The best horror I’ve ever seen were psychological thrillers, where some twisted bastard skillfully freaked me out with mind bending twists as opposed to a hockey mask and a chainsaw. So, I had to admit the idea of Supernatural tackling such a concept in “Dream A Little Dream of Me” was pretty intriguing. How could I not embrace a story that involved the Winchester boys doing a little mind screwing of their own? The show didn’t disappoint me, delivering a thriller with a strange combination of vivid imagery, a very creepy yet believable villain, shaman folklore involving Silene Capensis, big character development, a shocking look into Bobby and Dean’s heads, and a scarier glimpse of what Sam can do if in one’s head.
In preparing for this review, I thought about how I could wow everyone with some intense dream analysis drawing from the vivid symbols provided in this episode, but I backed away as soon as I tried to explain peacocks on the wall and sex with Bela. Some stuff just needs to stay unexplored. The writer of this episode was Cathryn Humphris, who stepped in to finish a story first started by Sera Gamble. I wonder when she was given this concept to go with, “Sam and Dean go dreamwalking in Bobby’s head”, if her first instinct was to run screaming. Or maybe it was homicidal, and the multiple uses of a baseball bat as a weapon might a subtle message of her own about being tasked with this theme.
Despite how strange the concept sounds to anyone reading an episode plot summary, that’s what’s great about this show. They take any legend or piece of folklore out there, and somehow the creative team makes it work (okay, maybe not with “Bugs”, but Kripke tried). How much do you want to bet there was a big rise in demand for African dream root after this episode aired? Apparently it can be easily ordered on the Internet. I can see some guy puking up his awful tasting tea right now.
We got more than our quota of touching brotherly moments, with the first one happening immediately after the title card rolls. The scene opens in awesome fashion to “Long Train Runnin” by The Doobie Brothers (the only song by them I do like), telling us that Kripke didn’t go over budget this week. Sam drinking in the bar alone at first seemed out in left field to me, but once we got to the end of the episode, I saw where Sam was coming from when he admitted to Dean he can’t save him alone. He needed Dean to want to live, or the fight was worth nothing. Of course, drinking whiskey at two in the afternoon was a pretty interesting choice of dealing with the frustration, but considering we saw that in season two’s “Playthings”, that behavior does maintain continuity. I’m a huge fan of continuity!
This episode went with the premise that makes these stories great, which is no crazy idea ever stops these guys. It didn’t seem farfetched when Dean suggested dreamwalking, nor when Sam went along with the idea. Oh, but show, you do love messing with us. Before they went into Bobby’s head, we got to see inside Sam’s. This without a doubt was the most shocking, horrifying, and easily disturbing scene in the entire episode. No, I think the entire series. I’m still too shaken to talk about it. Sam confirmed in that dream what we already sensed, he’s one sick puppy. I can handle hands being sliced in a garbage disposal, but Sam and Bela together on a bed? I couldn’t watch.
Once Bela delivers the much needed African Dream root, two nasty cups of tea later and some upside down rain (I couldn’t find what that symbol meant in dream analysis anywhere online), they were in Bobby’s head. This scene is where we get the first part of the huge character development for Dean in this episode.
We knew that he could convince Bobby that he was stuck in a dream, but for him to admit that Bobby was like a father to him? Sure, that’s not surprising, considering the earlier scene showing a deeply concerned Dean by Bobby’s bedside, not to mention previous father-like lectures Bobby gave Dean (see “All Hell Breaks Loose Part II”). To see the heartfelt urgency in which Dean delivered that line though, it was exciting to see him act in such a way toward Bobby that he previously reserved for only Sam and John. Too bad I was caught in the drama to savor that moment for long, because Sam was getting pummeled by a baseball bat in an obnoxiously bright Pushing Daises setting. The timing of them waking up just as Jeremy was to deliver the fatal blow to Sam was breathtaking editing.
Don’t worry Dean, I would have taken the beer too. We forgive you. This show somehow manages to work in appropriate comical moments no matter how intense the story. Now there’s one more to add to the growing list of memorable funnies, Dean on a two day caffeine buzz. We’ve seen many moods of Dean before, but this new angle on extreme agitation was hilarious. Dean chooses to sleep and fight Jeremy head on, and Sam refuses to let him go alone. This brings forward an interesting dilemma. I’d be scared over anyone rooting around in my head, but my brother, that would mortifying. I’m sure that spurned many fanfics out there over what would happen if Dean went into Sam’s head. Take a few moments to ponder those possibilities. I know, I’m scared too.
Turns out Sam is not the person you want in your dreams. Aside from being completely thrown back by Dean’s deepest wish of having a family (they’re together 24/7 and he still doesn’t know this about his brother?), he’s a pretty freaking scary dreamwalker. Each episode this season, Sam inches farther away from the good guy we grew to love in the first two seasons into something darker, yet far more intriguing to watch. He didn’t hesitate to coldly take Jeremy out with that baseball bat with two quick strikes to the head. That again pushes the theme that has come up multiple times this season, Sam is willing to take a human life so maybe he isn’t one hundred percent right. Considering he was saving them both from an endless nightmare, I couldn’t imagine him acting any other way. He seems alright to me.
There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe how incredible the big Dean vs. Dream!Dean confrontation was. No analysis I give could do it justice. The die hard fans have all seen it over and over again, wearing out the rewind button, overanalyzing every single aspect on how truly amazing Jensen Ackles was for pulling this off. My reaction involved standing up and fist pumping with a “hell ya!” when Dean finally admitted to himself with rather brutal force that he didn’t deserve to die. What a better way to confront a fractured inner psyche than with an intense battle of words that results in blowing yourself away with a shotgun. Way to take it out your inner demon Dean! That outburst was the emotional breakthrough for Dean we’ve been dying for, and we were not only shocked but very proud (not to mention teary) to witness this big moment in his life. He wants to live. He needs a hug.
This show constantly plants those little seeds of possibilities so we can overly speculate about them on the boards while waiting desperately for new episodes. This time, the hint was dropped that Sam’s psychic abilities are still there, but good and hidden in the subconscious. After all, in both dreams he was singled out for attack because Jeremy saw him as the threat. That could be because both times Sam was the dreamwalker and not the dreamer, but it also could mean something else. For those that missed the hint from the dream, Bobby’s question to Sam asking if his quick thinking in making Jeremy’s dad appear had anything to do with the psychic stuff was the sledgehammer hit needed to deliver the point. I personally think it was his psychic abilities, for Sam had only taken the dream root twice. Jeremy had used it far more times to get the same power in the dream.
Oh brothers, just when I was already emotionally spent over everything I’ve witnessed, you had to pull out yet another classic Winchester moment. Sam wasn’t convincing when he said “we’ll find a way to save you”, and Dean knew it. We rarely see so much delivered in a simple two word reply like Dean’s “okay good”. It showed Dean was scared, willing to trust his brother, and not at all believing it would work, but he was willing to try. But then we were given the Dream!Dean ending, which tells us that in the back of Dean’s mind, he knows all isn’t well. He wants to live, but doesn’t think he can be saved. One wonders if Dean finally admitting to himself that he doesn’t deserve to die will result in him taking control and making the most of the time he has left, or wallowing in misery over his destiny. Judging by what we saw in “Jus In Bello”, so far it’s the former.
Too bad Sam is stuck in the latter.
Best delightfully tacky motel room this season
There was a “best of” in this episode for the season. While last week highlighted the much loved Impala, this week showcased the most outrageous motel room we’ve seen in season three. Sure, one would like expect a pink flamingo themed room in Florida, a nightmarish Thomas Kinkade themed room at Christmas time, or mirrors on the ceiling or wall in Ohio and Indiana (okay, I’m not sure who came up with that one. Anyone ever been to Cicero, Indiana?), I would have never expected so many peacocks on walls in Pittsburgh. I have relatives near Pittsburgh and trust me, that town ain’t that colorful. I questioned given this week’s focus on dreams if the room décor of peacocks was no accident. One google search later revealed that peacocks are the symbol of endless love and eternal life. After some careful analysis, I concluded the brilliant blue peacocks amid the bright green background were just there to burn sharp images into our retinas and get us talking about how great lame vacations are in Pittsburgh.
Seriously though, as we can’t imagine an episode without Sam, Dean, or the Impala, we also can’t fathom a Supernatural adventure without the tacky motel room. Would the comical scene in “Bad Day at Black Rock” be less enhanced if not for the room decorated with large white flowers on blue wallpaper and a big giant red circle on the wall among several other small black ones? An absurd scene deserves an absurd room. How about that big giant pink flamingo behind Sam the countless times he woke up in “Mystery Spot”? I noticed in going through the various motel rooms of episodes past, there’s almost always one, no matter what the episode story is. Episodes like “The Magnificent Seven”, “Bedtime Stories”, and “Jus in Bello” had brief scenes of a room even though the stories didn’t need them. That shows how important a role the set decorators play in each episode, and that the show wouldn’t be close to the same without them.
Overall, even after the repeat viewing (it wasn’t the second for me, more like the tenth), I give this episode an A. I’m a sucker for good character development no matter what the back drop, and I think Dean grew up by leaps and bounds in this one. Let’s just hope it’s all for good, and Sam does find that way to save him.
Next week’s episode is a repeat of my all time favorite episode, “Mystery Spot”. Be prepared for a review gushing with praise and awe, not to mention an investigation into what “pig in a poke” really is.