This week I watched “Bugs” and “Home,” two episodes about houses and family. Is it true that you can never go home again?
Episode 8: Bugs
Creature of the Week: Bugs!!!! A lot of them!!!! Crawling all over with their itty bitty legs and eating out the insides of brains with their itty bitty mouths and…eeeaaaugh.
Body Count: 2
Fake Credentials: Sam and Dean pretend to be prospective homeowners.
As soon as I saw the title of this episode, I was apprehensive. I’m not what you would call…comfortable…with bugs. When I was a kid, I had nightmares for months about an episode of something — Twilight Zone or Amazing Stories perhaps — involving bugs. I screamed out loud in the theater while watching Arachnophobia. (Yes, yes, spiders are arachnids, and not insects, blah blah blah…whatever. If it has a bunch of legs, it better steer clear of me, is what I’m saying.) I still can’t watch the scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where Kate Capshaw turns her hand over and there’s a big old bug on it. And don’t get me started about the scarabs in The Mummy.
Well, I was right to be apprehensive. The teaser involves some workmen working on what looks like a brand new subdivision. They’re chattering about how nice — and expensive — the houses are, when one of them hears a weird buzzing noise and then falls into a sinkhole. By the time his buddy gets some rope to help him out, he’s been eaten alive by beetles. I nearly bailed on this episode, folks. I’d like a little acknowledgement here for what I’m willing to do for you.
Sam and Dean roll into town, having spotted the death in the news and sensed something off about it. Let’s take a moment to think about this device. Early on, I was sort of worried about this method: they read about a death in the paper and it smells funny, and so they go check it out and it turns out to be supernatural. Seemed convenient to me, in a troublesome way. After watching eight episodes, however, I’ve changed my mind. They are hunters. They spend time looking for oddities, and they go check them out. Are there things they check out that turn out to be normal deaths? Maybe, and we don’t get to see them. But Dean has been doing this a long time, and I’ve decided it makes sense that he, and now Sam, know what they’re looking for. So I buy it.
In any event, the brothers go to the subdivision and pretend to be looking for a house for their father. They talk to the owner of the development, and the realtor, both of whom are also homeowners. They also meet the slightly creepy son of the developer. The son likes to play with bugs. I spotted that as a red herring from the beginning, but I’m not sure it was meant to fool us.
The realtor is then attacked by spiders that come out of her showerhead and dies. (Ew ew ew ew ew….) We get an awesome scene of Sam and Dean camping in an empty home, and Dean using the legendary steam shower (screenshot above).
Sam and Dean investigate further, and learn that the development is built on cursed land, and a swarm of bugs will descend on the development on the seventh day, which is…right now! They learn this from an old Native American gentleman (of course), who delivers the best line of the series so far: “You know who start sentences with ‘the truth is?’ Liars.”
And then we get to the emotional meat of the episode. The developer’s son doesn’t get along with his father. Sam identifies with the kid. When Sam and Dean call the developer to get him out of the house, he ignores them, and so they call the son, who is convinced he won’t be able to get his father to listen. He’s right, but then the bugs come, so the kid is vindicated.
Then they fight off the bugs and stuff. I kind of had my hands over my eyes, so I’m not sure exactly how they defeated the bugs, but it seemed to have something to do with a flamethrower and daylight. But the important thing is that they helped repair the relationship between father and son.
I didn’t love this episode. It was structurally solid, except maybe for how easy it seemed to be for them to get rid of the bugs. I didn’t like the bugs, of course, but more than that, the theme was a little heavy-handed. Dean and Sam are called out as liars by the Native American man. Dean encourages the kid to lie to his dad, and Sam disapproves. Sam has a bonding moment with the son who is misunderstood by his father. I felt like I was watching a biblical lesson, and it was an uncomfortable episode all around.
Thankfully, the next episode was Home, another episode about houses and family, but much more enjoyable.
Episode 9: Home
Creature of the Week: Poltergeist in Dean and Sam’s childhood home, and the ghost of Dean and Sam’s mother.
Body Count: 0
Fake Credentials: None! They show up and say they used to live in the house (truth), and were wondering if they could look around “the old place.” (truth, if with a false implication)
So Sam is having prophetic dreams. We found this out a few episodes ago, when he reveals that he dreamed about Jessica’s death before it actually happened. In this episode, it happens again. He has a dream about a woman trapped in a house, and after sketching the tree in his dream, realizes it’s the house the family was living in when Mom was killed/taken by the fire in the ceiling. He tells Dean. Dean decides to believe him (and really, is it such a stretch from “monsters exist” to “Sam dreams about the future”?), and so it looks like they’re headed Home.
When they get there, the woman from Sam’s dream answers the door. She lets them inside the house, and after looking around, they decide that something creepy might indeed be going on there. They start to investigate.
Now, their investigation is interesting. They decide to ask around about their old house, and in so doing, talk to a guy who works at a garage their father used to work at. They (and we) find out that John Winchester is regarded as having gone a bit wacky after the fire, talking crazy and going to visit a psychic. But no, the guy at the garage hasn’t seen Daddy since he took the kids and left town all those years ago.
One of the real emotional punches in this episode happens when Dean, privately, calls his father. He leaves a message, and the longing he displays, the uncertainty and vulnerability, elevates the character to a new level. Here we have a guy with swagger, who charges bravely into a fight, won’t hesitate to put himself in danger to save another person, always acts like he knows the best way to solve the problem, and we see that he’s only human after all. It’s moments like this that give me great hope for the series. I’ll be looking for rich character development, Supernatural. Let’s not disappoint.
Dean and Sam look into psychics in the area, and find Missouri Mosely (played by the amazing Loretta Divine). Missouri tells them that their father had come to her looking for answers, answers she didn’t have.
Meanwhile, back at the house, whatever is haunting it has claimed the arm of a plumber (in the garbage disposal, in a cinematic representation of one of my greatest irrational fears…thanks for that, Supernatural) and locked the toddler in the refrigerator (this always makes me think of the Punky Brewster episode where Cheri gets locked in the old refrigerator and almost dies…hey, is that show on Netflix?). Thus, when Dean and Sam and Missouri show up talking about psychics, pretty Jenny is ready to let them do whatever they want to her house.
What they want is to perform this ritual that seems to involve them punching holes in walls and putting a bundle of some kind of herb into the holes. This is what I love about shows like Supernatural, or Buffy…they declare it, and so it is true. Thus far, Supernatural has seemed to have done a lot of research into the origins of the horrors the brothers display, but now and again it’s nice to see them just making something up and sticking to it.
At any rate, while trying to do this ritual, the spirit figures out what they’re doing and nearly succeeds in strangling Sam. Luckily, Dean saves the day, and Missouri is sure the malevolent ghost is gone.
For some reason, Sam doesn’t buy it, so the boys watch the house that night. Sure enough, they see Sam’s prophetic dream, with Jenny in the window of the house, banging to get out. This makes me wonder the thing that everyone wonders about prophecy and clairvoyance: if you see something, does that mean it can be prevented? Or are you really just seeing the thing happen as it will happen no matter what you do? Here, Sam’s dream happened (just like it did with Jessica), even though he tried to prevent it. We’ll have to see what the show does with that.
Since the brothers are still there, they are able to get Jenny and her kids out of the house. Sam, however, is trapped inside. It looks like it might be the end for him, until Ghost Mom shows up and kicks the other ghost’s ass. She and Sam have a moment, which feels significant, since Sam never really knew his mother. Then she goes. The house is now free from spirits, and Jenny and her family can live there happily.
The kicker, however, is that when Missouri returns home, it seems she’s talking to herself about the boys. Then, she turns the corner, and Daddy Winchester is sitting on her couch.
I have to say, seeing Dad took me by surprise. Missouri did a real good job pretending she knew nothing about where he was. Why is he back? Did he respond to Dean’s call? Why is he staying away? Hopefully, we’ll start to find out, but I’m glad to see him, because it means the boys aren’t on a wild goose chase, and that there’s more to this than meets the eye. Next up: “Asylum” and “Scarecrow.”