I've been dying to do this retro recap for a very long time. This episode gives a recapper so much to work with! My last two were "Salvation" and "Devil's Trap," so now it's time to look at the first season ending/second season beginning, third part of this gripping trilogy. Let's take a close look at "In My Time of Dying."
Since this is the season two opener, there's a nifty season opening classic rock montage that gives a nice summary of season one to Ted Nugent's "Strangehold." Growing up in the metropolitan Detroit area, Mr. Nugent's hometown as well, I listened to that song almost daily for a long time. I got freaking sick of it. Still, it rocks here. It's a really long jam song and the shortened version in this montage improves it. It goes to prove, too much Ted Nugent is not a good thing.
Alright, so let's see"¦where did we leave off with "Devil's Trap?" Oh, right, NOOOOO!!!!! Not the Impala!!!! Why oh why???? Not the car!!! It's not fair!!!
Ahem. My totally crushed insides try not to focus on the mangled wreck of once beautiful steel and instead throw concern to the three bloodied and unconscious occupants inside. Priorities, priorities...My God, how's the Impala going to recover from this???? Kripke wouldn't kill the car, would he? Right, focus. Evil demon behind the wheel of the semi-truck that plowed into them gets out and goes to the driver side door, then PULLS IT OFF! Nooooo! There I go breaking into horrified sobs again. What did the car do to deserve this? She was so"¦not young.
Deep breaths...okay, back to injured Winchesters. Here's a bonus. "Bad Moon Rising" is still playing, letting us know at least the Impala radio still works. She's got that going for her at least. Yeah, but you can't drive a car radio! (Inconsolable sobbing). Okay, okay. Sam wakes up while the demon comes over and preps the colt for firing. Yikes, Sammy looks even worse now that when his face was turned into hamburger last episode. That is one outstanding makeup job, making pretty like that look so bad.
The door drops to the ground (**whimper**) and Sam is pointing the colt right at the trucker demon, looking pretty mean under all that blood and the fact that he's immobile in the driver's seat. He tells the demon to get back or he'll kill him, "swear to God." Yeah, like the demon is scared. "You won't. You're saving that bullet for someone else," the demons boasts. This is when we learn that Sam is a good bluffer, which comes in handy around season five or so. He cocks the gun and points it with his one working arm. "You want to bet?" Wow, he grew a pair over the summer break. I know, he's mad about the car.
The demon gives up and goes expelling in the thick cloud of black smoke into the sky. Sam enjoys a small bit of relief by uncocking (is that a word?) the gun and relaxing, while the now un-possessed dude sees the carnage. "Did I do this?" He asks. Yes, you destroyed a freaking priceless 1967 Impala!! You weak bastard! Sam gets out and kicks his ass to the curb. Okay, no. We surmise the guy goes for help while Sam checks on John first. Nope, still out. Then he calls out to Dean. He looks dead. Sam gives a wailing "Dean!" before we fade into the next shot.
This is a Kim Manners directed episode, and I personally think it's one of the best ones he did for "Supernatural," possibly his entire career. I'm going to be pointing out in detail his especially great scenes. I really love how this next part opens. The screen fades to white, indicating it's daylight now. There's a giant round light in the middle. As the camera slowly focuses, we see it's a rescue helicopter hovering above. The bright light fades behind the copter and it looks heavenly the way it's lit up hanging in the sky like that. What a cool effect.
The paramedics have strapped a still unconscious Dean to a backboard and are using terms like "unresponsive" as they rush him to a copter first. John is hauled off next with his own neck brace and he's out of it too, but they're not shouting things about him too frantically. Next is Sam on his stretcher and he has a neck brace too for precaution, not to mention the hamburger damage to his face is now covered in gauze, but he's very much awake. "Tell me if they're okay!" He demands. He's told by the paramedic to stay still. You're telling a hysterical 6' 4" ginormo to stay still? Seriously? You're lucky he doesn't hulk out on you guys. Sam shouts now, "Are they even alive?!" We're about to find that out.
There's a long hospital corridor, and we're getting the long view thanks to a low shot (I'm serious about raving over the directing. Kim Manners makes me want to be one!). Next thing Dean pops awake. He's in a hospital bed, but he isn't attached to any sort of wires or nothing. There's also no one around. Eerie. He's in a white t-shirt and blue hospital pants, walking around in bare feet. Ah, the simple pleasures in life. Less layers is always better. Much better.
Dean walks through the corridor not seeing anyone and calls out for Sam and Dad. Now the long view of the corridor is from the top. Love it! There's a view of a staircase from the bottom and this staircase is iconic. It's been in so many Vancouver based shows and was even in season one's "Scarecrow" I believe. The shot is off angle, which is our clue that something is amiss. It closes in slowly on Dean as he moves down the stairs, still off angle from the bottom up. The giant windows behind him light up the scene just perfectly, as if he's in a different realm. So perfect!
Dean sees the clerk at the reception desk starts talking to her, asking about how he was in a car accident with his Dad and brother. It's the actress that will later play Bobby Singer's returned from the dead zombie wife in "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid." Her hair is pretty scraggly here. Dean realizes she doesn't notice him even though he's right in front of her. Uh oh. Dean walks briskly through the hall now, a huge look of alarm on his face. It doesn't take long for him to find what he was looking for. It's him, in a hospital bed, hooked up to life support and not looking so good. Dean comes closer and stares with alarm. Welcome to the world of disembodied spirit Dean!
It's time for an unveiling of a new title card, you know, that thing that happens in every season opener. I think this one is way cooler than season one. A fireball, flames burning, the word "Supernatural" in burning red emerging from the flames and the "A" is a pentagram. Very cool. One of my favorites actually. Season three I think is the best. (Check out Sablegreen's most wonderful analysis on all the title cards from seasons 1-5, even the special edition ones).
Okay, that was a breath taking opener. Where do we go from here? Oh, there's plenty. Dean is still watching himself and suddenly there's a visitor. Dean is so relieved to see it's Sam, who's okay, um, sort of. He's an emotional wreck and his face looks a new variety of really bad. It isn't so puffy anymore but yikes, the bruises and scratches! Sam ain't so relieved to see Dean, aka the guy in a coma in the hospital bed. He can't see spirit Dean who's trying to tell him with a smile how good he looks, considering"¦. Sam, who's very distraught, let's out a soft yet worrisome "Oh no."
Sam goes over to Dean's side and looks all over at the mangled mess of wires and tubes keeping his brother alive. Dean's hoping Sam can hear him and asks about John, but gets no answer. "Come on, you're the psychic, give me some ghost whispering or something." He has visions of people dying Dean. You're already dead. It doesn't work that way! Although, he should at least sense you. Give him time, he's been through a shock.
A doctor walks in to at least deliver the good news that John is awake. Dean is relieved, Sam couldn't care less. "Doc, what about my brother?" Oh, him. Um, yeah, about that"¦ The doctor brings up all the bad injuries he's suffered, like the blood loss due to Yellow Eyes carving up his liver and kidney, but that's really not the problem. It's the head trauma from the accident. "There's early signs of cerebral edema." What does that mean in layman's terms? Excessive fluid is building up in his brain, essentially killing it. In order words, he's TOTALLY screwed.
Sam innocently asks what can they do. The doctor won't know his full condition until he wakes up. "If he wakes up." Both Sam and spirit Dean don't take that comment well. The doctor does give some hope, mentioning how others with this degree of injury wouldn't have survived that long. That's stubborn Winchesters for you. The doctor assures Dean is fighting very hard. "But you need to have realistic expectations son." In other words, it goes back to the options in "Faith." Burial or cremation? Spirit Dean doesn't want to give up. "Come on Sam, go find some hoodoo priest to lay some mojo on me. I'll be fine." Sam's look of stunned worry doesn't seem to indicate "fine." I do love how the shot circles in a close up from the back of Sam's head to the front, showing that prolonged worry while spirit Dean tries to talk to him. Oh, the gems in this one!
Now there's a closeup of John pulling a card out of his wallet. He's sitting up in his hospital bed, awake with his right arm in a sling. He hands the card to Sam, it's his insurance. "Elroy McGillicuddy?" Sam asks. Hee, that last name is from "I Love Lucy." Strange reference for them. "And his two loving sons," John answers. Sam cracks a smile over that one, but its short lived, especially when John goes back to the subject of Dean. He wants to know what else the doctor said about Dean. Nothing, but Sam isn't giving up. "If the doctors won't do anything, then we'll have to, that's all. I don't know, I'll find some hoodoo priest to lay some mojo on him." Ha, he is listening! Sammy the Ghost Whisperer. I really wish they let him keep that ability all throughout the series. It would have been fun.
John assures they'll look for something, but it's looking pretty bleak. "Why not, I found that faith healer before." Gee Sam, how did that work out? Dean riddled with survivors guilt because another person died so he could live? Did you learn nothing? John tells him that was one in a million so Sam gets all touchy. "What then, we just sit here with our thumbs up our ass?" John gets stern, telling him he'll check under every stone, so Sam goes back to brooding silently.
John then gives the hot button question. "Where's the colt?" Uh oh, you shouldn't have asked that! Sam's black and blue face sours. "You're son is dying, and you're worried about the colt?" John gives the perspective, they're hunting "this" demon and he's probably hunting them too. That gun is their only cover. Sam backs off, letting him know while sulking it's in the trunk. It's been towed somewhere. Likely protected by those symbols that made the trunk a lockbox against demons. Of course there's always humans, but that's explained. John worries that a junk man will find it and Sam lets him know he already called Bobby. He's an hour out. He's going to tow "the Impala" back to his place. Here's a piece of interesting trivia. That was the very first time the car was identified or called an Impala. Wild, huh? Okay, maybe not.
John starts barking his orders. Sam will meet up with Bobby, get the colt, bring it back to him, and watch out of hospital security. Sam scoffs at that last part. John, your sons are a lot smarter than you give them credit for. Sam goes to leave, but John gives him a list of things he needs Bobby to pick up for him. Sam reads off the unusual contents, wondering what they are for. "Protection," John lies. Sam lets it go. He again goes to leave but then decides now would be the time for another nagging question. After all, these Winchesters are all about ill-timing. "Dad, you know the demon, he said he had plans for me, and other children like me. You have any idea what he meant by that?" "No, I don't," John calmly answers.
Sam gives a quick smile and leaves, and it's time for another cool director's trick! The camera closes in on John's profile, he's obviously hiding something. Then there's a blurred image behind him in the corner and suddenly the camera focuses on that image. It's spirit Dean, watching with pure skepticism and a bit of anger, arms folded. "Well you sure know something." Awesome! Too bad Dean doesn't remember this again until season four when it's too late.
I really love this next scene. That's because is so understated and takes on a double meaning. Sam is meeting up with Bobby at the junkyard to examine the damage to the Impala. We get the full visual impact via broad daylight. It's bad. It seems damaged beyond repair. Just like Dean. I break into tears over that shot. Sam isn't giving up though. "Oh man, Dean is going to be pissed," Sam says. Bobby is being practical. "Look Sam, this just isn't worth the tow. I say we empty the trunk, sell the rest for scrap." I sob. Sam pulls out from the backseat his season one Dell laptop with the awesome symbol. Now that's damaged beyond repair.
"No, Dean would kill me if we did that. When he gets better he's gonna want to fix this." Sam answers, throwing a piece of the damaged laptop to the side. "There's nothing to fix," Bobby explains. "The frame's a pretzel, the engine's ruined, there's barely any parts worth salvaging." Sam tries to hold it together, telling Bobby with determination, "Listen to me Bobby, if there's only one working part, that's enough. We're just not going to give up on"¦" His voice trails off, but substitute an unspoken "the Impala" with "Dean." Now I'm bawling profusely. Bobby doesn't need to hear more, Sam's tortured puppy dog eyes say it all. He agrees, showing his wonderful look of sympathy. He understands. I break down into repeated chants of "Oh, thank you Bobby, thank you."
Sam pulls it together long enough to give Bobby the list John gave him. Bobby is confused by the contents. Sam explains it's for protection from "the demon." Bobby's look of alarm now speaks volumes. Those items aren't for protection!
Okay, since your heart strings were already going for the last scene, time to make them shake about ten times worse! The somber "Sam and Dean's theme" comes on as the score. There's a close up coma Dean and someone is there with him. The camera pans behind and circles around, showing John's troubled profile. As with the last scene with them, it shows the blurred figure beyond him. "Come on Dad, you've got to help me. I've got to get better, I got to get back in there." The shot still shows a clear troubled John and a blurred Dean, even though Dean is speaking. Then it focuses on spirit Dean and we see how incredulous he is over what John's silence.
"I mean you haven't called a soul for help. You haven't even tried. Aren't you going to do anything? Aren't you even going to say anything? I've done everything you've ever asked me. Everything! I've given everything I've ever had. Are you just going to sit there and you're gonna watch me die? What the Hell kind of father are you?" During this entire speech John just somberly sits there, doing absolutely nothing. This is a very interesting outburst from a fiercely loyal Dean (loyal at the time anyway). It's like he's letting those fears and doubts about John's worthiness surface, the ones he found hard to deny all those years because he buried them. I guess it boils down to the mentality of trying to be a good son, but being a disembodied and near death spirit kind of changes things. It's also the most brutally honest we've ever seen Dean with John and he can't even hear it. It's so revealing about their relationship and so sad. It's almost symbolic, John has never really listened, his head always somewhere else.
Anyway, tongue lashing over, for Dean hears something. It's like a soft rumble. He goes out into the hall and a white ghostly spirit zooms right past him. He turns back to John, who's still holding vigil over coma Dean. "I take it you didn't see that." Dean goes in pursuit down the hospital hallway, loaded with people that don't see him, and the ghostly figure goes past him from behind. Dean turns around and follows the ghost into a room. In there our unseeing nurse from the reception desk is having an anaphylactic seizure (how cool is it that I know the medical term). It's an extreme allergic reaction. Dean tries to call out for help but yeah, no one hears. He can only stand there and watch this woman die. We know that never sits well with Dean.
Since we saw Dean's version of brutal honesty, not seen or heard, now it's Sam's version. He isn't afraid to speak his mind and John doesn't listen to him either. Just shouts back. This explosive family fight is the best ever! Like in "Dead Man's Blood" it involves a warring Sam and John while Dean is stuck in the middle. This time he's a ghost though, so that really makes it interesting!
Sam barges into John's room after having what looks like a shower and a change of clothes. It doesn't improve his battered face. He's carrying a duffle bag and he's furious. Sam goes to the window keeping his back to John while spirit Dean pleads with him. He's trying to explain that there's something in the hospital they've got to hunt but Sam doesn't hear him. John knows something is up. "You're quiet," he says almost reservedly, for he knows a fight is coming. Sam whips around still furious and throws the bag on the bed table.
"You think I wouldn't find out?" Sam asks. John tries to play dumb. Um, John, you do know who you're talking to here, right? "That stuff you wanted from Bobby. You don't use it to ward off a demon you use it to summon one." John's guilty look confirms. "You're planning on bringing the demon here, aren't you, having some stupid macho showdown!" Sam throws out his arms when he says this though, doing the now infamous"¦oh what should I call it"¦the Sam Winchester open arms of annoyance (I'll accept any better suggestions). They reach about a mile wide!
John says he has a plan. "THAT'S EXACTLY MY POINT!" Sam shouts. "DEAN IS DYING AND YOU HAVE A PLAN! YOU KNOW WHAT, YOU CARE MORE ABOUT KILLING THIS DEMON THAN SAVING YOUR OWN SON! " Um Sam, public hospital, you might not want to be shouting that loud about demons, especially when you left the door open. There's rubber rooms in that hospital too. John shouts back, not caring about the door either, telling him he doesn't know how he feels, he's doing this for Dean. "HOW? HOW IS REVENGE GOING TO HELP HIM? YOU'RE NOT THINKING ABOUT ANYONE BUT YOURSELF, IT'S THE SAME SELFISH OBSESSION!" John now doesn't care about rubber rooms either and figures Sam will need some company. "I THOUGHT THIS WAS YOUR OBSESSION TOO. THIS THING KILLED YOUR MOTHER, KILLED YOUR GIRLFRIEND. YOU BEGGED ME TO BE PART OF THIS HUNT. NOW IF YOU HAD KILLED THAT DAMNED THING WHEN YOU HAD A CHANCE, NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED!" "IT WAS POSSESSING YOU DAD, I WOULD HAVE KILLED YOU TOO!" "YEAH AND YOUR BROTHER WOULD BE AWAKE RIGHT NOW!" A passing by nurse who couldn't prevent listening in the hallway gasps and dials the red phone. Code Red. Security and the psych ward goons come and haul these Sam and John away to a happier place. A place where there are no demons but plenty of lollipops and rainbows. Happy drugs galore!
Nah, no one cares and lets them slug it out. Dean shouts for both of them to shut up, but Sam gives John a snarling "Go to Hell." Ooh, Sam, you might not want to say that. You're going to really regret that come the end of this episode. John goes back to yelling, saying to Sam that he never should have taken him along in the first place and now it's Dean's turn to get super frustrated. "I SAID SHUT UP!" He swipes at the glass of water on the table and it goes flying, shattering on the floor. Now suddenly John and Sam are really spooked. Dean's impressed. "Dude, I full on Swayzed that mother." Bwah! Best line ever! Dean is so impressed with himself, but doesn't have time to celebrate for he starts feeling really rough. He collapses to his knees and starts phasing in and out. There's a "code" announcement on the speaker and medical people are rushing to the room next door. Uh oh! John signals Sam to go find out.
Yep, coma Dean is coding. The doctors are working on him, using the electro-shock paddles and everything. Sam is standing outside in the doorway, saying "no" and looking weepy. With a really hideous face. Despite the efforts, the line is still flat. Sam watches in horror and now spirit Dean is behind him, faced with the idea this might be it. That's when he sees the ghostly figure hovering over him. Now he's mad. He shouts at the being to get the hell away from him, but the creature isn't listening. Dean goes over to the bed. "I SAID GET BACK!" Ooh, Sammy hears this! How awesome. He is a ghost whisperer! Dean reaches forward, grabs the ghost and is flung backward. The creatures hisses at him and goes away.
Suddenly, coma Dean has a heartbeat. Of course spirit Dean has gone chasing after the spirit but loses it. Sam can now breathe again with relief, although his eyes are pretty glassy. Poor Sammy. Really cool director's trick alert! A dumbfounded and emotionally exhausted Sam watches as they finish up Dean while spirit Dean comes over to talk to him. "Don't worry Sammy. I'm not going anywhere. I'm getting that thing before it gets me. It's some kind of spirit, but I can grab it. And if I can grab it, I can kill it."
While this entire exchange is going on, the camera starts with the full shot of Sam's bewildered face and Dean behind him, then slowly circles behind him, showing Dean talk to him. It continues to move in a circle as Dean talks, pans across the scene in the hospital room, and slides back to the profile of Sam from the other side, stopping just in time to show Sam sharply looking over to where spirit Dean was but isn't (his POV). Then the camera slides backward, showing a wide shot of Sam standing there alone but sensing something it out there. OMG, that is so gorgeous! It's amazing how the way that was shot captured the full eerie impact of the exchange. Now I REALLY want to be a TV director when I grow up. Kim Manners is my hero! They must show this episode in film schools.
Sadly, this is where this really intense episode slows down a bit. Ah well, it's still all good. Dean is walking down the hall for reasons unknown and hears a woman yelling. There's a woman on the infamous stairwell, shouting to people to listen to her. They aren't noticing her. She's in a pink top and a pair of scrubs. Okay, another spirit. Dean yells if she can see him. Yep. Oh good, Dean has a friend. He asks her name, Tessa. Wow, Tessa seems so different than when we saw her in the most recent episode. The hair is shorter, that's for sure. Dean introduces himself, and she wants to know if she's dead. Um, well...
They both are now looking at coma Tessa. "I don't understand, I just came in for an appendectomy," she says. "I hate to bear bad news, but I think there were some complications." Leave it up to Dean to always come up with the right thing to say in any situation! Tessa tries to write this off as a dream, but Dean has a better answer. It's an out of body experience! "What are you, some new-agey guy?" Oh, don't go there with Dean, girlfriend. "You see me messing with crystals or listening to Yanni?" No Dean, but I could see your brother doing that! Dean explains the many names for what's happening. "Bi-location, crisis apparitions, fetches, I think it's happening to us. If it is, it means that we're spirits of people close to death." I guess he knows what's happening to him. Tessa gets it, they're gonna die. Dean refuses to accept that. They've just got to hang on, their bodies will get better and they can "snap right back in there and wake up." Oh come on Dean, you were sounding so rational before.
Next is John, stunned that his youngest son is a ghost whisperer. "What do you mean you felt something?" Luckily, he's not yelling this time. Sam tries to explain it felt like Dean, like he was there out of eyeshot or something. That's because he was! Sam isn't sure if its his psychic thing or what and asks John if he thinks its possible. Gee Sam, how many spirits have you dealt with in your life? Wouldn't you say that makes it possible? John thinks it is, for what answer was Sam really expecting? You're effin nuts? Sam has a way to find out a goes to leave. He's got to pick something up. John stops him, promising he won't hunt the demon until they know Dean's okay. Liar! Sam doesn't seem to care either way and goes.
Dean and Tessa are walking and talking. Dean's impressed with the way she's taking this. Tessa admits she was freaked out at first but she's dealing now. Dean wonders if she's okay with dying. "No, of course not. I just think whatever's going to happen is going to happen. It's out of my control. It's just, fate." Dean looks at her rather blankly. "That's crap. You always have a choice you can roll over and die or you can fight-" His speech is interrupted by another emergency, and this time the voice on the intercom is calling for "Dr. Kripke." How funny! However, didn't they have beepers back then? Who uses the loudspeaker anymore?
Before I go on, I want to note how it's so much fun to see this conversation now after seeing these two in "Appointment In Samarra." Imagine if she had really gotten through to Dean here. I suppose if she did, the show would have ended right there and we wouldn't have had our gross amount of entertainment. Still, to ponder the possibilities. The things that wouldn't have happened! Sam would have stayed dead and, oh screw it, someone else would have ended the world.
Back to the drama. A little girl is dying. Dean runs off and tells Tessa to wait there. Silly Dean, now you have no chance to figure out Tessa is the reaper. Dean sees the ghostly figure from before reach out and touch the girl. Dean tries to stop it, but he's too late. The ghost disappears and the girl dies. The nurses are very accepting. "At least she's not suffering anymore." Yeah, but the ghost guy next to you isn't taking this well!
One of the items on my "to do" list is my top ten favorite scenes of Supernatural. Here's a sneak peek, this is one of them. Everything about it is so damned wonderful! An apprehensive Sam comes into Dean's room holding something in a paper bag. The full bright shot of his face really accents how much he looks like crap. Coma Dean is actually looking better. Sam lets out a huge sigh and starts talking. "Hey. I think maybe you're around and if you are, don't make fun of me for this, but "˜um, there's one way we can talk." Sam pulls out the contents in the bag. A Mystical Talking Board! I guess they had to avoid the common name, Ouija, since there's a trademark thing and likely money involved.
The camera pans to Sam's left as he gets the board out and spirit Dean is there. "Oh you've got to be kidding me," says spirit Dean. Yeah, he's making fun of Sam for that. Sam walks over to the floor, crosses those gigantor legs of his, and lays the board out on the floor. He looks very nervous. There's no sign of spirit Dean as he does this, hinting this is Sam's POV.
Sam is ready. While he asks "Dean, Dean are you here," the shot circles around him and to the other side of the room, ending up behind him. Now spirit Dean is standing opposite of him. "God, I feel like I'm at a slumber party." Dean reluctantly takes a seat on the floor across from Sam (showing off his nasty black feet), and the shot now moves to the two of them in the frame together with the board in the middle. Dean tells Sam this isn't going to work.
Sam has his hands on the little viewing glass eye thing on top of the board. Dean grabs it from the other side and slides it to "Yes." Sam is stunned and happily relieved. So is Dean. "I'll be damned," Dean says. Sam lets out a huge sigh of relief. "It's good to hear from you man. It hasn't been the same without you Dean." "Damn straight," Dean answers, and takes the viewer thing to send another message. The shot turns to Sam, who is surprised to feel the thing move. Camera pans to the right and now Dean is not there, only Sam holding the thing as it moves to letters. This is so cool, going back and forth between both their perspectives.
The camera circles behind Sam and it spells out "H-U-N". Sam wonders what "hunt" means. The shot completes it's full circle around Sam, showing just him with the board, asking Dean what he's hunting. The view circles around to the side again and Dean is back. "One question at a time dude." Dean starts spelling out "R-E-A-P". "I don't think its killing people. I think it's taking them. You know, their time is just up." "A reaper," Sam says before Dean finishes, and now he's not looking too good again. "Dean, is it after you?" Dean sadly moves the thingy to "Yes."
Sam knows exactly what that means and his quiet devastation kills me. "If its here naturally, there's no way to stop it." "Yeah, you can't kill Death," Dean answers. Sam looks sick. "Man, you're uh-" "I'm screwed Sam," Dean says finishing the sentence. I absolutely love how they're having this conversation when only Dean can hear it. Sam is now taking the situation just like Dean is by not accepting it. Sam gets up proclaiming there has to be a way and suddenly Dean isn't across from him anymore. Have I said how brilliantly these shifts in perspective are done? Sam leaves, claiming Dad will know what to do. Yes, he does, but you're not gonna like it! Sure enough, Sam goes to John's room and he's gone.
Next we see John in the boiler room. He finds an open area, and draws a sigil on the ground.
Sam is back with coma Dean while spirit Dean is standing next to the window. Sam tells coma Dean Dad wasn't in his room and spirit Dean wants to know where he is. You're the ghost, go find him! Sam has the journal and is hoping there's something in there. Spirit Dean comes over and looks at his brother earnestly while Sam is flipping through the pages. "Thanks for not giving up on me Sammy." Oh, that just gets you right in the center, doesn't it? Both these guys are really working us over. Plus John and Bobby! Sam finds and page on reapers and Dean sees something. "Son of a bitch," and he goes tearing off. I guess there was some good info in there, huh?
Dean goes into Tessa's room and she's not a coma patient anymore. She's sitting on the edge of the bed in an outfit of black. "You know, you read the most interesting things. For example, did you know that reapers could alter human perception?" Tessa looks back at him blankly, indicating she's heard it all before. Dean sure didn't. He knows they can appear however they want, like say, a pretty girl. He tells her she's a lot prettier than the last reaper he met. That's for sure! Season one's reaper wuz fugly!
Tessa was wondering when he'd figure it out. Dean is livid and goes through the whole ploy, the body, the mother, etc. "It's my sandbox, I can make you see whatever I want." Dean is not happy over her toying with him but she claims he didn't give her much choice. "You saw my true form and you flipped out. Kind of hurts a girl's feelings." Yeah, I'm sure you're really smarting there Tessa. Basically, this was the only way she could get him to talk to her. A snippy Dean gives her a chance to speak. What does she want to talk about? "How Death is nothing to fear. It's your time to go Dean." She touches him and he shudders (his reaction gives me chills!) "You're living on borrowed time already." Just wait lady until you see how long he pushes that borrowed time thing.
John has the whole nine yards going now. The sigil, the candles, the cauldron with some sort of flashy powder stuff, and of course the knife so he can draw his own blood on the palm of his hand. He's latinating (Sam still does it better, sorry John fans) and he lights the cauldron. "Poof!" He stands up and waits. No one is there...until the janitor shows up. He pulls the whole "explain it to security" act but John sees through it. He pulls the colt out and aims. "Hey, how stupid do you think I am?" The janitor smiles and shows the yellow eyes. Gold star for you John! "You really want an honest answer to that?" Two goons join Yellow Eyes and take their places behind John. John maintains his steely disposition, because after all he is a bad ass Winchester.
"You conjuring me John, I'm surprised. I took you for a lot of things, but suicidally reckless wasn't one of them." John with a wicked smile tells him he could still shoot him. "You could always miss," Yellow Eyes taunts by showing a quick reflex. He's done it before! "And you've only got one try, don't ya?" Yellow eyes can't believe John would think he could trap him. "Oh, I don't want to trap you. I want to make a deal." That certainly sparks Yellow Eyes' interest!
Sam is standing next to coma Dean, asking if he's there. Sorry Sam, he's got some reaper issues currently. Sam is quietly devastated. "Couldn't find anything in the book. I don't know how to help you, but I'll keep trying, alright? As long as you keep fighting. I mean come on, you can't leave me alone with Dad, we'll kill each other, you know that? Dean you've got to hold on. You can't go in, not now. We were just starting to be brothers again. Can you hear me?" Oh Sammy. This really gets me, especially after seeing season six when Dean doesn't mean a damned thing to Sam. You just don't know what you've got "˜til it's gone. Yes, I'm quoting a damned Cinderella song. I'm that lame.
Dean in the meantime is still in denial phase with Tessa. He begs that she makes an exception, cuts him a break. "Stage 3 Bargaining," she says. Dean's serious though, his family is in danger. They're in a war and need him. She tells him the fight's over, for him anyway. "Dean, you're not the first soldier I've plucked from the field. They all feel the same. They can't leave, victory hangs in the balance. They're wrong, the battle goes on without them." Dean appeals for Sam, he could die without him. Nah, he dies with you. Many times. Tessa says maybe he will, maybe he won't. Put him down for a "he will." Either way, there's nothing he can do about it. Ain't that the truth! Someone, that ends up not being an issue.
What she's saying is sinking in, except she loses me on the honorable death thing. He was smashed in an Impala. Hardly a warrior's death but okay. "I think I'll pass on the 72 virgins thanks. I'm not that into prude chicks anyway." Oh, that's a good one! Lord knows I've shared that quote in articles a few times. Tessa calls him funny and cute, but Dean doesn't fall for it. "There's no such thing as an honorable death. My corpse is going to rot in the ground. My family is gonna die." I guess Dean's not a glass half full kind of guy.
Dean spells it out. No. He's not going with her. Tessa let's him know what happens with that choice and she don't sugarcoat. "I can't make you come with me, but you're not getting back in your body. And that's just facts. So yes, you can stay. You'll stay here for years, disembodied, scared, and over the decades it'll probably drive you mad. Maybe you'll even get violent. Dean, how do you think angry spirits are born? You can't let go and you can't move on and you're about to become one. The same thing you hunt." Now that strikes a chord!
Back to the boiler room. Yellow Eyes (yeah, I can't call him Azazel until season four) isn't sure what John is up to. How does he know this isn't a trick? The common answer is usually "you don't" but John says it's no trick. Right, he's so believable. John Winchester is the biggest lying liar who lies there ever was! The deal is John gives him the colt and the bullet, Yellow Eyes brings Dean back. Way to go John, give Yellow Eyes something legit to taunt you about. "Why John, you're a sentimentalist. If only your boys knew how much their daddy loved them." You know John HE'S FREAKING RIGHT!
John calls it a good trade. Yellow Eyes pulls the "He killed some people very special to me" line, but then can't hold onto that for long. No, Dean is no threat. This is why demons and angels keep losing to these guys. They grossly underestimate. Must be an arrogant pride thing. Yellow eyes wants to taunt more and brings up Sam, which judging by the look on John's face proves to be a sore subject. "You know the truth, right?" Asks Yellow Eyes. "About Sammy and the other children?" John gives him the steely glare. "Yeah, I've known for a while." You bastard! Tell your children! Tell me! Oh right, we figure it out 21 episodes later. Yellow Eyes rubs it in that Sam doesn't and accuses John of playing dumb.
John decides to angrily go back to the point at hand. Dean. Can he bring Dean back, yes or no? No, but he knows someone who can. Who is that? Interesting. I'm assuming it's the Crossroads Demon. John figures its a deal. Before he gives him the gun, he wants to make sure Dean's okay. Smart move, but what's to stop him from killing Dean and John after he gets the gun? Never mind, for Yellow Eyes isn't happy. He's looking for John to sweeten the pot. Hmm, what could that be? Right, like we don't know by now and are hanging on the edges of our seat. This is where recaps in hindsight suck.
This is really interesting. Sam and Dean are slowly coming to accept Dean's fate. Dean is just about ready to give into Tessa the Reaper and Sam is clinging onto one last ounce of hope, but knows he can't do anything more. John is the one who decides to take drastic measures. I guess that makes sense considering the life he led after Mary was killed. This is the king of someone who couldn't let go. Why didn't the reapers give John the "big lesson" on messing with the natural order? Oh, because he's in fairy dust land.
Tessa and Dean are sitting down side by side and the look on Dean's face says it all. She's getting through. Dean wants to know where he's going. "Sorry, I can't give away the big punchline." We already know from one of his other deaths (yeah, I still can't get over that) Heaven is the destination. Time for fireworks! Dean still looks very scared though. Slow deaths really do suck. Luckily most of his have been very quick. She tells him it's the moment of truth, no changing his mind later. Dean is about to say yes, thus preserving the natural order and preventing the horrific tragedies that are about to follow him and Sam for the next five years, but something ruins that. The lights start flickering.
Dean wonders why she's doing that, but Tessa is just as shocked as he is. Thick black smoke pours from the vent and Tessa starts screaming at it. "You can't do this, get away!" The black smoke, being demonic and all, doesn't listen and pushes itself into her mouth. Suddenly, her eyes are yellow! "Today's your lucky day kid." She smacks Dean on the forehead. Suddenly coma Dean is wide awake and gasping, thus freaking the living hell out of Sam. Luckily it is Sam, for he's always the loudest in calling for help. Man can that guy yell. Dean lives!
A perfectly healthy Dean is sitting up in bed with Sam standing by him. The doctor is talking, and I swear this guy is Dr. Hibberd from "The Simpsons." I mean, even the way he talks! The edema has vanished, the internal contusions have healed, his vitals are good. "You have some kind of angel watching over you." He does! A hot blue eyed one in a trench coat. Oh wait, season four. Dean isn't feeling so lucky. For a guy that was dead and now alive, he's looking rather grim.
"You said a reaper was after me?" Dean asks. Oh great, he got the memory wipe too. He wonders how he ditched it. Right, like Sam knows. Sam doesn't seem to care, for there's some happiness under that hideously bruised and scarred face. Where's Castiel when you need him? Sam asks if he remembers anything. "No, except this pit in my stomach. Sam, something's wrong." Yeah, it's called your Daddy has messed up the natural order, BIG TIME.
Speaking of Daddy, John is at the door, clothes on, arm in a sling. He must have just come from the boiler room. He looks relieved that Dean is alright. He asks Dean how he feels and Dean just gives him a "Fine, I guess. I'm alive." Yeah, Dean, don't get too excited. John thinks that's all that matters. Sam isn't being so nice though. His look goes back to anger and he wonders where John was last night. Trying to find something that will fix your face Sammy. Okay, that would have been my smart answer. John says he had to take care of some things. "Oh, that's specific," Sam says. What, like you were expecting an honest answer?
Dean doesn't have to "Swayze that mother" this time. He gives a "Come on Sam." Sam still has a stick up his ass. "Did you go after the demon?" John answers no, even though he doesn't want to have this conversation. Sam presses on. "Why don't I believe you now?" Gee Sam, isn't that kind of the pot calling the kettle black? Oh wait, that's future you. Never mind. Dean is mortified and John makes the best appeal he can without saying "Shut up you idiot I'm about to die!"
"Can we not fight? You know, half the time we're fighting I don't know what we're fighting about. We're just butting heads. Look Sammy I've made some mistakes. But I've always done the best I could." Dean is listening to that like something is really wrong. "I just don't want to fight anymore, okay?" John's eyes are a bit glassy and his voice cracks a little. Sam is staring at him now like he's looking at a stranger who looks like his Dad but can't be. "Dad, are you alright?" Sam asks. John claims he's just tired and then he...sends Sam for coffee?? Not even a goodbye hug?? You're about to say goodbye forever and you can't show some affection for your youngest son?? The one that you've spend your entire life trying to protect? Sorry, I still have a problem with that.
Sam and Dean share a look of confusion (they did that a lot even back then) and Sam leaves the room. Dean knows something is wrong and asks John "What is it?" Okay Dean, get ready for the speech. "You know, when you were a kid, I'd come home from a hunt and after what I'd seen, I'd be wrecked. And you, you'd come up to me and you'd put your hand on my shoulder, you'd look me in the eye and you'd say "˜It's okay Dad.'" John is fighting back tears here and dammit, so am I. Dean looks really scared now.
So John says the one thing that normally would get him outed as being possessed by a demon, but we know it's real because the special score music is playing. "Dean, I'm sorry." Dean has no idea for what. "You shouldn't have had to say that to me. I should have been saying that to you. You know I put too much on your shoulders, I made you grow up too fast. You took care of Sammy, you took care of me. You did that. And you didn't complain, not once." Now tears start streaming down John's face. "I just want you to know, that I'm so proud of you."
Dean remembers recent history a bit too vividly. "Is this really you talking?" John says it's really him. "What are you saying all this stuff?" A really freaked out Dean asks and rightfully so. John comes closer. "I want you to watch out for Sammy, okay?" "Yeah Dad, you know I will. You're scaring me." John tells him not to be scared and leans over to whisper something in Dean's ear. This part is just brilliant. It's all done with gestures and looks. The focus for most of this is on Dean's face and it stuns him. Dean looks at John like he just punched him in the gut. John deals with Dean's silent yet disturbed reaction with a teary look of confidence, like everything is going to be alright. Really? Sorry, but everything is so NOT going to be alright.
Of all of Dean Winchester's tragedies, I think only Sam's first death hurt him more than this. The one time he finally gets validation from the person he idolized the most and he finds out later it's because that man was about to die, trading his life for his. Survivor's guilt! Then, to add insult to injury, his Dad leaves him with a cryptic and horrifying message about his brother and the crap load of burdens that came with it. I'm sure this has been debated for a while now, but what in the world was John thinking by telling Dean this? Didn't he realize he was haunting his son for the rest of his life?
Sooo, an emotional John Winchester ends it at that, leaving his youngest son without a goodbye and his oldest with the creepiest farewell that anyone could possibly get. Ah, what heartwarming family memories. I swear to this day I don't know why Sam and Dean didn't go howling into that nuthouse. John goes into his room and tells Yellow Eyes he's ready.
God this next part kills me every time. An unsuspecting Sam is walking in the hall with that coffee he was told to retrieve. That coffee that prevented him from making peace with his Dad and giving him the proper goodbye. That coffee that created guilt which like a black cloud followed him wherever he went. Sam sees John lying on the floor dead. In some cinematic brilliance (again kudos to the director), the sound only being the dramatic score, we get the slo-mo of a horrified Sam dropping the coffee and in the foreground is the coffee crashing and splashing on the ground while in the background Sam is crouching down over John yelling for help. We can't hear his cries but can see the distress, thus making the emotional impact of this scene 80 times larger. I still marvel over this execution of Sam's haunting discovery.
The crash team is working on John and no surprise, he's not coming around. He's long gone. Sam comes back after fetching Dean and is holding his weakened brother in the hallway as they both watch in terror their father die. They pronounce John dead and...fade to black. Yep, when this first aired I suspect there was a little rumble, aka the sound of millions of fan girls screaming at their TVs. When I saw this the words that came to my mind were "Damn You Kripke!" but I think I was holding back. I'm sure others had something a bit more laced with profanity. Farewell thee John Winchester. We know you did your best. Too bad that ended up not being even close to good enough.