This is maybe one of the hardest episodes for me to rewatch. I usually like the idea of special abilities, but special abilities in Supernatural never lead to anything good, and Sam's abilities in particular are a demon's curse that ultimately lead to evil. And I worry and freak out along with Sam and Dean through it all. In the sense that the episode pulls me in and makes me feel along with Sam and Dean, it is an awesome episode. I will try to do it justice.
MUSIC LINKS(Click with CTRL to open in new window):
"2+2=?" by The Bob Seger System(at the beginning, when Jim pulls his car in the garage)
"Lucifer" by The Bob Seger System(on the radio as Sam and Dean drive to Michigan)
So, Sam wakes up having seen a nightmare which he is sure is the same as his other premonitory dreams. A man is in danger. Sam quickly wakes Dean in the middle of the night and they are on their way. Although Dean questions that this is truely a premonition and not just a dream, he doesn't dally and make Sam explain. They are in the car before they even start discussing it. Here we see Dean's faith in Sam and instincts as a hunter. When in doubt, check it out. And no matter how he argues that it must be just a dream, I think Dean knows deep down that it is not. He follows Sam's lead and when Sam says "Drive faster," he does. This is one of the key points of this episode. In Route 666, we saw Sam looking to Dean, but here, Dean is constantly looking to Sam and following his lead or ... watching him with worry.
They get to the scene and find out they were too late to save the man. This comes as a shock to Sam. Considering how he was able to save that mother and children in Home, he maybe just assumed he could be there on time. The lady on scene tells them, "He always seemed so normal."(normal? We've heard that word before. I will get to that again further on)
There is Max with his family. Knowing what we know, it does look like he is watching his uncle and stepmother with hatred. To Sam and Dean and first viewers, it probably just looks like he is standoffish because of his pain at losing his father.
Sam is really upset that they were too late. His eyes are teary and his voice breaks when he talks.
Sam: Why would I even have these premonitions if there wasn't a chance I could stop them from happening?
Dean: I don't know.
Sam: Dean, you saw them, they're devastated They're not going to want to talk to us.
Dean: Yeah you're right. But I think I know who they will talk to.
And then we come to that wonderfully crazy scene where they pretend to be priests in order to talk with Max and his family. Thank God for comic relief. I can't watch this scene with a straight face. First because Dean is just so unlike any priest and is stuffing his face with pastries while Sam just looks the part so perfectly. Secondly because those scenes from the gag reel are etched in my mind. Does anyone think this shot of Sam and Dean is just hilarity about to happen??
OK, I will calm down now and get back to more serious matters - like Sam's sincerity and empathy for Max as he talks to him. It's much more than he has shown to the mother or uncle. It could be more than just the fact that they are the same age and Sam's empathy for the loss of a family member. (Maybe the fact that they have the same blood in them?)
Sam and Dean and all first viewers at this point think the culprit must be a monster. Viewers may be thinking demon, if we are smart and are thinking about Sam's visions and when they appeared previously. Sam thinks there is definitely something off. Why is he having the premonitions about the Millers? Especially if he is unable to save them?
Cleaning the guns is Dean's daily ritual. They discuss the case while he does. I don't think I've ever seen Sam do that... I wonder if it is safe to say that Dean is in charge of weapons maintenance?
Then, for the first time, Sam has a vision while he is awake.
"What's going on? Talk to me."
They rush over to try to save the uncle but the uncle is uncooperative and they are unable to help him. (Hmmm pretending to be priest may have backfired a little...)
Dean, the practical one, urges the still shocked Sam to come back to reality.
...I bet they have lots of practice with wiping down fingerprints.
In the car again, Sam confides in Dean that he is scared and confused about what is happening to him.
Dean: "I don't know Sam but we'll figure it out. We've faced the unexplainable every day. This is just another thing."
Sam: Tell the truth, you can't tell me this doesn't freak you out.
Dean: This doesn't freak me out.
The two expressions here... Dean reassuring Sam with the first (on the right), then shows his uncertainty with the second(on the left).
Of course he is freaked! but he's not going to let Sam know that. This scene and the very last scene to me are the most significant - Dean, hiding his worries for Sam's sake and also maybe to keep himself from drowning in them, as usual.
Sam and Dean still think they are hunting a monster. They conclude it must be a curse or ghost haunting the family. Interesting dialogue between Sam and Dean here, as they are still trying to figure out the reason for the visions:
Sam: I know one thing I have in common with these people. Both our familes are cursed.
Dean: Our family is not cursed... We've just had our dark spots.
Sam: Our dark spots are pretty dark.
Dean: You're... dark...
I think Dean has run out of counters! :D
From the view point of having seen future episodes I would say Sam is right (although this is not the kind of curse he is talking about here). Both Max and Sam/Dean are cursed by the demon's influence in their lives. Max and Sam's powers end up making both Sam and Max work for evil - no matter how innocent or helpful they seem.
When they go to talk with Max again, they notice something is off. Max is not telling the truth about his family's past. I love this quote by Dean:
"Nobody's family is normal and totally happy."
My alarm bells go off again with the word "normal" as it does with "freak" from previous episodes. Sam's obsession with wanting to be normal - no family is normal or totally happy. Dean nails it there. Are you listening Sam??
Sam: We were wondering if you might recall a family that used to live right across the street I believe.
Dean: Yeah the Millers. They had a little boy called Max.
"Is that poor kid ok?"
I love this former neighbor and the way he cared for Max.
Sam and Dean find out about Max's awful past and Sam has another vision right there.
Now they know that it was not any monster but Max that had killed his father and uncle.
To Dean, a person that kills with psychic powers is the "same as any other monster" they've hunted. And he wants to kill Max. Does this remind you of Faith again? How Dean wanted to kill the pastor and Sam stops him saying "We don't kill people"?
I think it has to do with Sam's personality and the way he cares too, but to be fair to Dean, I think Sam's time away from his family and hunting has given him more empathy. Deep and constantly into his work of hunting evil, Dean has not had the chance to step back and remember that while they cannot talk to monsters and reason with them, they can try with humans.
And most importantly, as we learn again in future episodes, Sam sees himself in these "freaks" because he has always thought of himself as a freak - a freak at home for wanting to be normal, and a freak outside for being different in a way he cannot figure out. And here is a guy that has the same sort of abilities as him. In any case, he urges Dean to "take my lead on this one." Dean agrees... but takes his gun. A lesson I hope he's learned from this mistake... never have a gun when you have an unstable psychic around.
In his five minutes with Max, Sam finds out part of the real reason why he has had these visions about Max's family. It is something to do with how their mothers were both killed in their nursery.
He also finds out that he was lucky to be born in his family. To a dad who did not run to alcohol and beating on his kids when his wife was killed, but instead went into "saving people, hunting things," and ultimately revenge on the demon who did it.
Sam cannot sway Max and he is locked in the closet while Max goes to kill his stepmother. Sam has another one of his visions - this time it is Dean that dies... All of a sudden he has a surge of brain power and he is able to move the cupboard, get out and save Dean from certain death (Does anyone think that it is incredible how Dean would have died for that mother??). People might argue that if Sam had not had these powers, he would not have been able to save Dean. That the powers themselves are not evil. I argued it myself until I saw Sam open Lucifer's cage. Ever after, I tend to stand with Dean on that one. (I am way too involved with this show.) The key here, though, is not that Sam used his "powers" to get out, but that the thought of Dean dying gave him whatever he needed to get out and save Dean.
At the end, as they finish talking to the police, we get another scene where Dean looks to Sam - like "are we finished here?"
Another good scene:
"I'll tell you one thing. We're lucky we had dad.... All things considered, we turned out all right - thanks to him."
I said a while back that Season 1 was not only about finding dad, but finding out about him: Understanding him and appreciating that he had done his best with what he had. Sam is starting to appreciate his dad a little more. And Dean is surprised and glad.
Back at the motel, packing up their stuff, Sam mentions something that has started to bug him after hearing about Max's mother. Until now, they were just looking for a demon who, as an isolated incident, had killed their mom who just happened to be in Sam's nursery. Now he knows that the demon has been up to the same trick in other families and there must be a reason. His first guess is that maybe the demon is after kids with abilities. Dean argues that if that was so, the demon would have taken Sam right away. He tries to alleviate Sam's guilty feelings - for possibily causing his mother's death:
"This is not your fault. It's not about you. It's about that thing that did this to our family."
Sam then mentions another thing that has been bothering him. "When Max locked me in that closet, I moved it. ... like Max."
(And then this dialogue that makes watching this episode so worth it...)
Sam: Aren't you worried, that I'd turn into Max or something?
Dean: No way. You've got one advantage that Max didn't have.
Sam: Dad? ...
Dean: No. Me. As long as I'm around, nothing bad is going to happen to you.
(The love that these boys have for each other... *sigh*)
But boy, is Dean worried...so to hide that and make Sam feel better...
"Now then. I know what we need to do about your premonitions. I know where we have to go.
Location - Saginaw, Michigan
Clothes in episode(Link): Season 1 by hells_half_acre