"Dead in the Water"
Written by: Sera Gamble and Raelle Tucker
DIR by: Kim Manners
Blurb: Is a series of drownings in a Wisconsin lake the work of a vengeful spirit? A young eyewitness, tramautized into silence by the shock he experienced, may have the power to prophesy the next drowning.
My Blurb: What the hell is the above? That is a hideously awkward phrasing of what is contained in this episode. How about more along the lines of: The boys investigate a series of mysterious drownings in a Wisconsin lake. Is a vengeful spirit at work? And can a young, but tramautized, eyewitness provide the Winchesters with the answers?
Scene 01: Lake Manitoc, WI:
Idyllic cabin existence by the lake. Dad, brother and sister share morning banter as sister gets ready to go out for her morning workout.
Scene 02: Sister goes for her morning swim, enjoying the peaceful view of the lake with the loons calling into the morning air. After diving in, we follow her swim for a bit from below the water.
Commentary: And let's just get it out of the way right now: Yes, the camera setups and the victim stalking will reflect JAWS, as all such scenes must post-1975.
As Swimming Sister gets a look of growing panic on her face and looks wildly around her, we hear whisperings on the soundtrack, which get more urgent. Sister is snatched suddenly and irrevocably under the water (unlike Chrissie Watkins, she doesn't surface to scream for help).
We look out over the once-again peaceful-on-the-surface lake in a shot which very much echoes the stalking scenes of Friday the 13th (the original).
Scene 03: We jump to a roadside cafe and the remains of a meal. There is a paper on the table with people's faces that have been circled. Jensen, oh well - Dean, is sitting at the table, apparently going through obits and looking for anything that may indicate weird patterning in the death notices. It's fun for the whole family!
Big Boobied Blonde Waitress stops by his table to ask if he's all set, leaning forward to bring a smile to his face. Sam aborts Dean's chances of getting cheap sex by returning to the table and asking for the check. He's still dealing with Jessica's murder before his eyes in a particularly brutal fashion.
Dean, rather insensitively, tells his brother that they are allowed to have fun once in a while. Sam gives cold glare at him. Dean manages to look contrite before bringing Sam's attention to his stack of newspapers.
He informs Our Sam, and us, that Sophie Carlton was our swimmer and that she's the third person to go into the lake and not come back out with no remains found, despite dragging the bottom. Somethin' is afoot for them to investigate.
Commentary: Here is the problem that I have with S1: Dean is a tool. I get that he has the whole "I'm a leaf on the wind, free and gorgeous, picking up chicks in every city" thing going on. He's the male-fantasy-fulfillment character; with the life we wish we could have stripped of responsibilities that tie us down into 'regular life'. And, I'll give it to Jensen Ackles that he can give Dean some depth, even in these early episodes, but it is in defiance of the script not because of it. Now, thankfully, this doesn't last throughout the whole series, though those aspects of his character remain until things get really dire later. But here, it is really hard for me to not be fully invested in Sam's tragedy and to think that Dean is nuthin' but a numbnut. So, if it sounds like I'm a bit harsh toward Dean, it's because he's closer to sterotype... and a pig....
Dean will come through this to not only match Our Sam as a character, but dare I say it? To surpass him as the character to watch, so you just have to roll your eyes through the wish-fulfillment early season ghetto his character is stuck in, until he becomes Adorable Dean. We'll see a hint of this in "Route 666", but he really gains my attention at the end of Season 2's "Heart" when his heart is breaking for Sam in a way that he doesn't seem to manage here over the aftermath of Jessica's passing.
Dean mentions that the funeral was a few days ago, where an empty coffin had to be buried for closure. This causes Our Sam to be really bitchy, in which he tells his brother that people don't just disappear, other people just stop looking for them. Sam's burr is that they're not doing much to find their father, which was the entire point of Sam joining his brother post-Jess murder.
Dean tells Sam he's getting sick of his attitude. He further points out that he's the one who has been with their dad over the past two years, further rehashing the brothers' problems with their family relationship. Dean tells Sam they're going to find their father, but in the meantime, they're also going to be killing monsters.
Scene 04: The Metallicar makes a bee-line for Lake Manitoc.
The first stop is the Cabin of Traumatic Loss. The boys introduce themselves to brother-of-missing-sister as Ford & Hamill, agents of the Wildlife Service [And I refuse to actually tell you where those last names are coming from; everyone should recognize the reference].
Scene 05: Out on the docks, is the father-of-missing, where he is sitting with the plucking-piano-of-heartbreak over him. Brother tells the Winchesters that his sister was a varsity level swimmer who practically grew up in the lake. There wasn't any splashing or signs of distress and there had been no signs of wild animals possibly along the shore that would have been responsible (Sam and Dean are thinking a monster, of course, while brother is probably thinking possible bear).
He turns downs an introduction to his father, on the grounds that his old man is in deep funk over loss. If anyone can understand that, it's Our Sammy.
Scene 06: The "agents" then visit the Sheriff, who reports that there are no indigenous carnivores in the lake that could have dragged Sophie to her doom. Dean points out the complete absence of a body, along with the two others before her. The Sheriff can't explain finding nothing out there, but exposits that the lake is being drained anyway due to a local dam issue, so they'll find something when the lake levels are lowered.
The discussion is interrupted by the Sheriff's daughter [Angel alum, Amy Acker -- YAY!]. Amy has the tramautized boy -- Lucas, who doesn't speak much and is painfully withdrawn.
Dean tries to be flirtatious, which Amy (yeah, I don't care what her character name is... she's Amy) smiles through, before insulting his inability to find his way to a decent pickup line. (Heh-heh-heh... Dean as buttmonkey is fun.)
Commentary: So, let's talk about casting here for a minute. The Sheriff is a character actor whose name I don't know and will never remember, but he's one of those "Oh, yeah, that sexy guy!" guys. There will be a lot of them in the coming seasons, for which I'm grateful. This show will cast some great actors. What I am a bit disappointed about, though, is Amy's role as the mother here. Not disappointed in her handling the role, just in that she isn't more involved in the mystery of the lake. I wish they'd given her more of a meaty and expansive guest starring role instead of, what I see, as wasting her appearance.
Scene 07: In the hotel room, Sam is laptop-ing, where he finds a total of nine such disappearances over the last 35-years.
They come across "Christopher Barr", who was one of the victims. He was also the husband of Andrea (Amy) and father to Lucas, explaining Lucas' withdrawal from people. News reports state Lucas witnessed his father drown from a floating platform in the lake, where he remained terrorized by what he'd witnessed for 2 hours-ish before he was retrieved.
Sam and Dean speculate they do have one witness they need, after all....
Scene 08: They join Amy at the park, where she's watching Lucas ignoring, and being ignored by, the children playing around him lost in his own little world. Amy asks Sam to tell Dean that the whole "Jerry Maguire" thing won't work on her. Sam assures it that isn't what Dean is doing, as his brother goes to "say hi" to Lucas.
Scene 09: Dean tries to bond with Lucas over army men and crayons. He mentions that he thinks Lucas saw something really bad, and that whatever it was, he'll believe him if he wants to share it. He mentions things really bad he saw when he was a kid, too. Dean tells Lucas he doesn't have to say anything, he could draw what he saw.
There are two pictures that immediately draw attention, since the camera POV makes sure to focus on them, but Dean doesn't have any reason to give them a second look, yet. One is a black whirlpool (okay, he maybe should've at least been curious about what that represents) and the other is a red bicycle.
Scene 10: Dean rejoins Sam and Amy talking, where she is sharing with Our Sam that Lucas hasn't spoken to even her since whatever it was that occurred on the lake. As the three talk about Lucas' post-traumatic stress reaction, he comes up with a picture for Dean - not of a monster, or the lake though. It's of a house.
Scene 11: Back at the Cabin of Sorrow, brother talks to dad, who is sitting inconsolable in a chair staring at empty space. He tries to get dad interested in some dinner, but father is unresponsive.
Scene 12: Brother is cleaning fish, when the tap turns to sandy water. He turns it off, but the sink fills up from the drain with dirty water, anyway to his looks of confusion.
Despite this very strange event and the fact that it stops as the sink reaches full, he rolls up a sleeve and tries to find whatever is in the drain (Yeah. What exactly would be "caught" in a drain, that would cause the sink to fill from below with muddy water?? Don't blocked drains cause water to fill up from the tap? I don't understand what he's trying to find, here, as it seems more logical that this would be a pipe blockage somewhere beyond where his fingers are going to reach. My first inclination would be running for buckets to keep the sink from overflowing, if I could).
Anyway, he reaches around and finds the sink drain stopper, which was no where near the drain when the sink suddenly backed up. When this fails to relieve the blockage, he goes back in [Um, again, the sink wasn't filling up because the tap was open and it wasn't draining -- it suddenly filled from below with muddy water. Your problem isn't a blockage in the sink, it's something seriously wrong with the pipes backing up into the house].
Unshockingly, to us, Brother gets dragged down into the dirty sink water. He loses consciousness and the sink then drains itself.
Commentary: There are all sorts of problems with this scene that struck me immediately, alas, dimming its impact: First is the obvious above of why'd you shove your hand in the drain, when the problem was obviously the pipes backing up from a source not related to the drain. Second, the father was barely a room length away -- he didn't hear all of the splashing and kicking around as his son struggled with the Sink of Murder? And finally, the way that his arm get yanked down so that his head would go underwater just wouldn't work. The sink wasn't deep enough for his face to get down into the water without some serious bending of his arm and his leaning down as far as he could get. There really needed to be a CGI-Water arm yanking his face down, or for there to be some sort of hypnotic effect going on that made people try to drown themselves for this attack to work. But, that isn't the monster-of-the-week/supernatural-phenome
The lake drownings work. Later, when Amy is threatened in a bathtub, it works... but this drowning attack just isn't physically feasible in the way it occurs on camera.
It also doesn't help that the 'stalking' part of the scene isn't set up well to engender tension to overcome the logical flaw and distract you from it.
Now, I can wank this at the end of the episode when we learn what/why these drownings are happening as some type of psychokinesis yanking down on the back of Brother's head and then holding his face down in the water -- but I shouldn't have to wank something like this. If this was the case, then opening drowning shouldn't have been filmed from below, like someone being yanked from underneath, but should have had her suddenly pulled forward from the dock, or yanked backward from suddenly from water that was only waist deep... something that would indicate that it wasn't a monster grabbing her legs.
It could also have worked if during Sam's news article search online, if he'd had a line similar to, "This is strange. It says here that one of our victims wasn't even swimming in the lake... he had been seen walking in knee-deep water near the shoreline, otherwise fully clothed, just before vanishing into the lake." Dean could then have reiterated, "And, no body was found?!"
Sam gives a negative response and then Dean says something like, "How does a body end up getting lost in a lake if there was a drowning right near the shore in a foot of water?"
And then, we cut to the cabin with drowning kid in the sink of dirty water. [I should really have a job on set as a scene-doctor].
Scene 13: Back at the local hotel room, Sam comes in. Sam shares the news with Dean that he had just drove past the Carlton house and that boy drowned in sink. This seems to put any kibosh on it being a lake monster.
Dean and Sammy realizes that whatever IT is, it's controlling the water, but only seemingly the lake water. Sam also suggests that it is stepping up its attacks because the lake is being drained due to that dam expositioning we heard earlier.
Sam and Dean also tie everything back to Bill Carlton, as both of his children were targeted and killed. Sam also points out that traumautized boy's dead dad just happened to be Bill Carlton's godson, before his unfortunate drowning. Clearly there is something mighty pissed at Mr. Carlton, who is the boys' next revisit.
Scene 14: At first Mr. Carlton, being in shock and beyond grief as he is, doesn't want to talk to them. But, Sam points out that before his son's death, he was telling them that he'd seen something moving in the lake. Mr. Carlton is too broken to talk to them and they go away disappointed... or almost....
As they're heading back to the Impala of Sweeeetness, Dean notices that the Carlton's house looks just like the drawing that tramautized-Lucas gave him... (except, really not).
Scene 15: Their next stop is back to Amy Acker's place. She's less than pleased with them wanting to press her son, but finally gives in when she can't look them in the eye and say that the recent drownings are only a series of tragic accidents.
Scene 16: Dean sits across from Lucas. He first notices that Lucas has repeated the red bike drawing. He thanks him for his help before, but asks him for a bit more.
Commentary: I want to say here, too, that Jensen Ackles has a wonderful way with kids that pops off of the screen. He really looks comfortable in his scenes with Lucas and seem capable of forging this connections that says, "I'm barely out of childhood, myself" that makes these one sided dialog scenes engaging. He really does have charisma.
Lucas is unresponsive, going on about his business as if he isn't listening. Dean tells him about what he'd seen of his mom's demise [which, actually isn't much -- just that the house was on fire and she didn't get out], but that he knows Mary would want him to be brave. Lucas still isn't able to speak, but he does pull another picture he drew and hands it to Dean.
It is of a boy walking down a street to a house near a church, walking his red bicycle.
Scene 17: Back in the car, Our Sam points out that Dean never really talked about his lingering memories of Mary before. Dean blows it off, as is his wont to do when things get touchy-feely.
Scene 18: The boys find a white church with a yellow house nearby, as in Lucas' picture. But when they ask the old woman living there about a boy with a blue cap and red bike, she seems a bit upset. She tells them that no boy has lived there for a very long time.
She tells them that her boy Peter vanished 25 years ago and was never found. Sam notes army guys that are the same old fashioned plastic types that Lucas plays with now. And, old woman, makes a statement about losing her boy being worse than dying -- which is a point that Bill Carlton also made when he asked them to leave him alone.
Dean finds a photo of Peter and his bike. He's standing with another boy and the writing on the back identifies this as Billy Carlton....
Scene 19: As the boys are putting the pieces together of at least where the 'evil' is coming from and why, Bill is sitting next to the lake, still. He talks to the water and tells it that he finally thinks he understands what has been happening, as well.
Scene 20: In the car Sam rattles off the facts we're more than capable of putting together for ourselves... thanks Exposition!Our-Sammy.
The boys theorize that Billy killed Peter and it is Peter's spirit that is on a mission of vengeance. They pull up in the Impala to the cabin.
Scene 21: As they try to locate Carlton, they see him go by in a motor boat heading for the middle of the lake. They try to call him back, but the boat is attacked and he's flung into the air and then beneath the surface, along with the whole boat.
Commentary: This scene really brings a burst of energy, but it kind of sits there between being awesome and being too cheesy, thanks to CGI. I can appreciate the effect they were going for, that would have been really cool... but... but it's tv-budget CGI! Okay, it isn't as bad as some CGI effects we've seen [cough-Buffy's giant snakes-cough] and they do try to make the shot brief so it isn't so glaring, but it doesn't really work. It isn't brief enough, and the eye immediately picks up on the fact it isn't right-looking.
I don't if maybe a more practical effect with a mannequin might have been the way to go here.
Scene 22: Back at the police station, Amy Acker is sitting with Lucas. He is particularly disturbed, but of course, can't communicate with his mother as to why.
Sheriff and Our Boys come into the station and Sheriff tells her that maybe she should take her son home and to stay away from the lake. Lukas has a freak-out, where he yanks on Dean's arm, trying to get through to him, without the ability to talk from within his trauma-shell.
Amy Acker leads him out of the station, all the while he making terrified, pleading looks at Dean.
Sheriff stomps to his office in frustration.
Scene 23: In that office, he reads the Winchesters the riot act for they're less-than-credible report about Bill's death on the lake -- especially since once again there was a sonar sweep of the lake bottom and Bill wasn't found. He has also been doing some checking and knows that Dean and Sam aren't really wildlife service agents. He tells them that he doesn't know what is going on, but they have two choices: head out of dodge, or being taken into custody as material witnesses.
He emphasisizes this with lots of finger pointing in Sam's face and pissed grimacing.
Scene 24: Back in his room, Lucas is now drawing the whirlpool motif. Amy Acker stops by his room to make him get into bed.
Scene 25: The Impala is heading out of town in response to the Sheriff's ultimatum. We get a pointless scene of Dean deciding not to head to the interstate.
Scene 26: In the meantime, Amy Acker decides on a hot bath.
Scene 27: Back in the car, Sam tries to argue that if Peter is their villain, he's gotten his final revenge on Bill by killing him. The case was really closed when the Sheriff threw them out.
Dean can't leave until he knows that 'over' means over, though. Sam is shocked by Dean's obsessing on Lucas still being so scared.
Scene 28: In the foreboding bathroom, Amy Acker takes a long time to get into the bathtub. Despite the tub being so nearly full that it is about to slop over onto the floor with her every movement, she keeps the faucet on. We get lots of forboding shots of faucet water, the way too high water level in that tub, and teases of Amy being nude.
FINALLY, we see the still-running-for-no-sensible-reason faucet start spewing dirty lake water. We focus our attention in a weird, fetish way on dirty water running over Amy's feet before we finally start hearing whispering on the soundtrack.
She finally notices something wrong in the tub and tries to get out screaming, while being careful not to reveal anything inappropriate for SPN's timeslot and channel.
Screaming Amy splashes around.
Commentary: Wow, that scene just dragged on and on with a little too much fanservice toward the possibility of seeing flashes of Amy Acker's body, which obviously wasn't going to happen. And frankly, it was tacky.
Scene 29: In the hallway, Lucas bangs on the bathroom door as Amy screams for help from her tub-of-doom.
Meanwhile, Amy Acker struggles to keep her head from being pulled under and drowned. We get an almost butt shot, if that's important to you. She finally vanishes below the now really gross looking bath water.
Scene 30: Sam and Dean are standing outside of the front door, with Sam being unsure it is a good idea to bother them so late. But Lucas suddenly yanks open the door, hyperventilating.
The boys follow him upstairs. Water is running from the bathroom and down the stairs.
They break in. Amy Acker is saved. Barely. Sammy is straining to get Amy Acker above the water with the ghost making all sorts of whispery-exclamations.
Scene 31: At dawn, Amy Acker is sitting at her table in her robe. Sammy is trying to get her to describe what exactly she experienced. She thinks she's going crazy, but Sam assures her she's not.
In the meantime, Dean is upstairs nosing around. Dean finds an old photo album.
Scene 32: In the Barr kitchen, Dean and Sam realize that the Sheriff also had to have known the long-missing, and ghostly-whispering Peter. Lucas stares out into their backyard, and when Dean asks him what he sees, the boy leaves suddenly. Everyone follows behind him, but he ignores their questioning.
He leads them to a patch of ground in the woods near the Barr home. He sends Lucas and Amy Acker back to their house.
When our boys dig where Lucas indicated, they find Peter's bike was given a shallow grave. The Sheriff suddenly interrupts them with his gun drawn and cocked.
Dean and Sam accuse the Sheriff of being in on Peter's drowning in the lake those 25 years ago and of burying the bike, explaining why he's so panic-looking now. Amy Acker sees her father holding his gun on the Winchesters. She sends Lucas to lock himself in his room, while she goes to confront her father.
Scene 33: Meanwhile, he's playing ignorant, though his denials sound a bit suspicious while he's still holding that gun on the Winchesters. Sam and Dean lay the ghost story on him under the horrified gaze of Amy Acker. Of course Lucas did not go to his room. He suddenly dashes off through the woods, while the adults are distracted.
Amy is asking her father if anything the Winchesters are saying is true, while they try to get him to tell them where Peter's remains are so they can be salt and burned.
Amy Acker tells her father that some THING tried to drown her, just like the others. She pleads with him to tell her that he didn't kill anyone, but his face tells her the horrible truth.
Commentary: I do love Amy Acker, and despite the fact that I wish she had a much meatier guest-starring role, she does do solid work here. I keep imagining her playing Ellen, instead, but that would mean that we wouldn't have gotten Samantha Ferris and THAT would be a crime. I just wish that Amy had gotten a recurring role, instead of this guest-mom deal. I also want to give a mention to character actor, Daniel Hugh Kelly, who also does some great work in a second here when he has to admit to his guilt.
Anyway, she's understandably shocked, appalled, gobsmacked... etc.
Sheriff admits that Peter was the butt of all of the bullying he and Billy used to do. During a particularly cruel prank, they held Peter's head underwater too long and he drowned. They boys let his body go and it was never discovered.
Being sensible, Dean suggests that the family get away from the lake immediately. But to Amy Acker's scared gasp, they notice that Lucas has wandered to the lake's shore while they were having their drama-moment-of-revelation.
He's now playing on the dock and reaching for a floating leaf in the water.
Commentary: This scene really plays clumsily. I think the whole point is that the ghostly Peter has been calling out to Lucas to come and play with him for a while now, and the boy is under his influence. But, the way that this plays here, it's coming across like Lucas is a moron who suddenly forgot his terror of the water in order to play at the edge of the dock, so he can get attacked. This was a real script-weak moment, not helped by the directing. I wonder if this was directed at an earlier point, before they realized where in the story this scene would appear?
Scene 34: Everyone tries to get him away from the water, of course. Just as naturally he doesn't listen. GHOSTLY HAND YANKS HIM INTO THE WATER!
I know. You're shocked.
As everyone arrives at the shoreline, Lucas disappears under and Sheriff sees Peter staring at him.
Sam and Dean go in after Lucas.
Scene 35: Sheriff goes into the water, as Sam and Dean continue surfacing and diving looking for Lucas. Sheriff pleads with Peter to take him instead of Lucas.
Peter certainly agrees to the first half.
Commentary: Watching someone be dragged down to their doom underwater never fails to creep me out, so this does really work for me. But, I dislike that I know Peter is going to give up Lucas, when he shouldn't. If you're going to be a vengeful ghost, go all the way, I say. And, take Amy Acker out, while you're at it. But, though there is a dark theme running through SPN, they're not ready to really dive headlong into making Sam and Dean suffer, yet.
So, Sam and Dean go under again. Sam resurfaces with a shake of his head at Amy Acker, who gives the "NOOOOOOO" face under dramatic music, when Dean breaks the surface in a hero moment with Lucas in his arms. Yay.
We're supposed to wonder if it was too little, too late....
Scene 36: Sometime later, Sam and Dean are packing their things in the Impala. The impression was that Dean got to Lucas too late, and he's feeling guilt. Sam tries to tell him they can't save everybody and Dean says he knows.
But then, Lucas... now talking again after his brush with drowning-spirits, shows himself to be alive and even better than ever.
Smiles and thanks all around. Dean and Lucas go to put a plate o' food into the Impala, while Sam asks after how Amy Acker is holding up (I'm briefly distracted by Jared's rocky abs and his underwear band... just for a moment, there).
Our Sam gives Amy Acker the now-patented-sympathy-face. She tells him she's holding onto the fact that her father loved her and loved her son.
Scene 37: Meanwhile, Lucas and Dean say their goodbyes. Andrea kisses Dean a thank you for dragging Lucas back to the surface.
Commentary: Ow! The way this is shot, Jensen looks weirdly googly-eyed! I bust out laughing. Which is an improvement, because this exit is taking too long -- say good bye and drive away, already!
More grinning, more smirking... oh, good god.
Scene 38: Yay, finally, we're on the road again.
Commentary: Wait, we followed the car long enough for camera pan changes for nothing? Couldn't they have put in a quick phone call with mysterious plot set-up, or some wrapping up convo for Dean and Sam if the episode was a bit short.
And, it was. You can see that by how stretched several scenes were throughout the episode. Especially Amy Acker's "I'm about to take a bath... but not quite yet" scene, and the "Time to leave now, but let's grin some more at each other first" scene.
The Good: Jensen Ackles has some really great charisma and it shows through when he's interacting with the actor who plays Lucas. He really does elevate relatively uninteresting scenes.
Amy Acker and Daniel Hugh Kelly also do some very nice acting work, especially during the traumatic past-mistake scene.
The Bad: I know this is a ghost story and all, so supernatural powers are involved, but the Carlton boy drowning in the tub of water was just silly looking. It didn't work.
There are some real questionable directing choices, too, alas: Why is the father not reacting to his son splashing around a whole room away while he's being drowned in the sink? And, how exactly is the Carlton boy (who isn't exactly a little guy) having his head and half his body crammed down in the sink long enough to actually be drowned? I'd also put the complete lack of necessity in the "Sam spells things out for us" scene -- the mystery really wasn't by this point, so this scene is worthless. I'd also say that the scene of Amy getting ready to get into the bathtub and the way her near nudity is exploited were unnecessary, as well as the focus on the tap-of-foreboding. And, the good bye scene.
Other Thoughts: And, Lucas sure did bounce back after being yanked into a lake by the drowning ghost of his father, who then dragged down his grandfather both of which have never been seen again, eh? I'm almost willing to let this slide due to the magic of Jensen... almost.
The Score: Well. It's an average-y sort of episode, directed in an average-y sort of way. There are a few moments in which the actors can raise the material, but at the end of the day, this is just an average script without any directorial flair to make things pop.
3.25 out of 5