Fourth episode of the first season, air date October 4, 2005. First appearance of demon-as-black-smoke, black-eyed demons, and DIY exorcism.
We start with a nervous flyer in a bathroom at an airport, where we see a wisp of black smoke (which we’ll pretend later we don’t notice is completely and totally different from every later instance of black smoke demons) entering his eyes (yeah, yeah). When he boards the plane, he turns black eyes to the flight attendant, but she dismisses it as she carries on working.
Later, in flight, the man stands up and walks to the back of the plane. One passenger notices him by the door, when the black-eyed man grabs the impossible-to-move handle on the inside of the door, opening it wide. He is sucked out, and follows the door as it smashes the jet’s right elevator. The plane goes into an immediate loss-of-control state, and eventually crashes. There are only seven survivors.
The boys are called in by a phone call from a Pennsylvania air traffic controller, whom Dean and John had helped before with a poltergeist problem. Sam’s having trouble adjusting to hunting again, having nightmares and angst. Jerry the ATC has a recording of the black-box voice recorder, which has a voice saying “no survivors” in a weird way – double weird, because seven people survived the crash, including the pilot and the flight attendant we met. He can’t get them in to see the wreckage, though, as it’s locked down by NTSB.
The boys hit up their local Kinko’s-clone, where Dean puts together some Homeland Security ID for them to use in infiltrating the wreckage warehouse (careful examination of the ID shows that Dean is using one with “Jerry Wanek” as the name – this happens to be one of the crew, the production designer).
They also go to the psychiatric institution where one of the survivors is regaining his equilibrium. Careful probing turns up the bit about the black-eyed guy who opened the door. He points out that this is impossible, but he sure as hell thought he saw it anyway.
Dean and Sam speculate that the passenger may not have been human, given his apparently-impossible levels of strength. His widow says he was a dentist, headed to a convention, and a terrified flyer. I think this is the introduction of an idea that gets dropped pretty quickly for narrative reasons, that demons could only possess someone if they were weak in some manner when it happened: his huge fear made him vulnerable.
Cue a Blues-Brothers transformation, as the lads get themselves into cheapish black suits, so as to look more the part for their wreckage survey. Dean introduces us to the idea of the EMF meter, with a bit of clumsy As You Know Bob, and finds a fair bit of EMF signature – meaning spirit activity. Sam, meanwhile, finds what turns out to be a fair bit of sulphur on the wreckage of the door. Then, trouble! Real DHS agents show up, only to find that the boys somehow magically knew they were coming and got away just in time.
Cut to the crashed pilot going up for his first flight after the crash, in a small twin-engine. Again we get the trope about the demon-vulnerable scared guy, as the black smoke once again drifts in through his eyes (I know). He gets very cocky, and soon goes black-eyed, before knocking out the other pilot and diving straight at the ground, and then there were six.
Sam checks further, having noticed that the flights both went down 40 minutes in, and finds six more previous flights which crashed 40 minutes in.
When they hunt down the other survivors on the phone, only one of them is still flying: the flight attendant is to take her first flight back on the job tonight, from an airport five hours away. They try to dissuade the flight attendant from taking the flight, but she won’t go for it. They have no other choice but to get on the plane with her. Dean, it turns out, isn’t the happiest flyer ever, and the demon is definitely taking the flight with them.
Another demon-hunting tidbit is introduced here and then quickly forgotten: the whole “demons flinch from the name of god” thing.
Dean gets a good hit off the EMF meter when he spots the co-pilot coming out of the bathroom. Muttering the (wrong) Latin name for god, the demon goes black-eyed, but heads into the cockpit.
The boys try to talk Amanda into luring the co-pilot back out of the cockpit, and obviously get critical successes on their Bluff and Diplomacy rolls, because even in this post-9/11 age, they manage the task. This, by the way, is where my suspension of disbelief nosed over and headed for the ground at a high rate.
Confining the dude with some duct tape, Sam starts the exorcism, but the demon starts fighting back – when he gets his mouth loose, he talks some smack about Sam’s dead girlfriend, but they complete the ritual, and the demon leaves him. Somehow, it possesses the plane, which takes the usual tumble to the ground, causing Sammy to lose the journal with the exorcism ritual in it. He finally grabs it, shouts some stuff, and the plane is fine.
When the plane gets back on the ground, the boys find out that Jerry found them by calling John’s cellphone, the message on which has been changed to redirect people to Dean’s phone. They now know that John is alive, but for some reason staying away from them.
Like the last episode, it’s hard to find much to critique here, because the episode is basically a pork (the other white meat) sausagefest: only one named/speaking character is not a white man, and she’s pretty inoffensive as a character – brave, but a little too easily manipulated for my taste. I know Sam and Dean are superheroes, and one of their powers is their high Diplomacy/Bluff skills (for Sam and Dean respectively), but really, this one just is hard to take seriously.
Next up is a fan favourite, as well as one of mine: Bloody Mary.
(cue guitars and credits)
S1E4: Phantom Traveler: 1 Pentacle
1/5 – I wonder if I’m being a little harsh on this one, but I just find it way too hard to keep my suspension of disbelief in the air. Post 9/11, this is just not a very believable episode to have made: we’ve all heard WAY too many stories of planes which made emergency landings because someone whose skin was too brown made an offhand reference to a comedian’s joke bombing, so the idea that two guys could talk a flight attendant into luring a pilot out of the cockpit to be ambushed? Just…no. I don’t care how big Sam’s puppy-dog eyes are, I don’t care how cute Dean thinks he is, just…no. Though the numbers (see below) indicate a much less lethal world for not-(hetero-white-men) in this one, so maybe I am being too harsh. Of course, it’s hard for the world to be much less lethal for marginalized people than this one, since there simply are almost none to work with.
Honestly, it’s a good thing I found the show watching fourth-season reruns. I don’t know how long I’d have stuck with this show at this point, if I hadn’t already know there was some awesome coming. The pacing has improved considerably, but there are still dead zones in the episode: the editing will get much tighter and much better as the series continues.
Running total of innocents killed by the Boys: 0 (they’re doing so much better than I thought they would!)
Named women and/or POC (not already dead) who end up dead before the episode’s out: 0! A new record! Of course, the streak continues, with only one named woman character who speaks, and no POC who speak or have names.
Marginalized (named) body survival rate: 100%! 1/1 (Amanda, the flight attendant, who lives)
Objectification by Dean: 0 again!
Misogynist slurs: And another big zero!
Aliases used by the boys: Wanek (Dean), unknown (Sam).
Hint o’ maple: Three actors (Kett Turton as Max Jaffe, Daryl Shuttleworth as Chuck Lambert, and Paul Jarrett as George Phelps), plus Vancouver International Airport’s South Terminal, and a few CF and CG tail-numbers on the non-CGI aircraft.