* Dad's journal. I complained that in "Pilot" and "Wendigo," the Winchesters had to do no investigating at all; only look up information in their missing father's handy-dandy journal. They needed to have no skills other than being good readers, or knowing how to use an index. Well guess what? This week, no journal. Instead, the brothers actually do some honest-to-goodness investigating, and as viewers, we feel part of the building mystery. The result? I found this episode far more engaging than either previous show. For once, I wasn't two steps ahead, and I liked that.
* The road. I've also complained about the fact that for a show that bills itself as Route 66 meets The X-Files, there's precious little feeling of being on the road in Supernatural. Well, "Dead in the Water" addresses this problem too. The episode opens with Dean and Sam in a greasy spoon diner, eating breakfast. Sprawled out before them on the table is a bunch of newspapers, with "leads" they are following up. there's even a brief flirtation with a local waitress. Okay, great - the series is starting to acknowledge what life on the road would really be like. Good job!
* Hiding the monster. The beastie was hid well in "Wendigo" too, but this week, the direction (or mis-direction) is very good, as an entity in a Wisconsin lake pulls swimmers down to their deaths, and then - eventually - gets into the plumbing. This was an effective, well-hidden monster. The opening sequence, of a lovely young bather in blackest water was pretty creepy and terrifying. And the final reveal of the monster is terrific and deeply disturbing. We see a water-logged, dead child, nosing up out of the placid surface of the black lake, just the top of his head, eyes and nose. We see him only briefly...and he's scary. Kim Manners did an extraordinary job directing this episode, and it is visually stunning. I also like Amy Acker's bath tub scene...
I know I've been a thorn in Supernatural's side, but things started to come together this week, and I must, in good conscience, report that. Yes, I still have some problems. Although I got a kick out Dean describing himself and Sam as Forest Rangers (Harrison) Ford and (Mark) Hamill, I'm getting really tired of this shtick where the boys try to pass themselves off as officials. They just don't look the part, and nobody would buy it. Ever. Especially not a town sheriff. Come on, think of another clever way to get information. I'm reminded of the late, lamented Tru Calling, in which Eliza Dushku had to inventively ingratiate herself with guest stars each and every week - sometimes with hilarious effect. If that show could manage it, why can't Supernatural?
I've also got to wonder about some of the plotting. In "Dead in the Water," a mute and traumatized little boy draws Dean an important picture of a church, a kid on a bike, and a house. It's a critical clue. The child creates his rendering right in front of his mother, Amy Acker. Yet in the very next scene, we see Sam and Dean driving in the car - with the drawing in hand - wondering where in a town of a thousand houses, they are going to find this particular one. Well, duh, why didn't you just ask the kid's mother (Acker)? She was standing right there, and she lives in the town. Chances are, if the kid knows it (even by psychic means), she probably knows where it is too. (After all, she knew where the nearest motel was...). This was just a glaring stupidity.
But I intend to pillory Supernatural no further this week. By far, this was the most involving episode broadcast yet, and the series is showing the protean signs of life and intelligence, so I don't want to jinx it.