Supernatural Re-watch, S1E5: Bloody Mary

The fifth episode to air, on October 11, 2005. I appear to have made a complete botch of my “Schedule Blog Posts” roll, but I’ve triple-checked Friday’s, and I think it should go out on time. 

Synopsis: 

At a tween sleepover in Toledo, we get the infodump on Bloody Mary, the monster of the week, through a game of Truth or Dare: say her name three times in a bathroom mirror, and she’ll appear to take your eyes and kill you. The girl does it, her friends scare her a little, there is squealing and a woken-up Dad. Dad hits the bog before heading back to sleep, and Bloody Mary shows up to, y’know, take his eyes and kill him. They have a cool effect on her showing up, where people walk around and in every reflection they walk past, she’s in it. Older sister (Donna) comes home, finds the blood and Dad, and screams –

Sam wakes from the usual Jess nightmare, which Dean tells us is happening a lot lately. Pretending to be med students from OSU, they try to get in to see the corpse; Dean’s Bluff roll fails, but Sammy drops in a nice Aid Other action by laying down five twenties. Dude is a gross-out mess: eyes missing and kinda black and gooey.

Running down the leads, the boys pretend to be workmates of dear dead Dad at the funeral reception, and investigate the house a little while they’re there. It’s too bad the family wasn’t Jewish, because having all the mirrors covered for sitting shiva would have been a nice touch. Younger sister Lily – the one who was dared to say “Bloody Mary” – insists it wasn’t a stroke, but in fact her fault for having done the bad thing.

Sam deploys the soft-voice puppy-dog-eyes (SVPDE) to get the details from her. Dean’s kind enough to reassure her that it can’t possibly be that, because, y’know, Dad didn’t say it, did he? No. Sam brings up a good point: why, if this is a real thing, aren’t kids dying all over the US for playing this silly game? Speculation that this is the kernel of truth in the modern legend. Also, it’s weird: Dad didn’t say it, so why was it him who died?

Donna’s friend (Charly) catches them investigating, and points out how crappy their lie was about the Dad, because he was a day trader, so he didn’t have much in the way of “colleagues”. She’s shrewd enough to have put together the weird questions and the oddness of them being upstairs, and demands to know what’s going on. SVPDE again, as Sam explains that they’re just trying to keep other people from being hurt. Sam hands over a phone number where she can reach them if anything weird happens.

Research and infodump. Later, Charly is talking to her friend Jill on the phone when the friend, to taunt her, goes to the bathroom mirror to say “Bloody Mary” – and then looses a huge scream while Charly freaks out. She reveals it was a “joke” before hanging up. As Jill begins to get undressed, Bloody Mary appears in the mirror. Jill’s reflection first begins to not be a reflection, and then blood starts dripping from its eyes, as it does from the real Jill, while Mary says, “You did it. You killed that boy.” Fade to black.

Sam’s nightmare. Frustration at lack of results, then Charly calls. They meet with her, and find out that Jill’s gone the same way Papa Shoemaker did. The boys reassure Charly that she’s not insane, which she rightly points out makes this all so much worse. They have a plan, so they go back to Jill’s place for a Search roll. On the back of a mirror, they find (using a blacklight) a bloody hand print, and the name Cary Bryman. Checking it out, the kid appears to have been struck and killed by a car, the description of which, Charly realizes, sounds a lot like Jill’s.

Going back to the first place, they find the name Linda Shoemaker on the back of the mirror where Dad died. That’s the kids’ Mom, who died of an ‘accidental overdose’ a few years ago. It looks pretty clear that Dad killed her, and that they’ve found Mary’s criterion for whether or not to kill (and thus why kids all over aren’t dying by the bukkitload): if you killed someone in secret, she’s coming for you.

Sam talks about the folklore about mirrors being a true reflection of your soul. Dean finds a source for what may well be the original story: “Mary Worthington” (I snickered), Fort Wayne Indiana. They talk to an old retired detective, who inevitably has taken the file on his one “it just bugs me” murder (as apparently all old retired detectives do, I think it must be like how some careers they give you a gold watch when you retire, if you’re an old detective, they give you a cold case). Turns out she was murdered by a break-in who took her eyes, probably a surgeon with whom she was having an affair. Looks like she was made into a spirit when she was unable to pass along the name of her killer.

Unfortunately, she was cremated. Crap. The mirror from the photograph of her death, the one with the unfinished name on it, was returned to her family long ago. So no obvious reason why this spirit is able to wander across the US yet.

Charlie and Donna are talking, and Donna is annoyed with Charlie’s credulousness, and so defiantly says “Bloody Mary” to the bathroom mirror a few times. As Charlie walks away, we can see Mary stalking her through the reflections in windows.

In a chemistry class, Charlie takes out a compact, and has a complete freakout when she sees Mary, smashes a window, and freaks worse yet when it happens again in the concerned teacher’s glasses.

The boys are chasing the mirror, which was sold one week ago to an antique dealer…in Toledo. They get the idea that maybe if they smash the mirror, she’ll be destroyed. Me, I always wonder (as I did in the execrable Doctor Who episode The Curse of the Black Spot) why people think that smashing mirrors will make them stop being mirrors. If you smash a mirror, you get a whole bunch of little mirrors. Until you either strip off the silvering, or grind it to dust, there’s still lots of reflection there – in fact, almost as much as there was before you smashed it.

Charlie calls and summons the Rescue Rangers, so the boys shut her up in their motel room, cover everything remotely reflective, and Sam gets SVPDE with Charlie to keep her calm until they can destroy Mary. Part of that, of course, is revealing what her dark secret is: she had an insecure and abusive boyfriend, who threatened to kill himself if she left; she said “good,” and so he did. Despite that she obviously didn’t kill him, her guilt over it is enough to bring the big bad.

Sam speculates that they need to pin her down in the haunted mirror before smashing it, and insists that she will come after him, because he has a secret about Jess’ death. He can’t tell Dean, of course, because then it wouldn’t be a secret anymore, and Mary wouldn’t come when called.

Turns out the antique dealer has kind of a thing for mirrors. When they find the right one, Sam gets ready to call her, while Dean goes out to Bluff the cops who’ve responded to the alarm they tripped. When the Bluff doesn’t work, Dean resorts to a surprise attack, dropping the two cops quickly, then heads back inside to help Sam. Hefting a crowbar, Sam gets to smashing mirrors where she shows up, but before she gets into the one they want her in, she starts to use her power on Sam. Mirror!Sam accuses Sam of having precogged Jess’ death, and that his ignoring the dreams meant Sam is responsible for killing her.

Dean arrives to destroy the mirror, which seems like game over – until she starts going all Japanese-horror-movie cliché, crawling out of the frame and walking in that Japanese-horror-movie way (long straggly hair covering eyes, jerky movements). She starts to power-whack both boys, before Dean manages to catch her in another mirror, and her power eats itself, basically.

Back to Charlie’s to drop her off, and Sam gives her a bit of SVPDE as light therapy on the way out. Sam spots Jess standing on a corner as they drive away, and seems troubled. She disappears.

Analysis:

Wow, were the effects for them driving the car crappy in the first season! Crude matte work, bad lighting differences. Just…yeesh. So much better when they started doing it as a practical effect, by what I assume is mounting the car on a low-rider trailer, and filming it actually driving around.

Anyway, this is one of my favourites of the first season. I like the use of SVPDE, it’s what gave me a soft spot for Sam in the first place, and I’m sad that they cut down the use so much later. I like also that the MotW provides a fairly graceful way of introducing Sam’s precog nightmares, in a much less clunky way than the usual expositionary dumping.

The girls’ characters in this episode rang more true to me than those in some other episodes, and I wonder if that’s related to the two Teleplay credits, one of which was to Terri Hughes Burton. She also worked on Wendigo, where I liked the character of the older sister. Unfortunately, those appear to be the only two episodes she worked on, and for me, one of the ongoing weaknesses of the show is how women characters are written, so it’s too bad she didn’t get more chances.

Once again we have a senior police officer who is a PoC: veteran actor William S Taylor. Taylor’s got an amazing resume: an NCAA star in football, he moved to Canada to play pro for the CFL’s BC Lions and later Canadian Heavyweight Boxing Champion, before becoming disenchanted with sports and moving into music and acting.  

I just tend to think this is a well-written episode, with good pacing, some genuinely creepy moments (although undermined a little by the cliche-ness of the spirit’s appearance), and a much less clunky style of infodump than we’ve seen in previous episodes. Not one “As You Know” moment.

Conclusion:

Next episode is S1E6 Skin, another creepy early-seasons favourite of mine.

(cue guitars and credits)

S1E5: Bloody Mary: 4 Pentacles

Four pentacles from me on this one, as I quite simply enjoy it. Not five because there’s a bit of cliché to the herky-jerky-long-hair spirit, and because of the distractingly terrible matte work.

Trivia:

Running total of innocents killed by the Boys: Still zero! Actually, this may not move a whole lot in the first season, it’s not til demons get really rolling (second and third seasons) that we start to get a fair bit of the lads killing civvies.

Named women and/or POC (not already dead) who end up dead before the episode’s out: (of Lily, Donna, Jill, and Charlie, only Jill dies; the Black detective is unnamed) ¼

Marginalized (named) body survival rate: 75%

Objectification by Dean: Actually, amazingly little.

Misogynist slurs: I don’t think I heard a single one. Interesting how much more common it becomes as the seasons go by.

Aliases used by the boys: Again, I don’t think they used any.

Hint o’ maple:  Lots of accents (Donna & Lily and one of Lily’s friends, the cops), but not a whole lot else.

Quick one

Just realized things have been very quiet on this week’s rewatch episodes, and that would be because I set them somehow to publish next week and not this week. I’m not sure how I skipped a week. Anyway, we’ll return on Tuesday with S1E5, Bloody Mary. I’m looking forward to that one, it’s one of my favourite first-seasoners. On Friday next, we’ll have S1E6 Skin, another highlight of the first season. Three-quarters of this second DVD of the series is good (Bugs and I have a love-hate relationship, but Hook Man brings the goods).