When binge watching season two, I thought “Folsom Prison Blues” wasn’t a bad hour. It’s light and fun, which is remarkable since it’s an episode that takes place in prison! The problem was that I didn’t see season two live. I started watching "Supernatural" live in the middle of season three. All I kept thinking while watching this was it's episode 19 of a very intense season and I felt precious time was being wasted with a fluff monster of the week episode. How could they wrap up everything they needed to in 3 remaining episodes? At least I had the consolation of a season three. I could only imagine fans' extreme angst at air time because season three renewal was 50/50. When anxious fans are dying for something to happen because the show might not be on much longer, it’s not exactly the most well received episode.
(I know what you’re thinking. Wasn’t Henriksen in this episode? Weren’t the stakes raised with his manhunt of Sam and Dean? Sure, but was Henriksen really the focus? He became a convenient and boring side plot, one you knew that Sam and Dean would eventually evade. So…meh.)
The writer was John Shiban, marking his last episode for “Supernatural.” “Folsom Prison Blues” marked the debut of Clif Kosterman as Tiny. He was only in one “Supernatural” episode, but he went on to be Jared and Jensen’s bodyguard and a fixture at cons even today. It is also the return of Malik Whitfield as Victor Henriksen, and the debut of his partner Calvin Reidy, played by Kurt Evans. The director was Mike Rohl, someone well known to the earlier seasons on “Supernatural.” This was his second episode.
There’s something amiss at the Green River Detention Center in Arkansas. Something supernatural is killing people. Sam and Dean, despite the fact that they are very wanted by the FBI, decide to get themselves arrested so they can investigate. Turns out there is an inside man, Deacon, who was a marine buddy of John’s. He saved John’s life, so they owe him. They are incarcerated at the Green River facility, delivered in chains, placed in yummy orange jump suits, assigned separate cells, and forced to eat really bad food. Dean also tells a lot of prison jokes and fits in really, really well. They're working on their ghost hunt when Henriksen and his jackass partner show up. They’re thwarted by a public defender who buys Sam and Dean the time they need find the ghost causing the deaths. Their inside man, Deacon, who is one of the prison guards, helps them escape just as they figure out which cemetery has the ghost’s remains. They manage to burn the bones, evade Henriksen, save Deacon in the nick of time, and realize that they are really, really screwed now. They have to go real deep, like Yemen deep. As we learn in the next episode, they just get a new license plate, which will totally work because two guys driving around in a black 1967 Chevy Impala doesn’t stand out at all.
What I liked about the episode
Winchesters in orange jump suits. That is all.
You want more? Fine. I loved how well Dean fit in and what a great time he was having. Who knew prison was a being-in-his-element sort of thing. He was wise cracking, didn’t think the food was that bad, and knew exactly when to pick a fight. He knew how to earn the currency of the jail - cigarettes. He even chose to pick on the biggest guy in the prison yard, Tiny, to create a distraction so Sam could slip away and investigate a different wing of the prison, which turned out to be ridiculously easy.
Speaking of Tiny, Dean knows how to push buttons!
Hey, I wanted to ask you, 'cause I couldn't help but notice that you are two tons of fun. Just curious, is it like a thyroid problem, or is it some deep seated self-esteem issue? ’Cause, you know, they're just donuts. They're not love.
There were a few really fun little moments. Like this:
“I call this one my Blue Steel”
That mug shot has made a few appearances through the series. It’s another iconic moment from season two. Sam’s made a couple as well, but it’s not as prolific as Dean’s.
There’s the trademark inside joke:
Dean: It's 100 percent sure. I wouldn't have gone if it wasn't. I mean, come on, man, this place has all the signs of a haunting. Innocent people are dead. Four so far.
Sam: Yeah, innocent.
Dean: You from Texas all of a sudden?
There's Sam not approving of his new roommate:
He's not a big fan of the food either!
There's a great classic rock moment!
“Rooster” playing during the cemetery sequences. Just perfect. It set the proper tone for what was about to come. Man, I so missed the well-timed classic rock in episodes later in the series.
What Was Okay
This was a paint by numbers plot, the typical formula for these monster of the week stories. Still, it was a semi-entertaining ghost story. Nurse Glockner wasn’t all that creepy to me, kind of like a dead Nurse Ratched. I’m surprised they didn’t use a One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest reference. But it moved and weaved nicely with the boring side plot of Henriksen.
Film references galore in this one. Perhaps too many? I did get that Dean loved The Great Escape. But you think they were trying a bit too much with these lines? They seemed a bit forced.
What I Didn’t Like
I really love the character of Victor Henriksen, but I don’t think he was given justice in this episode. He showed up in B-plot land as an uncompromising, arrogant jerk. He and his useless partner. It was a rather one-sided portrayal when his debut in “Nightshifter” gave us so much more. He was extremely condescending with Sam and Dean’s public defender, and part of me felt it was because he was being a sexist asshole. Although, that PD was also a little too enamored by Sam and Dean and believed they were innocent even though she wasn’t given a whole lot of facts or evidence about what drives them. I think she fell for a couple of pretty faces myself.
Then there’s a few nitpicks:
The population of the prison was awfully white considering most prisons have largely black populations.
How can you park the Impala right next to a high security facility and no one notice? They were just able to crawl out a vent, jump in and go? I know it was an inside job but…that always bothered me. Too easy.
They also got that attorney/client privilege thing wrong when Henriksen forced Mara Daniels to disclose the cemetery. I'm pretty sure Sam and Dean were protected. It had nothing to do with the actual case! There certainly wasn't murder at stake considering the culprit was already dead. Big burn on her part though for telling them the wrong place. Henriksen had that coming.
Overall grade, a B. It’s not an episode that makes it to my rewatch list much. When it does, I watch out of order. It’s better that way.
This actually concludes my season two run! I had previously reviewed/recapped “What Is and What Should Never Be” as well as “All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1” and “All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2.” I have enhanced the latter two with some photos!
I also wrote a review for “Hollywood Babylon,” but after the events that happened on the Rust set, I didn’t think sharing a review on our front page giving huge kudos to an episode where ghosts were murdering cast and crew on a movie set was appropriate, even though I wrote it long before that incident. I have quietly added it to my season two review archive. Feel free to go to the season two episode guide and look for “Alice’s Review” under “Hollywood Babylon” if you’d like to read it.
Most of the episodes remaining on my “Reviews I missed” list are pretty bad. When a bad episode came around, I did not make an effort to do a review if I was busy. That’s probably why all of season nine was skipped. :) So, coming up next, the one review in season three I chose not to touch at the time, “Red Sky at Morning.” Oh boy.
Check out Alice's entire roster of Supernatural reviews on her Writer's Page!
Catch all the seasons' reviews in WFB's Supernatural Episode Guide!