Supernatural

Season 4 Episode 13

After School Special

6
Aired Tuesday 9:00 PM Jan 29, 2009 on The CW
8.6
out of 10
User Rating
759 votes
32

EPISODE REVIEWS
By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

EDIT
Sam and Dean investigate a haunting at one of the high schools they attended as teenagers.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • When they were young.

    9.5
    I found my self surprised at the age difference that Dean and Sam actually had. I had always known that Dean was older but with them portrayed as younger children you could definitely see the brother dynamics better. Also, what was younger dean wearing?!? It bothered me so much.... Young Dean should have better clothes then that.
  • The Winchesters go old school. Literally.

    10
    It was inevitable. FINALLY! An episode that we've always yearned to explore - a look into what school life was like for the brothers Winchester. And it was a very clever one, at that. While it obviously made use of this exploration through flashbacks, I was very impressed with the use of one of today's most controversial topics - bullying and the consequences involved - by the SN team by putting a supernatural-style edge on it. Not to mention where else is one gonna find the world's most deadliest swirly on television or film? This ep was brilliant.



    As I've always said, any episode with flashbacks on this show are always a treat. We actually learn quite a bit more of Dean and Sam's childhoods through this ep, particularly regarding their schooling. Now, dialog and circumstances presented here indicated that the bros have been shuffled to many different schools in their lives, hence Dean's callous attitude toward it. He knew that no matter what they thought of their new school, they would be gone within a matter of weeks or months anyway. There's no way of knowing just how many schools they've been enrolled in throughout their youth, but this one particular high school was different. Possibly because it seems to be the only one they've had a supernatural history with. Okay, granted, nothing supernatural happened while they were actually attending the school, it is the circumstances that happened then which brings them to the present day, where they go back to rid a nasty from their old alma mater. However, the ep focused mainly on Sam and his experience at this one high school. Sam was different from Dean in that, despite also knowing that he and Dean would be pulled out as soon as John had finished whatever job he had come to do and move on, he actually seemed to care about getting an education, no matter what the situation. At least to some extent, anyway. And where Dean seems only to care about what girl he's trying to bed, Sam at least makes a friend or two with some care. The scenes with his teacher - both in his youth and his adult stages - highlighted the fact that Sam has always cared about being normal and were very important keys in how he viewed his life then as compared to now. Sammy, you've come a long way, baby.



    More interestinglyhere, though, was the story of the ghost. And like I said before about the bully plot incorporated into the ep, it was pretty darned clever. Sam had made a friend in this Barry kid, who was picked on mercilessly by this other student named Dirk (aka "Dirk the Jerk", as coined by Sam). But there were 2 major instances of bullying during this episode. And in both cases, the bullies got doses of their own medicine, becoming victims themselves. However, it was only Dirk's spirit that rose up seeking revenge, hence the scary goings on at the school where the bros are investigating. At first it would seem standard that Barry - who had committed suicide as a result of the traumatic abuse he suffered at the hands of Dirk - would come back for revenge. Plot twist! When it is learned that Dirk had suffered some humiliation and some rather horrible personal events happening in his own life after Sam had left the school years earlier, it became a question of how does one feel sympathy for a bully? And after all, Sam is sorta responsible for part of the humiliation factor, appointing Dirk the nickname "Dirk the Jerk", which quickly won over the students of the school but ultimately yielded disaster and death into the present day, hence the "slutty" girl snarking on the fat girl then said fat girl gets even by killing "slutty" girl at the beginning (although we know fat girl was possessed, by Dirk's spirit obviously). I guess what I'm trying to say here is that they never treated this as a black-and-white standard bully sitch, but rather by turning it into something more emotionally powerful by displaying that bullies are victims too, as well as vice versa. Humans all around, one world. Still, Sam had to finish the job, he felt obligated to the one friend he had made while there, but at the same time showing a minute amount of sympathy toward Dirk in the process. And to me this stuff is always so much better when it's complicated.



    Of course, throughout the investigation, we are shown that Sam had opportunities to grow within normal aspects of his life. He made a friend in Barry who seemed to kinda worship Sam, earned a bunch of respect from his peers after that rather enjoyable fight scene where he kicked Dirk's butt, and showed that he could be something else besides a hunter. One thing I thought about when he wrote that werewolf story and gave it to the teacher was the fact that it seemed to be a sort of outlet for him - a way to express who he really is and what his family is about without drawing any disturbing attention to himself, especially from the teacher who proceeded to give him a excellent grade on the paper despite it being the wrong assignment. This gave Sam an incredible boost of self-esteem, which given his familial circumstances was more than fair. It was a gift. Sam's only social circle in his youth were his father and brother and the wild lifestyle they lived. Being shuffled around town to town, state to state and school to school, he was a veritable hermit, so to speak. So no wonder he liked this one high school better than the others. If only for a brief while, it gave him a sense of belonging and purpose other than that of hunting. Something he could certainly use now in his current state of life....



    As for Young Dean, pretty straightforward. Little has certainly changed for him. But then, he HAS been in the hunter limelight a lot longer than Sam, known and done things a lot more than Sam, and has obviously had little to no friends, his social circle (besides John and Sam, of course) consisting of little more than trying to score a one-night stand here or there. And speaking of, I found it oddly interesting that Dean "doesn't do parents". In the past, he's shown instances where he's shared Sam's passion for wanting a normal life. Maybe not as strong, but it's definitely been there. I mean, despite his reckless 'tude, bad boy image, and devil-may-care demeanor, Dean is the type of guy that ANY girl would want to take home to Mom, and on some basic level he knows that and appreciates it. Then again, it makes sense because he knows the repercussions of getting too involved with his potential conquests as once he leaves a school he'll never return, let alone see them again, and meeting the folks usually reads "getting serious" to a lot of young people, so better to spare the girl's feelings now than to hurt later. Aside from that, on the education front, Dean showed little regard for learning. All he knew was hunting and by the earliest of ages - of course, under John's influence - he "knew" his life would be all about the ghost hunt. I know Sam took front stage to the story here, but I really wish we had gotten more of Young Dean. Still, what we got was very good, as it also showed how protective he has been over Sam all these years, and even respected him to handle a sitch on his own, even back then. He's just one heck of a big brother.



    Bits and Pieces:

    - Well, we now get proof here that Dean's affinity for Magic Fingers bed vibrating machines stems from his youth.

    - Dean's coaching outfit - especially the shorts - was just.....awesome. And, yeah, way hot.

    - While it would've been great to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan, it was nice just knowing his presence was there in the Impala during the flashbacks. And in an ep like this, in a way it made it better.

    - The actors who played Young Sam and Dean: Whoa! They found a dead ringer for Dean in Brock Kelly, but looks only. He was a good looking kid, but his mannerisms didn't match the Dean of today, at least for me they didn't. Colin Ford, on the other hand, simply nailed Young Sam. Especially that wicked fight scene!



    I'm giving this ep a perfect 10 for clever writing, great story plots, and excellent acting from all involved. Next ep looks as if the bros get kinky with some spirits. Bet that'll be fun.....moreless
  • A great insight into the brother's relationship from childhood to adolescence. The episode also adds a dimension of behavioral analysis: Childhood experiences at home have a definite and direct effect on their behavior in high school.moreless

    8.5
    While the plot wasn't altogether gripping, I found this episode pretty good for two reasons.

    Firstly the witty dialogue. This is pretty common for the show, but the writing of the script in this episode is something else. Really humorous, and coupled with Dean's delivery, it really can crack you up.



    The second was the depiction of the strong relationship between a child's influences, surroundings and parents growing up, and the way they act in school. The way you're treated in one of these places reflects the way you behave in the other. More often that not, it's not as simple as you would think. A little consideration and understanding of a person's circumstances, can really free you from your judgment of that person.moreless
  • Regrettably, my enjoyment of 'After School Special' was coloured somewhat by the discovery of the passing of Kim Manners.

    9.0
    Regrettably, my enjoyment of 'After School Special' was coloured somewhat by the discovery of the passing of Kim Manners, one of Supernatural's executive producers and a highly prolific director, who manned many of the show's greatest episodes, including this season's superlative opener, 'Lazarus Rising'. Manners was fighting lung cancer but continued to work on the show, demonstrating that his heart was always concerned with doing the best that he could for others. His skill as a director knew no bounds as his work always managed to be the most innovative, prolific and, above all, downright scary. He knew exactly which buttons to press and which avenues to take when creating that tough little critter called fear. Manners worked on The X Files for the duration of its nine years and was continually called upon by creator Chris Carter to helm those episodes that needed a more deft touch, that desired to get you right behind the sofa. It's because of this that Eric Kripke called the guy up immediately upon the birth of his televisual baby and demanded that he work on the show. Naturally, Kim obliged. At 59, it's a damn shame that the guy's career was cut short when it should have had so many more years and many more Supernatural home runs in it but at least he leaves us with a legacy that is completely untarnished and contains only proof that the bloke was one of the best in the business. Your television screens will most definitely miss him.



    Oh yeah and there's that pesky episode to talk about. It's a much quieter instalment than we've come to expect from this most chilling of shows, particularly in light of this season's concentration on TEH EPIC, but it's arguably a welcome change of pace. Sure, we get a delightfully gruesome sequence of supernatural set pieces to cream over: the bashing of the cheerleader's brains and toilet-drowning by the, ahem, fat kid is rather brutal and what about that gloriously macabre hand blending scene, eh? However, these are brief and perhaps the only major signposts in the mystery element of the plot. It doesn't take long, in the aftermath of these moments, to establish the culprit and for Sam and Dean to, ahem, dust him. The real meat of the story is the essay on bullying and, more significantly, emotional trauma. The script pleasingly refuses to take sides on the issue, demonstrating both the horrors of high school taunting and the reasons behind it. The episode is substantially enriched with the inclusion of the scene with the bully's father, which positively aches with regret, loss and sorrow. It's a delicate balance but it is struck perfectly and gives the viewer the opportunity to experience the ambivalence that clearly must be running rampant in Sam's head. Of course, the hour is also very much about our central protagonists and their internalised fears and darkest emotions: it is good to see Dean, albeit a young Dean, faced with the reality of his behaviour and also Sam presented with someone who offers him the alternative road that he needs in order to escape what he sees as an oppressive force in his life.



    Above all, 'After School Special' teaches us the value of understanding, emphasising that no matter how horrible the actions, how apparently irreconcilable the behaviour, there is always a worm lurking in the soul of the perpetrator; there are always issues of their own that they are trying to deal with. And similarly, it stresses the horror of high school for so many, how we are often blind to the plights of others both within its doors and without. That it manages to do so without once seeming mawkish or clichéd is a solid testament to the quality of the production. Definitely something a little special.moreless
  • One of my favourites!!

    9.5
    Supernatural i think has been lacking something for a while. I think they just fixed that! This episode would have to be one of my favourites. It is so because you see a little more about them as kids. I think that is important when they have been doing this their whole lives. One of my favourites bits is at the end, when Dean, the popular handsome cool guy at school realises he isn't the best thing, and when Sam, the shy small kinda dorky kid finds out that he is better than he thinks he is. Dean goes in confident and popular, but comes out the loser, and Sam goes in as the loser and comes out popular. I've always liked Sam over Dean and i liked how he told the teacher about how much he had done to help his confidence and it's good to know how Sam did decide to go to college and branch out from the "family business". But i also liked how Dean was there for his younger brother. Now branching away from that. Dean in shorts and long socks...lol. I laughed so hard when i saw him like that. And dodgeball, i'm not American, and i've always wondered, is dodgeball just about all you lot do during PE? And are the balls always red? Anyway, a very high quality episode, keep it up!!moreless
Brock Kelly

Brock Kelly

Young Dean

Guest Star

Candice Accola

Candice Accola

Amanda Heckerling

Guest Star

Chad Willett

Chad Willett

Mr. Wyatt

Guest Star

Colin Ford

Colin Ford

Young Sam

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

FILTER BY TYPE

  • TRIVIA (1)

    • On-screen dialogue establishes that Young Dean and Sam arrive at Truman in November of 1997. However, in the flashback right after Sam says, "Barry had a hard time," a banner can be seen congratulating the seniors of 1997. Either the poster is seven months out of date, or it should refer to the current Class of 1998.

  • QUOTES (13)

    • Barry: That's your brother with Amanda Heckerman? He's so cool.
      Young Sam: Yeah, he thinks so.

    • Young Dean: Kid's dead.
      Young Sam: Dean.
      Young Dean: I'm gonna rip his lungs out!
      Young Sam: It's not a big deal.
      Young Dean: Not a big deal? Sammy, look at yourself. If Dad was here...
      Young Sam: He's not.
      Young Dean: Well, I am. As soon as I'm finished with that dick...
      Young Sam: Just shut up, okay? I don't need your help.
      Young Dean: That's right, you don't. You could've torn him apart, so why didn't you?
      Young Sam: Because I don't want to be the freak for once, Dean. I want to be normal.

    • Young Sam: Any word from Dad?
      Young Dean: He called this morning, says it's going to be another week, at least. We weren't supposed to be here this long.
      Young Sam: At least you got Amanda. She's cool.
      Young Dean: Dude, she wants me to meet her parents. I don't do parents.

    • Dean: So what's our cover? FBI, Homeland Security, Swedish exchange students?

    • Dean: Today you will have the honor of playing one of the greatest games ever invented. A game of skill, agility, cunning. A game with one simple rule. Dodge. (nails kid with ball) Sorry.

    • Mr. Wyatt: You know this assignment was non-fiction, right?
      Young Sam: Yes, Mr. Wyatt.
      Mr. Wyatt: So you and your family killed a werewolf last summer, huh?

    • Dean: That ghost is dead. I'm gonna to rip its lungs out! Well, you know what I mean.

    • Dean: Ghost getting creative--well, that's super.

    • Dean: Well, we'd really like to pay our respects, Mr. McGregor. Umm, you mind telling us where Dirk is buried?
      Dirk McGregor Sr.: Oh, he wasn't. I had him cremated.
      Dean: All of him?
      Dirk McGregor Sr.: Well, I kept a lock of his hair.
      Dean: Oh, that's... that's nice. Where do you keep that?

    • Dean: All right, everybody stay where you are. You'll be okay.
      Jock on Bus: Aren't you the P.E. teacher?
      Dean: Not really. I'm like 21 Jump Street. The bus driver sells pot. Yeah.

    • Dean: I had to break into the principal's office to get this. Oh, and FYI, three of the cheerleaders are legal. Guess which ones.
      Sam: No.

    • Sam: Having fun?
      Dean: (impersonating a gym teacher) The whistle makes me their god.
      Sam: Right... nice shorts!

    • (an athlete collapses on top of Sam)
      Sam: Little help.
      Dean: He's giving you the full cowgirl.

  • NOTES (3)

    • International Airdates:
      Denmark: March 22, 2009 on TV3
      UK: April 12, 2009 on ITV2
      Australia: June 1, 2009 on Channel TEN
      Sweden: June 7, 2009 on Kanal 5
      Norway: June 18, 2009 on FEM
      Portugal: July 20, 2009 on AXN
      Spain: November 23, 2009 on AXN
      Germany: January 11, 2010 on Sky Cinema Hits
      Poland: May 7, 2010 on TVN7
      New Zealand: May 12, 2010 on TV2
      Czech Republic: August 6, 2010 on Prima COOL
      Finland: July 5, 2011 on Sub
      Slovakia: March 29, 2013 on Markiza

    • The episode is dedicated to the memory of Christopher F. Lima (rigging electrician) and Tim Loock (online editor).

    • Music: Long, Long Way From Home (Foreigner)

  • ALLUSIONS (5)

    • Title:
      Referencing Afterschool Specials, which were ABC programs that aired in the late afternoon throughout the 1980s and were geared at children around the pre-teen age. They intended to teach the children moral lessons and covered topics such as drugs, alcohol, and sex.

    • Dean: Go have your Robin Williams "Oh Captain! my Captain!" moment.
      This is a reference to the movie Dead Poets Society (1989) which stars Robin Williams as a dedicated teacher. At the end of the movie the main character (played by Ethan Hawke) stands up and quotes the famous lines "Oh Captain! my Captain!" from the poem that Walt Whitman wrote after Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

    • Dean: Look, Martha Dumptruck, Revenge of the Nerds, and Hello Kitty...
      Martha Dumptruck is the name of a character from the 1988 movie Heathers starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. Revenge of the Nerds is a 1984 movie starring Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards who move into a fraternity of nerds and get revenge on the jocks. Hello Kitty references the Japanese cartoon cat with a bow of some sort on its left ear, and no mouth, created by Yuko Shimizu in 1974.

    • Dean: Coach Roth.
      This is a reference to David Lee Roth, best known as the lead singer for the band Van Halen.

    • Dean: I'm like 21 Jump Street.
      Referencing the TV series (1987-1991) starring Johnny Depp, Holly Robinson, Dustin Nguyen, and Peter DeLuise as young-looking police officers who went undercover as high school and college students.

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