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03 November 2006 @ 04:32 pm
2.06 No Exit: One Ghost Murders, Two Haunt Hearts  

The creep factor was in full swing on this episode: director Kim Manners teased us with effective jump scares and a truly creepy, real-life villain. In the clutch, Jo proved her mettle as a gutsy fighter, being terrified but not giving in, keeping her head and reacting with both intelligence and determination. The shared loss of fathers provided the impetus for Jo and Dean to learn more about each other, and for us to get more glimpses into both Dean’s heart and his past. The twist at the end – learning that John had been with Jo’s dad on his last fatal hunt, and that Ellen held John responsible for her husband’s death – was at the same time both a nasty surprise and an almost expected jigsaw puzzle piece slotting neatly into place to explain Ellen’s ambivalent attitude toward the boys, especially Dean, who resembles John in so many ways. It’s a good thing that Sam acquired another laptop along the way, because my guess is that the boys will be keeping their distance from the Roadhouse and its research resources for a while.

 

I enjoyed Jo in this story:  confronting terror, she did some growing up, and she demonstrated skills and instincts that indicate that she could become an effective hunter. Unlike her previous appearances, she was focused on the mission, not on making a play for Dean, and that was refreshing. And notwithstanding both Dean’s attempts to dissuade her and Ellen’s overwhelming fear of losing her, I’m betting that Jo’s desire to be her father’s daughter will ultimately make her decide to stay in the game.

 

Ellen was fascinating to watch, too. She’s a woman who’s lived with both the fear of loss and its reality for years, first for her husband going off on hunts and ultimately dying, and now for the daughter who wants to follow in his footsteps and disregards the danger. Ellen’s protective instincts are even further off the scale than Dean’s, and that’s saying a lot. What she doesn’t seem to realize, however, is that her smothering – of a girl supposedly of legal age, who thus comes off as being much younger – is likely to prompt her daughter to take more risks simply to escape and assert herself.

 

Discovering that John was with Ellen’s husband on his last hunt both explains and complicates things about Ellen’s relationship with the Winchester boys. At some level, Ellen clearly blames John for promising to protect her husband and failing, but she just as clearly doesn’t hate him; she had obviously never before told Jo that John had any role in her father’s death, and while John hadn’t been to the Roadhouse in years and had never talked about it, Ellen had called him to offer help when the word came through the hunter grapevine that John finally had a lead on the demon and was closing in. Ellen also called John a friend and welcomed the boys, although she seemed from the start to be much more friendly with Sam than with Dean. I’m guessing that may have been due as much to Dean resembling John in so many ways as to Jo showing such obvious interest in him. I think that Ellen’s extreme blame reaction both in her phone conversation with Dean and in telling Jo at the end was a combination of things, including her innate fear of losing Jo; the horrible symmetry of possibly losing her daughter under virtually the same circumstances to which she lost her husband – in the company of a Winchester; and the desire to prevent that from ever happening again by driving an emotional wedge between Jo and the Winchester boys. Given how much Jo idolizes her father, Ellen must realize that his accusing ghost could become an effective barrier to the interest Jo was openly displaying in Dean. Only time will tell how that will play out.

 

For me, as always, the brothers were the best part of both the story and the show. Sam silently watching Dean react to and interact with Jo reminded me sweetly of Dean similarly watching Sam with Lori in Hookman and with Sara in Provenance. Unlike his older brother, Sam wasn’t applying any pressure along with his observation, but his very watchfulness spoke of his concern even as his face reflected his amusement at Dean’s predicament. We haven’t seen any sign of Dean’s normal flirtatious nature since John died, and that absence clearly hasn’t escaped Sam’s attention either, even if he hasn’t figured out what to do about it. I’d have liked to see more of Sam actively scoping out what his brother was thinking (heck, I’d have liked to see more of Sam! Missing the brothers’ togetherness …), but Jared did nicely with keeping Sam’s concern visible but not overt.

 

I’m always happy to get more insights into Dean, and this episode didn’t disappoint. Family remains his guiding principle and the dearest wish of his heart, even with his own family so drastically reduced; his advice to Jo not to lie to her mother and not to dismiss having a mother who worries about her came from his own lonely core. His sympathies stayed with Ellen even through the jarring sense of unknown history that came through Ellen’s scathing “You promise? That is not the first time I’ve heard that from a Winchester,” and from the bitter gut-punch of hearing from Jo that John played a role in her beloved dad’s death. Given how Dean always takes responsibility onto himself, as when he told Ellen that what had happened with Jo was his fault, I’m betting that John did the same, and that whatever really happened on that last hunt, John blamed himself and said as much when he told Ellen that her husband was dead.

 

During their memory-sharing scene, when Jo asked Dean what he remembered about his dad (although that line was really awkwardly phrased; I’d have said something like, “What’s the first thing you remember, when you think about your dad?”), the look on Dean’s face made me immediately flash back to the end of Dead Things and Dean saying that John was dead because of him. Judging by his face, that memory of being taught to shoot wasn’t the first thing that had come to Dean’s mind. There was something unutterably sad about Dean’s happy childhood memory being tied up with winning approval from his father because of his natural gift for marksmanship. And hearing Dean say honestly that he wished he could do something else was almost a shock, because he’s always been the consummate hunter. He made that throwaway comment in Devil’s Trap about always having wanted to be a fireman, and the shapeshifter doppelganger in Skin had betrayed that Dean harbored frustrated dreams, but this was the first time we really heard Dean openly acknowledge a desire for something different with passion and conviction, but also with hopelessness, because he doesn’t believe that he has any choice. His gift and his doom is that Dean is a hunter, and how much did it hurt that he knows how skewed that makes him? “You love the job,” Jo said, and Dean responded, “Yeah, but I’m a little twisted.” Jensen’s low-key delivery there was perfect, as always.

 

I loved the humor we got, and just wish we had more of it:  the Katie Holmes cult kidnapping joke, the matching “Nebraska is for Corn Lovers” tourist family t-shirts, the Stay-Puft marshmallow man (something particularly hilarious about Supernatural giving another shout-out to Ghostbusters …), boosting a cement truck. And if those tourist t-shirts were meant to tell us that Harvelle’s Roadhouse is in Nebraska, Dean certainly had it right when he observed that the silent drive back from Philadelphia with cold-as-ice Ellen in the Impala’s front seat was going to be a long one! With the way things were left at the end, I wonder what will finally bring the boys back together with Ellen and Jo, and how awkward that meeting will be … I trust that Kripke and company will handle it well.

 
 
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