I thought I'd explore each season in order to help pass Hellatus. I know this has likely been done before but as I explained in "Hellatus Begins" I'm new to the Supernatural realm, so I got some catching up to do. There will be four of these articles and the premise is simple, I'll give a quick comment on each episode focusing on a select few I deem to be significant to the season or the series.
While there will be four of these articles there will likely be some other articles interspersed simply because I'm watching quite a few of the episodes in each season to cement my thoughts and "˜gather research material' and I just can't [or won't] cram 22 episodes into a four or five day period and then try to write about them"¦so there will be some intervals but hey, it's Hellatus, we got the time.
Regarding the significant episodes, like Alice I'm setting some rules - or are they guidelines? These are subject to addition, subtraction, subversion - but not perversion, are completely random and totally without much in the way of forethought.
- These are episodes that set something in motion that we see in other episodes.
- These are episodes that changed the course of a character's thinking or even their journey as we know them.
- These are episodes that catapult the understanding of the story forward, likely because they delve into the past and explain, really explain, a lot.
- These are episodes that make me marvel at the depth and the quality of the writing staff.
Here we go!
Reflections on Season One:
Pilot, this is one of my comfort episodes, it is so impressive to go back and watch this episode now, four seasons later, and see how well this laid the foundation for things to come; the scene where Sam and Dean descend the staircase from Sam's apartment and discuss their childhood, pure exposition but sets the stage. I love that Kripke went back to that for In The Beginning and had Mary proclaim that she never wanted her boys to endure the lifestyle she endured"¦so satisfying.
Also: No chick flick moments, bitch/jerk, the journal, muddy Dean, Sam yanking Dean into the motel room (and on the commentary for Phantom Traveler we learn from Jared that he was instructed to yank Jensen off balance, no acting there"¦hee, hee), and of course we learned about the music"¦love the music.
Wendigo: this is another comfort episode due to the simplicity of the brotherly relationship as well as this comment from Dean: "Honey, I don't do shorts [tee, hee, yes you do"¦71 episodes later]
Defining moment/phrase: Saving people, hunting things; the family business.
Dead in the Water: First of all, Kim Manners...pause...
Dean and kids, he's quite good with them, probably all that big brother experience with Sam. Major character development and deep insight into Dean: When I was your age, I saw something really bad happen to my mom and I was scared too. I didn't feel like talking, but see my mom I know she wanted me to be brave. I think about that every day and I do my best to be brave." This is the first time we see Sam learn something about Dean that he never knew before; it's the first of many such reveals.
Phantom Traveler: Not one of my favorite episodes, mostly because the set up lacked any kind of fear factor, we know the boys are not going to go down in a plane crash; series over, so this one pushed the envelope too far for me. It does earn a spot in the significant category though.
Why is this one significant? Glad you asked.
This is the first time we see demons and it's obvious from the get go that Sam and Dean are both leery of tackling demons, even saying it's not their normal gig. We also learn that demons talk and they know about Sam's girlfriend. We figured out from Pilot that there was something big going on but here we learn that demons talk about it that struck me as important. We also get a momentous contact for the brothers and we watch their wonder and amazement at having dad's cell phone reactivated...all of a sudden there is a real chance that dad is alive and well and yes, they will find him.
This is not a great episode but for the introduction of demons and an understanding that there is a population out there of these entities keeping track of Winchester happenings"¦this is critical and ominous.
Bloody Mary: Sam likes to keep secrets, the first of many such instances, also this introduces a dangling thread about Dean that may or may not ever be answered. Kripke states that the writers have the back story for this and, based on their excellent track record for continuity and plot development, I'm going to believe them.
Most laughable moment in this episode is when the boys are assisted into the recently departed girl's bedroom by Charlie, as they set up their gear Dean jokingly asks if he looks like Paris Hilton. The writing has come a long way from this and while now they can get away with humor in dark situations; this one is an example of what not to do.
Skin: Another one of my comfort episodes. There are two moments that resonate with me from this episode - aside from the awesome hand to hand combat performed by Jensen and Jared - the first is Dean's advice to Sam that hunting is an insular life and that everything and everyone outside of it must be abandoned. Remember how sad Sam was by this? Fast forward four seasons to Jump the Shark only this time Sam is the one speaking these words "“ Sam how far you've changed.
The second is when shapeshifter Dean taunts Sam, while channeling Dean's thoughts. "He sure has got issues with you. You got to go to school, have friends. You don't think I had dreams of my own?" To this day Dean still represses his dreams, only at the most vulnerable moments do they slip through, such as in Dream a Little Dream of Me which is a more real dream for Dean than anything in What is and What Should Never Be.
Notable tidbit: This episode is the first use of the word freak, shapeshifter Dean mocks Sam by telling him that at least he knows he's a freak, this implies that Sam is a freak but just doesn't know or admit it...oh, how this gets built upon.
Hookman: Wow, not much in this one, there is the shout out to Footloose as they play Quiet Riot while driving into town, not to mention the whole preacher's daughter and issues of the morally bankrupt - or at least heavily into debt. We are introduced to rock salt rounds though.
Bugs: Again, Kim Manners...a moment...
What do I like about this episode"¦well, I would like a can of bug spray that lasts for apparently all night long! Mostly I like the brother moments and the reveals of Sam's insecurities regarding dad and how Dean gently revealed a bit about their father that Sam never knew.
Another notable tidbit: Sam identified with Matthew as being a freak, he knew what it was like; no doubt he did not like it.
Home: Missouri, her tough love with Dean and gentler side with Sam shows she knows how to handle these two very different young men. It's not that Dean is stronger or that Sam is fragile, it's that Missouri is insightful enough to know that Dean was deeply disturbed at returning to Lawrence. She focused him on the job at hand by offering him his best defensive measure, sarcasm. By deliberately provoking him she allowed him to keep his defenses high so he could do the job.
Missouri's kindlier approach to Sam was equally designed. Sam has no memories of Lawrence, so he's more objective. However, the course of his life was forever changed because of what occurred here and his quest for information and understanding leaves him open to Missouri without the emotional trauma Dean has.
Home like Phantom Traveler is significant.
Home marks the landscape of this series known as Supernatural and we find our way from this episode. Home tracks back to Pilot and forward in time (or is it back) to In the Beginning. Home is where Mary found safety and then death. Home is where John found love and then revenge. Dean has memories and Sam has none and both boys are driven from everything that started here.
Home does not mark the first time we learn that Sam has dreams, Bloody Mary did that, but why it's significant here is because we 'see' his dream and see what it does to him. This is the episode that marks the time Sam told Dean about his dreams, something he did not want to do until Dean refused to go unless Sam explained. Sam revealed his 'ability' and then waited for Dean's rejection, it didn't come.
Home is where Mary's spirit has been residing, protecting, perhaps atoning; her apology to Sam has left us hanging for 54 episodes.
Home shows, as Pilot and Dead in the Water did, that Dean is still very broken by what happened 22 years earlier and that Sam is well aware that all he can do is offer comfort while driving forward in a quest to understand what is happening to him, and it all happened here.
Home is a milestone because we see John for the first time since Pilot; we'd heard his generic voice message, now we see him. Home builds off of Pilot and Phantom Traveler and points to Shadow, Dead Man's Blood and more because we realize that John is on a quest to find the "truth" and that as desperate as he is to see his boys, he will not endanger them until he knows"¦knows the truth.
Home shows that, when Dean called Dad and left that pleading near desperate phone call, John came.
Home makes it clear that there is so much more going on here than we imagine.
Asylum: Sam's got the shining and serious issues with Dean. Dean gets shot with rock salt, the first of several bro-downs and Dad calls, in person. [oh, yeah, there was also a shirtless Jensen - uh, Dean *fangirl sigh*]
Scarecrow: There's a lot of pie in this one, pie, pie and more pie"¦poor Dean never gets a slice either. There's William B. Davis, the Cigarette Smoking Man! Meg arrives, Dean's tied up, Sam saves him, there's the first of Dean's apology phone calls *sniff*, dude, you fugly, and did I mention this too makes my significant roster:
I'll probably get some grief for this because I'm aware that some consider this a throwaway episode; I don't.
Scarecrow introduces the first of several times that the brothers fight, really fight. When Dean leaves Sam on the side of the road, it is a huge statement of just how much of an affect John has on Dean...71 episodes later and we are still seeing how much Dean remains influenced by John.
Sam's leaving Dean in the middle of the night, on the side of the road is a huge writer/director character development point; Sam is determined"¦very determined. That level of stubbornness is a blessing and a curse. In their lives they need to be very determined otherwise hunting will eat them up and spit them out. We see how much the hunter life affects Dean when he really admits the truth of it in What is and What Should Never Be. Sam's determination or stubbornness is also part of his downfall and the huge fall he's taken in Season 4; double-edged sword.
Scarecrow's crowning achievement is what it tells about the brothers, and what the demons learn from it; together they are unstoppable, apart they are vulnerable. The introduction of Meg is fascinating in that it shows just how devious these demons really are. Her entire approach of aloof and capable appeals to him because of her story.
Meg: "I love my parents and they wanted what's best for me; they just didn't care if I wanted it"¦because my family said so I'm supposed to sit there and do as I'm told, so I went on my own way instead."
Demons lie, they tell the truth if it will mess with your head and they'll manipulate anything and anybody if it works to their advantage. Meg dipped her toe in the water and found out that while the idea of independence and independent thought is highly desirable to Sam he'll never leave Dean in danger. This is a theme that's replayed notably in In My Time of Dying, Born Under a Bad Sign, All Hell Breaks Loose II, Mystery Spot, On the Head of a Pin"¦Sam will do what it takes to save Dean and Dean will do whatever it takes to save Sam. The pattern was set here.
Scarecrow introduces us to the fact that there is something behind the scene pulling the strings, Meg is acting on orders, orders that do not include killing the Winchesters, yet. This is different, the demon in Phantom Traveler wasn't the least bit concerned that the Winchesters were on the plane that he/she/it determined to bring down; the demon knew about Jessica, implying it knew about why Jessica was killed, but it had no trouble following its own path. The idea of demons having separate agendas is introduced here and is expounded upon in The Magnificent Seven, Sin City and Malleus Maleficarum
Scarecrow's other awesome part - Kim Manners
Faith: For those of you hurt/sick Dean - here's the first of several Dean in the hospital episodes. Layla, besides being a really awesome song, Julie Benz was an awesome character to contrast to Dean, gentle and unassuming she pierced through all his defenses. Faith joins Scarecrow, Home and Phantom Traveler in the significant category.
The previous three changed the game by either deepening the back story or introducing characters to the mytharc; Faith deepens the writing and shows the risks Supernatural is willing, and apparently able, to take.
Faith is where Sera Gamble and Raelle Tucker picked up their pens [pencils or keyboards] and dared to explore faith in multiple facets; Faith also gave us this:
Dean: "Why me, out of all the sick people, why save me?"
Roy Le Grange: "I looked into your heart and you just stood out from all the rest."
Dean: "What did you see in my heart?"
Roy Le Grange: "A young man with an important purpose, a job to do, and it isn't finished."
Fast forward 49 episodes to Lazarus Rising...
Dean: "Why did you do it?"
Castiel: "Because God commanded it, we have work for you."
Faith makes Houses of the Holy resonate, it makes the exchange between Sam and Dean in It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester [after Sam meets Castiel and the newly arrived Uriel for the first time and wonders that this, these angels, were who and what he was praying to] more emotionally charged.
Up until now we've only assumed that Dean was along for the ride to help Sam and, if we're honest, that remained true for two and a half more seasons. Now knowing that Dean has a part to play in what is to come, and destiny, free will, fate or whatever you wish to call it has brought him to that place, we can look all the way back to Faith and see a glimpse of what Roy Le Grange - a good man "“ saw.
Faith is a defining episode because even over Home it shows how talented the writers are for this show. Sera and Raelle could have just stood upon Layla's faith and it would have been a good episode. Instead, they contrasted Layla's staunch faith, if you're going to have faith you can't just have it during the good times, against Sue Ann's who was so shaky she made a deal with a reaper and like the whirlwind Sam characterized it, was swept away.
Mrs. O'Roarke has faith tempered with anger and impatience at no results. "I just can't pray any harder." Her comment to Dean, "Why do you deserve to live more than my daughter?" haunts Dean to this day.
Roy Le Grange admits his faith was weak but truly believes in what he is doing; he's a pawn in Sue Ann's twisted game but does not know it; like Layla he's innocent, simply making the best of what he has been given.
Sam has faith that through research he can find a cure for Dean when medicine cannot; presented with an opportunity he grabs it without thinking it through...such is the love of family. I posit that Sam's instantaneous belief in Roy Le Grange stems from his stubborn refusal to give up without a fight. We know he fought Dad, and left, to go to Stanford in order to follow his dream of a different life than hunting. We recently learned in Scarecrow that while he wants to find dad very much he knows that with Mom dead and Jessica dead and Dad somewhere all he really has is Dean; no way he's letting Dean go without a fight. Sam does not give up.
Dean has faith in nothing but what he sees and when presented with evidence that he's dying shows his fatalistic side, "I'm going to die, and there's nothing you can do about it." Sam's willingness to stare an apparent miracle in the eye and accept it without question show how unbalanced he is when Dean's moderating, yet fatalistic outlook, is not there. These two need the other to form a more complete picture.
Faith is notable for another critical aspect, upon realizing a reaper was involved and that Roy appeared to be controlling it Dean quickly concluded that Roy was to be stopped, killed. Sam immediately countered that if they kill Roy, a human being, they are no different than the evil, the monsters they hunt. Think how that's changed, think about Jus in Bello.
Route 666: A throwaway episode in many respects, no argument here, however, the Impala versus the racist truck"¦way cool. Sam getting a glimpse of Dean's more vulnerable side, "You loved her, yet you dumped her, oh, she dumped you." And the final scene as the boys drive out of town to the tune Can't Find My Way Home by Blind Faith. Sometimes I put in the disc just for that mournful song/bro moment ending. I love that part.
Nightmare: First episode directed by Phil Sgriccia, but not the last. So much to love about this episode and yeah, it's significant. Nightmare is also pivotal to my article coming up later this Hellatus about Sam, so I may not cover everything about this episode here.
Nightmare builds upon Home as Sam shares a dream with Dean and they head to Michigan; notice how, when urged by Sam to drive faster to try to prevent the death of Joe, Dean complies. This is a characterization of Dean that continues, despite some scares in season four as he feared, rightfully, Sam's lack of control; Dean is not put off by Sam's "shining" he never has been. If anything it has made Dean more determined to find out what the endgame is and stay by Sam's side, at least until his fatalistic point of view overcomes him...but that's a discussion for season four and the awesomeness of Bobby.
Max, we're the same you and I; Nightmare reveals that what we saw happen to baby Sam back in Pilot, happened to other children. To underscore that point we hear the same music that we heard at the beginning of Pilot in Sam's nursery. This time the music plays during the scene when Max reveals the death of his mom.
Nightmare reveals one of Sam's pressure points, Dean in danger. Sam is unaware of anything beyond dreams until this episode. When he starts experiencing visions whilst awake, and one of them shows Dean killed, he realizes another ability; telekinesis. This episode perhaps laid the groundwork for Ruby's reveal in Lucifer Rising, "You didn't need the feather to fly; you had it inside you all the time, Dumbo."
Nightmare shows Sam's worry at what his abilities mean while showing Dean's determination. At the end where Dean reassures Sam that he's not going to turn into a Max because he [Sam] has something Max didn't have"¦Dean is so much more meaningful now that we've seen what happened when Sam didn't have Dean.
The Benders: Beat up Dean, kidnapped Sam, Alexia Fast as a scare Missy Bender, Dean can pick handcuffs with paper clips and a car antenna. "Oh, eat me! No, no, no, wait, wait. You actually might." Yeah, Dean, play nice. By the way, John Shiban who penned this episode also penned, in season one, Skin, Hook Man, Scarecrow and Dead Man's Blood w/ Cathryn Humphris.
The Benders also shows a humorous yet dark side to this series - demons we get; humans are scary.
Shadow: Sam apologizes to dad, Dad and Dean hug, Dad and Sam hug, Dean reveals why he 'drags' Sam everywhere and it's not for research; it's because he wants them to be a family again. Dean is so stuck in what he lost he can't see what he has. Sam tells him he's going leave once it's over and Dean counters, it'll never be over; there's always going to be something to kill - wow, four seasons later and this is still rich territory to be explored. *Shudders.* Hurt Dean/Hurt Sam/Hurt John", yeah, this episode has it all, the awesome Meg, a trap and if that wasn't enough...you guessed it: Kim Manners.
Shadow does not make it into my significant roster *ducks* but it is critical to further Sam discussions as well as overall mytharc; to be sure there will be more later, just not in this article.
Hell House: What's not to love about this episode! Oh, that's right, the ghostfacers. Heck with it, I love the ghostfacer or in this episode, Harry and Ed of hellhoundslair.com. Cool. Boring ride through east Texas leads to fun with brothers as one-upmanship becomes the humor of the day. Shirtless (and very lean) Jared, itching powder in under shorts *snorts* and both brothers diving out the door and over/through the railing as they try to get away from Moredechai Murdoch. The perfect antidote to the super angsty Shadow and worth a watch any time I'm feeling a bit blue.
Something Wicked: Insight into the crappy growing up endured by both Sam and Dean, Dad sending Dean back to finish "unfinished business," a single mom making her way with two young boys and Sam gets deeper insight and finally the dawning of understanding as to why Dean follows orders, always: "Dean, I'm sorry, I've given you a lot of crap for always doing what dad says, I'm sorry." Awwwww [I'd have liked that they hugged]
Provenance: Standout moments: The disco motel room, not only did Phil Sgriccia show it off fully, we got Sam and Dean actually reacting to it. Sarah Blake was an exceptional character for Sam, in particular, to play off of, but Dean was fully impressed with her as well, "Sam, marry that girl." She handled all that was thrown at her with aplomb [I've always wanted to use that word, hee.] Seeing Sam start to come out of the shadow of Jessica's death was natural as life does go on, and Sarah was a girl that seemed right for Sam, if only life were that simple.
Dead Man's Blood: Dead Man's Blood starts the four-part mini-series within the series - I take no credit for that idea by the way, I think it was Bardicvoice who said that, could be gaelicspirit, and it sparked something inside me. Having gone back and watched Dead Man's Blood, Salvation, Devil's Trap and In My Time of Dying in one setting I have to agree with her statement.
Why is Dead Man's Blood significant, vampires, the Colt, John reconciling with Sam, the Colt, Dean standing up to John, the Colt, and the three Winchester men heading off together to fight evil to finish this [yeah, I know, smartypants, that line came in Salvation].
Here we get a look into what makes John Winchester tick; we saw the family man in Pilot, heard the impersonal voice message in Phantom Traveler, saw the agony of being so close and yet so far from his boys in Home, learned that the demons had been trying to kill him and that his weak spot is his boys in Shadow [sound familiar?.. weak spot?] but here we see that the one piece he's been needing is the weapon to kill the demon, and we get to hear of its story and see it in action...enter, the Colt.
I wrote about Sam and John and their coming to an understanding in my article titled Daddy Issues, Sam Winchester Style and I also expounded upon Dean and Dad and what this episode brings to bear in my article titled Dean and Dad"¦so far. For those of you who've read those, play back your memories and fill in the blanks; for those of you who haven't read them, it's Hellatus for goodness sake, get cracking there are articles out there to be read. [granted I wrote those during the run up to Jump The Shark but they still apply for this article]
What else makes this episode significant, it points clearly to John's decision in In My Time of Dying...I can't watch my children die, I won't."
Salvation: Meg is back, bad as ever, and she's brought a friend, not a very good one as he shoots her but that's what she gets for hanging around in dark places. Sam's dreams are made known to Dad who clearly is not happy Dean didn't tell him...uh, Dad, you don't pick up your messages. The Winchester men separate which is never good. Sam's willing to die, Dean's not willing to be left burying the bodies, little baby Rosie was almost another victim in Azazel's grand scheme. One hell of a week-long cliffhanger separated this from the third installment of this four-part series in a series.
By the way, be very, very afraid when Sera Gamble writes an episode, she slew a lot of folks in this one, Jus in Bello had a high body count as well.
Devil's Trap: Meg died, Bobby is introduced [happy dance] devil's traps are introduced and so much more.
Devil's Trap shows just how determined this demon is as he possesses John and lays a trap that ensnares all the Winchester men. This is the first, but not the last, time we see a demon possess a Winchester. Azazel possesses John and tortures Dean while taunting Sam"¦knowing full well Sam is not in control of his powers to do anything about it. Halfway through season two we see Meg exact some revenge of her own as she possesses Sam and taunts, torments Dean trying to break him.
Here we learn just how far Dean will go to save his family...well, not totally, as a certain deal later on highlights, but we see what it means to him. Granted in Faith he was willing to kill Roy Le Grange thinking him a monster since he was playing God and then there's Blood Lust when Sam talks him down from killing Lenore who while a vampire is trying not to be evil, this blurring of lines between when to kill humans and when not to kill monsters continues to play out as seen dramatically, and very recently, in Lucifer Rising. The debate did not start here, Faith did that, but it leaped forward drastically in this episode.
Devil's Trap also began answering questions, and laying out a whole lot more. We learn that Jessica and Mom died because they got in the way - we didn't know of what until much, much later. In The Beginning later, but it shows that there is a plan in play and Azazel is determined to see it through.
Devil's Trap also shows the difference along with the similarity of John and Sam. When John berates Sam for not killing the demon when he had the chance, citing that the two of them saw eye to eye on this, revenge was everything; Sam finally realized that which he'd denied back in Wendigo and more recently in Salvation, there is something more valuable than revenge. The look back to Dean in the back of the Impala is powerful and sends the message clearly; revenge at the cost of family is not the answer.
Sadly life is not so simple for it is very possible that had Sam killed John and by proxy Azazel Dean would never have been on death's door and John would never have sold his soul to save Dean. We'll never know but to be sure the game changed after this episode.
Two additional points:
Kripke demolished the Impala - that's just wrong.
So there you go, my look back on season one. Does it make you want to go back and watch any episodes again? Do you long for the simpler days? What were your favorite episodes and which ones do you think were more significant? How are you doing nearly two weeks into Hellatus, got any fingernails left?