Simon says, love this episode. Sure, no problem!
This is still one of those episodes I always go back to. It’s epic! It’s a cavalcade of fan favorite characters featuring actors that have become legendary to the SPNFamily. It goes back to something that had been dropped since late season one, Sam’s visions, and boy did it kick the entire saga up a notch. It’s a brisk script with outrageously funny dialogue, yet it also delivers plenty of suspense and leaves us all with a big pile of uncertainty and foreboding for the Winchesters. For me though, I will always remember this as the very first “Supernatural” episode written by my favorite writer, Ben Edlund.
Honestly, I was really tired of the whole, “John is dead, Dean goes off the rails, Sam tries to protect Dean from himself” saga by the time this episode rolled around in season 2. The end of the last episode, while very poignant, didn’t leave us with a lot of resolution. It accented the point that Dean is not okay, there are no easy answers and this is not over for him. So, how do you move from an unsettling situation at the end of one episode into what is another very unsettling situation without weighing down the storyline? That’s where Mr. Edlund’s gifts come in.
The Plot Thickens
The teaser is an attention getter from the word go. A mild mannered pillar of the community walks into a sporting goods store, looks at a shotgun, kills the clerk and then himself. This is not Mayberry for sure. I adore the shot above of the blood spatter going into a restroom sink on the ceiling, which would have been very odd otherwise, but it’s a shocking symbol that this is not a normal event. This is Sam in a bathroom, having another chilling vision. He’s naturally rattled, because the whole John thing has been a diversion of what’s truly been on the back on his mind, the demon and his plans for him. I was just happy as hell to see this storyline continued since we hadn’t had a Sam vision since season one’s “Salvation.”
Edlund sets a few of his trademarks in this episode, including adding a touch of quirkiness to existing characters and throwing in some well timed dialogue. If Ash didn’t make an impression last time, you weren’t going to forget him this time. Even “Dr. Badass,” fresh with pants after having his acid trip interrupted, thought Sam’s request for help was weird…until he was bribed by a free PBR. Then it’s business as usual! But is it though? Sam asked some very strange questions that earned some attention, much to Dean’s chagrin. That will be important for later.
The real milestone of this episode though is the introduction of the latest special psychic kid, Andy Gallagher, aka the debut of fan favorite Gabriel Tigerman. I adore the choice was made to make him different from the others. Andy should be lovable and fun! Every scene with Andy was brilliant. Selling mind control doesn’t translate well to the screen a lot of the time. I mean, how do you pull that off visually and not be boring? Simple, sell it with humor while getting some great character exposition out of it. Have Andy use his power for trivial things like getting out of parking tickets and scamming free coffee while he lives in his bitching van and his giant bong. It’s all he needs in life. Why not have Dean give up Baby without a second thought? How about have Sam witness the madness as Andy drives by in Baby and watches Dean being forced to tell the truth about why they were looking for him since his brother is not impervious to mind control?
There are so many times I laughed out loud in this episode, despite the seriousness of the situation that eventually evolved. That’s why these early episodes are so good. They have you laughing one moment, shocked the next, and then teary at the end. I felt Sam’s stress, I really did, and his predicament still puts a knot in my stomach. However, how could you not laugh at these lines?
Andy: Hey! You think I haven't seen you two? Why are you following me?
Sam: Well, we're lawyers. See, a relative of yours has passed away...
Andy: Tell the truth!
Sam: That's what I'm -
Dean: We hunt demons.
Dean: Demons and spirits. Things your worst nightmares wouldn't even touch. Sam here, he's my brother...
Sam: Dean, shut up!
Dean: I'm trying. He's psychic. Kind of like you. Well, not really like you, but see, he thinks you're a murderer, and he's afraid that he's going to become one himself, 'cause you're all part of something that's terrible. And, I hope to hell that he's wrong, but I'm starting to get a little scared that he might be right.
Andy: Okay, you know what? Just leave me alone.
While this was a funny scene, it also had a big reveal. I wondered why Dean was so bothered by Sam and his visions. One Jedi Mind Control trick later, the truth has surfaced. It’s something that has to be set aside for later though, because there’s still a lot of crazy going on, like another Sam vision of some random woman pouring gasoline on herself and setting herself on fire, which then happens right away. The action doesn’t stop. Those aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Did anyone see evil twin coming? I didn’t.
All of this craziness though was a beautiful setup for Andy’s tragic hero outcome, which no doubt added to Sam’s angst over the whole thing (see “Playthings”). Sam was so relieved to find out Andy wasn’t evil, giving him hope for himself, but as Dean said, they’re all part of something terrible and that can’t end well. That puts all of them in a bad situation where tragic choices have to be made. Kind of foreshadowing for “All Hell Breaks Loose,” don’t you think?
The entire confrontation at the dam, on top of the suspense, revealed some really important info too. Anson, who can do mind control without verbal cues, was visited by the demon and told he had special plans for him. That’s where we left off with Sam back in the season 2 premiere. Suddenly ghost!Dean’s, “You sure know something,” to John packs a big punch. Anson has also let himself be corrupted, which allowed his power to grow more powerful than Andy’s, letting us know that evil is what drives these abilities. Considering his power almost drove Dean to putting a bullet through his chin, that's a pretty powerful message of how things can go wrong. So Sam rightfully has a lot to fear if any of them turn evil. He knows what can happen if he allows himself to go down that path.
I felt so bad for poor Andy. He was forced to kill Anson to save Tracy, Sam and Dean, but doing so went against his gentle nature. It shook him for sure. He was able to use his mind control to convince the cops Anson shot himself, but he was too moral to use his powers on Tracy. As a result, she became afraid of him. It does set him up for a tragic fall because one cannot ever forget this. So, after Andy saved everyone, everything is wrapped for this week, right? The brothers drive off for their next adventure. Nope!
Time for another reveal, this time through Ellen, who has summoned the boys and is demanding to know what is going on. Now Ellen and Jo are involved with Sam’s psychic drama, which puts everyone in big peril. My heart was bleeding for Sam, having to come clean about his psychic abilities to Ellen and Jo. It is clearly an uncomfortable situation for him to talk about and it is rattling him to his core. But wait, let’s take in one more gotcha. Anson’s mother wasn’t killed in a nursery fire. There’s a break in pattern. Wow, I didn’t see that one coming either.
So yeah, overall, there’s a lot to take in from this episode. All this entertaining random madness came together in the end and left us feeling kind of anxious. Mission accomplished Mr. Edlund. Welcome to the team.
Pop psychology of the main characters
Surely an adventure like this has only managed to heighten Sam’s angst about the whole demon situation. I still think back to “What is happening to me?” in last season’s “Home” and how much worse it’s gotten for him, and how much worse it’s going to get. This latest turn is getting darker, and there are still more questions than answers. What is the plan? Just how far will he and the others be pushed? Just the mindf*** alone is eating at him.
Dean was silent and maintained his bravado, especially at the end, but his mind control confession said plenty. It makes sense, he does realize that Sam is all he’s got. Dean knows that everything Sam believes will happen is coming true. There is also the still unknown warning that John gave to Dean in the season premiere. The more people involved, like Ellen, Jo and Ash, means the situation is spiraling out of control and Dean doesn’t know how to control it. He doesn’t know how he can protect Sam from this one. Given his already fragile psyche, this added burden is no doubt causing intense stress. Or, will it be a distraction from his own pain? Will this ordeal continue to diminish his self worth? Remember that, it’s important for later. In the meantime though, Dean can declare that mind control doesn't count with confessions. Those buttons will have to be pushed later (and they are!).
Okay, there was one small fail in this episode. Edlund tries to carry on the whole Jo and Dean thing, but it just isn’t working. They just don’t have any chemistry. “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” from REO Speedwagon? Ouch, how lame! Dean knows it, but he’s got an ear worm? I know it’s meant to show tough Dean softening for Jo, but yeah, is not working. I’ll reserve more on that thought until the next episode though. I did love this line though;
Dean: REO Speedwagon?
Jo: Damn right REO. Kevin Cronin sings it from the heart.
Dean: He sings it from the hair. There's a difference.
At a convention years ago, I got to ask Gabe Tigerman what it was like to drive the Impala. He thought it was cool, but he didn’t get to drive it far. He drove it a few feet and he was done. Still, he thought it was great he was the first non-Winchester to drive Baby. Also, at another convention later, I informed him the infamous tiger picture in Andy’s van made an appearance again in the season four premiere “Lazarus Rising.” He didn’t know that. Again, he thought it was really cool.
I also got to visit the town of Ladner and the dam in North Vancouver where this episode was shot during one of my lovely location tours of Vancouver with Bardicvoice. The dam especially stood out. I also spotted it on an “X-Files” episode and more recently “The Flash”. It’s very interesting and has some beautiful scenery. I should also note that Ladner has been the site of many “Supernatural” episodes, too many to mention here. You should recognize some of the background in this one.
Overall grade, an A. A classic for me. Coming up next, well, not an A. I'll take a look at "No Exit."
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