Written: Eric Kripke, Story: Ron Milbauer & Terri Hughes Burton
DIR: David Nutter
Blurb: Deep in the Colorado woods, deep in horror. Sam and Dean's search for their father, and for the evil power that killed Jessica, leads to the blood-soaked path of a Wendigo, a cannibal spirit of Native American lore.
My Blurb: The blurb writer needs to learn how to use more periods, less commas. Also, this episode begins with a brief outline of what happened in the Pilot... I'm skipping that, as you can pick up all of it by reading my SPN Pilot review -- HERE. Also, SPOILERs -- as per usual.
Scene 01: We open with a title card reading, "Blackwater Ridge", "Lost Creek, Colorado".
We join a group of campers around a fire. There are growling sounds and we're in POV-cam, so it speaks to the campers on this little sojourn into the deep woods being royally screwed. We don't know it yet, but being screwed is basically this show's entire motto.
Scene 02: We cut to inside one of the tents where we join a guy playing a hand held. Behind him is his friend, who is also playing the game. We get a quick pan, and then we're in another tent.
In this one, we have another guy making a video for his family at home.
Scene 03: Bad gamer guy claims he has to go for a leak, which as we know, is never a good idea... well, I was going to say in the forest, but as we also know just camping in general is a really bad idea.
As our boy is peeing, he hears twigs snapping close by. He blows this off until he hears the deep, rumbling growl and then he's just screaming.
Scene 04: In the tents, our good game player and our videographer hear the horrible screams of their friend. Bad game player turns out to be 'Brad', but I don't think we need to know that, anymore. Good game player is Gary.
Gary sticks his head out of the tent, hears deep growl, and screams. He's quickly yanked out of the tent.
Scene 05: Videographer is understandably freaked now. He quickly turns off his lantern, but it's too little, too late as a growling is heard outside his tent and we see shadows from the fire. His tent is split open by claw marks and then he's on the ground screaming....
Commentary: This opening rides the line between being tense, and lasting too long. It's also filmed in a way that implies we're not meant to know what exactly is happening to the guys, but since the title basically gave that game away, already... it's kinda silly. I do like that this is filmed in such a way that we've seen before -- only, it's almost always the girl that is in videographer's situation... being terrorized before finally fading out on a scream of terror. It's nice that in this situation, they're all guys. This will also basically introduce the "Monster of the Week" format that the first two seasons heavily rely on, in which the brothers Winchester roam from town to town encountering American Myths & Legends. Apparently, we're pretty paltry in this department though, because we'll soon see Our Sam and Dean (Sometime Adorable, Eventually Beautiful) fighting monsters that don't really have any reason for being here: I'm thinking the Striga that is coming up.
Scene 06: We have a new title card telling us we're now in Palo Alto, CA. We join Our Sam. He's in a cemetery with a bunch o'flowers, visiting Jessica's grave.
Our Sam is still dealing with the aftermath of Jess' murder at the end of the Pilot. He's got the big guilt for not warning Jess about his family's background, that he obviously feels led directly to her death [which, is true -- it isn't fair, and it isn't exactly his fault, but her murder was in an exact copy of Mary's].
Sam leans forward, and Jess pulls a Carrie on him.
Scene 07: He snaps awake, in the passenger seat of the Impala. Dean glances at him, worried.
Scene 08: Dean tries to draw Sam out about the nightmares he's obviously been having since they attended Jess' funeral, but Our Sammy insists he's perfectly okay. He turns the conversation to where they're headed. The coordinates that they're headed toward are the ones that John left behind in his journal for Dean to find.
Sam and Dean discuss more of the Pilot developments... John is missing, they need to find him in order to find Jess' killer, the demon has shown up again after 20 years of silence.
Our Sam questions why their dad would give them coordinates to the middle of nowhere, but Dean doesn't have any answers [and early Dean is Mindlessly Obedient Dean ... and I will not make BTVS comparisons for this whole review... no matter how parallel-y, it is].
Scene 09: Sam & Dean present themselves to the forest ranger on duty as students working on a paper for Environmental Studies. The Ranger calls BS, taking our brothers off guard for a moment. Thankfully, the Ranger has a ready made excuse for them though. He accuses them of being friends with "that Haley girl" from the nearby town. Dean jumps at the out and agrees he's right, which allows the Ranger to data-dump that Haley's brother isn't officially missing yet; he had a backwoods permit and isn't expected back this soon.
Dean tells the Ranger that it might help Haley stop pestering him, if he could have a copy of the permit to show her her brother's plans in writing... and gets it.
Commentary: Our Dean is a scam artist, credit card defrauder, breaker & enterer... yeah, for some reason we like him anyway. Is this what is affectionately known as a rapscallion?
Scene 10: Outside, Our Sam is impatient to get out to the coordinates their dad shared with them. Dean points out they should go talk to the girl, so they can get an idea of what they're walking into, but Sam accuses him of just wanting to arrange a hook up.
We're given definite evidence in Dean's reaction that Sammy is acting differently with the whole 'charge in now, shoot 'em up and be done with it' attitude.
Scene 11: Dean gets his way and they drop in on Haley Collins. This time, Dean presents them as Forest Rangers looking into her reports about her brother, complete with ID to back 'em up.
Haley gives an appreciative eye to the Impala (aka The Metallicar) and Dean gives Haley an appreciative looking over.
Scene 12: In Haley's place, she is looking after their younger brother and tells them that Tommy always sent them a daily progress report from his phone camera. Sam points out lack of reception in the deep woods, but she shoots down this explanation with the fact that he has a satellite phone with him, as well. Dean questions if he could just be having fun and forgot to check in for a few days.
Younger Brother shoots this down as well. Haley explains that their parents are dead, so they keep pretty close tabs on one another -- Tommy wouldn't just not keep in touch, daily.
Sam asks to see the stuff Tommy sent and she shows him his last video file. Sam seems to note something in the video and asks for a copy. Haley also tells the "Rangers" that she's hired a guide to take her into the forest the following day to look for Tommy herself, so she may see them out there.
Scene 13: That night, in the local tavern, Sammy shows he's been researching and has found a series of missing hikers grouped over several decades in the immediate area where Tommy and his friends vanished. Our Sammy also shows Dean the video that Tommy sent to his sister and in three frames, literally a fraction of a second, there is a humanoid shadow that dashes over the tent... not bad, Our Sam, not bad at all!
Finally, Our Sam finds a single survivor of a previous attack who was only a child during the incident and is now an old coot.
Scene 14: Our Sam and Dean visit Old Coot. At first he spins that it was a grizzly attack, but Dean presses him about the series of events that happen every 23 years on the nose.
Commentary: I thought that I recognized Old Coot's voice, so I looked on Ye Olde IMDB and found that "Shaw" is really DUTCH... From SOAP! Oh, Dutch, I had SUCH a crush on you!
So, Shaw tells the boys what's what about that "grizzly attack" from when he was a kid. So DUTCH reports that the "grizzly" came in the night. He never saw it, but he could hear it make a roar like no animal he'd ever heard before or since. And... whatever it was, unlocked their cabin door to get to them!
"This was no Grizzly attack!"
DUTCH tells Our Boys that there is something evil in the woods (which apparently didn't convince him to move to the city).
Commentary: Mr. Rhodes does a great job when he relates his story of trauma and I'm so thrilled to see him as a guest on SPN. But his name isn't Shaw. He's Dutch, he'll always be Dutch. That is all.
Scene 15: Later, at the motel room, Dean points out that a demon or spirit wouldn't have had to unlock the door to get to its victims, so they're looking for something more tangible.
Scene 16: Then, suddenly, we're at the Impala with Dean rooting in the trunk.
Commentary: Owtch! Clumsy edit, much?!
Our Sam joins Dean at the trunk as he's loading up guns. Sam tries to get Dean to agree that Haley cannot go out there, but Dean points out her brother is missing and they won't be able to stop her with some story about a monster in the woods. This pisses Sam off, as he signed on to find their dad and then the demon that killed Jess -- not babysitting unprepared civilians running into monster lairs.
Commentary: I love this scene, in retrospect, because Dean also gets angry here but we don't really understand why. Later, we find out that Dean spent his entire childhood doing nothing but babysitting Our Sam and trying to protect him from the monsters that his dad was hunting. It must have really chafed his ass for Sammy to be bitchy over protecting one girl who is trying to find her brother on one mission.
I do think that this scene could have been more explicit about Sam not wanting to hunt down this creature though, since it should be obvious at this point that their father sent them on a wild goose chase. At least, in as far as this has nothing to do with the demon who killed their mother and Our Sam's girlfriend. It would have been more interesting, I think, if Sam told Dean straight up that he didn't WANT to waste his time with hunting this stupid monster... that he's there for a specific reason....
Scene 17: The next morning, Our Sam and Dean meet up with Haley and the Guide that she hired on to help her find Tommy. There is instant sparks of the not-good kind between Dean and the Guide, and a sense of lingering resentment over this job from Sam (look at Jared's face when they get out of the car... Sam's still pissed).
Scene 18: We leave our search party for a moment to visit with Tommy, who isn't dead, but sure isn't in too good a shape. He's hanging in a cave by chains. Also still alive, but trussed up is Gary. Or he is for a moment... Tommy spins away with a tortured look as Gary screams and lots of squishy sounds echo... ew.
Scene 19: Dean asks Guide if any of the creatures he's ever hunted before returned the favor and Guide grabs Dean suddenly. He takes it as a threat, but the Guide was actually just stopping Jerk!Dean from stepping into a bear trap. Guide tells him he should watch where he's stepping, and the way he calls Dean 'ranger' gives a pretty clear indication that Dean and Sam's cover story has not been convincing.
Even Haley can tell that Dean and Sam aren't Rangers, just based on how they packed and what they're wearing to 'hike'. Dean tells Haley about he and Sam searching for John.
Scene 20: The Guide announces that they've arrived at the Ridge, and Sam asks for the coordinates. They're the ones John left for Dean. They both immediately notice how quiet the area is ... much too quiet.
Guide Guy decides to scout ahead.
Scene 21: Guide calls out to Haley and she rushes off after him, with the others following. He's found Tommy and the others' campsite and the tents are in tore up shape. There is also a lot of blood splashed around.
Haley starts calling for Tommy, but Sam tells her to quiet down because they don't know if something is still out there watching and listening....
Scene 22: Dean calls to Sam from a short distance away. He reveals to Sammy that there is evidence of bodies being dragged away. He also points out that after a few feet, the drag marks just suddenly vanish.
Scene 23: Haley is devastated to find her brother's cell phone, blood splashed across its display screen. As Dean struggles to convincingly tell her that her brother may still be alive, there is the sound of a young man's cry for help. Everyone rushes off into the woods to locate him.
They reach a semi-clearing and after a few moments of finding nothing, Our Sam orders everyone back to the campsite. When they return, they find that their survival packs were stolen during the diversion. Our Sam calls Dean over to a private area for a chat. He looks in John's journal and finds an entry on a Wendigo - but Dean points out that he's only ever heard of them in Minnesota and Northern Michigan (Yay, Michigan! Come visit us boys -- oh, wait, they do and it isn't good).
Sam points out the evidence and Dean frustratingly tells him that makes his gun useless. Sam insists on getting Haley, little brother, and Guide out of the woods.
Scene 24: The Guide Guy is one of those "arrogant, doomed hunter" types, so only laughs in Sam's face when he tries to explain that they're being hunted by something smarter than him. Sam nearly spills it's a Wendigo, but Dean interrupts him.
Our Sammy is still carrying around that anger, too.
Dean points out that it is getting late in the day and when night falls, they won't stand a chance. He tells them all that they need to settle in and set up to protect themselves. Haley, half believing the "It" talk, asks how... but we cut to commercial without an answer.
Scene 25: After nightfall, a campfire has been built. Dean draws Anasazi symbols in the dirt around the camp to protect them from the Wendigo... which of course arrogant guide laughs off. Our Sam is sitting off to the side, clearly not being of any help.
Dean wanders over to him to ask what is going on in his head and when Sam tries the "I'm fine" line, he cuts him off. Sam's problem is, again, that this case has nothing to do with their father. He just wants to get everyone back to town and be on their way. Dean pulls out the book and tells Sammy that he thinks their father passed the book onto them in order to take over the 'family business'. Sam is frustrated by this and by Dean, frankly. Dean is ready to just forget about John for the time being until their dad reaches out, and to go on about the task that he's set for him... while, Our Sam, ever more independently minded tells Dean he isn't doing this. He wants to find John, find out what he knows and put Jess to rest.
Dean councils patience.
Commentary: I love this scene, too. Jared and Jensen really did have immediate chemistry in Pilot, and they show here that their chemistry together is in full force even during the quiet, dialog heavy scenes. Jared does an especially good job with showing the rage and despair that Our Sam still has and Jensen gives us a hint that he in fact does know just how screwed up their family is... this is important, because Dean's outlook will change nearly 180-degrees in his opinion of John and we can see that this wasn't sudden all the way back here at Episode 2. Jensen also gives us a peek at Dean here that isn't tied into his stud-muffin, machismo persona, but he shows us that there is a real person under the bravado that he can reveal to Sammy.
We got a hint of this when Dean told Sam in the Pilot that he didn't want to go after John alone, but it's made clearer here that Dean hides a lot of his interior thoughts behind a personality he's built up. It doesn't make him any less exasperating in future, but these quieter moments do a great job of hinting at the real emotional stories we're going to see... that it all isn't just 'surface'.
Anyway, their talk about Sam's vengeance is interrupted by the sound of somebody calling for help again. Around them, they hear the screams of help devolve into animal growls. Further, the sounds seem to be moving far faster around them than any animal could move. The Guide shoots and they hear a squeal, which he takes as having hit it. Dean tries to warn him not to go anywhere, but he's already dashed off into the woods to find whatever he hit.
Dean and Sammy go after Guide, warning Haley and Younger Brother to stay inside the circle.
Scene 26: Out in the woods, Guide yells back at Dean and Sam that he knows its close by. From above him, a set of arms suddenly springs into view from the trees and snaps his neck!
Commentary: Yeah, it was a jump-scare, but it worked for me. At least it wasn't a fake-scare.
Dean and Sammy reach the point where Guide was calling from, but of course they don't find anything.
Scene 27: The following morning, Our Sam is again sitting off alone in pained thought. Haley struggles to understand what has been revealed the night before, while Dean investigates claw marks on the tree bark, well above his head.
Sam rejoins them, now committed to hunting down the Wendigo and killing it in the face of their losing Guide. They give Haley (and us) the basic Wendigo legend. Haley asks the sensible question of how Tommy could still be alive and Dean explains that the creature will be putting together a pantry of sorts... keeping some victims alive in order to feed their hunger during the long winter months.
Commentary: Which, no, doesn't make any sense at all and is a real weakness in the script. There is no reason that Tommy would be kept alive when no one else has been... not Brad, not Gary, not Dutch's parents, not Guide Guy... only Tommy. It also doesn't make any sense that the Wendigo would be keeping a larder going, if it spends so much of its time hibernating (23 years at a stretch!). And, there is no explanation for how it could keep Tommy alive more than a week or two without rations or water, let alone over a harsh winter, even assuming that it didn't go into hibernation for some unexplained reason. Nor would Tommy, even if it only nibbled, be able to stay alive for long with things like hypothermia, blood loss, infection, etc.
Tommy's survival just isn't plausible. He is only allowed to languish in captivity so that there is a reason for whichever brother is going to end up captured to not be immediately eaten as well, providing a Death Battle Exemption for Our Hero that he shouldn't have. Where the story wasn't exactly captivating me, it was doing okay until right here, where it suddenly turned actively annoying. This would have been easily fixable, too, if it had been revealed that the disappearance happened every 10 or 12 years instead and had Haley's father have disappeared during a winter hunt and never been heard from again. He turns out to be the cannibal and was turned into a Wendigo for it, but enough of 'him' remains that he recognized Tommy and instinctively couldn't bring himself to immediately devour him. The script would have had to have some reworking so that the father's unfortunate fate could come to be revealed, at least to Sam & Dean and Us, if not to Haley and her family, but it would be doable.
Haley asks how their going to stop it, assuming they can find the lair. We find out here that Wendigo's can't be affected by knives or guns (although, presumably the future Colt would kill it), so they'll have to torch it.
Commentary: And, I'm really unclear on where the Molotov came from that Dean suddenly has. Their duffle bag was supposed to have vanished at the same time as the rest of the packs. I'm really not liking this script very much, despite the fine director's work being done to add menace to what has largely been a group of actors wandering the forest.
Scene 28: So, the gang go after it, again presumably following its tree trunk markings since they don't specify just how they know which direction to follow. Sam calls to Dean and they notice they've come into a clearing where there are a whole mess of tree trunk clawings... all of them high above the ground over their heads. Sam tells Dean he was thinking that this trail was way to easy to follow.
Of course, it may have been nice if he'd spoken up before, considering that now the Wendigo is doing the superfast thing around them in the bushes.
As the Winchesters try to prepare for a sudden attack, blood drips down from one of the trees onto Haley's shoulder. She barely gets out of the way before the falling body of Guide Guy flattens her. Dean checks him out and confirms the broken neck, and then urges everybody to run.
Scene 29: Dean and Haley get separated from Younger Brother and Sam. When they find where they were last at, Sam finds a part of the broken bottle that Dean was carrying around for a molotov cocktail. Sam yells for his brother, but Dean doesn't answer.
Scene 30: Sam and Younger Brother wander the area, and Younger Brother finds Dean's M&M's (established much earlier as in his jacket pocket) trail.
Scene 31: They follow the trail to an abandoned mine.
Commentary: *Sigh* ... how did the Wendigo manage to get Dean and Haley into the mine when it is boarded up, without breaking through the slats? Did Dean and her just willingly enter the Mine of Doom? I guess that's possible, as a delaying tactic to keep from being killed outright. Dean may have told Haley not to resist....
Scene 32: Sam looks at Younger Brother, shrugs and goes into the mine.
Younger Brother gives a glance up at the sky over the woods, and then follows Sam in. They find an old track for mining carts and follow it deeper underground. A growling noise allows Sam and Younger Brother to flatten themselves against the wall in a side passage, as they see the Wendigo make its way toward the exit.
Sam and Younger Brother continue deeper toward the direction that the Wendigo came from, when the boards under their feet make a disturbing groaning noises. They fall through the floor, tumbling into another mine passage below them.
It turns out this particular passage is being used as a disposal by the Wendigo, and Younger Brother nearly gives away their position with a startled yell when he's confronted by several skulls. Sam calms him and assesses the situation.
They also find both Dean and Haley hanging up by chains. Dean is stunned, but conscious while Haley is out of it completely.
After Younger Brother rouses Haley, they're able to help her and Dean down from the chains. Haley sees Tommy hanging limply and thinks that he's dead. He startles awake, and Sam cuts him down, while Dean notes their packs are also in this lair. He starts to go through them to see what they have to fight back with.
Dean finds a pair of flare guns, which gets them around the "how are we going to burn it" problem....
Commentary: Jensen's got an infectious smile and Dean's boisterous grinning is missed in the latter seasons of the show, where everything is just doom piled on top of gloom.
Scene 33: So Sam, Haley and Younger Brother are helping Tommy stumble behind Dean, who has the flare guns at the ready. They hear a loud growl of the beast returning and Haley reminds Dean that they can't outrun it.
In order to allow Our Sam and the others to escape, Dean acts as a distraction, taking off into a side tunnel and yelling for the beast's attention. It doesn't really work, as Sam and the others hear its gutteral sounds as they head toward the exit.
Sam is next to stay behind with the second flare gun, having Haley and Younger Brother get Tommy out of the mines.
Scene 34: Sammy thinks he's being sneaky, but the Wendigo surprises him. He gets off a flare shot, but the creature moves much too quickly and he misses.
He catches up with Haley, Tommy and Younger Brother, but the Wendigo is hot on their heels, though considering its super speed, why it is suddenly running so slowly is a question. Our Group manages to run right into a dead end passage and Our Sam heroically steps in front of them, though since he's now weaponless I don't think that will be helpful. (On the other hand, Jared is built like a brick wall....)
Scene 35: The creature menaces nice and slowly. Dean appears behind it, yells for its attention and shoots it with his flare gun, conveniently burning it into ash, rather than say, causing it to flail around while on fire and burning them all with it.
Scene 36: In the aftermath, Younger Brother with Sam, is talking to the Park Rangers and reports a huge Grizzly was out there. In the meanwhile, Haley is telling Dean that she doesn't know how to thank him, so he gives her the sleazy (but we're supposed to think its charming) grin, and she smilingly asks if he must cheapen the moment.
With the ambulance getting ready to drive Tommy away, Haley kisses Dean chastely on the cheek and wishes him luck with finding his father. She thanks Sam and they make their exit.
Sam & Dean make a joke about hating camping and then Dean assures Sam that they will find their father. They boys get into the Impala with Sam unusually behind the wheel and they take off for parts unknown.
Scene 37: We get a time eating shot of the Impala cruising down the road in the morning light toward us... with no explanation for just where Dean and Sam think their going.
The Good: The opening teaser was a nice homage to every 'horror in the woods' movie, ever... or it was just a cliche. It was still fun, so I'll put it here.
Jared's acting during the dream sequence at Jessica's graveside was very good.
The chemistry between Jared and Jensen really is amazing, considering how this is their first acting gig opposite each other.
"Dutch" did a nice job as the traumatized survivor.
The Bad: This was a script crying out for another couple of re-writes. There was too much that happened because I.I.T.S. (it's in the script) rather than for a sensible reason.
Also, the idea that John would send the boys off to the remote forest in a completely different state from CA doesn't track, either. How did John even become aware of the disappearances in the middle of nowhere from where he was last heard from?!
Other Thoughts: This was a really average episode, that may come off worse that it is, simply because Pilot was such a strong opening for the series. But there really were some severe story issues contained in it.
The Score: I was riding the line between entertained and bored throughout the whole episode. Since I don't have a score between 2.75 (below average) and 3.0 (very average), I'm going to go with the average score. This is because the acting was strong by Jared, good by Jensen and really good by Donnelly Rhodes (DUTCH! I LOVE YOU, CALL ME.)
3.0 out of 5