Haunted asylum is haunted!
But it’s not that simple. The ghosts of patients at an abandoned asylum look scary, but they aren’t the real culprits. The ghost of a psychologist named Ellicott who used anger-inducing therapy on them is stoking murderous rages in living trespassers.
The first victim we follow is a cop who had been called about a disturbance at the place. After he goes home, his amplified rage leads him to shoot his wife and then himself. The next victim is Sam.
This episode seamlessly combined a compelling horror story with developments in the brothers’ relationships. Sam and Dean get a mysterious text, purportedly from their father. Dean is convinced his dad sent the message and that it’s either a clue to his whereabouts, or coordinates pointing the boys to a job that needs doing. Sam is more skeptical. He actually harbours a lot of anger toward his father, some to Dean, and probably a lot to his circumstances overall. When Ellicott’s methods affect Sam, he accuses Dean of mindlessly following their father’s orders and is prepared to kill Dean. Luckily, Dean is the furthest thing from being mindless, and made sure Sam did not have access to a loaded weapon. He also finds and destroys Ellicott’s ghost.
The interpersonal dynamic between the brothers and their absent father is very well depicted. Given Sam’s animosity to his father, and Dean’s contrasting devotion to the same man, it’s both surprising and heartbreaking when, in the last scene, the brother who receives the call from John is Sam.
I’d forgotten house very creepy this episode is! Do not watch late at night on your own! Or, do, and be prepared to get the bejesus scared out of you. Kudos to the show’s special effects and make-up effects teams, and to director Guy Norman Bee, who would return to the show in season 6 and go on to direct 10 very memorable episodes of Supernatural.
Also great in this episode are the actors who play the trespassing teens who Sam and Dean save from the asylum. Brooke Nevin and Nicholas D’Agosto have both gone on to amass a ton of acting credits since. D’Agosto in particular cracked me up with this bit of dialogue as his character, Gavin, describes an encounter with a ghost:
There was…there was this girl. Her face. It was all messed up.
Okay listen, did this girl… did she try and hurt you?
What? No, she…uh…
Uh…um…but…but she didn’t hurt you, physically?
GAVINTranscript via the Supernatural Wiki
Dude! She kissed me. I’m scarred for life!
- Episode 1.01 “Pilot”
- Episode 1.06: “Skin”
- Episode 1.03 “Dead in the Water”
- Episode 1.10 “Asylum”
- Episode 1.09 “Home”
- Episode 1.08 “Bugs”
- Episode 1.04 “Phantom Traveler”
- Episode 1.07 “Hook Man”
- Episode 1.05 “Bloody Mary”
- Episode 1.02 “Wendigo”