Writer’s note. This is a modified review of something I wrote in 2008. I have kept a lot of the same content but I’ve added a little more analysis and elaboration. I was also using a very primitive blogging template at the time that wasn’t really conducive to posting pictures online. That will be corrected here! This episode deserves analysis and elaboration given its now status as a series classic.
Oh, “Heart.” Such a clever title. Victims in this episode were physically getting their hearts ripped out, Sam got his heart ripped out emotionally by the monster of the week and all us fans watching had our hearts destroyed after witnessing Sam’s first chance at love since Jessica turned tragic. Even Dean’s heart was crushed at the end too, meaning that Sera Gamble so owned us this hour. I haven’t been able to listen to Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity” the same since I saw this.
"Heart" instantly commanded attention since it combined the writing of Sera Gamble with the direction of Kim Manners, which usually guarantees a memorable episode to come. Was the overwrought emotion in this one heavy handed? Yes. Was it compelling to watch? Yes, yes it was.
I’m not sure if many were aware, but “Heart” was a controversial episode among the fans at first. It certainly wasn’t the series classic it is now. When I entered the fandom circa early season three, there were a lot of Sam vs. Dean wars happening online. It was kind of ridiculous. Dean fans were always up in arms when a Sam centric episode would come along. The biggest complaint I saw was why was Sam so emotional over a woman he barely met? Well, that meant those fans weren’t really paying attention to season two. A breakdown for Sam was a long time coming.
Upon deeper examination, I found "Heart" is far more complex that what appears on the surface, taking the themes from season two and pushing them forward into Greek tragedy territory. The episode isn't just about Sam. Dean was forced to face some realities as well, and in the end, it hits them both hard. Sure, it took an implausible setup to do it, but whatever, drama is drama.
Recap - Not Your Average Werewolf Story
In an unusually long intro, we meet Madison, who has an ass for a boss and a stalker. The only part of this intro I like is the setting of San Francisco, which is pretty cosmopolitan for this show. I had my honeymoon in the Bay Area, so I have a certain fondness for the area. Madison finds the boss in the office next morning looking like a spit up hamburger, and somehow, I'm not feeling shocked here. He looked like dog food to me from the first appearance.
Sam's in the morgue investigating and I'm wondering how he got this detail, since he's the brother with the weaker stomach. He must have lost a coin flip, since we know he never ends up on the losing end of rock, paper, scissors. He goes back to Dean, whose cleaning the guns. Is that all Dean does in his off time? I have a neighbor who's constantly washing his Cadillac, like every other day, so I wonder if there's a little OCD going on there. I'm worried about Dean.
Ah, but now Dean gets all excited, for he gets to off a werewolf, and has the silver bullets needed. This time Sam gets in the smart ass line. Could you picture the Winchesters at Disneyland? Yeah, that scares me more than werewolves. They talk to Madison, who Dean immediately makes nice with, and she mentions the evil ex-boyfriend. What a weak red herring.
The brothers break into Kurt's place, and he collects model cars. That right there tells me he's no evil werewolf. Plus we know that it's never the first suspect, otherwise these shows would be twenty minutes (or it would be an episode in the Dabb era with loads of bad filler between the anti-climactic reveal). A cop becomes this week's red shirt, and Sam and Dean race just in time to catch fresh hamburger mess number two. A bit late there guys?
Using a logical (?) thought process (we know what they were thinking with), the brothers check on Madison, because she could be werewolf dinner, and she's hot. Dean suggests someone stays to watch her, like himself since he's the one that gets all the girls, but surprise, Sam wants to stay. Sam does the one thing he knows can beat Dean, and we get a HUGE treat, the brothers dueling it out in rock, paper, scissors, a game Dean apparently sucks at. Oh Sammy, you like her! Strange how he wouldn’t come out and say it. I'm not sure if anyone else found this remarkable, but outwitting Dean at a chance to be with a girl is so not Sam.
Sam and Madison have some real cute moments together, selling the whole instant chemistry thing. Madison folds her underwear in front of Sam, making him uncomfortable. It was meant to show how carefree she was, as opposed to Sam's uptight behavior. Opposites attract. Plus Sam's reaction is funny. Dean even adds to the moment, calling Sam and pushing him along, but he isn't there to poke him with a stick, so Madison chooses to do it. Sam won't make a move unless some hot chick whacks him on the head with a sledgehammer. Their time on the couch watching soaps is endearing, and seeing Sam finally lighten up and shyly compliment Madison while sweetly showing his attraction is a refreshing change for his character. Up until now, it's been 39 episodes of Sam moping.
(Is that smiling???)
In the meantime Dean gets to do the leg work, and it's "Down The Street" by the Stooges! What an obscure yet really cool song to drag out of the archives. There's an attack on Kurt, Dean charges in, and unless Madison has a twin, Sam's got some explaining to do over his failure to keep an eye on her. Dean cleverly nicks her with the knife, thus proving the next morning there's no such twin.
From this point forward, Sam goes mega emo, and I see a striking resemblance to the Sam from "Mystery Spot". Time to ride the emotional rollercoaster. Jared breaks out the sad puppy dog eyes and quivering pout, and now the fandom is split between wanting to give him a hug and wishing he would man up. Put me in the hug category.
Madison's a killer, and Sam makes the black and white judgment, but that doesn't last long. She appeals to his inner demons, and he wants to believe she has a monster inside that she can't control, because he's convinced he's the same way. He has to save her, otherwise, there's no hope for him. Yes, Sam still has some baggage.
Dean reluctantly agrees, probably because he sees how riled Sam is, and goes out to where all the attacks happen, while Sam stays with Madison, promising Dean that he will kill Madison if he has to. While waiting, Sam looks out the window, anxiously fixed on the full moon rising and we wonder if Sam is thinking about Madison or himself.
The full moon has been a constant symbol throughout this episode, so I dug for any hidden meanings. All I could come up with was something simple; the moon has a bright side and a dark side. The full moon is beautiful and creepy at the same time, for it reveals two sides to every soul. It represents good and evil. Yeah, I might be fishing a bit with that one, but it makes sense to me.
Of course the moon also means that one very hulked out werewolf Madison gets to slash Sam in the face, but Sam recovers from his carelessness and gets Madison in the closet. He moves the heavy entertainment center with the TV in front of the door, and I'm asking how he can do that but not take on a werewolf?
Next we get a very common trick from both Kim Manners and Sera Gamble, pushing the emotional threshold beyond its limits. Dean shoots werewolf Glen, the neighbor who turned Madison, who dies in front of Dean with no idea what's going on. Dean's adrenaline drops to outright compassion, and thanks to Jensen's unbelievable acting, we experience every gut wrenching bit of it. This was another crushing blow to Dean's black and white world, for even monsters are victims too. For such a simple moment, it took us to a place we never expected - pure sympathy for the villain.
Then Jared gets his turn, and it's just as powerful. The somber music plays as a glum Sam opens the closet door, revealing a normal Madison and the intense damage within. He sadly delivers the line "You'll never see me again" and disappears. At first, I didn't get why that was so emotional, aside from the heartbreak on Sam's face killing me. After some pondering though, I got it. Instead of getting to know this incredible woman who he's deeply attracted to, he has to leave her, and as he said earlier, "I'll just be a bad memory." Sam's facing his dark side, and even though what he did to her was right, it doesn't sit well with him. He wishes he could be someone else. Hmm, he's wished that his whole life, hasn't he? That only plays out throughout the entire series. See, I told you there was more to this episode than what was on the surface.
Sam and Dean hang out in front of Madison's house in the Impala, and I'm thinking it's about time someone called them out on how obviously they stick out. The Impala is not an inconspicuous car! I’m surprised a lot more people outside of Madison didn’t call that out in the entire series. They wait out the evening together in the apartment, all watching that vivid moonrise together, but Sam and Madison end up spending all evening enamored with one another on the couch, while Dean watched the moon alone. Poor guy, he looked bored. I'm sure there are plenty of volunteers to keep him company.
Dean gives Sam a bit more than a gentle nudge. When all is clear, he announces he's leaving to watch pay-per-view. Big hint number one. Even Madison got hint number two, the hilarious fist pump in the air as he was leaving. Dean isn't known for being subtle, is he? Of course Sam is all freaked out and stammering with some crappy excuse, but he caves quickly when she jumps on him, spinning her around and slamming her against the wall in a fit of passion. Funny how it takes two overly forward people to get Sam laid.
I’m sure we’ll all agree, if “Supernatural” left a legacy for anything, it was NOT steamy, lots of nudity (as much as networks would allow) sex scenes. It only happened once. Here. It was left to a master of his craft though and boy did he take it places we never imagined. Kim Manners takes full control, because Sam and Madison certainly aren't exercising any control given that their clothes are off and they're mauling each other in all sorts of ways. He opens up the director's handbook and dusts off the chapter, "Keys to a Great Sex Scene." Step one, pick the right song. Check. The Screaming Trees' "Look At You" is quite haunting. Not only does the song set the perfect mood, but the lyrics are so incredibly appropriate. Look at the chorus alone.
"When I look at you I've got a second chance, really need to have you now, one by one they fall, it always breaks me down."
Wow. Talk about Sam’s theme music. Anyway, step number two, get two people that look really hot naked, and use every trick in the book to accent the hot and sweaty. Check. Step three, make the sex steamy, passionate, and well choreographed. Whoa, is Sammy actually taking her from behind? Hee hee, our horndog is a back door man. Check! Step four, the sweet, intimate final shot, one that melts everyone’s hearts (another clever play on the title) with both characters contently snoozing in bed in each other's arms, sleeping the best they have in years, and looking very sexy doing it. Mr. Manners, you nailed it. Let's just enjoy the visual montage (warning, may cause, well, all sorts of things to happen).
Now the moon again and holy crap, how long did they actually do it? They jumped each other shortly after the sunrise, so they went all day long? How much pay-per-view is poor Dean watching by himself? Their bliss is short lived for Madison turns, and what a better way to go out on a mauling than by swimming in her giant lover's oversized shirt. She wouldn't want to wear anything skimpy for that.
Sam rushes to Dean at the motel, wearing only his grey undershirt under his jacket, and I'm thinking he should keep this look, since all this dressing in layers is too inhibiting. We get some fine detail from that shirt. Sam is understandably emotional and won't listen to Dean's attempts at rationality. In his outburst he even berates Dean on the fact that he can't kill him, even though he's evil, but he can kill Madison with no problem. Whoa, going for the jugular there Sammy? You're his brother, of course he can't.
Madison calls Sam, shirt intact, and now for the waterworks. Back at the apartment, Sam won't give up, but Dean and Madison are a little more practical. I'll admit, Madison asking Sam to kill her was a heavy handed plot turn. Granted, she doesn't know Sam's very sad history, but come on, you just spent an entire day rolling in the sheets with this guy, getting to know him in every way imaginable, and now you expect him to off you? Cut him some slack.
We need the setup for the big emotional finish, so I suspend the believability of Madison’s request and watch it play out. Sam won’t take the gun from Madison, so Dean does. Sam goes into the kitchen to consider the task, starts to weep uncontrollably and that’s when freaking Queensryche starts to play. Aww man, twisting that knife a bit much Sera? Dean tries to console by offering to do the task instead, yet Sam takes the gun from Dean, despite the fact he’s totally inconsolable. Sam’s pulls himself together enough to go back into the living room, his face glistening wet from being plastered by tears, and tells Dean to wait there. This was his burden.
(Winchester ballet, Kim Manners style)
Despite Sam’s strife, notice how the final shot didn't end with Sam. It ended with Dean and that legendary perfect single man tear, then he flinched as the bullet went off. The lone tear down the cheek, cliche as it might be for Dean, was also very genuine. We saw Dean picturing in his mind the exact moment when he would have to do the same to Sam, and the cringe from the bullet firing made his living that moment all too real.
Oh my, what an emotional roller coaster! This episode had it all. An interesting mystery, a very memorable victim of the week, who then ended up being the monster of the week, and a plot that went nowhere we imagined to one of the most tragic endings we’ve seen in this show, all while pushing the season two themes in the proper direction.
This episode carried on that continued theme in season two that oftentimes the monsters are innocent victims in these stories. Killing them just isn’t so black and white. That was a favorite theme of Sera Gamble's this season and she really hit home with this one.
I love seeing Sam finally let his hair down (so to speak), letting the worries of his current circumstances go for a chance to connect with an amazing woman. Sure, reality does seep in, setting up Sam for another cruel fate, but just those scenes of him letting loose and smiling were pure joy. That steamy sex scene didn’t hurt either. Yowza, talk about repressed needs.
But Sam’s meltdown at the end makes perfect sense. One of the major criticisms I heard was Jared overacted, for there was no way Sam would be that upset over killing a girl he recently met. That would be true except that his upset wasn’t really over Madison. It was his dark destiny crashing down on him. Yet again, he couldn’t escape it. This is the Sam breakdown we'd been waiting for all season. All those fears, anxieties over his destiny, over the monster inside of him, over John's warning to Dean, he clearly hasn't dealt with it properly. He's been holding it all in, giving us only glimpses of his worry in small moments like getting drunk in "Playthings" (remember his line “everyone around me dies”) and his loss of faith in "Houses of the Holy.” His fears were often swept under the rug, pushed aside for his continued quest of saving people, while his internal anxieties continued to fester and grow inside. He finally met someone he could let see the true him, and both literally and figuratively she ended up carrying an uncontrollable monster inside. When she couldn't be saved, Sam's world crashed down on him. There was no chance for him either. So yes, emotionally he lost it, big time. It was about time. He wasn’t the unflappable Sam Winchester after all.
But this was a hard one for Dean to take, too. His only desire has been to see Sam happy. If you don’t believe that, wait until episode 2.20, “What is and What Should Never Be.” He wanted to be wrong about the werewolf lineage thing. As it all fell apart, that hit Dean rather hard. It hasn’t been too long since “Born Under a Bad Sign” when ‘Sam’ begged him to kill him. That’s still very fresh in his mind, especially since he couldn’t do it. Here, one reason Sam accepted the task of killing Madison could have been to prove a point to Dean, that despite how difficult and devastating the duty is, killing something evil, no matter what they mean to you, is what must be done. Dean got the message, and he didn't take it well. He doesn’t have that courage.
I said it all throughout the series, but how Sam didn’t end up in the funny farm (okay, he did in season seven, but for different reasons) is beyond me. This could not have been an easy one to recover from after all he’s been through, and this was only season two! He was a little too healthy in the next episode, so I think he locked himself in a room for 3 weeks curled up in a fetal position and didn’t come out. It’s the only plausible way to me he came out of that with his sanity.
What bothers me the most about the outcome though (my logical brain taking over), was that Madison really didn’t have to die. Did anyone watch Tyler Lockwood’s solution in The Vampire Diaries? He chained himself up at the evening of every full moon. Sam could have done this for her. What about Garth? He became a werewolf and not only was he given a pass, he had a whole werewolf family! The decision to kill her just seemed really hasty, so that’s why I have some issues with believing the whole plot that Sam had to kill her. They could have waited until the next full moon at least. It was emotional manipulation, that totally worked I guess.
On a separate note, this episode basically triggered the whole fandom meme, Sleep with Sam Winchester and Die. I still lose it with laugher every time I read that Supernatural Wiki page. I have speculated for some time that Dr. Cara Roberts (season four's "Sex and Violence") met an early end in a bizarre gardening accident (Spinal Tap shoutout there).
Whew! It's a good thing "Hollywood Babylon" came next, or it would have been the funny farm for not only Sam and Dean, but all of us. Overall grade, an A. The only thing separating it form an A+ is the contrived setup for Madison’s death. Otherwise, series classic, nuff said.
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