Ah “Roadkill.” It’s “Supernatural” meets The Sixth Sense. Thanks to Sam’s interaction with Molly, I also like to call it Touched by a Winchester. There was even a Ghost Whisperer reference too. So multiple spirit story references are covered. Either way, all in all not a bad hour. At it’s most basic level, this is your trademark “Supernatural” ghost story, and it hits the mark well.
This is a standalone episode, yet it still works in the primary themes for the season. You know, things like dealing with the unknown, accepting your fate, working that grey line between good and evil with the supernatural, etc. The creepy ghost story ends in a heart warming way, though, giving Sam and Dean a rare win when they need it the most.
I’m quite impressed with the tone set in this episode by both the writer Raelle Tucker and the director Charles Beeson. The scenes were dingy and gray, the snowy mountains delivered a cold and eerie feel, and no matter what they tried, the characters couldn’t escape that miserable existence until the evil was eradicated. It’s no accident that it all ended with a sunny horizon and a warm bright light. It was a sharp contrast to symbolize crossing over into something new. It was quite inspirational.
Then there was a big mystery to unfold, following much of the same formula as The Sixth Sense. The build was slow, the clues were planted, and we were rewarded for our patience at the end with a big emotional reveal. Was I super surprised by the reveal? Not really. The clues were there, like the jacket she wore from the 1990’s, the missing car, and Sam and Dean’s dialogue. Was the creepy ghost story and the big reveal engaging and executed perfectly? Yes, yes it was. That’s why this episode still falls on my rewatch list. It was just so well done.
A Very Special Guest Star
I’m sure this was heavily promoted at the time, but remember that “Supernatural” was still trying to gain traction in season two. So, to get a guest star like Tricia Helfer at the time was a pretty big deal. Yes, she’s a bit more damsel in distress compared to her then character on Battlestar Galactica. Having said that, I think she was wonderful in this episode.
Some spirits only see what they want.
The setup was pretty simple. After a car accident, Helfer’s character, Molly, became a victim of an evil spirit named Jonah Greeley who was enacting revenge. Why? Well, she kind of hit him with her car. Oops. Through her saga though we learn there’s a lot more to this. Turns out he’s a ghost haunting the highway. She’s alone in the dark woods in rural Northern Nevada, missing her husband who was a passenger, and is totally lost until she happens to stop a certain black Impala on the road in a plea for help.
Sam and Dean’s behavior toward Molly was a huge clue that something was up. It wasn’t normal for them. It’s was like a good cop/bad cop scenario. Sam tried to connect with Molly with kindness and sympathy while Dean was only interested in the hunt and rather cold toward Molly. It was extremes for them both. We eventually learn they know more than they’re letting on, and they don’t have much time. This haunting only happens once a year. The hints are they’ve been working this case a bit before this.
Sam, as we know this season, has that deep desire to save people, to keep him going with the belief that he could save himself. He really went all out to connect with Molly, very eager to help her. Since this is a ghost story, the inevitable conversation did have to come up. How do good people go evil?
Molly: Look at this. It’s Greeley and his wife. It’s a love letter he wrote her. My god, it’s beautiful. I don’t understand how a guy like this can turn into that monster.
Sam: Um… Spirits like Greeley are, uh… like wounded animals. Lost. In so much pain that… they lash out.
Molly: Why? Why are they here?
Sam: Well, there’s some part of them that… that’s keeping them here. Like their remains or, um… unfinished business.
Molly: Unfinished business?
Sam: Yeah. Uh, it could be revenge. Could be love. Or hate. Whatever it is, they just hold on too tight. Can’t let go. So they’re trapped. Caught in the same loops. Replaying the same tragedies over and over.
Molly: You sound almost sorry for them.
Sam: Well, they weren’t evil people, you know? A lot of them were good. Just… Something happened to them. Something they couldn’t control.
Ooh, a bit on the nose there Sam? Another echo of his fear over his own destiny.
Dean: Sammy’s always getting a little J. Love Hewitt when it comes to things like this. Me, I don’t like ’em. And I sure as hell ain’t making apologies for ‘em.
The ending reveal, once Greeley is taken care of and they can move on from the highway, is beautifully done. Suddenly all the pieces click, all the clues come together through a perfect montage that shows Sam and Dean’s investigation before they went on Highway 41, finding Molly, as well as all the pertinent clues from their hunt of Greeley. Molly’s devastated tears as it dawns on her that she died in that accident show why Tricia Helfer was a great find for this part. It really sells the heartbreak of her situation and the poignancy of moving on.
Suddenly Sam and Dean’s behavior makes sense too. Dean hates ghosts. He’s dealt with enough of them where he can’t believe they are good. He believed the same of Molly and wasn’t keen on following Sam’s lead. He was there to get rid of the ghosts, both of them. Eventually he came around though, even going to save Molly from Greeley while Sam burned the bones. He agreed to let her see David one last time and joined Sam in his plea for her to let go. So, that black and white thinking from earlier in the season has blurred a bit.
Sam couldn’t believe that Molly was an evil spirit, at least not after realizing that she didn’t know she was dead. He had to try and help her, let her move on. He was the same when he found Greeley’s wife, putting her to rest was not only important to deliver a message to Molly, but to himself as well. He still was clinging to hope that there is something better out there beyond this world. His tone this time though felt less desperate, more accepting. Maybe Sam has become more accepting of his fate? Or has he just resigned himself to it? This was Sam putting his faith forward, much like we saw in “Houses of the Holy.”
Molly could only escape from the cold dark woods into the warm light if she accepted the truth. Just like Bruce Willis, she ignored the signs. Her single minded focus fell on finding her husband and telling him she loved him, since her last words were calling him a jerk. The guilt was consuming her and forcing her to live in this endless loop of violence, all because of unfinished business. Luckily, she found the right brothers to run into.
There isn’t a whole lot else to analyze from this episode. There certainly wasn’t anything introduced in the meta or lore that lingered to other episodes. This was just a nice diversion from the serious crap to come.
I think Greeley’s house in the woods has been used before! Okay, maybe not before this, but it makes a comeback later in season three. It’s just dressed a lot differently.
Speaking of dressing differently, some of those creepy in the woods scenes and the hunting cabin looked like the same set they used for “Hollywood Babylon” which was two episodes later. I wonder if they used the same sound stage.
The set directors must of had a field day laying out all the artifacts for the house and hunting lodge. So many little details.
The use of “The House of the Rising Son” is a winner in this episode. There’s nothing like a haunting classic tune to trigger the sinister ghost moments. Plus I love that song. But Greeley disabled Baby! Left her dead on the side of the road. Not cool ghost. He had a salt and burn coming for sure!
Favorite line of the episode:
Sam: Yeah. I mean, it looks like the hunting cabin, but… I swear there’s a tree there right where they’re standing. I should’ve thought of it.
Sam: It’s an old country custom, Dean. Planting a tree as a grave marker.
Dean: You’re like a walking encyclopedia of weirdness.
What would we do without our weirdly smart Sammy!
Dean: Well, all right, Haley Joel. Let’s hit the road.
Nice that they closed a Sixth Sense type episode with a Sixth Sense reference. Except, they both see dead people! Does that make Dean Bruce Willis?
Overall grade, a B+. Coming up next, well, I’m going to do something I usually don’t do, but I feel it should happen given my look back at season two. I did a review of “Heart” back in 2008, but it’s a bit weak and lacking pictures. I’m going to take that review and fix it up a bit. Warning, there will be multiple hot pictures of Sam’s big sex scene. After all, Kim Manners shot it and it’s a work of art. It must be honored. It might not be for the faint of heart though.
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