erected on a shadow. Which … you can’t do. You need a stronger foundation. Dean IS afraid of what is in the dark. It is the Unknowable. It is psychological in nature, Dean’s secret, while Sam’s is physical. Of course there’s a blend there, and the psychological bleeds into the physical, but the struggle is different in focus. You can’t say either one of them has a good grasp on any of it, but they are trying. Hard, though, when you are only working with a flashlight-beam of light, cutting its way through the pitch-dark. What is OUT there that we can’t see? Sam wants to KNOW. Dean DOESN’T. Or he THINKS he does, but only in an extremely limited context.

While the references to film noir are everywhere in “Shadow,” I wanted to mention as well “Cat People,” from 1942 (not the remake). Filmed like a noir, it is really a horror film, with a couple of the scariest sequences I’ve ever seen (and you don’t SEE anything explicitly scary, the scariest scene being a girl swimming in an indoor pool at night, with a reflections of water wavering on the walls.) (I wrote about Cat People here.) The heroine of Cat People is freaked out by sex. Freaked out is putting it mildly. She is so panicked and traumatized that she locks herself in the bathroom on her wedding night. When things get too stressful, too bottled up, she turns into a cat. A big cat. A stalking black panther. That you almost never see. It’s a gorgeous symbol of what sex feels like when it is repressed, of what she has inside of her that needs to be “let out,” and how terrifying she finds it. The cat stalks in the shadows, and you never see it. Besides, it is so black that you couldn’t see it anyway, even if you squinted. The shadows in Cat People are out. of. control. And in one terrifying scene, you see her transformation take place, but you only see it happen in the shadows being projected onto the wall.


Throughout “Shadow,” these Daevas show up, ferocious shadows on the walls, and we see them attack Sam, Dean, Dad, Meg, and it’s all done like that screen-grab above from Cat People. The action that happens happens in the shadows on the wall.

So my bet is Serge Ladouceur and Manners re-watched Cat People, too, in preparation for “Shadow”.

Chicago, Illinois

The first image sets the tone of the episode.


And those of you who know me, know my history with Chicago, and my love of that city. I realize that “Shadow” was not filmed on location, but that’s the magic of make-believe. I love imagining the Winchester boys and Meg and Dad all convening in the Windy City, the town I know and love so well. Meredith (Melanie Papalia) is the girl casting that long shadow. iPod earbuds in, she stalks through a moody urban environment. She is listening to the blues. Because … Chicago. She is alone on the streets for the most part, although there is one odd moment, jarring, when she bumps into a guy as he passes, startling her. They glance at one another, and both keep moving on. It’s a great detail because it makes the city seem unfriendly.

She stalks down empty streets, with steam blasting up out of the grates, wind swirling papers around in the air. There are a lot of night-walking-urban scenes in Cat People, too, like this one:


I thought of it immediately when watching “Shadow”. As Meredith walks, with the city seeming to jump to eerie life all around her (in the wind, the swirling steam, the elongated shadows), her iPod sort of fizzles out, and she stops for a second to check on it. She’s frustrated. She’s also standing in the most ominous-looking alley known to man. We then see, at the back of the alley, a shadow start to emerge, climbing up the walls, larger and larger, a silhouette as large as a building. Meredith glances up, and sees it, isn’t sure what she’s even looking at, but it is scary as hell, so she hurries on her way.

Emerging from the alley, she crosses the street, and we are given a birds’ eye view of what is happening, what is following her.


However they got that effect, I don’t even want to know. I just know I love it.

Panicked now, she runs to the front door of her apartment building, fumbling with her keys. She then races into her apartment, slamming the door shut, locking it, and turning on the alarm. The production design gave her a weird little apartment full of possibilities for shadows. She has a design of cut-out squares hanging in the doorway, obviously as a demarcation line between rooms, and so the squares cast shadows on the walls, so that it’s almost a tromp l’oeil effect. You’re not sure what is the wall, and what is the square-hanging. The lights are all off in her apartment but streetlamp light pours in from outside, and the shadows are so dramatic that they are almost horizontal. It’s a crazy look for what is just a young single woman’s apartment. For example, once she’s safe inside, she puts down her bag and goes into the kitchen to get a beer. On her way back out into the main room, her body casts a shadow onto the wall that looks completely insane.


That’s what a brilliant lighting designer can create with one well-placed lamp.

Drinking her beer, she goes to her answering machine and listens to the message. Remember answering machines? And coming up is a small script thing I love. We already know Meredith is a goner, because she has the unfortunate honor of appearing in the Teaser. So she’s gonna be dead in about 36 seconds. But Kripke’s script gives us enough detail about her that she seems like a PERSON, as opposed to “Victim #1”. Meredith listens to her messages. There’s one from a good friend, saying, “Oh my God, you HAVE to tell me what happened last night …” Meredith sort of smiles. She was busy today, but yeah, last night was great, I’ll call Friend tomorrow to give her the deets, the smile says. The next message is from a guy friend who’s saying he has a friend who wants to meet her – “so call me back!” And then the last message is from another girlfriend, saying something like “I got your back” about some social brouhaha.

Those three messages tell a story. This is a girl with a lot of friends. Good friends. These are clearly people who talk to her all the time, who are involved in her life. She’s a young woman, she has a lot of friends, and she’s dating around. Things are going well.

It could have been that there were no messages on the answering machine. That would tell a story, too, albeit a different one. Or there could have been three nagging messages from her mother wondering why Meredith hadn’t called. That tells a story too. But Kripke knows what story he wants to tell, and he knows who Meredith is, and so he gives us messages that tell us that.

So when she DOES bite it, we actually have been given a tiny bit of information to invest in her, so her death has some impact. As she listens to her messages, we see a shadow materialize and morph on the wall behind her. It’s a formless blob, and then, alarmingly, it sort of coheres into an actual human profile, and we see a terrible hand with long long fingers stretching out ahead of the shape. Moving towards Meredith, the shadow doesn’t stay cohered for long, it keeps changing, and then we see that hand clearly pierce through Meredith (or her shadow on the wall). She screams (but we only see the shadow now), and bright red blood spurts onto the wall. It is a kick-ass death, and one of my favorite Teaser deaths.


I’m sad to see Meredith go. I’m sad for her friends. They clearly care about her.

1st scene
One week later
The Impala pulls up to a curb, and blues music is blaring, because … Chicago.

Dean and Sam get out of the car, wearing coveralls complete with logos and name tags saying “Sam” and “Dean”. Dean, who normally loves costumes, as I mentioned in the re-cap for “Nightmare,” is annoyed here, grumbling that he and Dad did just fine without having to play dress-up. No surprise that Dean’s first line in the episode has to do with Dad. It’s also a slight dig at Sam, Sam being the outsider, the one coming into the group and changing things up, adding elements like buying suits and coveralls. We were FINE before you came along, is basically what he is saying. Interesting, considering what happens later between the brothers.

Sam’s energy towards Dean is very interesting in “Shadow,” and it goes through many transformations. It’s a hell of an episode-wide Arc. Dean’s Arc may be more noticeable because, well, he’s Dean. He wishes he could hide in the shadows, but, unfortunately, as an Erotic Muse, there’s a pink-gelled spotlight pointing at him at all times, so he can’t hide. But watch how Sam is with Dean from the get-go, and watch how that is shown through multiple prisms throughout. It’s fascinating. Sam dealing with Dean. Dean can be very strong, but he also can be extremely annoying, and when he’s strolling around like he’s the Star of the Movie it’s abrasive (when he actually ISN’T the star – SAM is the star of this one). But unlike in other episodes, “Scarecrow,” etc., Sam isn’t annoyed at Dean, he’s not tense and terse and frustrated. He seems to treat his older brother like comedic relief, almost. Until shit gets real. Anyway, we’ll get to that.

Dean and Sam walk down the sidewalk (another example of how Supernatural often films conversations unfolding in one take), and Dean says putting the jumpsuit on makes him feel like a “high school drama dork.” Takes one to know one, Dean. Sam sort of laughs, yeah, it’s silly, but whatever, it’ll get us in the door, but Dean, strutting along beside Sam, suddenly remembers something and says, “Hey, what was that play you were in in high school? Our Town.” Dean then ruins it by saying in the most dismissive tone possible, “You were good. It was cute.” Cute? If anyone came to see me in something and said, “You were good. You were cute.” I would make a mental note to never ever invite them to anything ever again.

Incidentally, it was Thornton Wilder’s birthday the other day, and I put up a commemorative post. Helena made a comment and it got me to thinking about the choice of Our Town in SPN, beyond the obvious reason that it is a play often done in high school drama clubs. It’s a play about life, death, and family. The last act features Emily, now dead, joining the other dead in the graveyard on the hill, and they all sit up there, dead, watching over the fevers of life back down in the town, far beyond all that now. It’s not difficult to see the correlation. I am betting that Sam played George, the lead. The high school kid in love with Emily. And now I am picturing 20-year-old Dean submitting to going to that play, with knives clanking in his pockets, and a blood stain on the cuff of his jeans. Rolling his eyes. And you know Dad did not attend. Now that’s a flashback I’d love to see.

Dean is mainly pissed off about spending their hard-earned money – from credit card scams – on costumes.

The totally over-it super (Lorena Gale) lets them in. I love this woman.


She has seen something completely gross, in her building, and upsetting (she found Meredith’s body), but she is at this point extremely annoyed that the alarm didn’t work, and these yahoos had supposedly installed it. She is not in awe of them. She is OVER. IT. She says to the Winchesters, “Your alarm’s about as useful as boobs on a man.” It’s a comment that just sits there, sexually, and nobody really responds. (I had a boyfriend – the Tough Guy I keep mentioning – who said if he were a woman he would just stay home all day and play with his boobs. “Dude, that is ridiculous,” I said. He said, “Seriously. How do you even leave the house when you got all that going on? Don’t you get distracted by your boobs all the time?” “No. I do not get distracted by my boobs. Jesus Christ.” He then turned it on me: “Be honest. If you woke up and suddenly had a dick, what would be the first thing you would do?” I couldn’t lie. I gave him my honest answer. He laughed in my face: “See? SEE??” “Okay, fine, yes, I see.” I blame Supernatural for feeling the need to share that story.)

Sam and Dean stroll around the main room, looking at things, as the super stands back, telling them about finding Meredith. Meredith was “all over… in pieces …” and if she didn’t know any better she’d think a wild animal did it. Sam and Dean share a long meaningful glance. She leaves them alone in the room, after giving a quick disturbed glance around again. Dean crouches down to get out the EMF and Sam says, eagerly, insistently, “The minute I saw that article, I knew it was our kind of gig.” There’s something almost … needy in how he says it. I sort of connect it back to the earlier moment in the sidewalk (“Dad and I did just fine without costumes …”) It almost sounds like he’s saying: See? I know what I’m doing. I participate, I contribute. It’s vulnerable, and it’s strange to see it here, Sam looking for a pat on the head from his big brother, a “Good job”, something. These actors bring depth to their roles, to every moment.

So they’ve been in Chicago for a couple of days. Sam saw the article and they headed that way to do an investigation. They bought costumes. Sam did research. And Dean, apparently, talked to the cops. Sam asks him about what the cops said. They are on opposite sides of the room, waving EMFs around. Dean says, yeah, he talked to a cop named … Amy. And her name is infused with the dreamy magic of the ages. He is in deep closeup, and we can see Sam behind him, in shadow, across the room. Dean is lost in the memory of Amy, he probably crawled out of her bed that morning, so he has a lot to share, the memory is still fresh. “She’s a Sagittarius. She loves tequila. I mean …” The memory assaults him with its power … the tequila … wow … does she love it … “Oh, and she’s got this little tattoo –”

Sam barks, “DEAN.” from across the room, to snap his brother out of it.

Dean works fast. They’ve been in town 36 hours and he befriended the police officer who could give him Intel as well as head. (Sorry.) AND, he turned it into a “win”. He and Amy clicked. She’s a party-girl. She was up for a good time. It also shows Dean willing to sleep with someone to get information out of her. Later, in “Provenance,” Dean is basically shoving Sam at the gorgeous art dealer, saying, “Take one for the team, Sammy.” Sam balks at using her like that. Of course Dean doesn’t see it that way because he can also sense that Sam is crushing on her and she is crushing on him, so what the hell, take her out, have some fun, you deserve it. It gets pretty deep, what’s going on there. He’s not just “pimping” Sam out. But that “Take one for the team, Sammy” is an interesting comment. Did Dad say that to him once? Did Dad make him go … have sex with someone in order to get what they need? I’m betting most probably Yes, which is incredibly creepy. Dean loves sex, though, he’s not just a bundle of trauma about it … Sex is his Happy Place, and it’s interesting because it reveals how comfortably and automatically he uses that side of himself. But I just also love that he ended up having a blast with Amy. It makes him a compelling and almost comedic character. I’m a tiny bit obsessed with Amy. We will return to her.

Once Sam snaps Dean back up into his “upstairs brain,” because ew, I don’t want to hear about your sex life, Dean says, yeah, Amy told him stuff. The cops are keeping one grisly detail out of the picture. Meredith’s heart was missing.

Pretty good Intel, Amy.

I just want to point out that Sam’s shadow has a life of its own.


The comment stops Sam. Dean asks, “Werewolf?” Sam says, “No, the lunar cycle is off.” A casual exchange I love, because we haven’t met werewolves yet, we don’t even know they’re real, but now suddenly they do exist in the SPN universe, and there are things about them that we don’t know but the brothers do. Heart missing. A clue. It just makes them both seem so professional. They know their stuff. Sam doesn’t think it’s a creature of any kind, though, because it left no trace of itself.

Dean glances down at the white rug, and we get a swooping pan of the blood splatters there (something we have not seen up until this point).


He asks Sam for masking tape, and starts connecting the dots of the blood splatters. Now how does he know which dot to start off with, though? Sorry, but you could come up with a million patterns from that mess.

It is cool, though, how he is filmed from down low. Dramatic.


Every frame in Shadow is pumped for ultimate DRAMA. And considering where we are going, considering that this is no Monster of the Week, that’s appropriate.

Dean finishes with the tape, and there is then a classic Supernatural shot of the two guys looking down at Dean’s work, before we see it. Dean is crouched down, Sam towering over him, the two of them in the same frame, filmed from below. The ceiling yawning darkly above them. Almost no one on the planet looks good from that angle. They do. Dean stands, and the camera follows, still with the guys in the same frame. It’s challenging, with the height discrepancy, to pull off a shot like that. It’s almost a mathematical equation, but they have it down to a science now.


Neither of them recognize the symbol.


2nd scene
The Chicago bar scene is an entity unto itself. I know it well. It’s extremely specific. It’s a very friendly scene. And this scene gets it right, the feeling of good times, carefree flirting, pool and beer and talk. In a big rambling space with TVs mounted on the walls. It’s not a biker bar or a roadhouse, it’s a sprawling urban hangout spot.

Dean is standing at the bar, chatting up the bartender, who leans invitingly towards him, showing off her appealing cleavage. He’s doing a shot. He’s in the zone. When Dean is in the zone with sex, different things start to happen for him. We actually haven’t seen that yet, outside of Cassie. It’s suggested but we haven’t seen it. It’ll be totally clear in “Provenance,” where Dean opens the episode by going home with two women, having a grand old time, and then spending the rest of the episode in an almost loopy comedic state of post-satisfaction. “A glass of champagne, please …” he says. “So what’d she say about the Providences? Prove…nances? Nances?” That is a well-fucked man. I love his performance in that episode. It’s not Dean on the prowl, it’s Dean post-prowl. He’s loosey-goosey and satisfied and doped-up on his release, and sees everything sexually, including the moony little flirting game going on between his brother and the art dealer. And he’s right, something is going on there. Dean’s no dummy, especially not about sex.

Meanwhile, Sam enters, and makes his way through the crowd to a table, clutching Dad’s journal, newspapers, ready to get to work. He sets himself up there, nerdy and serious, all as Dean has been working the crowd. Dean sees Sam, says goodbye to his new “playmate” (of the non-monster variety), and heads over to his brother. Of course he is distracted by a pretty girl passing him on his way. Ackles never ever misses an opportunity to do the Pretty Girl Double-Take.


Like I said. Dean is in the zone. He just got laid yesterday, which is always a good thing, he needs it more than most, he’s feeling good, he’s surrounded by alcohol and pretty women, and a partying atmosphere, and it’s healthy, it’s good, it’s FUN. Jeez Louise, after “The Benders,” he deserves it.

Sam asks, judgmentally, “Did you get anything? Besides her phone number?”

Dean puts on a big display of being offended, and then cracks, laughing, holding up a bar napkin. (To quote Dean in “Slice Girls” from Season 7: “They always give you their number.” “They.” hahahaha)


Also bless you SPN for having a 312 area code on that napkin. Even just hearing “312” makes me nostalgic for the days when that was my area code.

Sam, at his most prissiest, asks Dean to do some thinking with his “upstairs brain”. But the thing is: Dean is actually quite capable of doing two things at the same time: get information and get laid. Hell, he’s already done it. He’s not slacking off. He’s just getting his needs met at the same time. This is pretty funny because Meg (Nicki Aycox) is about to re-enter, and Sam is clearly disturbed seeing her there in the bar. He never told Dean about the girl he met on the side of the road. And Dean basically refuses to believe that anything is happening OTHER than Sam suddenly looking for sex, like he is. I mean, the teasing and jabs go on throughout the episode, despite the fact that not once does Sam seem remotely “interested” in Meg in “Shadow”. He’s more disturbed. But sex is Dean’s filter. We’re moving towards “Provenance”, like I mentioned before, where Dean finally expresses concern (and it’s not easy for him, it’s extremely intimate, new territory for the brothers to discuss) that Sam isn’t having any fun. Sam mis-interprets it as Dean trying to “pimp” him out, but Dean is right: Sam has basically widowed himself at the age of 23. Dean’s worried about that. Everything doesn’t have to MEAN something. You can do things merely because they are fun. Dean’s got lots of problems, but he knows how to enjoy the things he enjoys. And when he enjoys them, he enjoys them 100%, there is nothing else going on for him but the exquisite moment. If I could say that there’s one thing Dean has really lost by Season 9, it’s that ability. And it’s a huge loss. Pleasure in the simple things, like playing darts, listening to music, and, oh, going down on a pretty girl three hours after you meet her … I mean, you might as well enjoy these things. You’re not hurting anyone. Trauma can make those avenues close up. The noise in your head gets too loud. The self-loathing rushes into the void. You are not “worthy” of simple pleasures anymore. You are not worthy of having even a moment’s respite from your anguish. That has happened to me, 2009 and 2012 being the Grand Pooh-Bahs of the situation, and I’m in treatment for it, and it’s kicking my ass. Doctor #1: “Do you ever just not do ANYthing? Or just do something because it’s fun?” I’ll get back to you on that, Doc.

Sam is not amused by Dean’s horny circulating when they’re supposed to be working, and Dean protests, I talked to everybody here, they all knew Meredith, everyone liked her, no one said there was anything weird going on. So he hit on the bartender in his final 5 minutes. Gimme a break.

Sam’s been researching the symbol and hasn’t found anything in the Bible (i.e. Dad’s journal). There was another mysterious murder before Meredith’s, an older guy mutilated inside his locked townhouse. As Sam talks, Dean actually steals a longing glance at the cocktail napkin. Ah, detailed performances. Competing objectives. Behavior between the lines. Can’t get enough.

Now we’re moving into the Universe of the Weird. We’re picking up multiple Arcs, and they are going to start to converge. Sam catches sight of something over Dean’s shoulder and gets up and walks away, leaving Dean there with no explanation. It is like Sam is drawn across the room, pulled. And when we see the blonde sitting at the table, her back to Sam, it’s the same angle as when we first met her on the side of the road in “Scarecrow.”



Sam doesn’t see her face. Just the blonde head. That blonde head could be anybody. But his spidey-sense, and, yeah, demon blood, obviously is activated towards her. He knows that person. But she is so out of context for him. They’ve been in Chicago for 2 days. She was supposed to be in California. What the hell. He touches her, and she turns around startled, again, a total echo of their first encounter on the road. She looks all happy and delighted to see him. “Sam????” He expresses surprise, but he’s struggling with something else. Something is off, WAY off, and it inhibits his behavior.

She immediately seems strange and too intense, that automatic-intimacy thing that happened between the two of them, at her insistence. She says, “What are you doing here?” and he says, “I’m just in town visiting friends.” Meg then looks around, a bit blankly, and then asks, “Where are they?”

That kind of behavior drives me crazy. It’s such a red-flag of possessiveness and too-much-ness that anyone who displays it in my general direction doesn’t last longer than five seconds. It is a sort of piercing through of boundaries in a manner clouded in plausible deniability. It’s like she’s trying to bust him in a lie. She’s “too much” and her too-much-ness makes her seem … dangerous, slightly unstable. She’s “calling him” on something, an obvious lie, but that’s not how normal people behave, in small talk or chit-chat. She, the demon, inhabiting the poor dead girl named Meg Masters, has some of the human mannerisms down but not all of them. She’s all, “OMG, Sam, fancy meeting you here!!!” but right on the tail-end of that, she looks around and asks him where his so-called friends are. It’s an interesting concept: what it means to be human, how we recognize one another, or … don’t. Like the shape-shifter in “Skin”. What are the “tells” that lets us know that Dean is not Dean? That Meg is not quite … right? This will be explored in-depth in Season 6 when Sam doesn’t have a soul.

Speaking of Sam not having a soul, and Meg being a little bit off, I’ve talked a lot about how much I love the “blank face” in acting. Those who present as just slightly … “off”. These characters are on the sociopath/psychopath spectrum.

Sissy Spacek in Badlands. Thoughts here.


Alain Delon in Le Samourai. Thoughts here.


Jeremy Renner in Hurt Locker. I have referenced his character a lot already, in conjunction with Dean Winchester, and it will come up again. Thoughts here.


Peter Lorre in almost everything he did.


Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter. Brief thoughts here.


Barbara Stanwyck on occasion. The cold calculating look of a predator.


Charlize Theron in Young Adult, one of my favorite movies of that year. Screw Monster, this is her best performance, and nobody else could have pulled it off.

The “blank face” is harder than it looks. It is the ability to drain oneself of recognizable human impulses, to “blank” oneself out. It can be a cliche, but when it is done well, it is incredibly frightening. It’s one of the reasons I love the Sam-Soulless Arc so much because it delves into this “blank-ness” in a psychological way. And Padalecki does some of his best work in the entire series with the eerie “blank face”.

And Meg goes suddenly blank, in between her imitations of being a normal human. The flashes of random blankness is extremely off-putting. Nicki Aycox does “blank face” great.

As Sam and Meg have a “wow, what are the odds” conversation, Dean comes up behind them, hovering there. Waiting to be noticed. Or at least introduced. He’s going to have to wait a long time. Dean isn’t used to that. Meg is babbling on about her time in California, how LA was fine, she met “something Michael Murray at a bar,” (inside joke, especially when Sam expresses confusion as to who that even is).


Meg keeps monologuing, she left LA, now she’s in Chicago for a while, and la la la, life is grand! Dean’s behavior in the background almost steals the entire scene. He can’t believe she’s not even looking at him, first of all. He glances over at Sam, periodically, trying to telegraph, “Please introduce me so I can get in on this,” but Sam isn’t paying attention to him either. Dean may not like to be the center of attention but he sure as shit doesn’t like being ignored. It is totally outside his normal experience. Also, he’s the big brother. He should get first pick of girls. All of that is going on in the symphony of silent behavior Ackles is giving us. He’s trying to basically insert his energy force into the mix. I mean, look at this.


It’s actually kind of sad. It also makes me laugh. He even clears his throat once. No dice.

Sam is staring at Meg, not taking his eyes off of her, behavior which Dean misinterprets. But what is really happening (and Padalecki plays it great) is that something is very very wrong, running into her like this, but he can’t let her know he feels that way … but he also might as well do his best to get some background information out of her. In other words, Sam is working, and it doesn’t LOOK like he’s working. He’s good. He asks her if she’s from Chicago, and she tells him, no, she hails from Andover, Massachusetts. Perhaps that’s a mistake on the Demon’s part. Perhaps the Demon underestimates Sam Winchester.

Meg is coming on to Sam hard. Dean, more obviously now, clears his throat. There is no WAY that he should be excluded from this conversation. And in that moment, Meg turns on Dean, looking at him for the first time, saying, “Dude. Cover your mouth.”

Dean has been being obnoxious, but her rude-ness is an ice-pick. Another red flag. Dean sort of draws himself up and glances at Sam, not sure what’s happening. He’s not insulted, not yet, just curious and wondering why everyone isn’t looking at him. He looks so short, in his placement behind Sam. The big brother looks totally Minz.

I love how Sam says, reluctantly, “Yeah … I’m sorry Meg, this is my brother Dean.”

He says it in a kind of loaded way, obviously referring back to their conversation at the bus station when he opened up to her about Dean. The way he says it leaves Dean to hang out to dry. Maybe he feels a little bit awkward, because he is now remembering that he let Meg in too far during that weird time in the bus station. He knows she’s a bit off. She’s probably gonna say something about it.

She makes this big surprised face, and says, “So this is Dean!”

Dean gets all pleased. Finally. He’s not invisible. And even better, they were TALKING about him, whenever the hell it was that they met. THANK you. I actually EXIST. He laughs and says, “So you’ve heard of me.” She sucker-punches him: “Nice. The way you treat your brother like luggage.”

Ackles’ response is simple and real. No acting. He’s been sort of behaving like a buffoon up until this point, because he just got laid yesterday with Amy the Sagittarius, and that’s what happens when Dean satisfies himself … and now he wants more of it, because it helps relax him, but suddenly, in that moment, it’s like he’s been slapped. She CAN’T have just talked to me like that.

Meg is still working what she was working in “Scarecrow:” drive open that space between the brothers. Get a wedge in there, chip away at it, open up doubt in Sam’s mind, destabilize the relationship. She says to Dean, “Why don’t you let him do what he wants to do??”

Sam finally intervenes. I would have drop-kicked that bitch into next week if she spoke to my sibling like that. You’re an ASS. HOLE.

Dean is stunned at the attack, on a lot of levels. Who the fuck is this broad talking to him like that? Where did she come from? How does Sam know her? And, what, Sam was complaining about him to her? But he needs to get out of that environment right away, he’s too pissed, so he whistles, says, “Okay! Awkward!” and then walks off to the bar, throwing Sam a seething glance.

Meg apologizes to Sam, saying, “It’s just that the way you told me he treats you … If it were me, I’d kill him.”

The puzzle here is very complicated. Dad, so far, is not playing into it at all. There are things the brothers can’t see, they are working in a half-lit environment. It’s extremely dangerous for both of them.

Sam is so calm he’s practically Zen. I really like how Padalecki chose to play this scene. He’s mixing lies and truth with every word. He says, almost calming her down like she’s the crazy high-maintenance little Miss Thing she is, “It’s all right. He means well.”


Painful words, but it’s also a way of closing ranks with his brother against Meg. It’s the second time someone has said that about Dean in the series, the first one being Missouri Mosley. “He means well” gives the feeling that we are supposed to make excuses for Dean, that we are supposed to understand the intentions behind what he does, not just the sometimes-awkward end result. It’s interesting to consider where that type of conversation has led us to, in Season 9, with Dean insisting to Sam he did what he did because it was “the right thing to do,” and Sam insisting that that is the problem. No more letting Dean off the hook with “he means well”. That ship has sailed.

Still, it’s an interesting choice of words on Sam’s part. It shows his detachment from Dean, his healthy boundaries. He doesn’t lay into her, he also doesn’t commiserate with her. He can see Dean with some objectivity (unlike Dean, who can’t see Sam with any objectivity). He can see that Dean “means well”. Dean would hate that comment if he heard it. The show plays with us, plays with our identification with these guys, our investment in them being in sync, together, in a good head-space. We may want Sam to say, “You were pretty out of line just now, Meg …” but he doesn’t.

She snaps back to fun party girl Meg and says they should hook up while he’s in town, “I’ll show you a hell of a time,” she coos like Mae West. Sam asks for her number (and Dean is seen in the background, between them, looking over.) She gives him her number (312 area code again!), and then he says, “You know, I never got your last name.”


“Masters,” she says.

Sam is at work. Getting the information he needs to do a little research on this dame with the pixie haircut.


3rd scene
Dean and Sam emerge from the bar and Dean is immediately on Sam, pissed off and very aggressive. “Who the hell was she.”

Sam knows she was just rude to Dean, he’s not an idiot, but he is caught up in his uneasiness, his sense that something is happening. Sam says, inarticulately, “I only met her once … I don’t know. It’s weird.” Dean is not interested in Sam’s feelings, he wants to know what the hell happened back there. It could get ugly between them, like in “Scarecrow,” if Sam decided he wanted to fight back. Dean is itching for a fight. He wants to punch something. Dean says, “I treat you like luggage?”

By the way: the whole opening section of this scene is done “in one”, the two of them coming out of the bar, crossing the sidewalk, crossing the street. Walking and talking. No cuts. When there’s a cut here, it actually means something, it means the fight is starting for real.


Cutting from face to face to face is so common in television (it’s efficient, it tells the story quicker) that you barely notice it, but when you see how those techniques are utilized in Supernatural, you realize how old-school the vibe of the show really is. Closeups and edits should MEAN something, signify something. It’s hard to even realize this because we are in such an era of constant closeups and quick-edit-cuts. But go back and watch the movies in the 30s and 40s. You would maybe get three or four major closeups in an entire picture. Peter Bogdanovich points out that the first close-up of Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby comes almost 25 minutes into the film. She’s already been in four entire scenes, with no closeups. That would flat-out just not happen today. Today, her entrance would be hailed with a gigantic star close-up. But by holding back on moving in close to her face, there is a beautiful tension that arises, invisibly, and when Howard Hawks finally does move in close to her face, it has great emotional meaning, it is the moment when we see her motivation, we see her emotions, we see her think: “I love this man. I am going to GET him if it is the last thing I do.”


Supernatural works like good old-fashioned cinema in this regard, and I’ll get to that later.

Dean is pissed about what Meg said to him, and he’s not taking Sam’s concerns seriously, twisting it all into, “If you want to get laid, Sammy, don’t try to turn it into a case. Just go get her. She’s a horrible person, but whatever floats your boat.”

There’s a scene later in the episode which, all things considered, may very well be the most important scene in the entire season. It is a HUGE reveal. For both sides. You see how lost Dean is. How resigned to his fate he is. But also how nostalgic he is for something that never really existed. Sam, in comparison, is complete. He will work this job, he needs to do it, but he knows he can go back to school, and he will. That scene is starting here, in the confrontation outside the bar. Meg is helping to start it. Meg is a catalyst.

But also consider who shows up at the end of the episode. Consider what’s about to happen.

Dean is already flailing in anticipation of that, and he doesn’t even know it. It’s a very well-structured episode.

One or Two Thoughts About Sex
Dean was the one who explained sex to Sam when they were kids. I am sure it was a hilarious conversation. In one of the flashback episodes, we see Sam ask Dean, “How do you talk to girls?” Dean provides answers. Who else is gonna show Sammy the ropes? We saw Dean get his first kiss in “Bad Boys” (Season 9). He was 16. I had always assumed Dean was sexually precocious. “Bad Boys” says “Not so fast …” Pulled out of the boys’ home by Dad, the next time we see him as a teenager is in “After School Special” (Season 4). He’s 17 years old. (No offense to the actor who played young Dean in “After School Special”, but it wasn’t good casting. Not the kid’s fault, his face was too lean and hard, it didn’t have that palpable softness in it that would already have been showing up in Dean at that point.) But anyway, moving on, we’re talking about the timeline: By the time he’s 17, in “After School Special”, one year after “Bad Boys,” he is a swaggering promiscuous guy, calling the teachers “sweetheart” and two-timing a couple of high school girls in the same damn broom closet. Like, dude, at least change location. Dean creates all this drama in the mere week that he attends that school. This is the havoc that Erotic Muses bring with them. So something obviously happened between “Bad Boys” and “After School Special”. Dean was clearly surprised by being kissed at 16, and devoted himself to practicing getting better at it with his new young love, and then he was yanked away from that life, and that romance, by his Dad. It hurt. He cried. And, well, he’s not gonna go through THAT twice. He probably set out to lose his virginity soon thereafter, and it was probably horrible and awkward but he had to get it over with. Possibly he was raped. Maybe he had sex a couple times for money, because he gambled away the food money and Sam needed to eat. All of this going on while getting molested by demons and spirits, all as Dad looked on. Gross. Whatever happened, though, and we don’t know for sure, it happened fast. He ran from innocence. He probably slept his way through whatever high school he was plopped into for the next year, before dropping out altogether. He would have discovered by then that people wanted him, desired him, and he would have gone to TOWN with that knowledge. He would be hanging out in bars with fake IDs, banging older broads in the bathroom. And this is how Sam would have observed Dean when he was a 13, 14 year old kid. It makes his reaction to the fact that Dean had actually fallen in love with Cassie that much more understandable. Dean? In love? With someone cool?? Meanwhile, Sam was playing soccer and appearing in school plays, and secretly applying to Stanford. Once there, he met Jess. She is sympathetic, fun, and smart. His first love. I’m guessing he lost his virginity to her. Unless Dean bought him a hooker like he did with Castiel. But Sam probably wouldn’t have gone for that. “I don’t pay, Dean,” he says at one point. (Well, that certainly changes, but he had to lose his soul to get there.) Falling in love with Jess, on his own terms, in his own time … he wouldn’t have had Dean to talk to. He went through that entire formative experience completely outside of any Dean influence. Maybe that was for the best, but I’m not so sure. Who knows how their relationship might have changed if the two guys had actually had to DEAL with each other as men, as separate beings, EARLIER. If Dean had to DEAL with Jess earlier, and get over himself, and display some manners, and get to know her, and seeing what Sammy saw in her, approving of it – you know, all the things normal close siblings do. These guys have done none of that. They see each other as CONCEPTS, set in stone. AND, as I mentioned in “The Benders” re-cap, the last time Dean really “hung out” with Sam, Sam was 17 or 18. Still a kid, really. They weren’t going out to bars, playing wingman for each other. That would not be Sam’s style, although Dean would have loved it. So now, here they are, out in the world, in a bar, as men. But it’s claustrophobic. You can’t even hit on someone without getting the third degree. And if you WANTED to have sex with the bartender, you had better go to her place, because you basically live in the same room with your brother. It’s weird. It makes them weird. It’s an unnatural situation. The claustrophobia part of it is familiar to them, it’s how they grew up. But being grown-up men dealing with each others’ sex lives is actually new. It’s easy to forget that.
Digression Over


Dean is pissed as hell, and Sam is uneasy as hell. They are in different worlds. They aren’t even speaking to each other:

Dean: “Am I keeping you against your will, Sam?”
Sam: “Something strange is going on here.”
Dean: “Tell me about it. She wasn’t even that into me.”

Dean keeps bringing up sex, and Sam keeps trying to bring them back on track, and it doesn’t go over well, but Sam is very strong, as he always is when he gets certain about something. That spidey-sense is alarm-belling all over the place. But the conversation goes nowhere because Dean can’t stop sexualizing every comment.

Sam: “There’s something about this girl I can’t quite put my finger on.”
Dean: “I bet you’d like to.”

Like, that is the level of discourse.

It’s a funny moment when Dean throws Sam’s earlier comment back in Sam’s face: “Maybe you’re thinking a little too much with your upstairs brain, huh?” He sounds like a drunken uncle making a ribald speech at a wedding, horrifying everyone. Especially the “huh”. Dean is being totally obnoxious, but Sam is treating it in that interesting way he does throughout the episode. He’s finding it exasperating, but he’s finding it funny too. Being teased about sex is … I don’t know … maybe the most normal they’ve been as brothers up until this point. It’s almost fun. But Sam is a dog with a bone. He tells Dean to please go back to the hotel and see if there really is a Meg Masters from Andover, and also to do more research on the symbol. Dean rolls his eyes.

“And what are you gonna do?”
“I’m gonna watch Meg.”
And then we’re right back into the schtick: “Yeah, I bet you are!”

He starts off on his own, calling Sam a “pervert” over his shoulder, and Sam is left behind, still sort of laughing. The joking is already tiresome, but it’s a nice vibe between them. The edge is off.

4th scene
Back in the moodily lit motel room, or, more likely, a seedy SRO, Dean is busy with his assignments from Sam. He picks up the phone and calls Sam. Both sides of this conversation are gorgeously lit, like achingly gorgeous, and I’ll get into that when we get there. It’s Kim Manners at his moody romantic best. Dean starts right in: “Lemme guess. You are sitting outside that poor girl’s apartment.”

I love how Sam says, “No.” It’s so unconvincing. Then has to cave, “Yes.” Ha.


It’s a great conversation because both brothers are in charge, in their own ways. Sam is working a case, Dean’s teasing notwithstanding, and Dean is working his end of it, and having some fun at his brother’s expense. It’s not Dean’s fault Sam is such an easy target. Dean says that Yes, there is a Meg from Andover. And really, it’s not necessary to be such a creeper about your affections. He launches into slightly contemptuous big-brother advice: “Why don’t you go knock on her door and invite her to a … poetry reading … or whatever it is you do …”

Sam, surrounded by rain on the windshield, and blurry lights in the background, rolls his eyes, tolerating it, and asks about the symbol. Dean has some Intel, and reads from a book in a shot so beautiful it makes my eyes ache. Believe me, the Importance of Beauty Conversation is coming.


Dean figured out the symbol is is Zoroastrian, and it’s a sigil for something called a daeva. (I love sigils.) Dean is now in charge of the Lore, and you know how I love “the Lore” conversations, and how the brothers switch off handling them. Usually it’s Sam, but here it’s Dean. And this is a big-ass Lore monologue. Daevas are centuries older than Christ. No one has even seen one in over 2000 years. They’re bad bad news. “Animalistic, savage.”


I will now proceed to have nightmares.

Sam listens, impressed. “How’d you figure that out?”

Dean gets offended. He can do research too. Everyone under-estimates me. Ignores me. It is totally not fair, because I am a ROCK. STAR. I am the STAR of an AWESOME movie and I don’t know why other people don’t understand that.

Sam says “Name the last book you read.”

Dean is honestly stumped. The whole “Dean as reader” thing is given a curve-ball in a later episode when Dean reveals he’s enough of a Vonnegut fan to have read all of his books and know the difference between the different Vonneguts. But, in general, the jokes about reading are made at Dean’s expense. It’s actually a little annoying. If you are going to throw in a huge intriguing lead like that Vonnegut line, then you should at least follow up with it. It makes it look like a mistake, or like a one-off joke, and the show really isn’t like that. Things carry over from episode to episode. The inconsistency there is not as egregious as when a writer forgets that Dean has seen every movie ever made. That’s just lazy script-writing. But in this instance, no, Dean does not read for pleasure. He reads for information only. And then has to be totally honest, confessing, sort of laughing, “I called Dad’s friend Caleb. He told me.” Sam starts laughing. It’s very brotherly. There’s something a bit easier between them in this episode. Dean isn’t pumping himself up and hoping Sam buys his lies. And Sam is laughing at Dean’s persona, and Dean’s allowing it. They enjoy it. Air is let out of their dynamic, they have a bit of space to maneuver, relax with each other.

Just in time for Dad to show up.

Caleb told Dean that a Daeva has to be summoned, so someone is in control of it. Someone has called it to Chicago. Dean says, “These suckers tend to bite the hand that feeds them.” So the summoner is often on the chopping block as well. Dean goes on: “Summoning a demon that ancient? Someone really knows their stuff. I think we got a major player in town.”


The Importance of Beauty: A Digression
This whole scene is so romantically filmed: rain, blurry lights, gorgeous shadows on their faces. The camera is loving their faces. The whole point of the lighting, on both sides, is to highlight their beauty, and to make a point of it. Kripke was talking about the first episode he directed, and how he knew he wanted to re-create the “Kim Manners closeup”, it was very important to him to get it right. It’s a real signature look: foreheads cut off, bottom of the chin cut off, dramatic lighting, shadows, with the eyes somehow brought out, light able to play in their depths. The faces are under a microscope. Close-ups like these are psychological, yes, but they also serve as a way to give us time to revel in the beauty. Film-making isn’t really about that anymore. We prefer more grit, more reality now. But watch any classic film from the 1940s and you’ll see that each shot is set up for maximum gorgeousness. The plot isn’t sacrificed, the momentum isn’t sacrificed, but dammit, Joan Crawford is onscreen, and every single second of the film is devoted to her angular and striking beauty. It’s almost fetishistic, but it goes beyond that. It’s art. It’s Titian. Rembrandt. Drowning in beauty.

And that’s what Kim Manners brought to the show, setting the bar. Film these guys this way. They’re beautiful. Don’t shy away from it. Highlight it.

Like this.


Or this.


In Sunset Boulevard, aging silent film star Norma Desmond (played by actual aging silent film star Gloria Swanson) says about the old silent era: “We had faces then!”

Here’s Gloria Swanson in her heyday.


Superstar. Talk about a face.

We are in a more generic age now. We are in an age when all of the women have the same haircut, long straight hair with the little flip down the side, in imitation of, what, the Real Housewives? So what ends up happening is the bizarre situation that major movie stars all start to look alike, and Reese Witherspoon looks like Kate Hudson looks like Katherine Heigl. Make no mistake: the level of homogenization going on now amongst movie stars is a new phenomenon. Julianna Marguiles, on E.R., had gloriously gigantic hair, curly and massive, and a face full of freckles. Those days are no more. Her hair is straightened, the freckles have vanished. I am not saying anything disparaging about these women’s talent. They are all extremely talented. But the Lunatics are in charge of the Asylum currently. In what universe is homogenizing your looks the way to stand out? It’s like everyone is using the same stylist. (I understand the issues and the peer pressure, I honestly do. But that won’t stop me from posing the question.) The homogenization happens less with men, although it still operates, particularly when it comes to body type. But back in the day, you would never mistake Katharine Hepburn for Barbara Stanwyck for Bette Davis for Joan Crawford. These women were individuals. Each one had her own hairdresser and makeup guy who helped create her look, and most of them had lighting designers who followed them from picture to picture and knew how to light their slightly bizarre and individual faces. These women had LOOKS. Like I said, that’s not so much in now. We like our actors to be more chameleon-like now. You know, walk with a limp and win an Oscar. Some very good work has been done in that realm, but we have lost much in the transfer. There are still old-school stars circulating among us, and, no surprise, many of them are the most bankable stars of their generation. They look like THEMSELVES (knockouts, to be sure, but themselves), not like anybody else.

So let me suggest a small compare-and-contrast: Look at that photo of Gloria Swanson, taken in the 1920s. It looks entirely modern to me. Therefore, it is timeless. In the future, people will look back on the time we are living in now, and see the red carpet pictures of our biggest actresses, and the long straight hair with the little flip down the side that they ALL sport will completely date each actress to this very specific period in time. That look will not date well at ALL. It’s like long feathered hair on a guy. You know immediately what era they are from. But Crawford? Swanson? Hepburn? Timeless. It’s a great lesson.

The homogenization of female beauty that I have seen taken place in my lifetime has been radical. Now, women’s bodies are always up for grabs, to be commented on, dismissed, criticized. Don’t ever say the words “Real women have curves” to me and think I will take it for a compliment, stacked though I may be. Because what you are actually saying is that skinny women, or women who don’t have hips or have small breasts, are not “real” women. Real women come in all shapes and sizes. No one says that bullshit to me twice!

But I’m not talking about socio-political views of women’s bodies. I am talking about STARS. And when we talk about stars, we are talking about something different.There is a boundary between fetishization and reveling-in-beauty, but that boundary is blurred. The pleasure comes from the blurred boundary. You know, you see an actor/actress walk onto the screen, and suddenly you are overwhelmed with PantsFeelings at the beauty, and you get discombobbled, and you can’t wait to see that character again just so you can revel in the beauty again. Every shot of Cary Grant in Notorious is more beautiful than the last. You can’t get enough of it. And neither can Hitchcock. No other director got in this close to Grant. At least not in this way.


I’ve written about this before. Regular old civilians have a complicated reaction to beauty. They desire it, they envy it, they feel some hostility. Hitchcock knew that and so he loved to put Cary Grant in compromising positions, scrabbling through the dirt in his immaculate suit, clinging to Mount Rushmore, or … playing an ambiguous damaged dark character, so different from the charming screwball guy in other films. Hitchcock, not an attractive man, had a lot of envy towards Beautiful People, and he channeled that envy into his disturbing films. Janet Leigh is gorgeous and sexy and he revels in killing her in the shower in Psycho. There are many more examples.

One of the reasons I love Supernatural is its understanding of the importance of beauty, its return, again and again, to those Kim Manners closeups. In Season 1 they are still figuring out how to light each guy. They’re experimenting. Sometimes there’s too much makeup going on. Sometimes, in the broad natural light, they look like shit (as much as it is possible for them to do so). The actors have completely different complexions, and the entire team really worked to find the right look for each one. One size does not fit all. Season 2 is when the Beauty Factor really kicks in. They CLEARLY figured it out. They clearly had some meetings about it. The look is strikingly different between seasons.

It’s obviously not news that Jensen Ackles’ face is sprinkled with freckles.


It is one hell of a face.

And so I would suggest that while Norma Desmond was right, “we had faces” back then, we have faces now, too. The difference is that nobody knows how to light faces in the way that they used to. It’s just not the style anymore in film, so the skill set needed to light weird intense beauty like that freckled face up there has disappeared. It’s almost a lost art. But it still exists on Supernatural. It’s part of the point of the whole damn thing.

In Season 2, there are some episodes where his freckles are so noticeable he almost looks like Anne of Green Gables. It’s awesome because although he is beautiful, it’s a very unique look. Joan Crawford was beautiful, but you would never call her generic. Nobody else looked like her. The Supernatural team recognized that about Ackles, in particular, although they had their challenges with Padalecki as well, and figured out how to point up and underline and revel in that which makes him unique, as opposed to smoothing out his skin tone into something more homogenous. I get that “flaws” are difficult to work with, and people are afraid of flaws. Makeup people especially. “How should we handle the mole by her lip?” “What do we do with the weird little scar on her cheek?” “Should we cover up the freckles?” I’m freckled myself and sometimes I flat out hate them. Some actors have mixed feelings about their “flaws”, and it’s certainly not difficult to understand why, when the public can be such a vicious critic. You know, if an actor has crooked teeth, a space between teeth, moles, whatever … you can certainly be forgiven for wanting those flaws fixed. But how often is it that these flaws are THE THING that becomes the “signature look” for any given actor?

Phone call for Lauren Hutton. The pressure on her to close up that gap was enormous. She resisted. And she is still laughing all the way to the bank about it.

Ron Galella

Her look, and that “flaw”, was a mini-revolution. It happens when people decide to be themselves. I love Padma Lakshmi for always, ALWAYS, wearing sleeveless tops and spaghetti-strap gowns. Good for her. That kind of bravery with one’s owns flaws (i.e. individuality), is what we don’t get so much of now. When even Oscar-winning actresses look identical on the red carpet and you can’t tell them apart, you know you are in some strange Land where the Plot has been lost. Go back and watch Oscar telecasts from the 70s. You would never mistake Diane Keaton for Barbra Streisand. Honest to GOD, it drives me crazy. I applaud those who resist.

We don’t see the freckles much in Season 1. They’re still figuring him out, as a team, how to light him and highlight him. And, like I said, in many ways lighting design like this is almost a lost art. It’s extremely old-school what they are doing. There are a couple of closeups in Season 2 that are almost baroque in their beauty. Ackles is still doing his thing, obviously, as Dean Winchester, and acting the hell out of his part. He’s not stopping to pose, or to ham it up. The camera is doing 90% of that work for him. And the skin tone and complexion and shape of face couldn’t be more different than Padalecki, who is brown, almost swarthy, and his cheeks flush bright red (seemingly spontaneously). His eyes seem dark sometimes, but they aren’t, that’s just because of his big forehead casting shadows. When his eyes do catch the light, they blaze. You know. These guys are stunners. Part of the show is acknowledging that.

And the actors know, obviously, what they are bringing to the table. Robert Singer has said that both of them are superb technical actors, in terms of knowing camera angles, and understanding their OWN angles. It’s part of being a competent actor. Okay, if I give you my three-quarter profile, and look slightly down, the key light over there will pick up what it needs to pick up, and I will also be doing my deep brooding acting at the same time, but you can bet I won’t miss my mark and I will make sure I “find my light.” These guys can do that, automatically, AND they can repeat it from take to take. Singer has said it is frustrating to work with actors who can’t do such things, and who can’t repeat, because it makes it nearly impossible in the editing room to match takes. Padalecki and Ackles are masters, so that the takes always match up, and so it gives the director OPTIONS in the editing room, something all directors love.

The consciousness that has to be going on to work with your own looks in that way, and to understand the needs of the camera and the lighting guys, as well as the makeup, is similar to what was going on with the Grand Mistress of knowing how to do all that, Joan Crawford.

I mean, really.




As my friend Mitchell said when we discussed Joan Crawford: she basically invented modern film acting, and everyone around her – directors, lighting technicians, photographers – honed their skill set working with her. Everyone upped their game in order to present her properly. They discovered the heights of their own craft through learning how to light that extraordinary face.

This is important stuff. It’s about Art. And it has a lot to do with Supernatural‘s success, because there is a conscious effort behind all of the demon-hunting and Impala-driving and celestial-battling to revel in the Beauty of these two guys, the two guys on which the entire thing rests. To dismiss that element of it, or to scoff at it as just girlie-screaming-fodder, is to completely misunderstand the actual nature of Show Business. Who do you think keeps the whole thing afloat? Screaming girls. It’s been that way from the get-go. There is nobody as loyal as a 13-year-old fangirl. Win her heart then and she’ll be buying memorabilia forever. Look, I stand in line at Graceland, and see 80 year old women hanging around who probably saw Elvis live when they were 13. You know, the geriatric version of of this fabulous girl. The devotion!! You can make fun of that devotion if you want. But again, if you do: you are completely missing the entire point of what it means to be a Star, what it means in the emotional sense and also the financial/economic sense. Hell, if Ralph Macchio ever made a comeback for real, I’d be the first in line to buy tickets. Women are the most loyal and powerful demographic in terms of buying power. We stick around, man. Supernatural is very very smart: it counts on that. I think the show will have a very long shelf-life, even after it’s gone off the air. It won’t date as badly as some of the other shows currently running. It’s too classic old-Hollywood for that. That shit was built to last.
The Importance of Beauty Digression Over … For Now

Despite the scary-ass Daeva, Dean isn’t taking this whole thing seriously. Sam seems to think Meg is a “lead,” as in a LEAD lead. Dean persists in thinking Sam is just crushing on that little bitchy girl, so says, “Now why don’t you go give that girl a private strip-o-gram?”

Now that I’d like to see.

Sam, again, is almost lackadaisical and humorous in tolerating the teasing. He feels the friendliness behind it, and as long as Dean has done his homework, then fine, he’ll put up with it. But he hangs up on Dean abruptly when Dean tells him to “bite her … only not so you leave teeth marks … just enough so that –” Click. Dean, I think Sam knows not to leave teeth marks. Although considering what Sam is like in the sack when we finally get a glimpse of it … I don’t know. Maybe Sam DOES need that advice. It’s also classic Dean to loop in a violent image, a monster-type image, when talking about sex. I mean, Meredith was just torn to pieces by a wild animal, and here Dean is babbling about love-bites. Fine line. Walk that fine line!

Sam sits on his stakeout, staring up at Meg’s window. She appears, strolling around in her bra. Sam knows that what he is doing is pervy, even though he honestly doesn’t mean it that way. He wishes she had a top on, probably, so HE would be off the hook. He sort of glances up and down the street, nervously, and it is at that moment that a woman knocks on his car door, angrily. She glances pointedly up at Meg in her bra in the window, and then glares at Sam. Sam blusters, laughing, “No, no, I’m just …” and it’s hysterical, because would YOU believe him? I wouldn’t. She stalks away. Poor Sam. He’s getting it from all sides.

Meg emerges into the night and Sam gets out of the car to follow her. I know this isn’t actually filmed in Chicago, but the location was perfectly chosen. This looks like the North side of Chicago, or the West side, with the wide avenues and the industrial buildings, and the random neon.



He follows her through the graffiti wall into a warehouse space. The stairwells are locked. The shadows in the little foyer area are out of control, vertical bars of shadows projecting themselves onto Sam’s body. The whole thing looks like a jail. Instead of picking the lock, he finds an empty elevator shaft, heaving the iron grate open, and staring up into the shaft, towering above him.

It’s all very Angel Heart, if you recall the elevator-to-Hell motif of that film. Example from Angel Heart.


And now here is Sam, climbing up that elevator shaft.


The big opening scene between the brothers in the Pilot reminded me of Angel Heart, too.


Climbing up that shaft seems pretty high-maintenance to me. Also noisy. Way to totally announce your arrival. He comes to an open elevator door, with a grate halfway shut. There’s some sort of area over to the side with candles lit, and he peeks at it, trying to get a better look, when suddenly Meg strolls right past him. Calmly, quietly, she walks to the candle-lit table, and standing on the table is the big gleaming bowl, which we already saw in the stunner of a last scene in “Scarecrow” when she slashed that poor guy’s throat in order to make a phone call.

What she says on her end of the conversation is fascinating, especially if you try to forget you know what happens next. I was wondering: who is she talking to? The Devil? Who? “I don’t think you should come. — Because the brothers .. they’re in town – I didn’t know that —” She is obviously interrupted. I wonder how that sentence would have been finished. “Yes sir. Yes I’ll be here. Waiting for you.”


Sam’s position is very precarious. He could be discovered at any minute, and he is also hanging over a yawning Angel Heart abyss.

Once he’s sure Meg is gone, Sam struggles his way up into the room and makes his way over to the altar. The domed windows cast enormous shadows on the wall behind him. It’s an incredible-looking space. The altar is covered in candles, beads, and there is that symbol again, the Daeva symbol, painted on a mirror in what looks like blood. Sam is freeeeeeaked.

5th scene
Motel Room alert! It looks like they’ve booked a room in a grubby SRO, not a motel. There’s a kitchenette. There’s a main room. There are two rickety beds with white-painted bedsteads. The walls are gloomy dark green.



The shadows are always creeping up around the brothers.The windows have some kind of sheer curtains and the light outside gives them a pinkish glow. Then there are the small golden table lamps. But other than that, it’s darkness. The guys’ faces emerge into pools of light, which, if you think about it, reflects what’s going on psychologically and story-wise. This conversation could never occur in broad daylight walking down a street. It wouldn’t be right. The shadow world is where they operate, anyway. These are nocturnal guys. It’s late-noir lighting, Kiss Me Deadly type lighting, when the shadows threaten to overwhelm the entire screen like living entities.



Sam enters the room, urgently, and the brothers meet up in the middle of the room, saying in unison, “Dude, I gotta talk to you.”

Whatever has happened to Dean while Sam has been climbing up elevator shafts has changed his perspective. Also, kudos to the actors to making this semi-cheesy speaking-in-unison thing TOTALLY work.



Sam goes first. Dean asks, “Meg is summoning the Daeva?” And because he has a one-track mind, he shakes his head and says, teasingly, “Sammy’s got a thing for the bad girls.”

In later seasons, demons become so omnipresent that the boys throw holy water on one another after they go out for coffee, basically. You could totally be possessed while you’re taking a dump behind a closed door in the bathroom, so it’s best to be sure. EVERYONE is susceptible, and appearances are rarely what they seem. Even as they grow in knowledge about them, they are still fooled from time to time, At this point, though, demons are pretty rare in their world. The only ones they really know of is the “thing that killed Mom”, and probably the thing that killed Jess, and also the thing that was possessing all of those people in “Phantom Traveler”. The first time we meet Bobby (Jim Beaver) in the season finale, he mentions that in a regular year, there are usually around 4 demon possessions he’s heard of. But this year? There’s been 27. So something is escalating. All of this is to say that in later seasons they would have immediately suspected Meg as being a demon, and not just some girl who is into Zoroastrian mythology for whatever strange reason.

Sam tells Dean about the bowl: “She was communicating with someone. Someone’s giving her orders. Someone’s coming to that warehouse.” Dean is starting to look totally freaked out. This is getting above his pay grade. But now it’s his turn to share. He’s got a bad bad feeling based on what he has learned.

He says, “I pulled a favor with my … friend. Amy. Over at the police department.”

I’m sorry but I just love that while Sam has been buying coveralls with name tags and reading newspaper clippings and climbing up elevator shafts, Dean has been having this whole relationship going on. We never see her. We don’t need to. But he wormed his way in, she probably knew he needed information, but thought, Fuck it, tequila is fun, and so is Dean. But it’s this whole thing we never see, and for some reason it cracks me up. Dean doesn’t have boundaries, as I keep saying. It’s a liability, but sometimes it is an asset. He threw himself on Amy’s mercy, she responded, they rolled around together, and then he asked if she could do some digging for him for whatever bullshit reason he gave her, he would really appreciate it, and she said Sure. It’s this Dean plot-line happening that we never even freakin’ see and it’s very funny to me. He’s having this whole life going on outside the frame.

Amy gave Dean the complete records of the two victims, and Dean has pored through the files. “We missed something the first time,” he says to Sam. Both victims were born in Lawrence, Kansas.

Sam is so stunned he has to sit down.

“What’s the significance of Lawrence though and how do these Daeva things fit into it?” Sam asks. Dean’s like Hell if I know. Dean, Mr. Shoot First, wants to go destroy the altar, find Meg, “and have ourselves a friendly little interrogation.” Violent interrogation will become a huge part of their lives in future seasons. It’s almost like once they really enter into close quarters with demons, up close and personal, breathing them in, tying them up, torturing them … well, it changes both of them. It’s like the character of Dan (Jason Clarke) in Zero Dark Thirty. He’s a CIA interrogator. He spends his time in secret black-op sites, torturing people. Later in the film, he tells Maya (Jessica Chastain) that he’s getting out, going back to Washington. He says something like, “I’ve seen too many dicks.” He doesn’t go on and on about it, but the stink of those rooms, the stink of human fear and bodily functions and being in the presence of that kind of agony … has gotten to him. It’s inside him. While it’s always clear in Supernatural that the demons are not human beings, and are evil and manipulative monsters … you’re still gonna have feelings about stabbing someone in the chest, or leaving them tied up in their own drool. The agony the demons feel is real. You’d shove your feelings down when faced with it. You’d drink a lot to take the edge off. The Special Ops guy I knew (and still know) handled all of that by throwing himself passionately and obsessively into his various hobbies, which included aviation history, Maureen O’Hara (not only a great actress but the first female CEO of an airline), UFO lore, old movies, environmentalist causes (in particular the saving/helping of various endangered species in the marine world) and stories of espionage (he could be encyclopedic on Christopher Marlowe). He spent days and nights researching these things, traveling around the world tracking down leads. He would send me emails giving me updates on his various projects (all launched merely because of his own fascination), “Getting close to understanding what happened in that mysterious airplane crash in 1932 … it’s really exciting.” He was Special Ops, he has clearance. There’s a certain nerdy glory in all of it, especially because he had seen some horrible shit. Everyone has a different way to survive. But those feelings are real, and need to be … handled. We haven’t seen Sam and Dean in action as interrogators yet. But it’s nice to get a glimpse that Dean has been down that road with Dad, so has Sam, and that this is a part of how they operate. They’re scary fucking guys.

Sam, cooler-headed, says no, they shouldn’t tip her off. They need to do a stakeout at the warehouse and see what is coming to meet her.

Dean says, “I’ll tell you one thing. I don’t think we should do this alone.”

6th scene
Screw John Winchester’s re-appearance, THIS is the most important scene in the episode (if not in the entire season). If it had come earlier, it would have been too much. We needed to hang back, evaluate Dean through his own obfuscations and blustering, we had to be given space to make up our own mind, before we see what goes on here.

I don’t think my first reaction to the scene was quite as powerful as it was once I had seen the whole series. I mean, I knew it was a great scene, but boy it takes on a whole other level when you know where they are going to go in their lives, in their relationships. Everything that needs to be said is said here.


Dean sits on the bed, leaving a message for Dad, telling him he and Sam may have a lead on what killed Mom. Once Dean finishes imparting the information, his energy drops, the vulnerability comes pouring in, and he says, “Dad, if you get this … get to Chicago as fast as you can.” Behind him, Sam enters, coming through bands of shadows, a shadow himself, a black silhouette. He slings the heavy duffel bag down on the bed, startling Dean, who has quietly hung up. Sam has loaded up the bag with every weapon in the trunk. Who knows what they might need tonight.

And you know I’m happy because we get a couple of shots of Sam and Dean loading up their guns. The mood is grim, businesslike, focused. Nobody speaks.



Kripke wrote the hell out of this scene. Supernatural is his baby, his idea. Once he clicked into the brothers-road-trip idea, everything fell into place for him. That would be the hook. That would be the emotional thru-line. We’ve seen that relationship operate in many different ways. It is rarely static. Sometimes Dean rises, sometimes Sam does. Sometimes they battle for dominance. Sometimes they both surrender. They don’t know how to talk to each other about the past, but the situation is starting to force them to have to figure it out. But they’ve never talked like this. Kripke sort of chips away at the mystique, and brings up all of the unspoken hard-to-talk-about issues that make Sam and Dean act the way they do. Here it all is. It’s beautifully structured, almost scary in how it unfolds (the brothers are in dangerous territory without planning for it, or being prepared). The issues that rise up are so huge it threatens to overwhelm them both. Neither of them have spoken to one another in this manner.

As they load up their guns, the perspective is set up: Sam is filmed head-on, and Dean is filmed from below. They start to talk, but that skewed-unbalanced perspective persists.

So we get Sam saying something, seen from this angle.


Dean responding, shot from this angle.


This is totally artsy film-making. Dramatic and flashy. Eye-grabbing. Sam and Dean are having a conversation, and normally that would be filmed in a closeup-to-closeup kind of way, suggesting a conversation occurring on a level playing field, two participants. Here, everything’s messed up. They aren’t in the same head-space at all and that’s reflected in how each guy is framed. Sam is straight-up excited and anticipatory about all of it being maybe almost over, and Dean is … about to spin off into space.

They have a little “Are you nervous” exchange. Sam can’t help but take a moment to wonder about what it will be like when all of this is over. This is heading into dangerous waters for Dean, and maybe Sam senses that, but he certainly doesn’t know the extent of it. The closest they came was in the car ride after leaving Cassie, and Sam wonders if meeting a girl like that makes you question putting stuff like having a family/wife on hold. Dean grins, puts on his sunglasses, and lies back to take a nap. So that didn’t really go very far. Does Sam wonder: “What is it like to BE Dean?” Siblings rarely do that with one another. Hell, people rarely do that with one another. I’m talking about something even deeper than empathy, about truly trying to see the world through the eyes/experience of another person. And Dean doesn’t walk around like an open book. He’s as open as he wants to be, he needs to feel he has control over what he lets people see. Here, Sam casually explodes a land-mine under Dean’s feet and doesn’t even realize he’s done it until the crisis starts to unfold, and he stares at his brother, wonderingly, curiously. It’s not a fight. It’s a scene of realization for Sam. As it unfolds, Dean shatters. There’s no other word for it. And Sam has no context for understanding his brother in this way, but that’s why I say what I see on Sam’s face is not annoyance, but realization. It’s quite moving. Dean is like a kid who grew up in a Romanian orphanage or a Sudanese refugee camp. Or a soldier who spent 7 years in a POW camp enduring deprivation and torture. He operates from a place of scarcity, a place where there will never ever ever be enough. Now he’s a man. Without Sam, without hunting, he has nothing.



It will be a theme. Jeremy Renner in Hurt Locker, home from Iraq, sent to the grocery store by his wife to get some cereal. In Iraq, he defuses IEDs under life-or-death stressful situations, and he is a total motherfucking rock star in combat. But looking up and down the aisles, he cannot decide. He is overwhelmed, totally. Soldiers deal with this disconnect all the time. Civilian life is disorienting in the extreme. The abundance alone is disorienting. You’d think it’d be a relief to get back to safety and plenty. The opposite is more often the case.

Maybe because the vibe between the two brothers has been so relaxed during this episode (all the teasing) Sam feels comfortable enough with Dean to say, “Man, I’d sleep for a month. Go back to school. Be a person again.”

Imagine what those words sound like to Dean. “What. You’re not a PERSON now? When you’re with me? Are you saying I’m not a PERSON?” Of course that is not what Sam is saying at all. Dean is an unreliable narrator. Not his FAULT, but it’s true. We are all, in our own ways, unreliable narrators. Especially when feelings get hot and personal. I got an email this week about a project I was hired to do, and the email stressed me out so much that it took me a full 24 hours to realize that the entire thing led off with a gigantic compliment of my work. Like, words to put up on a bulletin board, a compliment to remember. But it took me time to be able to even perceive that. If you had asked me what that email was about before I re-read it and got a better perspective, I would have said, “I am clearly a disappointment.” That is not what the email said at ALL. Now maybe some of you out there are healthier than I am, and healthier in how you respond to what comes at you. But I do battle all the time with how I interpret stuff. I ALWAYS go to the negative first. And so I totally missed that the entire email was basically saying, “You are great. Here are some next steps.” It’s super-tiresome, I won’t lie. I fully own that I am, at times, an unreliable narrator. So I don’t feel the need to “protect” Dean or make excuses for him. That’s just not an interesting way to respond to stories, in my experience. I like to examine motivation and behavior, see what it might reveal. Feeling “protective” of characters is fine but not if you miss the subtleties of storytelling going on and elements of character development. The show is about complexity, it’s about the grey areas. Sam is more complete, Sam is somehow whole. (When he stops being “whole,” the whole show tips off its axis. Sam is the key to so much, when you really think about it. It is HIS involvement that keeps the ship afloat. Dean thinks that HE is the one keeping it all together, but he’s not. Everything disintegrates if Sam changes.)

And so what happens here for Dean is total regression. We haven’t seen anything like this since the pilot, and we haven’t seen it stated so vulnerably or baldly. Dean was pissed and cocky in the pilot. He’s not pissed and cocky now. (We can imagine that the experience with “The Benders”, and with opening up to Officer Kathleen, has brought the truth of his life and situation to the forefront for him. And now here is Sam saying he can’t wait to go back to SCHOOL?? But if Dean’s job is to protect Sam … then where will that leave him?)

Dean’s behavior is suddenly closed and unwelcoming, sensing the threat, sensing the land-mine, and Sam picks up on it. Sam tries to be encouraging, tries to involve Dean in looking towards the future.

“What are you gonna do when it’s all over?”
“It’s never gonna BE over. There’s gonna be others. There’s always gonna be something to hunt.”
“But there’s gotta be something that you want for yourself.”

It’s beautiful. It’s caring. Wouldn’t it be great if Dean had some Plan B that he could invest in? There’s the scene in “Wishing Well” (Season 4), when Dean asks Sam what he would wish for if he threw a penny into the well. Wife, kids, picket fence? And Sam shakes his head, no, he’s past all that now. He thought he wanted it once, but not anymore. I thought of that later scene when I just re-watched “Shadow”. Like I’ve said elsewhere, in many ways Sam’s transformation is even more radical than Dean’s, and it’s in moments like that when you realize how this life has altered him.

But in Season 1, he’s still close enough to his old life to look forward to getting back to it.

Dean explodes, but with vulnerability and fear; it sounds like anger, but it’s not: “I don’t want you to leave the second this whole thing is over!” It’s so vulnerable it shocks Sam, it’s so vulnerable that Dean walks away, basically to get away from the space of floor where those words came out of his mouth. But the conversation is going to happen now, Dean is losing it, and it’s coming now, his truth, the truth that exists on an even deeper level than what he shared with Officer Kathleen.

I’ve talked about the concept of spines before, most in-depth here. It’s a familiar concept to theatre people, in terms of script analysis, and Elia Kazan worked with it extensively as a director. Spines exist on multiple levels, multiple dimensions in any given work. The series as a whole has a spine. Each season has a spine. And then within that, each episode has a spine. (This spine is reflected in everything: the performances, the production design, the music: the entire team has to be on the same page.) If you want to drill down further, each SCENE has a spine. The spine should be simple enough to be stated in a sentence. You don’t need a thesis paper to express it. Each character has a spine. The spine could be described as “what does this person want.” And whatever it is, it will be simple. “I want to find love.” “I want to get back home.” And so in a long-running series like Supernatural, the spines of the characters work themselves out and show themselves in a million different ways. But, and this is key with spines, they are rarely spoken out loud. They are felt through the BEHAVIOR of the characters. At least that’s the case with good scriptwriting. Here, in this scene, Dean actually expresses his “spine”. The spine is always emotional, rather than practical. For example: “finding the thing that killed Mom” is an action; it’s important, but it’s not a spine. But “I want to get my family together again” … THAT is a spine. That is the emotional space from which he operates, from which everything else follows. Saying your spine out loud is an incredibly vulnerable thing to do.

I love Sam’s line, as he stares at his brother, who has moved away from him: “Dude. What’s your problem?”

Not “What’s wrong”, not “stop trying to control me” – but “what’s your problem?” And he doesn’t say it angrily. He’s curious, he’s stunned. Kripke knows what the hell he is doing with dialogue like that. Dean turns his back on Sam, putting his hands out on the dresser, and actually collapsing his head down onto his chest. It’s lonely and pained. Sam doesn’t know what to do.


The moment has exploded around them, no time to prepare for it or gear up. So Sam just waits, waits to hear what Dean will say next. So obviously what goes down next is very important. Dean is vulnerable to the point where we can actually see him as a sheer fantasist, completely out of touch with reality. But that’s what hope often feels like. That’s why people who have been bruised and battered and disappointed feel suspicious about hope. I am one of those people. Don’t talk to me about the light at the end of the tunnel. Fuck you AND your tunnel. The comment from Meg comes back, the one about Dean treating Sam like “luggage”, but now Dean is hurt and scared instead of pissed. He actually looks like he’s about to break down. “Why do you think I drag you everywhere?” Sam, both gentle and confused, says, “To find Dad …” blah blah, and Dean explodes AGAIN, “No, it’s MORE than that, man!!” and his whole body winces away from the moment, turning away, back to the dresser, where he can hold on and try to stop himself from flying out into outer space.

Ackles’ work is heartbreaking here. Dean seems very young, and not all that developed. Primal. A kitten who was weaned too soon. That’s the level of regression we see going on in his face and his wincing shoulders and his dropped head. These actors are so great together. Padalecki never takes his eyes off his scene partner. Dean, naturally, would rather not have this conversation at all, but he rises to the occasion, and says, “I want us to be a family again.”

Consider what he might actually be referring to. Childhood. Mom alive. Sam a tiny baby. Or him, Dad and Sam, in the years following. The Winchester Men against the world. He says “again”, he wants them to be a family “again”. But what exactly is he talking about? Remember: not all questions are meant to have answers. Drama comes from that which remains unresolved.

Dean is in his mid-20s. Comfort was ripped away from him too soon. He wants to keep Sam with him forever. And if they can find Dad, then maybe they can all be together again. touching in their level of fantasy. The words show, actually, just how bad things are for this young guy.


They’ve never had this conversation before. And when they would touch on it, it would be an argument, Dean calling Sam selfish, Sam telling Dean to back off, same ol’ same ol’. But the need, the sadness, the loneliness in Dean’s eyes … it’s actually almost alarming to Sam, to know you are needed THAT much. It’s a pretty unstable house of cards.

Sam is very very gentle in his responses to Dean. He says, “Dean. We ARE a family.” Watch Ackles’ wordless response. It’s eloquent, and I don’t want to put words on it. It says it all. Sam sees the response, understands it, and keeps talking. Dean has a fantasy of family. It’s not reality. He has a nostalgia for something that never existed. (I am paraphrasing that line from Nancy Lemann’s novel Fiery Pantheon, which I went into quite a bit in the re-cap for “Bloody Mary”. The lead character, a Southern belle who tries to downplay her beauty but fails, reminds me of Dean Winchester, especially in her compulsive batting-eyelashes behavior. In regards to this same character, Nancy Lemann writes -and it’s my favorite line in the novel: “She had a nostalgia for a life she had never lived.” )

So, too, does Dean. Childhood was brief. There was no extended period where the family was together, sharing dinner, going on family trips, hanging out, playing board games. That doesn’t exist. But what they DID have is all he’s got, and he wants to get back to it. Why can’t he get back to it? It’s the “happily ever after” thing that he believes in, not for himself, but for others. For him “happily ever after” is in the past, for others it’s in the future. It’s also the “are we okay? we good?” thing that he does that I’ve gone into before. He wants peace, calm, safety, and stasis. He acts like they once had it. They really didn’t, not in a meaningful way. But Sam’s right: they already ARE a family.

One of my acting teachers in college used to say to us when we were bitching about whatever show we were doing, and how the cast was all wrong, or we didn’t like the set, or whatever: “It may not be the show you want, but it’s the show you got.” He wanted us to give up our dream of what it SHOULD be, and deal with the reality of what it WAS. It’s the same thing with family, and Sam has accepted that more than Dean has. Dean, Lisa and Ben were a family, and Ben’s final scene with Dean nails the issue home: “You realize you’re walking out on your family,” It’s devastating. And it’s true.

But for Dean there is only one possible family. There are no substitutes.

When Sam starts speaking the truth, look out. Because he goes all the way.


He leaves Dean no wiggle-room. Dean is looking at him in a way that can only be described as fragile. Sam realizes he has to be very very clear with Dean right now, because Dean is so open he actually might be able to HEAR him. Sam is clear and blunt in his language, but his tone is gentle: “Things will never be the way they were before.” Maybe Sam didn’t realize how much that hurts Dean. I don’t think Sam understood the full extent of it at all, but now he does.

All Dean can get out is a weak, almost questioning, “Could be…?”

So now we know. Now we know where Dean is coming from and what Dean REALLY wants. And what he wants is neither possible nor healthy. Sam has to address that. He has to do it now. It takes a lot of strength for Sam to say what he says next, he has to really make the decision to go there: “I don’t want them to be.”

I’m proud of Sam for that. Couldn’t have been easy. Even if we COULD go back, I don’t want to.

Communication is not necessarily agreement. What they are doing here is true communication.

Dean can’t speak anymore. He is clearly picturing that the second they kill the Demon, Sam will take off to the bus station saying, “‘Kay man, smell ya later!” Sam sees where Dean is at, and knows that trouble will eventually come out of it. So he says, and it’s gentle, but it’s also a warning, “When this is all over, you’re gonna have to let me go my own way.”

Hell of a scene. I had forgotten its power until I went back and re-watched it. It has an even more explosive quality considering what’s going on right now in Supernatural.

7th scene
Meg stands by her creepy altar, as the Winchester brothers haul themselves up the elevator shaft, with a duffel bag full of clanking guns and swords, and we’re supposed to believe that nobody hears them coming. She is intoning in Latin over her damn bloody bowl, and they crawl out of the shaft, guns drawn, hustling to the back of the space where they hide in the shadows.

I love the random mannequin.


It reminds me of Blade Runner.


She addresses them directly, without turning around, startling them. No way you can climb up 5 stories loaded down with swords and shot-guns and not be heard. I mean, come on. I know, I know, she knew they were coming anyway.

I love how she is filmed, with the dark windows behind her, the building across the way, the darkness: depth of frame, baby, that’s what we want. It helps spaces feel alive.


It’s a standoff. Super hot.


Meg is arrogant, still, and coiled. She says the shotgun won’t do much good against the Daeva, and Dean says, “Don’t worry, sweetheart. The shotgun’s not for the demon.” To completely beat a dead horse, once he’s in a violent situation … it becomes sexual for him. He is not in control of that, it is an automatic knee-jerk response. He doesn’t know Meg is possessed. He’s looking at a petite blonde woman, and he hates her, and he’s afraid of her, and he hates being under her control. Under anyone’s control. Violence is a sexualized experience for him. It comes out in the language he uses, his body language, his entire energy, a potent dangerous mix of “come and get me” and “you know you want me, so take your best shot,” and “fuck you fuck you fuck you.”


Sam’s not like that at all in the same situation. Sam is cold as a steel trap. And in a way, this is worse for him, because he knew Meg. He had befriended her. He had let her in a little bit. But his experience of being afraid/dominated does not come out in sexual ways. It’s kind of a fascinating side-by-side glimpse, this scene, in how the brothers react to threats.


Meg is going to try to get under their skin and it’s gonna get gross. No surprise. But this isn’t torching a faceless Wendigo. This is new, it’s personal. And she’s human (or as far as the brothers know, she is). Dean calls her “sweetheart” to deal with the anxiety of the situation, of not knowing what he is dealing with. Let me cut her down to size. Sam calls Meg “Meg”, and asks her, from behind his shotgun: “Who’s coming? Who are you waiting for?”

As I said earlier, ever since “Scarecrow,” the brothers have seemed extremely vulnerable because we know more about the situation than they do. So it’s not a surprise to us when Meg says, “You” but it sure is chilling to the brothers.They knew they were getting close to something. Sam knew it was a lead. But to hear it point-blank … What the hell is going ON here?

Then we see the Daeva coming, launching itself down through the air, casting shadows on the walls. The attack again, a la Cat People, a la Meredith, happens in the shadows reflected on the wall, the Daeva attacking first Sam, then Dean, clawing them up and throwing them across the room.



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One of those “we have been knocked out cold and when we wake up our hands are bound” Supernatural scenes.

Sam and Dean come to, tied up against pillars, with bloody scratches across their faces. Honestly, the wounds they all receive in this episode alone should leave scars for life. Meg stands at a distance, smiling at Sam, the same intimate and yet coy “I’ve got a secret” and “I know you better than you know yourself” smile she’s used with him from the beginning.

Dean goes to the sex, immediately, we shouldn’t be surprised: “Sam, don’t take this the wrong way, but your girlfriend? She’s a bitch.” He’s feeling exposed. He needs to call her names. Women don’t like being called “bitch”. Maybe it will hurt her feelings. Or, at least, HE’LL feel a little bit more in control. Sam is realizing the level of the trap: meeting her in Indiana, meeting her again in Chicago, the two people killed, the Lawrence Kansas connection … She has just played him like a violin.

Dean wisecracks: “You trapped us. Good for you. It’s Miller Time.”

Han Solo, I’ve missed your musk.

Meg almost laughs in Sam’s face, at his sheer egotism. “This trap isn’t for you.” Sam gets it before Dean does. Dad. It’s all about Dad. It was always all about Dad.

Dean calls her “sweetheart” again and says in the most condescending mansplaining way possible: “Dad would never walk into something like this, he’s too good.” She says, “He is pretty good.” Her words suggests a history.

What the hell, Dad. Couldn’t you have clued your sons in just a little bit so they wouldn’t just walk right into this thing? Honest to GOD, John Winchester.

And the way she is filmed is absolutely gorgeous. The bands of shadow cross her body, blacking out her face.


She strolls over to Dean, towering over him, and clearly kicks his legs apart, which is alarming, suggestive, leaving him exposed and open as she squats down between his legs. Dean is recoiling at the closeness. Way too close. Dean hates being touched except for, you know, people like Amy who want to be with him where he feels safe – but any other touch … always seems to come as a surprise. Once he’s in a fight, he goes balls to the wall in defending himself, but other touches? It’s hard for him. Dean’s the one who makes “bad touch” jokes (“nobody bad-touched me there, I consider it a win”). Sam never says those words, but Dean says them a couple of times. Infer from that what you will. It’s clearly suggestive. Having no boundaries is a precarious situation and being touched is a huge deal to Dean, he is always on high-alert.

Dean’s face, as he’s dealing with this, with her leaning into him, with the sexualized connotation of her body language, is interesting: he’s falling back on cocky, over-it – which is understandable, but the shit she’s saying keeps getting through. She says yes, Dad is good, but Dad is vulnerable when it comes to his sons. Dean may have considered this before, but hearing it from her lips drives the danger home. It is that comment that will propel his actions in the final scene of the episode.

Also, Meg seems to know EVERYTHING. Who IS this chick in yellow leather from Andover? She knows John IS in town, and you can see both Dean and Sam hear that, realize it. Dad as mythical creature, Dad as the ultimate “shadow”, Dad as a being with no substance but who looms large on the walls of their psyches. The shadow is as real as the thing that casts the shadow. Realler.

Sam intervenes, maybe he senses Dean swirling around in his own psychodrama, and calls over, “Why are you doing this, Meg?”

She says it’s the same thing that motivates them, love and loyalty. She then crawls over to Sam, with an exhale, almost a grunt, that would be sexy if it wasn’t nasty. She then proceeds to sexually assault Sam, a la the Woman in White in the Pilot.

She’s the sexual aggressor, turning a violent attack into a form of sexual harassment. Sam is her target. And Dean is forced to look on. He watches her sucking on Sam’s neck and groans, “Get a room, you two.” It’s sick (your brother is currently being assaulted) but also funny (due to the inappropriate factor). Meg is kissing Sam’s neck and breathing in his face, and Dean takes the opportunity to click open a blade hidden in his sleeve. She hears the click, takes the blade from Dean and then goes right back to Sam.


Sam, who is awesome, has cut his own hands free in the meantime, and ferociously head-butts her, knocking her backwards, hurting himself in the process. It’s so damn badass. Sam, ropes dangling from his wrists, wincing with pain, staggers over to the altar and tips it over.

And then we see the Daeva coming again. Flying shadows on the wall. As we have learned, from good old Caleb (who, unfortunately, is killed by Meg later in the season), the Daeva bites the hand that feeds it. In this case, it pounces on Meg and drags her backwards, screaming across the floor, until she plunges out of the window, 7 stories up.

Sam and Dean, torn up, run to the window and look down at Meg’s body, sprawled on the sidewalk below.


A lot of shit has gone down. There’s a lot to talk about. Dad is in town, apparently. Meg knows about Dad. Meg set a trap for Dad. But what does Dean choose to say in that moment? “Sammy, next time you want to get laid, find a girl that’s not so buckets of crazy.”

You’re just pissed she never gave you a double-take and you know it.

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Dean and Sam, with these freakin’ wolf scratches on their head, walk down the hall to their motel room door. I swear, there are Venetian blinds where there aren’t even windows to cast shadows like this. You go, lighting team, with your awesome selves.


Also, I love the small practical matter they have to handle here: They are about to enter the room and a fight is about to go down. Of course Sam and Dean don’t know that. In order for the upcoming fight scene to work, Sam has to have his duffel bag of weapons with him. But why would he bring it inside? You know that some nerd would ask that question. So they kill off the question with easy dispatch in two lines of dialogue:

Dean: “Why didn’t you leave that stuff in the car?”
Sam: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Better safe than sorry.”

Issue handled.

They come into their dark room and they both see a dark figure standing with his back to them against the window. Just like Mary Winchester saw through the door of the nursery. It’s practically an identical image.


Dean calls out, “HEY” and Sam struggles to turn on a light, and slowly the figure moves from out of the shadow at the window, into an even deeper shadow, where he disappears completely, before emerging into a beam of light, and he’s smiling, and very full emotionally (one of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s signatures as an actor), and it’s John Winchester. Everyone just stands there staring at each other for a while. It feels like it goes on forever. Dad is smiling, with tears in his eyes. Part of what is so good about this performance is Morgan’s inherent sympathetic quality. His power of emotion and connectedness. He demands that you feel with him, you see his emotions. Dad could have been a cartoon villain. Clearly evil. But that’s not human. That’s not complex. We barely know John Winchester at this point. We’ve seen him through Dean’s eyes, Sam’s eyes, and, peripherally, through Missouri’s eyes. We’ve never seen them all together.

I will never forget my experience watching this scene for the first time. I stared at the screen greedily, trying to download every glance, every pause, into my brain.

Dean and Dad move across the room to each other, and hug, Dean’s hands clutching Dad’s back like he’s a little kid.



It’s so vulnerable you almost want to look away.

Sam looks on with a ton of things going on on his face. It’s a moment that is not “one thing”. He’s emotional. He’s scared. He doesn’t think he would ever feel free to hug Dad like that. That makes him sad. He’s getting on a deeper level how much Dean needs him, how much Dean needs Dad. It’s all there. But maybe he feels left out too.

The hug breaks apart, and Sam moves forward to join the group, Dad still holding onto Dean, and Dean, who looks like he’s just been blasted apart into a million pieces, throws a glance over at Sam. One of those rare “help, are you here with me, what do I do” looks. That look only comes when family is involved.

Sam and Dad don’t hug. I love that they don’t hug right away. Supernatural doesn’t provide easy catharsis, and doesn’t think it should feel any obligation to provide an easy catharsis. It refuses to grant audiences what they want. Good. Keep ’em hanging. Keep ’em guessing. Keep the tension unresolved. That’s how you make it to 10 seasons. The conflict is vibrating between Sam and Dad, and that makes them hesitate towards one another. Also consider what John now knows about Sam. Maybe something in him re-coils from his own son. Maybe something in him hesitates to embrace this strange son, who was the (unwitting) cause of so much. This is one of those scenes that looks almost ENTIRELY different once you’ve seen more of the series.

Listen to Dean’s voice when he is in Dad’s presence. It is submissive. And even worse, eagerly submissive. Racing to put his head on the chopping block. “Dad, it was a trap. I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

It’s painful to see Dean submissive like that. And it’s so automatic.

Dean glances over at Sam. And suddenly … it’s subtle … but they can’t really look at each other anymore. Just quick shared glances, then looking away. Dad completely changes their dynamic. Inhibits their intimacy, inhibits their senses of self. If they look at each other, maybe they’d remember who they are, who they have become to one another, but Dad’s standing right there, so it’s probably best to just not look at each other anymore. It’s awful.

Dad says he got there just in time to see “the girl take the swan-dive.” He adds, “She was the bad guy, right?”

Sam and Dean say flatly, in unison, “Yes, sir.”


I won’t forget my reaction to that moment the first time I saw it. I felt totally excited is what I felt, the way I do when I know I am in the presence of a kickass STORY. I felt the show’s interest in the complexity of this familial relationship, and the brothers with Dad, with each other, with him personally … and it was such an excellent choice, to show them slip back into military mode with him, droning a monotone “Yes sir” and I immediately missed THEM, the guys I had come to know, Sam’s certainty and strength and Dean’s fire and humor … it vanishes in a flash. When I saw that, I got thrilled. These writers/actors know how to develop character.

Dad elaborates a little bit: He thinks he found a way to kill the Demon, not just exorcise it or send it back to Hell, but kill it outright. (Of course he’s talking about the Colt, perhaps one of the longest-running MacGuffins in television history. No, not “perhaps”. Definitely the longest.) Kripke has said he is aware that some fans hate the Colt, but he doesn’t care, he loves it. I’m with Kripke. I fucking LOVE the Colt. Talk about your Gun Porn. I LOVE its mythical status, I love the limited number of bullets, I love how obsessed Sam and Dean are with it and how their whole faces change when it re-enters the story … they get all hushed and whispery: “the Colt??” It’s as though Ava Gardner has just walked into the room.


Something like that has an effect on your molecules. It makes you awe-struck. It makes you whisper in its presence. I love Sam and Dean’s Colt behavior. They are unabashed members of the Cult of the Colt. And it’s a MacGuffin. It does serve a purpose, and it does what it is supposed to do, but its real purpose is just to exist as a plot device in order to drive the story along, to embody the search, give the search some focus. It’s blatant. It’s the “uranium ore” in Notorious.

The actual Colt isn’t going to be mentioned for a couple of episodes. But you can see Sam and Dean’s faces go all wondering and curious. What the hell could Dad possibly be talking about?


Dean asks, “How?”, and Dad gives him a confidential grin and says, “I’m working on it.”

Please watch Dean’s half-smile in response. I find it tragic. His father is acting quite intimately towards him, inclusive, huggy, emotional. John’s comment is a small Tough Guy joke, “I’m working on it”, something Dean would say, something Dean has said. But Dean’s reaction is stilted. He’s not comfortable. He’s also flustered, in almost a teenage-girl way, at the attention from his dad. There’s an almost shy “oh shucks” thing happening. And it’s vulnerable, he doesn’t want Sam to see him like that, he can’t look up at Sam. Whatever it is, he can’t be himself, he can’t be free, he is also not aware of the extent of the problem. Having Dad grin at him like that gives him a huge warm fuzzy that explodes through his solar plexus. That’s why I say it is tragic. The subtlety and complexity of a reaction shot like that, lasting half a second, is all on Ackles to create, think up, execute. Nobody is going to say to him, “Be awkward with your Dad, get flustered and flattered when he includes you.” No one would NEED to say that to him. He already knows. He has made some serious choices about how Dean feels about family, and about what happened with Dad (stuff he the actor has made up since he wouldn’t have the scripts for all the seasons yet, of course), and so a moment like that, a faux-little-half-executed smile, trying to respond to the buddy-buddy thing his Dad just threw his way, being flattered and flustered … that’s on the intuition of the actor to bring out. I just want to point this out because directors get way too much credit for shit like that. I’m not saying Kim Manners isn’t running the show, but you can also bet that Kim Manners felt BLESSED to have such an actor in front of him, where all you have to do is point the camera at him, and you get THAT.

Sam says to Dad, urgently, “Let us come with you. We’ll help.” and Dean glances up at Sam, alarmed. You don’t take initiative with Dad. You just follow orders. Even though Sam is intense and ready for the fight, taking initiative like that is against the rules. Dean would never rush forward with a comment like that, a comment that isn’t a question or a submissive apology but a statement of intention. No way. It’s horrible, because when Dad isn’t around, Dean is awesome at making decisions and leading the way and focusing the energy. Yes, he’s obnoxious, but he doesn’t lack confidence in his abilities, in his assertiveness.

Dad, too, seems to take in Sam’s comment. He’s not used to initiative around him. He tells you how it’s gonna go and you do it. There are all kinds of complex things going on there in his feelings about Sam anyway. His desire to keep Sam (in particular) as far away from this fight as possible … He says no to Sam, the time isn’t right yet. “I don’t want you caught in the crossfire. I don’t want you hurt.”

Sam’s already IN the crossfire. His fucking girlfriend is dead. Half of his face is currently clawed off. He’s alREADY hurt. Besides, Sam wants and needs to help: “You don’t have to worry about us …” and John says, and it’s heartbreaking how he says the line, “Of course I do. I’m your father.” Jeffrey Dean Morgan, man. Hats off.

This moment is enough for Dean. It’s like a warm embrace, a sentiment like that, and he looks over at Sam, his face going into shadow. It’s horrible to see Dean so lost. It’s also great. Character development. Each episode a crucial piece of the puzzle. Or, better image, another layer peeled away.


Sam is in tears. John’s comment brings that old conflict between them roaring back and John decides to address it. I love how this next bit is written:

“Listen Sammy, last time we were together we had one hell of a fight.”
“Yes, sir.”
“It’s good to see you again. It’s been a long time.”
“Too long.”

It’s so UNDER-written, the best thing about it. Too often writers over-write. I did it myself in the first draft of my script. And then came a huge paring-down process where you cut stuff that is TOO clear. Because people, in general, do not speak clearly. They don’t always say what they mean. Or they try, but they skirt around the hard stuff. That small exchange is a great example. You think, at first glance, that it is a cathartic moment, that they are “clearing the air”. But that’s not the case at all. There’s no apology. There’s no explanation. It’s fascinating. Also fascinating is how Sam doesn’t completely disintegrate into an entirely different personality when he’s in the presence of Dad, like Dean does. If anything, as we will see in later episodes, he becomes even MORE his true independent self.


And so that small conversation reverberates with what ISN’T being said and that is my favorite kind of acting (and scriptwriting).

They hug finally and Dean looks on and doesn’t know what to do. I mean, this is what he wanted. He wants it so bad. But now that it has actually come, it doesn’t look or feel the way he thought it would. Whatever Dean wants; it will never. ever. be enough. Or: it may not be the family you WANT, Dean, but it’s the family you GOT.


The small tearful tete a tete hovers in the air, and then suddenly, the Return of the Daevas! The shadows are back!!


Outside the SRO, dead Meg emerges from the swirling red and black shadows, holding her necklace, staring up at the lit windows in the building beyond.

And once again: Sam and Dean are left out of this secret, just like they were in “Scarecrow”. We know more than they do. They drive off at the end of this episode, assuming Meg is dead, and it makes them seem more vulnerable than they already are.


Blank face alert.


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Meanwhile, back in the Shadow Land.



Dean is curled up on the floor, being attacked by something invisible. This is an example of what I call the “Bang Bang You’re Dead” School of Acting (I wrote about it here). Bang Bang You’re Dead is what children shout at one another as they play cops and robbers. And watch a 7 year old’s totally committed swan dive when someone shouts “Bang Bang You’re Dead.” That little boy freakin’ DIES with all his heart and soul! Much of acting is remembering how to do that, the thing you did so naturally when you were a kid, which is, basically, play make-believe. So here we have grown-up men pretending 100% to be attacked by claw-baring shadows and we believe it.

Dean and Dad are both so incapacitated that Sam, who is also wounded, saves the day, and I love his smarts, his resiliency, and the mere fact that he is able to even HAVE an idea while he is being attacked by a 3,000 year-old SHADOW. He’s almost as much of a Badass here as he was screaming an Exorcism ritual in “Phantom Traveler” as the plane plummeted down through thunderclouds. He scrambles for the bag (that he had to bring into the motel room in order for this moment to occur – see how that works?) and shouts, “These things are shadow demons. So let’s light ’em up.”

Yes, SIR. Tell me what to do, big boy, and I’ll DO it.

Sam tosses out flares which blaze the room into light and you see these shadows cringing into nothing-ness on the walls, and the bloody Winchester men sprawled out beneath them.


It is so well-conceived and executed. And it’s done with minimal special effects. It’s mostly lighting.

Wrecked, bloody, coughing, they stagger out of the room.

The management of the SRO will be like, “Aaaaaand, never come here again.”


They lurch out into the alley, helping one another. Sam has suddenly become the clear leader of the trio. It’s fascinating. Dean and Dad are holding each other up, and Sam hustles in front of them to get to the car first. And by the way, if you think Dean’s Impala is a phallic symbol, check out Dad’s wheels. What, did he borrow the racist’s monster truck?

I love how they are filmed in the alley. No faces, darkness, with light around their heads. Beautiful.


Now we come to the final crushing scene. Sam’s plan is that they all have to take off now, before the Daevas regroup and come back to get them. Dean stops the momentum harshly. Dean was so unstable in the presence of Dad, and maybe Sam taking the initiative so strongly doesn’t feel right to him. But something else is going on, and he doesn’t wait for Dad’s word on it, which is difficult for him. You can tell. Beaten and bloody, he says, barely able to look at his Dad, “Dad, you can’t come with us.”

Sam is shocked, starts to fight back. There’s probably a level for Dean where he hates “getting into it” with Sam in front of Dad. It’s just not right for him and Sam to relate to one another without including Dad. It makes him uneasy. The whole thing feels wrong. It’s vulnerable, the two of them being men and making autonomous decisions in front of their strong tough father.

Dean says, “We almost got Dad killed in there.”

Not to mention yourselves. But right, that doesn’t matter. Only Dad matters. He says it so automatically.

Struggling with feelings of guilt and loss that stretch back over his whole life, Dean says, “They’re gonna use us to get to him. Meg was right. Dad’s vulnerable when he’s with us.”

Dean’s dream is dead. Family, the thing he most wants, is also the Achilles heel. Their love for one another will be used against them. That situation will never end. It is a risk to stay together.

Sam turns desperately to Dad, to plead his case, and there’s a great switch-of-focus as we see Dean in the foreground turn away, loaded down with the pain of his decision.


It’s all so elegantly set up. Dean wants “you, me, Dad” to be together again, a family. He just said that, like, two hours ago. But it’s a pipe dream. Ain’t gonna happen. The reality of that is terrible for him.

And it’s terrible for Sam, too, who has all kinds of conflicting feelings about Dad. As a matter of fact, over the course of the season, it’s Sam who seems urgent in a different way about finding Dad, the urgency of having to clear the air, to maybe forgive and forget, before it’s too late. Dad can’t die without knowing that Sam loves him. All of that. And now here Dad is, and Sam holds onto his shoulder (it’s a great gesture). He doesn’t want to let go. Not after all they have been through to find him. Dad is almost tender in the presence of Sam’s urgency and pain. He holds onto Sam’s arm, and says, “This fight is just beginning and we are all gonna have a part to play.”




Dad says, “You gotta trust me, son. You gotta let me go.”

It is an interesting echo of Sam’s final comment to Dean in the big scene in the SRO room: “You’re gonna have to let me go my own way.”

Nobody can let go here. That’s what trauma will do to you.

Dean looks especially ruined. The light gone from his eyes. There’s shame there, too. Somehow he will work out that this whole thing is his fault. And that he somehow has let Dad down.


It is not what is finished in characters that makes us root for them, love them. It is what is unfinished. Dean is the ultimate in unfinished.

Wonderful shot of the three men in the same frame. Dean’s posture is eloquent. His head bowed, his shoulders hunched in. He’s injured, but looking directly at Dad is hard for him.


Dad’s exit is filmed in a very specific iconic way: Dad going off alone bravely to his huge racist truck, standing looking back at his sons, as the steam swirls around him. These are not ambiguous images. They are presenting him heroically. The show is so much from Sam and Dean’s point of view, it makes sense. In my first encounters with the character of John, I didn’t “like” him, but I understood that the boys loved him, and I saw him through that filter. Also, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is so emotionally raw, so present, that he draws you in like a magnet. (In Grey’s Anatomy, you totally believe that Katherine Heigl would fall in love with him, merely by playing Scrabble with him while he is in her care: Not many actors could have pulled that off. He did, in spades). Casting him as John Winchester, then, was a perfect choice. It immediately tips us in his favor. He’s just that kind of actor. If he had been more obviously hard, or openly mean, it would have stacked the deck against him. It also would have been way too EASY. Supernatural wants to stack the deck in his FAVOR, because they have tricks up their sleeve, and they want you invested, thrown off your certainty, discombobbled. They want you to question what you are seeing, and think about it. Worry about it.

Those who want 100% consistency in characters remind me of one of Emerson’s most famous quotes: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Ouch. But true.

How many 100% consistent people do you actually know?

John Winchester is not revealed all at once. We see him for almost an entire season only through his sons’ memories of him, and even they cannot agree on who he is. When he does show up, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is so appealing, so emotional, that you sort of fall under his sway, even as you resist it, because you don’t like seeing Sam and Dean buckle under his control. It’s a complex character. That’s as it should be.

But I’ll tell you one thing: Dean changing his posture when he talked to Dad on the phone, and Sam and Dean saying “Yes sir” in unison … those things made me look at John with a side-eye. Other than that, the show sort of creates this mythology – and continues to do so (“Our dad … is a superhero…”) and it’s great because it’s all about who remembers what and how they remember it. That’s family. Once we get flashbacks, like “Something Wicked”, which is coming … we get to judge for ourselves, but up until now, it’s been through Sam and Dean. And who knows who you can trust there. Every family has their own versions of how everything went down.

And here, in “Shadow,” as Dad leaves his sons in the alley, with a quick look back at them, with the music sort of building and swooning beneath … that’s a hero’s exit.

He’s set up that way. It’s a sucker-punch, or it will be. The slow-reveal of John Winchester is one of the most fascinating and illuminating parts of these early seasons. It’s so key. If he were just a cold sonofabitch all the time, it wouldn’t have worked. Because cult leaders – and he is one, essentially – have charisma, they have certainty on their side, they can sway you into believing that their way is the only way. They often do so by using sudden bursts of affection, “love bombing,” or truth-telling moments where they “own” what they have done wrong. In the wrong hands, these are lethal manipulative tactics.

Dad drives off. Sam and Dean climb into the Impala, freaked out, injured, I love how they look at each other and don’t say anything. Just a day before Dean was teasing Sam about bite marks and tattoos and Sam was enduring it patiently and humorously, but all that has changed now.


Sam looks upset. Dean looks shaken to the core.


Dean backs out of the alley, moving off in the opposite direction of Dad, and the episode ends with a gorgeous long shot as the car disappears through the city.

And, as a final button, Meg emerges from the nearby subway stop, watching the Impala drive off. And just like in “Scarecrow,” “Shadow” closes out with Meg’s face. The boys still in her crosshairs.


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179 Responses to Supernatural: Season 1, Episode 16: “Shadow”

  1. Jessie says:

    Oh shit, I somehow managed to lose all my comment! And now it’s late. I haven’t much to add at any rate — you break it down so well. Indeed your molecular reviews remain a joy for us — I hope they are and remain enjoyable for you! You must not feel beholden in any way — you must cease or adapt as necessary.

    Love all the images and connections in this post. The Kim Manners close-up is a thing to behold. The other signature being they’re often emotionally devastating. You know if aliens found this series they would probably decide that the currency of the realm was Dean’s heart breaking in closeup. “How much for that black car there?” “Oh that’ll cost you two Hearts and an All Hell Breaks Loose Pt 2.” That look on his face during The Conversation — it and its variations will become very familiar as we go through.

    This episode, in light of the series as a whole and the most recent episodes in particular, is just so neat — so snug. Dean’s issues are a bloody oroborous you know? Some decry that we have essentially that same Conversation, with the same roles and themes, in The Purge. That Sam can still approach the Conversation with openness and empathy and firmness; if he is not your favourite person in the world after that I don’t know what to do with you.

    The utterly unbelievable things in this episode — join-the-dots, silent elevator-climbing, non-scarring after those injuries — make me laugh every time. There’re a lot of heavy masculine blood-soaked feelings happening at the end there, we need some relief.

    You draw many distinctions this review between them relating to each other as children and youths, and them relating to each other as men. I find that really interesting. Like, interacting as children and teens in the presence or absence of their dad, about sex, about anything that’s bread-and-butter, albeit messed-up-childhood bread-and-butter. But then Sam left — that crucible — and it’s a brave new world. JA feeds some great little slivers of panic into his performance.

    Third time of Dean jumping up and down waiting to be introduced! Continues to deliver.

    There’s no way the Legend of John Winchester meeting the “Reality” of John Winchester would work without JDM. He is fantastic.

    • May says:

      //Dean’s issues are a bloody oroborous you know?//

      “Oroborous” I love it!

      Even though I included myself among those who are tired of the same convo over and over, I can’t deny that it is very REAL. Neither Sam or Dean have fully dealt with everything they’ve been through, so of course the issues will come up again and again.

      But, it does seem like issues are finally coming to a head. Season 8 was Sam’s breakthrough. And it looks like Season 9 (and 10?) might be Dean’s. If SPN manages that, it will be fucking amazing.

      • sheila says:

        // If SPN manages that, it will be fucking amazing. //

        May, you said it!!

      • Jessie says:

        There is so much fanfiction out there that is 14 thousand words of them sitting down and talking about their feelings and past and getting to the bottom of it — you did this to me — I did it because — but you don’t understand — but — but — but; and then tearful or sexy resolution, o happy day, etc etc. You know like there’s this huge collective need for them to get this SORTED once and for all. 2 million people sitting down every Tuesday night and screaming FIX IT at the TV and into their laptops. I am a little worried as we’re running out of time in S9 for Dean’s breakthrough, and I want it done leading into S10. No more apocalyptic interruptions!

        • sheila says:

          I have a feeling Dean’s gonna be freakin’ Darth Vader by the final episode of Season 9 – and it will be “sorted out” in Season 10. Cliffhanger. But don’t quote me on that. :)

          What you describe – the collective need to have it all sorted out – is the “ace in the hole” of the show. To keep that tension going for 9 seasons is no small feat. I agree that this does need to be sorted out – and I honestly feel they are going in that direction – particularly with Dean in Season 9 …

          but that drive for peace/safety/security that you say exists in the fan fiction is the best evidence I can think of how well this show works.

          I guess it goes back to that thing I keep saying – that it the unresolved things – in the characters, in the emotional thru-line, that keeps the motor running.

          It’s agony, but that’s drama!

          Kinda like Sam and Diane flirting for 500 seasons on Cheers. Once they got together, all the sexual tension was gone – and a lot of people actually stopped tuning in. Other long-running shows have really struggled with this – SPN is unique because they keep these long long Arcs going. It’s not ER, or an episodic – it is attempting to be almost novelistic. You know, a 1200 page novel. How to keep us guessing/invested for 1200 pages.

          • Jessie says:

            Exactly! If Sam and Dean were male-female colleagues, not same-sex brothers, we would have been driven to an attempt at a romantic resolution years ago. But we can’t. All those feelings, all that potential for resolution, has to get displaced and repressed. This is why Supernatural endlessly fascinates me. It is so weird, in its bones.

          • sheila says:

            // All those feelings, all that potential for resolution, has to get displaced and repressed. //


            So what WOULD be satisfying? I am sure it depends on who you talk to. Everyone is going to want different things for these characters. You know, “Dean as barista” fantasies, etc. Total domestic fantasies. No more danger, etc.

            But … will they be together? Or will they finally get some healthy separation? What would healthy even LOOK like at this point? (That’s one of the things I love about the show and how long it’s gone on: you are finally, in Season 9, in a total clusterfuck of issues. I mean, how to untangle it!)

            So it’s interesting, the tension that comes up from seeing two grown siblings – basically approaching middle age at this point, for God’s sake – still joined at the hip.

            It’ll be interesting (and I truly hope satisfying) to see how it all works itself out by the time they drive off into the sunset. Or walk into the fake sunset. Either one.

          • Jessie says:

            you reveal yourself Sheila, you assume them to be walking into the sunset together! You are not alone. The show has surely played its hand. I would bet my unborn children the last image is them driving off together in a long shot. It may be triumphant, it may be bittersweet, they may continue as road warriors or they may be driving off to be someone’s husband, but that’ll be it. I will admit the slight possibility that there is one alive clutching a memento of the other as he drives, but the production offices should have received my threats by now and are shredding those pages.

          • sheila says:

            Yes!! That is just what I was thinking of. I love how you have the screen-grabs at the ready!

            And I think you’re right. However we get there, or whatever else is going on AROUND that moment, isn’t clear … but I think that’s the way it will go.

            And hearts will explode with emotion across the land.

          • Jessie says:

            And Sam and Dean will sigh, and flip to the Exploding Hearts page in their dad’s journal…

          • sheila says:


            “How do we kill all those exploding hearts? Is it in the journal? Does the Lore say anything about it?”

    • sheila says:

      // Indeed your molecular reviews remain a joy for us — I hope they are and remain enjoyable for you! You must not feel beholden in any way — you must cease or adapt as necessary. //

      Ha!! I will, I promise. I love doing them so far. We’ll see how far I get. But it’s really fun to pick stuff apart like this!!

      // The Kim Manners close-up is a thing to behold. The other signature being they’re often emotionally devastating. //

      Yes! So it’s totally like, “Let’s move in up into this gorgeous man’s nostril in order to wallow in his agony.”

      // the currency of the realm was Dean’s heart breaking in closeup. “How much for that black car there?” “Oh that’ll cost you two Hearts and an All Hell Breaks Loose Pt 2.” //


      // That Sam can still approach the Conversation with openness and empathy and firmness; if he is not your favourite person in the world after that I don’t know what to do with you. //

      I know!! I’ve said I’m extremely Sam-identified because I’ve been the “problem child” for a while, and I know I said to you I probably wouldn’t have made it through the series at all if I had started watching it pre-2012. Too trigger-y. Sam going crazy, etc., knowing there is “something wrong”, and it’s “inside” of him … that has all been my actual experience of life. Would never have seen it as “just” a Story. So the series came along at the right time for me, and I’m glad. Just to be personal: my siblings have had to deal with me in very patient and calm ways sometimes, over the years, having the same conversation with me repeatedly (welcome to madness) – trying to get me to see another way, to find some hope, to be kinder to myself, to beg me to please not check out, hang in there, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been brutal for them. Sam often brings me to tears in these “conversation” scenes. And, interestingly, it is that separation from Dean that actually allows him to have that empathy. Another good lesson, really.

      And yeah, in re: interacting with one another as grownups (this is a new thing for them, not old hat) – and finding a sort of groove with it, in the teasing vibe of the episode – and then having it all broken apart by Dad strolling in. Suddenly they can barely look at each other anymore. They were men, like, 2 seconds ago, kidding around about sex – and Dad enters, and they’re little boys.

      // There’s no way the Legend of John Winchester meeting the “Reality” of John Winchester would work without JDM. He is fantastic. //

      Totally! If he wasn’t so inherently warm and sympathetic – you just wouldn’t get the mythology, the Myth that he has created about himself, and the huge PULL he has on his own sons.

      He played it so great.

      • Jessie says:

        You and your family are tremendous — I am glad for the tenacity displayed on both sides! And yes, the Conversations repeat. They have to. Trauma and mental health issues create channels — chasms — along which thoughts flow. You can’t just bump your kayak out and carry it overland. You need a couple of hundred Peruvian extras to haul that ship out of there. Sam and Dean have had trauma upon trauma — stasis is to be expected.

        The most distinctively-photographed thing on TV right now is Hannibal. The most beautiful show, saturated and high-contrast, and it caresses a bowl of soup with the same love and care it shows Gina Torres, one of the most beautiful women in the world. I love the early desaturated look of Supernatural but I would murder so many people in elaborately baroque ways to get JA in front of Hannibal’s camera. I would also love to see him deal with the hightened performance style it demands.

        • May says:

          The kayak analogy. And OMG. JA ON HANNIBAL. I can’t even…

          Jessie, you are brilliant.

          • Jessie says:

            ha ha thank you. Can you just imagine him on there? It blows my mind. It would be sensuous in a way that couldn’t be, on Supernatural. As much as Supernatural accesses that side of him it’s just a different mode of address. He would object instead of objectified, if that distinction makes sense. Everything on Hannibal exists only for Will and Hannibal themselves.

        • sheila says:

          My family saved my bacon. They were totally Peruvian extras (hahaha) in the Drama that was my Trauma. And I hated them for it. “Stop helping me! I’m fine!” Good times. I actually fluctuate between Sam and Dean – my hopelessness being very Dean-ish, and the “something’s wrong with how I’m built” thing being very Sam-ish.

          Powerful stuff.

          Anyway, I’m much better now, and so I can actually SPN as a story. :)

          I’ve heard great things about Hannibal. I’ll check it out.

      • May says:

        Regarding your personal reflection…thank you for sharing that with us! So many people are afraid to admit to deeper personal connections or issues. And this age of oversharing on social media oddly makes it more difficult—so many doubters and trolls to jump in and criticize. But it is good to talk openly about these sorts of feelings and experiences.

        Being the eldest child myself, I’ve always related to Dean more. Which I will admit has given me pause at times (but I think my self esteem is higher, LOL).

        My Mom watches SPN and we talk about it from time to time. At the beginning of Season 5, when Sam goes off on his own for a little bit, Dean offers him the Impala. When my Mom saw that episode, her first thought was “May would do that for her sister.” I remember thinking, “Yeah…I guess I would. Oh GOD I WOULD.” And then briefly worrying I was taking SPN too seriously.

        I think a lot of people can identify with SPN. Those emotions are so real.

        • sheila says:

          May – Love that about your Mom and the Impala!! Great stuff, how the show really encourages that kind of identification.

          // And then briefly worrying I was taking SPN too seriously. //


          And thanks in re: Me. :)

          I’ve been writing publicly a long time, way before Twitter and social media, and personal essays are one of the things I’ve written and had published. I’ve gotten some horrifying responses to the more personal stuff, as you can imagine, but you learn to brush it off. Or – you learn to ban certain IP addresses (if people aren’t civil on my site, they don’t last long. I don’t even argue anymore. If a person’s first comment on my site is rude, or shrieking, or contemptuous – they’re DUNZO. This ain’t Youtube. You behave yourself on MY site. I also do not tolerate people shouting at each other or being mean to each other. I don’t care if we disagree. But be polite, find a better way to express it!)

          I’ve also had stalkers. People who get obsessed, who OVER-identify – and then turn on me. There’s one person who has been stalking me for years now. Not to a serious level, although I did make a police report once just to start a paper trail. And I asked a cop friend of mine to do a background check on this person – which he did. No red flags, so clearly it’s just some lonely obsessed pathetic person. But this person is out there, and has been so for YEARS. I have never met this person. I have never corresponded with this person. This person has made only one or two comments on my site. But the level of obsession is out of control … and this person is vicious. Any time I would share about something good happening in my life (professionally or personally), I would receive a vicious email within MINUTES. About what an ugly “cunt” I was, etc. So it’s the day of my sister’s wedding and I put up a happy post about it, and then in comes an email like that. Crazy!! It got to the point where this person tried to hurt me professionally, spreading a rumor about me on a message board.

          I’ve banned the IP address, I’ve blocked the email address, and a hacker friend of mine did something so that this person could no longer see my site (it had to do with IP addresses).

          So, you know. I’ve got a pretty thick skin.

          The people who get it, who get something out of what I do here, who like my voice, who enjoy being open/polite/in-depth … well, they will always find a welcoming spot here on my site.

          • May says:

            RE: You ;) That is pretty scary. I’m glad it hasn’t stopped you from writing!

            I don’t think I’ll ever understand some people…

          • sheila says:

            Me neither. Lonely, sad, scary people.

            Do you know Colleen Doran? She has had some insanely frightening experiences with stalking like that and her writings on the topic – and how to handle “fans” like this – have been so inspirational to me.

  2. May says:

    // Dad is smiling, with tears in his eyes. Part of what is so good about this performance is Morgan’s inherent sympathetic quality. His power of emotion and connectedness. He demands that you feel with him, you see his emotions. Dad could have been a cartoon villain. Clearly evil. But that’s not human. That’s not complex. //

    The family stuff on SPN can be so real it is frightening. Abusers, and abusive relationships, don’t all look the same. John is clearly emotionally abusive and was probably physically abusive as well (to Dean, at least). Yet he also clearly loves his sons very much. That is what makes him so powerful. It’s easy (well, relatively) to leave and cut off the abusive asshole. To hate them (see Bobby and his Dad). But the abuser who shows love and kindness, who you can make excuses for to justify their behavior? Those ones dominate your life.

    It plays out in the brother relationship as well. Sam can get angry and leave John. Dismiss him. But he can’t do that to Dean: “he means well.” Sam loves Dean very much, but we know he also resents him. Because Dean has sacrificed so much for him he feels obligated to stay with him. Sam doesn’t have a choice, he OWES Dean. It is emotionally manipulative. For Sam, John was his abusive asshole father (easy to hate) and Dean is the emotionally smothering, abused mother (harder to leave). It’s no wonder he dreams of freedom.

    • sheila says:

      // But the abuser who shows love and kindness, who you can make excuses for to justify their behavior? Those ones dominate your life. //

      Exactly! Lethal.

      For me, it was the “yes sir” and the complete change in body language displayed by both young actors that was the “tell” – of how bad it had been for them, and how dominated they still were by him. I started to question Dean’s version of events … and yet, at the same time, was so DRAWN to Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

      It’s such a sucker-punch. I love it.

      • May says:

        //It’s such a sucker-punch. I love it.//

        Yes! John get a lot of praise early on and only slowly do we see his faults. I can’t remember, but I think Bobby is the first person (ally), or among the first, to show open dislike of John. Which is fitting in retrospect.

        • sheila says:

          Right! Threatening to kill him with a shotgun – I think that’s what he says? Pretty wild moment.

          • May says:

            I had to go look it up (thank you Supernatural Wiki):

            Dean: Bobby, thanks. Thanks for everything. To tell you the truth I wasn’t sure if we should come.

            Bobby: Nonsense. Your daddy needs help.

            Dean: Yeah, but the last time we saw you, you did threaten to blast him full of buckshot. You cocked the shotgun and everything.

            Bobby: Yeah, well, what can I say? John just has that effect on people.

          • sheila says:

            Fascinating: we have only seen him through the eyes of his sons. And we get a lot of detail, but you’re not sure who to believe. And we barely MEET the guy until the end of the season. So yeah, “John has that effect on people” – coming from an outsider – it’s really excellent information.

            Such a well-written story-line – he just hangs over the action of 15, 16 episodes – and you barely see him in person, but he’s so PRESENT.

  3. Helena says:

    God, Sheila, hats off.

    Can I just right off the bat that those alarm company uniforms are just the hottest thing ever, right down to the name tags. I think I love them even more than the fake priest outfits.

    Your recap helped me put two and two together – Dean is in such a good mood when he gets out of the Impala in that first scene, just radiating the joys of life. Of course – Amy! I love these little summaries of these never seen one-night stands and ‘hot minute’ flirtations – they are like little postcards from the edge of bliss. What is itemised and howit is itemised is such a joy to behold. And Sam’s reaction to Dean’s rhapsody to Amy – even as a blur in the background his twitching body language is hilarious, not least because by now I’m expecting him to react in this way to Dean’s digressions.

    Rewatching this I’m always surprised how few clues this episode provides as to what’s really going on – somehow I think it provides more. But even without some of the details provided in the last couple of episodes you could see Meg specifically as a kind of mirror or ‘shadow version’ of Dean – not least because they’re both laying claim to Sam. And for all her antagonism to him, she raises exactly the same issues of ‘love and loyalty’ that he has many times so far. Only he calls it obedience, being a good son, family. It’s very jarring to hear these ‘virtues’ being uttered by an antagonist, it’s kind of demanding that Meg be put on an equal footing with the Winchester bros, something you absolutely do not want to do – because she’s the ‘bad guy,’ after all.

    • Helena says:

      uh oh, crazy italics again.

    • sheila says:

      I love the coveralls, too – they both look awesome. Like something out of a soft-core porn movie. “Ding dong, it’s the hot guys to fix your alarm, miss!”

      Also that Sam would go to the trouble of getting their actual names on them. Hahaha.

      And yes! Dean’s got a spring in his step in that first scene! He’s having it all! Too funny. Amy is looming large in his mind. He’s “cleared the pipes”.

      // even as a blur in the background his twitching body language is hilarious, //

      Ha! I know. Dean is so indiscreet, and Sam is so private. It’s such a funny dynamic.

      // Rewatching this I’m always surprised how few clues this episode provides as to what’s really going on – somehow I think it provides more. //

      So true!! I forgot how long the Meg thing was a mystery – like, who is she? And the Colt. And what Dad has been working on. That’s all still to come. Pretty amazing – because at the end, you’re left with an even more intense and ominous feeling about things – no catharsis.

      // t’s very jarring to hear these ‘virtues’ being uttered by an antagonist, it’s kind of demanding that Meg be put on an equal footing with the Winchester bros, something you absolutely do not want to do //

      Totally. You really resist that connection. The show keeps making it though!

    • sheila says:

      Oh, and thank you for the hats off – this one was really fun!

  4. Helena says:

    //join-the-dots, silent elevator-climbing, non-scarring after those injuries //
    Yes, where can I get some of that Winchester Magic Booboo Cream TM?

    • sheila says:

      Also, how many times do these guys literally open up their arms with their own knives? And no scarring?

      I guess Cas just waves his magic wand. Except when, you know, he suddenly CAN’T magically heal something. Because … it varies. “Broken neck? Dead? Whoosh. No problem.” “Face bashed in by my fist? BOOM. Perfect again.” “Trial Trauma? No can do, Sam. Sorry.”

      I’ve got a scar on my knee from when I leapt out of a tree in 5th grade, landing on a rock below. I could use some Winchester Boo Boo Cream.

      • Helena says:

        //Also, how many times do these guys literally open up their arms with their own knives? And no scarring? //

        They should look like junkies by now.

        And I somehow totally don’t care that they don’t, in the same way I really don’t care that climbing up the elevator shaft would make a hell of a racket, and so on and so forth. I’m slightly more bothered by the fact that the bros are happy to leave a corpse on the pavement …

        • sheila says:

          I know! Buh-bye, Meg. Only …. not.

          ha. I don’t care either. There is zero way to “keep it down” when you are clanking up 7 stories. And they totally should look like junkies. You know, struggling to find a bare patch of skin in order to cut themselves again.

        • Helena says:

          //And I somehow totally don’t care that they don’t, //

          And I realise that I don’t care because the show seems to get the really important stuff, characterisation, especially the emotional side of things, so absolutely right. I’ve really enjoyed the comments coming in from people who have had professional dealings with the kind of people we see portrayed in various episodes – eg abused and troubled children, ‘Special Ops’ guys. This stuff the show nails.

          • sheila says:

            Yes! PTSD, abuse, trauma – but also surviving those things and what it often ACTUALLY like. It’s not Lifetime television where you hug and cry and your lifetime of violence is erased and healed.

            The way Dean eats a burger after getting out of Purgatory. Sam wants to talk about the case. Dean needs a minute, to just revel in having food in his mouth, in having food at all. The show (the actors) is so good with those details. What life feels like to those who come from a place of total scarcity.

          • May says:

            That’s exactly it. SPN gets the important parts so right that little details like scarring isn’t a big issue.

            I’d bet, if it wouldn’t require tons of work for the make-up people, they would probably scar up Dean and Sam a bit. I think we’re supposed to pretend they are. They point to that when Dean jokes about being “re-hymenated” in season 4. He mentions old scars, broken fingers, etc, that are all healed up now. We never saw them, but realistically the character would have them.

          • sheila says:

            “Re-hymenated.” Cracks me up every time.

            You know what’s even better than having them be all scarred up? It’s the change in the looks in their eyes – These guys look so ROUGH, rougher and rougher as each season passes. And they’re, as we’ve established, total hotties. But they’re both so good at internalizing that violence – so that it’s totally believable that, say, when Sam meets Amelia’s dad in Season 8, Amelia’s dad would be like, “wow, where did that drifter fixer-upper come from? He looks like a bad patch of road. Stay the hell away from my daughter.”

            And he DOES look like that, despite the hunkiness.

            It’s like Sonny in “Bad Boys”. You take one look at that guy and you know he’s done time, he’s seen some shit, he’s doing his best. Dean and Sam both look like that – and that is sheer acting on their part.

            Yes, their hair is always fabulous. But it’s the demeanor, the tough-ness, the body language, the posture, the expression … You would look at them and think, “These guys have done time. These guys are on the wrong side of the law. These guys have been iN THE SHIT.”

          • sheila says:

            and I’m really not bothered about the lack of scars. I’m just kidding around. :)

            It gets so common that in almost every episode they’re opening a vein. They barely wince anymore!

        • evave2 says:

          I love it. They go the bathroom in a diner and come back to the table BOTH slit their arms and then throw holy water on themselves and the conversation is back ON.
          Cue the grossed out diners at the next table.

  5. Helena says:

    Have to ask, who is Michael Murray?

  6. Terri says:

    Thank you Sheila for the Easter present. More satisfying than chocolate bunny ears.

    “Bigger than you think.” Poor Sam. From one demon to the freakin’ apocalypse in just 4 years. I need polarized lenses for the rest of season 1, now that they’ve just started dragging Dean’s emotional issues out of the figurative shadows. They’re about to become blinding.

    Junkies. I believe that was Sam season 4 and is present day Dean. No run-of-the-mill addictions for the Winchesters. Dean is the poster boy for functioning alcoholism.

    Not the face! The Winchester’s emotional scars never get time to heal. That magic CW boo-boo cream better work, or the season 2 beauty digressions would be really short.

  7. May says:

    Moving my comments down here…

    //Such a well-written story-line – he just hangs over the action of 15, 16 episodes – and you barely see him in person, but he’s so PRESENT.//

    I don’t think the writers get enough credit for SPN (at least, I’ve often seen the criticism that the writing is the weakest part of SPN). Yes, the writing isn’t perfect. They don’t always seem to know what to do with certain characters. But when it’s good, it’s GOOD.

    Even 9 seasons in, they are doing things that call right back to the first season. What we learn of Bobby’s past in season 7 is a perfect example. Suddenly you look back on everything—Bobby threatening John with a shotgun!—and it clicks. Of course Bobby would stand by the brothers, of course Dean was his favourite. The writers provide details that add meaning to events in earlier seasons, rather than undercutting them. How many shows in their 9th season can say that?

    • sheila says:

      Absolutely. Balls will be dropped. The pace will slack off. It’s bound to happen. But all in all, the continuity is amazing – one of the main reasons why the show is so satisfying.

      And it’s not just a re-tread of schtick-y details – you know: “Hey, let’s have Dean reference pie, and let’s have Sam get all pissy and ba-dum-ching, awwww, don’t we love these boys?”

      You know, they made fun of that kind of thing in “Changing Channels” – which I love – how so often as series move on the characters flatten out into just a collection of tics, and re-treads of gestures/schtick. Like “Whatchoo talkin’ about Willis,” etc.

      I rarely feel that with Supernatural. When these beloved little character things come up – they actually feel organic, and give continuity through the seasons. I love that.

    • Helena says:

      //(at least, I’ve often seen the criticism that the writing is the weakest part of SPN). //

      That’s pretty harsh, isn’t it. And so missing the huge role they play from generating the big and small ideas to turning them into drama, into things people say and do. I think the writing over most seasons has been amazing. And I love hearing the writers talking about how they do it on the commentary tracks – those tend to be my favourite.

      • sheila says:

        Ben Edlund’s commentary tracks are so awesome! His laugh!

        The other thing – and Jim Beaver brought this up in the commentary track he did for his “life flashes before my eyes” episode: One of the best things about the writing is that each character has its own VOICE. Bobby speaks in his own voice. Dean doesn’t sound like Sam. Charlie has her own vocabulary. Crowley is his own thing.

        So many shows miss that element, and everyone talks the same – you can almost feel the cohesive energy of the writers’ room IN the scripts – not always a good thing, because then the tone for all of the characters is the same, the wit is the same – everyone has the same sense of humor, the same snark. The writing may be GOOD, but there isn’t that sense of a diversity of actual voices.

        In SPN, there is real thought given to HOW these people talk – what Bobby sounds like, what words he would use, the way Dean talks, his sense of humor. Even smaller characters, like Pamela. She speaks in her own way. It is her own voice. Totally distinct.

        • sheila says:

          Chuck, Castiel, Ash, Benny …

          the list goes on and on.

          So many voices, distinct, individual.

        • Helena says:

          //His laugh! //

          Insane. And ‘Patrick! PATRICK! PAATRIIIICK!’

          • sheila says:

            Wait – what’s that again??

            There’s one joke – I think it’s in the commentary track for The End – when Ben Edlund, I believe, says, “this reminds me of a diorama I made in social studies class” – and I roar every time I hear it.

          • Helena says:

            It’s from the fairy episode.

          • sheila says:

            Oh that’s right. hahahahahaha

            that fairy episode kills me.

            “I can’t even figure out what kind of a hate crime this is.”


      • Helena says:

        And ready to take the piss out of themselves a bit too. I love the bit in the episode where we first meet Chuck. He basically types stuff in one go. which of course is whst the scripwriters do. When he mentions Bugs and the Ghost ship and apologises for making them live through bad writing – ‘If I’d known I’d have given them another pass.’ – I crack up.

        I think the writers walls must look like Dad’s – all post it notes, pictures of werewolves and connected with string and arrows saying ‘this goes here’.

        • sheila says:

          “You had to live through Bugs?”

          Dean and Sam nod, pained. And yes, so did we. Damn you.

          Now what about Cassie, Chuck? Any reason you wrote her OUT of the story??

          But I actually liked the ghost ship episode. That was the impetus for my very first post about Jensen Ackles – “Don’t objectify me!” – so I have a fondness for it. It’s stupid, but the stupid episodes are some of my favorites. Dean hyperventilating IMMEDIATELY when his car is towed. He has to put his head down. I crack up every time.

          • Helena says:

            //Dean hyperventilating IMMEDIATELY when his car is towed. He has to put his head down. I crack up every time. //

            Just hilarious.

            I worry for Baby now. She’s all scratched up! Dean was practically weeping over her. Magic booboo cream for Baby, please!

          • sheila says:

            When Sam suggests that maybe they put Baby up for auction in order to get the angel tablet back, and Dean hovers protectively by the car in a “Bite your tongue” kind of way – and then says to the car, “Baby, he didn’t mean it …”

            It’s so real, his total identification with that car.

        • sheila says:

          “I was afraid it would make you unsympathetic.” – Chuck to Sam.


          Chuck is one of my favorite characters in the entire series. I still miss him.

          • Terri says:

            Dean despairs over marked Baby; we despair over marked Dean. That car is absolutely a mirror of Dean, even in the looks department. That homogenization of beauty applies to cars, too. I teach a lesson to my middle school classes about car names and word connotations using a PowerPoint presentation. All the cars pictured are from the 1970’s or earlier. You know, when cars had personalities. Curves, chrome bumpers, names with meaning-not some random-ass series of numbers and letters. Sixth grade boys think price and exclusivity make a car desirable.
            “That car will still be badass when she’s 40.” With occasional dismantling and rebuffing. Here they are in season 9, dismantling Dean.

          • sheila says:

            As a gearhead, I would love to sit in on your class, Terri!

      • May says:

        It is harsh. I certainly don’t believe it. But, I think it’s one of those things, an idea that gets put out there somewhere along the line (maybe from an episode like “Bugs”), that people pick up on and it becomes part of their narrative when discussing the show. Confirmation bias.

        Just like those sexist reviews of Scarlett Johansson in the Avengers/Captain America movies.

        And Ben Edlund! He became one of my favourite writers without me even realizing it was him! “Smile Time” from Angel? The Tick? I’ve loved so much of his work before I knew who he was.

        • Jessie says:

          This is the tragedy of the 22-a-season model. I used to say I would prefer Supernatural to have shortened season orders, to cut out some of the weaker episodes, tighten up season-long structures. I don’t anymore. Oddly, those longer seasons create gaps and opportunities that are fascinating. It becomes more of a living thing. But the rush of production, written three episodes ahead of the one that’s being filmed, by the end of the season — if they had just a little more time.

          • May says:

            And people love to nitpick! I am very guilty of this myself. I can be quite a wet blanket. A party pooper, if you will.

            I majored in English in university (though my terrible spelling and grammar would never give that away) and for a long time I couldn’t shut off that critical part of my brain. It ruined so many things that I used to enjoy, LOL.

            But I’ve gotten better. I am more forgiving of my fiction. And I enjoy it all a lot more for it.

          • sheila says:

            The grind of the SPN schedule has to be unbelievable. It’s amazing how OFTEN the show is good, as opposed to the other way around. All told, they have a pretty good batting average, especially with the amount of writing/shoothing that they have to do.

            // Oddly, those longer seasons create gaps and opportunities that are fascinating. //

            Interesting. I agree.

        • mutecypher says:

          May – “Smile Time” Angel (done with my best “The Immortal” sigh). What a great episode.

          You know, I watched “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” a couple of nights ago. I don’t understand how anyone can doubt that Scarlett’s just a wonderful actress. Too many reviewers thinking with the “downstairs brain.”


          • sheila says:

            Yup. Losers.

            She’s an excellent actress. Lost in Translation!

            I can’t wait to see Under the Skin – I’m so busy right now I haven’t had a chance to actually go to the movies recently, outside of screenings for my job. But it sounds incredible.

          • sheila says:

            And, connecting this to our conversation below and my comments on stars managing their own images (as opposed to having studios do it for them, as used to be the case):

            Scarlett does a very good job managing her image. There’s always a lot of chatter about her, but you don’t hear all that much about her, personally. She’s in it (acting) for the right reasons. For, you know, acting.

            Jessica Chastain is another one. Big star. But I know almost nothing about her. She has set it up that way. She is playing it very very smart so far. Not getting caught up in the “fame” part of it, as much as she can.

          • mutecypher says:

            I was thinking of “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” when you were making your over-write/under-write comparison. To me, the narration of that movie is almost as distracting as Harrison Ford’s intentionally awful narration in the original version of “Blade Runner.” I felt like Woody didn’t trust me to understand the characters. But I mean Javier Bardem , ScarJo, Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson (always love her)…. Just shut up and let them act.

            Which is what he usually does.

  8. mutecypher says:

    The implausibility of Sam’s elevator shaft sneak-up really unsuspended my disbelief. To do it again with Dean in the shaft (mind out of the gutter, everyone) and a duffel bag full of weapons placed it almost into the 3 minute-long night of “Bugs” territory. But then there’s the glory of the rest of the episode.

    I still haven’t made it up to the New Meg yet, but to me Nicki Aycox just owns “I love my naughty self” when she’s climbing onto Sam. It’s different from when demons and tigers and bears climb onto Dean. There’s no sense that Sam might enjoy it for a while (as Dean would), no chance that “hey, this actually feels good” might distract him from the goal of escape. Sam keeps his head – even with Dad – and then Finds The Light.

    I love your “Importance of Beauty” digression. You are so right about the homogenization of female beauty in Hollywood and general Mainstream Entertainment. I think of snarky stories of Adele wearing four layers of Spanx for some awards ceremony and my heart goes out to her. If it was true, then someone she trusted betrayed her with that information. And if it wasn’t true, then someone is just being nasty. I wonder at the pressure that creates the Reese/Jennifer/Kate homogenization – is it just a fad (no different from the past), though amplified by social media? I think of the Jack Rabbit Slim’s scene in Pulp Fiction where Mamie Van Doren and Marilyn Monroe lookalikes are confused. I need a moment to process sometimes before I can tell Mamie from Jayne Mansfield. Then there’s the Lana Turner scene in LA Confidential. Hollywood goes through periods where they find a type and sell it till we can’t tell the organic version from the GMO ones. Nothing gets the rubes in their seats like the same’o same’o.

    I’m working my way up to a conversation about Beauty when you get to Provenance. Taylor Cole is just overwhelming (to me) in the restaurant. Her cheeks and eyebrows are almost unworldly. Like a Poe character comments: “There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.” And they light her wonderfully in that scene. I’m trying to sharpen up my thoughts for when that re-cap rolls around.

    • sheila says:

      // To do it again with Dean in the shaft (mind out of the gutter, everyone) and a duffel bag full of weapons placed it almost into the 3 minute-long night of “Bugs” territory. //


      // but to me Nicki Aycox just owns “I love my naughty self” when she’s climbing onto Sam. //

      She really does. Her performance has grown on me, you will be happy to know. The later Meg is almost even more evil – and more damaged – she’s a grubby dark little thing, who talks out of the side of her mouth like a wisecracking dame from the 30s. But I agree that Aycox revels in the disturbing sexuality of her part, using it to disturb/harass the guys – as well as get her own rocks off. It’s super messed up.

      // There’s no sense that Sam might enjoy it for a while (as Dean would), no chance that “hey, this actually feels good” might distract him from the goal of escape. Sam keeps his head – even with Dad – and then Finds The Light. //

      Really really good point.

      In re: The Importance of Beauty:

      You’re right, that with every big movie star there will be imitators. Marilyn/Mamie/Jayne Mansfield. The big stars are trend-setters. Katharine Hepburn made it sexy and okay to wear pants – but that was really her thing. You didn’t see Joan Crawford strutting around in pants. Things like hair style and eyebrow shape are huge identifiers of a certain era, certainly, and those things trickle down into the populace.

      But it’s just so strange: because what seems to be happening now is that the A-list actresses, those who should be the ones parading their individuality (which is how it used to be) – are now imitating the looks made popular on reality TV shows like Real Housewives and The Bachelor. So they all look exactly alike. (My friend Jen and I used to watch The Bachelor together. Jen has gloriously curly Julianna Marguiles hair and she would always say, when looking at all the women on The Bachelor – “What, NONE of these broads have curly hair??”)

      It’s totally counter-intuitive. You are a star. You need to glory in that which made you unique. The ones who continue to do so, critics be damned, will probably be the ones who are remembered later down the pike.

      And of course one thing all big movie stars have in common is that they are all thin. The pressure to stay thin is huge – and that’s always been the case. The camera is not forgiving. We’re getting more diversity in that now too – when Melissa McCarthy is now OPENING films on the strength of her name – when she is appearing as a co-star in a buddy-cop-flick – and not just a sidekick cameo – you know a little revolution is happening, and I couldn’t be happier about it! The same is true for women of color. Strides are being made all over the place.

      But that damn long hair with the little flip-curl down the side … I remember when I saw some red carpet appearance of Kate Winslet, and she was sporting that look – and I thought, “NOOOO KATE, RESIST.” You are Kate fucking Winslet, not a Real Housewife – you be whoever you want to be, you’ve earned it. A lot of this has to do with the 24-hour news cycle, which has filtered down to entertainment news as well – Stars used to have the studios managing their images in well-controlled publicity outings. Stars don’t have that now. It takes a lot of smarts and career-planning to MANAGE your image in that environment. Angelina Jolie does a great job with it. Julia Roberts does as well. Jolie actually acts like an old-school studio mogul, in managing her career. She will actually tip off photographers beforehand: “Me and the kids are going to Target this weekend. Be there.”

      So basically she throws them a bone – stage-manages an outing which is totally a photo-op, just like in the old days – lets the photos go out there – and then they leave her alone otherwise. It’s extremely smart. You can see what happens when you create a hostile environment with the paparazzi – they will literally chase you down and take pictures of you as you die, before calling 911. There’s no excuse for much of the paparazzi’s behavior – but it is a wild animal, and Jolie knows that, so she tried to get out in front of it, so it wouldn’t completely run her life. All in all, she’s managed it quite well. The press love her – because she works with them like that. (She also apparently is one of the funnest interviews in Hollywood – or so I’ve heard. Everyone loves interviewing her – she’s open, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s forthcoming). Whatever you may think of her acting, and her life choices, is not really the point here. She is acting like Louis B. Mayer in how she manages the press’ access to her, and it’s extremely smart.

      She’s one of those people who always looks like HERSELF. Yes, a total knockout. But she wears a Gap T-shirt to an awards show. I mean, literally. “Who are you wearing?” gushes the broad with the microphone. Angelina, friendly, laughing: “I got this shirt at the Gap, and I found this skirt at a great vintage shop in my neighborhood.” Dead silence from the broad with the mike. People don’t know what to do with individuality anymore – it’s almost awesome. Everyone goes totally blank. “So … you can DO that? Wear a Gap T-shirt to an awards show? And you’re not hauled off to jail???”

      Diane Keaton looked like a freakin’ bag lady when she accepted her Oscar in the 70s. Literally. A bag lady. Diane Keaton is still working, and still starring in films. She still has a distinctive style that says “I Am Diane Keaton.” It’s great. Stars should be fearlessly themselves.

      But I have digressed!!

      // Then there’s the Lana Turner scene in LA Confidential. Hollywood goes through periods where they find a type and sell it till we can’t tell the organic version from the GMO ones. Nothing gets the rubes in their seats like the same’o same’o. //

      Definitely. And you can see that in type-casting too – Marilyn Monroe HATED the parts she was getting before she got serious about her work. They were silly parts, and she couldn’t take them seriously. She knew she could do better, so she worked her ass off positioning herself so that she could get better parts. And she did. But boy did she get push-back – “who does this whore think she is? A real actress?” That was literally how she was treated by the brass in charge. Takes real courage to keep going for your dream in the face of that kind of contempt.

      Taylor Cole is one of the most beautiful women to ever appear on the show – and one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. And the warmth and smarts she brings to it! She is just ravishing.

      I love that Poe quote, Mutecypher!!

      Have you gotten to the point in your re-watching when Ms. Cole re-appears?

      No spoilers, anyone, please, in case he hasn’t seen it!!

      • mutecypher says:

        I get the point you’re making about A-listers. I may even have seen the Kate Winslet photo you’re talking about, because I definitely recall a similar reaction. She should be in beads and a peasant skirt at the Oscars. Or whatever the hell she wants.

        • sheila says:

          Totally. That’s the whole point of becoming A-list. Be a Freak, be yourself.

          I just finished Anjelica Huston’s memoir – and she was talking about her early days as a fashion model. I think it was Helmut Newton, maybe, or one of those guys – who said, “If you think your eyes are too small and your nose is too big -” (which Huston did) – “then you should wear makeup that makes your eyes look even smaller and your nose look even bigger. The flaws are what makes the beauty.”

          I’ll look up the exact quote – I read it last night and it so dovetailed with what we are talking about here. I loved it!

          • mutecypher says:

            I read “The Huston’s” 20 years ago, it was mostly about Walter and John, but also some about Anjelica (my daughter’s name, but with a ‘g’ instead of a ‘j’). What an incredible family. I’ll put her book on my list.

            Ol’ Helmut must have known his Poe!

      • mutecypher says:

        And no, I haven’t gotten to Taylor Cole’s return yet. I know from looking at her IMBD entry and the SPN wikis that it’s coming.

      • Jessie says:

        You can digress about Angelina Jolie any time you like! She is extraordinary. Has anyone ever married so seamlessly and intelligently the otherworldly and the domestic as her? The last fifteen years of her career have been a lesson to us all in what a star image can mean. She was more accessible when she had the black hair and the vials of blood. Now — I find it difficult to believe she treads the earth. But I am glad she does.

        • sheila says:

          Me too!

          I think one of the most attractive things about her is that on some level she doesn’t give a damn.

          And THAT is a Star. Seeing all those tightly-smiling anxious starlets on the red carpet makes me nervous – they reek of ambition and anxiety. I understand why … but it’s just not a good look. You have to have real courage/self-confidence to face that gauntlet and be yourself.

          Jolie obviously cares about being a good actress. But on some other level: she doesn’t care. And THAT is attractive.

          Even her choice as a first-time director, with a script she wrote – about the Bosnian/Serbian conflict – no Hollywood stars, a Bosnian/Serbian cast, and subtitles? It was good too. A very human gritty film. She’s in it to win it. I love her.

  9. evave2 says:

    Sheila, you take the scenes apart with so much “insider” knowledge of what they are attempting and how they are fulfilling their objectives. I enjoy your insights so much.

    But I got something out of this episode that you didn’t. Dean IS poleaxed when John shows up. And so is John. I can tell how much he loves his boys (even if he is as abusive to them as we later discover). John THINKS he is making them tough and strong and what he is doing is wounding them forever.
    Dean responded by babying Sam; I do find his relationship with Sam parental and even more so that he believes Sam is the ONLY child he could/should ever have.
    Sam responded by being self-centered in the way that little kids are but ONLY with his brother. In Something Wicked, the way he tells Dean to make him spaghettios and when Dean is ladling it out says I want Lucky Charms. And Dean hasn’t had any Lucky Charms. But he gives the last of it to Sam. And then Sam wants to show gratitude and gives Dean the prize. But Dean didn’t have any dinner. Or breakfast. Because Dad left them alone in this motel with the instructions to NOT GO OUT.
    Now Sam is five or so. I don’t blame him for trying to manage the little bit of the world that is in his hands. He can make Dean do what he wants. I didn’t even think he wanted the Lucky Charms in particular (jmo).
    BUT when Dean is supporting John to the car, HE tells the two of them they can’t be together. That Dad got caught because of them (and mostly he means him) making bad decisions. Meg was going to go with Sam to California to find Dad; now she used them to get the daevas after Dad.
    John LISTENED to Dean here. Granted he was refreshing Dad’s earlier spiel, but he listened to Dean.
    In Dead Man’s Blood and Salvation he LISTENED to Dean. It was like only Dean could control Sam in DMB “get back in the car tough guy” So to me Dean did assert himself. Maybe because he was seeing John thru Sam’s eyes.
    But it seemed to me that Sam was picking fights with John just BECAUSE when the three of them were together.
    Oh could you tell in the later episodes if they were in two rooms or one? I think in DMB Sam and Dean were sleeping and John was on the police radio checking for vampires (what a weird sentence) but I did not see a third bed. Same think in Salvation. So did you notice if they were in the same room (three beds) or two rooms (two beds/one bed) or one room (two beds, John didn’t sleep)?

    • sheila says:

      Thank you, evave!

      Dad definitely listens to Dean. He sees him as his full partner in many ways. His alter ego. And Dean does assert himself here – for multiple reasons, as hard as it is for him. I mentioned that in the re-cap.

      The show is never just “one thing” – moments aren’t presented in a clear literal way. There are always levels. Dean’s defeated posture, at the same time that he is saying, “Dad you can’t come with us.” It’s not cut-and-dry.

      I’m not sure about the beds.

  10. Alli says:

    Just watched this for the first time the other day. All I could think while watching was about how much I wanted to loathe John. I mean, really hardcore loathe, but JDM just gives off something that made it impossible. If he were cold or distant you would hate him, but JDM just gives him warmth or something that I was totally not prepared for.

    • sheila says:

      Me too, Alli!! That’s the real slam-dunk of the performance. I hate how Sam and Dean are so changed by him, so cowed and submissive … but he’s bringing that powerful warmth with him, so you honestly don’t know what to think. Not at this point anyway. It’s such a slow reveal of the character – I love it! Great storytelling and acting!

      • Candygramme says:

        Coming to this conversation years too late of course, but I’ve only recently found these recaps, and I’m working my way through them, savoring them as I go. I haven’t commented up til now, but can’t bottle it up any more. John Winchester, in my opinion is VILE. He appears, and is all smirky and huggy with Dean, but only because Dean tells him that they have something to do with what killed their mom. Did he bother to come when Dean was dying? Nope. He did not. He’s a master manipulator and obviously proud of it. I could hear him thinking, “Yup! Still got it!” as he got between the two of them.

        Wait for “Something Wicked.” I firmly believe that he staked those two young kids out in order to catch the Striga, and took it out on Dean when he only winged the damned thing. The kids of 9 and 5, on their own for however many days, running out of food etc. How else would he have reappeared at the exact time the Striga did? How else would he know Dean had left the room?

        Jeffrey Dean Morgan is awesome. He’s an excellent actor, but you’ve got to see the movie he did with Hillary Swank – The Resident – to know how well he can play an affable, smiling sociopath. That is pretty much how I see John Winchester too, and attempts to retcon his character just haven’t worked with me. Sorry, not sorry.

        • sheila says:

          // Did he bother to come when Dean was dying? Nope. He did not. //

          I know! It’s infuriating! Or when Dean called him in tears?

          This aspect of the show – the fucked up family aspect – was for sure one of the real hooks for me, and the psychological twistedness of that family dynamic. It was so deep, so rich.

          The recent seasons want to obliterate that kind of complexity. Or … they just don’t know how to write with that complexity. They like “closure” and “empowerment” and everyone behaving well and not being “codependent.”

          But the drama came from the LACK of closure, from the Winchester sons LACK of empowerment, from the depths of the ties that bind – not “codependent” – but a traumatic family unit – a trap, a cage.

          // I firmly believe that he staked those two young kids out in order to catch the Striga, and took it out on Dean when he only winged the damned thing. //

          For sure.

          and hey – thanks for showing up and reading and commenting. I love to hear from people!

  11. alli says:

    Its a real clever way of doing something. Most shows would’ve introduced us to him by episode 2 or so. To keep him a mystical mystery? Gutsy. Could’ve totally backfired.

    Also, JDM? Way hotter than I remember in that older, total-man type way. I guess because the only thing I ever remember seeing him on was Grey’s and he was “ill” then I never realized that he had a face as well as presence.

    Anyway, totally binging on SPN this weekend. I’ve caught sporadic episodes over the years, enough to know it was interesting and good but never binged on it in order one after another. Didn’t think it would hold up that way but there is so much DEPTH here. Its weird its on network serial television, and I mean that in the best possible way.

    • sheila says:

      Alli – Right, because if Dad was presented as a straight-up villain – we wouldn’t be all confused as to how to react to him in the beginning. JDM’s performance, and just the way he’s set up, leaves a LOT of room for interpretation and discussion – a LOT of room for the audience to make up their own mind. It’s awesome.

      So glad you’re watching, a lli!!

      I updated my site yesterday and for some reason the “Reply” function is working differently now. I have no idea why.

  12. Natalie says:

    There are so many insightful comments on here that a lot of what I wanted to say in response to this post has already been said, but I did want to add that I loved the mention about Dean calling Meg “sweetheart.” I am up to season 5 now, and Dean’s use of that particular term of endearment has been on my mind – it is NEVER sincere and it is ALWAYS condescending when he calls someone sweetheart – even when it’s someone he cares about, like Jo!

    Also, I can totally relate to the excitement over Chicago as a location. I got ridiculously excited when I watched Heaven and Hell and they came to Union, KY (which is a real town about 15 miles south of where I’ve lived most of my life). I mean, even though I know it was really a sound stage or location somewhere in Vancouver, I got STUPID excited about it :-)

  13. sheila says:

    hahaha I know! I grew up in Rhode Island and there are a couple episodes in Rhode Island (the one where the concept of angels is introduced – with the inner-city church and the ghost-priest) – and then another one that you haven’t seen yet. I was so excited I was almost looking for landmarks. Ha.

  14. Kim says:

    It didn’t really strike me that they would be making noises climbing up the shaft, cuz I knew they knew, like any good Army private would’ve known, that you noise proof your shit so you’re not sneaking through the woods clanking like a homeless guy. I assumed Meg heard them anyway because of her super-demon hearing. But they probably taped down everything that was loose or would’ve rattled.

  15. Kim says:

    Sheila, loved the review, especially your “digression” on beauty. I rewatched this last night after watching the episode from Tues. night. Shadows is a thing of beauty, I loved the”noirness,” the chiaroscuro lighting and the shades in between. I bought the scene between Sam and Dean in the hotel room, I bought the reactions by the boys to their father. In contrast I thought Alex Annie Alexis Ann was so bright as to appear sterile, it could’ve been on almost any network. Hopefully no one smites me here but I hated that last episode, I almost felt like the dialog came from a completely different show, as if the writers showed up to the wrong writers room. I’m looking forward to the your next review and I hope to be able to participate in a more timely fashion. Life, what can you do?

  16. Max says:

    Another great one! Always late to the party as I am I have a few thoughts…

    The beauty digression. This is what you (Sheila) and everybody commenting are coming back to. It’s endlessly fascinating and so much part of the show. Thanks for really taking this “fangirl” stuff seriously, it’s so nice to hear a serious analysis of all that.

    In the Benders discussion May said something about this defensive thing that alot of fans have towards these characters, and Sheila said it’s a testament to the show. I absolutely agree. Fandom is about MAD PASSION! But I love this place because it’s nuanced in a way that creates space in how you can relate to the show and it creates great conversations and it’s free from that bickering (or death threats:) same old “sticking up” for ones favorite. I love Dean BECAUSE of his flaws, not in spite of them. They’re fucked up and I love it. Their fights are so compelling to watch. It’s the mix of love and hate and protectiveness (is that a word?) and resentment they have for each other, the sheer fucking dysfunctional mess of it that makes me FEEL so much.

    I agree the look is not what it used to be. But I thought AAAA was fantastic! I love this new director. It’s so ..tight! I love these classic MOTW episodes. And it was so feminist! In a really cool way. I’ve felt alot this season that JA and JP are underutilized but in this episode it didn’t bother me at all.

    And “LOOK AT ME, BITCH!” would have justified any crap episode. What a line. It’s so charged! It carries so much baggage and weirdness. It’s so badass and so full of predatory sadistic creepiness. But still one can’t help but get all tingly when Dean is all psychopath. That’s really interesting to see how people respond to characters like soulless Sam or predatory Dean and Dexter is another great example. It IS sexy but why?

  17. Max says:

    Just wanted to share the full quote since this keep coming up.

    “Dean’s a bit of a pool shark and also a bit of a gambler. It doesn’t really show it all the time, but it’s definitely implied that there are poker games and pool matches that they can win some money on. And who knows? Dean’s a promiscuous kind of guy. Who knows how he drums up the funds that they use?” Jensen Ackles

    Its from Australian magazine TV Week in 2008.

  18. Kim says:

    Max, I’m going to rewatch the episode because a lot of people really like it. Maybe it was watching it after a 14 hour work day :( I agree that Dean in full on badass mode is sexy as hell. There’s something about a strong, competent, take charge, and kill the bad guy kind of guy. Like all the wrong guys I was drawn to in Army and got involved with.

  19. sheila says:

    Sorry, everyone – thanks for keeping the discussion going. I’ve been out of town for a film festival. Exhausted!

    I did see the latest episode and found it dark, disturbing, and thematically awesome in a subtextual way. Now we’re getting at some trauma. We’re actually tiptoeing towards the heart of the matter. The second I learned the damn title of the episode, a while back, I guessed what it would be about, something about a young girl and a skeevy controlling group – due to the title’s clear reference to this haunting film about a young girl escaping a cult – – Highly recommend it.

    Still doing other stuff for the film festival – and am wiped out – but will return later this week to our regularly scheduled program.

  20. Tammy Haley says:

    I am a Supernatural Fan through and through. Dean is sexy as hell!! I an not into Sam’s drinking the evil demon blood, but Dean’s take charge, kick ass and take name later attitude gets my home fire burning. I am glad the series continues, I really wish they would get that creepy dude out of the sky thinking he’s the next God and everyone on earth is a character in his book and put Cass there.

  21. Max says:

    A lot of people seem to agree with you though Kim, I see after taking the temperature out there. A lot of people really seem to hate it. Maybe it carries a different weight if you’ve seen the film it references, (the one Sheila is linking to, “Martha…” I agree it’s a really good movie.) I just thought it was so ambiguous and thoughtful. I really got the struggle inside her. (and of course badass/psycho Dean was the best part)

    //dark, disturbing, and thematically awesome in a subtextual way…tiptoeing towards the heart of the matter//

    yes, it’s great. It wasn’t in your face about the parallells.

    I love Clifton Webb btw. Laura is one of my absolute favorite movies. I’m gonna check out The Dark Corner.

    About Jensen “hell of a face” Ackles. I think one of the most unforgivable things they’ve done on this show is in the later seasons (particularly beginning of S8) when they spraytanned them, especially Jensen, something ridiculous. It was kind of extreme for a while. I miss that pale look on him, with all the freckles showing. It was a good look.

    • May says:

      RE: tans/fake tans

      I vaguely remember JA referencing paleness/tans in one of the bonus features on the Season 1 (?) DVD set. Basically he was complaining about getting a sunburn, because he was told he was too pale and needed to tan a bit. And instead he burnt. Which makes sense. Pale, freckly people aren’t always known for tanning well.

      JP seems naturally darker. I wouldn’t be surprised if they sprayed on tan just to give them similar skin tones.

      (I can’t believe I remember that. Remember the name of a person I just met? No way in hell. Remember an offhand remark from a bonus feature years later? Of course! Goddamn trivia clogging up my brain. Soon I’ll forget my own name…but always remember those Simpsons quotes.)

  22. Helena says:

    Max, re the spray tan years – just bleh. So out of character. Thanks be, that’s well and truly ditched in Season 9. They both look absolutely terrible: pale, underslept, pinched, watery-eyed, unshaven. Sam looks like he has consumption, Dean permanently haggard, hungover, red-eyed, shifty. It’s fantastic.

  23. Max says:

    They probably got a lot of crap about the tans. I mean what were they thinking! Yeah you’re right, now it’s gone. But wasn’t Dean even paler in the first season? Maybe I’m imagining, or it just seems that way because of lighting or something? They seem to be covering up the freckles. I think I remember seeing them in The Purge.

  24. Helena says:

    Freckle watch!

    I guess the whole way of lighting has changed since the early seasons, so the way JA and JP looked then was very different – yes, a lot paler at times, and the whole look was very desaturated, dark darks and washed out light tones. by Season 2 it was richer, more sepia. Don’t know how they did it, but it was awesome – but just as highly stylised. And the freckles didn’t really kick in til Season 2, iirc. ;-)

    In the early seasons, they were both in their 20s, with luminous complexions to match. That just changes as you get older: what I hated about the orange tans is that, apart from fighting against the guys’ natural colouring, it was throwing away something really interesting which was telling its own story – ie just getting older, bearing the marks of time etc. That’s nothing to be afraid of, that’s an asset in my book.

    • candygramme says:

      Didn’t they switch from recording on film to recording it digitally around then? I can’t help thinking that might be a factor in the depth of the color. I seem to recall Jensen saying something about it but can’t find the reference just now. However, ‘a face without freckles is like a night without stars!’ As I write, there are only 2 episodes left to film. Let’s keep them full of freckles. As a side note, let’s not try to erase Jared’s beauty spots either!

  25. Max says:

    Now I’m gonna track the freckles on rewatching!

    Yes own the age, it’s just wrong for them to come off as some pretty boys worried about growing old. How were we suppossed to look at that and not imagine them going to solariums? What a horrible thought!

    I loved that line in Freaks and Geeks when Krissy says he’s alright “for an old guy” and he replies “I’m really not that old.” Yeah he’s kinda bummed she thinks he is old and he probably hasn’t thought of himself that way, but he’s not all distraught. He’s like “fine” and accepts it.

  26. Helena says:

    Haha! Off camera, all sorts of stuff must happen that I just don’t want brought to my attention. Extensive ninja training. Being measured up for all those FBI suits. Trips to the barber’s. The blinding dentistry on the show alone is enough makes your average English person weep. Whatever. But, please, for god’s sake, no more visits to the solarium.

  27. Kim says:

    Re tans: you know all the time they spend on the road in the car they’re probably only tanned on one side ;-) There’s a positive review of the last episode here
    I’m going to rewatch the episode just to see if I was just having a bad night. Not excited about the backdoor pilot – I’ve seen pics of the cast, they just look like a bunch of CW pretty people. I will however withhold judgement until I see the episode.

  28. Max says:

    Ha yeah, I think my suspension of disbelief extends to alot of that stuff. Like I can believe that Sam’s hair just loves him so much that it falls that way perfectly every morning without him styling it. But the too-tanned always freak me out for some reason. We’ve seen them take good care of their teeth though, and they have naturally straight teeth obviously! :)

    • Lythea says:

      Well, especially because it seems like Jared Padalecki’s hair does so even more than Sam’s. I remember Richard Speight Jr. sharing a story recently in which Jared was completely confused as to why Richard would own a hairbrush.

  29. Max says:

    Kim: not too excited either, I’m not at all into the other CW shows and I think it’s gonna be more Vampire Diaries than Supernatural. But who knows?

  30. Max says:

    Read that review, thanks for linking. But “a show that often avoids nuance at all costs”? What? I try not to read too many reviews. It feels like a lot of it is the same. You know snarky, contemptious. Occasionally complimenting an episode but always managing to do so by pissing on all the rest of it. Not here though! I don’t mean one has to love every season. Being a fan means giving a shit. But it’s the contempt I don’t like. The way they say it.

  31. Cat says:

    Sometimes I think it’s snark for the sake of snark. It’s annoying.

  32. Kim says:

    Max, sometimes I skim through reviews and don’t catch everything. This reviewer generally has positive things to say about the show but his/her reviews aren’t very nuanced themselves. There are better sites with some fairly good discussions that aren’t fangirl sites. It was actually a commenter at this site that led me here. I was happy to find Sheila, because I was looking for thoughtful commentary/discussion on the early seasons (my favorite) though I’m actually enjoying a lot of the current season.

  33. sheila says:

    I owe that AV Club commenter a fruit basket or something!

    Very glad you’re all gathered here!

    Like I said earlier – I’m still crammed with work from the film festival, but I’ll put up the next re-cap this weekend I’m thinking.

  34. Jessie says:

    Ha ha, I was just talking to my friend last night about how deeply words and lines and sounds from S 2-3-4-5-6 of The Simpsons had buried their way into my brain. Ah, television! Teacher! Mother! Secret lover!

    The spray tans — there was an episode at the start of S8 where they were pretty much the same colour as the wall behind them. That’s when you know it’s too much.

    • sheila says:

      It’s lazy, too. Like it’s too much work to highlight/light their specific complexions – the swarthy one, the freckled one – easier to just blend them in and make them look alike. Bah.

      Season 9 feels a bit better. Ackles looks like absolute shit half the time, pale, red-rimmed eyes, scruffy, gaunt – it’s a good look, appropriate. He’s looking like a rough patch of road – and let’s face it, it’s not easy with his beauty. But you look at him and he emanates pain and sleeplessness, and etc. That’s his acting, sure, but it’s in the makeup too.

      Still miss the moody noir lighting of earlier seasons, but won’t keep complaining about it.

      • sheila says:

        There is also one shot of Lisa, in Season 6, where she literally looks like an Oompa Loompa. You probably know the one I mean. It’s in the garage, I think.

        I want Dean to say, “Uhm, I love you, but why are you bright day-glo orange? Do you have jaundice? I’m concerned.”

        You know, they eff up sometimes. :)

        • Helena says:

          I’m kind of glad Max raised the fake tan issue – I thought for a while something was wrong with my DVDs. Nope – death by spray tan.

          They should have hunted down the the monster who created ‘Sprayatoan virus’ and eradicated them pronto.

          As I said above, and seconding Sheila, I love the current ‘we both look like shit warmed up’ aesthetic. Just right for where they are as characters at the moment.

          • sheila says:

            Yeah, they both are looking ROUGH. It’s perfect.

            These characters are nocturnal anyway. They’re not getting any sun whatsoever. Spray tan is stupid. Keep ’em pale and shitty-looking. Much better. They’re gorgeous no matter what happens – even more gorgeous when they look like shit.

          • Helena says:

            Just watching Dreyer’s Joan of Arc at the mo – now those are close-ups.

            Dreyer wrote, ‘Nothing in the world can be compared to the human face. It is a land one can never be tired of exploring.’ He went on to add, ‘Unless, of course, some utter twerp has made you spray it orange.’

        • sheila says:

          Dreyer – master of the closeup! He would be horrified at the homogenization going on now with faces.

          What the hell else is a closeup FOR except to revel in individuality??

  35. Max says:

    Bloodlines wasn’t superbad but it’s definitely not my kind of thing. Will not be tuning in. What if it doesn’t get picked up? It’s gonna be really weird to have the episode just sit there. Are we supposed to believe Sam and Dean are just gonna leave five monsterfamilies to run Chicago? And you know they’re gonna fuck up continuity and mythology. If it doesn’t get picked up they should have an episode where Sam and Dean go back and slaughters them all.

  36. Helena says:

    Amen to that.

  37. Max says:

    Where’s all the shifter-goo? I thought it was just the alpha that could shift like they do in this episode. Man I loved Skin. All these monstershows. Where’s the scary? Just slick monsterpolitics everywhere. Sorry for bitching. I’m done. Gonna pretend this episode didn’t happen.

    Next episode looks pretty great though.

  38. Kim says:

    Max, I didn’t care for it either. It really had the look of a generic CW show. The characters were kind of wooden and very “pretty” I think the spin-off would’ve been better served with a standalone pilot, and us SPN fans could’ve had more Sam & Dean. What a wasted episode.

    • sheila says:

      Everyone looks the same. I can’t tell the characters apart. Too pretty. Yawn. Then Sam and Dean come on, and they’re so THEMSELVES and they show everybody else up. Always do enjoy a Robert Singer episode though.

      And lots of Chicago scenery. Yay!

      But that’s about it.

  39. Max says:

    Yeah. What did you think when rewatching the last one?

  40. Kim says:

    Max, Please continue :) I too noticed the way they totally disregarded canon, most notably the abililty to just shift.

  41. Kim says:

    Max, I haven’t had a chance to rewatch, I’m under a couple of deadlines at work so long hours. I’m barely keeping up with my usual stuff. My Tivo is at like 90%.

  42. May says:

    //Ha ha, I was just talking to my friend last night about how deeply words and lines and sounds from S 2-3-4-5-6 of The Simpsons had buried their way into my brain. Ah, television! Teacher! Mother! Secret lover!//

    Thanks to television, I can’t remember what happened eight minutes ago.

    Hee hee! My friends and I practically speak Simpsons. When we get together, we may as well be speaking in another language (at least, to those who don’t understand Simpsons references). There is a Simpsons reference for everything in life.

  43. May says:

    //I want Dean to say, “Uhm, I love you, but why are you bright day-glo orange? Do you have jaundice? I’m concerned.”//

    HA! Yes. It was a distractingly bad tan.

    And yes, the brothers should look pale and shitty. They are stressed, don’t sleep, are nocturnal, and now live in an underground bunker. How much sun do they ever see?

  44. Max says:

    Canon trouble. I’ll just get myself worked up thinking about it :)

    I’m panicking right now as I’ve realized there’s gonna be a whole summer of nothing! GAH! Is psychoDean gonna go off the rails, turn on Sam you think? And if they’re gonna leave us in that agony all summer, don’t they fear for our sanity?

    • sheila says:

      hahahaha Well, my sanity is already severely compromised. Yeah, it’s gonna be a big ol’ cliffhanger followed by BUPKIS for three months. Good times!

      Well, I’ll keep my thing going on here so we can just continue to re-live the glory of Days Past.

  45. rae says:

    I thought the script seemed particularly heavy-handed this episode. I get that they’re trying to introduce a new set of characters and provide conflict, backstory, etc, but still.

  46. Kim says:

    Max, We can have fun with our rewatch, totally disect the season finale and endlessly speculate about season 10. And I think it’s Sam’s turn to rescue Dean.

  47. Max says:

    I really hope that’s how it goes! It should definitely be Sam’s turn.

    Yes let’s do all that so we won’t get the shakes. So glad you’ll keep going over the summer Sheila!

    • sheila says:

      It seems like it’s kind of going that way … Castiel telling Sam to look out for Dean, and the final moment in the Alex Alexis episode, Sam expressing concern, etc. He’s not sure he likes where Dean’s head is at. It’s been quite a season for them – they’ve been “separated” almost the entire time. I think it’s great, actually – story-wise. It’s really NEEDED to go that way. The whole “Dean can’t be alone” thing … I mean, it’s been almost repetitive – but since it’s one of my pet themes and interests I’ve loved that they kept looping us back to it.

      Because that’s the question. That’s the ultimate thing. It’s been there all along. And we see it here in “Shadow” too – we saw it in the pilot.

      It’s an emotional thru-line that has great continuity.

  48. rae says:

    Shoot! I meant last night’s episode. The reply didn’t go where I thought it would.

  49. Heather says:

    Hello Sheila and All. Been deeply enjoying the wonderful recaps that you write Sheila and the enlightened comments from all. You are some clever, funny people with great taste in t.v. shows.
    //Well, I’ll keep my thing going on here so we can just continue to re-live the glory of Days Past.//
    This is great news as we clearly won’t be getting answers to the Mark of Cain/I am not my Brother’s Keeper, dilemma this season. And after watching Bloodlines, it seems possible that season 10 will be (should be?) Sam and Dean spending all their time in Chicago cleaning up the whack of monsters there.
    Perhaps it is best to act as if Bloodlines is not as episode of SPN, but an alternate topsy-turvy universe where up is down and the only people who get killed are humans and Sam and Dean give monsters rides home…
    And Sheila you are right;
    //Then Sam and Dean come on, and they’re so THEMSELVES and they show everybody else up.//
    they were like flesh and bone people in a world of skin and teeth.
    Really looking forward to your next recap, I learn so much from your breakdowns and love the discussion on humanity that you weave into the work and support in the comments.

  50. Heather says:

    //I want Dean to say, “Uhm, I love you, but why are you bright day-glo orange? Do you have jaundice? I’m concerned.”//

    This actually made me snort my drink. Worth it though.

  51. Helena says:

    //master of the closeup! //

    Master of closeup and of shadows – wow, if you’ve never seen Vampyr do check it out as there are some incredible scenes with disembodied shadows (like our Daevas here) and reflections. And the ending will stir a strange echo, too.

    • sheila says:

      Vampyr! Yes! That’s always one I wish I could see on a big screen – I do keep my eye out for it in art houses here, but so far no good. You’re right – shadows projected! Totally creepy.

  52. Cat says:

    I am so angry about the destruction of the shapeshifter canon. The only other one that could do that was the Alpha and that was like a one time super special thing. This was the only episode that I can say I outright hated from beginning to end. I’m just going to pretend it was an alternate universe, because really, no hunter ever knew about these families? I call shenanigans.


  53. Helena says:

    The universe has kinda answered the Hannibal thing with this film features Mads Mikkelsen and JDM.

  54. sheila says:

    Yes!! I saw that the other day!

  55. Helena says:

    Any good?

  56. sheila says:

    I mean, I saw the trailer. :( Haha

    I think JDM is mostly known for Grey’s Anatomy, yes? That’s how I knew him before I got into SPN – but it’s amazing that there’s this whole other role, way more rich, way more complex – that he really SHOULD be known for, outside of the SPN fandom, and that’s John Winchester!

    • sheila says:

      and he was great on Grey’s Anatomy – he totally made it work. You totally bought that someone would fall in love with him the way she did.

      But John Winchester is EPIC.

  57. Helena says:

    Never saw Grey’s Anatomy :-( But I have seen Dr Sexy MD :- ) – any similarities?

    And JW is an epic role – very complex, he is so good, such a mix of hot and smothering then freezing cold. He’s so John Wayne (in bad, alienated, damaged mode – The Searchers, or what) at times. Wish he was on SPN more.

    • sheila says:

      In Grey’s Anatomy, even though he is bed-ridden, he’s really playing a classic romantic leading man. Old-school. Manly, kind, funny, warm … and yes, he does become a “ghost” (Sam: “There are ghosts on this show??” hahaha) – I had stopped watching by then – I only watched the first couple of seasons before losing interest –

      But the fact that Sam and Dean are looking at a ghost – who was, in actuality, played by the actor who played their father on the real show … Totally meta madness.

  58. Helena says:

    //Totally meta madness.//

    I’m falling down that rabbit hole right now.

  59. Helena says:

    Dream come true, Jessie? :-)

  60. Jessie says:

    Mads, JDM and Eva Green? It certainly ain’t a nightmare :-D

    Also it references Winchesters, it’s called Salvation, it fridged a wife in the first minute in order to get the plot and characterisation going, and JDM’s doing his sweet-voiced bastard thing. I think THAT one should have been our spin-off.

  61. Helena says:

    //I think THAT one should have been our spin-off.//

    Oh god, yes.

    • sheila says:

      We need grizzled handsome men who look like shit, and gorgeous women around them. Lit moodily and darkly. With lots of agony. 100% cosign.

  62. Helena says:

    And look what we got instead. :-(

  63. Kim says:

    I think the only memorable moment was when the boys showed up to lop off the head of the vamp in the bar. How watchable they are compared to the blandness of the other characters. If JA & JP had appeared more in the episode they would have completely overshadowed the Bloodlines cast.

  64. Max says:

    Ooh, Salvation looks cool. And it has Swedens most epic bad boy Mikael Persbrandt. Persbrandt and Mikkelsen actually played lovers in a pretty great short called Nu (Now).

    I don’t understand how Robert Singer directed this last one. I usually love his directing. He probably gets first pick on scripts, that might help. But he really seems to bring out the best in actors.

  65. Persephone says:

    Sam and John, they both have tethers, anchors – to other lives. John’s drive has always been revenge on the Yellow-Eyed Demon. Sam found his drive in leaving the hunting life behind, finding shelter in normalcy.

    Dean didn’t have any of that.

    He’s a crossroads baby, caught between a functional and dysfunctional family upbringing. The line between the two was incredibly violent and abrupt. That would do things to a child; make them anchorless, drowning in life, aimless in a way perhaps.

    Dean is constantly drowning and the people around him don’t seem to notice because that’s not his role, his suppose to be strong, capable and dependable. He’s full of youth though, drowning in that too. How unfair to expect something so mature, so aged (in a positive way!) from someone so young and full of hurt.

    Dean struggles so hard with letting go because he has nothing (save for Dad and Sam) to let go of.

    If he lets go of them (of is let go by them, as usually happened), he drowns. Again and again.

    I remember being eight, coming from a home of hurt and pain, being the eldest of five at the time, and hearing Sam’s “He means well” and being so unbelievably hurt by it. I couldn’t make sense of why it stung so much then, how almost selfish it seemed (Sam has all the right to feel his pain! Of course! Please do and, Sam, and let yourself know how you experience each and every emotion that comes your way. But god, GOD, have a little sympathy for Dean). It is so, devoid of seeing their childhood from both perspectives. Dean did not choose to raise Sam. He did not choose to lose his own childhood. It was thrusted, practically hurled at him, more so by his father. It was never grey when it came to how they stood with their father, despite the harshness, the bluntness, the dismissiveness Dean took on the chin like a good little boy. It was Sam. Sam was the precious one.

    That’s cruel.

    They were both children, both young and filled with confusion.

    I sympathise with Dean a lot, evidently.

    There have been many, many horrible themes explored on the show. The greatest tragedy is Dean. How little he wants for himself, because his sense of self was never developed. How much of side piece he has always been to Sam (that Heaven episode where his highlights didn’t include Dean, who laboured so much for him, who in a very glaring way, developed the ‘rebellious’ streak in Sam – which would lead to his anchor/sense of self). Most importantly, how callously a father, a grown Man, dealt with his own Child.


    (Whoa, I’m so sorry. This kind of came out of nowhere. I haven’t commented before but recently found your blog and have been blazing through the Supernatural recaps. It used to be my favourite show. Now?

    Now it’s very painful to witness.

    For me, at least.

    These early season recaps, however, capture so much of what I fell in utter love with. Thank you so much for bringing me such wonderful, wonderful, wonderful memories. They’re all just rushing too the top as I read these.

    Oh, and um, I’m Persephone. Feels kind of rude not to introduce myself after such a long winded message.)

    • sheila says:

      Persephone – hello! I loved your comment! Don’t apologize!

      There is something very primal going on in these early seasons – a powerful “hook” – and it’s in the relationship between these brothers. It’s so rich and textured and deep – neither of them are completely aware, even, of what is going on between them (which is so real. This is often how siblings are. You don’t walk around in a state of self-awareness and awareness of everyone’s intersecting issues).

      I sympathize with both characters. Dean’s issues are more show-stopping – but honestly: the fact that Sam going to college is seen as a huge betrayal in this family is messed up and being shamed for it, and punished and shunned for it, is outrageous. You are allowed to have your own life, set your own boundaries. Obviously this is difficult for Dean since he has no boundaries – but that doesn’t mean Sam always has to take that into consideration. (This is one of the reasons why I loved Season 9 so much. I love any of the various arcs where the brothers have to “separate” but Season 9 was as clear as the show has ever gotten on the essential ISSUE between these guys. I miss those explorations. Now they barely deal with each other. Last season and the season before there were almost no scenes where they were in the Impala, driving at night, and talking. Now they sit around in the bunker, eating leftovers. I just … can’t.)

      Thank you so much for reading – I am glad to hear from you, it’s always good to connect with other fans.

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