Mark Watches ‘Supernatural’: S01E20 – Dead Man’s Blood

In the twentieth episode of the first season of Supernatural, the Winchesters are united when John learns of a gun that can kill anything. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.

WELL, THIS WAS GREAT. Let’s talk about why.


I admit it’s exciting to see this show introduce more supernatural creatures to its own mythology because then that means they might introduce werewolves and make them actually scary. Sorry, I’m definitely one of those people who has never found werewolves to be terrifying in the least. And I have strangely written a lot about vampires, haven’t I? I just realized I’ve done so for Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel. Whoa, that’s a lot of vampire mythology.

And while the vampires in “Dead Man’s Blood” aren’t developed as much as Whedon’s mythology in the Buffyverse, I am actually way stoked when writers decide to take cultural legend for creatures like this and make it their own thing. While the vampires certainly share a lust for blood and a hankering for all things bizarrely sexual, I loved that they weren’t killed by sunlight or susceptible to stakings. And the whole second set of teeth thing is legitimately creepy! I suppose it’s exciting to me because I feel like the show could bring vampires back at a later date and still do interesting things with them.

The Family Business

But good god, this episode is ridiculously heavy on all things Winchester, and it was a pleasure to watch. This really does feel like we’re approaching something huge with these last three episodes of season one. (I still can’t believe I’m so close to the end of this season. Didn’t I just start this show???) The appearance of John Winchester again is one indicator of that, obviously, but I think that the way that the writers explore the emotional issues at hand between these brothers and their father suggests that some sort of closure is coming for the Winchesters. This is a difficult episode for the family because John’s return to the boys’ life unearths the once-dormant problems that Sam has with his father, though it’s far more vicious than what we saw last time. Seriously, within hours of John joining Sam and Dean, Sam is overflowing with ire. And it’s so confusing to Dean, who knows that Sam wanted to meet back up with their father for months.

Of course, Sam’s reluctance to follow his father’s orders is a key part of what unfolds onscreen, though “Dead Man’s Blood” presents this as a much more complicated and nuanced dilemma than we’d seen before. I was particularly touched by Sam’s defensive interpretation of what he and Dean had spent the last year doing. That was so fascinating to me! I feel like if he’d continued to elaborate on his feelings, he would have admitted that he was being protective of what they’d accomplished without their father. Sure, Sam’s issues with John’s authoritative style are rooted in problems stemming back to their childhood, but I got the sense that Sam was proud of what he and Dean had done. And they should be! They’ve proven to each other and their father that they’re more-than-capable hunters in their own right.

More on that in the end. Poor Dean, y’all. He’s stuck between his feuding brother and father, and that scene where Sam pulls the car over to confront John is just so painfully awkward. Look at Dean!!! He cares so goddamn much about these two, he agrees with both of them, and he’s torn between his family. Again, I totally misread the Winchesters’ emotional attachment to their father, and I think that scene is a perfect manifestation of Sam’s intense love and hatred for his father coming to bear at precisely the same time. In one breath, he’s decrying his father’s bossing around, and then he’s reverently asking John for more information. He inherently respects everything about his father while rejecting him, and it’s a contradiction that Sam isn’t even aware of. And I just LOVE how layered this is, y’all! I appreciate the complexity of it, and Jared Padalecki is just UNREAL here in his portrayal of a son torn apart by this fucked up family dynamic.

BECAUSE SERIOUSLY, THIS FAMILY IS MESSED UP. Sometimes adorably so? My favorite scene in “Dead Man’s Blood” is when John and Sam, waiting for Dean to return with the titular weapon, finally begin to approach some sort of honesty with one another. I’m thankful that John decides to explain himself to Sam because I know that the source of animosity between these two is based largely in misunderstandings. That’s not to suggest that Sam has no reason to be furious with his father! No, I think the writers lay the problems on the table, and it makes perfect sense that Sam would resent the authoritative hand that John is so used to. But from John’s perspective, the death of his wife brought all the supernatural evil of the world to his family, so it also makes sense that John would see the entire universe as a potential threat to Dean and Sam. WHICH SAM INTIMATELY UNDERSTANDS, OH GOD. Oh god. It’s so true, isn’t it? Haven’t we seen Sam’s paranoia about the threat his work brings to those he cares about IN THE PREVIOUS EPISODE? (Hello emotional continuity, you are GREAT.)

I don’t know, y’all, I guess it’s a little difficult to explain why I’m enjoying this so much. I’m admittedly drawn to stories about fucked-up family dynamics because I’m looking for validation. I have opened up about this a lot in past reviews, but I’m reminded specifically of Buffy and how cathartic it was to see characters who lived fucked-up lives finding happiness and support in others. So when I see the Winchesters and their basketful of issues and angst and fear, it makes me feel a little bit better about myself. Granted, I’m not off battling supernatural beings and fearing for my life every week, but this family is so messed up, and it’s comforting to know that. Does that make sense? I realize I project all over fictional characters every five minutes, but good god, WINCHESTER ANGST. I AM STARTING TO UNDERSTAND IT. That’s fascinating to me because it’s about the only thing I know about the Supernatural fandom: the Winchesters inspire feelings until the end of time. And I wanted to know why this fandom was so persistent and obsessed. It goes back to how Mark Does Stuff started over four years ago. I want to know why people love what they love, you know? Okay, well, perhaps that’s not the best example, given how I felt about Twilight, but the general idea still stands. Whenever I start something new, I approach it with curiosity because part of the experience is coming to understand a phenomenon. I don’t think Supernatural is the best show I’ve seen for Mark Watches by a longshot, and I hope I’ve explained why some of the not-so-good episodes are… well, not very good at all. But I’m beginning to understand the appeal of this goddamn family and their goddamn issues. And it’s addicting. I want more!

And sweet baby Gandalf, I am going to get more. I’m still floored that it’s Dean who ultimately gets John Winchester to – cherish this, y’all – ADMIT HE WAS WRONG. Sam is so stubborn in this episode, and absolutely no one is surprised by that. But when DEAN is the one disagreeing with his father, pushing John to allow them to come along BECAUSE THEY ARE STRONGER AS A FAMILY, I was shocked. I know this is a weird thought, but it’s really satisfying to see how wrong I got Dean/John initially? Dean respects his father, and practically worships the ground he walks on. But he’s also aware that John’s plan to go after the demon ALONE that killed Mary and Jess is REALLY SILLY. There’s power in numbers, and there’s even greater power in the Winchesters. Dean and Sam demonstrate that when they disobey their father and come to his aid at the end of “Dead Man’s Blood.” (Is it wrong to assume that John was quietly proud of his sons for saving him? I want to assume this.) Yes, John’s vulnerability comes from his love of his sons, but why can’t that also be his strength?

THE COLT. THE COLT!!!!1 OH MY GOD, IT’S SO FUCKING COOL. Can I just say that??? Like, that is a genuinely fascinating bit of mythology for this show, and now that I’ve seen it work, I’m 100% into it? I’m getting some major supernatural gunslinger vibes from this episode, so I’m super excited to see one of these Winchesters wield that gun to take down the demon that took their loved ones away from them. Oh god, which one is it going to be??? Seriously, any of the three options would be beautiful to see, though my guess is on John Winchester.


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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