The thing about season 3 is, I always wonder what those other 6 episodes would’ve looked like. You know the one’s we missed out on seeing. I mean, had there not been the writer’s strike and we ended up getting the full 22-episode season, what more of the story would’ve been revealed? Did the creative team have it all planned out, partly written? How many of those ideas were fleshed out in coming episodes or utilised in later seasons, or are there some that couldn’t be reworked and were shelved or simply shoved into a draw somewhere? Sure, there would’ve been a couple of fillers in amongst the 6, but what more would we have seen of the over-all arc? What more of Dean’s plight, his desperation. What more of Sam’s struggle, his sadness as he coped with Dean’s impending death. How many more beautifully penned conversations would there have been as the boys bantered the problem back and forth. Would we have found out more about Bella, about Ruby, about Lilith? What would season 3 have looked like had it been a full season. Gosh, how I’d love to know. How I would love to see those episodes.
Still, for a season that was cut 6 episodes short, it doesn’t feel at all rushed. I look at the list of titles and I’m baffled by the strength of every single one of them…well except the season opener which is a bit of a disappointment, and maybe the ghost ship episode, but the rest of season 3 is super strong. I also realised that I must watch season 3 a lot, because I found that I was spouting dialogue left and right! I know a shocking amount of dialogue by heart! Makes me laugh…
Season 3 is kind of hard to watch. There’s this overwhelming sense of dread hanging over the whole thing, that kicks off right from the get go and never lets up. Even in the episodes not specifically about Dean going to Hell, that darkness is still dancing around the corners of the storyline. There’s a building sense of panic and hopelessness in both the brothers as they get closer and closer to the end of Dean’s year. They fight it right up until the very last second. At times they’re at odds as to how to do it, but in the end they stand side by side as brothers to face the inevitable. They’re there for each other to the very end. Sam never gives up trying to save Dean. Which got me to thinking. Off the back of a lot of what came out of Comic-Con there were questions around why doesn’t Sam ever get the chance to save Dean? But watching seasons 1, 2 and 3 with a more analytical eye than usual, it seems to me, he’s always trying to save Dean. If you look at my last two season write-ups, both the episodes I chose to focus on are about Sam trying to save Dean. Sure, he’s not always successful, but then, the only time Dean truly saved Sam successfully was when he made a deal and threw himself to the dogs, literally. Sam, to save his brother and the whole of humanity, threw himself to the Devil, literally. It seems to me these boys are even in both their successful and failed attempts to save each other. Saving each other is what they’re always doing in some way or another. Sam saving a dying Dean in “Faith”, Dean trying to save Sam from falling into darkness, Sam trying to save Dean from the Reaper, Dean saving Sam by selling his soul, Sam trying to save Dean from his deal, Dean trying to save Sam from Ruby, Sam trying to save Dean from throwing it all away for the Angels, Dean trying to save Sam’s soul….it goes on and on and on, season after season. They’re even-stevens in my eyes. I simply don’t get the argument. They are each other’s greatest strength and each other’s Achilles heel and season 3 is an excellent example of both.
The other thing about season 3 that got me really excited was; it’s when Jeremy Carver first came on board. I love all 4 episodes that he wrote for Season 3, but particularly I love the interactions he wrote between the brothers. Admittedly, this was a season where they were facing being ripped apart for eternity, but the depth of their conversations, their resonance and how Carver captured their relationship, their chemistry, well damn, it got me so excited for him being our Showrunner for season 8. Because he gets these guys, he gets their relationship and he gets how important it is. He gets their ups and downs, their anger, their humour, their love. He just seems to understand the Winchester brother’s dynamic. As we head towards season 8, hearing Carver talk about how the brother’s relationship is the heart and soul of this show and central to the story, and then watching the episodes that he’s written with that ticking away in the back of my mind, well it makes me all tingly with optimism.
I actually found this season the toughest to pick an episode to focus on. First off I thought I’d do “No Rest For The Wicked”, but I think Nicole may have taken me out and beaten me up if I focused on another doomed Dean heartbreaker! Though…what a season finale. It has one of my favourite brother moments of all time. That whole speech at Bobby’s before they head off to try and kill Lilith, when Dean says, “We take this knife, and we go after Lilith our way. The way dad taught us to. And if we go down, then we go down swinging. What do you think?” and Sam responds, “I think you totally should have been jamming “Eye of the Tiger” right there.” Gah! Brilliant response! As was Dean’s “Oh bite me. I totally rehearsed that speech too.” I love that whole conversation. This is a close to perfect finale and don’t even start me on the boys singing “Wanted Dead or Alive” in the Impala, the fear on Dean’s face, he’s so damn scared.
I love how Dean can see behind the veil and sees the demon behind the human they’re wearing. I love that we’re given a hint of the possibility of Sam having some kind of power we’re yet to see. That Dean is being so stoic, trying to remain strong for his brother and for himself as his time ticks away. I love the pet murdering Lilith kid, by far my favourite Lilith and one of my all time favourite big bads. That kid who plays her is creepy! I love what Dean says to Sam as the clock strikes midnight. He apologises, “I’m sorry. I mean this is all my fault, I know that” and then as his brother asks him, what he’s supposed to do, Dean says, “Keep fighting. Take care of my wheels. Sam, remember what dad taught you… ok? And remember what I taught you.” Sam simply nods. His eyes brimming with tears. In that moment, he looks like a little boy, listening to his big brother. Kills me. Kills me every time. Then of course we have to watch Dean ripped to shreds as Sam cries out for it to stop and Sam cradling his dead brother as we hear Dean’s screams for Sam from Hell. Yep. Thank you Mr Kripke for the torture…sweet, sweet, wonderful torture. Plus this episode gave us “Family don’t end with blood” a very important quote.
But I started at the end, which is weird!
I love the moment in “Fresh Blood” where Sam rips off Gordon’s head. Actually I wasn’t going to say that, even though I really do (grrrr Gordon), what I was going to say was, I love the moment in “Fresh Blood” when Sam asks Dean to drop the, I’m not afraid to die act, “’Cause… just ’cause.” That gets through to Dean. I think this is the moment where Dean registers what his decision is doing to Sam. I mean, I’m sure he knew, but having his brother stand before him and ask him to just stop, just ‘cause, shifts something in Dean and that tough act of his pretty much stops from that point on. Then we get to see Dean showing Sam how to fix the Impala, preparing Sam for a future without him…. “..that’s my job, right? Show my little brother the ropes.” A-wah!
In “Dream a Little Dream of Me” we not only find out Bobby’s tragic back-story, but we see a different side to Dean and different side to his desperation. We see his dream of a life with Lisa and Ben, or rather, the perfect life that he thinks they represent and we see him face his demon self, the one that he knows he’ll become when he goes to Hell. The anger spills out. The anger of having so much thrust upon him, of having so much responsibility and we finally see him start to aim some fury and blame at his father for all of the past, for what he’s going through now and for the future he faces. “I didn’t deserve what he put on me. And I don’t deserve to go to Hell!” He’s in his own head, facing himself and discovering some home truths. Man I love that whole scene. Then, he finally admits to Sam, that he wants to live and Sam vows to find a way. I also see this as the start of Dean looking to Bobby as a father figure. There is something in their interactions in this episode, which telegraphs their deeper relationship to come.
“Mystery Spot” is a funny one for me, because though I totally dig this episode, the more I watch it, the more powerful it becomes. I remember at first I simply saw it as a “Groundhog Day” kind of thing. It was smart and very funny. But as I’ve watched it more and more, it’s become really rather painful. It’s painful to watch Dean die over and over and it’s painful to watch Sam have to deal with that day in day out for 100 days, slowly but surely getting more and more despondent as he tries to figure out the mystery and save his brother’s life (again). For me the worst death isn’t actually the one at the end, but the one at the beginning, where Dean grabs at Sammy’s jacket and hangs on with a fistful as he looks into his brother’s panicked eyes, sputters and dies. Man….that scene is agony. For some reason I find that one far more painful than the one at the end which is final…sort of. One thing I have to say for Dean Winchester though, he’s one seriously pretty dead guy. Even when he’s hit by a car, he’s still pretty! Had to be said…sorry. And of course we see how Sam deals with Dean’s death, something that’s somewhat of a prophecy as to how he really fares not far into the future. He becomes driven, robotic, single-minded. Without Dean by his side, he loses his Sammyness and is consumed by revenge. These two really are two halves of the one whole. Plus we have the Trickster’s conversation with Sam. Later in “Changing Channels” we find out that the Trickster is the Archangel Gabriel. In that episode, he wants the boys to play their rolls – that of Lucifer and Michael. Having that information when you go back and watch “Mystery Spot” adds a whole other layer to what the Trickster is saying to Sam. You’ve got to figure Gabriel/Trickster knows what’s going on, knows what Sam’s future truly holds. This was the last episode shot before the writer’s strike, but it was “Jus in Bello” that aired before the show went into the strike hiatus.
“Jus in Bello” is an all-time favourite of mine. It’s penned by Ms Gamble and I love everything about it. I love that they’re trapped. It’s one of those confined space, no escape scenarios that I dig. I love Henriksen. I love the other police officers and Nancy the virgin. “Nobody kill any virgins!” Gold. But the thing I love most about this episode is the genius plan! Dean’s idea to unlock the doors, let the demons in and fight (like men in tights) sounded a bit fool hardy, until they played the tape of Sam speaking an exorcism over the PA system. I think this is one of the best plans the show has ever seen. And I love that it was Dean who came up with it. We always think of Sam as the brains of the unit, but Dean is smart and resourceful and I love nothing more than seeing his mind in action…amongst other things.
An episode that’s grown on me is “Long-Distance Call”. I remember not being particularly taken by this one on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. watch, but now…I love it. The dialogue between the brothers is beautiful. All through this episode Dean’s façade peels away in layers, revealing the frantic terror beneath. All through this episode Sam is trying to be realistic, but gentle with his brother. He can see his brother’s unravelling and though he must be feeling the same way, he manages to remain calm and clear headed. Even if it’s not what Dean wants to hear, Sam tells him what he needs to hear. The final scene between the boys, where Dean admits to Sam he’s scared and that the hope that it was dad on the phone was simply the last act of a desperate man, has to be one of the most poignant interchanges the brothers have ever had. Honest, raw and tragic…and yet it ends in a joke…
DEAN – “Deep revelation, having a real moment here, that’s what you come back with? And me?”
SAM – “Uh…do you want a poem?”
DEAN – “The moment’s gone.”
It’s the perfect smile moment to get us through the pain and it was written by Mr Carver….which brings me to the season 3 episode I chose to look at more closely:
A VERY SUPERNATURAL CHRISTMAS
Yeah, who doesn’t love this one? Well, if you don’t you’re a Grinch! This has become my compulsory Christmas viewing. I watch it every Christmas Eve and usually again Christmas Day (along with “Elf” – “you sit on a throne of lies!”). If I’m away for Christmas, I pack it to come with me. Last Christmas my Twitter pals and I did a rewatch together and had people from all over the world joining in to enjoy this episode with us, as we all watched as one, online. I simply love “A Very Supernatural Christmas”.
“A Very Supernatural Christmas” was written by Jeremy Carver, but the initial idea came from the mind of Eric Kripke. Kripke says he’d always wanted to do a holiday episode, but it had to be the most bloody and violent holiday episode ever! It had to have an Evil Santa. Of course it did! Kripke and the creative team came up with the teaser pretty early on because they all knew what they wanted to do…drag Santa UP the chimney! He says the scene where Evil Santa drags the father down the stairs in a sack as the kid looks on, and then turns around and eats one of the kid’s cookies, was one of the times his family rang him to ask, “What’s wrong with you?” Kripke also says he was obsessed with getting that Special Presentation opener because he remembered it from when he was a kid. It was on NBC. It took the production crew ages to track it down as no-one knew who owned it, who owned the music, how they could get permission to use it, but Kripke made them preserve until the piece was found and approved. It turns out; this is his favourite part of the episode. He also said they all wanted the boys to kill someone or something with a Christmas tree, but it had to be fully decorated! It’s those little details that make this episode so perfect and so deliciously twisted. And then thankfully, the idea was handed over to Jeremy Carver to pen and he worked some kind of Christmas miracle writing magic and created what is one of the most original and touching episodes of the series.
Though, the flashbacks to young Sam and Dean were not in the original script. They had to add in a few pages for timing and it was Ben Edlund’s idea to include the flashbacks to the dark, dank, festiveless motel room that was the Christmas home to the young Winchesters. Can you imagine this episode without them?
Part of the power of “A Very Supernatural Christmas” comes from the juxtaposition of the opulence and warmth of Christmas in all the homes the Winchesters visit, as opposed to their own situation both now and in the past. Nothing has changed. They’re still holed up in a grungy motel room with only each other.
In the flashbacks, we see young Sam’s desperate need to believe in his father, his need to believe that John would make it home to his sons for Christmas and we see Dean’s desperate need to try and make it right for Sam. He ends up sharing with Sam the family secret, telling Sam that their dad is a superhero and when John doesn’t make it back for Christmas day, rather than see the crushing disappointment on his little brother’s face, he nicks some presents from down the street and fakes it. He covers for John and tells Sam that his father came in the middle of the night and dropped the gifts off for him. Of course, Dean didn’t know the stolen presents were chick presents! But the thought was there. The need to protect his little brother from the truth, that they were left alone on Christmas day and the need to try and give his little brother some form of normalcy, a little happiness in his life. Dean was 12 years old. Poor little guy. Of course, Sam sees through it, sees what Dean is doing, knows that Dean must be equally as shattered. Sam’s a smart and empathetic kid even at 8. So he gives Dean the gift that Uncle Bobby had given him to give to John. He gives Dean the amulet. You get a great understanding of what these kids went through in this episode. Sure we saw a similar scene in “Something Wicked”, but this is Christmas for Heaven’s sake. These kids are alone, older and wiser and tragically, a little more jaded.
I wish that the amulet had stayed just as a gift from Sammy to Dean. I was so disappointed when it became something else. When it become some tool to find God. Its strength and power was in what it represented to Dean. That moment when he became the one his little brother looked up to over his father. It was the first thing Dean ripped from the Shapeshifter’s neck in “Skin”. It was the first thing Sam gave Dean back when Dean returned from Hell in “Lazarus Rising”. It represented so much of their relationship and giving it this extra duty, this extra reason for being, reduced its significance for me. Sure, I bawled my eyes out when Dean dropped that amulet in the bin. I was deeply shocked by that. But I recovered, because for me, the amulet had lost some of its shine, it no longer simply represented a young boy’s love and thanks. It no longer simply represented Sam and Dean. I think that was a huge mistake.
In the present, Sam and Dean are trying to solve a pesky husband dragged up the chimney case, complete with festive jumper wearing Pagan Gods with plastic covered furniture and an excess of Christmas paraphernalia! But what is really happening is that they’re both struggling with Dean’s deal. Dean has only one Christmas left. It’s making him reminisce about Christmas’ past and romanticise the Christmas’ that they did spend with their father. Sam won’t have a bar of it because his memories are very different. But what’s really happening is that Sam and Dean are both desperately hanging on. Dean to his one last chance, Sam to not wanting to opening acknowledge the last of anything. It’s painful to watch them grapple back and forth, neither quite reading the other right. Until they have that conversation…
SAM – “I mean, I just, I don’t get it. You haven’t talked about Christmas in years.”
DEAN – “Well yeah, this is my last year.”
SAM – “I know. That’s why I can’t.”
DEAN – “What do you mean?”
SAM – “I mean I can’t just sit around, drinking eggnog, pretending everything’s okay. When I know next Christmas you’ll be dead. I just can’t.”
All the pennies drop.
You know, the scene where Sam throws Christmas for Dean makes me cry my eyes out every time. But as gorgeous and heart-wrenching as this act is, this isn’t what moves me the most. It’s not so much the fact that Sam did this for his big brother, doing for Dean what Dean did for him as a child, even though it must have hurt him to face the moment and I adore Sam so much for doing this for Dean, I mean, he bought fishing floats and air-fresheners to decorate the tree, he even made eggnog, I mean the look on Dean’s face says it all, but as gorgeous and heart-wrenching as this act is, it’s the gift giving that kills me. Here are these two guys, they save the world, save strangers and yet they have so little. They have only their clothes, weapons, car and each other. But look how happy they both are to simply give each other the most mundane of gifts. Wrapped in brown paper and the comics section and bought from some gas mart down the street. They both snuck out independently of each other and bought what little they could get in the boondocks, with the 5 bucks they have to their name. Each wanting to surprise the other with a Christmas present. I always, always sob my way through this scene, partly because it’s so lovely but mostly because they break my heart. They just break my heart. In this moment, with all that lies ahead of them, with all that hangs over them, these simple gifts, this simple act of love, what each will do for each other in even the smallest way, this tiny moment of joy written on both their faces, it makes my heart explode in every which direction. I love this episode. I love this scene. This scene and this scene alone makes me want to run around cheering that Jeremy Carver is back in the fold. I pray he writes more moments like this.
There’s so much fun in “A Very Supernatural Christmas”. It’s gory and ridiculous and tongue in cheek. But it’s the mirrored moments between the brothers in the past and in the present that pack the emotional punch.
Season 3 is full of those moments. I don’t think I sufficently noticed the depth of the interactions and conversations between the brothers before, or how Dean’s deal affects them both is such different ways, well I did, but not to the level I did during this rewatch. As I said at the very beginning, they may be each other’s Achilles heel, but they’re also each other’s greatest strength and season 3 might be the best example of both of these parts of their relationship. For now. Because who knows where this story will go…..
I have to tell you all something. I am so enjoying doing this project. It’s a butt-load of work, I really had no idea when I took it on, but it’s made me look at the seasons in a slightly different light and it’s made me appreciate this show even more. As fans we all know how special this show is. We have all fallen in love with it for our own reasons. But for me, re-watching the episodes with a view to writing up the season, well it’s made me fall head over heels in love with the show all over again and it’s made me even more head over heels in love with the Winchester brothers, their spirit, their souls and their bond. It just confirms to me that, no matter what, I’ll hang in there with them because, no matter what, I still believe in them, I still believe in what they represent to me and what they represent to each other and I still believe in this show. It makes me profoundly happy and reaches into my heart in a way that no other show ever has and I doubt ever will.
Wow, sappy ending was sappy! Anyhoo… Let me know what your thoughts on season 3 are. Do you love “Bad Day At Black Rock” best? Or like me, do you adore the episodes with all the deep and tortured emotion!
Coming soon: Season 4. Crikey!
Thanks for reading!