Reviewbr> “Pee break? So soon? You know, you might wanna get your prostate checked.” – Dean
Dean’s past catches up with him as he is arrested for the murder of Karen Giles, the wife of a Baltimore lawyer. Sam is also brought in for questioning, and the back story unfolds as to how the brothers came to be in their current predicament. Seems there is an invisible spirit on the lose taking out victims with no obvious connection. Both Dean and Sam surmise that they are dealing with a revenant, but since they are currently in police custody there’s not a hell of a lot they can do about the situation.
Dean creates a diversion, actually confessing to the truth that a sceptical room of detectives don’t believe, allowing Sam to make his escape somehow in a move that would impress the hell out of Spiderman. The less we focus on that the better.
When Detective Ballard (Linda Blair, yes, Exorcist girl) is visited by the phantom, she starts to believe Dean’s confession. He puts her in contact with Sam, who is investigating the case, and together the detective and Sam track down the body of the “revenant” for some salt and burning goodness. A major plot twist ensues. Ready to follow the clues?
Another sterling episode of Supernatural, which really is starting to get the season back underway after a pretty poor start to the second edition. Writer Cathryn Humphris delivers her first script for season two – she was the talent behind Dead Man’s Blood for season one – and really knocks our socks off with the twist, that admittedly I did not see coming. Director Mike Rohl, here debuting on the franchise, really adds the visuals to a top notch script. End of day we get a remarkably well-done episode that I was partying down to hard. Let’s check it out.
What really had me grinning was the use of flashbacks to flesh out how the current situation came about. Okay, that’s been used before in Supernatural but it was really working in this episode. Loved the SWAT team taking down Sam. So you are kind of hooked by the story in the first half as things are explained while developments are going down in the present, and relationships are being exposed. Director Rohl skilfully blends both streams of the story and you won’t notice the seams as each scene jumps around the timelines.
The Usual Suspects works more as a supernatural thriller than an out and out horror episode, mixing in elements of drama, a follow-the-clues attitude, and some good old fashioned tension between the characters. Full marks to the producers of Supernatural for allowing the story to cross into more mainstream than sticking with the horror elements we expect. Always up for something breaking the mould, and heading into uncharted waters.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t horror elements going down, after all we are talking about a “revenant” here. Rohl manages a couple of tense scenes in the final ten minutes as he sideswipes audience expectations with a left field explanation. The resolution scene is well crafted, and finally this season we have the backlighting, some smoke going down, and the use of filters to add that extra good sauce to our Supernatural main course. Top marks, would love to see the Director let loose on an actual horror episode as I believe he would knock the ball out of the park with the atmospherics.
The season really is starting to take off after a pretty meh start. You just can't go past a revenant to get the house rocking
What’s a real delight in this episode is both Sam and Dean, how in tune they are (the cryptic clue, anyone?), and their individual approach to answering their police inquisitors. Sam simply bends the truth while keeping a straight face throughout. The first murder victim was a buddy of their father’s from the marines… well, okay, he was someone they read about in the papers. “She gave us the keys to her husband’s office to retrieve personal stuff” – if by keys we mean lock picks. Sam’s lines are pretty skilfully written and everything he says is plausible. The flashbacks really work there, as we find out what really did happen. Dean, on the other hand, is handing out the smartass comments left, right, and centre. However, while doing so he also tells the same “facts” Sam presented in another room. The Usual Suspects is worthwhile dialling into for the scene where Dean confesses to a disbelieving set of Detectives alone. Sterling stuff, excellent handling of the dialogue, with each and every actor delivering. This is pretty believable and wouldn’t have been amiss in a crime drama.
As usual the creature effects are pretty good and wouldn’t be out of place in a major motion picture; oh heck, they are actually better than some of the stuff put out in the name of the PG13 rating if we want to be picky. Nice use of time lapse to get the freaky deaky stuff happening, and Karen Giles being harassed by our revenant for the evening was spot on with a couple of “jump in your seats” moments to be going on with.
A real coup for Supernatural was acquiring the services of Linda Blair, (The Exorcist, Exorcist II: The Heretic), okay forget that second movie), to play Detective Diana Ballard. Blair is of course only really known for her role in The Exorcist as possessed thirteen year old Regan MacNeil, but it was still great to see one of the Actors known in the horror genre appearing in Suspects. Okay, got tired of typing in the full episode name, learn to live with it compadres. Blair handles her role pretty well, and you just got to feel for an actor who scores a major impact part in a big grossing movie, then sees her career hit the skids as she is simply too recognisable to get other major roles. Blair has done a whole lot of “B” grade roles since The Exorcist, but does pop up on occasion in more mainstream fare, if you consider the odd horror flick mainstream. Hoping this proves to be the break she needs in the later part of her career. You go Linda!
Full kudos to writer Cathryn Humphris for getting the maximum mileage out of Blair appearing in this episode, and for Dean deadpanning a couple of lines: “Did she seem familiar to you?”, “For some reason, I could really go for some pea soup”. Well alright, it brought a wide grin to my dial, and if wondering the 1,000th review for this site will be The Exorcist, so no haven’t forgotten a classic in the horror genre. It’s a milestone movie, kids, and deserves some respect shown its way.
There’s a hint thrown out that one minor development in Suspects could come back to bite the Winchesters on the bum later in the season. The St Louis Police force are exhuming the body of what they believed to be Dean Winchester following the fingerprints wired from Baltimore. If anyone needs a refresher there, check out the episode entry for season one episode 6, Skin. That could be explained away by one of the final developments in Suspects, but I have the hunch it’s not going to go that easy for Sam and Dean somewhere down the track.
All righty, references to other horror movies and shows. Didn’t notice any blatant re-workings to be honest, thought the basic premise is pretty much a staple of the genre. Too many references to list so that gets passed back to the keeper. Besides the obvious nod to The Exorcist mentioned above – heck, you have Linda Blair; what else are you going to do? – there’s also a brief nod to the X-Files, though for sure Gillian Anderson works a lot better for me than Jared Padalecki in the role of Dana Scully. Am sure a number of our female readers would be torn between Jensen Ackles and David Duchovny for the role of Fox Mulder, though. Your call there, I’m hetero. There are also references to Stephen King’s The Shining and strangely Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Well call me disgruntled, but where was my mullet rock? We get nadda in this episode; a real choice decision would have been to throw in Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” for mine. Okay, I don’t make movies and if I did they would have a samurai, think that would have brought the house down.
I had a lot of fun with The Usual Suspects and dug the curved ball thrown my way in the final part of the episode. I didn’t even get to swing on that one and it went right over the home plate. Great to see genre actor Linda Blair make the scene, though it probably will be only for this one outing. A nice change of pace in season two, and a strong enough episode to keep things ticking over. Worked for me so am a pretty happy camper.
This episode introduces the concept of anagrams to the Supernatural universe, and of course references the most famous one of them all in the horror genre, “Red Rum”. Seems according to our Winchester experts, vengeful spirits like anagrams – wonder if they also play scrabble? Linda Blair possibly has an answer there.
A worthwhile episode to dial into, The Usual Suspects has both horror and non horror fans covered. There’s a twist coming at you, see if you can work out what that might be.