Supernatural Roundtable 6: Crossroads and Hellhounds
Welcome back to the Supernatural Roundtable! Today we’re discussing season two’s episodes “The Usual Suspects” through “Playthings,” in which some serious series mythology is introduced. We’ve got hellhounds and goofer dust, hoodoo and ghosts, and they’ve all got plenty to show our Winchester boyos about their world. Read through and join in the discussion in the comments!
Emmie: I really love this arc from the get-go. This episode (“The Usual Suspects”) is a nice juxtaposition of some early established tropes, such as spirits being generally bad. The death omen in this episode is incredibly creepy, but I love how everything comes together. I also love Dean’s “confession.” Pahaha. I also really like how they win themselves an ally in the law enforcement world, which has some later water-muddying ramifications with Hendrickson.
Kelly: I agree, Emmie. I too enjoyed this arc. It’s a really solid run full of brother angst with the mythology which I love. I need a good mix of both. “The Usual Suspects” was a solid episode showing the even within the “good guys” there’s shades of grey. I enjoyed the character of Diana Ballard but I really didn’t like that she had a romance with the other investigator. I think the writers could have come up with a more creative way to tie the murders to him. The Death Omen was sufficiently creepy; Shannon Powell was excellent. I also loved the word play with the store sign.
Emmie: The store sign! I love that too. Great example of how things can get sort of jumbled for spirits.
Tabatha: I LOVE “The Usual Suspects because of Linda Blair. I mean, realistically, how on earth can you NOT love Linda Blair? I agree with Kelly, however, that the whole romance thing was weak. I think Diana was a strong enough character on her own. The arc in general, I love. It’s still fun, but we see a little more humanity in the guys, which I’m a fan of.
Emmie: *Rubs hands together* I. LOVE. “CROSSROAD BLUES.” First of all, Robert Johnson, and therefore DUH. Second, it sets so much of the next two whole seasons in motion by introducing the hellhounds. I love the way they tied in the Robert Johnson story, made it plausible. It’s delicious. Also, there’s an awesome beer by Dogfish Head called Hellhound on My Ale, which I can’t help but think of when I see this episode. I also love how firmly they set up the ten year rule for the demons, because it makes breaking it later so much more powerful.
Kelly: A Hellhound Ale by Dogfish! Where have I been? I may have to get that beer for the Season Premiere. I so so so loved this episode too. Believe it or not, somehow I missed this episode so this was my first viewing. I love the movie O’Brother Where Art Thou and all the quasi talk of Robert Johnson in that flick. So when this episode started up, I also just was thrilled. Sera Gamble wrote an excellent episode here. Again, a wonderful mythological tour de force that has implications in later seasons. And it was so painful. What choice should be made? Does the husband live or die? Who is in more pain? What is hell but the absence of love? I especially loved Dean’s outburst here:
“You sure about that? I think you did it for yourself. So you wouldn’t have to live without her. But guess what? She’s going to have to live without you now. But what if she knew how much it cost? What if she knew it cost your soul? How do you think she’d feel?” (2.08 Crossroad Demons, Supernatural Wiki)
Supernatural does excel at maximizing and connecting those angst dots.
Emmie: I absolutely agree. I also think that little speech of Dean’s is an excellent bit of foreshadowing, because he eventually takes those steps himself even after reacting against what John did, even after this episode. Maybe his reaction here is in response to his own inclinations and instincts to protect Sammy at all costs.
Tabatha: This is seriously one of my absolute favourite Supernatural episodes ever. EVER! I grew up with guitar players, and Robert Johnson…legend! One of the things that really made me a Supernatural fan is the way they tackle urban legends – this is the second time that I’ve brought this up, I know, but I simply adore how they bring these legends to life with such creativity.
Kelly: Agree, I love the shout out to the urban legends. And the music of this episode is PHENOMENAL. What picks! Now I want a Robert Johnson shout out in S9 so I can toast it with my Hellhound beer!
Emmie: Hellhound On My Ale ought to be available sometime this fall, I think. Not sure about the distribution though!
I’m not sure there was anything I learned about in primary school that gave me more chills than the lost colony of Roanoke. That mysterious word CROATOAN was burned into my brain at an early age, and it gave me a bit of a thrill to see here. There are some things I really like about “Croatoan” as an episode, namely the shaky trust between Sam and Dean and the whole idea that a demon virus knocked out that colony so many years ago. That said, I don’t think the execution is as strong as it could have been.
Kelly: Now, I’ve managed to see “CROATOAN” multiple times and I think that perhaps the guest characters just are not as strong as they need to be. It’s a pretty complicated idea, a demon infection, and it resolves very quickly. Viruses do burn out of an area but I can’t say I believed it would end so soon. I am glad that Edlund pursued the idea more fully, with such horrific implications in “The End.”
Tabatha: I’m with you ladies on this one. I’m not a huge fan of this episode only because it’s just a little too ridiculous – even for this show (and that’s saying something). I do like the added jab at “the Winchester boy” being immune, as was suspected. It sort of sets us up for what’s coming.
Emmie: “Hunted” is a pretty decent episode to me. I love that they bring Gordon back in, and I also love the continuing demon storyline within this episode. Ava is an interesting character, but I wish they had fleshed out her motivations a little more. She waggles back and forth between “I’ma get up and drive to find a stranger on faith alone!” and “YOU ARE FULL OF DONKEY HOOEY, SAM WINCHESTER” a little too much for me, though I do like her. The Gordon dynamic is always rather interesting to me, because it gives a picture of what hunters with no relationship to Sam and Dean whatsoever would think of Sam objectively, albeit taken to a bit of an extreme.
Kelly: I think that I wanted more backstory on Ava and the implication that Sam was starting to find fellow sufferers of some odd fate. We get a taste of it, IMO, and then BAM! Gordron enters the pictures. Honestly, the episode kind of lost me from that point. I figured Sam and Dean would be ok and Gordon would pay some price. Poor Ava though, I thought that she might make it, but why would I think that? Duh! I should know better, I guess I still had hope.
Tabatha: Ava’s character irritates me. She flip-flops more than a fish out of water, there’s not nearly enough of a backstory on her, and then POOF! she’s gone. I expected we’d get some sort of bonding between her and Sam – something, anything! But nope. Here and gone, and that’s that. It’s a shame, because I think that Ava’s character could have been really, really good.
Emmie: This was my second watchthrough of “Playthings,” and I think it grew on me a bit more the second time around. I like that they made Tyler a female name, and I also really loved the creepy dolls and the ambiguity surrounding Maggie for the first act of the episode so that finding out the mother couldn’t see her was a surprise. I also had a bit more appreciation for the self-sacrifice of the grandmother — I think the first time through I felt like, “Okay, she’s old and immobile, and being a ghost with her sister wouldn’t be that bad.” This time I realized more of the depth of what that meant she had to forgive and put aside: the murders of people who tried to change the hotel, the attempted murder of Tyler, etc. That gave me a higher level of respect for that very tough choice
Kelly: I was enjoying “Playthings”. It had a creepy setting in an old hotel with dolls and kids and murder and mystery and then Dean had a drink with an old guy at a glowy bar. Cue instant chilling fllashback to Jack Nicholson having a sip (or two or three) in that old hotel in The Shining. Was that done on purpose?
(Let’s check it out!)
I don’t remember the dialogue from The Shining in that scene but my gut says that Dean is having a similar conversation as Jack Torrance did with the hotel bartender about the problems of the old inhabitants of the hotel.
But back to the story, I thought it was well written and that the guest characters were well rounded. Having good b characters really made for strong episodes in this arc. Maybe that’s true for all episodes?
PS!. My husband, the secret Trekkie, pointed out that Ten Forward had a glowy bar too. And Guinan was quite knowledgeable about old things.
Tabatha: Le SQUEE!! I love this episode! First of all, as Kelly brought up, the HUGE nod to “The Shining”, which is one of my all-time favourite stories. Second, the thought that this mom is just doing her best, trying to make a life for her and her daughters – and then you realize daughter. Singular. Chills, I tell you, chills!
Kelly, I never made the Trek/Ten Forward bar connection before – neat!
Emmie: I definitely think this was a callback to The Shining, but I didn’t notice it the first time through. The whole thing with this set-up (even the two little girls, although they’re not twins in the SPN episode!) is pretty cool. Once I visited the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. I am soooo glad I did that BEFORE seeing The Shining and not after…
That about wraps up this week! Chime in with your thoughts on these episodes in the comments! Next arc will cover “Nightshifter” (*Snoopy dance!*) through “Roadkill,” so we’ll be getting ready! Rewatch with us (or watch for the first time), and get ready for the next Supernatural Roundtable!
Meet Your SPN Knights of the Roundtable…
Emmie Mears is the creator of Searching for SuperWomen and an author of urban fantasy. Her favorite fandoms are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Star Wars, and — oh, who is she kidding? Too many to name. Catch her on Twitter (@emmiemears) or tweeting from the @WeAreSuperWomen account about all kinds of abundant geekery.
Tab Bourgiugnon didn’t choose the Geek Life; the Geek Life chose her. Thanks to a husband and two kids who regularly bombard her, she’s got a never-ending supply of interesting and geeky things to think about. In her grown-up life she’s a word-and-media slayer, and regularly engrosses herself in all things marketing. You can find Tab on Twitter (@tab_b).
Kelly McLaughlin, a mom to two boys, works part time counting money and is married to her college nerd sweetheart. She found Buffy while burning dinner for her kids. Her fandoms include the Whedonverse, Supernatural, Star Trek, Whoverse, and Legos. Kelly desperately wants to read Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman script. Say howdy to Kelly on Twitter (@hann23)!