In the seventh episode of the first season of Supernatural, a pervasive urban legend becomes frighteningly real for a young woman confused by her place in the world. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
This is certainly a lot stronger of an episode than most of what I’ve seen before. It’s scary, it’s fully resolved, and there’s way more character development for this week’s “victim” character. Truthfully, I’m actually drawn to the character of Lori Sorenson because I spent a good deal of my life struggling with what religion meant to me, which included feeling conflicting emotions about what other people in my life were doing. So, HEADS UP: TONS OF PROJECTING ALL OVER LORI.
But let’s start with that cold open. I regret nothing in my video commission for this episode, even all the outright screaming I did at Rich. HE MADE SO MANY TERRIBLE HORROR MOVIE MISTAKES, ONE AFTER ANOTHER. Oh, he was so dead. DEAD. Well, then he refused to listen to Lori telling him no, so I had virtually no need to see him survive this because you need to stop when she says stop. It’s gross, and no. But I had no idea that this would actually be part of the plot itself! I’d just assumed that this was a straight version of the Hook Man Legend, one I’d heard myself when I was just a child. A man with a hook for a hand terrifies people making out in cars, scratching the side of the vehicle as torment, and leaving his hook behind as a message. However, John Shiban adds a much more personal and emotional twist to this tale, and while I think the execution suffers a few times, it’s actually an improvement on the legend.
ALSO: THIS EPISODE IS SO FUCKING SCARY. I jumped a lot, I shrieked a few times, and I spent at least a third of “Hookman” repeating my own personal mantra: “No nope nope no no no no no.” I love the idea of making him a vengeful spirit who attaches himself to people’s repressed confusion, and I love that because he’s a spirit, he is often invisible. All those sequences where you just see his hook scratching the wall or the car? A billion nopes until the end of time.
However, it’s the way Lori’s personal crisis fits into this that I found most striking. If you’re not familiar with my own past, I converted to Catholicism in a failed attempt to hide my own homosexuality and to get closer to my Mexican heritage which I’d been denied since I was adopted. It was a failure and a misguided attempt at finding happiness for a lot of reasons, but one of the more upsetting aspects of this experience was my inability to rationalize my own desires and the moral choices of the few friends I had with what my faith taught me about the world. Now, I fell in with a very particular crowd through the Church, and that meant that the kind of Catholicism that I was exposed to was heavy on the guilt. Well, okay, the Catholic Church is big on guilt in general, but my godfather’s family and their circle of friends/parishioners were almost entirely immigrants from Mexico and Central America. All my education was in Spanish, and there was also an aspect of mysticism drawn from the many indigenous cultures that culminated in that group. This is all my attempt to explain that these people were extremely friendly, that they welcomed me into their group with open arms, and once I was accepted into their culture, I learned just how much we were supposed to judge one another.
It was a jarring, confusing experience for me, because I was taught to hate the very music that had kept me alive while I was at home with my parents. I was taught to judge the clothes that people wore. I was taught to judge my fellow students for dating outside of the church. And I was most definitely taught to hate myself, to despise the urges and desires that I kept hidden because these people (and my city, too) were so virulently homophobic. It was, frankly speaking, an utter disaster. So it was hard for me not to see myself in Lori, who was raised with a specific moral system and then struggled with what that meant for the people in her life. She hated that her father was such a hypocrite, but does that mean she wanted him dead? She wasn’t comfortable with the way that Taylor pressured her into doing things she didn’t want, but that doesn’t mean she deserved to die, either. Even Rich, who was gross and rude to her, didn’t deserve the treatment he got.
This episode’s horror plays out as the unwilling manifestation of Lori’s confusion, and I think it’s a fascinating story choice. Like I said earlier, I don’t think it’s executed perfectly. I wanted a bit more confirmation from the text that Taylor herself wasn’t immoral, as I don’t think Lori really expressed all that much regret that she died. On top of that, there’s a lack of closure for Lori at the end of “Hookman.” She suspects that she was inherently responsible for the three attacks in this episode, but she’s sort of let off the hook in the end. Which is fine! She didn’t actually kill anyone, so I’m glad that the writers didn’t force her into an uncomfortable position of culpability. Her guilt was portrayed well, too, but I felt that this story needed Lori to come to terms with her own moral confusion. For me, it felt like this was an incomplete character development. The episode introduces this crisis she has, forces her to face how her judgment of others can be harmful (albeit in a vicious and brutal way), and then… nothing? She doesn’t learn anything, we don’t know if she changes, and we don’t know if she even senses that there’s a new path for her to take when it comes to her faith. It’s not lost on me that this is yet another woman character on the show who isn’t given full development, but at least Lori was absolutely vital to “Hookman.” The story depends on her existence. You can’t take her out of it.
Mostly, episodes like “Hookman,” “Dead in the Water,” and “Bloody Mary” give me an idea of how Supernatural can be a great show, but they’re glimpses of a potential I feel the show hasn’t quite reached. It’s still finding its voice and exploring emotional serialization in the Winchesters. There’s some neat stuff here about Sam empathizing with Lori because he watched a loved one die in front of him, but I find myself longing for something a bit more substantial at times. Still, this show is very new to me, and I love giving things time to develop, to find themselves. I’m interested in the characters, the setting, and the narrative framing of the Winchesters. I’m also hoping that by the end of this season, I’ll start to understand why so many people find Supernatural so beloved.
The video commission for “Hookman” can be downloaded right here.
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