Dorian Thompson wrote:
Ahhhhh, Route 666. Often mentioned as one of the series worst episodes. I consider it the second worst episode of the entire series. Trust me. It get a loooooot better from here on in. The season one finale will shock you. Oh man......it gets soooo good. You're also about to be treated to the first true comedy episode of the series in "Hell House."
I prefer to think of it as "it's already been a lot better, and now it's going to get even better
So it's been awhile since I updated this thread but I've watched several episodes in the meantime. Prepare for another Very Long Post since I'm going to look at 5 episodes.
In which we run back into the cute but murderous blonde named Meg that Sam met back when he and Dean were fighting (Scarecrow.) The brothers are in Chicago investigating a cruesome, animalistic murder. Sam suspects and follows Meg - with Dean's horn-dogging goadings that he's really just into her - while Dean's the one that does the research. They find out the mysterious symbol found at the murder scene corresponds to an ancient and powerful Zoroastrian shadow demon called a daeva; Sam follows Meg to a warehouse and sees her communicating with somebody while standing before a black altar. Sam and Dean seek to get the drop on Meg, but she turns the tables on them, revealing that the whole thing was a trap for their father John Winchester, who's closing in on the demon that killed Mary Winchester and Jess. Sam breaks Meg's control of the daevas and they apparently throw her to their death; at the hotel Sam and Dean meet up with their dad whose shown up, only to be attacked by Meg and her daevas. The Winchesters escape and decide that traveling together is too dangerous before going their own ways again.
Whew, there's a lot packed into this episode. The great majority of it deals with and ties into the larger mytharc of the show, but the episode-specific stuff was good too. It's a shame that they were in Chicago and did so little with the city itself; one of the things I've been liking about this show is how the specific places they are plays a role in what's going on, but this could've just as easily been in Detroit, Philadelphia, or Seattle. The daevas were an effective villain, if little more than lackeys. I was a bit confused at first because I was thinking of devas
, who are good Hindu beings - which makes me wonder about an ancient schism perhaps between India and Iran? A very minor thing, but it is kinda funny how easily the first victim we saw died and how much more punishment the Winchesters take. It's good to have plot armor.
It's always fun to see Dean's horndog nature contrasting with Sam's brooding and refusal to open up; of course, I'd say this is masking how badly Sam wants to connect but feels he can't, whereas Dean's terrified of connection beyond his family.
But as I said, the majority of this episode deals with the mytharc. We really didn't get any more revelations beyond confirmation the John's getting close, but now the Winchesters have faced the demon's Dragon, so the next time they go after the demon it should be to confront him directly. The parallels of demon-Meg Masters and John Winchester-Sam and Dean were nicely highlighted. Although - we know the demon messed with other people because of Nightmare
, so what makes the Winchesters so special? Is there a reason the demon can't just take out John directly that he has to rely on trapping Sam and Dean? I mean, John's badass and all, but the daevas almost made short work of him - and they're the servants. The reunion between John and the Winchester boys was played *perfectly* - from Dean's immediate hug and backslap, to Sam and John's polite exchange of "Hey Dad" and "Hey Sam," to their opening up just enough to acknowledge a healed rift and hug. Fantastic scene all around. And the bittersweet ending with a sense that there's clearly unfinished business to get back to... soon. Excellent episode all around.
1x17 Hell House
In which Sam and Dean truck it down to Richardson, TX to investigate a possible haunted house that's made a name for itself on an urban legend website. The legend goes that the owner of the house killed his six daughters and himself during the Depression - but something really isn't adding up about the whole thing. As they investigate, Sam and Dean run into some "paranormal investigators" from the website trying to make a name for themselves. Convinced they've dealt with the problem, the brothers prepare to move on - until a girl actually turns up dead. On further investigation, Dean recognizes the symbol of Blue Oyster Cult sprayed inside the house among many other symbols, and the brothers figure out the whole thing was originally a prank that's somehow turned deadly. Turns out, the spirit is a Tulpa, which manifests itself based on strength of belief and has no weaknesses beyond what its form dictates. When the bumbling webmasters aren't able to upload a set of weaknesses in time, the brothers burn down the house and move on.
After the heaviness of Shadow
, it's nice to have something goofy and lighthearted. Well, mostly goofy and lighthearted - I thought we might get through a whole episode with no deaths, but I guess not. The monster was very much a background part of this episode, but was still a really neat concept, both in the monster itself and how it came to the House - shouldn't tamper with things you don't know, and all that. I wonder if that sort of spirit will ever reappear? Seems like it could be a real problem in a more serious episode. I know the "paranormal investigators" were meant to be funny, but they didn't really click with me. I didn't hate them, they were just "meh." What did work really well though was Sam and Dean pranking each other - lots of fun with them upping the ante on each other. Even the resolution was kinda funny if a bit perfunctory - "Fuck it, we can't beat this thing? Then we'll burn the fucker down!"
Not a whole lot more to say about this one. Good fun and I enjoyed it.
1x18 Something Wicked
In which Sam and Dean head to Fitchburg, WI to finish some of their dad's unfinished business - and Dean's too. Something has been making the kids of Fitchburg sick and fall into comas, and the Winchester boys figure out its a witch called a shtriga that's feeding on the kids' life energy. The same one, in fact, that got away from John Winchester years ago when Dean left his little brother unguarded and the shtriga almost got Sam. After realizing that the shtriga likes to take a whole family of kids one at a time, the brothers decide to use their motel owner's son as bait since the boy's younger brother was taken; after killing the shtriga, all the kids get well.
Yay, more angsty goodness! This show's so good at showing the tortured and fucked-up relationship these brothers have with each other and their past. Jensen Ackles does a great job again connecting with a kid as they bond over their responsibility as older brothers. This is definitely a Dean episode, which is find by me. The flashbacks do a nice job giving us a glimpse of what the brothers "home life" was like and explains a lot about why they are how they are. Jeffrey Dean Morgan as usual does a great job as the slightly-unhinged and vengeful but still loving father.
The shtriga's a nice villain with a good way of getting close to kids (who'd suspect a doctor), and in monster-form is probably the creepiest villain since the Reaper in Faith
(or the vanir in Scarecrow
since the Reaper was technically not a villain), especially when coming through windows. I bought in to the creepy-old-lady-as-villain herring like anybody and wondered how it could be so easy (I must've been tired), but the way the "confrontation" with her went down was really funny.
I seem to recall Sam and Dean getting mistaken as a gay couple at least once before, and I know they did in one of the few later-season episodes I've seen (they're mistaken for "antiquers" in New England). I'm guessing this is a running joke?
Good episode: solid villain, nice flashbacks, good brother interaction and establishment of family history.
In which Sam and Dean face down with a haunted painting. After a young couple is slaughtered in their tightly-locked-down home, the Winchester boys investigate on a tip from their dad's journal, discovering that other murders had taken place in a fairly regular fashion, with the one common thread being a painting of the family of Isaiah Merchant, who killed himself and his family with a razor. In the meantime Dean acts the hungover dick and nearly gets them kicked out of the auction house they're investigating (it houses all the victims' possessions) and tries to "encourage" Sam to hook up with a girl, especially the daughter of the auction house's owner. It's during a somewhat-awkward date with Sarah that Sam's able to get the provenances for all the auction items and the brothers make the connection with the painting - a painting that looks different now than it did in 1910. Figuring out Merchant's painting is haunted and he's still killing people, Sam and Dean break into the auction house to steal the painting and burn it - which doesn't work, and it repairs itself. By the time the Winchesters figure out the painting is back and further steps need to be taken, it's killed somebody else and now Sarah's in on their secret. Dean goes to find the bones of Isaiah Merchant and burn them while Sam and Sarah get ready to destroy the painting - which has changed again, the little adopted girl now missing. The girl has manifested herself and was the killer all along; Dean manages to destroy the girl's doll which contains some of her hair and all's well. The brothers depart, but Sam and Sarah share a goodbye kiss.
When I read the blurb for this episode I think I was expecting more "Dorian Grey" and less slasher. Still, there's some really good things in this episode. One thing that really stands out to me is that, as much as I love Ackles and Padalecki, it'd be nice to have somebody else as a main character. I don't need a Friday Night Lights sized cast, and I adore Doctor Who which has primarily been a two-person show, but Sarah helping the boys out worked really well, if briefly, for this episode. I think part of it was her calling Sam out when he said he didn't want her getting close to him. I really liked that the emotional focus of this episode was on Sam's continued mourning for Jess and his continued guilt for what happened to her. Dean's in many ways the more fucked up person so far I think, but Sam's got a lot darker demons to face and I think is going to go down the much darker path. Dean confronting Sam was a nice case of these two not beating around the bush the way they so often do - Dean's a womanizer and never really gets close, sure, but Sam's closing himself off out of fear for what might happen is just unhealthy. His coming back to kiss Sarah at the end might have been cliche, but it was needed - finally Sam is starting to open up. Of course this just means he's going to be brutally shut down, I'm sure...
The twist of the little girl being the killer was mostly "meh" to me - I would've been perfectly happy if it had remained the dad, but a little girl with a razor makes a good villain too. The way she moved reminded me somewhat of the Woman in White from way back in the Pilot - I wish they would more often show spirits moving that way, kind of warped/out of sync with quick cuts of the camera. Although... what, did the little girl slash everybody's throats, slash her own, and as she died put the razor in her adopted dad's hand? Why'd she choose to kill herself when before she'd just killed the family and moved on?
Overall a solid episode, with good emotional work if a somewhat sketchy villain.
1x20 Dead Man's Blood
In which Sam and Dean face off against the most pathetic vampires since the Cullen family - with special guest star Papa Winchester! When an old hunter friend of John's is killed by a vampire, Sam and Dean head to Boulder, CO to find out what killed him where they find a letter addressed to their dad and he pops in on them to take charge of things. John explains that the old man was his mentor in hunting and was holding onto a very powerful artifact - a Colt revolver specially forged by Sam Colt that can kill anything with one shot and has six bullets left. This, John tells the boys, is what's going to kill the demon he's been hunting after they dust the vampires (well, behead) to get the Colt back. Despite Sam chafing under John's command and a brief but loud argument, the Winchesters capture the mate of vampire leader Luther and John will use her for an exchange while Sam and Dean play their part. The exchange goes awry, Sam and Dean intervene, and John gets ahold of the gun, shooting Luther dead. The episode ends with John planning to split up from the boys again - but a united Sam and Dean convince him that they're stronger together than apart, and they head off to confront the demon.
For me, Dead Man's Blood was a tale of two parts - one very good, the other kinda shoddy. Specifically, the stuff connected to the mytharc was very good - the episode-specific stuff, rather less so. Good stuff first.
In terms of building on the mytharc, there's some really good stuff here. We finally figure out how John's planning to kill the demon that he's been hunting, and as far as mystical weapons go, a one-shot-kill Colt Revolver's pretty badass. I kinda think they missed an opportunity when they could've made the mystical gun a Winchester rifle, which would tie the family even more closely to the weapon, but that's a very minor "what if." Like I said, mystical gun that can kill anything but has limited shots is a great update to the classic "artifact weapons" of swords and crossbows and the like. Assuming I'm remembering right and there were six shots with one being used on Luther, that leaves five. One at least will be used for the demon, but something's going to go awry of course. I'm betting something unexpectedly bad goes down and John Winchester ends up dead, perhaps shot by this very same gun. That still leaves at least three shots for later use. I do wonder though, why did John wait so long to come get the gun?
Also, it's great to have some sense that John's not just some crazy guy that's self-taught and somehow learned all this stuff. Even though the old hunter died early and fairly easily, the fact that he mentored John means there's probably some sort of loose network of hunters. Probably not a Watcher's Council or anything like that, but a network of folks dedicated to doing what Sam and Dean do. In a sense, it makes the possibilities of the universe bigger. And it's good that we're building towards a real game-changer here - I'm guessing not a conclusion to whatever killed Jess and Mary, but the demon will be revealed and something huge is gonna happen. The ending of the episode really leaves you looking forward to it.
Dean standing up to John was a great moment. He's been the good soldier for so long, and despite what I might think of the fighting between Sam and John in this ep, it's great to see this shift in Dean that, hey, we're not just boys any more, we're men.
As to the bad. Well, as I'm sure you can tell by the preceding paragraph, I found Sam kind of annoying for a lot of this episode. I'm not blaming him for being pissed or chafing under his father's orders (John was being something of an ass too), and maybe it's just because I'm an oldest sibling, but god I wanted to smack Sam around some of the time. Did we really need to see the "Sam rebels against his dad's control, they have a (short) throwdown but make it mostly-alright in the end"? Like i said, it did lead to one good thing, namely Dean's siding with Sam and sticking with John, but man it was obnoxious and cliche - poorly executed cliche, which was the problem.
And then there's the vampires. All I could think every time they showed up was "Any one of Darla, Drusilla, and Spike would mop the floor with you jokers. And god help you if you caught Angelus' notice." Maybe I was tired, maybe I'm being unfair, but they were probably the most disappointing villain all season. Not *worst* - that's obviously the bugs from Bugs - but most disappointing. Vampires can be done well and threateningly on a tv budget, Whedon among others proved it. And at first, when Kate was hunting the elderly Hunter, it seemed like they'd work out fine, if fairly familiar. But it was downhill from there and these guys just seemed like they belonged at the end of time on Doctor Who or in the fifth season of Earth: Final Conflict. No wonder these guys were hunted to extinction. Also somewhat annoying was the "Our Vampires Are Different" moment when the classic anti-vampire methods were all debunked and the only thing that works is beheading. Well that's fine, except this is a show where the "old wives tales" approach often *does* work - salt for example, either in circle form or a gun ammo, and drawing a dark spirit onto hallowed ground will banish it. So why not vampires? Ehh, maybe I'm harping on this too much because I'm also watching through Angel with a friend, but these vampires really soured me towards the this-episode stuff. If they ever come back, hopefully they're more threatening and less obnoxious.
The Colt balances out the vampires for me, so this episode overall is better than average and I look forward to the conclusion of the season.