1×16 “Shadow”

1×16 – Shadow

I’ll be completely and totally upfront with you; Shadow is one of my all-time favorite Supernatural episodes. Ever. So pop the popcorn, cause chances are this one’s gonna be a long one.

I’ll also make another admission, while I’m at it; I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; I don’t like John Winchester. I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan; the man rocks every pair of socks that I own, and I think I love him that little bit more for making me dislike John as much as I do. That being said, though, I don’t think I have the hate for him I used to have. Maybe I’m mellowing during the repeated re-watchings, or maybe I’m just trying to talk myself out of the rabid John-hate, but Shadow’s one of those episodes that makes me dislike him less. (Something Wicked makes me hate his guts, on the other hand.)

Shadow starts out with one of my pet peeves; the Stupid Redshirt. Red-Shirts don’t really bother me so much; I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Trekkie; my first words might well have been “I grok Spock.” But the stupid ones bother me. Like this girl, who thinks she’s being followed, and yet, *isn’t bright enough to take the headphones out of her ears.* To, you know, listen. Or hear what’s going on around her. She doesn’t bother taking the headphones out until the deiva’s already on top of her and she can see the shadow. OBVIOUSLY it’s a little late for that!

If you ask me–which you didn’t–house alarms and car alarms are both useless. I mean, you hear a car alarm going off now, and nobody even raises an eyebrow any longer because it’s seriously not a deterrent. You can *drive by* another car and set the alarm off, and everybody knows it. House alarms are the same way; there’s so many false alarms there’s no way to know if it’s a real call for help or not.

Nice blood spray on the wall.

“I feel like a high school drama dork.” Oh, Dean. You crack me up. Especially since Jensen Ackles WAS a high-school drama dork. (He was in West Side Story, if I remember correctly. And was on the Pep Squad.)

Okay. I have to ask you. Is it just me, or does it seem like they *totally switched apartments* on us when we weren’t looking? Cause, I realize it was filmed dark, and at night and all that, but this does not look like the same place we JUST SAW thirty seconds ago in the teaser! Like those ugly silver-square curtainy things. Where the heck were they!?

The Landlady? Has one of the best lines ever. “Your alarm’s about as useful as boobs on a man.” I love that spunky little woman so much!

Dean, in a way, reminds me of a sailor; girlfriend in every port. He has got to be about fifteen times more charming than I think he actually is to get the information that he gets. But, after watching Route 666, I understand why he’s all about the shallow. And I don’t think that I blame him a bit. Cassie did a good number on our boy.

The werewolves of Supernatural–assuming that they ever run across any–are apparently govered by the full moon/lunar cycle thing. Which is good information to know, if you keep track of that kind of thing!

The interesting point of the search of the dead girl’s apartment is this; Dean is the one who figures out the bloodstains are points of a sigil. Sam’s yammering to him in the background, and Dean’s just studying the pattern of bloodstains, and then asks for masking tape. Sam unquestioningly provides the tape, and Dean gets down on his hands and knees, methodically ripping, laying, and pounding the tape in place to form the weird Z-looking symbol. When he’s done, Sam and he both look down at the symbol, and both admit they’d never seen it before.

I love that Sam doesn’t question Dean, for once; he respects that maybe Dean has strengths that he doesn’t know about. He just *accepts* it and does what he’s asked for once. Lots of love for Sam.

The next scene is Dean investigating the bar where the victim worked. When Sam comes in, Dean reluctantly finishes his shot, bids the gorgeous busty bartender goodbye, and makes his way over to Sam. After a little banter about whether or not Dean got the bartender’s number–he did–they compare notes and realize that they have no useful information–except said phone number.

Almost midsentence, Sam trails off talking to Dean, and walks over to another one of the tables in the bar, only to reveal…

Meg!

Yes, everyone’s favorite psychotic blonde demon-spawn hitchhiker is back! (Remember, we last saw Meg at the end of Scarecrow when she slit a man’s throat to talk to her father-demon in the skull cup). She tells Sam that she did go to California, met “something Michael Murray” at a bar (irony, considering Jared Padalecki and Chad Michael Murray are best friends in real life) and got tired of the California scenery, so she moved to Chicago for awhile.

Dean tries to get an introduction, and when Meg finds out who he is, she tears into him, accusing him of treating Sam like luggage, and tells him that he should let Sam do what he wants to do and stop dragging him all over God’s green earth. Sam tries to calm the situation down, but Dean ends up leaving to get a drink and Sam defends him.

Sam gets Meg’s number before they leave, and they agree to hook up again while they’re both in town. Slickly, Sam finds out her last name–Masters–and he and Dean leave the bar. It amuses me, quite a bit, that Sam invokes Scout’s Honor, when I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t ever a scout.

Dean’s angry when they walk out, and he confronts Sam about what he said to Meg. Sam tries to placate him, explaining that it was during their “big fight” back in Indiana, and he met Meg at the bus stop. Dean demands to know if there’s any truth to it, and Sam reassures him that of course there’s no truth to it. Once he has Dean’s feathers smoothed down, he points out that it’s weird meeting Meg again, here, after all this time, and how random a coincidence it is. Dean teases Sam about his attraction to Meg, and says that he’s thinking too much with the upstairs brain. Sam still isn’t convinced, and finally gets Dean to agree to help him check Meg out while he goes and watches her apartment.

While Sam camps out in front of Meg’s apartment, Dean is busy looking her up. He finds her in the phone book, even pulls up her high school picture, and calls Sam to tell him that. He even suggests that he take Meg to a poetry reading, or whatever it is he does. Sam asks about the sigil, and Dean’s found out that it’s Zoroastrian, about two millennium before Christ, and that it’s used to control deivas, or demons of darkness, that Dean describes as “demonic pit-bulls.” When Sam asks how Dean figured all that out, Dean tries to put up a front and point out that Sam doesn’t have the corner on paper-chasing, but Sam knows him too well, and demands to know the last book Dean even read, and Dean is forced to confess that he called their Dad’s friend Caleb for help. Dean says that the deivas have to be summoned, which means that someone is controlling them, and that they’re a big player on the scene.

I’m so amused that a passer-by calls Sam the pervert, just because he’s watching Meg strip in her bedroom window. Hey, I always say, if they’re flaunting it like that, they’re inviting you to look and it’s rude not to accept. For the record? Nikki Aycox is smokin’ hot.

Sam follows Meg to an old, condemned warehouse, and shows an amazing feat of upper body strength as he friggin’ SCALES THE ELEVATOR SHAFT. I don’t know about you, but the last time I tried to climb an elevator shaft, it didn’t go to well. At all. I ached for weeks, and there wasn’t enough Percocet in the world. But I guess that’s a side benefit of being a Winchester.

And you know, I realize that it’s probably all special effects and Jared Padalecki is standing on box, but y’all, Jared’s not a little guy. If he’s holding up any of his own body weight on his arns while he’s watching Meg talk to the Demon… that’s gotta hurt. Cause that’s two hundred pounds plus gravity dangling there.

Apparently, not even Sam is Superman, because he feels the strain, and we’re treated to some wonderful grunting and groaning as he pulls himself into the room after Meg leaves, and he’s investigating the black altar, where he sees the same Z symbol as in the girl’s apartment.

Now, up until this moment (about twenty minutes in, sans commercials) I’ve been kind of “meh!” about the whole episode; it’s good, but it’s been slowly building up to something, and from here on out? Here’s where we find out what it’s building up to, and how it fits into the overall Winchester story.

Sam comes back to the apartment, and Dean meets him almost at the front door, saying in unison, “Dude, I got to talk to you.” Sam’s news is what we already saw him find; Meg, the black altar, she’s summoning the deivas, and she’s working for someone big, who’s giving her orders.

Yet again, it’s Dean who puts the pieces together. He pulled a favor with his *cough* friend from the police department (the same one he mentioned in the teaser! Yay continuity!) and we find out that both victims so far hail from Lawrence, KS–the same town that Sam and Dean were born in. Sam’s reaction is the same as mine. “Holy crap.”

Together, the brothers decide that they think Meg is tied up with the Demon (the yellow-eyed Demon that they’re hunting) and Dean wants to go back to the warehouse, trash the altar, and grab Meg for a friendly little interrogation. Sam, on the other hand, wants to stake out the warehouse, not tip Meg off, and see who she’s really working for.

(Now, I don’t know about you, but I can tell you already, just because this is Supernatural, that this is not going to end well. And no, that’s not a spoiler, that’s just a thought that I had the very first time I watched the episode. I’m just reproducing it here.)

Dean agrees, but he makes one more statement that I never expected him to make; he thinks they shouldn’t do it alone. Dun-dun-dun.

Enter the phone call to John Winchester, and Dean leaving a message for John that they think they’ve found the Demon that killed their mother. He leaves John the address of the warehouse, and tells him to get to Chicago as soon as he can.

Sam comes in at the end of the phone call, with all their gear over his shoulder. He and Dean start going through the bags, checking and loading the guns, racking the slides, and holy cow, that’s sexy.

This is also one of the most painful scenes in the series, because Sam and Dean start having a conversation about “What if it’s over tonight?” And Sam talks about how much he wants to go back to school and be a real person, and it’s obvious that Dean isn’t thrilled by it. When Sam asks what’s Dean going to do when it’s over, Dean tells him that it’s never going to be over. There’s always going to be something to hunt. Sam tries to get Dean to think about something that he wants, for himself, and Dean’s first answer is that he doesn’t want Sam packing up and leaving the second “this thing” is over.

It’s very possible that Jensen Ackles is going to win a billion awards in his lifetime, and I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually, one of them is for his portrayal of Dean Winchester. Dean could have been a caricature in the hands of another actor, but Jensen gives him depth and believability and pathos and everything else you want to mention, and a lot of that comes to a head in this moment.

Dean can’t look at Sam at first, instead turning his back to him and hanging his head so he doesn’t even have to face his own reflection in the mirror until he’s gotten himself under enough control that he can talk. And then he turns back to Sam and confesses that the reason he drags Sam everywhere with him is that he wants the family to be together again. Him, Sam, Dad, a family.

Sam tries to tell him that they are a family, and that he would do anything for Dean, but they’d never be the way they were before. On the edge of tears, Dean says that they could be, and Sam–who is also on the edge of tears himself, God love Jared Padalecki–tells Dean that he doesn’t want them to be the way they were, and Dean can’t meet Sam’s eyes anymore. Just lock-jawed and silent, Dean’s eyes drop to the floor as Sam says, “when this thing is over, you gotta let me go my own way.” Dean’s only response to that is a reproachful glare and a tic of his jaw.

God, those guys are going to kill me.

Thank God for a scene cut, or I’d be crying even worse.

When the scene comes back, Sam and Dean have both shimmied up that elevator shaft, and are sneaking into the warehouse to watch Meg’s black ritual. In the middle of her chanting, Meg breaks out with, “Guuuuuys, hiding’s a little bit childish, don’t you think?”

Dean’s shock shows in “Well, that didn’t work out the way I planned.”

When Meg invites them to come out, they both rise up from teir hiding places, shotguns at the ready. They question Meg as to who she’s waiting for, and she tells Sam “You.” Then the deivas attack, and when the scene cuts back, both Winchesters are tied up to columns in the warehouse, and one of my two favorite Dean lines ever come up in this scene. The first is, “Sam, don’t take this the wrong way, but your girlfriend? Kinda a bitch.”

Sam figures it out. “This, the whole thing, it was a trap.” But Dean is the one who gets her to spill the real plan; “this trap isn’t for you.” And Sam puts it together at the last. “Dad… it’s a trap for Dad.”

Dean brags on how good John is, and how he wouldn’t get caught up in the trap. But Meg reminds Dean that they’re John’s weakness, that he lets his guard down around the boys and that he’ll come and try to save them, and the shadow demons will kill all three of them.

Apparently Meg finds a whumped-up Winchester as irresistible as the rest of us do, because she crawls into Sam’s lap, to the point where Dean groans, “Get a room, you two.” And Meg proposes, “C’mon Sammy, you and me can still have a little dirty fun.” Sam’s answer? “Go ahead, I’m a little tied up at the moment.”

Meg stops her seduction of Sam to thwart Dean’s escape attempt, but then crawls right back into his lap, but Sam breaks free. It’s so much fun to watch Sam go all Incredible Hulk on the black altar, and Meg gets thrown out the warehouse window by the deivas. Bye-bye, Meg.

Standing at the window, Dean and Sam look down at her broken body. “Hey, Sam? Next time you wanna get laid, find a girl that’s not so buckets o’crazy, huh?” That line, and a lingering closeup of Sam looking down on Meg, ends that scene, and my two favorite Dean lines ever.

Back at their hotel, Dean opens the door only to find someone standing at the window. He calls out, and John Winchester himself steps out of the shadows and into the light.

“Dad?”

“Hey, boys,” he says with a smile, moving across the room. Dean meets him first, ina hug that would crack the ribs of any lesser man, and Dean is near tears again as his fingers dig into John’s jacket.

He reluctantly lets go, and John turns to face Sam. “Hi, Sam.”

“Hey, Dad.” Sam’s face, when he sees John and Dean together, I can’t explain it, but he’s so *glad* and yet, there’s this huge sadness too, because he’s not getting the same hug that Dean is. I don’t know, but I love Jared Padalecki for it. You can tell that since Nightmares, Jared’s been getting better by leaps and bounds, because something about that episode really got him into the character and he’s seriously owning Sam Winchester.

Dean tells John that it was a trap and he apologized, and John said he got there just in time to see the girl take the swan dive. And he says he’s not surprised, because the Demon’s tried stopping him before, and John admits that he’s going to kill the demon, not just send it back to hell, but kill it.

Sam wants to come along and help, but John says not yet, he doesn’t want Dean or Sam hurt in the crossfire.

Sam says that he doesn’t have to worry about them, and John says yes he does, because he’s their father. And that they had one hell of a fight the last time they were together, and that it’s good to see Sam again. Sam admits it’s been too long since they’ve seen each other, and they hug too, and Dean… Dean is almost crying again because his family is back together.

That idyllic moment is broken by the deiva attack, and Dean’s scream of “No!” as it attacks John and Sam is quickly cut off as he’s thrown against the wall.

In the shadows outside, we find Meg–who is not dead!–chanting softly and holding a Z-shaped medallion, which she is using to control the deivas.

The deivas go for John first, pinning him agains tthe cabinets and slashing him to bits, and Sam acts. He tells Dean and John both to close their eyes, and he burns the shadow demons away with a quicksilver flare, brighter than any other flare I’ve ever seen. Dean finds John in the brightness, and Sam herds them both out the door and into safety. Dean and John follow him to the Impala, and Sam tries to herd them both into the backseat (a scene that’ll become eerily familiar in Devil’s Trap), but Dean balks.

Again, Jensen Ackles knocks this scene out of the park and reduces me to tears. Seriously, why this man is not getting awards and notice is beyond me. But Dean tells Sam, in the most heartbroken voice you can imagine, that they’ve got to let John go. Sam and John are both disbelieving, but Dean makes sense. “We almost got Dad killed in there, don’t you understand? They’re not gonna stop. They’re gonna keep using us to get to him. Meg was right, Dad’s vulnerable when he’s with us. He’s stronger without us around.”

Sam turns to his father, trying to talk him out of this, begging him not to go. John tells him that the fight is just starting, and that they’re all going to have a part to play, and he echoes Sam’s words to Dean from before; “You gotta let me go.”

The brief look we get at Dean when his father says that is just… mesmerizingly heartbreaking. Sam, too, is starting to get it, and Sam finally drops his hand from John’s shoulder and lets him go.

Sam irks me slightly, because it’s like he’s so caught up in his own pain and his own feelings about this that he doesn’t realize how horrible it was for Dean, because Dean just gave up everything he ever wanted; he said earlier in the episode that all he wanted was for Sam and him and John to be together again, to be a family, and that he had to be the one to speak up and say, “No, we can’t, Dad has to go,” was shattering, and you can see every bit of that etched on Dean’s face, thanks to Jensen Ackles.

The episode ends with John and Truckzilla going in one direction, and the boys in the Impala going in a completely different direction, and Meg standing on the corner, looking on helplessly as the Winchesters separate.

Best Lines:
Sam: Bite me.
Dean: No, bite her! But don’t leave teeth marks. Just enough where–
(Sam hangs up)

Dean: Hey, Sam? Next time you wanna get laid, find a girl that’s not so buckets o’crazy, huh?

Credits:
Screencaps courtesy of Extreme Graphix
Episode still of all three Winchesters together courtesy of Supernatural Media

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