Saturday, June 17, 2006

Supernatural "Dead Man's Blood" - review (TV episode)

Director: Tony Wharmby

Season 1, released 2005

Contains spoilers

For those who haven’t seen it, Supernatural tells the story of the brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padaleck and Jensen Ackles respectively). When Sam was 6 months old their mother was killed by a supernatural entity, during the season revealed to be a demon. Their father, John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), set the surviving family on the road of killing Supernatural entities whilst they search for the one that killed their mother. At the beginning of the series their father is missing, though at this point he has made contact with them on a couple of occasions. This episode is towards the end of season one and, as well as being a vampire episode, does contain issues that pulls character arcs together. I will be ignoring that aspect of the show and simply look at the vampiric elements, except where the main season arc impacts the vampire story.

The story begins in a bar and an old, semi-reclusive man named Daniel Elkins (Terence Kelly). A group of younger people come into the bar and he vanishes off to his home. Inside a woman, who we later discover is named Kate (Anne Openshaw), steps up to him and remarks that he has become old. He throws a dagger into her, to no effect and runs. Having shut himself in a room, and barricaded the door, he opens up a safe and retrieves an antique colt pistol, but too late. Two men smash through a skylight and Kate through the door.

Sam and Dean are trawling through news looking for unusual occurrences, which might need their special form of investigation and Sam spots a news story about Elkins’ death. Dean recognises the name from their father’s journal. They drive to Colorado and check his house. They note that salt is poured before the doors, thus a demon couldn’t have attacked him, and then find a mail box combination scratched into the floor. They retrieve a letter addressed to JW and wonder if it could be for their father when John Winchester shows up. He says that Elkins was an old friend, reads the letter and realises that he had *the* colt. Suffice it to say that the colt, which the killers now have, is no ordinary weapon and was made for a hunter, the myth is it can kill anything and John wants it in respect of the main arc. He also tells the boys that Elkins was killed by vampires, though he had thought they were all extinct, wiped out by Elkins and a few other specialised hunters.

We then learn some of the lore around vampires. The vampires in Supernatural can day walk, though sunlight stings “like a nasty sunburn” and they prefer the night, crosses are useless and so is a stake through the heart. The only thing that will kill a vampire is decapitation. We see a scene of a couple driving and accidentally running down a man. As the driver approaches, to see if he is badly injured, his eyes snap open and teeth sprout. We later discover that vampires do not have fangs but a second set of very sharp teeth that descend when attacking. We learn that they nest in groups of 8 to 10 and send out smaller hunting parties to pick up prey, which they keep and bleed for days or weeks. There is a scene of the nest leader, Luthor (Warren Christie), slitting his wrist and allowing Kate to feed, who then feeds the girl from the car (mouth to mouth), converting her.

The Winchesters find and raid the nest, and though the vampires sleep during the day John points out that they can wake up. Unfortunately it all goes wrong. The Winchesters escape by smashing a blacked out window, causing pain and confusion amongst their attackers, who do not pursue when they run out of the nest. John explains that once a vampire has your scent he has it for life and they will come for them that night. Further lore we pick up includes the fact that, whilst it won’t kill them, a dead man’s blood is a poison to them and will incapacitate them for about half an hour. We also discover that vampires are inhumanly strong, they mate for life and that a powder can be manufactured (from saffron and skunk ashes, if I heard correctly) that will mask your scent from a vampire temporarily.

The episode contains some lovely lines such as Dean saying to Kate, “Ah, I'll pass. I usually draw the line at necrophilia”, when she tries to entice him away with her. I also liked it when Luthor protests that the vampires have as much right to live as anybody else.

Suffice it to say, as we are in a series, that the Winchesters survive and yes, the colt comes into it. However a couple of the vampires also get away and so there is a chance that we might see vampires in the show again, some season down the line, especially if the writers hold true to the having the scent mythology.

Obviously, this is a made for TV (therefore not gratuitously gory) episode, of a length much shorter than a film, with other things to explore – especially as there is a lot of main arc material being examined, mainly around the boys relationship with their father. I did, however, quite enjoy this for the vampiric lore they introduced and would like to see it expanded on in a future episode. There was a feel of perhaps, a little of, “The Forsaken” (2001) or “Near Dark” (1987) to the vampires, even if the mythology was different. Yet, as a pure vampire episode, it did lack the depth necessary to rate this any higher than 5 out of 10. Essentially a good basis but not enough vampiric depth to score higher as a stand alone, in fact there was a lot more to an earlier episode - “Something Wicked” – another episode with definite vampiric elements, but I do recommend that folks give the series a go, it is good fun if a tad derivative in places.

The supernatural page at imdb is here.

All episode screenshots found on gallery.

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