I used to say that “Wendigo” was the worst episode of Supernatural. It’s definitely the second-best of the two I’ve re-watched so far! But I think I disliked it because of the terrible monster effects, which were a let-down after the Japanese horror-movie level ghost effects of the pilot. Maybe I’ve come around, like Erik Kripke has, as summarized on the Supernatural Wiki:
Eric Kripke had long been critical of this episode, particularly because he felt the creature wasn’t successfully scary. “He looked more like Gollum’s tall, gangly cousin than anything else”, he says in Supernatural: The Official Companion Season 2. However on February 11, 2018 he tweeted: “I have something shocking, even sacrilegious to say: I watched #Wendigo with my son for the first time in over 10 years. And it wasn’t bad at all. 2005 effects were lame, but it was scary. Plus young Han Solo! I’m taking it off my shit list. #spnfamily @cw_spn”
I also used to say that even bad episodes of Supernatural yielded character gold. “Wendigo” is no exception. Looking back, I see how early the show established how the boys communicate through the car. Sam is still reeling from seeing Jessica die the same way his mother died. Dean, clearly still feeling responsible for taking care of his brother (remember the line “It’s okay, Sammy” from the pilot?), tries to console Sam by offering to let him drive the Impala. Dean also issues a statement of purpose when he shows Sam their father’s journal: “This is Dad’s single most valuable possession—everything he knows about every evil thing is in here. And he’s passed it on to us. I think he wants us to pick up where he left off. You know, saving people, hunting things. The family business.” When Sam asks why, Dean elaborates: “I figure our family’s so screwed to hell, maybe we can help some others. Makes things a little bit more bearable.” (Quotes are from the transcript on the Supernatural Wiki.)
Another Supernatural trope established in this episode is the moment when the person they’re helping figures out the boys are not who they say they are, the “You’re not really park rangers / FBI / from the phone company / etc.” moment. As soon as the key normie figures this out, the boys drop their masks, and they can work cooperatively.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the pilot was shot in LA, and when the show was picked up for a full season, the cast learned that they would be moving to Vancouver. Vancouver made good with some of its finest filmed-in-Vancouver talent, including Callum Keith Rennie and Gina Holden. The episode also featured small roles for Alden Ehrenreich, who would later star as young Han Solo, and a minuscule role for future Glee star Cory Montieth.
- Episode 1.01 “Pilot”
- Episode 2.01 “Wendigo”