It’s the time of the year to celebrate a holiday that’s dear to many hearts. As I contemplate Supernatural’s wonderous Christmas episode from season three, I think of some of the lines from the 1944 classic song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Let’s revisit the golden days of yore, shall we?
Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.
Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.
--Lyrics by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane
It’s sweet to think about all the years that the Supernatural fandom have been gathering around screens large and small to spend time with the Winchesters. It’s been a bumpy road for some, but many fans – old and new – are still along for the ride. Oh, my…what a road it has been.
The first five seasons of Supernatural are considered by some, including myself, to be the gold standard of the fantasy genre. One of the best things that happened during those seasons is that we were given a spectacular episode for the holidays. I think I can speak for many when I say that I love finding out what the Winchesters are doing on special occasions, like the holidays. We've had glimpses into Halloween and Thanksgiving, but I'm still waiting for the birthday parties.
The episode starts with an old-school “special presentation” announcement. The oldsters, like me, will remember the thrill of that banner. In those days, the thought of having around 500 different programs to choose from, mostly at will, as we can do now – that would have sounded like science fiction. Back then, anything special was appreciated. I also loved it when Schoolhouse Rock would appear while I was watching cartoons. Kids watching Cartoon Network, nowadays - on one of their multiple screens, have no idea how their parents suffered by being forced to watch Lawrence Welk or The Waltons with their families, because homes usually only had one television set and everyone had to take turns choosing what to watch. Anyway, the clever folks in production gave the viewers another one of their special treats. The title card’s also been sprinkled with macabre Christmas dust and it just adds to the fun.
I’m a little demented, so I love all the creepy parts of this episode. When watching Supernatural, I try not to take the things that happen to other people so seriously. I know, it sounds like a cop-out to be so deeply involved in the brothers' lives but not focus on the fact that other people, including young children, are having their lives ruined. It’s just something that has to be done, sometimes, to enjoy a show like this.
The boys are staying in one of the best motel rooms, ever. Much has been written about the inside references to that décor, so I’ll just say that it’s wonderful to revisit this story that has everything so perfect. Jeremy Carter did an excellent job writing the script, the actors – especially the young ones – gave it their very best and I've always loved Colin Ford as Sammy. Ridge Canipe is also very good, as well.
In the meantime, Sam doesn’t seem to be in the best of holiday spirits. I love that Dean’s so lovable and funny in this one. He might be going to Hell soon, but he’s determined to enjoy all that he can with his brother in the meantime. The relationship between Sam and Dean is so poignant and beautiful in this stage of the series. I love that these magical earlier seasons are preserved for us, in so many ways. Thinking of the past, it always makes me sad when I see a clip of a show that I used to love from days gone by, and the footage is grainy and faded. When sometimes I mourn that our show isn’t what it once was, I try to remember that I can always go back and revisit the past in glorious technicolor on my big-screen TV. I don’t let future events cloud my enjoyment, I just go back in time with my favorite brothers. When I was younger, I remember telling my sister that I could see the colors of everything on our TV. She said that I was crazy, “That’s black, that’s white, and that’s grey…that’s all there is.” Nope, I could see reds, blues, and greens. I had a very vivid imagination, I guess.
I love the scenes that are on the Christmas town set. When I was a child, our family often went to the Santa’s Village near Lake Arrowhead, California. I loved that place, so I did some research. The Christmas-themed park opened in 1955, a few weeks before Disneyland’s opened. It was a favorite destination for the holidays for decades before it closed in 1998. A year ago, it re-opened to the public after extensive renovations. I’ve got to take my family there, sometime.
Anyway, Sam’s still bah-humbugging Christmas as Dean suggests that they do up the holidays this year, like they used to. Um, no. Sam only seems to have bad memories of Christmas with John. Those scenes with young Sam and Dean just break my heart. My family wasn’t perfect, but we always gathered at my family home every Christmas. All my brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces would come and it was nice. I can’t imagine being in a motel room with only a brother and a mostly-absent father growing up, especially during a holiday that’s usually celebrated with family. Too sad.
The scenes of the boys in that motel room when they were little are some of the best flashback scenes that our show has ever done. Poor Dean’s alone with his little brother who won’t stop pestering him to talk about their weird family secrets. Dean’s reluctant to tell Sam the truth; he wants to protect his little brother from the knowledge of their family’s bloody legacy and all the monsters that are real and will try to hurt him. Sam finds the journal and truths are spilled out amongst tears. I love Dean trying to give Sam presents, in his father’s absence. He gets it wrong, when he only brings girly stuff, but his heart’s in the right place. Sam sets many future storylines and angst in action when he gifts Dean the Amulet that he meant to give to John. Dean’s the most important and constant person in Sam’s life, it’s only right that he receives it.
There are laughs galore as Dean humiliates Sam (because that’s what bros do) by telling a female elf that Sam wants to sit on Santa’s lap and when Sam and Dean sing a terrible rendition of “Silent Night” to the boozy Santa that they almost shot. There’s also a classic Sam “bitchface” as Dean tells the shop owner how much Sam adores Christmas wreaths made out of meadowsweet. The story gets sad again, when Sam gets Dean to admit why he’s so adamant about celebrating a holiday that wasn’t any fun for them. Sam’s very sorry about Dean’s future and tries to understand what Dean wants from him, but at this time…it’s just too much for Sam to deal with.
By the time the boys get to the Carrigan’s home, this episode hits high gear. The house is wonderfully bedazzled for Christmas and of course, Sam and Dean sneak in later. They wind up getting knocked out by the Pagan God homeowners and tied to chairs, back to back. Is this one of my favorite scenes in all of Supernatural? You betcha. I’m not a big fan of gore and do look away at the graphic fingernail pulling part, but I love the rest of it. The Carrigan’s happy prattle as they cut Sam and Dean, you know…just a few times, is inspired. I’m someone who dislikes swearing, so I’m all behind the couple as they tell Dean to use the word, “fudge” instead. We’re a sci-fi family, so at my house, we usually use words like frell, frak, and dren. When I’m feeling British, everything is suddenly bloody awful. I love it when Tennant’s Doctor Who tells people that they are “thick.” I need to use that one in conversation more.
Oh my, when Mr. God puts the pliers in Dean’s mouth and the doorbell rings…I laugh so hard at his muffled suggestion to answer the doorbell. That’s genius, and of course, Jensen’s comedy is as wonderful as always. Both of the brothers sitting there, unable to really see each other, but hearing each other’s screams of pain and seeing their desire to help each other and stop this from happening – that’s marvelous. Amazing scene, all around.
Of course, our heroes soon release themselves from their bondage and get the upper hand. It makes me laugh to see Mrs. God stabbed with her own Christmas tree, but I can’t help thinking that – unless Sam used a knife that we didn’t see – isn’t it tough to rip apart a tree with your bare hands? Even though it’s a cut tree, it’s still very green. I have a hard time trimming my backyard trees with a saw, but whatever, it’s still fun.
The episode ends with a scene right out of Unattached Drifter’s Christmas. Sam surprises Dean with a special holiday tradition right out of the Winchester playbook, complete with make-do ornaments and gifts bought at quik-marts. The tragedy of the brothers' lives and futures are forgotten for the moment as they just enjoy each other’s company, in that space and time. The glow of the lights out the window, as they reflect on Baby, and the sad Christmas song that plays over the scene – that’s what I reflect on when I think about the lives of the Winchesters at Christmas. It wasn't perfect, but at least the brothers were together.
Musings On Christmas Episodes
The X-Files – “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas.” This epic tale sends Mulder and Scully to a house haunted by some pretty amazing ghosts played by Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner. This episode also features an ending where the main duo are seen through a window while Christmas music plays. It’s wonderful.
Black Mirror – “White Christmas.” If you enjoy a macabre holiday story, then this one’s for you. I enjoyed it very much, while I still need a rewatch to understand it completely. Jon Hamm of Mad Men fame is delightfully creepy as the character who holds all the threads together, in this twisted tale.
The Closer – “Next of Kin Part 1 and 2.” These episodes, set around the Christmas holidays, are a shining example of what Brenda Leigh Johnson does so well. She dupes her parents into thinking that she’s only interested in coming home for Christmas, while really she’s stalking a suspect in their hometown. The episodes are hilarious as Brenda tries to do her job and keep her parents in the dark at the same time. Fritz, Brenda’s husband, knows all of Brenda’s tricks (she plays them on him, all the time), so he struggles with pleasing his in-laws while trying to help his determined wife. The trip home in Brenda’s parent’s Winnebago with the whole family and the suspect – that’s one of the greatest trips in TV history.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – “Will Scarsdale Like Josh’s Shayna Punim?” Patti LuPone and Tovah Feldshuh guest-star in a holiday episode like only Rachel Bloom (Rebecca Bunch) can supply. There’s a song and dance number entitled, “Remember That We Suffered,” that’s so wonderful. Here’s a part of the lyrics:
Now it's time to celebrate!
Grab a drink and fix a plate!
But before you feel too great:
Remember that we suffered!
Nights like these are filled with glee
noshing, dancing, singing, wee!
But we sing in a minor key
to remember that we suffered!
Being happy is selfish!
Remember that we suffered!
You have no idea what pain is!
Remember that we suffered! Hey!
Newsradio – “Christmas.” This third season episode’s a truly special one for this hysterical comedy. The gang all try to get home for Christmas and hijinks ensue. I love this show, it’s my favorite sitcom of all time. I just bought the series on DVD and I’m looking forward to finding the time to watch it. If you’ve never seen this fantastic series - go buy or borrow it. It’s not only extremely funny; it’s wise, smart, emotional, and unique.
Family Ties – This great series has many wonderful Christmas episodes, but the scenes that I always remember are when they are trying to take a picture in front of the tree. Every year, since they were little, they have stood in the exact same spot and held the same pose for this picture. What a great tradition, I wish that I was that organized to do something like that while my kids were growing up.
So, let’s hear about your favorite Christmas and Holiday shows. Comments on Christmas in general are welcome also. Let’s all have a safe and happy holiday season! Thanks for reading and commenting – it means a lot to me.