Mark Watches ‘Supernatural’: S01E04 – Phantom Traveler

In the fourth episode of the first season of Supernatural, the boys combat a bizarre force that’s purposely taking down airplanes. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.

So, that was okay! This show is fun to watch, but it’s certainly not the most groundbreaking or layered thing I’ve ever seen, especially for Mark Watches. I admit that while I had fun yelling at “Phantom Traveler” and making LOST references every few minutes, this story was a bit simple for my tastes. Not enough of Dean and Sam staring at one another for way too long! Very few emotions! A plot that only sort of makes sense when you think about it!

But HOLY FUCKING NIGHTMARE FUEL. I was terrified of flying for years because of a traumatic flight when I was a kid. We hit some terrible pocket of turbulence on a flight to Hawaii and dropped nearly 10,000 feet in less than a minute, and for many years after that, I was the guy in the cold open of this episode. I’ve gotten over that fear, especially since I have to fly so often, but… yeah, I think the video commission speaks for itself. This episode is NOPETOBER forever, y’all. It’s just so creepy! And I think that’s why this feels so forgettable to me. This is a demon who, like clockwork, possesses people getting on planes, waits until forty minutes into the flight, makes a terrible pun, and then crashes the plan with the sole goal of killing every person on board. However, by the end of “Phantom Traveler,” there’s no victorious confrontation with the physical form of the demon. It just looks exactly like the Smoke Monster from LOST, and there’s absolutely no reason behind its behavior. I don’t think that’s a flaw in and of itself. I actually like the idea that the demon just wanted to cause chaos. But why spread the disasters over ten years? And how did it travel from place to place? And why was it obsessed with killing all of the passengers in the crashes it caused? I have a lot of questions that I suspect don’t matter in the end? Should I just keep asking them?

Still, I love the absurd nature of this episode, which is something Dean comments on about halfway through “Phantom Traveler.” It’s exciting to me because it suggests that there’s so much more that the writers can do with the show than to stick to the most simple tropes in the horror genre. (Which is why I was disappointed with the mediocre ending. You created a demon that infects people on planes and crashes them! Can’t you develop that idea just a little more?) Plus, what interaction we do get between Sam and Dean is kind of fantastic. I think that the most memorable aspects of this episode involve the two of them, specifically as we see Sam take charge for the majority of the story. That’s the case during the entire sequence on Amanda’s flight. Dean is so terrified of flying that he defers to his brother to take care of the exorcism. It’s Sam who saves the day this time, and I think it’s a great way for Sam to show his brother that he’s in this for the long run. Yeah, he’s still haunted by what had happened to Jess, which is another detail I was thankful for. Sam’s inability to sleep, his constant nightmares, and the horrible comment about Jess that the demon made all help to convey the fact that while Sam is trying to move on, that doesn’t mean he’s dealing with this perfectly. It’s going to be a complicated process for him. Thankfully, Sam has Dean to help him out.

Other than this, though, I can’t say that I have much to comment on regarding “Phantom Traveler.” I’m glad that Amanda survived, I was 100% right about which The X-Files episode that Brian Markinson (who played Jerry Panowski) was in (though I didn’t know he was in “Born Again,” too), and Dean’s face when he was admitting that he was terrified of flying was definitely the best. I’m hoping this is just a case of Supernatural trying to find its voice. I don’t think this is why so many of y’all watch this show.

The video for “Phantom Traveler” can be downloaded right here.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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