The Official Supernatural: “Nightmare Logic” (14.05) Live Recap Thread


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My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Apologies for not getting to this one until now. Also, next week, I’ll be busy Friday and Saturday, so I likely won’t get to that one until Sunday.

Okay, so let’s get started.

Recap starting with Maggie (the most useless DiD ever) then going through the Michael storyline and Dean’s speech to Sam about ending all monsters. FYI, there is a wee spoiler in there that, tied in with the title, will tell you right away what the MOTW is. Sorry.

Cut to night in Claremore, OK, where Maggie is walking through a forest all alone. She enters a graveyard and approaches a crypt with the family name “Rawling” across it. She sits down and pulls something out of her backpack. It turns out to be a bodycam that she reports into before clipping it on and entering the crypt.

Okay, why is Maggie Hunting, let alone by herself? The last time we saw her on a Hunt, she nearly got her team killed and that was with a group. Is she by herself or did some other moron think this was a good idea?

Also, we already found out that bodycams, or any cams, are a bad idea from “Ghostfacers!” They’re distracting to whoever is using them and the footage risks outing Hunters to the general human world, which is not a good idea.

Anyhoo, Maggie breaks into the crypt, believing she is Hunting a ghoul. By herself. With no backup. Okeydoke.

As she walks around the crypt, looking for opened coffins, a wavering machete in her hand, she is attacked by a snarling old man/ghoul.

Cue title cards.

Cut to the Bunker, where Sam is giving some newbie Hunters from the Other Side a lecture on Hunter safety before sending them off. As Dean walks in on them, Sam automatically glances to Dean for feedback. Dean chooses, instead, to take a backseat. As the meeting breaks up and Sam walks off with Dean, Dean’s main comment (aside from seeing Sam do coordinating with Hunters as “adorable”) is that Sam is not getting enough sleep. Yeah, one thing Sam really ought to be doing is having someone play dispatcher on shifts for Hunter check-ins, rather than trying to do it all himself. Yeah, I used to run a rescue squad. You gotta learn to delegate that stuff.

Sam discovers that one of the Hunters (he infodumps that he has 20 out there, including our four non-redshirts Castiel, Jack, Mary and alt-Bobby) “missed check-in.” It’s Maggie. So, now we know which moron sent Maggie out on a Hunt all by herself. Yay, Boss Sam.

So, Dean is trying to call Maggie, while Sam calls up her body cam and some random redshirt wanders past the Library. Sam infodumps that the body cams automatically upload to a server, which I’m sure could never get hacked by hostile parties, or anything. So, yeah, Sam’s responsible for that swift decision, too. Dean doesn’t call him on it, just infodumps about the reasoning behind it. They get the teaser for the episode.

Sam starts to tailspin in self-recrimination. Dean yanks Sam’s head out of his ass by agreeing it looks like a ghoul and it’s time to go find out for sure. Meanwhile, Rando Redshirt dude wanders around in the background, checking the wastebaskets, or something.

Off the Brothers go to Oklahoma. That is a rather odd background on the obligatory Impala-on-the-road shot. Did they bluescreen that?

In the graveyard, Sam infodumps that it’s all owned by the same family, which Dean notes is awfully convenient – for that family.

Sam says Maggie was investigating a report by some local kids that they were attacked by a “walker” while they were studying. Sam even outs it as an explicit The Walking Dead reference.

“I know what a Walker is, Sam,” Dean calmly replies. As they approach the crypt, Dean notices some beer cans in front of it and dismisses the “studying” excuse with that adorable half-laugh he always used to do back in the day. Ackles is having fun plumbing his old Dean tics toolkit these days.

Inside, they find disturbed dust and scuff marks, but no blood. Dean theorizes that the ghoul might have dragged Maggie off to feed on her later, and that she might still be alive. Either way, they have to find the MOTW and kill it.

They are hailed from the entrance by a guy in a gardening suit with a rake and accused of trespassing. Sam smoothly states they’re from an historical society and Dean follows up by asking where the local family mansion is. They guy leads them to it and introduces them to a rotund, smarmy grad student type who burbles over the idea of an historical society turning the family manse and graveyard into an official historical site. It’s obviously a lot more complicated than that, but this is just a Winchester cover story, anyway, so let’s roll with it.

The guy, named Neil, lets them in and comments that there seem to be an awful lot of people there from the “HBC.” Turns out Mary and Bobby showed up to investigate, too. Bobby is pretty sarcastic about Sam’s attempts to pull rank, so Mary takes Sam off to talk to him about Maggie, while Dean stays behind to interview Neil, with Bobby.

Neil says he’s not part of the family. He’s Mr. Rawling’s “nurse.” When Bobby asks to interview Old Man Rawling, there’s a snag. Old Man Rawling is in a coma.

Mary tells Sam she and Bobby came to check on Maggie because Maggie was “nervous about her first Hunt.” (Oh, hon, she shouldn’t have been out Hunting, period, not to mention alone.) They were texting with her when she suddenly went radio silence, but Mary admits she and Bobby should have let Sam know. Well, yes, there isn’t much point to all these high-tech improvements if y’all don’t use them to, y’know, stay in touch.

Something is awry with Old Man Rawling. He’s in a coma surrounded by blood transfusions and yet, he’s the ghoul from Maggie’s body cam footage. Meanwhile, Maggie is underground somewhere, trussed up and being drained of her own blood. Big hint about the MOTW, there.

A woman with groceries walks in, looking totally unimpressed by the new people in her dad’s room. Neil introduces her as Sasha, Old Man Rawling’s daughter. After a little banter, she throws them out.

At the Impala, the Hunters chew things over. Bobby says he tested OMR and he had no bites, so probably not a ghoul.

Mary speculates shapeshifter, but Dean points out that ‘shifters don’t generally do graveyards. Sam thinks maybe demon, but Bobby points out that demons aren’t generally so patient as to put their hosts’ bodies back in their beds after taking them for a “joyride.”

Dean notes Bobby’s irritability and calls him out on it. Bobby admits he has a problem with Sam sending Maggie out on a Hunt alone. He says she wasn’t ready and “a real leader” would have noticed this.

Mary breaks things up by going on reconnaissance with Sam and having Dean go with Bobby. I get she wants to give Sam a pep talk, but why stick poor Dean with Bobby? Sheesh.

Also, I don’t agree with Mary that it’s not Sam’s fault. It really is. Yeah, Sam’s moping over it isn’t helping, but Sam should have clearly seen how unready Maggie was back in the season premiere bar fight and kept her back for longer. I mean, come on, it’s been only a few weeks since then. No way Maggie turned into Hunter Sue in that time and Mary (the one who had to hand her an angel sword and tell her to get out there during the bar fight) knows that better than anyone.

Instead, Bobby is made to look like a big meanie for pointing out that Sam’s leadership skills need a little work. They do. Sure, he can get better, but he can’t get better if other characters’ keep holding his hand.

Bobby asks Dean if he was too hard on Sam. Dean’s response is rather noncommittal, saying that Sam is “doing his best.” But Dean also notes that Sam is overdoing it and not sleeping enough.

Sam, meanwhile, asks Mary about her relationship with Bobby. She says things were going fine until they got back home (for her). Then Bobby closed up and all he ever wants to do is hunt. Sam tells her a little about “our” Bobby, that his wife was possessed and he had to deal with it himself (um…was Sam not aware of Rufus’ involvement in that?). Mary asks if Bobby ever had kids. Sam says no.

Then they find an old campfire and Mary spots something.

As Dean and Bobby find the cabin from The Blair Witch Project, Mary and Sam find burned IDs in the fire. They’re a Hunter’s IDs. Bobby is distracted by someone in the woods and goes to follow him. Dean enters the cabin (which is full of animal furs and skulls) and discovers the body of the Hunter in the IDs. He’s then attacked by OMR, but when Dean stabs him, OMR (who is still in the hospital bed, while his daughter sits nearby) explodes into ashes, covering Dean. When Bobby comes back, he snarks at Dean’s appearance as Dean asks him where he went.

Back at the manse, while going through her father’s papers, Sasha hears a noise of breaking glass and footsteps upstairs. She goes to investigate, thinking it’s Neil, but she instead finds a half-open door to a dark room and a ravenous vampire. Screaming, she runs, but when she trips and falls, nothing comes after her.

As Neil acts all solicitous over her, Sasha is later interviewed by Mary and Sam, and immediately guesses she saw a vampire. This leads to her and Neil getting The Talk.

Dean walks in with news from “the shed.” Sam quickly fills him in about the attack. “Oh, good. You told ’em,” Dean says conversationally. The matter-of-fact way they confirm the identity of the Hunter Dean found is a hoot as it’s filmed almost from an outsider’s POV. They look utterly terrifying when they drop the “normal” mask like that.

Mary goes to check on Bobby (whom Dean says stayed back to get something from his truck), but can’t find him. Meanwhile, the Brothers formulate a theory, right in front of Sasha and Neil, that OMR is somehow psychically manifesting images of himself. They interview Sasha a bit more and it turns out the noises she thought she heard came from the attic. Sam goes up there, while Dean stays back to guard Sasha and her dad.

Sasha pops a benzodiazepine while Dean sharpens his machete. Neil has gone…somewhere. Sasha asks him to stop and then points out the insanity of Dean’s very presence there. Dean asks her if she’s okay and she brushes it off. At first.

Dean shrugs and sheaths his machete, but then Sasha opens up as she also downs some whiskey.  Her father was a workaholic who was never home, said he was doing it for the family. But her mother had a family history of depression and killed herself when Sasha was 12. Sasha found her. Sasha “worshiped” her father when she was a kid, but now is bitter because he never expressed any regret over not seeing his wife was suicidal or being around for his family.

This is a huge John Winchester anvil. There was an earlier one in the woods, when Mary said Bobby wasn’t “open” the way John was and then has to admit she means the way John was before she died as Sam snorts in disbelief.

Dean offers Sasha some advice – “let it go. You’ll feel a lot lighter.”

“That what you do?” Sasha asks.

“I try,” Dean admits. “Every single day.” It’s a heartbreaking moment of pure honesty.

Upstairs, Sam finds the darkened doorway Sasha discovered. It leads to a room with unfinished walls (no drywall) that leads to a stairway that goes up to the attic. Very strange layout, that.

In the attic, he find Maggie, trussed up. She tries to warn him as the same vampire that went after Sasha attacks him. Sam stabs it and it, too, explodes into ashes. Needless to say, despite his and Dean’s theory, Sam’s a bit confused.

As Sam gets Maggie down, Maggie apologizes for screwing up. Sam reassures her that she didn’t (well, she did, but now is not the time).

We cut to the woods, where Bobby finds a young man with his eyes burned out, angel-style. Dialogue identifies this young man as Bobby’s son Daniel. Daniel beats up Bobby and then impales him against a tree with an angel blade. He tells Bobby the angels crucified him “piece by piece” (uh…that’s not really how crucifixion works, but okay), but when he’s about to kill Bobby with another angel blade, Mary shows up.

Mary shoots Daniel, but unlike the other monsters, Daniel doesn’t disappear (plothole, y’all). Instead, he knocks Mary down and starts choking her out. This gives Bobby the strength of ten Grinches. He manages to yank out the angel blade impaling him, while dangling from the tree, knocks Daniel down, and stabs him with it, after apologizing. Daniel bursts into ashes. Yeah, it’s as stupid as it sounds. Also, I’m getting tired of Mary having to be rescued all the time. She’s a competent Hunter, Show, come on.

Inside the house, Sasha and Dean enter the room where Neil is tending OMR. Dean suddenly, really notices the blood bags and has an epiphany. He calmly asks why Neil is giving OMR a blood transfusion for a stroke and Neil blathers something about how “it keeps his iron up.”

Dean asks Sasha to make him a sandwich. She’s confused at first until he mouths, “Go,” and she realizes he needs her to get out of the line of fire because Neil is the MOTW. She skedaddles. I like Sasha. She’s sassy.

As she leaves, Dean pulls out his gun and aims it at Neil. Neil at first professes to be confused until Dean explains his reasoning. He says he only just recognized the set-up Neil has OMR in as one he was once trapped in, too.

We then get a brief flashback to Dean’s nightmare flash of being trussed up by a djinn in season two’s “What Is and What Should Never Be.”

“You’re a djinn,” Dean says. I love me some Smart, Deductive Dean.

Neil smiles and reveals his djinn face and glowing eyes, but then flips the script really strangely by saying “But you knew that, already…didn’t you?”

As Dean interrogates him about why he’s killing Hunters (and Neil the Djinn sure is chatty), Neil reveals that he thinks Dean is Michael (until Dean tells him otherwise). Michael has altered him and offered him a deal for more power: “Find somewhere quiet. Set up shop. Kill as many Hunters as I can.”

The upgrade Neil got was fairly impressive. With a single touch, he can now read minds, extract nightmares, and give them physical life – the projections Dean and the others have been dealing with. OMR is afraid of dying along and unloved, Maggie of the vampires that murdered her family, and we just saw what Bobby feared.

Neil keeps edging closer to Dean, saying Dean can’t harm him. Dean proves somewhat otherwise by shooting him in the leg. Angry and hurt, Neil charges Dean and uses his power on him. He claims he won’t “hurt Michael’s favorite monkey suit, but I am curious – what are your nightmares?”

But whatever he finds inside is a lot more than he bargained for. It tosses him back out as he stammers, “You…you’re….”

Dean wastes no time taking advantage of the djinn’s confusion. He attacks Neil and slams his head into the table. “You know,” he comments, looking just like Demon!Dean, “I don’t have a knife dipped in lamb’s blood – but I can improvise!” Spotting two bronze bookends, he grabs them and beats the djinn’s head in, but not before Neil defiantly claims that “there are dozens of” Hunter traps of Michael’s, lying in wait “for you and your family.”

“You don’t know my family,” Dean replies coldly, before dealing the fatal blow and then disintegrating Neil’s head with his gun, held in bloody hands.

Later, Dean removes the apparatus from OMR, while giving Sasha a crash course in helping a djinn victim recover. As Dean leaves, she reassures her waking father that she’s there for him.

The Brothers drive home and return Maggie to the Bunker, where a bunch of redshirt Hunters I’ve never seen before and care nothing about cheer her return.

Dean cheerleaders Sam about bringing Maggie back. Meanwhile, Mary bandages up Bobby and gets him to tell her about Daniel. After the angel war kicked off, Bobby was given a “platoon.” He and his son had taken care of the thing with his wife (which went the same way as in the SPNverse). Daniel was part of Bobby’s platoon, but on one mission, they got separated. Daniel and his group were captured by angels (Bobby assumes) and never seen again. Bobby is left to speculate what really happened and since they crossed over to here, is trying to get himself killed. Mary tells him she won’t let him do that. After talking with the Brothers, she gets an offer from Donna via them of Donna’s cabin (what happened to Rufus’ cabin?), so she and Bobby can try a little normalcy for a while. So, that’s Mary and Bobby off for a few episodes.

Before they leave, though, Bobby is yet another character who gives Sam a pep talk about being a leader. But hey, at least Dean gets an explanation from Mary this time and is allowed to give her “permission” to leave.

The Brothers then put out the word to other Hunters about the “new, supercharged monsters.” After, Dean tries not to blame himself (and has lots of trouble with pronouns), while Sam insists he’ll just sleep less than before so they can find and kill Michael, even though they don’t know how to do either one.

Credits

Okay, now I am truly curious about what happened with Michael. There were heavy hints this week, especially in the scene with the djinn, that Michael is still inside Dean, but, for whatever reason, is currently dormant. Dean seems unaware of this, but he also appears to be fully in control. At least for now.

The theory I like best is that Dean somehow reasserted control, but has no idea that he did, let alone how he did, and has Michael trapped inside his own body. Remember that while Michael may have intended for Dean to become just his vessel, Dean is a powerful agent of the Natural Order in his own timeline, in his own right, which means other beings like Chuck and Amara, but especially Death, are apt to get involved if alt-Michael tries to stay in control of Our!Dean for too long. There are, as Death always likes to say, consequences for that sort of thing, especially since Michael broke his deal with Dean.

Perhaps, as it appears Michael was able to assert himself at the end of last season partly due to Dean’s being smote by Lucifer, Dean was able to reassert himself after Michael was wounded by Kaia’s Magic Hockey Stick (or maybe Michael overused his own grace in his experiments, which contradicts how precious he was about it last year). It could also be that because Dean’s deal with Michael was conditional on Michael letting him be in control, that is a natural condition Michael must constantly fight in order to dominate Dean. And when the djinn looked for Dean’s nightmares, he found Michael.

This doesn’t really explain the djinn’s final words, but I suspect the writers were just going with the ridiculous cliche of the expositional Final Curse. Folks, most people are too busy dying for that nonsense and it lessens the horror and severity of death. Enough, already.

Also, if the djinn found Michael, he may also have realized that Michael was imprisoned inside Dean, which meant he was dealing with Dean when he spoke his final words. Or something.

So, this is a version of Dean Done Come Back Wrong/There’s Something About Dean. Honestly? I’m okay with it. Ackles is acting the shit out of it and it’s a true mystery. Let it go all season.

Also, I loved the callback to “What Is and What Should Never Be.” The show has never allowed Dean to feel his trauma before over being violated by the djinn like that, so it’s nice to see him use it to figure things out about the MOTW, and have the show lampshade it with a flashback to that episode and that particular scene.

I’m far less into the Sam the Leader storyline. I know that Sam needs something to do, and since Dean has the mytharc, that makes Sam the wind beneath Dean’s wings. But this storyline is unconvincing. It suffers from the same problem just about every Sam storyline going all the way back to the Pilot suffers from – the writers never trust that the audience will care enough about Sam to just give us the story. They always Tell us how to feel about Sam’s story rather than Show us.

So, we have characters throughout the story holding Sam’s hand, listening to Sam’s problems, Telling Sam (and us) that Sam is really a great leader (even when it’s clear he is not). Dean’s leader storylines are great because we see all the fight and struggle to convince others to follow him. For Sam, all the whining about lack of sleep aside, it’s a walk in the park. That’s boring to watch.

Another problem going back to Kripke (but especially evident in the Nepotism Duo scripts that suffer from plotting so bad that they LOL!canon their own canon five minutes after they established some within the same script) is a tendency to present us with a major Sam change (usually, though not always, a heroic one) rather than develop it. I have no issue with Sam starting out not-great and developing into a great leader, but to skip a few weeks and be Told he’s brilliant already is just plain lazy writing.

I don’t quite get why Dean is sitting back and letting Sam lead. Okay, actually, I do kind of get it. Just as Bobby was correct in calling out Sam’s awful decision in letting Maggie go hunt alone (even if the show then forced him to backtrack and apologize for stating the flaming obvious, and letting Sam feel and understand the consequences), Dean hanging back and letting Sam do this is very much of a Dean Leader thing to do.

Problem is, I’m not sure that the likes of the Nepotism Duo, Robert “Insert PC snark instead of story here” Berens, Davy “Linear Plotting 101” Perez, and Andrew “Let’s pillage every inappropriate comic book plot I can remember” Dabb are aware that this is basically Dean leading this group of redshirts who only know him as a supervillain through teaching his brother how to lead.

Speaking of the redshirts, their lack of character development is not good. The Bunker is infested by a bunch of one-dimensional characters I don’t have any emotional attachment to whatsoever (and from the sound of things on Twitter, neither do a lot of fans). Even the ones who get a little development, like Maggie, are boring and kinda of annoying.

It’s another case of a plot that would be fine it if weren’t being treated like 5-minute rice. Spreading out their involvement with other Hunters and using the Bunker as a base of operations for Hunters? Fine as a plot spread out over an entire season, or more. Doing a cheap time jump and presenting it as a fait accompli? So not okay. It reminds me of how the Roadhouse initially came across in season two – an abrupt change in tone that threatened to screw up the show’s basic franchise plot and everything fans liked about it.

I’m going to (possibly) go against the grain again and say that I don’t actually have any problems with a Mary and Bobby pair-up. The writers have floundered a bit with her since they brought her back. First, they had her in conflict with her sons, avoiding them because of her own guilt over how their lives turned out following her death. That made her look unsympathetic, especially toward Dean.

Then they had her off in the alt-SPNverse, mothering Jack. That, too, was not so successful in making her sympathetic, largely because she was using Jack as a substitute for her grown-ass sons.

This week, though, shows why Mary and alt-Bobby could work. We see her actually seeking advice and validation from her sons in figuring out what’s going on with Bobby and whether or not to proceed in a relationship with him. Rather than being in conflict with her, they are her allies.

Sure, there were flaws in it. I didn’t like that we had an extended conversation between Mary and Sam when, again, until the time jump, she was much closer to Dean, but hey, at least she got to talk to Dean at the end and seek “permission” to leave for a while, which he calmly gave. Still waiting on that conversation about his possession by Michael, though.

And I really wasn’t thrilled to see her used, yet again, as a DiD to motivate Bobby. That was annoying. But overall, I’m okay with it.

As for the “But she was with John first” stuff, we did have her defend John a bit to Sam, while acknowledging that he changed (not for the better) after she died. It’s not as though she’s forgotten about him. And JDM’s got another show, with little interest in coming back to this one, while Matt Cohen is both too busy and not the right period to come back as John. So, Bobby it is.

Promo next week is up. Alt-Charlie’s back – ugh.

Ratings for the show were down a bit, still 0.3/1 and 1.43 million in audience. Don’t think Legacies is doing Supernatural any favors. Still a tad salty about the CW picking that up over Wayward Sisters.


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The Official Supernatural: “Mint Condition” (14.04) Live Recap Thread


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. I’m posting reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my research all month long on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Right. Let’s get cracking.

Well, this is obviously the Halloween episode of the year (seeing as how it’s on All Saints’ Day). You gotta love how its Halloween episodes are so often some of the show’s lighter episodes. That’s … well, that’s actually pretty messed up.

We get a recap that brings us up to date on the mytharc (which, so far, appears to be Michael possessing Dean, then leaving for no good reason after he got stabbed by the Big Toothpick of Meh wielded by Kaia Sue from last week.

The recap also completely spoils the MOTW by having a recap of ghost eps and ghost rules in voiceover from Sam and Dean. Okeydoke.

Cut to Now and a comic book shop in Salem, OH. What? Everybody instantly knows the inside of a comic book shop just from the memorabilia section.

Anyhoo, as a gold commercial for Diamond Dave’s goes on voiceover, and we get fake ads on now-defunct cable network Chiller (Sorry, Shocker, but it’s about Chiller – it’s a ghost network, geddit?) for fake horror movies like Hell Hazers II (which was filmed during season two’s “Hollywood Babylon”) and one involving a creepy guy in a skin mask (whose tagline is “Time to slice and dice!), we see a guy at the counter unwrapping some action figures in their original packaging (remember “Hell House”?). When he gets to a rare Thundercats one, he sneaks it into his backpack, right before he gets a call from a young woman named Sam who is apparently either his boss or business partner.

Unaware that he is snaking merchandise, she gives him an earful for a bad rating he got the store on Yelp due to getting into a screaming match (involving some racist language) with a customer over a superhero match. She begs him to tone it down because they really need the customers. After a nerd-rage rant, he appears to calm down and sort of apologizes.

As he leaves, still with the stolen merch, we see that the life-sized mannequin across from the counter is of “Slice and Dice” guy.

At home, he is yelling on the phone at the pizza delivery guy, trying to get a free pizza (yep, he’s a dick), when the Thundercats doll he has out and on the table turns its head.

Uh-oh.

The guy hears a noise, turns around, and sees the toy on the floor. Upright. Looking angry. Now, it’s not really dumb that he goes over to investigate initially, because it’s just an oddity. But when the toy grimaces at him, whirls its mini-nunchucks, and smacks him upside the head, he takes way too long even to scream. So, dumb on top of being a jerk.

Title cards

Cut to – what the heck is the red lettering on Dean’s socks? Never mind. Dean is in his room, eating pizza and watching horror movies. He’s “made it all the way through the Halloweens” and is on a film called All Saints’ Day (because the episode aired on All Saints’ Day, yeah?), featuring the creepy mannequin dude from the teaser, a serial killer known as the Hatchet Man.

The plotline is blatantly 80s slasher. A long-haired blonde dude in jeans and a t-shirt, with a dancer’s body, is moping a floor in an institutional hallway (basically, it looks like the same set as for season one’s “Asylum”) when he spots a vending machine and decides to steal some candy. Hatchet Man walks up in the middle of this chicanery and puts an ax through the guy’s knee. When a young woman in a pink outfit (complete with shoulder pads) randomly comes out and screams, Hatchet Man immediately turns his attention to her: “Time to slice and dice!”

They even get some decently high 80s slasher-style gore. I wonder if the FCC has just plain given up with the show except for language at this point.

That’s when Sam walks in to do – I kid you not – a welfare check on his brother.

Sam infodumps that Dean has been in his room for a week. Dean infodumps back that Castiel is out training Jack, Dork!Kaia is still missing, so is Michael, and, well, “the house is full of strangers.” I note that Dean does not mention his mother. Hmm. He does mention that Sam shaves. He does a double-take when Sam comes in. Ackles has a lot of fun calling Sam’s face “smooth as a dolphin’s belly!”

Sam doesn’t appear to see that he’s filled up the Bunker with people Dean doesn’t know or trust (and who don’t know or respect him at all) and that this is Dean’s home. Of course Dean retreated to his bedroom. He’s an introvert.

Sam also thinks that Dean’s enjoyment of horror films is weird, considering their profession, and doesn’t like Halloween. Coming from a guy who is literally a serial killer fanboy, that’s a hoot.

But Sam is successful in luring his brother out to a Hunt with a video of Doomed Teaser Douchebag ranting about getting attacked by a Thundercats action figure. Dean’s all over that.

In Salem (Ohio), they immediately go to the comic book shop, where the girl from the teaser, Sam, is working the counter. Sam (our Sam, yes, this will be confusing) turns away from the Jason Todd costume that Jensen Ackles cosplayed in real life for Halloween. He and Dean are dressed in ties and short-sleeved shirts that make them look like extras from The Office.

Dean teases Sam that he and Girl!Sam are a lot alike. Sam retorts that Dean and a nerdy, slobby guy in the stacks are also very much alike. Dean denies this with a snort, but after he discovers the mannequin of Hatchet Man (“David friggin’ Yeager!”), he and the guy immediately and automatically start to bond over it.

The Brothers introduce themselves to Girl!Sam as insurance agents with rock star aliases checking up on DTD’s (real name Stewart) injuries. She says he’s at his apartment, resting. They say they went there and he got evicted. She admits he and his roommate had a fight (over nerd stuff), and that he’s also a troll, and says he’s back at his mother’s house.

Mom is pleasant, but smothering and enabling. She gives them apple cider (and Dean snags the Flash mug). When Sam snarks about it, Dean points out that she offered. Dean is wearing Birth Control Glasses that are totally not working for their intended purpose. Damn, Jensen Ackles. When are you ever not hot?

They hear Stuart yelling at a video game in the basement. Dean rolls his eyes at that, but Sam actually recognizes the name when Stuart comes up the stairs and finds them there. Sam introduces them (Campbell & Sons – LOL!) and Dean notices that Stuart is burning sage in the basement.

Stuart, who has cuts all over his face and is pretty twitchy, says he got the idea from a “Goth girl” he met online who was into Wicca (naturally, this catches the Brothers’ attention). He says he broke up with her before they could MIRL (Meet In Real Life). I kinda love Dean for not knowing. Neither did I, but Sam fills in the blanks for both of us.

When they ask about the video, Stuart turns full-on squirrely. He insists he faked it and then orders them out of the house. They decide to stakeout the house until Stuart and his mom leave, so they can check it out for hex bags. Sam points out that Wiccans aren’t always witches and Dean replies, “Except when they are.”

While they wait, Sam fields a call from one of his Bunker groupies. Dean snarks at this (but doesn’t mention Sam’s Bobby act). Then he quizzes Sam about his hate-on for Halloween (Sam really doesn’t like major holidays, does he? Remember Christmas?). Sam won’t talk about it.

At that moment, Stuart’s mom comes out in a … yep, I do believe that is a poodle skirt … and drives away. The bit where the Brothers awkwardly duck down as she goes by is funny.

As they debate on how to get Stuart out of the house, Sam reads through the comments on his video, calling them “brutal.”

“Gotta love the internet,” Dean says, “where everyone can be a dick.”

At that moment, Stuart comes stumbling out the front door, screaming for help and covered in blood. As Sam tends to him, Dean pulls out his pistol and goes in alone. He follows a trail of blood downstairs. As he’s distracted by a poster of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he hears a chainsaw rev up behind him, in midair. It flips through the air and hits the poster, as Dean dodges out of the way.

The Brothers talk to Mom at the hospital and persuade her to stay with her son. As they exit the hospital room, Dean says he checked the house over for hex bags and found nothing, but the EMF meter went off the scale. So, they’re looking for a ghost, though Sam is puzzled by the motive. He goes back to the house to check on what’s going on, while Dean stays at the hospital to wait until Stuart wakes up. Sam is puzzled to find that the Thundercats toy reads nothing in EMF. So, it’s apparently not cursed. He also finds a photo on one of Stuart’s computers that shows Stuart, Girl!Sam, the geek dude who bonded with Dean, and an older guy.

At the hospital, Dean finds the geek dude has arrived. He says Stuart is his best friend. The guy is actually pretty level-headed, but his home life is bad (his father is abusive) and Stuart lets him stay over when things get bad.

On the TV is All Saints’ Day III. That’s geek dude’s favorite. Dean’s is IV. They recite in union the tagline for it. Dean says, “I like to watch movies where I know the bad guy’s gonna lose.” I hear that.

Sam visits the store, where Girl!Sam is closing up. Sam asks her if anyone “close to Stuart” has died recently. She says the previous owner was a guy named Jordan. He was their mentor, but he only left the store to Girl!Sam and geek dude (named Dirk). He left Stuart out of the will because Stuart was always stealing merchandise and Jordan fired him twice.

As she says Jordan was cremated, Sam sees the glass case behind her frost up. He tries quickly to bring her up to speed, but then the Hatchet Man mannequin comes alive and knocks him out. When he wakes up, Girl!Sam is alive, though scared, but they’re locked in.

At the hospital, in the middle of talking about the film series’ best kills, Dean gets a call from Sam about what happened. Dean totally geeks out over the approach of his horror movie idol.

We then cut to a gratuitously blatant homage to the Halloween films in Hatchet Man’s stroll down the sidewalk toward the hospital, through crowds of unsuspecting teenage trick’rtreaters.

Dean and Sam each give The Talk, Dean while doing a line of salt around Stuart’s bed. He then tells Dirk to stay by the bed, inside the line, while he goes looking for the ghost. Unfortunately, the ghost starts poltergeisting the hell out of the room while Dean is gone and Dirk flees in terror.

Stuart’s mom runs into Hatchet Man while bringing her son a tray of food and she’s terrified. Dirk bravely distracts Hatchet Man away from her, but then is chased relentlessly through the empty hallways while security is too busy watching a near-mirror image of the same chase from the scene we saw earlier (that began with the guy getting an ax to the knee). Dean had commented earlier that hospitals can be remarkably deserted at night.

Dean, meanwhile, has found an ax.

The scene cuts back and forth between the girl in the movie trying to escape in an elevator whose doors won’t close and Dirk in the same situation. They finally do, and both the girl and Dirk escape.

Dirk ends up in the morgue, where Dean finds him and asks him why he didn’t stay put. Dirk says Hatchet Man is in the hospital and sure enough, the MOTW sits up on one of the gurneys, pulling off a sheet.

Cut to a cheesy preview of All Saints’ Day III: The Reckoning. Then we get the confrontation between Dean and Hatchet Man. Dean says the ghost can go into the light on its own or he can “send it there.” He’s pleased when the ghost decides to fight. Not so pleased when the ghost turns out to be really strong. A kick-ass fight ensues and Dirk even helps at one point, but Sam and Girl!Sam burst in on Dean getting choked out.

Sam had gotten them out of the comic shop by making a makeshift bomb from a lunchbox. When Girl!Sam asked him how he learned that, he says, “I had a messed up childhood,” which echoes what he tells Sarah in “Provenance.”

On the way, they figured out how Jordan (the ghost) was getting around. He was using a Batman keychain. As they rush in, Sam yells at Dean to get the keychain, which is in Hatchet Man’s pocket. Dean gropes around and yanks it out, tossing it to them. Girl!Sam gets into the spirit by grabbing some alcohol to speed up the burning process. Jordan is forcibly exorcised and flames out, probably to Hell. But when Girl!Sam asks about him, Sam just says, “He’s in a better place.”

Stuart lives, but we don’t see him again.

Driving back, Dean finally gets Sam to tell him why he hates Halloween. It turns out to have been a teenage date-gone-horribly-wrong. Sam was nervous all night and when asked to bobbing for apples, threw up all over his date and a lot of other things.

Dean also thanks Sam for getting him out of his room and giving him a “win.” Sam tells Dean that saying yes was not the wrong thing. He did it for Sam, Jack and his “family,” for all the right reasons. What Michael used his body to do afterward is not his fault.

Dean flatly states, “I’m not gonna get over it.” But he admits that he’s not “doing anybody any good” staying in his room all day, so he tells Sam he’ll do whatever Sam and the team need him to do.

Dean says they should dress up in costume the next Halloween and starts naming possible costumes, from the ridiculous (“Turner and Hooch”) to the injoke-y (“Rocky and Bullwinkle”) to the really disturbing (“Thelma and Louise – we’ll just put it in Drive and go!”).

In the coda, one of the security guards from before enters the morgue. The lights fritz, so he gets out his flashlight and follows the trail of weapons and such used on Hatchet Man until he gets to the mannequin itself. The mannequin then appears to speak one of Hatchet Man’s taglines: “Trick’rtreat!” So, we get one of those 80s horror movie “twist” endings that never made a lick of sense.

Credits

So, that was one was more amusing than I thought it would be. Had some nice rewatch value. Davy Perez still overdoes it a bit on the homages, but moves things along and doesn’t insult our intelligence this time. But I really think the direction by Amyn Kaderali (and, of course, the enthusiasm from the cast and crew over doing a Halloween episode) is what makes it. Which is kind of funny, considering Kaderali’s previous three episodes weren’t terribly memorable, either. But hey, improvement’s always good.

Girl!Sam and Dirk could come back. I wouldn’t mind.

It seems as though the mytharc focus is firmly on Dean this season. We’re four episodes in and it’s All About his possession by Michael and ensuing PTAPD (Post Traumatic Angel Possession Disorder).

Promo for next week is here.

Ratings for this week were meh (usually are for a holiday week), with a 0.4/2 and 1.46 million. Still significantly better than its lead-out, though.


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Halloween in North Carolina, All Souls’ Day: Bonus Round #2: Scottish Ghosts (1999)


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Seafield, Lily. Scottish Ghosts. Lomond Books, 1999.


So, as promised, I’ve continued my reviews through All Souls’ Day (today), but with the twist that the last two days, since they’re in November, are reviews of ghost stories from other regions than North Carolina. But possibly, these are regions that may have influenced or have similar tropes to what you find in NC.

I picked this one up at the bus station in Glasgow almost two decades ago. It’s one of several books I have of Scottish folklore. The cover above is very nice, but the edition I picked up actually looks like this:

Kinda cheesy, I know. The apparent editorial excuse is that this edition is for kids. It might be a bit too creepy and historical for American kids, though.

Also, for such a short book, it has a whole lot of stories in it – over 150. Each one is maybe a page or two, though the entry on Second Sight in the “Signs, Prophecies and Curses” section is (appropriately) several pages long, as Second Sight is a major part of Scottish folklore. With most entries, the author gets in, gets out, and then moves on to the next, grouping them thematically into several sections, such as “Military Ghosts,” “Fairies, Green Ladies and Devilish Struggles,” and “Poltergeists.” The stories are sometimes sad, sometimes horrifying, sometimes educational. But they’re also mostly fun.

My favorites, of course, tend to be about St Andrews, where I lived for six years. Alas, there are really only two stories (for some reason, the very haunted St Andrews Castle didn’t make it into the “Ghostly Castles” section). St Andrews Cathedral, for example, has a Lady in White and a ghostly monk who haunts St Rule’s Tower. The late-11th century St Rule’s Tower is the tallest (and probably oldest) building in St Andrews. It’s pretty much the only remaining intact structure for St Andrews Cathedral. It’s a bit of a hike that I’ve done a few times, but sadly (or not?), I’ve never seen the monk.

Stories range from the humorous to the creepy to the quite-disturbing. One of the funniest is the large “Demon Crab” of Dundee that crawls out of a drowned ferryman’s coat after he washes up on the beach. The Devil doesn’t last long in that guise, as he is quickly snatched up by a fishwife who happily cooks him for her dinner. One of the creepier ones is a story of a pair of eyes (just eyes) haunting a room in Crail, down the coast from Dundee, in the section, “Ghosts in the House.” And then there’s the scary tale from the “Mind How You Go” section of the Big Grey Man who haunts the mists of Ben MacDuibh in the Cairngorms (Scotland’s mountain range) and attacks anyone who visits it.

The witchcrazes of the 16th and 17th centuries hit Scotland especially hard. It’s believed that thousands were accused and over a thousand executed (by burning at the stake) as a result. You can see the scars of that and the rest of the Covenanters’ repressions to this day on the Scottish landscape (never been fan of John Knox).

The author is sympathetic to the doomed accused witches. She discusses the witchcrazes in her introduction, but also writes about some witch tales more sympathetically than how they appear in North Carolina folklore. The interesting thing is that you can see some Scottish influence (North Carolina has had quite a few Scottish settlers in its early history) on NC folklore.

For example, the famous tale of “The Miller’s Wife” ends fatally in North Carolina lore, with the blame clearly laid on the witchy wife (despite the Miller character being kind of an idiot). In Scotland, you get “The Cursed Mill.” In this story, set near Newtonmore in the Highlands, an old woman curses a miller and his mill. It’s never stated what the insult was, but you start to get some clues as the story progresses.

The first miller dies in a fire. The one after him contracts a fatal illness and the mill burns down. After the mill is rebuilt (because mills were critical to a town or village’s life), the witch relents a little and changes the curse. People can now use the mill for all except one day of the year. The mill runs well once subsequent millers follow these instructions.

However, long after the witch dies, the mill comes into the hands of an ambitious, grasping man who believes the curse is just superstition. So, he uses the mill on that one forbidden day of the year. Predictably, the mill grinds to a standstill. The miller tries again the next year, but this time, rats eat up all his corn. He gives up and sells the mill, but has no fortune in his business ventures thereafter and dies of a wasting illness.

The mill then goes to another man who is kind and gets the mill working again with the help of a young Traveler boy he adopts. After the man dies, the Traveler has to be recalled to get the mill working again. Once he dies, it falls apart for good.

This tale bears a lot of resemblance to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden, but in this instance, the sin is a refusal to observe a single Sabbath day of rest in the year. We humans just can’t resist crossing boundaries we just shouldn’t cross and that we don’t need to cross. There is also a clear subtext that when the mill is run with kindness rather than covetousness, all goes well. It’s only when the mill is run meanly, with greed, that everything comes to a screeching halt. Here, you can see the mill as a metaphor for Scottish society.

This indicates that the witch’s original grievance was a sound one and the curse not due to an evil nature. It also shows the witch as a productive member of society who brings necessary justice to those who transgress by treating others badly (very different from how witches were perceived back in the Convenanters’ day!). Scottish folklore often shows a balance in the Scottish cultural psyche between great generosity of spirit and the kind of miserliness for which the Scots have too-often become famous (even when it wasn’t true) worldwide. This story is a classic example.

The plan from here on out is to continue reading NC folklore and reviewing the books, just at a slower pace and over on Patreon. If you found these enjoyable, and want to follow my research plans, you can do so there. I’ll still be posting stuff here (including my Supernatural recaps and possibly reviews), but it will involve another one of my projects this month (likely, my mom’s family cookbook). I got a lot done on the NC folklore stuff in October and now that I am thoroughly creeped out, I need to do some other stuff.


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Halloween in North Carolina, All Saints’ Day: Bonus Round #1: The Little Book of the Hidden People (2015)


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Sigsmundsdóttir, Alda. The Little Book of the Hidden People: Twenty Stories of Elves from Icelandic Folklore. Enska Textasmiðjan, 2015.


So, this is the first day of the bonus round for folklore reviews, commemorating All Saints’ Day. The days of the dead actually comprise All Hallows’ Eve (October 31) for the damned and other evil spirits, All Saints’ Day (November 1) for the holy dead, and All Souls’ Day (November 2) for the rest of us. Today, we’re off to Iceland and its thorny folklore.

This is a relatively short (111 pages) book about a group of relatively unknown mythological and legendary figures – the elves (álfar) or “hidden folk” ( huldufólk) of Iceland. People who write about the Icelandic hidden people tend to do so from two perspectives – either belief in their actual existence or belief in them as a metaphor for the extreme isolation and privation in which most Icelanders lived for their millennium-plus existence. The estimate of how many Icelanders still believe in the actual existence of hidden people varies on which side of the spectrum an author lies. This author spends the bulk of her introduction insisting that this is an outmoded belief amongst Icelanders today, thus obliquely proving the above point.

Whether in the literal or the metaphorical/psychological sense, Icelandic elves are deeply fascinating, underexposed as a mythology in the speculative genres, and pretty friggin’ scary. Imagine a large island the size of New York State, but with less than two percent of the population, one with white nights in summer and long, frozen, dark winters, with the not-so-occasional volcanic eruption. One not anywhere close to anywhere else.

Now imagine mentally populating it in your folklore with a far-more-numerous race of prosperous, beautiful, strong, lucky, deadly, invisible shadow people. Who will probably kill you if they realize you can see them and totally mess with you whenever you can’t.

That’s what the Icelanders did, first the Norse settlers (calling them álfar) and then their Irish slaves (who called them huldufólk). To the Norse, the hidden people were creepy and dirty and numerous and dangerous. To the Irish, they were an enviable, golden race. You can probably see some class issues creeping in along with the psychological issues involving populating an empty island with folkloric beings out of sheer collective loneliness.

These 20 stories are among the more famous (at least, for Icelanders) of the folk tales about Icelandic elves. Some of them are plays on biblical lore, such as “On the Origins of the Hidden People.” Here, the álfar are those of Eve’s children that she hid away from God when He came visiting (because she had so many that she couldn’t wash all their faces in time and was ashamed of them). God then says that what Eve hid from Him, He will hide from the world – hence, how these children became “hidden folk” ( huldufólk).

This is obviously a pejorative story, but it also reflects the Icelandic ideal of many (healthy and legitimate) children. For much of Icelandic history, the infant mortality rate was so high that people might have many children and be unable to raise any to adulthood (at one point, Iceland had the highest infant mortality rate in Europe). There was even a tradition of naming the first four sons after the father, with the hope that at least one of them would live to carry on his father’s name.

“The Elf Adornment” story is a whole other kettle of fish. In this extremely violent tale about the perils of dancing, a family goes off to evensong at church on New Year’s Eve, leaving behind a maid to tend the farm. Some hidden people show up and invite her to dance with them. After she happily accepts and goes off with them, they murder her and leave her on the threshhold.

Another New Year’s Eve, another maid. This time, the hidden people cut off her head and leave her in the doorway.

A third maid saves herself only by sitting resolutely at her sewing in the baðstofa (the main room of a traditional Icelandic turf house) until dawn. And dawn takes a mighty long time to come on New Year’s Eve in Iceland. Frightened off by her comment that the sun is rising, they leave, but they give her the treasure of the title for her bridal chest in admiration of her resolve.

There’s a lot to unpack here, not least the overt message not to go dancing because it led to illegitimate pregnancies the poor and stressed Icelandic communities couldn’t support. That’s much like the 1970s Mexican American trope of the Devil and the Dance Floor from Ghost Stories from the American South (which I reviewed early in October).

There’s another version involving a man where he’s much more active and has better luck, so it’s about gender roles, too. Men tend to have more luck in these stories with transgressive behavior, such as in “Snotra the Elf Woman,” where a guy stalks a selkie-like elf woman and inadvertently breaks a curse on her. He’s rewarded for his creepy behavior with good fortune after she thanks him and returns to her world under the sea.

Another wrinkle is that the hidden people are indistinguishable from regular humans and can even take the form of someone you know (and that there’s a whole genre of “outlaw” stories tied up with stories of elves). So, there’s no actual reason to believe the first two maids “The Elf Adornment” knew they were interacting with hidden people. Plus, there’s the whole serial killer vibe of murdering the servant stuck at home during church and leaving her on the threshold. You don’t mess with the álfar.

With so much mistaken identity in the folklore, it’s unsurprising that a story like “Father of Eighteen in the Elf World” involves the shifty old goat of the title changing places with a woman’s baby. The woman is smart and figures out what he did (in a way not unlike the Rumpelstiltskin tale), then proceeds to beat him. His wife then shows up and hands her back her baby.

Changeling stories always have some nasty subtext. You’re basically talking about a folkloric explanation for a colicky or sickly baby whose mother never bonds with it. In real life, such stories generally didn’t have happy endings.

Intimacy with a hidden person could be used as code for an illegitimate liaison, as in “The Girl in the Mountain Dairy.” The mountain dairy (sel) was where flocks were kept in summer and it always had a female keeper. The title character falls pregnant by a hidden man who woos her while she works the dairy. After she gives birth and the baby mysteriously disappears, she is forced to marry another (human) man, but there are tragic consequences when her elf husband and son return years later.

These stories reflect some harsh realities in Icelandic culture and history. Iceland was a hard place to live for a long time. It’s lovely to visit now, and the people there are wonderful, but I’m pretty glad I didn’t live there even a century ago.


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