S1 Episode 14: Nightmare

On the road for yet another hunt again! Fair warning sensitive viewers concerning this episode. It’s a depressing, tragic story that is very realistic. The acting within this episode is also top notch by actor Brendan Fletcher, who plays Max Miller in this episode. So, let’s get down to the meat of the matter, shall we?

The episode starts off with a man pulling into his garage. As the garage closes, the car turns back on a few seconds later. As the carbon monoxide builds up in the garage, the man starts to panic. His car locks down, trapping him inside. After a few more seconds of panic the man finally dies. There is a quick view of his Michigan license plate before the screen goes black.

Sam wakes up with a start, and we learn Sam had a premonition of the man’s death. He wakes Dean up insisting they have to leave right then and there. As they’re driving Dean insists it’s just a vivid nightmare. Sam runs the license plate he saw in his dream, and a name pops up. So the brothers drive down to Michigan to find out what’s going on.

Upon arrival, they find what appears to be all of the neighbors at the house. People are sharing their condolences about the untimely death of Alice Miller’s husband. The boys dress up as priests (and look quite dashing while doing it) as they head up to the house. They offer their condolences to Alice, who invites them in.

Once inside, Sam notices Max for the first time. Max is sitting in the corner by himself in another room. Sam goes over to talk to him and notices how traumatized Max looks. They talk for a few minutes, and we get a glimpse how Sam has a knack for connecting with people. Dean does a quick investigation of the house but finds nothing unusual. So the brothers leave to gather their thoughts and plan their next move.

As they continue to investigate, they are completely stumped by the case. Sam has another vision, and this time Max’s uncle is the one to die next. The uncle’s head is chopped off when a window slams down on his neck. As the brother’s scramble to find out what is going on, they still have no idea what could be haunting a family. Dean suggests it could be a family curse. Sam agrees but is skeptical of a curse being the true cause of the deaths. He still agrees to go to Dean to the family’s old home address to find more information.

When they reach the old address, they uncover a few disturbing facts. It turns out that growing up Max was abused by his father. He was regularly beaten, and even his uncle would take a swing at him sometimes. As Sam and Dean are talking to the neighbor, Sam suffers another vision while still awake. He sees Max crying as he demands to know why his step-mother never did anything to stop the beatings. As he’s crying, he picks up the kitchen knife Alice Miller was using to chop vegetables. Only instead of holding it in his hand it floats in mid-air. Max then stabs Alice in the head with the knife, killing her instantly.

The brother’s rush to Max’s house is intending to talk to him. Sam tries to convince Dean to not use violence, but Dean insists on bringing along his gun. Once they get inside Sam insists on talking to Max. At first Max is hesitant, but after a minute starts to follow him outside. Max catches sight of Dean’s gun in the hallway mirror. All hell breaks loose then.

Max loses his mind and takes Dean’s gun. Sam eventually does convince Max to at least allow Dean and Alice upstairs so they can talk alone for five minutes. Sam soon learns Max dealt with a lot of physical abuse growing up. A week prior to Sam and Dean coming up to Michigan, Max’s father had beaten him yet again. Max even shows Sam the half-healed scars on his side from the beating.

Sam attempts to talk Max down from what he’s about to do. Things continue to escalate, and it doesn’t look good. In the end, Max doesn’t go through with his plan to kill Dean and his mother. Right in front of Sam Max uses his powers to shoot himself in the head.

One aspect of this episode that’s interesting is the foreshadowing that takes place. Leading up to the final scenes Sam finds out Max’s mother died the same way his did. Max’s mother was pinned to the ceiling and burned to death over his crib. Max’s father blamed him for his mother’s death, and this is what ultimately led to Max’s abuse. Sam also finds out his powers and Max’s powers manifested around the same time. This leads to the brothers wondering if what killed their mothers was not in fact up to something far more sinister.

“Nightmare” is a very dark episode for the Supernatural series. Perhaps for the fact it’s not so much ‘supernatural’ as it is striking very close to home on a realistic note. There have been many real life cases of abuse where a victim has simply been done suffering before taking drastic measures, so they no longer feel afraid.

Brendan Fletcher, the actor who plays Max in this episode, does a very good job of acting. In every scene that has Max, he communicates a character who is damaged and has faced a life of abuse. Max is a recluse and doesn’t appear to be able to connect well with other people. In one scene, he even states after killing his father and uncle he’s still scared. He tells Sam he no longer wants to feel helpless or afraid. He wants to feel in power because he still has nightmares about the beatings.

At the end of the episode, Sam admits to Dean their lucky to have their dad. He states that their father could have easily taken a different turn. Instead of demon hunting he could have turned to tequila. Sam and Dean could have easily ended up with the childhood Max had.

All in all, Nightmare is a realistic and tragic episode. It opens up the doors to showing there is something more going on than what Sam and Dean initially thought. Until then, the brothers have to continue their hunting in order to find the answers to Sam’s strange powers.

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