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Supernatural: The Interesting Thing About Roadkill

In my recap on Friday, I mentioned this episode may be more than it seems. Why? First, a bit about how this episode was put together.

Playing games with the narrator

Roadkill begins in the type of shot typical for horror movies. Generally, in a horror movie, the victims have to be isolated. The US is a big, open country, even on the heavily populated east coast. It's quite easy to begin driving and find yourself alone and miles from nowhere. That's probably why it's so common to use the "driving down an empty highway" cliche shot in horror movies. That, plus it just looks (and feels, if you've ever experienced it) creepy.

So the episode begins as you would expect. But right after the title break, the whole episode subtly changes. It was apparent to me from the very beginning that something was different. First, usually the first victim dies before the title break. David, Molly's husband, didn't die, he simply disappeared. Second, there was little hint of a threat to Molly, despite her encounter in the cabin. The farmer was ghastly, and appeared menacing, but he didn't pursue Molly until the Winchesters showed up.

And then there are Sam and Dean. Usually we get right to the brothers Winchester. We've either seen them before the title break, or they are the first scene back from the title break. This time, we get no banter, no hint of how they've become aware of the latest ghoulie or ghostie needing destruction.

In fact, the whole episode seemed to be shot with a focus on Molly. This is not a bad thing, considering Tricia Helfer played that part.

This was outstanding direction, in my opinion. It's difficult, in a character-centric show like this, to place the focus on the important part of the story - Molly - and away from the strong leads without giving away the twist ending, and without making it seem strained. The writing, too, had to stay on the razor's edge of keeping focus on Molly. As viewers, we're used to seeing lots of Sam and Dean interacting, and they often have moments when they have to step aside, away from other characters, to confer. The writers had to be careful not to give any clue as to what the brothers knew about Molly (particularly hard with Dean's character, because of his bluntness and dislike of supernatural beings).

I figured out the twist just about the time Sam admitted that David was still alive. As soon as I knew Molly was a spirit, everything that seemed a little off made sense, and the flashback sequence, which usually slows a story down, quickly confirmed it for me without interfering with the pace of the show.

Now, about that foreshadowing thing

Have you noticed yet that Dean has escaped death - twice? You know that saying, "third time's a charm" or "bad things come in threes"?

The number 3, in addition to its prominent place in religion, occultism, and mythology, is also used quite a bit in storytelling. It's used to lull people into a rhythm of a story by making 2 things or events very similar, then the third moves the plot, sometimes appearing surprising or shocking because it's different.

For example, take the 3 little pigs. We know what happens to the first 2. Then the third one defeats the wolf. Or the 3 billy goats gruff. You get the idea.

So Dean has nearly died twice - so far gone as to have actually been pursued by a reaper.

I think the odds are high that the brothers will face a reaper yet again. And if they do, and one of the brothers is again faced with the choice between life and death, Sam's speech about where the dead go will seem far different, and far more divisive.

Keep in mind also that we haven't yet found out John Winchester's final destination, though it's been hinted at that he makes another appearance, and some spirits have alluded to John being in hell.

Can you picture the scene? Dean, once again torn between life and death, but with John urging him to choose one side or another, and Sam taking the opposite side? Think of the conflict within Sam, should he have to choose whether to help Dean defeat death again, after knowing how Dean felt about John sacrificing himself to save Dean's life. And Sam clearly believes that some spirits go to a place of rest and peace. Would he do it? Could he not?

How would Dean feel, knowing that he's defeated death unnaturally 3 times - and each time an innocent has had to take his place (remember back in "Faith," an anonymous jogger died instead of Dean, due to the reaper being controlled by the healer's wife). How would Dean feel if Sam tried to convince him to let go, and accept death?

Or maybe, in the literary tradition of third in a series of event, this time there's a twist - Dean offering himself to save Sam's life, maybe?

Wow.

There are lots of strong possibilities here. The writers have put themselves in a very nice position.

So, all in all, a great episode. Everyone involved should be pleased.

Trivia

Remember Dean's "Thanks for that, Haley Joel." comment at the end? Driving it home that this episode was a big homage to the movie "The Sixth Sense".

Not only did this episode use the same twist ending, but the movie also featured a quick flashback showing how all the parts fit together and were consistent with the twist. Nicely done - it actually took me until this morning to catch that.

This episode was directed by Charles Beeson, who also directed this season's episode "Playthings". That episode also was chock full of homage.


Posted by Miller on March 20, 2007 6:36 AM
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