Supernatural: Season 2, Episode 1: “In My Time of Dying”


Directed by Kim Manners
Written by Eric Kripke

Season 2 starts “not with a bang, but a whimper.” “In My Time of Dying” is this perfect little snow globe world of an episode, which takes place mostly in one setting, with scene after scene after scene of talking people, talking, talking, talking, and gigantic beautiful faces filling the screen, and soft dark shadows, and soft whispered voices, plus tears, plus Venetian blinds, plus family drama and also, you know, enormous metaphysical and existential questions about life and death and the borderland in-between. After Season 1 wrapped up, with some major thrilling standoffs and a car crash and an exorcism, Season 2 starts off melancholy, quiet. It has room to breathe. There are a lot of pauses, and silence, and thoughtful moments where nobody speaks. Kripke structured a beautiful episode to open Season 2. It starts with a gasp of breath, and ends with a death. And yes, the demon finally shows himself. And drops a few bread-crumbs of intrigue that will pay out over the course of Season 2. We’re shown a lot here, but the really important stuff is still in the shadows. It’s an intriguing way to go for the season opener. They could have decided to keep up the pace, and have it be a kind of race to the finish. A less-confident show might have gone that way. But “In My Time of Dying” is elegiac and melancholy and troubled. It hides more than it reveals.

The title, of course, is taken from Led Zeppelin’s almost 13-minute howl of pain and fear and longing. It is a plea. It is a request. The lyrics are perfect for the episode, cracking it open like a walnut.

In my time of dying, want nobody to mourn
All I want for you to do is take my body home
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Jesus, gonna make up my dyin’ bed.
Meet me, Jesus, meet me. Meet me in the middle of the air
If my wings should fail me, Lord. Please meet me with another pair
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Jesus, gonna make up.. somebody, somebody…
Jesus gonna make up… Jesus gonna make you my dyin’ bed
Oh, Saint Peter, at the gates of heaven… Won’t you let me in
I never did no harm. I never did no wrong
Oh, Gabriel, let me blow your horn. Let me blow your horn
Oh, I never did, did no harm.
I’ve only been this young once. I never thought I’d do anybody no wrong
No, not once.
Oh, I did somebody some good. Somebody some good…
Oh, I did somebody some good. I must have did somebody some good…
Oh, I believe I did
I see the smiling faces
I know I must have left some traces
And I see them in the streets
And I see them in the field
And I hear them shouting under my feet
And I know it’s got to be real
Oh, Lord, deliver me
All the wrong I’ve done
You can deliver me, Lord
I only wanted to have some fun.
Hear the angels marchin’, hear the’ marchin’, hear them marchin’,
hear them marchin’, the’ marchin’
Oh my Jesus.
Oh, don’t you make it my dyin’, dyin’, dyin’.

With all the religious symbolism that will start to come into play (not yet, although “angels” are mentioned in “In My Time of Dying”), it occurs to me that the universe in Supernatural is not so much a Judeo-Christian one, but a Manichean one. I’m no Gnostic scholar, let’s just state that out of the gate. There are only so many hours in the day. But what I do know about Manichaeism is that they believed that the cosmos was made up of light and dark, and man’s journey was about combatting the darkness and retrieving the light. They took this quite literally in some respects, seeing the constellations, for example, as actual evidence that the dark (bad) was being combatted by the light (good). And the world in-between? The world we live in, and the humans in it? Light and dark were all mixed together (this was seen as a bad thing), and it was referred to as The Smudge. Kind of beautiful, really. Light and dark smudged together. In other words, the Grey Areas of life. You know, they were onto something even though they were totally not down with the Grey Areas, and wanted to banish the darkness to its side of the fence. Darkness could exist, but it had to be separated out. Like I said, I’m no scholar! If I’ve gotten anything wrong about this, please correct me. The world in Supernatural feels very Manichean to me. The desire is to banish the darkness. That is the goal. But darkness cannot be banished, because it is in us as well. Hoping for a world made up of ONLY light is foolish. But one monster at a time … maybe they can do their part. It gets tricky when it gets personal, and “In My Time of Dying” is extremely personal.

Because Kim Manners handled “Devil’s Trap,” they gave him “In My Time of Dying”, and Season 2 is when Beauty starts to become a primary factor in how the show looks. They didn’t exactly take it for granted in Season 1, but they weren’t sure how far to go with it, or what to do with it. The look changes drastically in Season 2, and it’s difficult to clock sometimes what the difference is. There are certain shots in Niagara where Marilyn Monroe is filmed in such a way that her beauty literally does not seem quite real. She is an object of fantasy, a mystery woman.




Her makeup, her hair, her costumes, the colors, the shadows … every single shot is chosen and structured to highlight her extraordinary beauty. (She also gives a wonderful performance.) Now Marilyn Monroe was always beautiful, but in some of her other films, most specifically The Seven Year Itch, she is ogled at by the camera. Her sexuality is treated like it’s some freaky abnormality in nature. The Seven Year Itch leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, and even though she’s gorgeous and desirable, I feel that everyone involved is somehow making fun of this fantastic creature. When a director stops trying to punish her for being a Love Goddess, and instead lets her operate freely AS the object of fantasy that she is … really really interesting things can be the result, and Marilyn’s acting still gets short shrift by those who can’t understand that her beauty is not to be looked PAST. Her beauty is PART of her, it is PART of how her characters operate in the world. And yes, everyone desires her. Including her directors. And that love and desire shows in her best films. I think the whole Male Gaze conversation has completely impacted how people even SEE Marilyn, and they feel sorry for her no matter how delightful and funny and touching she is onscreen, they see it ALL as exploitative, and that seems entirely unfair!

But back to Beauty: I wrote about The Importance of Beauty in the “Shadow” re-cap, and Season 2 is when that kicks in. Every shot is more beautiful than the last, and both Padalecki and Ackles are filmed with maximum lushness and attention to detail, in the same way Hathaway and his team lit Marilyn in Niagara. It actually gets a little bit overwhelming in Season 2. Like: STOP. STOP WITH THE BEAUTY. GIVE ME A CHANCE TO REST.

The lighting definitely has something to do with it, but I think it’s more a matter of makeup as well as an actual conscious decision (like, they had meetings about it) to present the beauty of Ackles and Padalecki in ways that are startling, baroque, and are almost distracting. Beauty presented like that stops being just “beautiful people” and starts to become almost … philosophical in nature. And I am not sure how that occurs but I know it when I see it. I see it with Marilyn Monroe. I see it with how Hitchcock filmed his “cool blondes” and also how he chose to film Cary Grant. I see it with some of Elvis’ pictures. Beauty on that level actually equals Desire, something we all understand. And Beauty also taps into other uglier feelings in the audience, things like envy and resentment. And so there definitely seems to have been an understanding that they needed to go in that direction, that the Beauty was not just going to be an accident or treated casually, but was going to be woven into the fabric of the show.

“Bad Moon Rising” continues to play through the misty night, sounding, frankly, psychotic, because the Impala and the 18-wheeler have crashed.

Then we see a black boot on the 18-wheeler guardrail. A black cowboy boot.

Season 2 goes into a pretty serious Western mode, especially once the roadhouse becomes a stopping-off point, like a trading post in the Wild West, and that black boot is the start of it. The driver of the truck, who, hmmm, is not the same guy we saw in “Devil’s Trap”, not at all, but oh well, life goes on, is now clearly a black-eyed demon, and he saunters over to the Impala in his black cowboy boots. He rips the door off the Impala, and there is Sam, bloody and battered, but holding up the Colt.


The demon decides to exit the scene, pouring out of the poor guy’s mouth into the inky-black night sky (there’s a great shot where you see the darkness being filled with something even MORE dark), and then the poor sap collapses on the ground, and he’s back to himself, and he looks at the horrible crash, wondering what the hell has he done. He remembers nothing.

Sam, meanwhile, who can’t really turns his head, starts calling out in a panic for his brother, for Dean. No response.

Suddenly the blazing sun burns down, lens flares and all, and a helicopter hovers in the air. EMTs are loading Sam, Dean and John up onto stretchers to be airlifted out of there. It’s completely outside the normal Supernatural style, and it’s great, a great way to launch us into a new season, saying: “Expect the unexpected.” The show is usually dark, somewhat formal, and classically shot … and here we have completely modernist realistic film-making, handheld cameras, lots of chaos, the sound of the chopper, tons of extras, the Winchesters on stretchers. It’s disorienting. Sam seems to be the only conscious one, and is screaming as they race him to the chopper, “ARE THEY OKAY? ARE THEY EVEN ALIVE?”


1st scene
Except for the opening and one scene at Bobby’s, the entire episode takes place in the hospital. Naturally, because this is Supernatural it is dark as hell, and one would fear to be operated on in such a dungeon.

I had NO idea what I would see next, so in a way “In My Time of Dying” was even more of a cliffhanger than “Devil’s Trap.”

Suddenly, Dean wakes up with a heaving gasp, coming up into stark profile against the window. He’s moving his mouth to get the taste of the tubes out of there. Dehydrated too. He looks around, disoriented. He is able to sit up. We saw him being loaded onto that chopper with a neck brace on, so he’s looking surprisingly mobile.

From under the bed (thank you, Kim Manners), we see Dean’s bare feet hop down onto the floor, and, in scrub pants and a T-shirt, head for the door. His body seems exposed. Season 2 starts with Dean stripped down. The vulnerability of his body is always “on the table,” it’s part of his landscape, it’s familiar to him, to us … he senses it, knows it … he’s a hunter so obviously Death is a reality for him, but so far (except for “Faith”) it has not really factored into how he sees himself in the world. And “Faith” was very very important. It introduced those deep concepts for really the first time, letting us know that Supernatural would not shy away from existential matters, from philosophical and ethical questions.


The interesting thing about Ackles’ body is this: He’s huge. His neck is thick. His chest is big. He’s clearly a jock. He’s solid. But what is so great is that he has the ability to make us almost forget that, to see his flesh as something fragile, to feel the pulse in his neck, to feel the chill on his arms and his feet … We don’t normally feel worried about big guys like this. But when I see Dean emerge into the hallway, anxious and lost, looking around for his family, his body exposed like that, with a jagged cut on his forehead, cuts on his ears, his cheek, I get worried. I want him to at least put some shoes on. Put on a coat, Dean. You might get a chill!


Dean is then seen from the end of the hallway, empty and dark and ominous. He seems even more vulnerable from that perspective. Especially calling out, “Dad?” He seems like a kid who woke up in the middle of the night and forgets where he is.

Wincing, his arms sort of hunched into himself, still in pain, he makes his way down the stairs, the camera looping to the side in a delightfully diagonal way. Why shoot something straight on when you can give everyone vertigo? Dean walks into a magnificent from-below shot (of the kind that dominated “Devil’s Trap”), and here we see the strange dichotomy of the character made visible: He seems literally massive. Like he is 20 feet tall.


A towering bulky figure. And at the same time, something about his pose, mixed with the hospital garb and the T-shirt, makes him seem diminished and small.

We’ve talked a lot about bodies and how they are treated in these re-caps and in the comments. Season 2 is going to be even more heavily about that. Death. Life. The body’s need to live, the body’s draw towards death. The body’s strength, the body’s vulnerability. Sam is going to start to surge forward in the narrative, his own body starting to become disturbing, marked, from the inside. It won’t be until the ending of the season that we understand what went down in that nursery, and THEN we have to wait until Season 3, and then on into Season 4, to see how all of that manifests. Patience! But all of it has to do with the integrity of the body. Or, the seeming integrity of the human body. Nothing has “integrity” in Supernatural. No one is safe. You can be penetrated, possessed, taken over, co-opted. You can cease being you in a flash. The line between life and death is not a strict border, but a porous one, with traffic back and forth.

Dean’s body is what’s at stake here. We can see it. I mean, hell, we see it twice in the very same shot, Dean being split off from his own body.

But at this point, we have no idea that Dean is not, you know, in his own body.

So, looking back to my initial reaction.

“In My Time of Dying” worked a strange spell on me, a spell that has lasted despite multiple viewings. There’s a gentleness at work, a tenderness, a sort of raw openness that comes up in scene after scene – really, in every scene, even the ones involving John. Especially the ones involving John. After the twisted angry melodrama of the final episodes of Season 1, “In my Time of Dying” was a total revelation. It was not what I expected. It was not where I thought they would go. And the scene with Tessa … which stretches out over a couple of interspersed scenes … and where “they” allowed Dean to “go” in that scene, calling us back to the “should I live or should I die” questions first raised so memorably in “Faith” … The fact that the season opener for Season 2 was all about those issues, and that it really dug into those issues, (without sacrificing the plot that needed to move forward, the Colt, the demon, John’s whisper in Dean’s ear) … I appreciated it so much. THAT’S the Supernatural I respond to most palpably, the philosophical existential Supernatural. And here it was, in its most open state, opening the entire Season! They didn’t “bury the lede.” They weren’t trying to work these issues in in a stealthy way, they brought them right up to the surface.

The camera move here, as he’s on the stairs, sort of circling down to see the woman in the glassed-in booth and then circling back to Dean’s face, is a classic example of a “subjective” shot. It’s Dean’s world, it’s Dean’s point of view, the episode is through his eyes. The camera is close in on his face, another clue of the subjective nature of what’s going on here.

That subjectivity gets worse when he tries to talk to the woman behind the glass booth, asking where his dad and brother are. She doesn’t even look up. Dean snaps his fingers at her. Nothing. It’s scary, and he looks scared. He’s realizing.


Next we see him hustling down the hospital hallway, looking alarmed, and … like he knows what he is about to see. He runs to his own room, glances in the door, and sees himself lying there on the bed, unconscious, tubes in his nose, mouth.

Technical side note: They did some great stuff in “In My Time of Dying” to suggest the two separate Deans. There was a body double in the bed at times, with basically a mask of Jensen Ackles’ face molded to his own face. Creepy. They also clearly did some green-screen type of work, where you could see Jensen in the same frame with himself. Then they also used their classic “camera circling around to reveal the monster” thing to show Dean in the corner of a room where he wasn’t before, “his” body lying in the bed in the foreground, or whatever – they found a lot of variety. It’s always elegant. It’s never cheesy or Parent Trap-y. And it meant that Jensen Ackles had to spend a lot of time basically hiding in the corner, as the camera swung around the room, and then tiptoeing into place while the camera was off him. They got some great effects, my favorite one being the scene with Sam and Dean and the Ouija board, but I’ll get to that.


Instead of trying to make the EFFECT be the whole point (in essence wanting the audience to go, “OMG that’s so cool HOW DID THEY DO THAT?” – which would pull you out of it) – they went simple with it, so that you barely think of it as an “effect” at all. Instead, you’re watching these scenes thinking, “Holy shit, I want Dean to get back into his body.”

Less is more is the lesson. One of the best recent examples I can think of that shows the use of this kind of thing is Duncan Jones’ Moon (2009), starring Sam Rockwell. I don’t want to spoil too much if you haven’t seen it. My review is here if you’re interested. SPOILER WARNING. But SEE it, first of all. It was one of my favorite movies that year. And there are times when an “effect” is used and instead of thinking, “Awesome effect, zow-ee!!”, I think, “Holy shit, what a strange and intense situation …”

That’s how the effects work in “In My Time of Dying.” A lot of this is due, as I said, to how the camera “reveals” that split-off aspect, and a lot (of course) is due to Ackles’ performance. His “spirit” has no layers to protect him. His feet are bare. He cannot protect himself, and his emotions come to the surface and never go back down. He is fully present, with nothing between us and him. Dean, when he’s normally himself, is often doing that Burlesque Act thing I’ve often mentioned, revealing what he feels comfortable revealing, hiding what he feels he needs to hide. His survival techniques learned over a violent and difficult life.

Digression on Survival Techniques
I do not resent those survival techniques. I don’t think he should be stripped of them so he can be more “honest” or whatever else. I think he gets to make his own boundaries. Especially since his boundaries have been so compromised in his life. He gets to choose what he reveals, and who he reveals it to, and how. This is going to become hugely important in the next couple of episodes when Sam, as a way of deflecting his own grief and guilt, gets on Dean about how Dean isn’t grieving properly, or at least grieving in a way that Sam thinks is healthy. Keeping in mind, of course, that the loss of a parent is an unbelievably traumatic event and there is no “right” way to go through it – Sam’s type of reaction is ALSO a part of it, something I’ve experienced, as I’m sure you all have too. Sam seems to be talking from the self-help culture, the one that Dean Winchester would never fit into, because dammit it’s too INVASIVE. They want to get INSIDE YOU. NO. GET. OUT. It’s the culture that looks at something like working on a car for 18 hours straight as somehow NOT as healthy as joining a weeping drum circle (sorry, you can see which side of the bread my butter is on). But that whole conflict is so awesome because it’s so well-drawn and specific, and since neither of them are particularly erudite fellows there’s a lot of defensiveness and hurt and “forget it”s and it’s all so human, such a perfect representation of how disorienting death can be.
End of Digression

Slowly Dean moves forward, to consider himself. To look upon himself.


Dean vs. Himself will be a constant theme, more so than with Sam, and I find that fascinating. We’ll also get into that with his “mirror moments,” which may actually warrant a whole post in and of itself.

Sam also has to fight with out-of-control aspects of his own identity. I mean, he’s the Poster Boy for that. Dean’s fights, however, at least until Season 9, were always existential and psychological, purely. That entire Arc has now come to its full fruition in Season 9, gone implicit to explicit – with the Mark of Cain.

When Dean catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror (as he will often, I’ll point them out as they come), he often stops, and just stares. Who is that guy. Who am I. How do I reconcile what I feel with what I know, and what I feel with what I can’t show. How much longer can I keep doing this? Look at the price I have paid. These, I must point out, are private moments, Dean communing with his own reflection.

The Man In the Mirror
Men staring at themselves have a long history in cinema and the connotations are ALWAYS different than women staring at themselves in the mirror, which is a far more commonplace image. When women stare at themselves in the mirror (in cinema anyway), we know what they are doing, we know what they are seeing. They look in the mirror to perfect their mask: reapply lipstick, check the makeup, the hair. It is practical, what they are doing. But when men stare at themselves in the mirror, they are trying to look beneath the mask, or, in the famous case of Travis Bickle, trying to pump UP the mask, psych themselves up into a public persona that will protect them. Huge difference. It is destabilizing when men stare at themselves in the mirror. I have a list of almost 40 movies where that occurs, and I keep meaning to write something up about it.

The most famous example, of course, is Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver.


But there are others, and a lot of them come from 1970s and 1980s cinema, when male roles were being questioned and examined in the culture at large. There was a lot of anxiety about maleness, and what it meant within these new concepts, and so of course that would be reflected (literally) in the films of that era, with men staring at themselves in the mirror, worried, anxious. At first I thought that the “man in the mirror” thing started in the 1970s, but once I started looking for more, I was amazed at how much there was out there! There are examples that go as far back as the dawning days of cinema, so the eruption of women’s lib in the 1970s isn’t the whole explanation.

In Fritz Lang’s M, the horrifying serial killer, played by Peter Lorre, stares at himself in the mirror blankly and then begins to pull his face in different shapes with his fingers, almost trying out different grotesque masks.


There are more. Henry Fonda has a couple in The Long Night, the man considering himself, his crisis, his agony.


In the 70s, we have Rocky Balboa staring at himself and the childhood photos he has stuck in the mirror frame, wondering what will happen to him, to his dreams, to his life.


Martin Sheen has an unforgettable moment with a mirror in Apocalypse Now, when he is drunk and flailing around, and he punches his own reflection, smashing the mirror and cutting his hand.


It became almost a requirement for movie actors in the 70s to have a big “let me consider myself in the mirror” moment. And again, when women look at themselves in the mirror in cinema, they do not look at themselves like this. Their reflections are to be perfected, quickly, practically, a dab of powder, a bit of lipstick, and then on with your day. But men when they catch a glimpse? They stop in their tracks.

In American Gigolo, Richard Gere is always surrounded by mirrors, a perfect example of his almost-feminine brand of narcissism.


When Julian (Richard Gere) looks at himself in the mirror, what he is doing is more in the feminine vein: he is perfecting his mask, and glorying in his own perfection. That entire performance is a revelation, and extremely androgynous, bringing us more into Dean Winchester territory. The blend of masculine and feminine, the “Smudge”, as it were, is strong, and he is judged for it, he is an outlaw, but it is also the only way for someone like him to go. Gere has a glorious private-moment scene where he picks out his clothes, dances around, and checks himself out in the mirror. Here, he behaves like a stereotypical woman (no judgment: we’re talking about stories and how they are told). It’s a beautiful scene, one of the best in the film, and represents some of Gere’s best work.

So anyway, I will return to this theme: Dean Staring at Himself. It’s important.
I’m Starting With the Man in the Mirror. I’m Asking Him to Change His Ways. No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer.

2nd scene
Dean stands in the shadowy hospital room, watching over himself, and Sam, battered and bruised, comes rushing in, right past Dean. Dean, although he certainly “gets” that somehow he is split off, forgets. I mean, wouldn’t you? You’d still try to communicate.


As far as Dean knew, all three of them had been killed. But here’s Sam, on his feet, in the room. Jared Padalecki’s work is wonderful in this episode as well. The struggles of Sam, his divided loyalties, or, at least, his ability to see outside of the Winchester Belljar… all come to a head here, as he finds himself the sole dude standing in his battered family. John is clearly doing better health-wise than Dean, but Sam’s entire focus is on Dean, Dean, the big brother who can be so obnoxious but who “means well” (as people say again and again). Sam’s face throughout, gentle and scarred and thoughtful, is eloquent of what Dean means to him and what support like that has done for his life. I mean, you could also say to some extent that it has ruined Sam’s life … but that’s not the only side of it and that’s certainly not what Sam is present to as he looks down at Dean.


Great effect: we see Dean hovering behind Sam, talking to him (and unheard), and then Dean leaves the frame, and the camera moves down so we see Dean lying in a coma. It’s so elegant, so beautifully set up you barely notice how cool it is. As Sam stares down at his brother, Dean anxiously stands off to the side, talking to Sam, nervous, trapped in his own dimension. He’s frustrated: “Come on, you’re the psychic!”

The doctor enters saying, “Your father is awake.” Sam turns into a gigantic super-dark closeup, with Dean a blur in the background, a classic Kim Manners shot, and the real LOOK of Supernatural in these early seasons. Shots like these operate on multiple levels:
1. They tell the story from an emotional standpoint. It’s not “objective,” it is entirely “subjective.”
2. They prioritize BOTH guys as equally important. It’s THEIR story. Whatever news comes at them, we need to see the reactions – in the same moment – from both of them. It’s juicy juicy, in terms of behavior. Two for the price of one.
3. It creates a mood, a dark and somber mood, especially with those damn shadows.


Dean is visibly relieved to hear his father is okay, and alive, but Sam’s reaction is more guarded. We’ll see that throughout. Sam has the protection of, oh, Being Alive. And “Corporeal,” a situation you take for granted until it is taken from you. Dean, on the other hand, is all emotion.

The doctor gives his pretty bleak diagnosis about Dean’s condition. Dean looks on, worried and afraid. Dean in the bed is shot like a gorgeous El Greco priest. Sam, half in shadow half in light, is as beautiful as he ever gets, even with the busted-up face. The emotion there. The power of listening, and how so often listening is connected to objective in acting – the two most important things (which I wrote about before, especially in terms of Padalecki, in “Nightmare.”)

The doctor is truthful and says that they won’t know more until he wakes up … “if he wakes up.” It takes Sam a little bit to take those words in (reminiscent of his gorgeous moment with the doctor in “Faith,”) and meanwhile, Dean, off to the side, balks at this, protesting, “Screw you, doc. I’m waking up!” As Sam contemplates the doctor’s words, Dean understandably gets nervous that Sam will stop fighting for him, that he will say, “Okay, then I’ll just sit here and watch over him …”


Abandonment is the theme here for Dean. Please do not abandon me in my time of dying. Those Led Z lyrics again. And yet there’s that deeper level, the existential one, about Life and Death. When it’s time to die, it’s time to die. Of course the Winchesters constantly mess with that truth, and one could even make the case that their lives are so difficult BECAUSE they cannot accept death. It’s like they’ve been through so much, all in those formative childhood years, that there’s a flat-out resistance to any more pain. Dean has that going on in a more acute form than Sam, because Dean “took it on the chin” as a child with the death of Mom and Dad’s transformation into a drill sergeant. But both of them have a hard time letting go.

Dean urgently says to Sam across his own coma-ed out body, “Come on, Sam, go find some hoodoo priest to lay his mojo on me.” Dean is then moved out of the frame as the camera goes in so close to Jared that it is inconceivable they could get any closer. Because we want Sam to hear Dean. But Sam is listening to the doctor. And who knows what Sam is aware of. Death has a way of blurring the boundaries.


That enormous closeup of Sam is then bluntly interrupted by a gigantic closeup of a wallet, and huge hairy-knuckled fingers drawing out a card with some difficulty. Then there is John, handing his insurance card to Sam. It’s a great cut. It jumps us from one room to the other. It does so without those pesky “establishing shots,” which I go on so much about, where we see the room in its entirety and the placement of the characters in said room, before we go in close. Supernatural doesn’t work that way. Cutting from Sam’s huge face to Dad’s huge wallet is emotional and strange, it keeps us on our toes, it destabilizes our understanding of the environment.


The following is an amazing scene in conception and execution. It’s a scene that looks very different once all the secrets have been revealed. And the mystery of Morgan’s performance is that he is both playing it and NOT playing it. In other words, a master poker-face. The performance actually seems to change, each time I watch it.

The short of it is: Sam wants to help Dean. John does too but tries to talk Sam down from impulsive action. John tells him to go retrieve the Colt. Oh, and to also have Bobby pick up some hippie-herbs. Sam asks about the demon’s comment. John point-blank lies. Ghost-Dean witnesses the whole thing. So that’s a lot of shit to get through in a scene that barely lasts a minute.

The scene also includes:
— charcoal-black shadows, dim blue shades
— a panoply of gorgeous wounds all over the three men

Sam glances at the card, and grins slightly, “Elroy McGillicuddy?” The smile on John’s face is faint, acknowledging the absurdity of, well, their whole damn lives. “And his two loving sons,” replies John, which makes me think I need to get on that insurance plan pronto.


The best thing about Morgan’s work in the episode, and the most difficult thing, is how layered it is. He’s operating on a secretive layer, and it is just as complex and hard-to-pin-down as what was going on in “Dead Man’s Blood” or “Devil’s Trap.” I think most of this is because John is not the protagonist. We see him through the conflicted confused eyes of his sons. He almost acts as a projection, and that is no small feat for an actor.


John asks Sam for an update on Dean. Sam says they should “look for a hoodoo priest to lay some mojo on him,” so psychic-Boy is clearly getting some message from Beyond. John is not too gung-ho, but the way Morgan plays it you ache to know what the hell is going on with him. You could certainly float out interpretations, and I sure as hell will, but there is always more to discover.


In my first viewing, I thought that John was putting the brakes on Sam, because HE wanted to be the one in charge, which we have seen from him repeatedly, especially when it comes to Sam. But even with that simple explanation, there are layers. He “knows” about Sam. And so maybe he doesn’t want Sam in charge of jack-squat. If Dean has to die, then Dean has to die. You could also say that John was being realistic with Sam, trying to manage Sam’s expectations for Dean, although I think the case for that is weaker. But it’s still there.

John says, “We’ll look for someone. But Sam. I don’t know if we’re gonna find anyone.”

Sam, not afraid or cowed in the same way Dean would be from a similar comment, says, “Why not? I found that faith healer before.” And yes, that went really well, didn’t it!

Kim Manners has now chosen to go in very close. We are in a classic close-up to close-up scene, and the colors are blue and black, the shadows soft and pliable, spreading across their faces. They have beautiful wounds, and the wounds tell the whole story of their ultimate fragility. They are not indestructible. They are not superheroes. They’re just people.

Sam pushes back against John’s reticence, and John gets annoyed. “I said I’d check. I’ll look under every stone…” and blah blah blah John Winchester, thanks for sharing. Sam doesn’t like it. He wants to get started NOW on Hoodoo-Priest-Search-Terms. But he is so accustomed to his father being “the Leader” that he doesn’t take that initiative (like he did in “Faith.”) I find Sam so touching in this episode.

After a pause, John glances at Sam, with a cunning glint in his eyes and says, “Where’s the Colt.”


Ah, the Colt. There are many things I miss in the more recent seasons, but one of the biggest things I miss is the Eternal Glamour and Mystery and Seduction of “The Colt.” It made so much possible.

It makes what happens next possible. Of course the Colt has a purpose in the plot, but its real purpose is to drive the Winchesters mad and turn up the heat under their conflicts and either pit them against one another or bond them together. It’s an extremely useful object. Because here it heats up the underlying tension between Sam and John, never far from the surface anyway. The Colt is the “excuse” for Sam to call his dad out. “Your son is dying, and you’re worried about the Colt?”

So John re-caps the urgency, they need the Colt, the demon might be looking for them, and it’s all quite logical, albeit a little bit cold. Sam says it’s the trunk of the Impala which had been dragged to a junk yard. John orders Sam to go get it, because what if someone looks in the trunk, and Sam says he already called Bobby. Bobby’s on his way to retrieve the Impala and drag it back to his Palace.

I find that small exchange extremely anxiety-provoking. My first boyfriend treated me like that, grilling me, and telling me to do stuff that I had already done. “Make sure you blah blah blah.” “I did.” “Okay, but did you make sure to blah blah beforehand?” No matter what I said, I came up lacking. And he would grill me until he found the one thing I hadn’t done. Why I put up with it for four years is inconceivable to me. It’s why I was anti-relationship and staunchly so for … Jeez, 15 years? It’s so subtle, the exchange about the Colt and the Impala, and could be perceived in a sheer informational way, but every time I see it I remember being treated like that constantly. It makes you feel helpless. And eventually you find yourself in a state of “learned helplessness,” another way to label “depression.”

John tells Sam to go meet up with Bobby and gives him a laundry list of other instructions, and instead of responding like an emotionless drone (which is perhaps what is required, or certainly the most “relaxing” for John), Sam grins a little bit at all of it and says, “I think I got it covered.” He says it quietly, even politely, but look at John’s reaction. Again, you could put a label on it, saying “Here is what this moment IS”, but Sheila don’t swing that way. The moment gets wider and deeper the more I look at it and consider it. It’s like John Wayne’s famous closeup in The Searchers (one of the most famous closeups in American cinema.) In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich, Bogdanovich asked Wayne about that moment.

Peter Bogdanovich: One of the most memorable moments of any picture I’ve seen you in is a silent moment in The Searchers. After you see what’s been done to the white women, there’s a close-up of you, camera moves in –

John Wayne: I turn back. Terrific shot. Helluva shot. And everybody can put their own thoughts to it. You’re not forced to think one way or the other.

I think it’s important to mention this, not because it’s fascinating (although it is) but also to just indicate where I’m coming from. That in-between state, the rejection of “either/or” analysis, the embrace of the murky grey areas in the no-man’s-land between people, The Smudge … that’s what I’m into, that’s what Supernatural does so well. It, more than anything else, is why the fans love to discuss the show. It’s why I thought the final moment of The Sopranos was so fucking brilliant. It forced people to deal with ambiguity. It forced people to not know and sit in that uncomfortable not-knowing. And yeah, there were people who tried to back up the case for what they thought happened … but in the end, it was an interpretation only. There were some who could not bear that ambiguity: “It is OBVIOUS Tony died, because of this this and this.” And I don’t care what the creator says about it. And I don’t care about the backstage stories about why a certain thing was chosen or done that way. Because once it’s onscreen and out in the world, it’s MINE. It’s YOURS. It no longer belongs to those who created it.

Edited to add: Not that interpretation is bad! It’s that there really are some situations where you just can’t know for sure, and that’s the fun of it.

Sam gets up to leave, and John stops him, holding out a strip of paper with some things for Bobby to pick up. Sam scans the list, and asks what it’s for, and John says, “Protection.” Watch him nod as he says it. Great.

So far all they’ve talked about is the present crisis. The horror from the cabin, with the drooling Yellow-Eyed demon hasn’t been mentioned at all. And Sam mentions it now. “The demon said he had plans for me and the children like me. Do you have any idea what he meant by that?”

John shakes his head and says, “No.” It’s another moment I never get sick of watching.

Sam leaves, and the camera moves in on Morgan’s profile, as close as it can get, and as it circles, we suddenly see Dean, a blur in his white T-shirt in the background, arms crossed, looking over at his father.


He has not been visible for the entire scene. One can only imagine his thoughts. It’s almost like the best opportunity ever, to actually get some distance from his father so that he can try to PERCEIVE him, without being present. John keeps Dean on such a short leash, emotionally. Or, to be even clearer: Dean has been so well-trained that he now keeps himself on a short leash. All of that is loosened in “In My Time of Dying,” which is eloquent in and of itself, of the hold John has over Dean (we can clearly see that merely in its ABSENCE). John, left alone in the bed, or so he thinks, is deep in thought, and then, whoosh, the focus shifts so Dad goes blurry and Dean comes into focus. (I love it when Supernatural does that. It could be seen as a “tic” of the show, a compulsive stylistic choice, but I love it.) Dean is now revealed, having been there all along, and he stands there, arms folded, and while the look on his face is accusatory, suspicious, his body still has that almost frail aspect to it. The way his arms are crossed, the way his arms are revealed. He’s half in shadow. It’s a great shot: Tightly controlled, and yet with tons of space for the intense emotions.


3rd scene
Sam with the blasted lit sky behind him. Out in the world again. Out of the shadowed cloister of the hospital (and the family unit). He moves forward, and Bobby is revealed in the frame, and Sam says, “Oh man. Dean is gonna be pissed.” (It’s a line I love for a lot of reasons. It’s optimistic: Dean will clearly get better so that he will have an opportunity to be pissed. And also just a clear acknowledgement of how much Dean loves that damn car. It’s just so brotherly – like the great little “Let it go” moment in “Skin.” Dean is, in many ways, un-knowable … to most people, who only get the Burlesque Act – and for good reason. But Sam “gets” to know him.)


It’s also awesome how immediately Bobby has become an important part of the Supernatural world. It’s as though he has always been there. Pastor Jim has vanished from memory. Bobby is the go-to guy now. And the character is so perfectly drawn, that seemingly all Jim Beaver needs to do is step into the guy’s shoes. Of course there was a lot more thought to it than that, but you don’t see that thought. You just see the end result, which is a well-lived-in well-worn character who has known the boys always, and has an access to their inner lives which gives him permission to speak plainly. It’s almost a RELIEF. Jeez, let some air into that belljar, will ya?

And by way of contrast: Bobby is an older male. Sam and Dean, both so dominated by that OTHER older male, can actually relax in the presence of an older male who doesn’t make them feel like incompetent kids. And yet he also has that paternal interest in them. He is able to love them without trying to control or shame them. We’re only 22 episodes into this damn thing and Bobby is such a relief.

The scene here is short. 5, maybe 6 lines. But again, a hell of a lot “gets done” here.

We see the completely totaled Impala. One is amazed that anybody survived that noise.

Bobby is like, “Sell the thing for scraps,” all as Sam reaches into the backseat and pulls out the completely destroyed laptop with the great band stickers on it. I love continuity in props. It takes a lot for a team to track these objects, and they know that any tiny mistake will be LEAPT upon by the teeming hordes. Sam says, and again my heart melts, “Dean’d kill me if we did that – when he gets better, he’s gonna wanna fix this.” It’s all hopeful language.

Bobby still thinks it’s not worth the trouble. There’s nothing left to be rebuilt. There’s nothing left to save. He’s thinking practically. But Sam says, “Listen to me, even if there’s only one working part, that’s enough. We’re not just gonna give up …” and Padalecki manages to trail it off, leaving the “on Dean” unspoken but just as loud as if he had said it. And Bobby gets the message. Bobby hears Sam’s words, takes in Sam’s face, and then nods. “Okay.” It’s such a relief to see a character come into their world who treats them with respect. You realize how rare it has been.

Sam hands Bobby the list of woo-woo crap from John. Sam might have assumed that this would be no big deal, a simple errand-run, but Bobby says, “What’d John want with this?” Sam says, “Protection from the demon…” and Bobby looks right at Sam, without a word, and something about Bobby’s face strikes a note of alarm.


I love it that Bobby is incapable of lying. We’ll see it again and again. He is also an excellent con-man, his entire lifestyle is a “front” for something else, but in these simple emotional moments, his heart is always on his sleeve. He’s like Dean in that way. Sam says, “What is it.” And Bobby gives a lie a soldier’s try, “Nothing …” Sam interrupts. “Bobby. What’s going on.”

Then we cut to the next scene, but the beautiful thing about the moment is that Bobby obviously spills the beans. He does not “protect” John or lie for John. He informs Sam of the real purpose of those ingredients, because Bobby is a knowledge-sharer, not a withholder. The more you know, the better you are able to protect yourself. It is better to see what is coming. John has never treated knowledge in that way. I would imagine most of the rank-and-file hunters are similar to John. They seem like a cagey suspicious bunch, and Bobby is the anomaly. There’s a reason why Bobby would become the veritable call-center for a group of trusted hunters. He shares what he knows. In the world of Supernatural, that is a big big deal.

4th scene
A powerhouse of a scene which then effortlessly morphs into something else, the Monster-of-the-Week plot, but here, there is no delineation between the two story lines. They are one and the same. As the series goes on, that blending is more often the case than not, so that two-brothers-on-the-road-killing-monsters may have been the initial idea, but we certainly can’t say that that’s what the show became!

We have never seen Dean alone with his father. We have had a nice juicy scene between Sam and his dad, in “Dead Man’s Blood,” but we have not had the equivalent with Dean. Sam has always been in the room, or there, as a witness, an onlooker, a fellow participant. You know, it’s interesting, but hockey player Mike Eruzione, who made the goal “heard round the world” in the 1980 Olympics, said decades later that as much as he revered coach Herb Brooks, he said he would still feel uncomfortable and intimidated if he were alone in a room with Herb Brooks. To Eruzione, even as a middle-aged man, Herb Brooks was still his coach. He would still be trying to live up to Brooks’ expectations. Eruzione wasn’t complaining. He idolized the man. But it speaks to the power that some people have, and Herb Brooks obviously used his power for good. Ahem.


But I imagine the same might be true if Dean and his dad were left alone together. There wouldn’t be a hell of a lot of talking going on, and certainly not about feelings or anything ambiguous. It would have been interesting, though, to see such a scene.

Here, though, we see Dean lying in his coma, with John as a dark shadow on the side, sitting by the bed. (Morgan looks like Raul Julia, for some reason, in this scene.) The camera moves around behind Jeffrey Dean Morgan so his black blob takes up the whole screen, and when it circles around to the other side, we see Dean again, only this time Non-Corporeal Dean. It’s a lovely effect. John is gloomy, stoic, and still. Dean looks on at his father. There’s almost a … what should I call it … shyness in how Dean talks to his dad at first. There’s a pleading. But it’s also shy, because this is not the dynamic he had with his father in his real life.

And Dean is so hurt that his father is just sitting there.

One would HOPE that if you were somehow “looking on” at your parent in a similar situation, that you would not see your parent sitting there like a lump, but instead, they would be behaving something like this:

Dean says, and there are so many beats you could get whiplash:

Come on, Dad. You gotta help me. I gotta get better. I gotta back in there. You haven’t called a soul for help. You haven’t even tried. Aren’t you gonna do anything? Aren’t you even gonna say anything? I’ve done everything you ever asked me. Everything. I’ve given everything I’ve ever had, and you’re just gonna sit there and you’re just gonna watch me die? What the hell kind of father are you?

It’s stunning. Stunning acting work, of course, but also stunning considering Dean’s Season 1 mantra to Sam of “Our childhood wasn’t that bad.”

More on Survival Techniques, to Beat a Dead Horse
I don’t blame Dean for propping up and defending his version of events. Besides, I don’t relate to fictional characters in that way, on the whole. Especially not if I find them interesting. It’s why I am annoyed by comments in re: films/books that someone didn’t like whatever it is because the lead character wasn’t “likable”. So … you don’t “like” Captain Ahab, I’m assuming. But Jeez, he’s a hell of a character, right? You certainly couldn’t “like” Barbara Stanwyck in a lot of her movies, but damn, you couldn’t take your eyes off of her. It’s just a minor pet peeve of mine, especially when it is used to reject a movie or TV show or character: “I just couldn’t relate to the lead character.” Ugh. I find Supernatural to be far richer than that, and the whole point is that how you feel about it depends on where you are standing. It’s why I fluctuate and flow back and forth, sometimes multiple times in one scene. And why certain Arcs, like Sam as Soulless, or Sam with Ruby, or the Gordon Arc coming up, are so deeply satisfying to me story-wise. The characters can only “show up” properly when they are faced with obstacles. Storytelling 101. But back to Dean: survival techniques like Dean’s are there for a reason. It’s not for Sam or anyone else to say, “You shouldn’t survive things in this particular way because it’s unhealthy.” That’s true with Dean’s promiscuity, and even the booze, and all the rest of his Burlesque Act. I honestly think Dean handles most shit just fine. As I’ve said, my filter for him is not “victim” but “survivor,” mainly BECAUSE of that identification factor I’ve got with aspects of him, especially this particular one. Not all life SHOULD be a “chick flick moment” if “chick flick moment” means “Please stop having any boundaries and please talk about feelings, even when you don’t want to or when the very thought of that is threatening.”


So all of this is to say: having gotten to know Dean through Season 1, and having gotten to know how he handles things and reacts to things, his monologue here is even more of a stunner. The beauty of it is that we have sensed those feelings in him from the get-go. That is the depth of Ackles’ portrayal and understanding of the character. It’s not about anger. Or not just about anger. Dean is actually quite slow to anger. Sam’s much quicker to rage out. Dean keeps his shit together. It’s not so much tears or sadness that threaten Dean’s psychological house of cards. It’s rage. Once he lets himself feel even just a tiny bit of the rage, from the unfairness at how his father treated him … then that rage will come flooding into him as tall as a skyscraper and will wipe out everything in its path. And so of course one doesn’t want to feel anger. It will come out in other ways. A lot is “handled” by the sheer activity and violence of the hunter’s life. It’s a good channel for all that stuff. Or, not a channel, but a release valve. Dean can deal with vulnerability far easier than he can deal with rage. It’s one of those easily-missed aspects of his character, because he is so firmly placed in that out-of-style Iconic Tough Guy Tradition (I babbled on about that in the “Devil’s Trap” re-cap). One might mistake him for a hothead. One would be wrong. And anger at his father? Absolutely forbidden.
I’ll Try to Stop Now

The monologue here, despite Dad’s presence, is Dean to Himself. It’s practically a soliloquy in the classical sense. And this is the Season 2 opener. Brill.


“What kind of father are you?” He feels unacknowledged. He IS unacknowledged. He has done “everything” his father has “ever asked.” And that fact has been ignored. Sam got out. John would haunt the Stanford campus making sure Sam was okay. But Dean? By his side? What about me? I’m right here. What about me? It’s all there in that monologue. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

And just to note: the shots of Morgan, intercut with Dean’s monologue, are stunning. There’s one where only his head emerges in a tiny pool of light, the shadows streaming behind him filling the screen.



I miss you, Raul Julia.

We see him as Dean sees him for sure, but in multiple viewings, if you can ignore Dean’s dazzle (no other word for it, he’s a scene-stealer just by showing up), there’s all kinds of stuff going on in Morgan’s face, none of which is easily explained. It just IS. It’s like Mount Rushmore. There is an expression there, but it is also opaque, and what it MEANS depends on what you’re looking for. I’ve seen despair there, I’ve seen a sinister passivity, I’ve seen a cunning man with his brain click-click-clicking, I’ve seen apathy.

Dean’s focus on his dad is distracted by sensing something in the Force. A rumbling, something happening. He moves to the door and then this light whirling being kind of races by, startling Dean (I love his physical reaction, especially when you consider there ain’t nothing actually there and Ackles is reacting to jack-squat in reality.) But it’s clearly some kind of spirit and it reminds me of some of the ghosties whirling through Manhattan in Ghostbusters, although I know Supernatural is supposed to be serious. Dean, still not used to being basically invisible, looks back at his dad for confirmation, realizes he’s on his own, and sets off to investigate.

I just love how the hospital is so damn dark. I mean, how would nurses even function in that gloom? The hallways are filled with people, none of whom react to Dean as he hustles by. Please note one awesome camera move: the camera follows him down the hallway from behind, then overtakes him around the side, circling around and pulling back, so we see him from the front. It took them 4 hours to get it right. This is NOTHING compared to the unbroken take that starts out “Simon Said,” later in Season 2, when Sam and Dean enter the roadhouse and the camera dances and swoops and swirls and circles, and seriously, I would love to hear how long that one took, because there were three characters involved, Jo, Dean, and Sam, and all of them had lines. Crazy complex and very sexy.


But all of that camera action serves a purpose, making things feel urgent and confusing, whereas up until now we’ve had some pretty formal and static framing. Dean follows the swooping green ghostie into a room and stops, seeing a nurse (Carrie Fleming) lying on the stark tile, choking to death. Her body is wracked in spasms, she tries to call for help (and Fleming does a hell of a job). It’s pretty brutal and Dean the empath is crushed and terrified, calling for help down the hall. Naturally his cry is ignored and Dean rushes to the woman’s side, helpless. She dies right there, her eyes open and in agony. The closeup of him. The cut on his forehead. The white T-shirt. It’s his susceptibility and softness and vulnerability, highlighted, underlined. It’s always been there, it’s where the character operates from, but here … all barriers are ripped away. He takes this woman’s death personally. It is not abstract to him. He can’t disconnect. NOTHING is abstract to Dean. He cares about everything. No wonder he drinks.

5th scene
An awesome three-way scene between Sam, John and Dean, made even better by the fact that Dean is THERE, but Sam and John can’t see him. Yet half the time they’re all crowded into the same frame, and there’s an argument going on, reminiscent of the one by the side of the road in “Dead Man’s Blood,” with Sam and John ripping into each other and Dean trying to stop it, calling in lines from off-screen like, “Stop it!” It’s the exact same structure. Only for Dean it’s even more horrible because neither of them can hear him. It could be seen as a reminder that his family really does need him, and without him around they can’t wait to tear each other apart.

Sam comes storming into John’s room, and goes to the window first, Dean hustling into Sam’s space from the side, talking urgently about the ghostie he saw, and there’s something in the hospital and they have to hunt it. Sam is in total blackness, Dean half-lit, and it’s a creepy and good-looking shot.


John, lying in bed, says to Sam, “You’re quiet,” and that’s Sam’s cue. He hurls the duffel bag down onto John’s bed and lays into him, armed with the knowledge from Bobby. There’s also anger there that John lied right to his face. “Protection.” How dare he. Also how dare he be thinking about the demon instead of Dean? What is wrong with this man? It’s the hold-over from the conversation in the Impala at the end of Season 1, when Sam looks into the rear-view mirror at Dean and tells his father that no, killing the demon is not worth everything. Sam is HOT, man. He is FURIOUS.

“You’re gonna summon the demon here for some stupid macho showdown!” Them’s fighting words, Sammy. John keeps his cool and says, “I have a plan,” which shoots Sam through the roof: “Dean is DYING. And you have a PLAN.” Dean, meanwhile, has slowly followed Sam over. He is unseen by both of them (it must have been a trip playing this scene for all parties involved), and seems vulnerable, like a little kid at the top of the stairs listening to his parents argue down below.

Sam is screaming, John interjecting, “Do not tell me how I feel” (which is so woman’s-magazine-ish it’s hilarious to me), and Dean hovering anxiously, a blur in the background, pleading offscreen, “No, no, no, guys, don’t do this.” John says, “I am doing this for Dean,” and Sam reads him the riot act: “How is revenge gonna help, Dean?” And look at Morgan’s face in response.


It’s a hell of an expression. He looks almost taken aback by Sam’s fury and openness in expressing it. There’s adrenaline there, too. Fury. Dean, meanwhile, is the fluttering mother-hen, ignored on the sidelines, saying, again, “Come on, guys, please, don’t do this …”

John brings back the “obsession” comment from “Devil’s Trap,” (“Sam and I can get a little obsessed …” – looping Sam in beside him in a way that leaves Dean out, although that comment is ostensibly a compliment, albeit all demon-bullshit.) John seems to feel that Sam is a stronger ally, and more obsessed than Dean. Dean is the unthinking obedient grunt who just does what he is told. John relies on and leans on Sam. At least that’s what these little moments suggest. John goes for the jugular: “I thought this was your obsession too. This demon killed your mother, killed your girlfriend. You begged me to be a part of this hunt.”

When was that exactly, John? When did Sam “beg” you?


There are a couple of cutaways to Dean looking on, owning all of it, feeling all of it, wanting it to stop, it must stop, the fight must stop, stop stop stop stop. And John says what had been on his mind all along – “If you had killed that thing when you had the chance none of this would have happened and your brother would be awake right now.”

Nice. Nice work from you, John.

John, with every word he speaks, goes into meaner waters. It’s how fights sometimes happen, obviously. He wants to hurt Sam. There are tons of levels as to why. “I knew I should never have taken you along …” and blah blah, now it’s all Sam’s fault. Sam very well might have leapt onto John and started strangling him if Dean hadn’t punched his way through to the human plane – screaming, “I SAID SHUT UP”, with a wildly flinging hand that knocks the glass of water off the food tray and onto the floor, shattering.

Sam and John stop. Everyone stops. Sam and John look at the smashed glass of water. Look at each other. Dean is as surprised as anyone. He looks shocked at his own ability. Glances up at Sam and says, “Dude, I full on Swayze-d that mother.”


He uses Swayze as a verb. Color me satisfied.

Immediately following, however, as Sam and John remain silent, Dean starts to feel something happening to him. A weakening, a fizzling-out. He doesn’t know what is going on. It is bad. Real bad. He falls to his knees, his arms sort of hunched in over his belly, frozen, confused, and he starts to almost short-out, like he’s a television projection going into static.

Meanwhile, there is a commotion down the hallway, the sense of people rushing somewhere, an emergency. John gestures for Sam to go check it out.

Down the hall, we see Dean in his coma, from the God’s-eye Point of View.


Covered in tubes, surrounded by people, who are trying to jolt him back to life. Maybe they should turn the damn lights on so they can see what they are doing. Sam watches from the door, crying, and the camera moves slightly beyond him so we see Dean in the hallway, watching on as the team of doctors and nurses try to revive him and get his pulse back. He’s helpless.


Then he sees the greenish ghostie hovering over his dead body, Shtriga-like, and he shouts at it to get away from him. No response, all as Dean is being basically electrocuted on the table, so Dean runs forward, shouting, “I SAID STAY BACK.”

Fighting for his life. Knowing that his life is worth fighting for. Knowing that he’s the only one who can save himself. It’s not something that comes easily to Dean. He knows how to fight to survive an individual battle with a monster, but on that deeper existential level, the level of “I have a right to my space here” and “My life is actually worth something, to me, if no one else”, it is harder for him. It has already shown up in “Faith,” when he accepted his death in a blasé manner, and it will come up again big-time for most of Season 3, where he treats his impending death as an excuse to have as much sex as he possibly can. Which is exactly what I would do, so, you know, no judgment. But to say, “I don’t want to die” or “Please help me to not die” … it’s almost impossible for him to demand that for himself. This is all on Ackles to bring across and it’s a delicate balancing act. Because if you only saw the coverup, it wouldn’t have that tragic depth, that humanity. And if all you saw was the “Please help me, I want to live” you’d be in sheer mopey melodrama land and you’d miss the Tough Guy Tradition from which he springs.

All of this is coming from retrospect, really, from having seen 9 seasons. In my first viewing of “In My Time of Dying” that wasn’t as much present for me, although somewhat, having seen him resist being healed in “Faith.”

But there was something thrilling and so bad-ass about how Dean attacked that spirit who hovered over his dead body. Dean had no idea what he was dealing with, no idea what it WAS, was totally alone with his knowledge of it, couldn’t talk to Sam about it, and yet he plunges forward and grabs onto it, kind of shocked that he actually CAN. That there is something to hold onto, his hand doesn’t go right through. The Ghostie is distracted, and turns to look directly at him, the force of which blows him back against the wall (Manners chooses to do that in beautiful balletic slo-mo. Slo-mo is not really the style of the show, and it’s very noticeable when it shows up. It’s gorgeous here.) The Ghostie stares directly at him and then whooshes out of the room, Dean still blown back, and then turning, hurrying, to give chase.

Meanwhile, we hear some nurse say, “We have a pulse again.” Glad you can determine that even in the pitch-blackness of the hospital room.

Dean races out into the hallway, looking wildly up and down, there’s just something about his face in this one shot that gets to me. Because what we are seeing there is vulnerability, adrenaline, fear, and determination. The face is basically blasted open.


I just want to point it out, because openness like that IS rare, even in an industry that prizes it so highly.

Sam remains at the door to Dean’s room, shaken, looking in at Dean in the bed.

And here’s an awesome shot, an “effect”, done merely by having a body double in the bed and having Jensen Ackles scoot out of the frame when the camera turns away. And the effect is as good (or even better) than anything CGI-created. It’s a shot that encompasses 270 degrees of a circle. It starts with Sam looking directly into the camera, and then the camera circles out to Sam’s right side so we see him in profile, and we see Dean approaching from down the hallway. As Dean speaks to Sam, the camera moves around behind Sam’s head and then over to Dean so we see Dean in profile, and then the camera moves back around, so we see Dean (aka Ackles’ body double) through the doorway, and then back on Sam from the other side. Then the camera moves off down the hall, away from Sam, where Dean used to be, only now he is not there. It’s elegant. And emotional. Because in that last look of Sam’s, you know he sensed something. But the hallway is now empty.


Dean’s energy is now quiet, after the crisis has passed. He is back to himself. He has learned something very important about what he is hunting. He speaks to Sam quietly, saying, “Don’t worry, Sammy. I’m not going anywhere. I’m getting that thing before it gets me. It’s some kind of spirit but I could grab it. And if I can grab it I can kill it.”

The fact that Reapers don’t occur to him is just something that makes him as human as the rest of us. Death is not possible. Death is wrong. Also, not NOW. Not NOW when his family is back together, when the fight is heating up, when Sam needs him, when Sam and his dad clearly need him to play interference.

6th scene
Dean is off, searching through the hospital for that thing he grabbed, when he hears a panicked female voice screaming: “CAN’T YOU SEE ME? WHY WON’T YOU LOOK AT ME?”

And here comes Tessa, one of my favorite recurring characters (4 episodes in 9 years). Tessa is played by Lindsey McKeon. She’s got it all. She’s got an intuitive understanding of what the role needs, and they obviously cast her perfectly. If she hadn’t worked out so well in this episode, we never would have seen her again. But she brought something to the part, a stillness, a compassion, yes, but also a detachment that is so necessary, so perfect, for someone whose job it is to usher people over the borderline between life and death. It’s not personal. It’s her job. It’s a part of life, perhaps the most important part. She is not terrifying. She is calm. She has absorbed a lot of anxiety and confusion. She knows that most of the “people” she meets are not ready to go. That is not her problem. That is not her concern. She brings all of that to the role without being cold. And that is no easy trick. Her scenes with Dean in this episode are full-on amazing, and the show is still reaping (heh) the benefits of that chemistry 9 seasons later. What she brings out in Dean is different from anyone else. The closest who gets there is Lisa (but that’s in the future: in the “past” at this point the only time we’ve seen him this soft is the brief moment on his face when he looks at his mother in “Home.”) . There are moments with Tessa where we see something new, total relaxation, total physical calming-down, an almost sinking-into the corporeal, as it were. A relaxation into the feminine, if you want to get totally obnoxious about it. He relaxes almost to the point where you fear for him. Dude, hunch those shoulders up again, protect yourself, put some clothes on, it’s dangerous out there. But Tessa’s job is to help Dean accept. He’s a hard nut to crack. But we’ll get to their amazing scenes together and how all that plays out. The way he melts, almost literally, when she touches him gently. It’s incredible.

For now, Tessa wanders through the downstairs hallway of the hospital, panicked, and screaming at the people around her, wondering why they don’t respond. Dean appears at the bottom of the stairs and calls up to her, “Can you see me??”


She can. He hurries up to meet her. People walk by them. There are a lot of extras, which makes their small tete a tete seem even stranger. They are on another plane. She looks at him with fear, she doesn’t know what is happening. Dean introduces himself. His mama raised him right. He asks her name. She tells him Tessa. She asks, “Am I dead?”

We next see Tessa and Dean standing at the doorway to her hospital room. She stares in at her body lying in the bed (with another circular camera movement, so we see them both in the frame at the same time). Tessa is stunned and says, “I just came in for an appendectomy,” which is a pretty funny line, in a black-comedy sort of way, and Dean says, awkwardly, “I hate to bear bad news but … I think there were some complications.”


Tessa refuses to believe what she is seeing. Now all of this, naturally, is a ploy, an act. As we come to realize later. How often does Tessa the Reaper have to do this? I would imagine often. People fight death. They resist. They pull back. This is how she operates, it’s part of her job. Dean has already “seen” her and attacked her. And so she moves to Plan B. Obviously, it works like a charm. Dean would be susceptible to her anyway, because she’s a pretty girl, and brunette too, which he seems to like, but whatever, besides her female form, she is confused and scared and that is like Blood to a Vampire, to make an inappropriate analogy. Dean doesn’t know everything here, but he knows something, and he can share it with her. She needs help. And more so than the fact that, you know, Boobs, that’s the draw for Dean, the irresistible draw, and Tessa would know that. But for now, she plays her part.

Dean walks her through it. Consider what his demeanor would be if he were corporeal. It would be very different. But now he has been reduced, ex-communicated, cut off. It’s almost … it would be almost embarrassing. Supernatural gets a lot right about these near-death and close-to-death experiences. The illusion is always that we are in control, that our bodies are ours. But when we get sick, really sick, and when we almost die, that illusion is shattered. It changes people forever, who get close to something like that.

And Dean is already shaken. You can see it on his face as he talks to Tessa. He has information and knowledge, and he shares it.


We can also see that a decision has been made over the hiatus as they looked at what they had and where they wanted to go in the future – to not be afraid of the freckles. Do not fear them. Embrace them. Hell, highlight them. That fear has since returned, unfortunately, but Season 2 is where they fully embrace what they have, highlight it intensely, and set Little Orphan Annie cavorting freely in broad daylight.

Dean tries to explain to her that he thinks what is happening is she is having an out-of-body experience. She thinks he’s some New Age freak, and he makes a joke about crystals and Yanni (which … Yanni. My God.)


Stop it. Now.

His joke is a relief because suddenly he seems like himself again. But after the joke, back he goes into the vulnerable blasted-open energy, explaining to her what he means, and what he knows, “It’s actually a very old idea. Bilocation. Crisis apparitions. Fetches.” (Welcome to the Google rabbit hole. I am happy to report that Fetches are very common in Irish folklore: “In the passionate lamentations which the bereaved wife could not restrain in the presence of the physician, she frequently cried out, “Oh! the fetch, the fetch!” At I later period she told him of the appearance the night before her husband’s death; and as he thoroughly believed her statement, it involved the theory he henceforth entertained on the subject of Fetches in considerable confusion.“)

Sheila, I’ve got a couple words of advice.


Tessa asks, “So we’re going to die?” And Dean, in his knee-jerk beautiful way, shakes his head – No, we just have to hold on, we can snap right back in and wake up.

The scene closes with an interesting closeup of Tessa, whose expression seems to change a bit.


Taking in what she’s seeing, and then Dean’s subsiding into uncertainty after his outburst. He knows the lore and knows that people can snap back in. When he spoke that to her, he believed it. But he’s just not sure. He can feel how close he is to dying. So his certainty is for her, but also for himself, and that sort of point-blank assessing look she gives him makes him crumble a little bit inside.

Tour de force, all of these small moments.

7th scene
Having paralyzed John’s legs by slamming a bag full of shotguns onto the bed, Sam returns to his father’s bedside, and has obviously told him that he felt something in the hallway.

“It felt like … like, Dean.” says Sam.

I like the idea that even as spirits, we are still stamped as “us”.

John listens. His face is, again, opaque. You could put any number of things onto it. Sam wonders if it’s his “psychic thing” that has made him open to the possibility, and John does glance up at that, but he doesn’t seem alarmed. You could imagine that he might be inside. One thing we can say is that John is NOT like: “Holy hell, you sensed Dean? Well let’s get RIGHT ON THAT PRONTO.”

Despite his final actions in the final moments of the episode, there is a strange and private apathy at work here. I think the “plan” he has has overshadowed all else, and he already knows what he wants to do, and how it is going to play out. It’s a done deal. And his plan will bring Dean back. But what Morgan is “putting out” there … it’s a blank wall. And considering his feelings about Sam, and what he whispers to Dean in the final moments of the episode … one can certainly turn a side-eye towards his concern for Dean. It’s pretty brutal. And the best part of it is: you can’t quite tell what you’re looking at. John has secrets and he’s not telling.

Sam says he has to leave to go get something. I love you, Sam. I love that he basically leaves the hospital, and hitches a ride to a nearby magic shop.

John stops him and promises that he will not hunt the demon until “we know Dean’s okay.”

It’s so manipulative. I love it!

Sam doesn’t really respond, but leaves the room, and then we are left with another fascinating John-Winchester-by-Himself moment that lasts half a second but you could see that look as a dictator cackling over the maps of his gulag system, or an ill man gearing up for his so-called “plan”, but whatever it is, it is eerie.


8th scene
The two Fetches stroll down the hallway, in their scrubs and T-shirts, looking like escapees from a local slumber party. Or two medical interns who just fucked in the broom closet during their shift. Either one.


Fetch-Dean tells her he’s impressed with how she’s handling it. Standing on that dizzying stairway, with people going up and down around them, they talk. She says she was “freaked at first” (like, 1 minute ago), “but now, I don’t know. Maybe I’m dealing.”

She seems to be in touch with something that Dean wants. Reminiscent of his interactions with Layla in “Faith.” He leans in, in other words. Emotionally. Instead of resisting, as we might expect, with, “WHAT? No. You have to FIGHT.” he asks her, “You’re okay with dying?” And now we can see Tessa the Reaper in operation, more clearly. She gives him a little shpeel over how no, she’s not okay with dying, but it’s out of her control now, and maybe it’s just “fate.” Watch how McKeon plays it. It’s subtle. You can see her trying to connect with Dean personally, it is a message to him, trying to get him to accept the same thing so she can move on with her damn day.


Dean does listen. He considers it. (Bless Supernatural for taking the time with these minute pauses, these breaths between lines. Pace is not sacrificed, and it actually ends up feeling MORE real because you sense that these are actual people, thinking, evaluating, judging, people going through extraordinary events.) Maybe Tessa thinks she’s reached him. But then he replies flatly, “That’s crap.” She’s taken aback, and he says, “You always have a choice. You can either roll over and die or you can keep fighting.”

This type of attitude is going to become almost the entire point of the whole show. One might even say its theme. Taken in an oppositional way, so its power can be highlighted: Fate vs. Free Will. Destiny vs. Choice. These questions have repercussions for all of humanity, of course, and we have been battling it out from the moment consciousness was born. Supernatural may not have been about that in its original conception, although you can see it partially in terms of familial roles: Once the Big Brother, always the Big Brother? Once the rebel, always the rebel? So Sam bucks against how his family has conceived of him. And bucks against how Dean perceives him. And on and on. But Supernatural was bold enough and brave enough (and silly enough) to go all celestial with that particular question, to move it up and out of the personal/familial realm into something far more universal. Is choice an illusion? Is destiny set in stone? How DO we decide?

Supernatural survives because these are such rich questions. It’s still going on. Dean is now the focal point of those questions, where normally it has been Sam, and to repeat my mantra: It’s about time. Anyway, here we see it pretty baldly, spoken by Fetch-Dean to a pretty little Ghostie-Fetch in a soft T-shirt. It is going to come up again big-time.

Another emergency breaks out down the hall, and Dean leaves the conversation, running off to check it out. A small child lies in a bed, the machines are beeping like crazy, doctors huddled around, and the Ghostbusters Creature hovers above, reaching its greenish fingers down to the child’s face. Dean and kids, remember.


There is nothing “right” about a child dying. Dean will never accept any of that bull shit as fate. Fuck You. Dean roars into the room screaming, “GET AWAY FROM HER,” but it’s too late. The nurse calls the time of death, and one of the nurses says, “At least she’s not suffering anymore,” and Dean has a little double-take at that. Suffering is fine if it means you’re alive. And what does that have to say about him? He can’t let go. He cannot. He’ll take suffering any day of the week over death. (Sam: “So you’re saying life is suffering?” Dean: “I’m saying it’s the only game in town.”)

9th scene
My favorite scene.

It has it all: beautiful weird camera moves, the two brothers in the frame at the same time, raw emotion, oozing wounds, lots of listening and talking, and also a silly and frivolous undertone that is so appealing – how can material this potentially silly be so powerful emotionally? The only way it works is if everyone treats it seriously. Not TOO seriously, because when there is a joke to be made, someone must make it. (I love Dean’s comment in the scene, “One question at a time, dude”: such a funny and accurate representation of what it would be like to be a “spirit” being peppered with questions when you can only answer one at a time. Funny. Observant.) It’s like Sam sprinkling his own father with holy water in “Devil’s Trap.” If you take a second to step back and really think about what you are looking at, you very well may think, “This is RIDICULOUS.” Same with this scene. But instead … it’s beautiful and silly and warm and strange.

It’s also funny because I associate Ouija boards with being a 12-year-old girl. After all, I was one myself. I have no idea the gender stats on Ouija boards, if boys also brought them out at their own slumber parties. But seeing two grown men, sitting on the floor, “playing” with a Ouija board … is just too too perfect.

Sam tiptoes into Dean’s room, back from his mysterious errand. Sam looks down at his unconscious brother. Says, “Hey. I think maybe you’re around. And if you are … don’t make fun of me for this … but there’s one way we can talk.” I love the “don’t make fun of me for this.” So siblings-ish. Sam draws out the Ouija board from the bag, and we see Fetch-Dean standing off to the side, looking on, mortified that his life, his courageous self-sacrificing Burlesque Act Posse-Magnet of a life, full of sawed-off shotguns and greasy burgers and Metallica and strippers and whiskey and Red Bull – has come to THIS. Really? He’s more embarrassed than anything else.

Sam is not embarrassed. He sits on the floor at the foot of Dean’s bed. That’s a small damn space for what is about to happen camera-wise, which is a full 360. Sam is alone. We can clearly see that when he sits down. The camera moves all the way around him, and as it reaches the 180 mark, Dean walks into the space and sits down. The camera keeps going until it returns to its original position, only now we see Sam and Dean sitting there, like 12-year-old girls having a seance. Sam has asked, “Dean, are you here?” Dean’s embarrassment is even more acute because he is so revealed in those damn scrubs and bare feet and T-shirt. I am so fearful for the missing necklace. And yes, he Swayze-d the glass of water, but will he be able to move the damn planchette?


The look here is already significantly different than Season 1. There’s a change in makeup style. Both guys are wearing less. Dean’s eyelashes cast shadows that practically go down to his mouth. The cut on his forehead looks visceral, the stitches digging into the skin, the red bright against the pale-ness. Something is going on here that is both glamorous and grisly, an embrace of the Importance of Beauty that also flat out objectifies the hell out of both of them. Male Gaze, Female Gaze, whatever: the camera gazes on beauty and has no other statement about it, nothing moral to say about it, no comment on it whatsoever. But beauty is there to be looked at. Admitted to. Reveled in. You can’t have Supernatural without it.

Dean is amazed when he is able to pull the planchette over to highlight the word “Yes.”

He looks at Sam, amazed at his own awesome-ness.

Sam is overwhelmed with the laughter of relief, talking “to” Dean – “It’s good to hear from you, man – it hasn’t been the same without you.” Dean can’t really go there, he’s too freaked and reduced, he’s all hunched over, but he does say, “Damn straight.” He’s ready for the next question.


Then we get another cool camera moves, circular and twining around Sam, where Dean is clearly not there but the Ouija board is moving from letter to letter – H U N T – around and around the camera goes, until finally it stops and moves across the space and we see Dean sitting there again, Ackles hiding off camera for that whole thing and then tiptoeing into place. Gritty low-tech shit and I am in LOVE with it.

Sam, when he reads the word “HUNT” bombards Dean with questions – You’re hunting something? Here in the hospital? What is it? The camera moves across to poor Dean, who is doing his best to communicate one letter at a time, and Dean murmurs, accepting totally the limitations of his current circumstance, “One question at a time, dude.” Limitations are great! We see character so clearly when limits are placed on them.

Dean waits for Sam to get it, which he does. “What is it?” asks Sam. Good question, because damned if I know at this point (and I didn’t “get it” ahead of time. I totally thought Tessa was in the same situation as Dean. She duped me too.)

Dean can work with that. We get a closeup of the planchette moving, and we only see Sam’s fingers on it, but we hear Dean speaking.

“I don’t think it’s killing people,” says Dean. “I think it’s taking them. You know, when their time is just up.”


Sam reads the word, and there’s that eerie sound effect behind him, the chill of the Reaper. “A reaper. Dean. Is it after you?”

Dean looks troubled and like he doesn’t want to admit it. If he were corporeal, he might be able to bullshit his way out of an answer, throw in a “Maybe” or “Not sure yet” but he can’t do that with the Ouija board. It has to be Yes or No. So he slides the planchette to Yes. What else can a Fetch do.


Sam says, “If it’s here naturally, there’s no way to stop it.” Dean knows. He says, “You can’t kill death.” Sam doesn’t know what to say, so Dean says it, “I’m screwed, Sam.”

I love Sam’s thoughtful face in closeup, all those cuts, on his face, on his knuckles.


Jared Padalecki is so good when he’s thinking, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before along the way. It’s one of his major gifts as an actor, and very important with Sam because Sam is such a thinker, a consider-er, an analytical person. Sam rejects his own thoughts here and stands up, revealing the empty room. Dean may very well still be there, but we’re not seeing him, we’re in Sam’s point of view now. “No. No. Dad’ll know what to do.”

Sam makes his way through the pitch-black gloom of the hospital to John’s room but when he enters the room he is stopped by what he sees. John’s bed is empty.

Killer scene, all in all. Looks like everyone had a ton of fun, from the writing of it to the performing of it to the shooting of it. Supernatural at its finest.

10th scene
John Winchester has found his way to the boiler room. We see him enter the scary-looking door in a classic noir shot, where he is merely an ominous shadow emerging from other equally ominous shadows.

Filmed from below, just like Dean was on the stairwell, the injured john Winchester enters the dank dark boiler room with the duffel bag of Echniacea or whatever over his shoulder. There’s smoke emerging from grates, and darkness, and dripping walls and strange light sources and it’s detailed and atmospheric. He finds a spot he likes, which has a whirling industrial fan in the wall, and it is a look that will factor heavily in almost every warehouse scene that ever appears on the damn show. It’s practically a motif, reminiscent of the constant shots of rotating fans in Angel Heart, an atmospheric film which is obviously hugely influential on Supernatural. I mean, take one look at the damn thing. Also, there’s the whole Devil Factor. And the whole Faustian Deals With the Devil plot-line.


John starts drawing on the floor with chalk. There are a million camera angles here. From high up. From close in. From off to the side. It keeps us unstable. There is no clear point of view. John remains a mystery.

11th scene
Sam returns from Dad’s empty room. Dean the Body lies in the bed and Fetch-Dean leans against the window, with the venetian blinds, and the shadows, and his gleaming white T-shirt, and honestly the whole thing is so beautiful I want to swim in it.


Sam has retrieved Dad’s journal and starts to flip through it looking for the Reaper section. Meanwhile, Dean, gloomy Ghost against the window, asks, “Where is he?” Which, you know, is a valid question, and his posture here is identical to the one in the scene where he was revealed beside the door in John’s room. Arms crossed. Leaning against the wall. Although I’m not so sure how that works if you are not corporeal. Regardless. It’s the skeptical withholding posture. Dad has been examined by Dean and has come up lacking. “Where is he,” he drones flatly. Sam, of course, doesn’t hear Dean and starts looking through the book, saying to Dean’s body in the bed, “Maybe there’s something here.”

Dean approaches. Sam is busy looking through the journal. We can’t see Dean’s face at first, he is entirely in shadow. But when he reaches Sam’s side, what we see on his face is soft, grateful, moved, so different from the “Where is he” flatness. It’s perfect, because this kind of openness happens when Dean is, essentially, by himself. “Thanks for not giving up on me, Sammy,” says Dean.


We see Sam through Dean’s eyes, the serious face looking through the book, the way he’s sitting right on Dean’s bed, including Dean’s lifeless body in his circle of trust, as though Dean, even half-dead, is still worth something. Sam is including him. It’s heartbreaking. The betrayal of the body, losing its strength, while the spirit still survives, and Sam fighting for that spirit, and taking Dean’s word for it through the damn Ouija board. He’s the best brother ever, really. Okay. So I just “talked to” Dean with a Ouija Board and “he” “told” me he was hunting a reaper – okay, then, so let’s look at the Reaper Lore and get you back in your body.

Sam is reading the Reaper page, and Dean leans in to take a look, in a stunning shot of the two of them, silvery and black, soft and shining.


All I see is a bunch of chicken-scratch on the page, but Dean has read something that clicks for him, that makes him understand. The show withholds that information, which is smart, especially for dumbbells like myself who didn’t “get it.” Because then I get to be like, “Ehhhhmagerd Tessa!” just like they want me to. “SonofaBITCH,” says Dean and leaves the room, leaving Sam alone and all profiled with silver light and shadow and honestly I’m swooning from the Gorg factor.

12th scene
Dean hustles down the hallway, glancing into the next room, empty (there are a lot of empty rooms in the hospital, perhaps pre-booked by demons and reapers so they could have their long-ass chats with various members of the Winchester family), and there is Tessa, only now it is clear that she is not who she said she was. First of all, her cozy white T-shirt is now black.


A tiny stylistic thing but it makes her seem much more ominous, a part of the shadows of the room, especially with the Louise Brooks hair, putting her clearly in more Femme Fatale territory rather than Damsel in Distress (important distinction). She is also clearly waiting for him. And there are Venetian blinds on both sides of the room. I love you, Supernatural.

The key to why her performance is so good has a lot to do with how she is written. And they obviously picked the right actress who could convey a sense of certainty and closed-doors without being a cold-hearted uncaring bitch. Instead, she lives in another realm, devoid of morality. It doesn’t matter if you are good, or if you are bad. Death comes to all of us. She is not attached either way. She is forced to concern herself with those who refuse to “come with,” but even then she isn’t some snarling dragon-like Maleficent. She is patient. She waits. She hears the person out. She talks them through it.


It’s a beautiful and somewhat healing conception of a Reaper, typically seen as a frightening creature, an oversized Jawa with a scythe ripping through the air. Instead, Supernatural asks us to actually contemplate death, and what it means, and what it means to accept it. Pretty heavy shit for a show whose posters are some of the silliest posters I have ever seen in my LIFE.

Personal Stuff In Re: Tessa and Dean
These scenes with Dean and Tessa coming up touch me on a very profound level. Now that I have doctors and stuff, helping me, it’s all much much better, but for years, decades really, I ignored Blue Oyster Cult’s advice and “feared” the reaper, mainly because I was drawn to the reaper, and I knew like I knew my own name that the struggle would be too much “one day” and I would take the Exit for myself. I had to hold on tight so as not to go there, and would engineer trips to, oh, Memphis, for example, in order to hide from the Reaper. Almost literally that was what was going on (along with the fact that I find life inherently worth living when I think about/write about/listen to Elvis – so there’s THAT). But there the Reaper was, in my apartment, when I returned, crooking its finger at me, beckoning. Dean is not suicidal, so it’s not a one-to-one connection, but he has a moment in the second Tessa episode, seasons later, which chilled me to the bone in recognition (and is one of the reasons why no way in Hell would I have made it through this show pre-diagnosis. No. Way. Turn that shit OFF.) They encounter one another again. It’s been years. She says to him that he’s “the one that got away.” And he says to her, “After our experience, for that whole year I felt like I had this hole in my gut. Like I was missing something. I didn’t know what. But you know what it was? It was you.” I have felt that. Almost literally word for word I have felt that. Because of the energy between them set up in these next scenes in “In My Time of Dying,” she is a soft and accepting female energy, enveloping him in an “It’s okay” metaphorical embrace, touching him, and helping him, sitting there with him as he worked it out, not pushing him, not getting in his grill, not leering at how much she wants him or how good it will feel for her to take him … none of that for once. Instead, an almost soothing and gentle detachment that gives him the space he needs. No wonder he misses her.
Moving On

And so the decision to have the scene play out the way it does, to have it go where it does, was obviously deliberate. It’s not a “horror” scene. She’s not a “monster.” She is a part of life.

She stares at him. And says, in a voice that could be anything, it is entirely detached (and yet still not lacking in warmth): “Hi, Dean.” He has an almost interrogatory mode on, which makes him feel protected, saying, “You know, you read the most interesting things. For example, did you know that Reapers can alter human perception? I sure didn’t.” She stares back, expressionless. “Basically, they can make themselves appear however they want. Like, say, a pretty girl.”


The jig is up, sister. Or, you could say, the jig is up, Dean. That’s why the scene is so good.

He doesn’t like being played, and having his human-ness (his responsiveness to a “pretty girl”) used against him. It’s embarrassing. It points up the fallibility of being human, our quirks and wants and desires … she just used all that to trap him. One can see why she did, clearly. If she had transformed herself into a drooling old man she might not have warmed Dean up as she had. Dean is face to face with his own death, and you can see all that on his face in the huge Kim Manners closeup when he says, “You’re much prettier than the last Reaper I met.”

He’s pacing a little bit, and she’s sitting, so it looks like every police interrogation in every noir you’ve ever seen, the detective laying down what the criminal did for the audience. She isn’t afraid of being busted, like other monsters or demons. All she says is, “I was wondering when you’d figure it out.” i68

In a way it is confirmation for Dean, that her whole “Yeah, I’m dealing with Death” bull shit was just that. It was all a line anyway. But what about the body in the room and the Mother sitting over the bed?

Tessa says, “It’s my sandbox. I can make you see whatever I want.”

She doesn’t say it triumphantly. She’s explaining how it works. But it’s off-putting, it makes Dean feel duped. “What, is this a turn-on for you? Toying with me?” he says.

She says, “You didn’t leave me much choice.”

(If every Death was as high-maintenance as Dean’s, the Reapers would barely make their quota for the day.)

Tessa and Dean both use rom-com language every time they meet; it will be a constant in the episodes featuring their relationship. It’s a nice and very creepy touch, kind of like Sylvia Plath’s “The Birthday Present”. If you want to get totally freaked out, listen to Sylvia Plath reciting that poem:

So it’s a flirtation with death. It’s a date with death. It’s an attraction, and it’s mutual.

Tessa says, “You saw my true form and flipped out. Kind of hurts a girl’s feelings. It was the only way I could get you to talk to me.”

Dean, flailing, pissed, and vulnerable – unarmed, unprotected, un-backed up – has to face her alone, and so he says, “Fine. We’re talking, what the hell do you want to talk about?”

Her expression is gentle.

Now that I am examining her performance closely, another reason why it works so well, and it may be the most important, is that she takes nothing personally. Taking things personally is part of being human. And the fact that she LACKS that makes her seem otherworldly. Her “hurts a girl’s feelings” line is not the truth, it’s part of the rom-com language. The truth is that she knows Dean is afraid, she knows all humans are afraid, and this is her job, but it doesn’t hurt her feelings at all that people reject her. It’s part of the gig. People ask her questions, it’s not her job to provide answers, it’s her job to usher them over that boundary, that’s all. And so her lines come from a place of deep tenderness that is devoid of personal attachment. There isn’t a WHIFF of defensiveness in anything she says. There isn’t even a hint that he could ever hurt her feelings, or reject her, or do anything that would make her reject him. McKeon plays it from that space. And it goes deeper than the New Age-y “everything happens for a reason” crap, which, don’t even get me started. And don’t get me started on “Time heals all wounds,” either. People learn to not say that shit to me twice. Tessa’s energy is almost primal here, it comes from a place that is nearly wordless, like a starry sky, or a heaving ocean, wind in the trees. Things that are devoid of morality – things that just ARE.

I mean, how do you PLAY that? I don’t know, but she does.

She seems inevitable. That illusion would have been cracked if she, the actress, had allowed those smaller human behavioral things into her performance, getting defensive, getting your feelings hurt, being taken aback by someone rejecting you, whatever. Tessa is beyond it. She is irrevocable, a huge wave approaching the shore. No way to stop it. And there is no right or wrong about the wave. A wave has no morality, even if it destroys an entire town. It’s just doing what it is supposed to be doing.

She moves towards him saying, “Death is nothing to fear” and reaches out her hand to place it on his cheek. He reacts, some energy or feeling transferring from her to him, pulling on him, weakening him. This along with the fact that Dean doesn’t like to be touched makes it a palpably emotional moment. Her touch is a caress, and yet it’s not all warm fuzzies. She says, “It’s your time to go, Dean. And you’re living on borrowed time already.”


You know those stories about people in blizzards who get lost and freezing and decide they just want to lie down for a bit in the snow? And then never get up again? That’s what her touching him is like. You can see the call of it, the irresistible call.

13th scene
John has set up his freaky altar with candles and curry powder and his hopscotch game. He also murmurs in Latin, all as the fan whirls in the wall, and he cuts open his hand dripping blood onto his Crock Pot. It’s one of the sexiest grossest things I’ve ever seen. The grunts as he cuts open his hand, the gleaming blood, the whirling fan, the burst of fire in the curry powder … I mean, come ON. It almost … almost … reaches the high camp of The Dunwich Horror.


Spellwork over, John stands and waits. I appreciate the monochrome of the darkness. Live it up, it won’t last long.

Then a hand reaches into the frame, grabbing John’s shoulder, startling everyone involved, as it is meant to do. It’s a janitor, saying, “What are you doing down here?”

The janitor (aka Big Bad Nasty Demon) is played by Fredric Lehne (or Lane, he goes by both), and he has one of those careers an actor would dream of! I loved his small role in Zero Dark Thirty, as “The Wolf,” the big-wig at the CIA who recruited Maya (Jessica Chastain) out of high school (which, seriously, I want more backstory on how THAT happened, and I also want to know why that didn’t happen to ME.) But “The Wolf” had one main scene, really – although he shows up briefly in another scene. And he creates this entire strange awesome character with, what, 10 lines? His career goes way back. I remember him on Dallas. He’s extremely good-looking in a very actor-y way with shining teeth and a voice that could cut glass. I actually didn’t realize he played “Lazenby” in Ordinary People in 1981 until I looked at his Imdb page, and he was great, a friend who tried to understand, who tried to be there for Conrad (Timothy Hutton). I remember him well.

Ordinary People

Hey, demon, what’s up. Be nice to those school kids in your car, mkay?

And so when you hire someone like Lehne, a pro in other words, a veteran, you’re gonna get some interesting and deep shit. An actor like Lehne brings gravitas with him automatically, and a flexible instrument (it’s quite a campy performance, once he gets going), and a fearlessness in going for those big gestures. It’s great because he looks like such a regular guy, albeit an actor-y regular guy with an actor’s teeth. As a matter of fact, his show business looks are perfect, because the demon is a performative creature, his entire life is an act, in the same way that, oh, Kim Jong-Il’s was. You ARE the image.

Also, to add a layer of Actor Hell, the yellow contact lenses meant Lehne could not SEE. They had to put sandbags on the floor so he could feel his marks. He couldn’t see Jeffrey Dean Morgan at all.

Okay. But for now, he’s a janitor. And he’s pissed. He heads off to get security, and John coolly takes out the Colt, points it at the guy’s back, cocking the trigger. “How stupid do you think I am?” says Dirty Harry John.


The janitor grins and says, “You really want an honest answer?” his eyes flashing to yellow. “I took you for a lot of things, John, but suicidally reckless isn’t one of them.” Look at how he enjoys and relishes the word “reckless.” Lehne has fun with language. He feels the potential in certain words. He coos the words, he simpers them, he cocks them up when you think they should go down. It makes him seem completely strange, self-satisfied and also haggard and used-up at the same time. Frankly, like a floozy in a 1930s movie. Like a blowzy showgirl cakewalking around behind Mae West.

My main thought when I first saw this scene was frustration that they were standing around CHATTING. Come ON, man, SHOOT IT, for the LOVE of PETE. But, you know, I wasn’t thinking clearly. John says, and cooler heads would have seen this one coming, “I want to make a deal.”

The demon cocks his head backwards, intrigued, delighted almost. This is going to be fun.


14th scene
There are only two cuts in the following scene. Sam’s monologue is bookended by two shots: one of him standing over Dean’s body, and the other a full shot of the whole room, with the Ouija board still on the floor. But within that middle shot is a circular camera move, as Sam talks to Dean and the camera moves all the way around him, until we get a heart-wrenching head-on shot of Sam’s beat-up face. His monologue is beautiful. Fetch-Dean is nowhere to be seen, he’s off canoodling with Tessa. Sam is keeping Dean up to date though, which is heart-rending in its own way because Dean is lifeless in the bed. But Sam is telling Dean to hold on.

And then, to rip out our heart strings, he says, “You can’t leave me here alone with Dad …” and he laughs as he says it. BEAUTIFUL. Normally the two of them can’t talk about Dad, it always gets hot and heavy immediately, but here, Sam can say it, and he knows Dean will understand. It’s also, of course, a heavy burden to place on Dean, but whatever, that’s life, that’s family. Please stick around because I don’t know how I will get along without you. Boy, I get that. But even that jokey moment is, of course, eloquent of the deeper element, which is what this past year has meant for Sam. And so he says, “Dean, you gotta hold on. You can’t go, man, not now. We were just starting to be brothers again.” Padalecki’s work here is deep and true. It’s a lot of words. It’s a lot of camera stuff going on around him. He works simply and truthfully and when the time comes for emotion to come up, he lets it come up. There are no cuts to “protect” him. It can’t be fudged in the editing room. He has to really “go there” – that’s what a continuous take demands of the actor and that’s what Padalecki does here. It’s beautiful work.


15th scene
Dean stands at the window, staring out the blinds, his back to us, so we only see his reflection, broken up by the blinds. It’s nighttime. And it is Dean Facing Himself, quite literally. These scenes with Tessa are a two-hander, of course: he is talking to her, but it is himself he is facing (and, in many ways, he couldn’t do it without her there. She forces the issue.)


Director John Cassavetes used to say that he “wasn’t interested in the scene”, and what the scene was “about” or anything like that. He was only interested “in what happens between people.” As in: literally – the space between them, the space that either opens up or closes when people talk. Space between people is fraught in Cassavetes’ films, electric, jagged, filled with misunderstanding, fear, denial, or a yearning reach for connection. The people remain individuals, separated … but oh, what happens between them. The alchemy there in that space. And that’s where possibility lies: not on one side or the other, but in the space in-between.

That’s what this scene makes me think of.


Because these two actors create something rather extraordinary in the space between them. Both sides have their objective, and both can’t be true at the same time. It is an impasse. Dean is desperate, she is stoic. And yet in her stoic-ness is kindness. Perhaps only those who have been beaten around a bit can really understand how relaxing stoic people can be. A stoic like that is actually performing an act of generosity by providing you space.

And space is the one thing that no one ever gives Dean. Not literally and not emotionally. Granted, she is a Reaper, and she has come to retrieve him, but watch how she plays it.

The text of the scene:

Dean: Look I’m sure you’ve heard this before but you gotta make an exception. You gotta cut me a break.
Tessa: Stage three. Bargaining.
Dean: I’m serious. My family is in danger. We’re kind of in the middle of this war and they need me.
Tessa: The fight’s over.
Dean: No it’s isn’t.
Tessa: It is for you. Dean, you’re not the first soldier I’ve plucked from the field. They all feel the same. They can’t leave. Victory hangs in the balance. But they’re wrong. The battle goes on without them.
Dean: My brother. He could die without me.
Tessa: Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. Nothing you can do about it. It’s an honorable death. A warrior’s death.
Dean: I think I’ll pass on the 72 virgins, thanks. I’m not that into prude chicks, anyway.
Tessa: That’s funny. You’re very cute.
Dean: There’s no such thing as an honorable death. My corpse is gonna rot in the ground and my family is gonna die. No. I’m not going with you. I don’t care what you do.
Tessa: Well. Like you said. There’s always a choice. I can’t make you come with me. But you’re not getting back in your body and that’s just facts. So yes, you can stay. And you’ll stay here for years, disembodied, scared, and over the decades it’ll probably drive you mad. Maybe you’ll even get violent.
Dean: What are you saying.
Tessa: Dean. How do you think angry spirits are born? They can’t let go and they can’t move on and you’re about to become one. The same thing you hunt.

Okay so that’s a hell of a scene with a ton of words. Everything sloooowwws down, way down. In an episode full of tricks (swirling camera moves, and Jensen Ackles tiptoeing around behind the cameras), this one is filmed extremely straightforwardly. Closeup of Dean. Medium shot of her. Medium shot of him. Closeup of him. Closeup of her, until we are into two gigantic cometic closeups: Her, him, her, him.




She’s got most of the lines. We get his reactions. Her “That’s funny. You’re very cute” is not sarcastic. It is also not personally invested. She sees his defense mechanisms, his survival techniques, and she comments on it, detached, no judgment. It’s a very strange and perfect line reading. He’s slow to figure it out. Slow to figure out that this is where it starts for entities like the Woman in White, and all the others. His panic about leaving his family is real. And while her lines sound cold on the page, what McKeon brings to it is a sense of release, a sense that it will be okay. It’s okay to let go. It’s over for you. And it’s okay that it’s over. It’s not your fight anymore.

Both actors are simply amazing.

16th scene
“It’s very unseemly, making deals with devils,” says poor blind Azazel walking around in the Angel Heart demon dungeon. It looks like a Pat Benatar music video from 1983.


Similar to the structure of the Dean/Tessa scene upstairs, this one is basically closeup to closeup. A standoff. There are all kinds of fascinating line readings. John proposes his deal: I give you the Colt, you bring Dean back.

Azazel coos, “Why, John, you’re a sentimentalist.” I am in love how he hits all of those “t’s” in the word. It’s so nasty. And then, even nastier, but hilarious in execution, Azazel sort of looks off into the distance, in true Melodrama Mode, saying, “If only your boys knew how much their daddy loves them.” Of course he was “inside” John back in the cabin, and he knows the twisted dynamic there, he used it to his advantage. I just love how he sort of glances off to the side, as though remembering happier times wistfully, when he says that line. It is so over-the-top.


We’ve got some plot to get through here, as well as the set-up for the whole upcoming season, a continuation of the cabin scene. So let’s get through it as quickly as possible and get back upstairs to Tessa and Dean. That’s the REAL point. But anyway, blah blah, “Yes, Dean is not a threat to me, and neither is Sam …” His eyes gleam when he says Sam’s name, and of course Sam very well may be a threat, and John knows it, but let me try to remember what it was like watching this the first time through.

Quite frankly I didn’t know what the fuck was going on.

I knew Sam was important. And I knew that John was playing some sort of game here, but the series doesn’t let us in on his thought process (a really wise choice: he remains, until the end, a mystery – perfect to be projected upon for the following DECADE).

“You know the truth, right? About Sammy?” says the demon almost in a confidential whisper. “And all the other children?”

John nods. “Yeah. I’ve known for a while.”


“But Sam doesn’t, does he.” says Azazel, and again with the hitting of the t’s. It sounds like a threat. This is definitely a macho showdown and not all that interesting, except for the acting. John gets off of the Sam topic and brings it back to Dean: can you bring Dean back.

“No,” says the demon, tight-lipped smile, pleased with himself, enjoying the torment of his opponent. “But I know someone who can.”

John is flanked by two doctor-demons (because, of course, that’s what happens) and he tells Azazel (although the demon’s name is never said in the episode, it is just listed in the cast list on IMDB, so calling him “Azazel” feels like it’s cheating) that he will want to see that Dean is okay before handing over the Colt and the demon cluck-clucks with feigned hurt, “Don’t you trust me?” The best part about this demon (and many of the main demons) is that they are having a blast. It’s my main beef with the angels in the last couple of seasons. Yawn. What a buncha stiffs. I can’t even remember the faces of half of them, that’s how unmemorable the characters are, and yet Uriel? Who can ever forget Uriel?

Demon says, No deal. You have to “sweeten the pot”. Poor Lehne has stepped right up into John’s grill, just as he did to John’s sons in “Devil’s Trap,” too close, too close, and those yellow eyes look like a psychedelic yo-yo. John is used to not showing much and he doesn’t show much emotion here. He certainly has a reaction to the demon’s words, a recognition that shit just took a turn, but you couldn’t pin it down exactly.

17th scene
From the closeup to closeup revelation of the last Tessa-Dean exchange, with Dean fighting for his life in a sense of increasing panic and realization that that was not gonna happen, comes a complete shift in energy. Tessa and Dean are sitting on the hospital bed. He faces out. Closed into himself and yet still open to her. It’s not a Dean we have ever seen. His shoulders are relaxed and there’s something almost a little smushed in his face, an aperture that has been lowered, or some underlying structure – the ego, maybe, in the classic sense, or whatever it is that keeps a personality intact and active – has crumbled. He’s letting go. And she is still there, talking him through it, stroking his hair in the way you would to someone suffering, a comforting gesture. Not romantic, but supportive and soothing.


“It’s time to put the pain behind you,” she says.

Dean without his protection and his Burlesque Act, the 72 virgins being his last wisecrack and even that came out weakly and halfheartedly, is completely untethered. This is something that is happening from the inside, and that’s all on Ackles. It’s like he’s being pulled out by the tide. And he is almost … almost … comforted by it. Maybe it is his time. Maybe he can let go.

Then they are both in the frame, in a set-up similar to what they do with Dean and Sam all the time, with her in focus behind him, saying her line, and then, for his reaction, he comes into focus. That’s the camera operator or focus puller doing that, and it is intricate and exact work, and requires exquisite perfect timing. It’s like music. You have to feel where the beat is, where the transition comes, otherwise you miss it. Although Supernatural’s style has zero to do with Cassavetes’ style, Cassavetes filmed his big chaotic scenes all in one, determined to “capture” whatever event as it unfolded. Cassavetes’ wife and lead actress Gena Rowlands once said, “The most important person on our films was the focus-puller.” So true, because if the focus puller misses a transition or a beat or an expression by half a second, or even less than that, you miss “The Moment.” You miss what Cassavetes was after which was “what happens between people.”

And Supernatural is FILLED with scenes shot in one (or “one-ers”), where the focus shifts back and forth, sometimes multiple times. You have to be on POINT: an actor can’t be doing his big moment when he’s still blurry!


Dean’s body language is slack, so slack he is almost swaying a little bit. He looks at her. The space between them is full. He still has a choice. And the one she offers him comes with a gentle hand on the head, a soothing voice, a comforting environment of “It’s okay to let go.” In the silence that stretches out, the lights suddenly start flickering. Dean’s tension returns (not entirely, he’s too relaxed for that), but there’s some vestige of his old protection as he stands up looking at her. Alarmed. Is he being tricked? She seems surprised as he by the lights. “I’m not doing that,” she says to him.

Suddenly, from out of the floor grate, comes burbling black smoke. Dean is confused, but Tessa seems to understand completely and starts screaming, “YOU CAN’T DO THIS.” Poor Dean cries, “What’s happening?” You got me, pal.

The smoke then pours into her mouth for what feels like 45 minutes, all as Dean looks on, scared. Because, yeah, I’m freaked too. Uhm, Tessa, you okay there? When the penetration is complete, good times good times, she whirls around to Dean, with the psychedelic yellow yo-yo eyes, and says, in a voice with a different cadence than her own, sounding like a bootlegger in a 1930s gangster film, “Today’s your lucky day, kid” and before Dean can even react she reaches out and puts her hand on his forehead, a very different kind of touch than before. It’s forceful and urgent. (Humorously, McKeon also was rendered blind by the contact lenses and so when she had to reach out and touch his forehead, she kept missing, and hitting the air next to his head, or putting her hand over his mouth. Ackles finally had to just place her hand at the level it needed to be, so she could remember it. Funny.)


The second she touches him, he spasms, violently, gasping for air, and then we see Dean, back in bed, lurching himself awake, coughing and choking on the tubes.

18th scene
The doc talks to Sam and Dean, seen through the doorway of the room, and the doc is shocked and mystified. “The edema’s vanished …” Everything is better now. And then, foreshadowing something that will not occur until Season 4, the doc says, “You gotta have some kind of angel watching over you.” Sam is all layered-up and busted-up, towering over the bed, and Dean seems small and soft in his little white T-shirt, even with the big ol’ biceps.


Remember when Dean talked about what it felt like to be healed in “Faith”: it felt wrong and cold. The whole “natural order” thing is going to take on huge weight in Season 2, and ultimately they both just had to let it go, because the fact of the matter is is that Dad died so Dean could live, and Dean should be dead, but he’s not, so what the hell are you gonna do about it. By Season 4, Sam and Dean both make queasy jokes from time to time about how the two of them are poster boys for the UN-natural order, and it’s kind of amazing to go back and watch Season 2 again, to see what a new concept it is for them, how disturbing they both find it. They talk about it again and again. How can Dean feel good about being alive when he senses somewhere that his dad had to die to make that happen? What’s dead should stay dead is Dean’s mantra in these starting episodes of Season 2. These are major psychological problems churning their way through Season 2, and if Dean “loses it” it’s because he is insistent that there is a natural order, and he’s gone against it, and it’s not right, it’s not right.

Dean doesn’t remember what happened when he was out. He doesn’t remember Tessa. Dean’s arm lies across his torso, protectively. Dean says he has a “pit in his stomach … something’s wrong.”

John appears at the door, lightly knocking on the frame. He’s gentle, for him. He says to Dean, “How you feeling, dude?” The “dude” is interesting to me. It’s an almost forced intimacy, a casual-ness, that is not in their relationship normally. It is like they are equals. But they’re not. I find it interesting to think about.


Dean is shy. He doesn’t like being the center of attention, and being sick and bed-ridden is the ultimate in being the center of attention. And being cared for by his father, and worried over by his father, is obviously some deeply buried situation that he has yearned for his whole life, but when it actually happens, he doesn’t really like it. It’s too much. He prefers things the old way, when his main job was to be invisible support-staff. THAT he knows how to do.

Dean, shy, says that he feels fine, he’s “alive”.

John nods. “That’s what matters.”

And beautiful busted-up Sam is having none of it. He breaks up the cozy family moment with a flatly stated accusation, “Where were you last night.”


John’s ego bristles, you can see it flash in his eyes, but instead of lashing out, he shakes his head, “No.” And he says, showing patience and almost, almost, a little bit of humor, which makes the moment even odder to witness, “I had some things to take care of.”

Sam says, “Well. That’s specific.”

Dean, realizing what’s happening, that it’s starting again, has to intervene. “Come on, Sam …” he says, but, as usual, he is ineffective in these moments of conflict. The fight is on. It can’t be stopped.

Dean, helpless in the bed, kind of winces to himself, hearing Sam’s accusations, and he sort of hunches down, head down, for the fight that is about to go on over his head. His body language is so good in this final scene and he doesn’t have the use of his whole body, he’s in bed. But God, the story he’s telling with his torso and shoulders and neck and forehead.


John steps into the room, and again, there’s that flash of kindness and humor in his eyes, which completely undoes what he has been creating up until now. It’s not what we expect. It took my breath away the first time I saw it.

Before he speaks to Sam, he throws a quick glance down at Dean, off-screen, and I LOVE that glance. Dean is The Witness. Dean is the Shock Absorber of the family. Dean is The One who mediates, calms things down, pulls them off each other. He’s been doing it since he was a child. And both John and Sam have some contempt for Dean for that, even if they don’t state it outright. It’s like the contempt shown in family dynamics for a martyr-ish mother, sighing at the stove about how much work she does for the family. Mom, nobody cares. You’re a walking victim. You’re “asking” for more abuse. I’m not saying that’s right. I’m saying that that’s how it often happens. And so Dean is on the sidelines for these major fights, he would never speak to his father the way Sam does, he is the “good boy,” and yet there, before John says what he has to say to Sam, is that little glance thrown Dean’s way. Permission? Looking for approval? A check-in with the moral compass of the group? Whatever it is, and it could be a mix of all, it’s great. We don’t even SEE Dean, and that may be the best part of it. That’s Morgan’s genius.

Now comes a masterpiece of what could be called true emotion or could be called, in the lexicon of Zero Dark Thirty and the Special Ops folks, “tradecraft.” You could make a strong case either way. It also could be both. Good tradecraft always looks like something else, an almost perfect facsimile of some other type of benign behavior. Morgan is good enough to allow that ambiguity, which really helps his character cast the long long shadow that it does. That shadow NEEDS to be cast. If John Winchester were a clear villain or a clear saint, then who the hell would give a shit about him? The same, actually, is true for Mary. Things get far more interesting when we learn Mary Winchester is not just a saintly figure in a nightgown, but a hunter who has been specifically targeted. So yes, John Winchester has been doing tradecraft for the entire episode, playing the demon, lying to his sons, and creating a smokescreen of innocence and plausible deniability behind which he can operate. For the greater good, supposedly. But obviously the damage here is almost complete. We’ve discussed before how Supernatural feels about good intentions. The best part about all of it is that Sam and Dean can sense their Dad’s machinations, somehow, and yet the waters are murky because he is their father, because they have been gaslit their whole lives, because they are also culpable in the lives they have lived (and been forced to live by their father), and so every interaction has guilt and shame and anger just beneath the surface. Whatever your opinions on all of it, it sure makes for some great behavior.

John now puts a plea to Sam. “Can we please … stop fighting?” He is serious, and yet he’s got that humor/kindness in his eyes that makes the moment almost heart-stoppingly weird. The smile. The smile we have never seen on his face until now. I am drawn to the interpretation that this scene is basically a death-bed moment, a trying to make things right moment, before he goes off to meet his fate. But it is also an attempt to shut down Sam and his uncomfortable questions. It’s both. But it’s John’s smile, that smile, that interests me.


Nobody quite knows what to do.

John goes on, “I’ve made some mistakes. But I’ve always done the best I could.” A small smile thrown down at Dean, who looks up at him, silent and serious. This scene plays out in almost identical language at the end of “The Purge,” in one of my favorite scenes in the whole damn series. Those connections are devastating, and omnipresent, and are also why it’s so awesome to go back and watch these early episodes, to see the seeds being dropped along the forest path so early on in the game.

John pleads, “I just don’t want to fight anymore, all right?”

And Sam’s reply is so great: “Dad, are you all right?” He sounds actually concerned, which is the best possible line-reading.

Smiling, smiling, tradecraft smiling, John says, “Yeah. I’m just a little tired. Sammy, would you mind going to grab me a cup of caffeine?”

Sam, still troubled, leaves the room. An interesting side note: In the commentary, Padalecki mentions that his first impulse was to have some final moment with his dad, a sort of “glad we talked this out” glance, or something like that, and Kim Manners swayed him away from that choice, saying, in essence, “No. Just leave.” It makes the moment more poignant, because Sam will be robbed of having a “final moment” with his dad, and he will look back on his own exit wondering if he had any premonition that this would be the last time he saw his dad … and he will also look back on the moment and feel guilt that his final moments with his father were one of accusations. I mention this only because Padalecki the actor could get very Hallmark-movie in his acting if he weren’t in good material, if he didn’t have material that kept him dark and practical, and worked with directors who helped him. Padalecki copped to that himself by sharing that story. The danger is there for him, a draw towards sentimentality, a desire to underline, and thankfully, directors who understand story and psychology, guys like Robert Singer and Kim Manners, kept him off that obvious Hallmark-type path. It has served him well.

As Sam leaves, John turns to watch him go. Dean watches John watch Sam. There’s a long moment of silence, John staring after Sam, with all kinds of shit going on on his face, and Dean watching John, with all kinds of shit going on on his face. Dean’s position here is so submissive. John has his arm in a sling but he is standing up, tall, almost 100% back to health. Which … considering that he took the brunt of the crash … seems a bit …

Oh well. Moving on.

Sam, forget about it, he’s a badass with a busted eye holding a Ouija board.

Dean’s gentleness here is part of being in recovery from an accident, of not being able to get up and about, and it makes what happens next that much more powerful. He is already accessible. I mean, he always is, but even more so now. He cannot “gear up” to meet what his father is saying in the following scene, he cannot protect himself, or even respond really. It’s an assault. Dean watches his father, as Dean has done his whole life: trying to anticipate what is coming next, and what will be needed of him in that moment. Who do I need to be for my father right now? Here, Dean just says, simply, “What is it?”


Just an observation: when Dean talks to John, John is a blur at the corner of the frame, and when John talks to Dean, Dean is a blur, also in the frame. They are connected, visually. These are medium shots, not closeups, and so the horning-in on each other’s space, in each other’s shots, is a way to show how connected these two men are. Too connected. Get out of my closeup, man!

One might think that John would share something about Sam at first, because he has been staring off after Sam and that is clearly what Dean is asking about. But John has something to say first. (I love Ackles’ stories about filming this scene, about how when the camera was on Morgan, doing his side of the conversation, Ackles was off-screen, breaking down in tears at Morgan’s performance, and he felt, “Damn, I gotta save some of this for MY side, Jeez.” But Morgan was so good, so emotionally connected, that the entire set held its breath. I bet even the boom operator was in tears, and that don’t happen often.)

What happens next is John’s “answer” to Dean’s angry hurt soliloquy earlier in the episode. It is not a declaration of love. It is an acknowledgement that how he treated Dean was not right and that he sees that. Despite the fact that Dean has never been acknowledged for his sacrifices and his good-son role, and despite the fact that he has always wanted something, a scrap, a crumb, from his dad to show he recognizes it … to get it full-frontal like this is upsetting. Dean cannot take it. And while Morgan’s work is superb, it wouldn’t work or land if we didn’t get those incredible shots of Dean listening, which are almost more compelling. Sometimes he goes inward, to take something in, to consider it, and then his eyes are drawn back to focus on his father. Sometimes he has a reaction to something that is said, but it’s gentle, not knee-jerk, a sort of swooning response, where you can see him try to reject what is coming at him. He wants to reject it not because it is wrong, but because he is still taking care of his father and he doesn’t want his father to feel bad or feel guilty. That pull is still there. The slight moments of rejection are not hard-edged, they are soft as goose-down, sort of pulling on Dean, brushing against him, and then letting him be. It’s some of the most accessible work Ackles has ever done, and that’s saying something.

John shares a story of coming back from a hunt when Dean was little. And John would be “wrecked” and Dean would come over and pat him on the shoulder and say, “It’s okay, Dad.” Supernatural is always touching when it connects the two giant hunks on the screen with the little ankle-biters they used to be … it’s one of the ways it messes with/respects/examines the Iconic Tough Guy Tradition. Because even John Wayne or Clint Eastwood was a little boy once upon a time. And how does that make us feel? And how does it make those Tough Guys feel? To remember being little and helpless and not strong enough?

Dean, of course, remembers how it was when he was a kid, and has some adult resentment at how much he has done, and how little he’s been thanked … but something like taking care of his dad emotionally, and saying “It’s okay, Dad”? Isn’t that what a good son should do? That’s Dean’s reality. Of course it is my job to tell my Dad things are going to be okay. There are shots of Dean listening where he looks almost vaguely confused. It gets worse when a tear rolls down John’s face.


That smile again. FAS-CI-NA-TING.

“I put too much on your shoulders. I made you grow up too fast.”

If the emotions weren’t so strong, perhaps Dean would intervene, automatically. “Dad, stop it.” “It’s okay. I’m fine.” “You did what you had to do.” And etc. There are some pretty interesting arguments between Sam and Dean along those lines in Season 2, and we’ve already seen some in Season 1. But here, in the hospital bed, Dean can’t intervene, although you can feel him want to, in those semi-swoons of silent rejection that you see come over him and then just as quickly vanish.

“You took care of Sammy. You took care of me. You did that. And you didn’t complain, not once. I just want you to know that I am so proud of you.”


Considering the fact that a mere 24 hours before it was those same words that tipped Dean off that Dad was being penetrated by a leering demon, it’s not a surprise that Dean is surprised and distrustful. He’s also in tears. He has needed to hear those words his whole life, and he’s afraid that he’s about to be tricked again, that it’s not real, that something will happen to take away this moment from him. That’s all going on. Jensen Ackles looks about 7 years old. He asks, afraid, suspicious, hopeful, “Is this really you talking?”

John smiles, still in tears, and says, “Yeah. It’s really me.”

Let’s Talk About the Belljar Effect
Let’s say I say to a friend or a boyfriend or a family member, “I’m so proud of you” and they react with disbelief and ask if it’s really me talking. And let’s pretend that everyone is healthy. My reaction to their disbelief would be, “Wait … why is me being proud of you strange to you? What have I done to make you distrust that? Can we talk about that??” That happened a lot for me, post-diagnosis, when I realized how much my illness had been running the show, trapping me in an airless belljar. I won’t go into too big a monologue but recently I noticed that when people ask me how I’m doing now, they often seem worried, like they are gearing up for a bad answer. These are some of my best friends. Pre-diagnosis I would get the same worried question and I would silently seethe about how everyone was worried about me all the time, and Goddammit, why can’t they just let me alone. But that was the insidious negativity of the illness, closing me off from truly wonderful things like a friend’s concern. And while there is much less need to be worried about me now, that is a holdover from the years when they were rightly concerned, and so now … when I get that worried “How are you????” what I am present to is not annoying intrusion, but sincere love. The belljar has lifted, in other words. It makes the whole world seem kinder. Everyone is just doing their best. People being worried about me does not mean they are reducing me or assuming I am incompetent. It means they love me and want me to stick around.

So back to: “Is this really you talking?” and “Yeah, it’s really me.”

It’s a profound moment of emotion between the two men. It has heft and weight. Both men are in tears. But crack that belljar, let in some air, and John Winchester might go on to say, “Yeah, it’s really me, and I am so sorry that our relationship is set up that you would even have to ask that. That’s on me, son. It’s not right. It’s how I set it up, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it …” and on and on, you can see how much more AIR there is in a comment like that. But here, in this beautiful open scene, that belljar is still closed tight. It’s pretty interesting. And perfect. The audience leans forward, wanting more, filling in the gaps, yearning for a more complete conversation. But if you provide an audience with a complete conversation (“Here is how I feel” “That’s interesting because here is what I got from that” “I am so sorry because that is not how I meant it” and on and on), not only would you bore me to death, you would drown in the obvious and you would crush the most important element in any scene, which is the subtext. Without subtext, Supernatural would fail. The Belljar persists.
Belljar Blah Blah Over

John saying these things makes Dean fall apart. You can actually see it happen. And it’s so strange to fall apart in front of this strong man who ran the show for Dean’s whole entire life. And it’s embarrassing to be the center of such warm and gooey attention, such loving care. Interesting to note that Dean was not embarrassed when Tessa focused only on him. He relaxed so totally that he was practically asleep sitting up. But here, it’s a fight to even be present.

Dean asks, and he seems truly anxious (and he’s right to be), “Why are you saying this?”

John moves forward to the side of the bed. “I want you to watch out for Sammy.”


Dean, frozen, afraid, emotional, caught: “Dad, you know I will … You’re scaring me.”

John, tears on his face, and the smile, says, “Don’t be scared, Dean.” (“Dean” now, not “dude.” Sorry. But everything means something.)

After that, watch the clamp-down on John’s wrecked tear-streaked face, the sudden inward-ness, the focus, as he leans down to Dean’s ear and whispers. It’s very very frightening. The scene is so good, so scary: An apology for expecting Dean to take care of him, and putting too much on Dean as a kid, followed by the whispered command (that we don’t hear, and don’t know what was said until freakin’ “Croatoan”, which is episode nine. EPISODE NINE. Talk about your tradecraft. That is some world-class shit). One of my favorite things about the show is its patience with these long long Arcs. There are entire episodes coming up where you forget that John whispered in Dean’s ear, and that Dean recoiled back in such alarm. But the show had enough confidence in the seed they had planted that they felt the could completely ignore it from time to time. What makes it even funner, from an audience perspective, is that even when it is not mentioned, you can watch Ackles play it.




The way father and son are filmed here is intimate, the two of them basically on top of each other in the bed, faces pressed together, too close, so close that Dean actually has to move his head back in order to look at his father. It’s great. Suffocating. Belljar.

And Dean’s expression is so awful that I remember thinking, “Oh my GOD what the HELL.” Obviously it’s about Sam. But WHAT. Whatever it was, it is clearly Dean’s worst nightmare. Put on his shoulders. Okay I just removed the burden on your shoulders from your childhood. Feel better? Lighter? Great. Because here’s an even heavier burden to take its place.

John and Dean share a long terrible look. John still struggles to smile, wanting to be reassuring, wanting to make sure his message got across, and nods a couple of times, a sort of “You heard me right” and “Yes” to the horrible question on Dean’s face.

John, having done what he needed to do, leaves the room, and Dean watches him go, now completely at a loss, floundering, flailing. Buzzkill, Dad, major buzzkill.

Job done, John goes to some random room, one of the rooms booked by Azazel for the various showdowns that need to occur. John slowly places the Colt on the food tray. We don’t see the demon, but we do see a dark shape on the left side of the frame, a great effect: after seeing so much of the demon, we don’t see him at all here. He’s just a looming shadow, predatory, eager.

Cut to Sam ambling down the hallway with a cup of coffee in his hands. He, too, seems reduced. There’s something different about his walk. It’s hesitant, shuffling a little bit. He doesn’t go to Dean’s room where he left his father. Instead he goes to his dad’s room. Which, I don’t know, I find interesting. And when he gets to the doorway and looks in, he stops. John is lying on the floor, with a dark splotch on his T-shirt.

We get some slo-mo again, with the camera basically on the floor, as we see Sam’s cup of coffee drop out of his hands and land on the floor, AND it stays upright, the coffee sloshing up and out of it.


I mean, you couldn’t have planned for that in a million years.

The inspirational Winchester-family music, so prominent at the end of “Shadow,” comes in, as Sam runs into the room, crouching by John, and screaming up and out for help.

19th scene
The beeping of monitors, the chaos of nurses and doctors, and Sam has helped Dean out of bed, the two of them appearing in the doorway. A nurse tries to stop them, and Dean says, “No – that’s our dad…” Lots of insert shots of needles and oxygen masks and surgical tools, and shots of John on the table, from above (same God’s eye point of view), and then close in to his face. Dean and Sam look on, increasing panic, urgency, emotion, but at a certain point, it’s over. The screen goes to black and the doctor calls it from the blackout: “Time of death, 10:41 a.m.”

But not before we see both brothers, near tears, scared, resistant, in denial, busted all to hell, and gorgeous. Just like I like ’em.


Season 2 Begins!

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204 Responses to Supernatural: Season 2, Episode 1: “In My Time of Dying”

  1. Helena says:

    It was your El Greco ref that reminded me – another painting that tells a Supernatural episode in a nutshell.

    Fabulous recap, Sheila, and thanks for all the forays into the personal. What a way to start Season 2.

    God, I could go on for hours about why I love this episode: the helicopters, the dingiest hospital in the world (please, take me anywhere but Shiloh County), staff dropping like flies on the floor, Dean in pyjamas, Sam buying a ouija board in a blood-stained jacket, Bobby!, the crushed Impala/Dean, inscrutable Dad, Sam holding it all together with a gummy eye.

    But I think my favourite moment, after the Tessa as Reaper and Dean scene (you can tell he has at some point given serious consideration to the idea of 72 virgins, if only to reject it) is Sam at Dean’s bedside saying ““Dean, you gotta hold on. You can’t go, man, not now. We were just starting to be brothers again.” There’s something about the simple tune starting up underneath those words that makes me think, every time, Sam is going to start singing them, and it’s about to become ‘Supernatural, the Musical.’

    • sheila says:

      // Sam buying a ouija board in a blood-stained jacket, //

      hahahaha Awesome! And I love the gummy eye too.

      The whole thing is so moody and glamorous and dark and pained and ridiculous, sometimes in the same moment. Glorious!

      And seriously, we need a Supernatural: The Musical episode. It’s about time.

  2. Helena says:

    And also it kicks off with a great opening montage – finally Dean’s first namesake, Ted Nugent, appears on the soundtrack.

    The first few of these montages in Season 2 are absolutely awesome.

  3. hunenka says:

    These recaps of yours bring me so much happiness it’s almost ridiculous. I’m not joking when I say that I’m looking forward to them at least as much as I’m looking forward to new episodes of SPN. Maybe more. Hell, now that we’re starting the beautiful, wonderful season 2, definitely more.

    //Dean vs. Himself will be a constant theme, more so than with Sam, and I find that fascinating. We’ll also get into that with his “mirror moments,” which may actually warrant a whole post in and of itself.//

    YES! Please, yes! Dean vs. Himself is so interesting, for many different reasons… Just today, I was thinking about how his encounters with his alter-egos always have these violent, self-hating, self-damaging undertones. He shot shifter!Dean in Skin. He shot demon!Dean in Dream a Little Dream of Me. He cut off Leviathan!Dean’s head in Slash Fiction and said that it “felt good.” 2014!Dean knocked 2009!Dean out, twice, in The End. Shifter!Dean strangled Dean in Two and a Half Men. Oh, and let’s not forget Wishverse!Dean stabbing himself in WIAWSNB. …am I missing something?

    Oh, another thing (sorry for jumping from topic to topic) – I love what you said here about the special effects/cool camera stuff etc., how it always works best when you’re not sitting there thinking “cool efect” because it doesn’t take you out of the story, it draws you in. Another great example of something that makes perfect sense but I hadn’t realized before.

    Yeah. I love your recaps. :)

    • sheila says:

      Hunenka – Hi! Yes, I needed to take an SPN break – or a tiny one – but it’s good to be back!

      You’re so right – those Dean vs. Himself things are so deliberate – and so constant – it’s just a cool undercurrent – and by Season 9, we had all of these EXCELLENT Dean-staring-at-himself-in-the-mirror moments (although there are more before that) – but by that point, that is really the only thing that matters anymore: How do I feel about myself? Who have I become? Considering my growing archive of Man-in-Mirror screen grabs, I was thrilled – because it looped him into that huge fascinating tradition of men trying to deal with themselves by staring at themselves.

      Well, and also – like in the dream – Dean says to Dean, basically, You can’t bullshit ME – I know how you feel inside. I know what’s going on in there.

      And nobody – NOBODY gets to see that. Lisa obviously guesses it. Ben senses it. “Why do you think you’re so bad?” Sam obviously knows. But it’s just not something Dean would ever sit down and talk to someone about. So again and again, they make him face off with himself. LOVE those scenes!

      And yes, to their innovative effects!! It’s sheer human effort and coordination to make that crazy Ouija board scene come across. I love it!!

    • sheila says:

      // I’m not joking when I say that I’m looking forward to them at least as much as I’m looking forward to new episodes of SPN. //

      haha Now that is a compliment!! Thank you!

    • sheila says:

      and I think one of the best scenes in the entire series, bar none, is Dean talking with himself in “The End,” that first scene between them. Unbelievable. I never get sick of it.

  4. Helena says:

    //men trying to deal with themselves by staring at themselves. //

    If only it worked.

    I’d add Alain Delon to this list. Also to the list of ‘men wearing white t-shirts.’

    • sheila says:

      Mmmmm. Alain Delon. I love that performance so much.

      I’m not sure what the connection is – and it’s not always true – but often it’s these sociopath criminal types who have “mirror moments” in movies – Maybe because they can’t connect to themselves in any way – and so have to check themselves out in the mirror to figure it all out. Or sheer narcissism.

      Rocky Balboa obviously isn’t a sociopath! He’s just a sad lonely guy looking at childhood photos, wishing he could be happy!!

      Yeah, if you think of any more “mirror moments”, please please pass them on.

      • sheila says:

        If I recall – Robert Montgomery had a few good ones – and he often played those baby-faced unfinished sociopath types.

      • sheila says:

        and Delon, there, is doing it in a more stereotypically feminine way: Let me straighten my hat, let me perfect my mask before I go outside, let me make sure I look perfect.

        I don’t think there’s a more searching look at himself in the mirror in the movie – is there? You know, where he really considers himself and tries to see beneath the mask? I should re-watch.

        Ah, the blank-faced sociopath in cinema. How I love them. Especially when they look like Alain Delon!

  5. sheila says:

    Also: The “Method” has a “mirror exercise” – where the actor has to stand, facing the class, and pretend to look in a mirror. It’s a very vulnerable exercise – because when you look in a mirror,you do all kinds of stuff you wouldn’t do if people were looking on …

    so I think the preponderance of “mirror moments” in the 70s also had to do with the fact that a lot of these people (filmmakers, writers, actors) came out of the Actors Studio tradition. But that’s just a guess.

  6. May says:

    That was a short SPN break, Sheila! Not that I’m complaining :P

    I love this episode. SPN is pretty great with its season finales and premiers. I really don’t have much to say…just a whole lot of “Yes” and “I agree!”

    Tessa! When SPN decides to borrow from comic books, it picks the good stuff.

  7. evave2 says:

    Does anybody know what John actually was supposed to have whispered to Dean?

    I mean the EXACT words, not he told him blah blah blah.

    I always wondered why John apologized for putting so MUCH on Dean and then put THIS on him. It would’ve made more sense for him to let Dean die and take Sam and “watch out for” him.

    When we get to shortened Season 3, I keep hearing there wasn’t enough time for Sam to save Dean so Dean had to die. The original plan was for Sam TO SAVE Dean by selling himself to hell (the phrase is “go darkside”) and then Season 4 would be Dean trying to save Sam from being the Boy King. I would very much like to hear a synopsis of how that would’ve played out. I THINK that Dean would’ve become Michael much sooner, easier. I gather NO Castiel would’ve been there.

    I never knew the yellow eyes blinded the actors. I loved Lane/Lehne’s performance. Just loved it. Never bored for a second when he was on screen.
    Curiosity: was Azazel a fallen angel? Because Lillith was the First Demon and she and Alastair had white eyes. When we see him in Lucifer Rising in the nuns’ chapel scene he is so devoted. It was weird hearing him sound like that, so loving.

    This was a wonderful recap. I am of two minds re John leaving Dean this mission.
    A) he should’ve let Dean die and DONE IT HIMSELF and B) he knew no matter what Sam would never trust him like he did Dean so he couldn’t do it himself. I think he was uneasy around Sam for a long time and that translated into how Sam reacted to him. Boy, those psykids were WEIRD. The only one I could’ve spent any time with was Andy; maybe first incarnation Ava.

    Oh, do you think in EVERY case a parent made a deal with the devil and ended up with a psykid? I am of two minds (I betcha Max’s dad did, that was why he blamed MAX for his mom’s death, because Max’s dad was an asshole).

    • sheila says:

      I’m not sure how anyone could know “the exact words.” It’s never revealed.

      It’s not AS mysterious as the whisper in “Lost in Translation” – although I know there are theories out there about that one, and sound adjustments, and script confirmation and all that . – but for me, that ruins the huge-ness of the moment. I know what I think Bill Murray said, and I’d rather it not be confirmed or denied! :)

      But in re: John. We hear it from Dean’s mouth and that’s it.

  8. Kim says:

    Sheila, wonderful recap again. I have loved rewatching SPN with new eyes. This was an exceptional episode to kick off one the best seasons of SPN (imho) It’s beautiful, moving and damned entertaining. Right off the bat with the opening, poor Sam, barely holding it together but still badass threatening that demon with the colt. One of the things I loved best about this episode was their use of silence, they didn’t feel the need to fill every scene with dialog, which gave the words there were more impact. Your words “Season 2 starts off melancholy, quiet. It has room to breathe.” capture my feelings of this episode completely. The quiet and the softness is what drew me into the the story, I had to stop what I doing and pay attention, because it demanded it of me, no multitasking for this! Even this time around after seeing it more than once, having listended to the commentary, knowing what was behind some of the scenes and the camera work does not lessen it’s impact. I like a show that knows how to use silence, silence demands your attention. I recently watched “Lazarus Rising,” the near wordlessness of that opening was far more affecting than almost the entire episode, certainly more than the emotional reunion scenes. The final scene between Castiel and Dean was marvelous as well. I agree with general consensus that after season 5 writing for the angels tooks a nose dive in quality, I like the badass angels with personality. Uriel and Zachariah were angels I just loved to hate. I hope it goes better in Season 10!

    I appreciate your openess regarding your struggles, I can relate to a lot of it; you have no idea how many times I’ve sat down to respond to those more than the recaps. I do look forward to the discussion for ep. 2. Grief and how one responds to it and copes is a hot button issue for me!

    • sheila says:

      Kim –

      // Right off the bat with the opening, poor Sam, barely holding it together but still badass threatening that demon with the colt. //

      Yes! Sam really is holding it together – for everyone – in this episode. I love him for it. I love how the door is ripped off, and there he is, Colt cocked and ready.

      I totally agree about the silences! So many shows don’t allow for that at all – and so much stuff can happen in a silence if you just let it stretch out. Those Tessa scenes, for sure – but also the ones with Sam. It’s just beautiful!

      Oh, and you are not kidding about that wordless opening of Lazarus Rising. Incredible. How long does it go on – 10 minutes? I’ll have to clock it next time I see it. It reminds me a little bit of the opening sequence in There Will Be Blood (the PT Anderson movie) – which, I believe, is about 30, 35 minutes with zero dialogue.

      Zachariah! He was such a great “middle manager” type, a wonderful actor. I’m not sure what the hell happened recently – it felt like everyone was bored with the angels, but since Castiel is a regular they have to keep using them. I don’t know. I can feel the boredom in how a lot of those characters are written (and even cast). I don’t know. I don’t get it. Naomi was great. Hannah had potential but then immediately became a Manson girl.

      And Balthazar is the grand pooh-bah of awesome angels.

      You and me both in re: Grief/coping skills/survival techniques.

      I can’t remember if I’ve said it in these SPN re-caps but I’ve often thought the Victorians and earlier eras had it right – wear black for a year, or at least a black armband – after you’ve suffered a loss. It is a clear acknowledgement/warning that you are not 100 %. But now, in today’s culture, you’re expected to be 100% the weekend after the funeral. It’s inhuman.

      So yeah, let’s bring it on!

      And thanks, in re: the personal stuff. The show really came along at the right time for me. Weird how that sometimes happens!!

  9. Natalie says:

    Have I mentioned that it takes me hours to read these recaps? Because I am drinking in every word, and then reflecting and digressing in my own mind, and maybe pulling up netflix and watching certain scenes (or possibly the entire episode again), and by the time I’m done reading it’s 4 a.m. and I started reading at 10:30 p.m. Surely I’m not alone in this? I have a final on Wednesday (in a class taught by a man whose name is, I kid you not, Hatchett – and his exams live up to the name). If I don’t do well, I guess I’ll know why ;-)

    The fact that Supernatural manages to make Dean’s survival seem more heartbreaking than his death would be will never cease to amaze me.

    JDM’s performance. Man. This is definitely an episode that needs to be viewed more than once. It’s amazing how different every expression on his face and every word he says is on the second viewing when you know what’s going to happen.

    Can we talk for a second about the fact that Dean was wearing scrub pants? Because, honestly, with the extent of his injuries, no doctor or nurse would have bothered to put pants on him. He would have been in a gown. I kind of think that the pants were meant to tip viewers off to the fact that it was ghostly out-of-body Dean walking around and physical Dean was still there in the bed. I know the pants definitely tipped me off immediately. (That said, I did not see either the Tessa/Reaper thing or the John making a deal for Dean’s life thing coming at ALL.)

    And Sam, Bobby, and the Impala. I don’t even have words. I choked up just reading about that scene in the recap. How is it even possible that this was only Bobby’s second episode? You’re right, Sheila. It already seems like he’s been around forever. And I love the point you make about how he shares information and doesn’t withhold the way John does. I remember in one of my developmental psych classes in undergrad, learning about resiliency in children who have experienced trauma. One of the most critical factors in building resiliency is the presence of at least one stable adult who is a source of support. Any resiliency that Dean and Sam have? They owe it all to Bobby.

    I love your digressions and I appreciate your willingness to share your personal experiences. And your point about how, for Dean, suffering is okay if it means you’re alive is fantastic. I went through a period from about 32-34 after developing an autoimmune disease of having the exact opposite thought process. Luckily, with my doctor, we were able to put together a treatment plan that works for me now and keeps me mostly functional, but there was about a year there when the thought of living another 20 or 30 years, or, god forbid even longer, in that much physical pain seemed much, much worse than a terminal diagnosis would have been. I won’t go into it much more here, but if anyone’s really interested, I’ll link to my blog where I talk about it at length (although you’d have to go back pretty far to get to the beginning). Anyway, I still disagree with Dean on that point. Surviving in constant pain is not living. This is part of what makes it so heartbreaking that he loses his chance to release it all.

    I also have to wonder, given what the next few seasons hold, what would have happened if Sam hadn’t found Roy in Faith, or if John hadn’t made the deal with Azazel in this episode. They were foreshadowing the angels even at this point (and I’ve read stuff about Kripke telling the network that he had a five-year plan which presumably involved the angels and the Michael-Lucifer-Dean-Sam thing), so I have to figure that the angels would not have allowed Dean to stay dead even in season 1.

    Kim – I love the reveal of Castiel in Lazarus Rising. It’s possibly my favorite scene in the entire series. The score is incredible, and Cas seems so powerful and mysterious and compassionate and terrifying all at once. My heart skips a beat just thinking about it.

    • sheila says:

      Natalie – A professor named Hatchett? That’s brilliant. Good luck with your exam!

      // The fact that Supernatural manages to make Dean’s survival seem more heartbreaking than his death would be will never cease to amaze me. //

      I never thought of it that way. That’s really true.

      // I kind of think that the pants were meant to tip viewers off to the fact that it was ghostly out-of-body Dean walking around and physical Dean was still there in the bed. I know the pants definitely tipped me off immediately. //

      I totally missed that on my first viewing! There are all kinds of clues there – even the shot from under the bed – but I just didn’t pick up on it! Seeing Dean running around in a hospital gown would have somehow made the whole thing ridiculous. (Although I do love him in the hospital gown falling out of bed in Season 7. hahaha. )

      // One of the most critical factors in building resiliency is the presence of at least one stable adult who is a source of support. //

      I have heard that theory before. To have at least one outside eye who sees what’s going on and provides support to counteract. Bobby is crucial. And, despite his own horrendous losses – he is able to love. He is able to love them like his own children – even though there’s got to be a lot of pain there (especially when we learn his own backstory – WOW!).

      And this Bobby scene is so short but it has an enormous impact. Just that sharp-eyed look when he looks at Sam after looking at John’s list. Gives me goosebumps.

      // but there was about a year there when the thought of living another 20 or 30 years, or, god forbid even longer, in that much physical pain seemed much, much worse than a terminal diagnosis would have been. //

      Ugh, I am so sorry – and so glad that your doctors came up with a treatment plan! Pain is such a game-changer – obliterating the possibility of anything else – I saw my father go through that in his final illness as his consciousness narrowed to a pinpoint in order to manage the pain. It was horrible.

      The whole “suffering means you’re alive” thing is something SPN goes back to again and again, right? I am mostly remembering it from Season 4 – with Anna choosing to be human and Dean being baffled – like, “why?? angels are perfect.” Not wanting to feel his pain. But that “I’m saying it’s the only game in town” line – (which I love) – said to Soul-less Sam – basically trying to convince him that suffering is part of life. (I love that whole conversation. It’s so funny. “You sit in the dark and you feel the loss …” says Dean. Hilarious. Sam is not getting it at ALL.)

      I used to think my own psychic suffering was just the way things were and the way I was made. Didn’t know I was ill. And, similar to chronic pain, I knew that one day it would be too hard to continue on. It was gonna get me. Living without psychic suffering is still new for me – sometimes I’m bratty about it and miss the Drama of all of it, the intensity. I hear that’s very common.

      // so I have to figure that the angels would not have allowed Dean to stay dead even in season 1. //

      Interesting! Yes, hadn’t thought of that – but they are definitely foreshadowing angels here – and there are a couple more examples in Season 2, if I am recalling correctly. Amazing: that Kripke would have built it out that far. Very very cool.

      And YES to Castiel’s entrance. Goosebumps.

    • sheila says:

      Also, what about John just sitting by Dean’s bed as Dean talks to him?

      What do you make of that? What do you see on his face?

      Like I said, for me it seems to change every time I see it. Dammit, I want to pin it down. But it’s so … distant.

      Anyway, would love to hear some thoughts on that!

  10. Helena says:

    This painting has been in the news recently – it so reminds me of John bleeding into the curry powder. She must be a patron saint of hunters.

    And get that dismembered body in the background.

    • sheila says:

      Oooh! Totally Crock-Pot curry powder!

      That background looks De Chirico-ish.

      I have to Google why it’s been in the news.

      • sheila says:

        Okay, reading the Christie’s auction page right now. Very interesting! I can’t believe that this thing is still privately owned.

  11. Helena says:

    Continuing the discussion of grief and looking into mirrors.

    That screencap of Dean looking through the blinds reminded me of something … When you look through a window at night you can focus on your own reflection, or focus on what’s outside, or you can see both at the same time, one layered over the other. It reminds of a while back when a close friend of mine had just died. He died in late autumn; I spent Christmas with his partner, who is still a close friend, in his beautiful new house in a small country town, the house in which they had planned to spend many years together. We felt in our own little bubble in that house, which is to say, we were in our own bubble of grief, and the darkness of winter, and the fact that it was Christmas when everything grinds to a halt, made us feel all the more like we were in a world that had stopped moving, and that real time had stopped happening.

    To say the house was full of the presence of my friend would have been an understatement. I saw and felt him everywhere. But most strongly in the kitchen. If you sat at the kitchen table you could look through the window into the garden beyond. At night, and obviously it got dark early, that window became a mirror reflecting the large space of the kitchen behind us, with a door coming off the hallway. It was like seeing the real kitchen, but reversed and in a more monochrome version rather than full colour. At the risk of sounding pretentious, that reflection came to represent another, parallel world, the one where my friend was alive. I would sit looking at that kitchen in the reflection, at myself chopping vegetables, or at Phil, my host, drinking a glass of wine, and expect to see my friend walk into the room at any minute. It was like he was hovering just outside our range of vision, and if we waited long enough, he would saunter in and join us at the table. The space in which such a thing could happen was only as thick as that pane of glass. We, that is Phil and I, were in the ‘real’ world, the world of three dimensions, colour, warmth and light, then there was the window – the space where my friend could exist, and outside there was the night. All these three layers – and this is how we both felt at the time, in the world and not in the world and surrounded by darkness – were captured in the reflection of the window.

    Gradually, that sense of my friend’s actual physical presence in the house faded. But – and this is kind of a funny coda – some years later it became ‘haunted’ again, this time by the couple’s dog, who died at a ripe old age after living a good few years in that same house. Whereas I slowly got used to the fact that my friend would not come to greet me at the door whenever I arrived for a visit, I never got used not seeing that dog in the house. I never stopped expecting to see the dog scrabble into the kitchen at mealtimes and make googoo eyes at us hoping for tidbits. I swore I could hear the whole repertoire of funny dog noises that animal would make, long after it was gone. But, being a dog, it was a friendly ghost rather than a sad one.

    • sheila says:

      Helena –

      wow. You just put me there, with your words. The parallel universe in the reflection. Powerful.

      I am not sure what I believe – one of those things I hesitate to put into words – but I definitely believe that perception like that is, very often, getting a glimpse behind the veil. Where the boundaries are blurred. The closeness of death can often do that. I don’t understand science but I do know that energy cannot be killed. And so where does it go? (No, not just the whole “21 grams” thing. Ha!) Sensing something like that – the layering-over of worlds/dimensions and perception – and the presence of someone who is no longer there – is a gift – a sense that nothing is ever truly destroyed.

  12. Helena says:

    //perception like that is, very often, getting a glimpse behind the veil. //

    … I guess everyone feels it differently, yet so many of the feelings, the physical sensations people go through after losing someone seem to be in common. There does seem to be a period after death when the person’s presence is very real and very close, and that sometimes they are just somewhere you can’t see, but you can definitely feel them. For many – most? – people, the person they loved can’t instantly become ‘nothing’, just not be there any more, they have to still ‘be’ somewhere, have ‘gone somewhere’, ‘exist’ somehow. There ought to be a special word for how we experience these after-death presences – maybe there is, but ‘fetch’ doesn’t seem a very nice one :-).

    • sheila says:

      Yeah, “fetch” definitely doesn’t cover it.

      The feeling of the person still there – they can’t just be gone … and most of us have experienced that – but it’s interesting; until you’ve actually gone through it, you can’t really KNOW it. At least I know that was the case for me. I could empathize, and listen … to my friends who had lost a loved one and could not stop missing them – but until I went through it and felt what it really was about I couldn’t really understand.

      I know people who have had very very vivid sensations of the presence of a dearly departed loved one – a good friend of mine literally felt like her mother “visited” her while she was walking through a subway tunnel in Manhattan – there was a little gospel group singing in one of the passageways and the sound was so joyous that out of nowhere – my friend “felt” her mother. Her mother had been dead for 20 years at that point.

  13. May says:

    Natalie — //Have I mentioned that it takes me hours to read these recaps? . . . Surely I’m not alone in this? //

    No, you aren’t alone! It takes me ages to read them (in a good way). I also sabotage myself by discovering the posts when I don’t have the time to properly read and comment (like now): I’ll just quickly just check Sheila’s blog before I start…my…*2 HOURS LATER*

    I’m sorry to hear about your health issues. I’m glad you found a treatment plan that works for you. Your blog is linked in your name, right?

    Good luck on your exams!

    //Can we talk for a second about the fact that Dean was wearing scrub pants?//

    Only a second?

    • sheila says:

      // Only a second? //


    • sheila says:

      // I also sabotage myself by discovering the posts when I don’t have the time to properly read and comment (like now): I’ll just quickly just check Sheila’s blog before I start…my…*2 HOURS LATER* //

      hahaha You guys crack me up.

      Thank you for reading! I love talking with you all!

  14. Heather says:

    Wonderful recap Sheila. I love the way you took the time to pull open some of the ideas, appreciate the technical work and performances and show us how these stories weave into your life- as I imagine they do with all of us; I know they do with me. I am actually learning to appreciate the technical work so much more thanks to your recaps. I’m not a particularly visual person by nature, but now I find myself attending to this information in everyday life. Sunlight was streaming through a green bottle in my kitchen, casting this beautiful streak of color across the floor and I started thinking about how such an image could symbolize reverence and blah blah. I was like, ‘OMG I just had an intro to film moment, I’m going to turn into that kid from American Beauty’. Probably not, but I am learning.

    There are many things I would like to comment on, it is a great episode, but I will try to be brief.
    //Dean’s body is what’s at stake here. We can see it. I mean, hell, we see it twice in the very same shot, Dean being split off from his own body.//
    This is so worth consideration. I know that during my own health crises, I have felt this deep frustration at being trapped in my own body, or betrayed by my body. The mind/spirit/soul seems so free and the body so limited and less- but of course, also precious somehow. It is amazing that the show brings this up, here and with the Soulless-Sam arc, but leaves a ton of space for us to explore these ideas on our own.

    I loved those “you have to care about everything” conversations in the Faeries episode so much!

    Anybody else wonder what the doctors thought of those blood spout wounds that must have been on Dean’s chest?

    Here are some of my thoughts on what was going on with John. He seemed to have made the decision to make the deal very early on. When I was watching the episode and reading your recap (Natalie, your description of spending hours on the recap is exactly my experience) I started to wonder how traumatized John was from what happened in the cabin. So last episode, he is possessed by the thing that he hates most and then had to go through the creepy, leering, purring, torture of his son, and so on. So not only is this traumatic emotionally, but the possession by YED now means that YED knows all of John’s thoughts. John isn’t going to be any good in the fight now. Maybe this defeat is part of what we are seeing.

    Helena- the description of the parallel universe is such a beautiful way of contemplating significant loss, life changing, universe changing loss. And thank you for the linked images.

    Natalie- good luck on the Hatchett exam. Best to your health.

    May- //I’ll just quickly just check Sheila’s blog before I start…my…*2 HOURS LATER*// Yup. I want to laugh and cry.

    • sheila says:

      // I was like, ‘OMG I just had an intro to film moment, I’m going to turn into that kid from American Beauty’. //

      Ha!!! Yes, though – the potential in images. I am still learning too. There’s a whole other level I can’t even go to – having to do with camera technique and lens size.

      I know we keep talking about how much the look has changed – and the lighting – and the lack of Kim Manners – I mean, I pop in a Season 7 episode and my brain has to adjust. Oh, okay, bright colors, semi-orange skin, where’s all the dark shadows?? But also – the first three seasons of Supernatural were shot on film. They switched to digital Season 4. They use the mythical “Red” camera, which is God’s gift to directors – the shit it can do, the control directors now have – is amazing. They were pioneers in television, using that camera – it was already being used in film, and it was always seen as a big big deal when some indie low-budget director “used the Red” – it automatically gave the film more cache, it was going to look great.

      The digital/film wars continue to rage – and much of it goes over my head – although I am learning. The X-Files was shot on film. Breaking Bad was shot on film – and THAT’S why the show looks the way it does. If you watch a movie from the 70s, that slight grain you see – that’s film. And there’s “grain” in these early seasons of SPN – they look like a movie, not a brightly-lit chirpy television show. I am not anti-digital – and good directors do amazing things with digital, but film is just different – it’s grittier, it has actual weight. Season 4 of SPN still had the Manners stamp – the darkness and all that – and the Red actually allowed the directors to go even more in that direction. But something obviously changed – around Season 5 or 6. It’s still a loss!

      There are way nerdier folks than me who really study and understand this stuff and I learn a lot from them.

      // I know that during my own health crises, I have felt this deep frustration at being trapped in my own body, or betrayed by my body. The mind/spirit/soul seems so free and the body so limited and less- but of course, also precious somehow. //

      Ugh! So sorry you went through that! I had to watch my father go through that and it was terrible. This whole shift occurs … and yes, SPN just keeps re-visiting it. It’s such a rich topic and we all can relate to it!

      // I started to wonder how traumatized John was from what happened in the cabin. So last episode, he is possessed by the thing that he hates most and then had to go through the creepy, leering, purring, torture of his son, and so on. So not only is this traumatic emotionally, but the possession by YED now means that YED knows all of John’s thoughts. John isn’t going to be any good in the fight now. Maybe this defeat is part of what we are seeing.//

      Interesting! I had missed that possibility.

      Yes, the demon knows too much about John now.

      It’s interesting, too, that that defeated posture only shows up when he’s by himself (or thinks he is). All that fight and anger and pointing his finger at Sam in the bed – it’s all gone. In a way, it’s John’s own “private moment”.

      And God, that Fairies episode. I watched it the other day. Never get sick of it.


      As silly as it all is (Ground control to Major Tom?? Dying!!!) – it’s also really deep! Having a conscience, what that means …

      Also, it has maybe my #1 favorite line in the entire series, which was improvised by Jared Padalecki in a rehearsal: “Do you have bigger cups?”

      Laugh out loud every time.

  15. Helena says:

    //Anybody else wonder what the doctors thought of those blood spout wounds that must have been on Dean’s chest?//

    Or the fact that Dad was shot in the leg but is hopping around the hospital like a little bunny?

    Or how you get a clean t-shirt back over the head of a comatose patient after the last one was ripped off for defibrillators.

    Or how a nurse can keel over in an empty ward and die, just like that?

    Or that lack of bedside manner of that first doctor (he crops up again, almost unrecognisably, in a later Season and I was scratching my head for ages over where I had seen him before.)

    Like I said, if I fall ill, don’t take me to Shiloh County. Their obstetrics ward is right next to the morgue and their heart monitors look like old Pong games.

    (But seriously, I love this episode, and I don’t really care about stuff like like this.)

    • sheila says:

      // Or the fact that Dad was shot in the leg but is hopping around the hospital like a little bunny? //

      Holy crap, I totally forgot he was shot in the leg.

      Pong games. hahaha They totally do.

  16. Heather says:

    Helena: hahahaha!

    //Or how a nurse can keel over in an empty ward and die, just like that?//
    Yup, that is the worst.
    //Their obstetrics ward is right next to the morgue and their heart monitors look like old Pong games.//
    No wait, that is …. maybe a tie. I kinda love this stuff, sometimes life is the worst.

    Also wanted to add: Sheila loved your bell jar descriptions I will continue to think on those. And,
    //in the hospital bed, Dean can’t intervene, although you can feel him want to, in those semi-swoons of silent rejection that you see come over him and then just as quickly vanish. // semi-swoons- nice. It is true, when you watch him you see these little swells, like hooks pulling from under his skin. Very nice.

    • sheila says:

      Yes!! “Little swells” – his body sort of being pulled towards a “No, dad, it’s okay” thing … it’s fascinating.

      And the Belljar:

      Maybe it was just me – but when JDM stands there, crying, saying “I’m so proud of you” – my first reaction on first viewing of it was tears. I found it so moving. And, you know, it is. But on repeat viewings – I just started to sense how incomplete it was, how so much is still left unsaid – AND they don’t even seem to know it. That’s the bell jar.

      If I told a loved one I was proud of them and they acted surprised, I would be devastated.

  17. Kim says:

    Natalie //Cas seems so powerful and mysterious and compassionate and terrifying all at once. // I absoloutely agree. I listened to some commentary on Season 4, Kripke said they captured lightning in a bottle when they cast Castiel. It was like a punch to the gut when Castiel says to Dean in amazement “you don’t believe you’re worth saving.”
    And yes, for some reason it takes me hours to read the recaps as well because I am going back to the episode and looking a various things Sheila and others have pointed out, as well as trying to make notes of my own. I wasted a good deal of pool time on my day off yesterday absorbed in Supernatural.

    • sheila says:

      // “you don’t believe you’re worth saving.” //

      Incredible moment. We the audience have somehow picked up on that in the previous 3 seasons – and FINALLY someone – a total weirdo angelic outsider – SAYS it. Amazing. I want to re-watch that scene right now.

      Also, it’s incredible because all you basically see in that entrance is a guy in a trench coat stroll into a barn. Yes, a couple of lights explode. But that’s IT. No big effects. Nothing. But the impression made is terrifying and HUGE. Thrilling moment.

  18. Kim says:

    Heather, //I started to wonder how traumatized John was from what happened in the cabin.// It’s a good point, we don’t consider that John was also traumatized, from the beginning with the death of his wife (which must have made him emotionally truncated) through to the trauma of the YED possession. I thought his expression as he sat by Dean’s indicated that he had retreated inward, lost in thought, maybe making peace with what he knew he had to do.
    And yes, I should be working right now but talking with you guys is way more interesting than what I’m doing right now.

    • sheila says:

      // talking with you guys is way more interesting than what I’m doing right now. //

      I know, me too. I got some shit done earlier today, and now I want to pop in the Castiel entrance. Which I will do immediately.

      • sheila says:

        also, some really good Man in Mirror moments in Lazarus Rising if I’m remembering right!

      • sheila says:

        Okay, just re-watched Lazarus Rising. Not only are there two major Man in Mirror moments where Dean gazes at himself – but the entire ceiling in the motel room is a gigantic mirror and when Castiel “speaks” the whole thing crashes onto Dean. He is surrounded by the broken shards of a mirror as wide as the room. hahaha How did I miss that one??

  19. May says:

    Heather — // So not only is this traumatic emotionally, but the possession by YED now means that YED knows all of John’s thoughts. John isn’t going to be any good in the fight now. Maybe this defeat is part of what we are seeing. //

    Oooooooh. That’s a great point! I hadn’t thought of it before. I had always just shrugged off John’s actions in this episode—I thought, for all his faults, he loved his kids and would sacrifice himself for them, as most parents would. But John being defeated, thinking he’s been compromised and is now ineffective in the fight? That makes so much sense.

    I wonder if John thought Dean would actually be able to kill Sam (not skill-wise, but emotionally). John constantly used Sam, the threat of Sam in danger, to keep Dean in line. Protecting Sam had always been the priority. Now he’s just going to toss it all aside? Maybe what John said was more like a warning or a threat: If you don’t save Sam from this demon, you will have to kill him.

    I do think saving both of his children was always John’s priority. I also don’t think John makes any decisions for purely sentimental or emotional reasons (except revenge). Given John’s strained relationship with Sam, perhaps he thought Dean was better suited to “saving” Sam. Had John not made the deal, he would lose one son and possibly the other in the future. Or, he could sacrifice his life for Dean, hoping he will save his brother, so both his kids survive.

    (Yeah, poor Adam was still around at that point, but Adam was not Mary’s son. That make him less important—both to John and Dean, I think).

    • sheila says:

      // But John being defeated, thinking he’s been compromised and is now ineffective in the fight? That makes so much sense. //

      It really does!

      I have always leaned towards the whisper being more of a warning – “If you don’t do this – then you will have to do this.” I have no proof really – except for that one look on John’s face as he leans down to whisper. That grim grim look. You know?

  20. Alex says:

    I’ll suspend my usual lurking to say that I don’t want to watch SN anymore until they release it with commentary track by Sheila O’Malley.

    • sheila says:

      Alex – Ha! Thank you!

      From your lips to God’s ears. Thanks for de-lurking. And reading, too. I appreciate it!

  21. Jessie says:

    Love the breakdown Sheila. This episode is so beautiful. All that focusing and refocusing — it’s almost too cute to make it so literal, but Manners makes art out of it. Giving us layers, using planes to create depth in an episode that’s mostly shot against blue-grey walls a max of two meters away with half the people standing and half the people sitting or lying. I almost feel like I’m watching a parallax 3D effect, communication between the different planes is so impossible. When Sam and Dean talk over the Ouija board and suddenly we shift to circles and everyone exists at the same level it’s such a relief! For once Supernatural gives you something you are yearning for — a moment of connection between the brothers — and doesn’t punish you for it later!

    (Having parallax and planes and all those paintings in my head just makes me think of Carnivale, which is actually probably an interesting companion piece to this show, and whose creator wrote Something Wicked, oh come back to us Daniel Knauf. I feel like they could be set in the same universe, if you don’t take into account Knauf’s larger mythology.)

    Dean starts S2 with his voice up in the rafters man, it’s weird. And his feet make no noise when they hit the ground.

    John, John, John. The most opaque character in the world. The most inviolate, even when spreadeagled, even when possessed — the man who didn’t break. There is some fabulous editing during his bedside vigil, as Dean monologues at him when it almost seems like he hears Dean and responds with — shame? acknowledgement? satisfaction?

    I love Lehne’s offhand delivery of “But still, you’re right he isn’t much of a threat.”
    THE DELICIOUS DELICIOUS FORESHADOWING. Even when we know that Dean met Azazel in Dean’s future/Azazel’s past and swore that he was the one who killed him. After being in John’s head, Azazel is pretty certain in his opinion of Dean.

    Dear me Helena, we just had to put our most beloved 14yo dog down the other day and now I am verklempt. Her presence is definitely felt in that way you so perfectly describe: the expectation, the way your brain is always half a second in front of you. At least if glasses of water suddenly start flying around I know what to do!

  22. Kim says:

    Sheila //two major Man in Mirror moments where Dean gazes at himself// I watched it just the other day, gotta say one of the best eps of the series. You know you could probably do a whole essay on the use of mirrors in SPN. They used it a lot during the lattter part of season 9. I may be wrong but I think they use mirrors more with Dean than Sam, even with his issues surrounding his demon blood, he seems to have a better sense of self.
    BTW, did actually get some work done today, even with the musical theatre class going on over my head this afternoon (sounded like a bad version of Newsies tromping around up there)

    • sheila says:

      // I may be wrong but I think they use mirrors more with Dean than Sam, even with his issues surrounding his demon blood, he seems to have a better sense of self. //

      Yes! That’s it exactly!! The Man in the Mirror thing – when it shows up – always shows a man who is not sure of who he is and has to stare at himself to try to figure it out. That’s Dean. Season 9 – YES. There were two great mirror moments in the episode where the boys tortured Gadreel – long searching stares, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

      In Bloody Mary Sam stares in the mirror – but it’s that alter ego person – the evil side – there are a couple more with Sam, but definitely not as many as with Dean, and they also have a different feel.

      Dean, eventually, gets a glimpse of himself – and just has to stop – and stare. It’s amazing.

      I love the thought of there being an entire production of Newsies going on upstairs as you type your comments.

  23. Patsyann says:

    Hi there….I’ve been lurking around and reading your recaps for a week or so. I am really enjoying learning so much about the technical way the show is put together – a lot of times I can say “This affects me” or “I love that but I’m not sure why,” and you’ve been opening my eyes to a lot of those techniques and how they work on the viewer.

    For me the great fascination of this episode is in trying to figure out exactly where John made his decision to make the deal. As recently as one minute before the car crash he was still insisting to Sam that nothing was more important than killing the demon, not even himself. One episode later, he’s giving up not just his life but his quest – the one he’s been on since Mary died – to save Dean. He maybe didn’t go into it expecting to lose his life, but the first thing he offered up was the tool that he had acquired for the sole purpose of finishing off the demon. But when YED demanded John’s life he didn’t hesitate, even knowing he wouldn’t have time to tell Sam and Dean what he knew. For all he knew he was giving up the only chance to kill YED at all, and he had to hope that Sam and Dean could take what little he gave them to go on and work out the rest (Sam’s demon connections, etc) for themselves. (And that’s what you get for playing it so close to the vest, John. )

    I think it must have been while he was sitting at Dean’s bedside, knowing he was going to lose him, but the beauty of the performance is there’s no way to tell.

    Slight tangent – I’ve wondered several time if John knew that Mary was a hunter. It seems like he had to know, or have found out, and maybe that’s one of the reasons he kept his boys so isolated from the hunting community, such as it is. (I mean, it’s practically inconceivable they’ve never heard of Ellen. Granted, I think in “Everybody Loves A Clown” Bobby doesn’t know who she is either, which is just…doubly inconceivable, but okay, show; okay). But I don’t see how he could have figured out what was going on with Sam without working out what had happened with Mary and her connection to the supernatural goings-on of the world. I know she had wanted to distance herself from the hunting life, and did, but the Campbell family is out there working at the same time John and the boys are.

    Okay, enough speculating. Thank you again for your time and effort on these recaps. They are a pure pleasure. :)

    • sheila says:

      Patsyann – Hello! Thanks for reading and commenting!!

      // but okay, show; okay //

      hahaha. I have those moments too – and Bobby not knowing Ellen is one of them.

      I’ve had the same suspicion about John – maybe he did know? In his research, there’s no way he wouldn’t have come across the Campbells, especially since, duh, they also lived in Lawrence!!

      // I think it must have been while he was sitting at Dean’s bedside, knowing he was going to lose him, but the beauty of the performance is there’s no way to tell. //

      I definitely think something is going on there. But yeah, it changes every time I look at it, dammit. I’m still not sure what I’m seeing. Or I can’t nail it down.

      The scene right before is when he sends Sam off to get the Echinacea to summon the demon, right?

      There are definitely some interesting cunning flashes across his face during the scene with Sam when Sam gives him an update on Dean and the Impala and John sends him off. There’s definitely more going on there than just the lines. I don’t know. Not like he’s afraid of Sam – but maybe … maybe just a little bit … he is.

  24. evave2 says:

    Response to Sheila 7/8/14 7:25 am

    The thing is Kripke was going to cons stating there would never be no angels on the show, nohow. The angels were the “fix” for the fact that Dean died (which wasn’t supposed to happen) at the shortened end of Season 3.

    I agree, like with Houses of the Holy, there WERE sort of portents and dooms BUT he didn’t want to put angels in the show. It seems weird now to me.

    For some reason I don’t think they have religious people writing the show just because they could make God and/or the angels awesome but they either write them for yuk-yuks or play them for assholes.

    But I am SURE that Kripke said no angels never no no no.
    And I think Castiel’s appearance in early Season 4 was just terrific. I saw a deleted scene from Heaven and Hell which had Castiel and Uriel arguing, Uriel was pissed he was not aloud to smite Ruby OR Sam (he didn’t like Sam the Abomination one little tiny bit). It was a funny scene played in such earnestness.

    • sheila says:

      // It seems weird now to me. //

      Stories develop over time and they go places you can’t plan or you would never accept in the beginning – especially when you have a writing staff with a bunch of different voices and outlooks. Angels seem inevitable now – if you’re gonna do demons, then obviously it would make sense to explore the other. The angels are definitely a game-changer, bringing it into Wim Wenders territory (at least in those early episodes – “that’s why we’ve arrived”, etc.) – and obviously if they hadn’t worked with an audience, the angels would have been dropped. Like the roadhouse was burned down. “Yup. We don’t want the roadhouse to be a factor in the boys’ lives. But dammit we created it. What do we do? Let’s burn that shit to the ground and kill everyone inside.” hahahaha I mean, it’s so blatant.

  25. evave2 says:

    Heather 7/8/14 9:38 am:

    Others have mentioned that your insight that John feels compromised by YED’s knowledge of every thought and plan was so SPOT ON. I never saw it before either.

    One thing: at the beginning of Salvation, when John finds out Pastor Jim had been killed he said this ends NOW. Maybe he had made his investment, it did not come thru, he was just DONE. I thought thru what you said, but maybe John just could not fight any more. (Of course he HAD just been shot and then in a car wreck, so maybe THAT was why his energy level was down.)

    I agree that he knew there was not the trust between Sam and himself that there was between Sam and Dean. He KNEW that Dean could get the job done AND he DID.

    I STILL don’t see how John doted on Sam (except that he kept telling Dean to protect him — Dean should’ve wondered WHY Sam still was not a full partner in the enterprise); I think they were so much alike they could never have ever gotten along really, they had the same flash points and the same need to be in charge (my opinion, Sam LETS Dean be the moving force just because he doesn’t trust his own judgement). Let’s just say on Superbowl Sunday they would have different teams and be cheering at different times.

    • sheila says:

      // Dean should’ve wondered WHY Sam still was not a full partner in the enterprise //

      Hmm, I’m not sure I see that. He’s been told since he was 4 years old that his role in life is to protect Sam. You don’t question much when you’re 4 and it’s your parent telling you something and you are completely traumatized.

      Dean is totally indoctrinated.

  26. Maureen says:

    I am totally with all the commenters who said, “Sheila posts-all else goes out the window!”. Like others said, I spend hours thinking about the recap, the personal asides-I don’t want to sound snobbish-but this is the blog where I am quite certain, I am not the most intelligent person in the room, not by a long shot-and that feels wonderful. I need to work hard to keep up with you all!

    That probably does sound snobby, and if so, I do apologize-but you guys are AMAZING!

    Helena said this:
    //But – and this is kind of a funny coda – some years later it became ‘haunted’ again, this time by the couple’s dog, who died at a ripe old age after living a good few years in that same house.//

    First of all, I cried all through your comment, which was lovely. You and Sheila are killing me with your wonderful writing. I had a dog, named Cody, who I loved more than I probably ever loved anyone, besides my husband and daughter. He had liver cancer, and our vet came to the house and put him to sleep. That feeling, that he was right around the corner, couldn’t have been more true. I felt he was there, like on the edge of my vision. I am a very skeptical person, all about the very hard facts-and an atheist to boot. I felt it though, and I don’t think it was wishful thinking.

    Sheila, this is actually funny to me, but I know when you say something like “I’ll Try to Stop Now”, that is when I wish you would go on forever!

    So, I feel like I should comment on the episode-but I haven’t watched in a while. What I do remember is JDM, who killed me. I was so pissed at John, and his parenting, and then he come with frigging sympathetic end of life stuff-HIS FACE! Stop luring me in with your warm eyes and slight smiles!

    //But – and this is kind of a funny coda – some years later it became ‘haunted’ again, this time by the couple’s dog, who died at a ripe old age after living a good few years in that same house. //

    • sheila says:

      Maureen – ha. You’re great.

      // Stop luring me in with your warm eyes and slight smiles! //

      I know – that damn smile! Stop it!!

  27. Maureen says:

    Sorry, I needed an edit on my last comment!

  28. mutecypher says:

    Helena –

    I thought your preferred Supernatural Musical Episode was going to have an Alice In Wonderland theme with the title to be Maximum Teapot Confusion.

    To that end, I created a Pinterest folder for you:

    There’s even one for you, Sheila.

    • sheila says:

      Mutecypher – that is INCREDIBLE!! Wow, I had no idea that there were so many different kinds of teapots. An Elvis teapot???

      They are gorgeous!

  29. Maureen says:

    One more thing:
    //I STILL don’t see how John doted on Sam//

    This is a weird dynamic, but the people who care less wins. Sam left, Dean stayed and obeyed, and John didn’t respect him for it. I always bring stuff to an evolutionary thing, so to me-in a pack dynamic, Sam would be the alpha dog before Dean would.

    • sheila says:

      Maureen – Yes, that’s it exactly. Thanks for that.

      Prodigal Son dynamic, too.

      The alpha-beta thing is really interesting – plays out in all kinds of ways – most humorously and awesomely in Frontierland, where Dean has to wear a blanket to try to fit in – his whole thing is about fitting in – whereas Sam leans against the bar, drinks his sarsaparilla and doesn’t worry about “seeming” like a man – it doesn’t even occur to him. I mean, it’s all done so so humorously (“I see you changed your shirt.” “I look good.”) – and JA is so funny and so embarrassing in that episode that I find myself looking away from the screen I’m so embarrassed for him.

  30. Heather says:

    Sheila-//Maybe it was just me – but when JDM stands there, crying, saying “I’m so proud of you” – my first reaction on first viewing of it was tears. I found it so moving. And, you know, it is.// I am so with you, this show is so affecting. (I couldn’t even watch Season 3 until I had scene all of the other seasons.) It is all about the layers, John clearly has strong emotions here and so does Dean- and they are so beautifully complicated. Which is a lovely contrast to the more emotionally simple, but poignant, Ouija scene.

    “Lazarus Rising” is one of my absolute favourite episodes, it is so electric. And back to paying attention to little visual things, check out the lighting when Sam and Dean are reunited, how Dean is lit in contrast to how Sam is lit.

    I do miss the darker look of the earlier seasons. At first I thought the brightness was because they were in the suburbs and all…but either they never left or it was something else.

    Jessie: Carnivale, yes what a show. So creepy. What was Brother Justin doing to those women?! Creepy and gorgeous.
    Really sorry to hear about the loss of your dog- they really are love wrapped in fur.

    evave2: interesting info on Kripke’s no angel policy- glad they changed that one considering how great seasons 4 and 5 were.

    • sheila says:

      Heather – yes, that hotel room scene – LOVE it. So intense. And dark, with that red light out the window, right?

      That whole episode is so amazing. I love how Bobby keeps attacking Dean when he first shows up at the door. Even after you think he’s accepted Dean is who he says he is – boom, holy water in the face.

  31. Heather says:

    mutecypher: those teapots are so gorgeous. Is there such a thing as a teapot fetish?

  32. alli says:

    So that getting sucked into the loop of SPN recaps happens to other people? I finish reading one and think “god, sheila’s going to think she’s gotta stalker since I’ve been viewing this page for the last 5 hours”

  33. mutecypher says:

    Heather –

    It’s not a fetish if your heart is true. ; – )

    Well, I think of “fetish” as equivalent to “guilty pleasure” – a label that is sure to meet with disapproval from our hostess. If you like something, like it. And they are beautiful, there are a lot on Pinterest. I’m more of a “run some water into a mug, microwave for 2 minutes, then drop in a tea bag” person, when I want tea. They almost wouldn’t let me cross the border into Canada – I suspect I would be denied entrance to Jolly Old.

    • sheila says:

      My sister loves teapots. I am going to show her your page.

      You can really see how Tea – I mean, the ritual of it – was, like, the most important thing in the world. It equaled civilization. I mean, why else would there be so many damn different types of teapots??

      I’m not really a tea person, except when I’m sick. I’m a coffee drinker. Which is why Cassie’s behavior was so damn confusing to me and one of these days I’ll have to let it go. hahaha

  34. alli says:

    Thinking about Tessa and why she works so well…

    She’s got that weird, gentle coaxing patience about her. So much about death is violent (I mean, reaper? can you sound more devastating?) or scary (creepy stooped old figure in robe?) but she’s got that seductive ‘its okay, its over, you’re safe now’ thing that is mesmerizing. And, in a way, more terrifying than the traditional sense.

    I’m thrilled you’re back at it already. My cable’s been out so I’ve totally binged on netflix this month (on season 8 now and without you doing these I’d probably have gone crazy trying to figure out WHY it looked so different, so thanks for saving me that at least!)

    • sheila says:

      alli – I totally agree. Coaxing patience is a great way to put it.

      It was a great way to go with the Reaper. A whole other concept about death.

  35. Helena says:

    Woah, mutecypher! That is a wonderful collection – and Elvis is there too! You’ve given me an idea …

    Maximum Teapot Confusion – the musical. God, I wish this could happen. Switching between a semi-abandoned hospital and a truck stuck in a Mississippi swamp, featuring a racist Truck and the Mad Hatter. I also hope it would end with a big chorus around a Stairway to Heaven, combining A Matter of Life and Death and Led Zeppelin.

    I so love that Rex Harrison-esque singspiel element of Sam’s monologue next to dying Dean’s bed – don’t know why, but I always hope he’s going to break into ‘I’ve grown accustomed to her face’ at that point.

  36. mutecypher says:

    Helena – Can’t you just hear Sam singing…

    Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
    And tell you ev’ry detail of Caractacus’s uniform,
    In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
    I am the very model of a modern Hunter-General.

  37. mutecypher says:

    alli –

    I think you are right about Tessa and her gentle nature. I also think Sheila’s onto something with //And more so than the fact that, you know, Boobs, that’s the draw for Dean, the irresistible draw, and Tessa would know that.//

    Here’s a guy’s point of view….

    But honestly, Tessa has a very easy, welcoming way about her.

  38. Helena says:

    //I am the very model of a modern Hunter-General.//

    That’s perfect! Especially the Babylonic cuneiform.

  39. Helena says:


    //She’s got that weird, gentle coaxing patience about her. //

    When I think of Tessa I think of Keat’s ‘easeful death’ – there’s a touch of this about the scene:

    Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
    I have been half in love with easeful Death,
    Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
    To take into the air my quiet breath;

  40. Helena says:

    oops, that’s “Keats’s” (sorry, Keats.)

  41. mutecypher says:

    //They are gorgeous!// Thanks, Sheila.

    I tried to find some that called out to recent comments and themes. There’s the Tardis teapot for Dr. Who. There’s the Elvis and Alice In Wonderland teapots for obvious reasons. There’s the musical note teapot for your great iPod shuffle posts. There’s the Green Pumpkin teapot for Scarecrow (not apples, I know, but autumn). There’s the Laurie Shaman one (I think the 8th one in) for the Female Gaze (she’s looking at Dean and thinking “scrubs and a teeshirt, I want those backless hospital gowns”). Women, jeeze. Give the guy some dignity. End of digression.

    Some were just beautiful.

    And then there’s the viking teapot, because it’s just …. gobsmackingly hideous.

    • sheila says:

      // Women, jeeze. Give the guy some dignity. //

      Never!! :)

      Seriously – there are some tea pots as delicate as a Faberge egg – and then, yeah, some are downright horrifying. Like a gargoyle waiting to poison you.

  42. Helena says:

    //And then there’s the viking teapot, because it’s just …. gobsmackingly hideous.//

    Ha! I thought it was a reference to Thor’s hammer which comes up for auction in … Season 8? the one where the angel tablet comes up for auction?

    But you are right about it being gobsmackingly ugly. Fugly, in fact.

  43. May says:

    Maureen — //I don’t want to sound snobbish-but this is the blog where I am quite certain, I am not the most intelligent person in the room, not by a long shot-and that feels wonderful. I need to work hard to keep up with you all!//

    Ha! You don’t sound snobbish to me. I certainly know the feeling! I love Sheila’s technical insight into the acting and production of the show. I’m a very visual person, but mostly it hits me on an unconscious level and I have very little knowledge of what goes into making film/tv/theatre. It’s why I don’t really comment on it, sticking mostly to characterization, plot, etc, where I feel more competent. I just shut up an “listen.”

    mutecypher — I love all those teapots! Even the creepy, ugly ones. ESPECIALLY the creepy, ugly ones. I’ve become a tea drinker in the last few years—I’ve been trying to cut back on sugary drinks and so have been trying different teas—and I became a bit obsessed with fancy teapots and cups for a while. Thankfully I’m too cheap to buy all the ones I like, or else I’d have a bunch of pretty, but useless, teapots around my apartment.

    RE: Tessa. I apologize if this is obvious, but has anyone here read the Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman? SPN borrows a fair bit from Gaiman (from Sandman and American Gods particularly). I’m fairly sure Tess was inspired by Gaiman’s version of Death. If you haven’t, I’d recommend checking them out. I think many SPN fans would enjoy them. (There are 10 volumes of Sandman, which is a bit pricey—SHAMELESS LIBRARY PLUG—but I’d check with your local library to see if they carry it.)

    • sheila says:

      May – I read American Gods when it first came out, and actually have been meaning to re-read. Going on vacation with my family at the end of next week – it might be a good vacation read!! I loved it. And I definitely feel that influence in SPN. I do not know Sandman.

      And LOVE the “library plug”!!!

  44. Helena says:

    Maureen, thanks for your comment and sharing your own memories. And Jessie, sorry to hear you have also lost your dog. It’s a very verklemp-ing thing. I’m not a dog person so I was truly surprised at my own sense of loss with my friends dog. It gave me some sense of what people go through when they lose their beloved animals. It’s major.

    I was thinking a while back about Supernatural, Sam and dogs and found Robert Louis Stevenson had beaten me to it. See if you recognise that dog from somewhere!

  45. Helena says:

    Oops, don’t think my html worked. Try this:

    • sheila says:

      Your artwork brings a lump to my throat, Helena.

      I’ve been wanting to link to your Tumblr for a while, as you know – Everyone, you need to go check out what Helena’s been up to. It’s incredible!!

      SPN, Sam and dogs. Fascinating! And then of course poor Dean is attacked by a tiny yapping dog, BECOMES a dog, and is ripped to shreds by a hell hound. Not a good relationship.

  46. Helena says:

    Thanks, Sheila! It has all been inspired by your recaps and all the fabulous conversations and comments which follow. In fact, I’m not sure it will make sense to anyone who hasn’t read them!

    I keep working on new images, including ones inspired by this recap (and now I have to bring mirrors and teapots into mix, somehow.) So watch this space, there will be more to come.

    • sheila says:

      Mirrors! Such a rich playground of associations. Can’t wait!

      Beowulf + Scoobydoo = Dean.

      You’ve really just said it all there.

  47. sheila says:


    // All that focusing and refocusing — it’s almost too cute to make it so literal, but Manners makes art out of it. …I almost feel like I’m watching a parallax 3D effect, communication between the different planes is so impossible. //

    That’s such a good analysis! It really is a visual manifestation of those two planes – in the same shot. Beautiful!

    //For once Supernatural gives you something you are yearning for — a moment of connection between the brothers — and doesn’t punish you for it later!//

    TOTALLY. This is a great great brothers-relationship episode. Cathartic.

    // Dean starts S2 with his voice up in the rafters man, it’s weird. And his feet make no noise when they hit the ground. //

    The whole voice-thing is worthy of a dissertation.

    // John, John, John. The most opaque character in the world. The most inviolate, even when spreadeagled, even when possessed — the man who didn’t break. //

    Ack. I know. That bedside vigil continues to fascinate me. It’s so still, so dark. His face so remote and yet also eloquent at the same time – drained of all that energy and anger. Kind of amazing.

    // I love Lehne’s offhand delivery of “But still, you’re right he isn’t much of a threat.”
    THE DELICIOUS DELICIOUS FORESHADOWING. Even when we know that Dean met Azazel in Dean’s future/Azazel’s past and swore that he was the one who killed him. After being in John’s head, Azazel is pretty certain in his opinion of Dean. //

    These are sometimes the thru-lines I miss. How comments like that connect to later arcs – in really fascinating ways. I appreciate those who can keep all of that straight in their heads.

    It really is so dismissive of Dean, who seems like a pretty worthy foe, all things considered – but there’s that underestimation factor going on that seems pretty common with Dean.

  48. Heather says:

    Helena your art, so beautiful and funny. You captured JDM’s sad smile perfectly. And having John at least half in shadow is perfect. Ezra’s wounded man label… hilarious – you kept the flying club! Awesome. The toy soldiers make me want to cry, what the hell!

    • sheila says:

      Aren’t they just haunting and great? The “what a piece of work is man” one gives me chills.

      And the amulet. Gulp.

      I seriously will not rest until that thing is back around Dean’s neck.

      I need to get a life, I realize, but that’s what I’ve got going on.

  49. Helena says:

    //It really is so dismissive of Dean, who seems like a pretty worthy foe, all things considered – but there’s that underestimation factor going on that seems pretty common with Dean.//

    There is, but I think there’s also a bit of deliberate downplaying at this stage too, as part of the game of bluff. Like – ‘I’m doing you a favour, you get the colt and I get someone who’s not that much of a threat to you, so you get the bargain. Deal? Good, let’s move on.’

    Because I think, or choose to infer, that even Dad at this stage realises he has underestimated Dean, and that in the war they’re fighting he’s a better weapon than the colt. Because that’s the kind of practical, ‘needs must’ thinking John Winchester does.

    • sheila says:

      Oh yeah, most definitely. John’s Tradecraft in high gear.

      I can’t clock John giving much of anything away during that standoff.

  50. Helena says:

    Hmmm. Re the whole John-Colt-Dean-Demon thing … I’ve spent many nights brooding, staring moodily into the darkness, stroking my grizzled beard, searching the depths of soul, and I still don’t know quite what to make of John’s actions, and that is actually wonderful. But I do love, to borrow Jessie’s phrase, what the episode activates in me, in terms of story and mythology.

    Here’s a quote I came across, from Borges’ short story about the discovery of a fictional world in an old encyclopedia, ‘Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.’ Given we’ve been talking about mirrors and fathers it has a strangely apt ring: ‘The text of the encyclopedia said, ‘For those gnostics, [Gnostics, Sheila!] the visible universe was an illusion, or more precisely a sophism. Mirrors and fatherhood are abominable precisely because they multiply and disseminate that universe.’

    And I love that Season Two presents the first and only encounter between those two abominable mirror images of fatherhood, Old Yellow Eyes and John Winchester. In some ways, they couldn’t be more different: The mortal, stoic hunter vs the demonic urbane vaudevillian. But in terms of story, as Jessie might say, maybe they work best if they are regarded as equals and mirrors of each other. In this encounter they are fighting for final control over the destiny of their respective sons – Dean’s life, and the thing they really have in common, the demon’s adopted son, Sam.

    They are determining the next stage of the war, rather than ending it. The scene ostensibly is the culmination of a battle between the ‘good father’ and the ‘bad father’, the dark vs the light, with the ‘good’ father sort of winning. This battle also seems to be an internal one within John himself – all that bedside brooding seems to lead to a decision to end the war and save his son’s life. Possibly. But John is cast in shadow as much as the demon, literally as well as figuratively. It’s maybe one of Supernatural’s greatest dramatic strokes that you slowly realise that the ‘good’ father has pulled his sons into more darkness and left them to continue the war alone. Hmm.

    Anyway, John and the Demon know and understand each other very well: hunter and prey always do, and they are both hunter and prey to each other. (Hence, maybe, the lack of anger, accusation, histrionics in this encounter – you sense that all been played out between them long ago. What’s left is simply what’s happening right now. John reserves his outbursts for Sam – a kind of displacement?) The Demon has possessed John and revealed some of his deepest, most disturbing secrets to his sons. John, for his part, has tracked the demon relentlessly and discovered his endgame. John plays The Hero, but in order to defeat your evil opponent you think like them, you act like them, and so eventually you become like them. The feeling of mutuality is so strong that you can almost forget that the balance of power between them is, technically, vastly unequal. That is seems more equal than it really is is down to John’s determination that they be equal, and to his personal resources of cunning, skill and incredible chutzpah.

    And all this playing out against the ticking clock of Dean and Tessa. Awesome.

    • sheila says:

      Beautiful!! Rich!

      // ‘The text of the encyclopedia said, ‘For those gnostics, [Gnostics, Sheila!] the visible universe was an illusion, or more precisely a sophism. Mirrors and fatherhood are abominable precisely because they multiply and disseminate that universe.’ //

      Holy mackerel. For real??

      And I’m sorry but “demonic urbane vaudevillian” is so so funny and perfect. A little soft-shoe, a little wisecrack, a little step-ball-change … It’s such a great way to go with a demon, especially the biggest and baddest. If he had been a snarling monster, it would have been a cliche snoozefest.

      I will have to think a lot about what you wrote.

      // and I still don’t know quite what to make of John’s actions, and that is actually wonderful. //

      I agree entirely.

      Your whole paragraph about hunter and prey and the relationship there reminds me of the paragraph on your Tumblr from Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (which I have not read, but have always meant to). How the hero is formed, what he goes through, what he has to endure – the Odysseus factor- and why that story has so much resonance, why it will never cease to fascinate.

      But I will enjoy thinking about this more.

      There is definitely a sense in that Dungeon that they have met before, they are “playing their roles” in a drama set in stone … there is no surprise, almost no adrenaline … They both come to the table with secrets, cards held to the chest, cards revealed.

      // That is seems more equal than it really is is down to John’s determination that they be equal, and to his personal resources of cunning, skill and incredible chutzpah. //

      Right. And then I think about Dean charging the Impala into that cemetery, busting up the pre-ordained fight between Lucifer and Michael. Bull SHIT I’m not a part of this, bull SHIT I’m not supposed to be here – I’m HERE.

      Thank you, Helena – these are very interesting thoughts!

  51. Helena says:

    //I can’t clock John giving much of anything away during that standoff.//

    It is a fabulous stand off, with a lot of withholding on both sides. So much space for things to develop throughout the Season and beyond.

    You can tell I’ve been thinking a lot about this stand off, because what is about to follow is very long, and possibly a bit pompous, so I apologise in advance, but I can’t help myself, and you can always delete it if it’s too much.

    So, I was thinking about stand offs and withholding … Another word I think of in this encounter is the Nemesis. There is the everyday use of the word, as an arch enemy or source of potential downfall. In this scenario, you’re never sure who represents Nemesis – is it John or the Demon? Has John really been hunting down the demon or has it been the other way around? Has the demon got John where he wants him, rather than the other way round? This is another thing I find fantastic about these scenes, no matter how many times I watch it, this nailbiting uncertainty. The dialogue and in the acting leaves you constantly reassessing who really has the upper hand in this particular game, until the very end. John acts like he has the winning card, the Colt. Really, he’s doing the Demon a favour here. But his body language is withholding. His language is all monosyllables. The demon also withholds, acquiesces, all to get John to the point where he must give him what he truly wants. John must have known this all along. That’s part of what he withholds. To reveal that knowledge would have destroyed any possibility of a bargain from the outset. Instead, he gets his deal.

    Somehow, something in JDM’s performance makes John’s death a kind of triumph rather than defeat. Kudos for that.

    There is another aspect to the word Nemesis, which is Necessity. Here I’m really straying into pomposity, but bear with me if you can, as this is how I understand the ‘downplaying’ of Dean’s value in the bargain. Nemesis was the goddess of necessity before she became associated with the idea of hubris and divine retribution, and this encounter is one about necessity, doing that which must be done. In that light, John’s bargaining is just a magnificent bluff to secure the one thing, his older son’s life, which will to allow a longer game to continue, even as it brings about his inevitable doom. John dying is an act of necessity. Saving Dean is an act of necessity. Saving Sam or killing him is a way to defeat the devil. As John sees it, everything he has done, since the death of his wife, has been an act of necessity. That is, not a real choice, with possible alternatives. So, John might well acknowledge that he made Dean grow up too fast., blah blah blah. But there’s no acknowledgement that this might not have been necessary in the first place had John made other choices.

    Dean, in John’s eyes, has always been a creature of necessity. He’s been trained to do what John needs him to do. It’s possible this view is just beginning to change, with John acknowledging what Dean has given him, and Dean developing the confidence to occasionally challenge his father. He may slowly be realising that Dean is actually worth more than the Colt, if only as a tool to defeat the demon. Who knows. It’s too late now anyway. But the family is now dire straits, and John wants to call the shots for the last time. The thing about John’s bargain is that it seems to reciprocate Dean’s gift of filial love to him, but in a way that forces a perpetuation of the old dynamic. The second cancels the first. We’re left with a fabulous swirl of Hamlet and Oedipus: Dean left to feel responsible for his father’s death, actively seeking the truth from another crossroad demon, and with no idea if or how he should avenge him.

    Hope I haven’t broken your internet with all this.

    Bring it on, Season Two!

    • sheila says:

      I am pretty sure the Internet cannot be broken at this point.

      Nemesis/Necessity – fascinating!

      The whole “nemesis” thing is definitely all messed up here – in ways that it wasn’t in Devil’s Trap – back to my understanding of the Gnostic Manichean “smudge”. So yes, you’re right: the standoff makes it entirely unclear (perpetually unclear) who is bad, who is good – and it’s amazing to watch the scene choosing different interpretations. And voila, there is your chosen interpretation, clear as day. But if you CHANGE the interpretation, then voila, there is that different interpretation. Talk about a Hall of Mirrors. The Lady From Shanghai cliffhanger ending where Orson Welles and others are shooting at their “nemesis” – but instead of hitting the actual person they hit the reflected image.

      // So, John might well acknowledge that he made Dean grow up too fast., blah blah blah. But there’s no acknowledgement that this might not have been necessary in the first place had John made other choices. //

      RIGHT. The Belljar. Not even an awareness that there might be other alternatives. It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone. It’s frustrating, maddening, tragic – and also, of course, a huge hook for people like us who can’t get enough of it.

      // Dean, in John’s eyes, has always been a creature of necessity. He’s been trained to do what John needs him to do. It’s possible this view is just beginning to change, with John acknowledging what Dean has given him, and Dean developing the confidence to occasionally challenge his father. He may slowly be realising that Dean is actually worth more than the Colt, if only as a tool to defeat the demon. Who knows. It’s too late now anyway. //

      Right. And then of course there’s that final moment in the graveyard and the opened Devil’s Gate, and all that. That scene tips over almost into parody (it seems like it was art-directed by Roger Corman – although that might be deliberate) – but still: Dad suddenly standing there, and all this wordless stuff going on between them … it’s pretty crazy. The Belljar still there. Still no resolution, or air let in.

      Because how could there be? It’s just “reality” to them – it’s not a belljar at all.

  52. Helena says:

    //Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (which I have not read, but have always meant to). //

    I’m rereading it now. These posts should have included acknowledgements to Roberto Calasso. It’s a book I glean images and structures from, rather than fully understand, AND it’s made me want to read the Iliad for real, which is a plus because I have tried repeatedly and failed before.

  53. Helena says:

    //And I’m sorry but “demonic urbane vaudevillian” is so so funny and perfect. A little soft-shoe, a little wisecrack, a little step-ball-change …//

    Yes, fabulous choice, as you would say. And Crowley has a little of that quality too, not quite so vaudevillian, but similarly urbane. Supernatural has never insulted us with a firebreathing, ‘scary’ demon, it’s has always understood the value of the tricksterish, ‘Special Ops’ element of the Devil, even as they go about as a roaring lion, devouring who they may.

    • sheila says:

      I love when Grandpa Campbell becomes yellow eyes. And inhales Dean’s face, jutting his nose into Dean’s ear. Sort of smirking and throwing the lines away.

      He’s like George Sanders as Demon.

  54. Helena says:

    //Ezra’s wounded man label… hilarious – you kept the flying club! //

    Thanks, Heather – who wouldn’t keep the flying club!

  55. Helena says:

    //He’s like George Sanders as Demon.//

    – like Kaa in The Jungle Book film?

  56. sheila says:

    Helena – I’m trying to find the clip I want from All About Eve which features Sanders and (no coincidence!) Marilyn Monroe – but I can’t find it. The two of them are sitting on the stairs drunk. A guy goes by with a tray and she calls out, “Oh, waiter!”

    The exchange goes (thank you IMDB):
    Addison DeWitt: That is not a waiter, my dear, that is a butler.
    Miss Claudia Caswell: Well, I can’t yell “Oh butler!” can I? Maybe somebody’s name is Butler.
    Addison DeWitt: You have a point. An idiotic one, but a point.
    Miss Claudia Caswell: I don’t want to make trouble. All I want is a drink.
    Max Fabian: Leave it to me. I’ll get you one.
    Miss Claudia Caswell: Thank you, Mr. Fabian.
    Addison DeWitt: Well done! I can see your career rise in the east like the sun.

    She looks truly WORRIED that somebody’s name in the crowd might be “butler.” It’s so funny. Meanwhile, he sits on the step above her, basically looking down her dress.

    Anyway, can’t find the exact clip but here’s another one, with an odious Sanders glorying it over poor Margo that he’s with this young glorious woman.

  57. Helena says:

    The clip is fabulous. And it’s making me thirsty.

    Seriously, if only George Sanders had been around to play Old Yellow Eyes. He is the master of urbanity and odiousness.

    • sheila says:

      He really is. Nobody did it better. I just watched Fritz Lang’s Man Hunt the other day – Lang’s first big hit in America. Have you seen that one? George Sanders plays a Nazi wearing a monocle, and he is beautifully and terrifyingly logical, almost kind and soothing, with a “come, come, now” thing that is just awful. But great.

      He was wonderful – and yes, urbane, odious, sour, with a PERFECT ear for comedy.

      And a really contemptuous suicide note:

      “Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.”

  58. Heather says:

    These discussions are so interesting and fun. Helena, really enjoyed your thoughts here, not pompous, but developed.
    //’For those gnostics, [Gnostics, Sheila!] the visible universe was an illusion, or more precisely a sophism. Mirrors and fatherhood are abominable precisely because they multiply and disseminate that universe.’//
    I can’t believe you found this…just so incredibly apt. But of course, these gnostics saw fatherhood and mirrors as the abominations because they didn’t know about vampires and shape shifters.

    //The feeling of mutuality is so strong that you can almost forget that the balance of power between them is, technically, vastly unequal.//

    This is really important in the grand scheme of things. YED didn’t have to listen to John, he could have just possessed him again, known where the colt was, and then killed him because he has super demon powers. There is something important about ‘the deal’, the choice. And not just in a ‘they wanted to get John into hell to try to break the first seal’ kind of way, because that just doesn’t make sense. But rather SPN has made some pretty clear statements about the personal corruption that is inherent in the demon deal – regardless of the reason.

    //The thing about John’s bargain is that it seems to reciprocate Dean’s gift of filial love to him, but in a way that forces a perpetuation of the old dynamic.//
    Yes absolutely, but also John DID something by making the deal- opened a Pandora’s box perhaps. We saw how gentle and peaceful things were going with Tessa and Dean, the show seemed to present the idea that there was a kind of purity there, and then Tessa gets so horribly violated and the natural order is corrupted. John’s gift has so many strings that Dean is practically pulled into hell himself. But of course I’m glad Dean didn’t die and the show could go on.

  59. Heather says:

    Speaking of tap dancing demons and musical episodes…

  60. sheila says:

    // But of course, these gnostics saw fatherhood and mirrors as the abominations because they didn’t know about vampires and shape shifters. //

    why is this making me laugh so hard???

    I need to dig more into this Gnostic stuff. I have a couple books on it and find the whole thing interesting – these offshoots of Christianity that were then deemed heretical – You know Bobby has a whole bookcase full!!

    // But rather SPN has made some pretty clear statements about the personal corruption that is inherent in the demon deal – regardless of the reason. //

    Fascinating. It’s pretty brutal. And as the demon deals keep coming up – you can see how both Sam and Dean are drawn that way, even though they KNOW it comes with giant ropes attached. and not just that – but the internal corruption as you all are mentioning.

    Tessa’s reaction when she sees the smoke is pretty interesting. She knows what’s coming, this is NOT how it’s supposed to be, she is a purist about her job (she has to be), and no good is going to come of this. I love that she screams. Such a calm and soothing presence – you know if SHE screams, things have gotta be really bad.

    So then, as people were mentioning upthread: Dean surviving becomes a not-entirely good thing. And he knows it himself. He doesn’t feel right. The way it was supposed to go was he was supposed to die – he had already faced it – Layla had sort of shown him a possible way to face death – something that seemed to draw him – and then to have his life come back out of something so ugly and violent …

    It really does set up the season so great. They get so much mileage out of it!

  61. Helena says:

    //But of course I’m glad Dean didn’t die and the show could go on.//

    Yes – things have got to an interesting state of affairs when you start wanting the hero (one of them, anyway) to die.

    //There is something important about ‘the deal’, the choice. //

    There is. And if you sup with the Devil, man ….

  62. Helena says:

    //I love that she screams.//

    The Supernatural audition.

    A: Ok, that reading was great. Now just scream with your mouth wide open for 5 minutes.


    A: OK. Again, but just a bit more terrified, this time.


    A: Ok. We’ll get back to you. Next!

  63. mutecypher says:

    Helena – Your artwork is wonderful. And so are your insights.

    There’s another meaning or implication for Nemesis. It is the name given to the Sun’s hypothetical dark companion star. Back in 1985 (hey, 2 years after YED made his return visit to Mary) a couple of scientists proposed that the Sun might have a small dark companion star with an orbital period of about 30 million years. As scientists have looked at the geological evidence of meteor impacts on the Earth, they’ve found what there appears to be an increase in impacts roughly every 30 million years. So the thinking was that there must be something with a lot of mass and that orbital period pulling stuff in from the Oort Cloud and playing Pin The Mass Extinction on the Earth. And they called that something Nemesis.

    Astronomers haven’t found any Nemesis yet, and considering how many telescopes are in use and how an object with a 30 million year period would be fairly close to the Sun, it seems likely there isn’t a Nemesis. Now they still have to figure out why there appears to be a 30M year periodicity to meteor impacts. Oh, the next peak is 25M years in the future, so we have time.

    But I like associating Nemesis with fire raining from the sky, demons and so on.

    Sheila, here’s a version of the MM All About Eve “butler” scene – though it looks like it was captured by someone holding an iPhone up to a TV.

    • sheila says:

      Mutecypher – Ooh! Nice with the Nemesis information. This is awesome.

      Reminds me a little bit of “Melancholia”, the film by Lars von Trier – which I can’t get enough of – and is one of the best films about depression I’ve ever seen. Taken most literally: it is a hidden zig-zagging planet affect the moods of those on earth – which, from the beginning of time, is what depression has felt like to those who suffer. Something from OUTSIDE.

      now I need to look up the linguistic roots of Nemesis. I will be right back.

      And yay for the All About Eve clip – thank you for finding it! I love Marilyn’s worried straight-forward look on “Maybe somebody’s name is Butler” – and then when Sanders says, “you have a point,” her eyes flit to the side. Nothing else moves. It’s hilarious.

      • sheila says:

        Okay, so what I’m getting in the dictionary is Latin from Greek:

        Nemesis: “righteous wrath, from ‘némein’ to distribute what is due.”

        • sheila says:

          Slightly illuminating, but not really. Not like the Latin roots for “disaster” which basically changed my whole concept of life. Ha.

  64. evave2 says:

    Maureen 7/9/14 12:53 am & Sheila 7/9/4 5:43 am

    I think when John began thinking about HOW and WHY Mary died he came up with the demon was there was Sam and then began obsessively tracking him and having Dean with him at almost all times. THAT would be enough to drive a kid crazy and make him want to get OUT.

    I think what Dean considered “doting” was John’s obsession with keeping Sam “safe” and THEN making sure Sam wasn’t with “dangerous companions.” Of course we see in Two Minutes to Midnite that Lucifer had ALWAYS been in Sam’s orbit (even though John was watching he wasn’t seeing); I mean Sam’s PROM DATE was a demon! In After School Special there was a teacher who gave Sam the advice that his happiness mattered too and he SHOULD try to get into a good college. (Sort of split up the family and kept John off-balance) But it wasn’t THAT guy they showed that was part of Sam’s murder spree; it was a different teacher.

    Do you think it should’ve been the same?

    Oh OH does anybody know WHY Kripke picked Stanford for Sam’s university (I found out they don’t HAVE a law school or was it another school he was trying to get into in Pilot)?

  65. mutecypher says:

    I forgot that the planet in “Melancholia” was called Nemesis. One of my friends posted the orbital path of the” Melancholia” Nemesis on FB recently and we had fun riffing on the laws of physics that were violated.

    Disaster.. . born under a bad star…

    • sheila says:

      Actually – the rogue planet was called “Melancholia” although one could say it is also a “Nemesis”. So it’s not really a good comparison on my part.

      I like the thought, though, of the sun having a companion star, that wreaked all this damage.

      And yes – Cream!! I don’t think I’ve seen that clip before, which is totally my bad.

  66. mutecypher says:

    evave2 – I think someone misled you about Stanford not having a law school.

    Sam is even mentioned in the Wikipedia article about them…

    • sheila says:

      Sam Winchester is mentioned in the Wikipedia article for Stanford Law? That is RIDICULOUS.

      • sheila says:

        Oh, okay, I checked it out – there are many more references to Stanford Law in the pop culture section. It’s not like he’s the only one, which would be totally weird.

        For example, my favorite:

        // In the movie Die Hard, villain Hans Gruber reads aloud the educational history of Nakatomi CEO Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi while searching for him in a crowd of hostages. Takagi’s pedigree includes University of California, Harvard Business School, and Stanford Law School. //

  67. evave2 says:

    Harmony 7/9/14 10:13 am

    Did anybody ever mention the deleted scene from Home? In the episode, Sam and Dean determine they are going to investigate their house the way they would any other case. They go talk to John’s old business partner. He tells them John went kind of crazy after Mary died and he ended up calling child protection services on him because of the WAY HE WAS/WAS NOT CARING for the boys.

    Dean was snotty to him, The way to help your friend was to help your friend and not give up on him (I can’t remember what they are pretending to be, because an insurance investigator seems really too removed for me.) but then the man said something about not taking care of his kids and Sam gets Dean out of there.

    I thought I would get a “he did the best he could” right then and there.

    My headcanon is that Dean was mute but his job was to care for Sam and John was too afraid to leave the kids alone and would take them to work and they would be in the waiting room and Dean’s job was to change and feed and hold Sam. At four years old.

    The old business partner did NOT seem to be a bad guy either; he just didn’t know what to do. He knew John needed help in the real world that the business partner knew about.

    It was such a sad scene; found it on under deleted scenes Supernatural. (There are a lot of them from Season 1.)

  68. sheila says:

    Yes we have discussed that scene! Can’t remember where. Maybe in the Home recap.

  69. mutecypher says:

    // In the movie Die Hard, villain Hans Gruber reads aloud the educational history of Nakatomi CEO Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi while searching for him in a crowd of hostages. Takagi’s pedigree includes University of California, Harvard Business School, and Stanford Law School. //

    Wikipedia is always fun for those “fictional appearance/popular culture” sections at the end. Some Die Hard fan probably just added that. I checked on the Harvard Business School wikipedia entry, and they don’t have a “popular culture” section. Too important and valuable to be part of pop culture.

    UC Berkeley doesn’t have a “fictional appearance/popular culture” section, either. Though it does boast that “Sports agent Leigh Steinberg ( BA 1970, JD 1973) … has been called the real-life inspiration[213] for the title character in the Oscar-winning[214] film Jerry Maguire (portrayed by Tom Cruise)”

    I like Stanford Law more now that I see they aren’t so serious that they uncurate pop culture references to their school.

  70. mutecypher says:

    Hans Gruber … the first time I remember Alan Rickman.

    Hey, he played the angel Metatron in Dogma, my favorite Kevin Smith movie.

  71. mutecypher says:

    //I like the thought, though, of the sun having a companion star, that wreaked all this damage//

    I was going to post some Soundgarden, but I found a great acoustic version that Chris Cornell did.

    “Heaven send Hell away, no one sings like you anymore.”

    • sheila says:

      Ah yes, Black Hole Sun. That is a great version!

      Back in the days of grunge, I had this idea that all of those musicians emerging from the Pacific Northwest should do a re-recording of Jesus Christ Superstar – and I had the whole thing cast. Kurt Cobain as Jesus, and Chris Cornell as Judas – I so wanted to hear Chris Cornell sing Heaven on their Minds – or Damned For All Time. He would KILL IT.

      I fluctuated on who should be Mary Magdalene. Courtney Love seemed too obvious. Maybe one of the Sleater Kinney girls – whom I also loved.

  72. Helena says:

    The whole Stanford Wikipedia thing is hilarious. Glad Sam Winchester is recognised as an alumnus.

    Thank you, mutecypher, for news of Nemesis.

    I’ve not seen the movie, Melancholia. On the other hand, Melencholia is one of my favourite images. You may recognise her from somewhere. (I love that dog.)

    • sheila says:

      Helena – That Melancholia image is killer – I referenced it in my review of the film! Worlds collide. And I actually didn’t put it together that she was the same woman on the bottle. Beautiful, Helena!

      And the film really captures that – especially with this thing beaming in the sky – coming from beyond, an outside force.

      Her POSTURE … so defeated.

      I highly recommend Melancholia. I don’t know your feelings on Lars von Trier – I know many people despise him and there are parts of him that drive me insane. I know we have already speculated that Dean would be made very upset by Nyphomaniac – hahaha and The Anti-Christ? Forget it. Dean would never recover from that one. Ever. I am a wary fan – and I am not in love with Charlotte Gainsbourg like he is – but Melancholia blew me AWAY.

    • sheila says:

      I hadn’t read my review in a while. I mention my hatred of “everything happens for a reason” and “time heals all wounds” there too. Uh oh – I’m repeating myself!!

  73. Helena says:

    Melancholia is on the ‘must see’ list now.

    (I almost saw it when it came out. But I took a wrong turn and went into the wrong screen. and ended up watching ‘Midnight in Paris’ instead. )

    • sheila says:

      Did you like Midnight in Paris? I loved it.

      That was such a good movie season. Midnight in Paris. Tree of Life. Melancholia. A Separation. And also the Panahi film I just wrote about today – This Is Not a Film – most of those played at the NYFF and it was just incredible. One film after another being AWESOME.

      I was one of those weird outliers who despised Breaking the Waves – or who knows, maybe there are more of me – but at least in my group of friends everyone was just blown away by it and I haaaaaaated it – I actually had a huge fight on the sidewalk with my boyfriend at the time right after we saw that film. Neither of us handled it well. I was pretty awful, as I recall. :) Saying, “That was a piece of GARBAGE.” and other lovely welcoming words like that. I’ve calmed down in my old age. He was like, “Jesus, what the HELL, Sheila – can I please like this movie without you yelling at me?” “NO. YOU CAN’T.” Thankfully he walked away from me before I could be even more awful, and we made up later. hahahaha Thanks, Lars von Trier!

      I should probably see it again. It may seem very different now, I don’t know!

      and so I always approached LVT’s films after that with outright skepticism. But Melancholia won me over HARD.

  74. Helena says:

    //Did you like Midnight in Paris? I loved it. //

    From what I remember, I did enjoy it a lot, thought it very witty, hilarious in places, and a very interesting cast. The guy who played Hemingway, Corey Stoll – I loved him.

  75. mutecypher says:

    //Courtney Love seemed too obvious.// I’m going to just let that one lie there.

    I could see Kurt as Mary Magdalene –

    I can imagine him snarling through “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.”

    And Brad Roberts from Crash Test Dummies as Caiaphas (yeah, Winnipeg will stand in for Seattle – it was the ’90’s)

    Chris Cornell would make a great Judas. And maybe Layne Staley from Alice In Chains as Jesus if we cast Kurt as Mary.

  76. evave2 says:

    Sheila 7/9/14 @ 2:28 pm

    I remember I read about it from somebody but I didn’t see it myself until this weekend. It upset me how much Dean is always in Defend Dad mode. He can’t face anything.

  77. Heather says:

    Sheila: //and the Red actually allowed the directors to go even more in that direction. But something obviously changed – around Season 5 or 6. It’s still a loss!//

    You are right, according to the website, seasons 4-6 were shot on RED ONE. Don’t know what they are doing now, but this might account for the change. Okay, that is is, that is all I know.

    • sheila says:

      Ooh – thanks, Heather, will check out that website.

      I don’t know much about the Red but I do know that it has been revolutionary, especially for indie directors – because with the Red you can really control the images. The Red is expensive and I know a lot of Indiegogo campaigns set up by indie directors are in order to finance using the Red camera. Films LOOK high-end with the Red, even if they are low budget.

      I would have to do more research about why exactly that is. :)

      So only season 4 to 6, huh? That explains a lot.

  78. Natalie says:

    I’m back from exam world! (I don’t even care how I did at this point – all I care about is that it’s over!) I appreciate all the good wishes. And yes, my professor’s name really is Hatchett, and he really does teach the hardest classes in the program. The department’s honor society actually sells t-shirts that say “I survived the Hatchett,” complete with a picture of a hatchet underneath.

    I see I have a lot to catch up on!

    Believe it or not, I was actually going to bring up Melancholia before I even saw that it had been mentioned here – in reference to chronic physical and psychological pain. (Possible trigger warning ahead.) I saw it when I had just reached the point of starting to feel tentatively hopeful about my future again (and was mostly past any suicidal/self-nihilistic feelings), which was probably a good thing, all things considered. I absolutely loved it. This may sound weird, but I really connected with the “end of all things” idea. I never reached the point of actually planning suicide, but I did go through a period of hoping not to wake up in the morning. What stopped me from planning to kill myself at the time was a fear of not dying and ending up in even worse physical condition (e.g., driving off the road and ending up paralyzed instead of dead), and the knowledge that it would hurt my niece terribly if I died. I didn’t even care about the rest of my family at that point. Not wanting to traumatize my niece was really the only thing keeping me holding on. So Justine’s improvement as the planetary collision approached made total sense to me – she had an end in sight without having to worry about hurting anyone else, because the end was in sight for them, too. (Incidentally, a sudden improvement in mood in someone who has been severely depressed is often a HUGE suicide risk red flag, for exactly that reason. Once the decision to commit suicide has been made, the person will feel lighter and happier – because there is an end in sight to their pain. Most people don’t know this, and will see the improved mood and think, “Oh, good, s/he’s doing better,” when they should actually be more worried than ever.)

    Wow, that was a long over-sharey digression. Sorry about that. But it does all relate back particularly to Dean in my mind. The whole “there’ll be peace when you are done” thing.

    Also – I have been thinking for – well, weeks, honestly, since I haven’t been watching for years – that there HAS to be a musical episode. Has anyone seen the video on youtube of Jensen Ackles singing The Weight? It is downright unjust that he is THAT good-looking AND that multi-talented.

    May –
    //I also sabotage myself by discovering the posts when I don’t have the time to properly read and comment (like now): I’ll just quickly just check Sheila’s blog before I start…my…*2 HOURS LATER*//

    Hahaha, that’s exactly what I do! It’s amazing I’ve passed any of my classes since I discovered this blog!

    //Only a second?//

    Well, if you insist, I suppose we can discuss it further ;-)

    Heather –
    //I know that during my own health crises, I have felt this deep frustration at being trapped in my own body, or betrayed by my body.//

    I know that feeling quite well. Hope things have improved for you.

    Jessie – so sorry to hear about the loss of your dog.

    Sheila –
    //Also, what about John just sitting by Dean’s bed as Dean talks to him?

    What do you make of that? What do you see on his face?//

    I’m right there with you – I see something different every time I watch! My first viewing, I thought it was mourning the impending loss of his son, but later viewings, knowing what he planned to do – there are so many different directions I could go. Is he contemplating whether making a deal is actually the right thing to do? Is he regretting his parenting choices? Is he saying goodbye because he knows the demon will ask for his life in exchange for Dean’s? Is he “hearing” Dean, even on a subconscious level (making his “I’m proud of you” speech later an answer to what Dean is saying to him in this scene)? I see all of that and more in this scene. John is such a dark horse.

    Re: Lazarus Rising – I love every moment of that episode. It never falters, and every second is important. I am riveted from beginning to end no matter how many times I watch it. When I first started watching the show, I had seen 2 episodes when they originally aired (Twihard and Adventures in Babysitting), and I decided to just watch a few random episodes to get it out of my system (which, as we know now, had the opposite effect). It was when I picked Lazarus Rising at random that I was like, “Oh. I can’t do this. I have to watch the entire series from the beginning, because I HAVE to know how they got here.” The things that episode made me feel before I’d even invested in the characters – man.

    • sheila says:

      Natalie –

      Congrats on making it through the Hatchett!!

      // Not wanting to traumatize my niece was really the only thing keeping me holding on. //

      Oh boy. I recognize that. I am glad you held on, Natalie. I am glad you stuck it out. It’s hard, I know. Melancholia is one of the most visceral films about depression I’ve ever seen – if I had to tell someone what it was like when I was so sick, I would show them that film. There. That’s what it’s like. Because it’s so difficult to put into words. And people try to make comparisons – and they mean well – but “going through a bad patch” or “being sad when I broke up with my girlfriend” doesn’t even begin to touch what the Real Deal is like.

      Melancholia understands that despair like that doesn’t just feel cosmic – it IS cosmic to the person suffering from it.

      I also think it’s just a great end-of-the-world movie – even without the obvious metaphor of “melancholy” (a word I prefer to depression – William Styron wrote a lot about that in his book about his depression – not sure if you’ve read it?) –

      I’m glad to hear someone else weigh in on that movie. LVT can be a provocateur – kind of bratty sometimes – and he’s hit or miss for me – but that one felt like a gift. I saw it three times in one week. Soooo good.

      There’s the scene where Kirsten Dunst sits at the dinner table and she can’t eat. She looks grey. And then Charlotte Gainsbourg undressing her and putting her in the bath. I wept when I first saw that scene. I have never before seen it put so plainly – the reality of the condition. I don’t know – there have been other films about depression but that one really tapped into something, and Dunst just blew me away. She never seemed like the kind of actress who would have that sort of despair in her – and that was totally my under-estimation of her. (I love her – I just was so shocked by her performance in Melancholia.)


      Thank you for sharing! It’s not over-sharing! SPN is a personal show and people have personal responses to it. I made a decision to share some of that in the re-caps – not even sure why I was doing it – I just knew that I wanted to NOT be all distant from it. I mean, I have SOME distance so I can look at what works and how it works – but then there’s that gut-check visceral level … and so sharing stuff like that is totally a part of the SPN experience (in my humble opinion).

      Anyway, I’m glad you made it through and thank you for telling us about it.

      // and I decided to just watch a few random episodes to get it out of my system (which, as we know now, had the opposite effect). //

      and now I’m dying laughing.

      That was pretty much my experience. I thought to myself in October/November of last year: “Hmmm, I am sensing fans screaming about something on Tumblr and Twitter – I should watch a couple episodes and maybe write something about the fandom …”

      Yeah. That’s not how it went down. I watched the pilot and thought: “Oh shit. Now I have to watch NINE SEASONS. Can I take a leave of absence from work?? Will they let me?”

  79. Helena says:

    Hi Natalie. Welcome back from Hatchett world!

  80. Natalie says:

    Haha, thanks, Helena!

  81. mutecypher says:

    Natalie –

    Just watched JA sing The Weight. Yes, we must get a Musical Episode. I’ll start looking for spell of influence in the Esoterica Archives.

    I hope you did well on your exam.

    • sheila says:

      Yes, I love that clip of him singing!

      He can sing. And considering some of the out-takes, he could certainly at least fake dance. So can Jared. Guy wiggles his ass at the camera like a showgirl.

      Come on, SPN, give it to us! Maybe Demon-Dean could bring us a musical episode – you know, the gloom of Dean’s ordinary personality (at least as it stood in Season 9) could vanish and now he can shuffle off to Buffalo in top hat and tails? I would faint.

  82. Kim says:

    Saw this about Season 10 today – Season 10 begins with Sam’s frantic search for his missing brother, who is gone without a trace. The road to recovering the wayward Dean takes Sam down dark paths, with consequences that will shake the boys to their core.

    Meanwhile, Castiel has to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of Metatron’s campaign. With his grace failing and rogue angels still on the loose, Cass will face the ticking clock of his own mortality as all-new threats emerge to once again push all of our heroes to their limits.

    Let the speculation begin

  83. Patsyann says:

    As soon as they mentioned Ellen to Bobby he should have been all “Oh, Ellen, sure! Good people. Here’s her address. Don’t hit on her daughter.”

    I am absolutely sure that Dean was going to go with Tessa at the end. I think that even without remembering, that decision informed him for the rest of the season and beyond. I wonder how it would have been different if he had decided the other way.

    Regardless, John’s last order (or suggestion) was futile. How Dean must have turned that over and over in his mind, how it must have eaten away at him…but there’s never any question that he will actually do it. He says so himself in “Born Under A Bad Sign” when Meg!Sam tells Dean to kill him: “I can’t. I’d rather die.” And right up through Season 9 that’s how he continues to operate.

    • sheila says:

      // but there’s never any question that he will actually do it. //


      And there are moments, flashes, when John looks at Sam – I don’t know – with a kind of cold assessing look …. which makes me think he would have been able to “do it.” It’s not an “I hate you” look – but there’s a disconnect there. He is able to dissociate Sam the Possible Darth Vader Type from Sam his Son – This is just speculation, there’s no real dialogue to support it – it’s all from Morgan’s behavior, and just quick glances at that. When he looks at Sam and seems to be wondering what the hell he’s dealing with. Like Sam is a monster.

      John is obviously not “nice” to Dean – but he doesn’t look at Dean like that. Even when he’s dismissing Dean, or being contemptuous of Dean, or using Dean … it’s still that weird fatherly vibe (which makes it more sick and upsetting).

      Anyway, that’s just my two cents.

      Other people might see something else!

  84. May says:

    Jessie — so sorry to hear about your dog. Pets are very much a part of the family and it always hurts to lose them.

    Natalie — thank you for “over-sharing”! It is important for people to talk openly about these thoughts and feelings. No one wants to look like they are self-pitying or trying to attract sympathy and attention, and so worry about sharing. I think that is why so many of us apologize before or after we say these things. A sort of disclaimer: “I’m not saying this for pity!” Of course, it’s always harder to gauge tone in written communication, so the apologies work in that sense, too…

    I also agree with Sheila, that SPN is a very personal show. I know a lot of people who watch it, but the people who LOVE it all seem to connect to it on a real personal level. It’s almost like, representation? We’ve talked before about how good SPN is with portraying trauma…I hate to say my childhood was traumatic, but I’d certainly qualify chunks of it as “unpleasant.” A couple of my best friends watch SPN. Though they don’t love it the way I do, they understood why I do, without me having to say anything. They just knew. Hell, they probably understood long before I did.

    RE: John and “save Sam or kill him.” I think John would have killed Sam, if he thought it necessary. If he thought Sam had “fallen” and become a monster. He would see that as “saving” Sam. It would basically be an honor killing.

  85. Tabaqui says:

    I can only say – yay! Season two, and I am so looking forward to your deconstruction of each and every episode.

    I, too, love how things from season one or two or three, etc., carry forward and suddenly pop up again in season six, season eight, season nine. Few shows seem to be able to do that consistently, and though Show has had it’s minor continuity fails, it’s amazing how many threads they’ve sustained for so long, and so well.

    I look forward to more!

  86. Jessie says:

    Sorry for delay in response, all, & thanks for your condolences! I am very touched.

    Helena your work is so awesome! Every now and then I stop what I’m doing and start banging my spear on the ground chanting Get Sam A Dog! He deserves one. Your work shall go on my flag.

    May et al — I totally agree John would kill Sam if he had to. He could go there in his mind. He has been paving the road for episodes now.

    Sheila —
    It really is so dismissive of Dean, who seems like a pretty worthy foe, all things considered – but there’s that underestimation factor going on that seems pretty common with Dean.
    Definitely — especially in this episode when Dean is about as physically vulnerable as he can be. And Azazel’s best Dean intel is drawn directly from John’s mind, so we can guess how inadequate his opinion really is.

  87. Helena says:

    //Every now and then I stop what I’m doing and start banging my spear on the ground chanting Get Sam A Dog! //

    Indeed. That’s what I wish for in Season 10 – maybe in the course of chasing after Dean, Sam can run over another dog and get to keep it this time.

  88. Helena says:

    Oh, and yesterday was John Dee’s birthday (I learned this from Bookslut.) I feel I should wish him a happy birthday here, as he’s the man who first got Enochian down, plus he’s the spiritual godfather of public libraries and (I so wish) a forebear of Bobby Singer.

    • sheila says:

      Yes, yes, late to the party – but happy birthday, John Dee!! Hopefully Bobby Singer went and looked him up once he got to heaven.

  89. mutecypher says:

    It was the 487th anniversary of his birth, a prime number. Seems extra significant.

    I was surprised to learn that Uncle Will may have modeled Prospero after John Dee. Did we already know that? The longer I ponder it the more it seems like someone may have pointed it out already.

    I was curious to see if there was an Enochian numbering scheme or set of symbols, just to see if there was something special about writing 487 in Enochian. Turns out, not so much with John Dee – but in 2011 a guy named Ken Nunoo published a book with the nicely descriptive title of How To Write Enochian Numbers (Kaballah Lesson 16). Even available on Kindle (though the title is all in capital letters, so it feels like the author is yelling). The author says

    “There are three languages spoken in heaven by the angels which are: Hebrew, Latin, and Enochian. The Enochian language and alphabets were first delivered by a group of angels that call themselves the Enochian angels to John Dee and Edward Kelly in England around about the 1580’s. The result were a series of manuscripts that became known as the Enochian manuscripts. However the numbering system of the Enochian language has baffled the mystics and sages for centuries since it does not follow any form of logic that we know of. In this lesson the angel Ramamel has given to me the Enochian numbering system and truly indeed no human being could have guessed it.”

    We live in a time of mystery and wonderment.

    • sheila says:

      Holy mackerel.

      Ramamel the angel hasn’t appeared on Supernatural yet, and I think it’s time we met him/her/it/celestial intent.

  90. Erin says:

    Hi Sheila,
    Thank you so much for your essays. I have started doing a rewatch on season one and your insights have made it so much better this time around. Things as simple as focus pulling, which I have never noticed before, now stand out.

    I have also been very interested in your observations regarding Dean’s objectification which has raised some questions which I would like to get your view on. Please excuse me if I use the wrong terminology.

    Season one established fairly clearly that Dean is objectified by everyone (even on occasion himself). As the seasons go on, it is made apparent that Dean was probably used as bait or leverage by his family and Dean appeared to accept this as a fait accompli. He very rarely seemed to see this as abuse or victimisation; he didn’t like it but knew that it was how the job was done. Even when possession was threatened, his response was not one of disgust but more like “really, again with the possession?”

    Sam, however, saw objectification as a form of abuse. He was extremely vocal in his dislike of anything to do with possession or control. He was also clear in his opinion regarding the removal of his agency in that it was the ultimate betrayal.

    On the occasions that Sam has been possessed/controlled, the outcome has been pretty traumatic and resulting on violent events that Sam is disgusted with. He sees himself (rightly so) as being violated by these events. The times that Dean was possessed were far fewer and with less dramatic outcomes. This on the face of it would make someone think that his agency was not compromised as significantly as Sam’s. Dean, however, was controlled at a far younger age and more consistently than Sam. He may not have had his agency removed so dramatically as Sam, but his agency was removed nonetheless.

    So in saying this, my questions are this; given that Dean sees the removal of agency as standard practice as it appears to happen to him on a regular basis without him even noticing, do you think he even knows or understands what agency is? Do you think that because Sam was offered more protection as a child, he has a better understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable regarding control and agency?

    I’d love to know your thoughts on this.
    Kind Regards

    • sheila says:

      Erin – thank you so much for reading and also for your thoughtful comment! It’s something I definitely have given a lot of thought to. I observe the same things you observe in re: Sam and Dean and these issues of agency.

      To talk about it, I have to use stereotypical gendered language – because I think it’s helpful sometimes when talking about Stories and how they are set up – and I think it’s also the level where the show gets subversive (and I would also suggest that this is all because of WHO they cast as Dean – he is open to those suggestions in the script, and he RUNS with them). Most of this is totally unspoken, so this is what I “get”. You might get something else!

      I think of Dean, male though he is, as a bodacious female – a la Joan from Mad Men (if you watch the show), or someone like Marilyn Monroe or Brigitte Bardot. Dean is a male bombshell, basically. And he vaguely resents it sometimes, and bulks up in layers to protect himself, but he knows that it’s a losing battle – that his bombshell-ness and bodacious-ness is “out there” for all to see. He’s used to it. And bombshells like that walk in a completely sexualized atmosphere – created by them (important to remember: the bombshells are in charge) and what they “put out” there, and it works on a feedback loop. The bombshell puts out the Sex Vibe, the bombshell gets back the Sex Vibe, and on and on –

      For someone like Marilyn Monroe, or Joan from Mad Men – this has probably been going on for so long that it’s the air they breathe. They have been sexualized from the time they developed boobs, probably. And if they developed boobs really young, then they would have been treated differently from the second those boobs arrived – even if they were only 11, 12, still children. Girls like that can be seen as “prey” – and it’s totally unfair, of course – and horrible – but that’s what happens.

      I think Dean’s experience of possession/objectification/sexualization is like that. The male equivalents are not as powerful a comparison – they just don’t work as well – even though there definitely are examples, of young beautiful boys being lusted after by more powerful and predatory partners. But these female bombshells – I think they’re the closest equivalent to Dean, and understanding THEM means we understand him.

      So yes, it’s been a part of his life for so long that his reaction is “Oh. This again?” Even when he’s sick to his stomach – like that revelatory (to me, anyway) closeup in Twihard when the male vampire gets right up in his grill and asks if he wants a private tour. That look on Dean’s face, the history there with that kind of moment, his acceptance of it, his self-knowledge, his awareness of what he will have to do, and he will do it … it’s ALL there. It’s nearly impossible to picture the same expression being on Sam’s face.

      But the real subversive thing is – like Marilyn Monroe (I keep bringing her up in these posts for a reason!!) – Marilyn Monroe turned the thing that was being used against her (sneers about her being a whore, and “up for it”, and cat-called and all that) into not only an asset but the thing that made her a star. She didn’t bitch about how everyone objectified her. As a matter of fact, she COUNTED on them “objectifying” her – and wouldn’t have even understood what the word objectification meant. “What does that mean … they appreciate my figure? They appreciate my looks? Thank GOD that they do!” Yes, it got tiresome sometimes, and it meant people under-estimated her, but here is where she got subversive: she didn’t get pissed off that people under-estimated her – she USED that fact to her advantage. In the mid-50s, the studios were putting her in terrible movies where all she had to do was simper around in a bathing suit. She knew she had more to give. She cared deeply about acting. So she basically went “on strike”, all by herself. She disappeared from Los Angeles, and re-surfaced a couple months later in New York. She took acting classes at the Actors Studio. She held the studio hostage – “I won’t come back until you start giving me better parts.” AND, even more revolutionary for the time – she set up her own production company where she would develop projects. She threw her own press conference in New York to announce that fact. Starlets just did not act like this in the 50s (or any time).

      At the press conference, she said that she was interested in adapting The Brothers Karamazov into a film, that was one of the projects. One of the journalists there joked, “Do you know how to spell Dostoevsky, Marilyn?” She said, guileless (or seemingly guileless): “Have you read the book? There’s a wonderful temptress in it, a perfect part for me.”

      Ba-dum-CHING. She WON.

      She was used to having people think she was dumb. But she floated through those preconceived notions, and did what she wanted anyway, trying to create a career that used her sexuality but also had more meaning for her. And in many ways, she succeeded, her death notwithstanding.

      There are those who persist in looking at Marilyn Monroe as a victim of the patriarchy or whatever – but I just can’t agree with that, because it takes away from her sheer triumph of Persona-Building and also her beautiful funny sexy performances. She herself said (and I paraphrase) – that sex is a beautiful thing, given to all of us by God, and it’s a shame to turn it into something so dirty – when it should be celebrated.

      She turned herself into the living embodiment of that.

      Now Dean is a little different – because he does have some (vague) resentment at being treated like a Meal by everyone he meets. However, he also sees it as an asset – and uses it – to get people he likes into bed with him, if he wants – and also to manipulate the monsters he encounters, offering himself up to them.

      Sam does not use himself in that way. Sam is not perceived as “gettable” in the same way that Dean is. Women’s bodies are seen as penetrable. Men’s are not. Dean is perceived as penetrable – and he shares that perception – which is why he gets startled when people touch him without warning – even a gentle touch compromises him, slightly.

      His boundaries don’t exist. Because he was never allowed to HAVE boundaries. Not with his Dad, and not anywhere.

      And so yes, I don’t think Dean experiences “agency” in the way that most people do. I think if I stepped into Marilyn Monroe’s shoes for one day, I would be flat out exhausted by what she had to put up with – the sneers, the leering, the fact that Every. Single. Person she met in the course of a day – wanted something from her, desired her, needed her to be a certain way, expected things of her, yearned for her … It would be like being in a nightmare where everyone was trying to control you! But Marilyn Monroe, for the most part, did not experience it that way.

      She was a master at deflection, at teasing people, at making people feel comfortable, at BEING what they wanted her to be, at reflecting back people’s dreams … She saw that as her role in life. Or, one of them.

      Sometimes I read about what Marilyn had to put up with and I think, “Tell that asshole what you think of him, Marilyn!” or “Give him a piece of your mind, Norma Jean!” But that wouldn’t be her.

      Back to Dean. Sorry.

      That’s the atmosphere I see Dean in. That’s how I understand him.

      He is an Object of Desire. He is not unaware of any of it. He is able to use it, manipulate it. He shouts these aggressive sexual come-ons at monsters – offering himself up – it’s his way of using the vibe that already exists. Being objectified like that is a Fact of Life to him. Sometimes it’s awesome. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it’s boring (his eye-rolls, “please, you want to get inside of me? Get in line.”) But it’s not to be questioned. It doesn’t piss him off – it would be like getting pissed off at the sky being blue and why is it blue.

      The show sometimes has fun with it (Dean in a tuxedo being pissed off at Bela drooling over him) and sometimes goes super-dark (the whole of Twihard, and many other episodes).

      There may be some nuances in there I’m missing – but the way the show objectifies JA – and the way the SPN world objectifies Dean – was one of the first thing I noticed about the damn thing – and so this is what I get.

      Would love to hear more thoughts!

      And thank you, again, for reading and commenting!

      • sheila says:

        One more thought:

        Outside of gay literature and the “beautiful boy” thing – is there such a thing as a Male Bombshell? The “beautiful boy” isn’t exactly a Male Bombshell – he is more the embodiment of youth and untouched purity – and his time in the sun is brief, because when his youth is gone, or he is “used up”, he is no longer useful or desired.

        In myths? Or legends? Can anyone weigh in on that?

        Basically what I am looking for is a male voluptuary. The “odalisque” thing I keep comparing Dean to. Odalisques are always female. Is there a male corollary?

        Elvis is a perfect example of a male – who “used himself” in ways normally designated for females. And the entire world exploded as a result. It’s that powerful. That’s what I see going on with Dean Winchester.

  91. Helena says:

    // is there such a thing as a Male Bombshell?//

    Lord Byron.

    How about the Terence Stamp character is Teorema – I’ve not seen it but from what I’ve read he does manage to seduce a whole family, so there’s that.

    //In myths? Or legends? Can anyone weigh in on that?//

    In history, Alkibaides – brilliant, handsome, seductive, power hungry.

    In Greek myth, Dionysus, maybe.

    Genji, from the Tale of Genji. Although voluptuary is not really a term I’d apply to a samurai, he’s this extraordinarily seductive figure, attracting the love and devotion of men and women.

    • sheila says:

      I knew you’d come through, Helena! Thank you!

      Those archetypes HAD to exist, I knew it!

      Lord Byron! Of course!! (Camille Paglia, in her brilliantly ridiculous way, compared Lord Byron to Elvis in Sexual Personae.)

      Marlon Brando is also a male who used himself in ways that accepted objectification in a way that is seen as stereotypically female. His entrance in Streetcar. Hubba hubba.

      I don’t know about Alkibaides , but I Googled him, and, at least from the sculptures I’m looking at – dude was a hottie.

      Thank you for this!

  92. Jessie says:

    Dean and penetration — in this very episode, those tubes forcing their way down his throat are very evocative.

    As far as bombshells go, Stuart Allen Jones comes to mind — and how about your Lord Lymond Helena? Or Brian Slade? However, none of these bring in the same complications as Dean. In terms of pure objectification the way Nicholas Hoult is shot in A Single Man comes to mind — he’s not quite the beautiful Youth who will fade, but of course that whole film is elegaic perfection.

    • sheila says:

      Okay, that Stuart Allen Jones compilation was hot as hell. And Brian Slade – yes!! Ewan McGregor, in his heyday, definitely “played with” the expectations of male roles – turning them inside out, and presenting himself in a way normally reserved for females. I mean, I could pick out his penis in a lineup, that’s how much I’ve seen it. He made some joke saying, “Why do women always have to be naked in film? I am doing my bit for the women’s movement.”

      And those androgynous figures – celebrated in Velvet Goldmine – the David Bowies, Ziggy Stardust – even Lou Reed – and all the others – the glitter glam-rock boys … (I love the “glitter gets you laid” exchange in Twihard – and how Dean is like, “Huh. Never thought of that. May have to try it …”) they took what the Beatles started with the long hair (and Elvis started before that, with the gyrations usually practiced by showgirls), and Rudolph Valentino started before that with his smoldering sexuality – and took it to its most extreme expression.

      Men operating as Objects. It’s still quite taboo. The guys who have fun with it, who recognize it, who celebrate it, are few and far between. And it has to come from within – it has to be something instinctive and natural – otherwise you just get a hot boy posing and pouting. But OWNING it? Like Stuart Allen Jones (yowza). Those guys are singular.

      Dean owns it – and also DOESN’T own it. It puts him in more fragile company. He’s used and abused – but he also uses himSELF that way. It’s a survival technique. Brigitte Bardot would understand entirely. “Yup. Everyone wants to fuck me. Fine. I want to fuck me too. You happy?”

    • sheila says:

      Oh, and I love A Single Man!

  93. Helena says:

    Ahh Jessie, you got me bang to rights. I wasn’t going to mention him, but since you did …

    Although I’ve grown out of the books, Supernatural has its own filter for me, which is Lymond. Lymond is my ultimate bombshell – he really does walk in beauty like the night. It is said of him. ‘Everyone longs to possess him, or destroy him.’ He is, despite what people think, penetrable (and this happens literally and figuratively in the climax to every novel. ) He gets raised from the dead, more or less. Abaddon gets a mention. And he’s friends with John Dee, father of Enochian. So maybe he’s a spiritual forebear.

    Not sure of his actual title at end of play, since titles are such a big deal in the books. His brother is the lord, I think. I liked it when he was just The Master. Voevoda of All Russia another favourite.

    • sheila says:

      I mean, honestly, the connections are crazy. I haven’t read the books. But my God – you have to believe Kripke has, or Ben Edlund, or someone on that team. Sera Gamble. It’s amazing!

  94. Heather says:

    I like considering Dean as bodacious- he is definitely that. And I think the no boundary thing adds to the excitement and tension around his body. For Sam, I get the sense that he has compartmentalized his body, the parts where his bathing suit covers is private, other places not so much. But Dean with no boundaries, touching his arm is just touching HIM. When Abbadon, is threatening to possess Dean and she pulls back his shirt, just a little bit to show the tattoo my reaction is that she has practically stripped him naked, “help him, cover him up!” This vulnerability is unusual with males.
    I was thinking about classic male beauty stories and they don’t come with this sense of vulnerability; except the beautiful boy, like Dorian Gray and Narcissus.
    The ancient heroes like Theseus and Perseus were beautiful and lusted after by gods and mortals alike. Isn’t it weird that the gods or angels on the show aren’t more into Sam and Dean (well, other than maybe Castiel) since they are gorgeous, brave and speak the ancient language of being tortured by their father and chopping things’ heads off?
    But the story that always comes to mind for me about Dean is Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse, Goldmund always having reminded me of Dean. There are some freaky similarities. Here is the wiki page
    But again, even though Goldmund is beautiful and ‘the lover’, his beauty isn’t really a danger or cause of vulnerability.

    And I don’t think Dean gets possessed by anything other than Eve’s weird Khan wormy thing.
    One last thought (so many words, I’m sorry): agency and responsibility are linked and while Dean has a strange sense of agency, he is overly responsible. No agency should mean no responsibility, but Dean even as a child was always responsible.

    • sheila says:

      Heather – great thoughts!!

      // But Dean with no boundaries, touching his arm is just touching HIM. //

      YES. And JA is so open to playing that – that is also unusual with males.

      His entire body is an erogenous zone. This is how women are more typically viewed – they “suggest” sex just by walking down the street. They’re trying to get to the grocery store to buy some milk, and they get cat-called as they do so. That’s what life is like for Dean. He bulks up, he hunkers down, but he also plays with it, and throws sexual taunts back to the cat-calls coming at him. I mean, what else are you gonna do.

      And then when we do see him in bed with someone, he’s a total voluptuary. The miracle is that that hasn’t been beaten or shamed out of him. Sam is more “Let’s throw DOWN, girl …” I mean, rowr to Sam in bed. Good Lord. He’s a BEAST. Dean, though, is soft and pleased and open. There are moments on his face in the sex scene with Anna – even with the Amazon – where he almost seems in awe of how good it is, how good it all feels. He doesn’t have to grab control there or hunker down or protect himself – he can totally be who he naturally is – which is a bodacious Male Bombshell, devoted to his own pleasure and the pleasure of others.

      It’s worrisome when Dean DOESN’T act like that. Sam: “It’s when a dog DOESN’T eat … you know something’s wrong.” Or his complete ignoring of the waitress in that great scene with Crowley end of Season 9. His libido has vanished. It is no more. And without his libido? The Dark Side wins totally.

  95. Helena says:

    // Isn’t it weird that the gods or angels on the show aren’t more into Sam and Dean (well, other than maybe Castiel) since they are gorgeous, brave and speak the ancient language of being tortured by their father and chopping things’ heads off?//

    Well, nobody’s perfect.

  96. sheila says:

    // Nobody’s perfect //

    … to quote the final line of Some Like It Hot, speaking of Marilyn Monroe, and speaking of subversive gender-bending.

    I hope those two will be very happy together.

  97. Helena says:

    Me too.

    And I loved your points, Heather.

  98. Heather says:

    Thanks Helena, right back at you.

  99. Helena says:

    //Sera Gamble. //

    If anyone, it would be her :-). But more than that, I think it’s about how Dunnett understood archetypes, story, character and female/feminine desire. It takes a while for that to emerge fully from the fairly flowery language of the first book, but by book 2 he’s fully in the Object/Objectified male bombshell mode.

  100. May says:

    //Outside of gay literature and the “beautiful boy” thing – is there such a thing as a Male Bombshell?//

    Aside from the examples already mentioned—my brain went right to Greco-Roman mythology—I’m really drawing a blank. Do bisexual vampires count?

    Where I have seen tons of male characters treated similarly to Dean, if not necessarily always embodying his bombshell nature, is in Japanese manga/anime. Particularly in the manga aimed at young women. I mean, there is a manga genre referred to as reverse harem. Reverse. Harem.

  101. mutecypher says:

    Heather –

    Narcissus and Goldmund, I just devoured eight or nine Hesse novels when I was a high school senior. I agree that Goldmund was, not a voluptuary, maybe a few steps away, a sensualist(?) and figured out he was not cut out to be a monk once he got laid. He devotes himself to the craft of carving and then heads out on his own path – no direction home (until near the end). And he has no trouble getting women into bed and enjoys them without any condescension. He treasures them and wants to understand them. That’s a great Dean-example.

    Reading about Hesse, I didn’t know he married a Bernoulli, holy cow!

    Open question: V.C. Andrews or Dorothy Dunnett, who should I put in the reading list?

    • sheila says:

      Oh Lord, if you start reading VC Andrews, you are not going to believe that this was a best-seller among the 12-year-old set. I just can’t recommend you moving further down that path. Have eye-bleach ready so that you can un-see what you have been forced to see.

  102. Heather says:

    //And he has no trouble getting women into bed and enjoys them without any condescension. He treasures them and wants to understand them.//
    So true. If I remember correctly it is the women who are often like “okay, you gotta go, my husband is coming” or something close to that because he wants to spend more time with them. I remember him being haunted/inspired by the image of his mother who wouldn’t let him become a monk and deny the body-self and then he sought to find the Universal Mother of all things – which I took to mean Nature. Interesting story.
    The Bernoulli- don’t really know them: a lot of math there, which is always interesting.

    May: reverse harem manga- I don’t know what to think about this… further investigation needed.

  103. Helena says:

    //Open question: V.C. Andrews or Dunnett//

    Oh, Andrews FTW, definitely!

    With Dunnett, I’d actually recommend reading the Nicolo series first. Her writing style is fully honed by then and it’s also a great story set in mid-14th century Europe and Asia, (around the time of the fall of Constantinople), and the main character’s sexuality operates if anything even more like Dean’s.

    • sheila says:


      I think another key aspect to counter-act all of this objectification/sexualized conversation – is Dean’s unembarrassed and unironic (very important) Alpha Male status. He’s a warrior. Warriors often don’t “fit in” to civilian life – and yet we pampered civilians rely on these mostly-invisible Tough Guys to protect us and keep us safe. Dean is part of that – naturally. The soldier who did a tour in Fallujah recognizes Dean as “takes one to know one”. It’s a very specific type – and it’s not a “posture”, it’s not “macho posing”, it’s genuine. That’s a Bombshell of a very different sort. Bombshells internalize their own objectification, and turn it into a Win for themselves and for others. They OWN who they are. So do the Tough Guys. They are not anxious or nervous or insecure about BEING that.

      What did that crunchy waiter say to Dean when he “affirmed” him?

      “You are a virile manifestation of the divine.”

      That’s Dean, too.

      In today’s culture, manliness like that – unironic – red-meat-eating – gun-slinging – working on his car – protecting the more vulnerable – is out of style, out of fashion. It’s treated with suspicion, mostly.

      There’s a reason why so much of the fan fic tries to domesticate Dean – putting him in a coffee shop, working as a barista. There’s a lot of anxiety about masculinity, there’s a desire to shame it out of existence. I’ve joked that sometimes when I write about this stuff I start to sound like a part of the MRA “movement” – but that’s not it at all. Those guys are anxious impotent douchebags. The REAL Tough Guys – guys who run into burning buildings when everyone else runs out, guys who travel far far away to fight for their country, guys who are able to land tiny aircraft on air craft carriers heaving up and down in the middle of rough seas, Navy SEALs, Top Gun guys, the bomb defuser geniuses (phone call for Jeremy Renner in Hurt Locker) – guys like my Special Ops friend who is the guy I will seek out if the apocalypse comes because he will know what to do (Sitting in a bar with him, drinking whiskey, I said, “Do you have a roll of duct tape on your person right now?” Slowly, busted, he reached into the inner pocket of his bomber jacket, and drew out a roll of duct tape. We laughed until we cried.) – anyway, THOSE types of guys still exist. Throwbacks. But, as will always be the case, occupying a very important place in the culture. SPN honors that type of man, while also examining the COST that such men pay.

      Anyway. Dean’s got BOTH those things going on – the bodacious Bombshell, and the Manifestation of Virility – which is why he’s so fascinating.

  104. mutecypher says:

    Helena, thanks.

    Set around the fall of Constantinople… any reverse harems? Future dungeons for T.E. Lawrence?

    I can imagine Peter O’Toole playing an objectified bombshell, though nothing springs(!) to mind where he actually did. Maybe, by implication, My Favorite Year? He’s certainly framed as beautiful in Lawrence of Arabia

    • sheila says:

      T.E. Lawrence was a total bombshell in O’Toole’s hands!! I recently saw Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen – and I was amazed at how openly gay that performance is. Damn near queen-ish! And he has that thing that Bombshells have – the Burlesque Act – of hiding at the same time he is revealing. He lives his life as theatre. A drag act. He is capable, thoughtful, cunning, and gets off – almost sexually – on these power politics. One of the negotiation scenes with one of the sheikhs is played as flat-out seduction.

  105. Helena says:

    //Peter O’Toole playing an objectified bombshell//

    Well, he kind of almost did, in Lawrence, I guess. Dunnett used to mention him whenever discussion of film//tv version of her books came up. I used to imagine someone completely different. Which is the joy of such a game.

  106. mutecypher says:

    We don’t see him having sex with any women, though there is certainly the implied penetration when he’s captured.

  107. May says:

    So. Speaking of musicals . . . this popped up on my Twitter feed today:
    “Supernatural Is Doing a “Musical-ish” Episode!”

  108. mutecypher says:

    May !!!!

    Let all blessings accrue to you, bearer of great news!

  109. sheila says:

    ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!! YES!

    There’s also a rumor that Demon-Dean has an “intense affair with a roadhouse waitress” early on in the season and I am thrilled. What will Demon Dean be like? Glad to see his libido has returned, anyway.

    I heard about this because the Destiel fans were moaning with betrayal on Tumblr about it.

    But I’m like: YES.

    A musical episode?

    Demon-Dean banging some waitress?

    I can’t wait!

  110. Ellen says:

    Your article here is very fascinating!

    I have just started binge watching SPN four weeks ago (starting season 7 now). I intend to finish all 10 seasons before re-watching any of the previous episodes. (I just go with the flow/emotions of what I watch first and then analyze and digest after). But reading this post (which I did after stumbling upon the other great article re JA and schtick), I Realized that this was the episode that really hooked me to the series (I found SPN interesting watching season 1 but this season 2 premiere episode sealed the deal for me). You outlined and put into words what ticked to me and what awed me when I first saw this episode. Thank you!

    I am still on my way to finish 3 more seasons and to catch up with the rest of your entries here. So looking forward to contribute to the discussions later!

  111. Kalyssa says:

    This episode is a class on how to do more with less at creating atmospherics. The use of long takes and the way Dean disappears during them utterly works to capture the tone of Dean being caught in between states. Tessa s entire story is captured in how light and shadow is used to shift our feelings about her. Innocent one moment, ominous the next. Couple that with a few gorgeous shots-i.e. coffee cup-and this is one of the best directed episodes of the entire season. The script does an economical job of setting up the central dynamics of the season 2-i.e. Dean s guilt, what is wrong with Sam-while telling a compelling critical chapter in the Winchester story. This is a solid opening to the season.

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