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Supernatural Fodder

Supernatural: Skin


I loved this episode from the beginning sequence to the end. The opening sequence is a very nerve-wracking hostage sequence in the dark, lit only by the S.W.A.T. team searchlights and using source (diegetic) music. The choice of songs is perfect - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. The episode keeps you guessing, and it has a real potential, personal cost to the brothers. A couple of potential losses, in fact, and one of them materializes. We'll get to that later.

Recap and critique

The opening sequence is a young, blonde woman held hostage. The S.W.A.T. team searches for her in a dark, maze-like series of rooms with music blaring in the background. They find her, tied to a chair, beaten and bloody, but she manages to point the direction of her attacker. The S.W.A.T. team sees the man, orders him to stop. He turns around and ......... it's Dean!

Cut to a week earlier. Sam finds out that one of his former classmates has a brother accused of murder. The brothers hustle to St. Louis to investigate. Sam's friend Rebecca claims her brother was with her at the time of the murder, yet a security tape shows him entering the murder victim's house at the time of the murder. How can he be two places at once?

You guessed it, it's some kind of paranormal mutant that can take on the looks of others. And let's take a timeout right there.

I've been complaining all along that there just isn't enough at stake personally for Sam and Dean in the series. This is the first episode since the Pilot where it matters personally if they succeed (at least realistically, since we know the brothers aren't going to die). The guy in jail is a friend. If they can't solve this crime, he gets convicted. It's personal. Laying the life or death consequences of the brothers' success on close family or friends is one way the series can make the battles matter. I expect to see this plot device used much more often in Season 2.

Back to your regular scheduled recap.

The brothers figure out the shapeshifter is using the sewer system as a lair, and as a way to get around unseen. They go after it, but get separated, and Dean gets captured. The shapeshifter takes Dean's shape.

Let's take another break. Now, it just got more personal. Imagine if Dean was killed by the shapeshifter. The series could continue, but with every episode partnering unsuspecting Sam with a dangerous foe instead of his brother. Tough to do well, but conceivable, even if unlikely. It adds another small edge to the episode.

Back again.

Sam somehow figures out that Dean is not himself, but before he can act, the shapeshifter hits him with a tire iron, and ties him up. He threatens to kill Sam's friend Rebecca, and leaves Sam alive, presumably to use his thoughts to later adopt Sam's identity.

Dean, however, is left alive in the same room, since the creature isn't done mining Dean's memories. The brothers work together and escape, heading off to track down the creature. In a nice little twist, they can't call the police, because that would make Dean the object of a search.

Cut to the creature with Rebecca. He hits her, ties her up, and then we cut to the opening sequence with the S.W.A.T. team. The creature, however, escapes and returns to its lair.

Cut to Sam and Dean, who are watching a TV news report on Rebecca's attempted murder. A drawing of the suspect has Dean's appearance.

The ante has been upped once again. Now, if they don't find the creature, it may use Dean's identity to kill and kill again. Nice touch!

Sam and Dean realize the creature drove Dean's car to Rebecca's, so off they go to retrieve their weapons. Unfortunately, they are spotted by the police. Sam gives himself up to allow Dean to escape. Dean, contrary to the agreed upon plan, goes off to the sewers to hunt the creature down. He arrives at the lair to discover.... Rebecca captured?

Cut to Rebecca and Sam at Rebecca's house. They are talking about the creature and how to kill it. However, the creature has assumed Rebecca's identity, and once again knocks Sam unconscious.

Meanwhile, Dean has rescued Rebecca, and realizes what's going on.

Back at Rebecca's, the creature, in true villain form, reveals his dastardly plan to Sam. He'll kill Sam while using Dean's identity, making Dean a wanted man. Two birds with one stone, eh? Sam, however, manages to get free and struggle with the creature, and Dean arrives just in time to shoot it in the heart.

However, in another nice twist, it maintains Dean's shape. So the brothers win, and yet, it's not without cost. Dean is now thought to be dead, since the creature kept Dean's identity when it died. This comes up in future episodes, and has the potential to make the brothers' lives and jobs more difficult. That's another legitimate personal cost to the conflict. I expect to see more of these types of losses, where the brothers lose things they value like their reputations, their honor, maybe even their peace of mind (Sam has already lost his). Or maybe their immortal souls....

A note about the use of source music. Source music, for those that didn't visit the link above, is music in the show that comes from a source that you can see or that you know about if it's not seen. For example, if there is music playing in a scene, but you know a character in the scene has his stereo on, it's source music even if you can't see the stereo in the frame. This series uses music masterfully, in my opinion. The music is a nice mix of older rock and newer stuff, and always fits the mood and episode. They also use source music frequently, and it's always perfectly chosen. Music is one of the strong points of the show.

If you want a great (and famous) example of source music, watch Hitchcock's "Rear Window". All (or nearly all) of the music in the film is source music, yet it seems to natural to the film. It helps to draw you into the drama on the screen, as good music choices should.


The writer, John Shiban, wrote 3 episodes of Supernatural, as well as several episodes of The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen (the X-Files spinoff). He also wrote a TV treatment of Frankenstein.

The director, Robert Duncan McNeill, directed episodes of : Dead Like Me and Medium. He also acted in episodes of Home Front and Early Edition (must have an in with Kyle Chandler).

This episode departed from the urban legend theme, so not much info on the shapeshifter out there. They seemed to lift appropriate bits and pieces from the legend of dopplegangers (info at Wikipedia, and Unexplained Mysteries.

Posted by Miller on September 12, 2006 8:10 PM
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