Season 1, Episode
DIR: Whitney Ransick, Writer: Daniel Knauf
Blurb: Dean gets a second chance to right a wrong from his past when the brothers get a mysterious tip from their father about a case they'd worked years ago, but left unfinished [this part shouldn't be revealed in a blurb].
Scene 01: We start in Fitchberg, WI, where little girl is saying her prayers at night before turning into bed.
Little Girl gets tucked in and she asks her dad if her mother is coming home. Dad replies that she's staying at the hospital overnight with her sister.
Scene 02: Daddy leaves the room, as he turns out the lights. The wind is blowing outdoors, and branches scratch at little girl's window (...because OF COURSE there are creepy branches to scrape creepily against the windows.. duh) as the night deepens.
Little Girl is creeped out, and she is sitting up in bed staring at the window with the offending creepy branches. She looks at the forlorn teddy bear sitting on her sister's bed. In a dash she rushes to the window and shuts the sheer curtains against the creepy branches.
As she turns her back on the window and huddles under her comforter, a handlike shadow creeps along the window pane.
She hears the tapping along the glass, and huddles further down. The window suddenly opens...
A shadow creeps across her bedspread. And then a gray, long finger tugs at her comforter.
Creepy face with a glow from its mouth growls over little girl. She screams.
Flash-Credit does its thing. (At first I thought the pre-credit opening was running too long. I mean, clearly our little girl was going to be targeted by our bad guy. But I ended up liking how it was all filmed, especially glimpsing our creature first by its shadow, then its hand, and then finally the glowing mouth.
Scene 03: On the road, our boys are tooling around in Impala. Dean says that Our Sam probably missed something.
Our POV enters the car, and Sam is insisting he checked everything and found no red flags, and asks Dean if he's sure he got the coordinates correct. Dean insists their dad sent them coordinates to Fitchberg, so something important must be going on there that he wants them to investigate. They have a minor argument about their father, again, but Dean is sure they'll find something in Wisconsin that needs killing.
Scene 04: Outside of a coffee shop in Fitchberg, Dean hands Sammy a cup. He shares with Sam that the waitress didn't have any weird stuff to share, so they're still not sure why John wanted them here.
Sam is looking puzzled off-screen and asks Dean the time. He replies 10 after 4, and Sam nods. Dean asks why he wanted to know, and Sam asks him what is wrong with this picture.
The picture he's referring to is the playground, which has only one lone child playing on a beautiful afternoon, after school.
Scene 05: Dean wanders over to the playground, to chat with the mother of lone girl on the junglejim. Like many season 1 dayplayers, our mom is primed to chat with relevant details [Makes It Easyyyyy!].
She shares about the half dozen sick kids in the hospital and how parents are getting really anxious, explaining why so many kids are being kept close to home, rather than playing around the neighborhood.
Commentary: I'm liking the simple score underlying this episode thus far.
Scene 06: At Dane County Memorial Hospital, Impala waits for Our Boys in the parking lot. Which is so conveniently close to the front door, that my belief is blown... there is no frickin' way, the boys would find a spot this convenient.
Anyway, Our Sam and Dean enter the hospital in one of their guises. Sam complains that his ID says "bikini inspector", but Dean tells him that reception won't even bother looking at it. She does, but not close enough to realize the fakery.
Sam and Dean are posing as doctors from the CDC, and Sam asks for pediatrics.
Scene 07: As they wander up to the children's wing, Dean passes by an old crone in a wheelchair, which immediately sets off his creep-o-meter. He notes that in addition to being hag-like, her cross on the wall is upside down.
They meet up with Doctor Hydecker who reports that they've had six cases in five weeks. They thought it was bacterial pneumonia, but none of the kids are responding to antibiotics and their white cell counts are dropping. A nurse who is getting Hydecker's signature shares that she's never seen something spread this way... whatever is going on, it is running through families, but only the children. First one sibling gets sick, and then the other follows with no symptoms before they're suddenly being rushed into emergency.
Dean wants to interview a few of the kids, but nurse reports that none of the afflicted are conscious. Dean and Sam turn to interviewing the parent of the latest kid impacted.
Scene 08: This is Mr. Opening-Little-Girl's-Father, of course.
He reports that Bethany came down sick only a day after her older sister, and he'd found her window open, even though he had it shut before he put her to bed. His little girl must've opened it for some reason, and then came down ill, too.
Scene 09: As they're walking out, Sam suggests that maybe nothing supernatural is happening here, but Dean suggests that maybe something else opened Bethany's window and let itself in.
Dean brings up their father sending them here for something. Sam reminds Dean that with two girls now in the hospital, it'll be some time before the kids' dad returns home....
Commentary: I like the way this mystery is being handled here. Unlike in Hell House, where I found the Winchesters investigating for a monster where there was no evidence to suggest they should be wasting their time, here they have John's deliberately sending them the coordinates to suggest they should keep looking. I can totally buy Dean, especially, but either of them continue to investigate strange pneumonia as something not natural because of John's directive.
Of course, why John can't ever provide some sort of context is one of those frikkin' annoying and implausible things that irks me.
Scene 10: Our next stop is the home of our two sick kids, 'natch.
Some time later, the Winchesters are in the girls' bedroom, but the ghost meter isn't registering anything & Sam's ultraviolet scan for residues aren't picking up anything, either. It suggests ghosts aren't the problem.
Sam then comes across the latched window, and glancing out, finds a clue... a set of long finger marks rotted right into the wooden sill. Sam asks what could leave a handprint like that and Dean has a flashback.
Scene 11: Dean has seen a photograph of this print from when he was a kid and looking over evidence his father had collected on a case. In flashback-land, John is getting ready to go out for a few days on a hunt. Little Dean and Short Sam are left behind in a motel room. John goes through a litany with Dean about what to not do while he's gone [picking up the phone, unless he gets a predetermined signal first] and what to do [if someone tries to break in, shoot first, ask questions later].
Sammy is left to watch Thundercats (YAY!), while John makes clear to Dean that his number one priority is to watch over Short Sam. Despite only being a child, himself.
Which leads us out of flashback-land....
Scene 12: Dean tells Sam that he knows why John sent them there. Dean tells Sam that their father has faced this creature before, and they're now to finish the job. Both the fact that John didn't kill this creature, and the look on Dean's face tells us that something happened to cause the battle to go sideways in the past.
Commentary: Well, bringing two young kids on a hunt for a monster was probably the first misstep, JOHN.
But I do like the scene in the past: It shows us why Dean is so committed to hunting - it's practically all that he knows. And Sam could walk away so easily, because John had used Dean to keep Young Sammy relatively untouched by the dangers. Dean always had all of the responsibility, while Sam always got taken care of.
Scene 13: That night, the Winchesters rent a room at the 2400 Court. As they're getting out of the car, Sam asks what a Shtriga is supposed to be. Dean admits he doesn't know much about them, but believes it is some sort of witch.
Sam brings up why it isn't dead, if John went after it, and Dean tells him this one got away. He also tells Sam that he was there when John was hunting one, but Sam [weirdly - he wasn't a toddler] doesn't remember.
Sam asks what else he remembers, but Dean claims ignorance because he was just a kid, then.
[But I am doubting this. It feels like Dean knows more about how the Shtriga got away from John than he's admitting, just based on the feel of the last scene.]
Dean rings the front desk, and a boy - about the same age as he was in flashback-land - comes up to check them in. In the rear apartment, a younger brother is being watched over by his older brother....
Young Mother comes in to complete Dean's registration, while she sends his reflection to take care of Sam's.
[Yeah, it's laid on a bit thick, here. You can already tell that one of the kids (probably younger brother) or both are going to be the Shtriga's target and that this must somehow reflect back on whatever happened in John's hunt. Which then suggests that I was right, and there is more to the story of that past hunt that Dean does remember....]
Scene 14: Dean watching Michael pour a glass of milk for his younger brother brings on another flashback to his pouring Short Sam a glass of milk, where Sam asks after John. Young Dean serves his brother Speghetti-O's, which Sam says he's tired of.
He whines for Lucky Charms. Dean says there is only one bowl left, and he hasn't gotten any of them. Sam puppy-eyes. Dean relents.
And it sounds like John, in addition to leaving his young children alone on hunts, also doesn't make sure they have enough groceries for several days stay.
Our Sam gives up the prize in the cereal box to Dean.
Scene 15: Back from flashback: Dean and Sam start looking into Shtriga, and Sam finds that it's Albanian, but date farther back to Rome. He finds that they feed off of "spiritus vitae" ... the breath of life. Dean offers that may be why the kids are weakening, and Sam agrees that if the Shtriga has fed off of them, it could play havoc with their immune systems.
Sam finds that Shtriga's are invulnerable to "all weapons devised by God and Man"... but Dean corrects him that it is vulnerable while feeding. And they'll need to use iron buckshot or bullets.
Sam points out that they still need to find it, but it looks human when it isn't sucking lifeforce. He tells Dean that they can appear literally as anything, but they're usually something harmless looking, like an old woman. Dean, of course, thinks of the old crone in the hospital with her upside down cross on the wall.
Scene 16: Back to the hospital our boys go. They're nearly caught by a nurse and Doctor Lydecker, but they're not and they somehow don't have to pass a manned reception area (*cough cough*, yeah... okay...).
Scene 17: They slip into old woman's room, where she's sitting all decrepit looking. Dean sneaks closer and closer to her so he can be jump-scared.
It turns out the old woman, is only a blind old woman, and the cross on the wall is upside down because it fell that way, and she complains that she's asked four damned times already for it to be re-hung correctly.
So, with their red-herring being discovered, they're back on the hunt.
Commentary: This scene is alright, except it's really kind of stupid. I don't understand what Sam and Dean were going to do if she was the Shtriga... just blow this "frail old lady" away with their hand-cannons?? And then, what, run and hope they don't get intercepted by the police?
And even if that was the case, and they were just going to fill the Shtriga full of gunshot, they just got done discussing that it can only be killed off while it is busy feeding. So... what was the plan, here, boys?
I don't get the logic behind this scene, except to show the boys they were red-herringed.
This is just a clumsy scene on its surface.
Scene 18: It's deep night, and the wind is causing the branches to click against the windows of - it turns out - the two motel-owner's sons who share a room. And then we see a familiar shadow creeping over the window!
The shadow unlocks the window... and then a very solid hand opens it....
Commentary: And that is one of the more creepy images, so good on the episode for that. The prop hand does look very much like it could be made of branches. It's human enough to tell it's a hand, but uncanny valley enough to highten tension on an almost subliminal level.
Scene 19: The following morning, Dean and Sam return to the motel from their unsuccessful night, with Sam laughing at Dean over the look on his face from his old-woman-jump-scare.
Dean notices across the courtyard, older motel son sitting forlornly on a bench. He asks Sam to hold on a sec and crosses over to Michael. Sam is puzzled by Dean's interest, but follows.
The boy is upset because his brother was taken to the hospital with pneumonia. He complains that it is his fault because he didn't make sure the window was latched... which is all sounding a bit too familiar.
Dean promises Michael that it isn't his fault, when mom comes out to rush back to the hospital with comfort items for Asher. Dean ends up giving her a lift, while leaving Sam to dig deeper into the lore and find a way for them to locate and kill this child-preying monster.
Commentary: This was also a nice scene for what it was doing... but... but, again it's a little heavy handed on the "Dean sees himself in Michael" and the music underneath is a bit too intrusive in order to drive the feeling home, so it doesn't totally work for me, just because it's pushing a bit too hard for pathos.
Scene 20: Sam goes back to the local library. He phones up Dean, who is still at the hospital. Sam shares that he's found a pattern of every 15-20 years, in which the Shtriga shows up and dozens of kids are sickened over a period of months before the mysterious pneumonia ceases. But the kids never recover - falling into coma and dying.
Sam warns Dean that their Shtriga is just getting started in Fitchberg. While speaking to Dean, Sam runs across a picture of an outbreak in 1893. The photo is of the doctors surrounding a patient. And one of the doctors is Dr. Aaron Hydecker!
And the good doctor is right now comforting Asher's mother in the sick kid's room with Dean.
The good doctor only pisses Dean off more by pretending to care deeply for the kids brought in, but Dean holds onto his cool, and continues playing the role of the CDC investigator, despite clearly wanting to kill the doctor immediately.
Scene 21: Later, back in the motel room, Sam is pacing angrily. He complains to Dean that they should've suspected a doctor right away, as they're a perfect disguise, that also allows the Shtriga to control everything.
Dean reminds Sam that the Shtriga is targeting siblings, which leads to a heated argument about whether to use Michael as bait to draw the Shtriga in. Sam stands against, Dean says it's the only way to stop it. He tells Sam that their Dad sent him here to finish this fight, and Sam reminds Dean that their father sent THEM to hunt this creature, and he's not going to dangle a child in front of this monster like a worm on a hook.
Dean heatedly tells Sam that the kids are getting attacked because of him -- because he's the one that screwed up all those years ago, that caused the Shtriga to slip away, and every kid that was made sick or died in the meantime is on him.
Sam demands answers, because he realizes that Dean has been hiding information. In the meantime, Dean keeps his back to Sam as he tries to get a hold on his guilt and regret.
Dean sits. Sam tells Dean to talk to him.
Scene 22: And we slip back to flashback-land. They were in Fort Douglas, WI and they'd been stuck in their crappy motel room for three days waiting for John's return. Young Dean was climbing the walls, and needed some fresh air. So he'd left the motel room, even though it was night. Short Sam was sleeping.
The motel had a diner attached, which had video game machines, so Dean spent some time there. (Probably more than he had meant to, when he'd left the room.)
The diner was closing up, so Dean returned to their room, reluctantly. Now, when Young Dean left, the bedroom door was opened.
Now, it was partially closed, and there was whispering and a bright light coming from within the room. He crept across the room, and peaked in, to see Little Sammy being hovered over by the Shtriga, doing the lightshow-lifeforce-sucking thingie on Sam.
Young Dean picked up the shotgun he had, but hesitated in firing, allowing the Shtriga to hear him and hiss at him. At that moment, John came in, shouting at Dean to move out of the way, and fired several rounds into the witch. But the Shtriga broke through the window it had come in through, and disappeared.
Little Sam is little worse for wear, though lethargic. John demands what happened, and Young Dean admitted that he'd left for "a few minutes". John glares and reminds him angrily that he was told not to leave the room, or Little Sam's side.
Commentary: And of course, Dean took it in, and accepted the blame without question. Because John sucks. And Dean didn't know better than to remind John that he is only a kid, and they shouldn't be dragged around after monsters in the first place.
I'll just rage a bit on Young Dean's behalf.
Scene 23: We come back from flashback-land, to Dean telling Sam that his father just grabbed them up, and got out of there. John took them to Paster Jim's about three hours away, and when he returned to Fort Douglas, there was no sign of the Shtriga.
John and Dean never spoke of it again, but Dean tells Sam that their father never looked at him the same way again. Which Dean can't blame him for. Sam tries to remind Dean he was just a kid, but Dean won't have it. He tells Sam that their dad sent him to clean up his mess.
Conversation turns back to risking Michael to do it. Dean is struggling with tears.
Scene 24: The next morning, Michael is brandishing a phone as a club, and warns he's going to call the police on the crazy men.
Dean tells Michael that it was a monster, it opened the window to their room, and it attacked Asher. And Dean knows this because he's seen it before, when it attacked his brother once. Michael asks if it has a long, black robe, and admits he saw it that night in their room, but he thought he was having a nightmare.
Dean turns attention to their needing Michael's help in order to stop the creature. Michael struggles with a decision.
Scene 25: Later in the motel room, Dean and Sam make it clear that Michael gave them a big "hell, no!" to acting as bait.
There is a knock at the door, and it's Michael - some hours later - who has had second thoughts. He wants to know if Asher will get better if they kill the monster. Dean shares a glance with Soulful Eyes Sammy. He admits that they don't know.
Michael chooses to help, because he tells Dean that he'd do anything for his little brother - a sentiment that Dean knows well.
Scene 26: That night, Michael has turned on the "no vacancy" sign. He's getting tucked into bed to tempt the Shtriga, while Dean sets up a night vision camera, so he and Sam can watch for the witch.
Dean gets Michael ready for what will happen when they burst into the room to kill the monster, and what he is to do in order to get clear for them.
Michael seems a bit more concerned with getting shot accidentally, then life-energy leeched. Dean assures him that he and Sam won't allow anything to happen to him, and that they're both good shots.
Scene 27: Dean and Sam sit vigil in the apartment, as Michael waits for the creature to come for him.
Sam apologizes to Dean for giving him so much crap for blindly following John's orders. Dean, finding himself in a chick-moment, begs jokingly to be killed now.
Then he spots a weird shadow that looks a bit too much like a hand outside of Michael's window.
Scene 28: In his room, Michael is leaning up - watching the shadow hand scratch at the window.
[And the creep factor goes into overdrive, with this whole sequence filmed in a way to suggest a child-molester sneaking in to rape Michael in his bed. It is extremely uncomfortable, including the Shtriga leaning over him in the suggestion of forcing a kiss on him... *ick, skin-crawl*!]
Dean holds Sam back until they see the Shtriga's mouth start doing the glow effect.
They burst into the room, and fill the Shtriga full of consecrated iron bullets - but were they fast enough?
The boys creep around Michael's bed, as he hides underneath it, to check on the fallen body of the Shtriga.
They juuuussst start to relax their guard, when the Shtriga pops up - snatching up Dean and tossing him effortlessly across the room. Sam tries to draw a second bead on it, but it moves at hyperspeed, tossing Sam hard into a wall.
Perhaps recognizing Sam as a one that got away, the Shtriga pins Our Sam to Asher's bed. He forces his mouth open, and starts the drain process. Our Sam struggles to get to his gun on the floor, but is suddenly paralyzed.
Thankfully for Our Sam, Dean recovers and is able to send one bullet through the Shtriga's forehead, while its in the midst of feeding on Our Sam.
Dean and Sam stand over the Shtriga, who is starting to discorporate. Dean sends three more bullets into its face to make sure.
We can see little life energy ribbons escaping out into the night.
Michael crawls out from under the bed. Of the Shtriga, there is only carpet-messing dust. Nothing that can't be cleaned up with a thorough vacuuming.
Commentary: That was a nice confrontation. I really liked the special effects for Our Sam in close up, seeing his face sinking inward as his life force was drained. I do wish that it had been Michael who'd grabbed up Sam's gun to shoot the Shtriga, but emotionally, I get why it was Dean able to "make up" for his past failure.
And I really dug the entire way the sequence was filmed.
Scene 29: The following morning, the boys are packing up Impala. Michael's mom arrives back, all smiles. It seems that Asher and the other children are making a sudden, equally unexplained, recovery.
They head to their car to return to the hospital, so Michael can see his brother.
At Impala, Sam offers it's a shame that Michael will always know there are monsters in the dark, now. He'll have to live with that knowledge.
Sam tells Dean that he often wishes he could not know what he knows. And Dean offers that he sometimes wishes Our Sam could have that innocence back, too.
But it's back on the road for both of them. At least they have a song backing them up, though.
The Good: I really liked the directing in this episode, and specifically the way the Shtriga's creeping was filmed. You could argue it was a bit repetitive with the shadow hand and the windows mysterious opening, but I won't argue that.
I liked all of the flashback-land scenes, and give a kudo to Ridge Canipe as Young Dean.
Jensen Ackles did some great acting with Dean's guilt and regret for his fuck-up, and his lingering self-judgement that won't accept that he was just a kid as an excuse for not following his father's word to the letter. It really explains a lot about why Dean is the way he is when it comes to John, and how Our Sam isn't so under John's thumb. (It doesn't say much good about John, though. I wonder if Eric had that in mind from the beginning, or if as the series progressed, it started to dawn on the writers that John is actually a bad father and that is why we get Pastor Jim and Bobby Singer.) He also does some nice work when Dean realizes he's in the same room with the actual monster, pretending to care about the sick kids he's harmed to their distraught parents.
I absolutely want to give a kudo to Colby Paul as Michael, as well. He did great work.
Also liked the final confrontation with the Shtriga.
The Bad: I didn't find anything off enough to place here.
Other Thoughts: As per usual this early, Sam & Dean run across the most talkative people with relevant factoids to share than anybody, anywhere ever should. It does come across as suspiciously datadumpy.
The only actual mis-step, I think, is the old lady red-herring. It's not in The Bad, but it was clumsy and didn't actually lead anywhere except for filling in the run time.
I also did find that equating Dean/Sam with Michael/Asher was just a bit too heavily done for the episode's own good. Again, not in The Bad, but it was thudding in the execution.
The pacing was actually really good throughout the episode, as well. Nicely done, all around.
The Score: This is a very solid episode, with some great insight into Dean and the differences between he and Sam when it comes to their father. There are several great shots that really inch up the creep factor, and you could easily read this as a metaphor for child molestation without a stretch, which just adds revulsion to the already creepy images.
A very solid 4.0 out of 5 stars