By John Keegan
Surprisingly, I think I liked this episode even more than the pilot. Granted, there were a lot of elements lifted from the “X-Files” episodes “Detour” and “Darkness Falls”, but within the framework of this series, it worked rather well. If Mulder or Scully had expressed such a cocky sense of experience when dealing with the experts, it would have come across as disingenuous. In this case, I expected nothing less.
I’m a guy, and so the characters of Sam and Dean needed to be more than hot actors posturing for the camera. While there’s an awful lot of posturing going on, I’m getting the sense that a lot of that is intentional. Dean, for instance, could come across as simply arrogant. Instead, there’s an undertone of desperation in how he must constantly put forward this “cool” image. It’s those scars that work for me, just like the ones that are fresh behind Sam’s eyes.
In a lot of ways, this is the second half of the pilot, because this is where the character motivations take shape. I hope the characters continue to mention their parents and Jess regularly, if only to maintain that these brothers are more than just badass outlaws. It may be contrary to the mission statement, but I want a sense of the psychological baggage that would drive someone to consider this a legitimate career path.
This is where the series is giving me something “Prison Break” currently lacks. While I can get into the deep psychological issues of the main character of “Prison Break”, that series is set in the “real world”, so plot contrivances are a lot harder to forgive. This series is firmly entrenched in a fantasy world where one must, before an episode starts, accept that all these paranormal legends are real. A lot is forgiven when the typical rules are immediately set aside.
In terms of the central concept of the episode itself, I remember the Wendigo more from Marvel Comics of the 1980s than folklore, but I enjoyed seeing this take on it. I wasn’t particularly frightened at any point, and if I wanted to quibble, I might mention that getting into the Wendigo’s lair was just a bit too easy. If the Wendigo was as clever and powerful as the brothers suggest, none of them would have survived very long once they were revealed as a possible threat. In fact, if the Wendigo was intelligent, it would have made damn sure that anything capable of lighting it up was out of commission.
Of course, this is “monster of the week” in its purest form, and it wouldn’t be much fun if the brothers were eviscerated in the second episode. Doubtless, they will survive under far more questionable circumstances in the future. But this second episode was even more enjoyable mindless entertainment than the pilot, and unlike a lot of mindless television, there’s an effort to present the material with true style and confidence. This may be my pick for sleeper hit of the season.
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