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"In My Time of Dying"
--Robin's Rambles
--Robin Vogel
John Winchester is declared dead at 10:41 AM. His stricken sons, Sam and Dean, watch in sorrow as the hospital staff tries but is unable to revive him. He had seemed fine just moments before.
In the aftermath of the devastating accident between the Impala and the semi, the possessed truck driver pulls the door off the car to find Sam pointing the Colt at him. The driver knows that bullet is meant for someone else, but Sam vows to shoot him with it anyway. When the demon exits the poor driver, he driver is horrified: "Did I do this?"
Dean, in limbo between the worlds of life and death, sees himself on life support. Separately, using the same expression, he and Sam both come up with the idea of getting some hood priest to lay some mojo on him and bring him back. There is a reaper roaming the hospital, bringing dying people to the other side, and Dean realizes it's here for him. When he conveys that to Sam during a hilarious and brilliantly-done scene of the two of them over an Ouija board (called a "talking board" for stupid reasons, I'm sure), it becomes obvious to both of them that a reaper can't be stopped; Dean is doomed.

There are so many tissue-worthy scenes in this episode, enough to raise the stock in Kleenex: Dean thanks Sam for not giving up on him; Sam begs Dean not to leave him, not when they were just becoming brothers again, if left alone with Dad, they'll kill each other; Dean goes flat-line and Sam stands in the doorway, crying, while the staff works on his brother and brings him back after Dean forces the reaper away; Sam pleads with Bobby to salvage the Impala even though he thinks it should be junked and sold for scrap (he says Dean would want to keep it even if there was only ONE salvageable part, a metaphor for the way Sam feels about Dean himself); John's final scene with Dean, when he tells him how proud of him he is, how sorry he is for making him grow up too soon, how he put too many burdens on him at too young an age.
In a class by themselves are Sam's arguments with John, especially the one in which he says, "Go to hell." How does Sam feel when it hits him that, in his deal with Yellow Eyes, that's exactly what John did, for real? Sam keeps accusing John of having the wrong priorities, killing the demon instead of saving Dean, but the truth is, of course, that John's only concern was keeping Dean alive. He sacrificed the only weapon that would kill Yellow Eyes, along with his own life—and notice that there wasn't 10 years, or five, or even one for John Winchester, he had to go to hell right NOW.
Even Dean accuses John of doing nothing to help save him, reminding him that he's done everything he ever asked him. "What kind of father are you?" demands Dean. I love the scene in which Dean, so angry with his battling father and brother, full-on "Swayzes" the water jug and sends it crashing to the floor. 

I find Tessa a fascinating character, and it's obvious that before she was possessed by Yellow Eyes, or one of his lower level similar-colored-eyed demons, Dean is about to give in and go with her. He says he has an empty feeling, and we figure it has something to do with John, but he will define that much later, season four, as a matter of fact, and it has nothing to do with John. Dean cheats death so many times, he becomes the poster boy for the one who got away from the reaper.
After sending Sam to get him coffee, John whispers the big secret to Dean, leaving an expression of fear and disbelief on his face. We don't learn that secret for several more episodes, but we do know it now, and why it would be so upsetting for the man who spent his whole life loving and watching over his little brother. 
The Winchester boys are left orphans, and yes, I was sobbing my heart out, because after falling in love with all three of them during the first season, it didn't seem fair for this to happen. I knew that John had given up his life to save his older son, and being a mother myself, completely understand such a mindset. I also know what big GUILT feels like, and that his sons are going to be suffering from it, big time, over not just the next episodes, but the rest of their lives. 
This excellent episode was as much a pivotal one as "Devil's Trap." What are your thoughts? Please share!        


# Jojo 2010-02-03 18:09
One of my top ten episodes of the entire show. It's just...
# Evelyn 2010-02-03 20:31
Great review Robin. This is one of my all time favorite episodes. It is one that I often watch when I just want a comfort SPN episode.

As for all the things that are right with this one - you named them all. I find it interesting that in John's final scene with Dean he tells him that he put too much burden on him while he was growing up - well, John's dying and the way that he died just added to those burdens. A burden that Dean struggles with even now and manifested itself on several occasions (ELAC & CSPWDT in S2 and DALDOM in S3 to name a few).

And yes, the guilt Dean must feel. He already had a low self-image and this just added to it. He didn't think himself worthy of his dad's sacrifice which is another issue that Dean deals with and comes to the forefront in future episodes. If only he would finally understand and realize that he does have worth and that his life is indeed worth saving. It is so sad. If Dean were to have children of his own I think he would finally "get it" about his dad's sacrifice and be able to put that guilt away.

Wouldn't it be great if Kripke & Co. were to bring Ben back into the storyline and make it that he IS Dean's son. That would be such a huge and wonderful twist and it would be great for Dean. (That is a wish episode for me.)

Yes, this is a very pivotal episode (I love, love, love it) and really sets up the year nicely.
# ElenaM 2010-02-04 01:05
This was the episode where I suddenly realized that the show had got its claws in me. I was stunned by John's death and taken aback by how much it upset me! I knew I was interested by this point, but hadn't quite realized that I'd become so emotionally invested with the characters and story. Thanks for the mini-reviews, Robin
# JulieUK 2010-02-04 10:44
My first episode.I was totally hooked straight away and wanted to know more about this family and hear their story. Nothing has changed and now after 90 some episodes later I am still watching on a permenant loop and caring about these characters unlike any others I have watched before. It may seem like a ridiculous statement but they have become almost like family members. I am sure I am not alone feeling this way or are my friends right and am I slightly insane!!
# Randal 2010-02-04 11:03
Simply a fantastic episode. Brilliant acting all around, Sam mirroring his father's stubbornness, Dean resigned to finally giving up. The two moments for me where when John asked Sam to not fight, knowing that was his last moment with his youngest and then telling Dean how proud he was of him, all those parental instincts meshing with the terrible secret that he knew. That'll mess with someone's brain.
# Karen 2010-02-04 13:01
Hi Robin
Thanks for the review. Absolutely loved this one.
Such an emotional roller coaster ride, all packaged up in this season opener. I remember thinking, what am I in for, will I survive emotionally and mentally.

JulieUK, rest ashore, you’re not alone. I also look at these characters as almost being like family. And yes I’m probably slightly insane, but I’m willing to live with that. 8-)
Robin Vogel
# Robin Vogel 2010-02-04 18:29
You echo how I feel; the Winchesters became my family, especially the brothers after John's death. Of course, I often had thoughts of incest, but that's another discussion for a different time! I became so invested in their lives, in their emotional wounds, their self-image, I wanted them to come to my house so I could wrap my arms around them and reassure them!

I also wanted to give them better meals than the crap I saw them eating on the road, LOL!

In all seriousness, my motherly instincts were constantly being raised, especially since I have a son so close to Sam's age. I'm always so worried about these two, it's like they're real, mine, and I have to do something to improve their lives!

Love, Robin
# Tigershire 2010-02-05 01:28
Hi Robin. Nice review. You know, with what we now know, and all that has been slowly revealed to us, I wonder how much John actually figured out.

I suspect that he learned WAY more than any of us realize.