Just the title alone tells you a breakdown is coming. Children, aka Sam and Dean, playing with dead things, aka Angela the zombie, who is going to open up a whole mess of wounds that were already festering. Bringing back someone from the dead? Of course, that was going to unravel a tightly wound Dean. Now the truth surfaces.
In this episode, we get another brilliant take on the Sam-and-Dean-in-grief saga, this time from Raelle Tucker. Her one-time writing partner, Sera Gamble, wrote the previous episode, “Bloodlust,” so the two episodes play like an in-sync-two-parter, and given the strength of these two writers, it's not surprising. I’m not going to call this episode as brilliant as “Bloodlust,” just because loser Neil isn’t as dynamic as Gordon Walker, and Angela is no Lenore. But the Sam and Dean issues take a different turn, and this time different is good.
Not Your Average Romero Flick
Zombies. Think about it. This is episode four of the season and we’ve already jumped into reapers, ancient spirits killing as clowns, vampires, and now some well timed necromancy. They are pulling out all the stops, aren’t they? That's the fun of Supernatural's second season, when they seriously had nothing to lose. It also proved by episode four that they were firing on all cylinders creatively. This was a perfect monster of the week (MOTW) parallel to the state of mind of the brothers.
This was a pretty engaging MOTW story. It’s sad to be so hopelessly in love with someone that you’re willing to bring them back from the dead. Imagine poor Neil’s shock when he found out they don’t come back the same. What I loved about this story most was that the brothers really didn’t know how to take down someone raised from the dead. There’s so much lore out there about it, they had to try multiple things. It’s funny that the only other time they ran into that was with aliens in season six. You’d think it would be a normal thing in their world.
If I have one criticism of this episode, it's that the pacing wasn’t always the best. Take the opener. Way too much time was spent on Angela’s demise. I don’t think that extra time benefited the episode much. Some of the case work got a little tedious, too, like meeting the roommate, but at least the story was relevant.
So yeah, talk about digging into one’s fragile psyche. In carrying over from the last two episodes, Dean is still spiraling and off the rails. It’s understandable that this case is hitting a bit too close to home, with Dean being practically raised from the dead himself with awful consequences. Every aspect of this case starts to get under Dean’s skin to the point where he starts acting out in the most obnoxious way. I honestly wanted Sam to hit him this time! If anything, my heart broke for Sam, who is freaked out by Dean’s behavior while still feeling not only the loss of John, but Jessica’s death as well.
Sam: Dean, I don't scare easy, but man, you're scaring the crap out of me.
Dean: Don't be overdramatic, Sam.
Sam: You're lucky this turned out to be a real case. Because if it wasn't you would have just found something else to kill.
Sam: You're on edge, you're erratic - except for when you're hunting, because then you're downright scary. You're tailspinning, man. And you refuse to talk about it and you won't let me help you.
Dean: I can take care of myself, thanks.
Sam: No, you can't. And you know what? You're the only one who thinks you should have to. You don't have to handle this on your own, Dean, no one can.
Dean: Sam, if you bring up Dad's death one more time I swear...
Sam: Stop. Please, Dean, it's killing you. Please. We've already lost Dad. We've lost Mom. I've lost Jessica. And now I'm going to lose you too?
(Yes, those are the patented Sam Winchester Wide Open Arms of Disdain)
Poor Sam, he had to give Dean a tongue lashing, was used as bait for a zombie trap and then he broke his hand. It just wasn’t his day.
Pop Psychology Analysis - Main Character Meltdown Edition
Sam is scared. Dean is scared. They just both have different ways of showing it.
This episode did take time to remind us that Sam is grieving too. He’s internalizing like he always has. That often doesn’t translate well on the screen so you have to really look hard at those subtle touches to get the clues about what’s going on inside. It’s a very lonely time for Sam. I thought the idea of visiting Mary’s grave was an odd thing since he barely knew the woman, but it made sense to me later. Dean is pushing him away and won’t talk, John is dead, and Sam is struggling to reconcile the guilt inside of him for fighting with John at the end. It took me a while to realize how guilty he feels for pushing his family away now that they’re gone. To honor John, he needed to honor the family, and that meant visiting Mary. He even said “I love you, Mom,” even though he has no memory of her, because it was the right thing to say. It’s a sad sweet scene because Sam really needs that connection to family, but it isn’t quite there. What he really needs is the support of his brother right now. He’s hurting and Dean is the only family he has left, not to mention is the only family that truly mattered to him. After all Sam's lost, of course he’s scared of losing Dean, too.
Dean’s behavior was more transparent, but acting out is how he deals with pain. His grief and guilt has consumed him. He knows the truth - John sacrificed himself so he could live - and Dean feels it’s his fault. The ending conversation is a breakthrough, but it also hits home the hopelessness Dean is feeling. No wonder he’s pushing Sam away. There’s no way to fix this in his eyes. He wishes he was dead.
Sam... You and Dad... you're the most important people in my life. And now... I never should've come back, Sam. It wasn't natural. And now look what's come of it. I was dead. And I should have stayed dead. You wanted to know how I was feeling. Well, that's it. So tell me. What could you possibly say to make that all right?
It all ends there, but it makes you wonder, did Sam have an answer? Did they talk it out more? Dean drops his suicidal behavior after this. Maybe it’s because the next episode moves back to Sam’s psychic visions, thus giving them bigger fish to fry. Did just admitting this make things better for Dean? I’ve always thought this was a huge turning point left for more exploration. Instead, we got the “time heals all wounds off camera” approach and it comes up again in episode 2.08. I didn’t mind too much, though, because I was also ready to move onto other things after three angry Dean episodes.
Our meek little Sammy watches porn! He is a normal guy. Casa Erotica makes its debut in this episode, a gag that is still mentioned as recently as season 13.
This is the first episode I can remember that has the tearful, heartfelt brotherly chat in front of Baby. Sure, there were a few conversations in season one like in “Home,” but it wasn’t quite this emotional. I smile every time I see a scene like this because of season six’s “The French Mistake”:
Kevin Parks: Well, we can clean up, reset the window; takes about 95 minutes, basically. So we'd have to blow off the scene where they sit on the Impala and talk about their feelings.
Bob Singer: Ha! Right! You answer the hate mail.
No hate mail in season two, that’s for sure!
Overall grade, a B+. Up next, the debut episode for Ben Edlund. As you can guess, I loved it and will tell you why.
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