1×02 “Wendigo”

Wendigo picks up where the pilot left off; Sam and Dean are reunited, and they’re following the search for their missing father. For the first time, we’re given a date; November 2, 1983. A brief recap of what happened in November of ’83 as well as the action in the pilot sets the stage, and immediately we’re into the action.

In the pilot, Dean is given his father’s journal, something that John always carries with him. The police officer flips through the journal, noting it’s full of “Satanic mumbo-jumbo” but pauses at a page with Dean’s name, and a set of circled numbers. In Wendigo we find out what those numbers are; coordinates to John’s location, or at least, what we’re to believe is John’s location, which is Blackwater Ridge, a mountain train in Colorado.

The action proper starts with three young men out camping on the Ridge; of course they’re red-shirts, but it gets the action going properly. Two are playing on linked Gameboys, and one is recording a message on his cameraphone. Gameboy 1 accuses Gameboy 2 of cheating, then leaves to go outside. Into a dark forest. Alone. Of course he’s toast; we all know the rules. Gameboy 2 follows him out when he hears a strange noise; of course he’s toast, too. Cameraphone boy, who looks disturbingly like Ian Somerhalder, wisely turns off the lamp in the tent, but forgets the cardinal rule; YOU’RE SAFE IN THE SLEEPING BAG. So of course, he is toast.

Someone should remind those kids they’re in a horror movie.

When we see the Winchester clan again, Sam is alone in a graveyard, taking flowers to the gravesite of his deceased girlfriend, Jess. He jerks awake in the middle of the sequence, proving it to be a nightmare, which concerns Dean, who was until that moment jamming away to Hot-Blooded by Foreigner.

When they arrive at the National Forest where Blackwater is located, we’re treated to our first amusing moment; we find out that Dean Winchester can’t lie to save his life. From the forest ranger there, they find out information that leads them to Cameraphone Somerhalder’s sister, who is determined to hike out into the woods to reach Blackwater Ridge and find her brother. She hires Callum Keith Rennie to guide them into the woods, and of course, they’re joined by the Winchester brothers.

In the course of the hike into the Ridge, Dean confesses that he and Sam are brothers, looking for their missing father, and thinks that he might be in the same boat as her brother, and that’s why they’ve gone along. The hunter doesn’t believe any of them should be going along, and it quickly becomes evident that he, too, is a red-shirt.

The search party finds the camp, torn and covered in bloodstains, then are lured away by the call of the Wendigo. When they return, all their gear has been stolen by the creature, and they’re forced to camp out overnight, protected by Anasazi Indian symbols gleaned from John’s journal. Rennie’s hunter is disbelieving and downright disdainful and angry towards the brothers, and it gets him told off by Sam in one of the episode’s best lines; “It’s going to hunt you down and eat you alive unless we get your stupid sorry ass outta here.”

The best scene of the episode, however, comes at night, when the party is settled in and waiting for daylight. The hunter is outside the protective symbols, the sister and younger brother inside, and Sam is sitting by himself. Dean goes to him, and Jared Padalecki’s Sam gives a very emotional scene as Dean pulls a confession out of him through gentle goading. There’s anger, there’s misery, there’s sadness, and there’s determination, and every single one of them are fighting to be displayed on Sam’s face, even when half of it is hidden by shadow and the other half only lit by firelight.

That one scene manages to carry on the theme from the Pilot: how can this fractured familal situation work out? It’s a theme that recurs through nearly every episode, some more strongly than others. Wendigo is one that blends it seamlessly with the monster-hunt-of-the-week plot, and this is one of the show’s strong points. It has the ability to become boringly formulaic, and yet, never really does.

It becomes all the more apparent–and personal–when Dean is captured by the Wendigo, that Sam has to act rather than *react*, and he does. Dean told him the best way to channel the anger is “…to kill as many evil sons of bitches as I can.” Sam takes this to heart, and with the help of an M&M trail, he manages to stalk the Wendigo to his lair, rescue Dean and the others, and dispose of it.

If there’s one weakness this episode has, I’d say it’s the pacing. It seems to take longer than it should to identify the Wendigo, and once it’s identified, it seems to take much too long trying to decide how to deal with it. I suspect that’s because this is one of the few episodes in which they actually tell the people involved what they’re dealing with, and much of the dialog there feels like unnecessary exposition. Especially upon later viewing, when you’ve seen details like that delivered much less clumsily.

However, that can be forgiven, because it’s only the second episode. The show very definitely finds it’s footing here, and in the next few episodes. The actors are growing much more comfortable in the characters, and the writers and behind the scenes personnel are obviously becoming much more comfortable in their places, and in their interpretations of the characters.

The strengths of the episode outweigh the weaknesses, though. With an actual defined threat–the Wendigo–the effects don’t overwhelm the story. You see barest flashes of the creature; claws, shadows, blurry motion shots, screams off-screen, and blood splatters. You’re left to imagine the Wendigo on your own, augmented with the glimpses you’re given, and the effect is surprisingly scary.

Best Line: Sam: “It’s going to hunt you down and eat you alive unless we get your stupid sorry ass outta here.”

Dean displaying flare guns

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2 Responses to “1×02 “Wendigo””

  1. I just want to say that I’ve read a lot of review and recaps of the Supernatural since I found this series really late in the game; and I wanted to tell you that of all the reviews out there, I find yours to be very similar to my views and opinions. Thank you for your review and I will be reading the rest of them.

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