Supernatural S1E7: Hook Man
In light of the genuinely hilarious news that not even the fandom behemoth of Supernatural could save the CW from losing money, I think it’s only fair that I continue my reviews into the first season to work out just why, don’t you?
Hook Man, much to my horror, is actually another John Chiban special, which, after last time, you can imagine I was rather keen to avoid. But I have to admit this is a major improvement on his last episode (even if it does fall into some of the same slut-shamey bimbo nonsense as his last outing), and honestly, Hook Man is probably one of the better episodes of season one so far.
Now, my first question to answer: how does this episode serve to work with established folklore? The hook-man story is one that’s been around since long before I was a kid, and I heard various versions of it growing up – it always scared the utter bejeezus out of me, and rendered this an episode I always found particularly unsettling.
What I really like about the way Supernatural deals with this plot is how far they’re willing to lean into the tropes surrounding this decades-old story; the lover’s lane tryst interrupted by the shadowy scrape of the hook-man’s weapon of choice, the letters written in blood over a slain roommate’s body. It’s cheeky in how explicit it is, but in an earnest way that lets it get away with it. I think part of the reason this episode was always one that really got to me was because of how well it conjured up that specific kind of fear that comes with being huddled under the covers at a sleepover, listening to someone tell this scary story that they swear happened to their sister’s friend’s cousin’s hairdresser’s landlord, wanting it to stop, but not being able to keep myself from listening, either.
And the way it functions in the Supernatural-verse is pretty solid, too – the show is starting to settle in to its iconography, from the salt-shooter to the burning graves to the cursed item bearing significance for generations after its changed forms. The hook-man is one of those stories that already fits pretty nicely into the pre-deigned Supernatural set-up, and the show has a level of confidence here about playing with that in its own parameters.
But I think what I found the most interesting about this episode was The Dad Stuff, which allows me to (finally) get to addressing those questions about Monsignor John Dilfchester himself. Dan Butler (a fav of mine from Frasier) features as the father of the afflicted Hot Young College Girl, a priest who, at first, Dean and Sam suspect of being the one behind the attacks. It’s an interesting choice for the show to make, even if it does turn out to be a red herring for the actual culprit of the attacks. At first, Butler’s character is framed as this well-meaning but ultimately damaging force in his child’s life, determined to protect her and give her the tools to fight what he sees as the evils of the world (such as the horny college guys trying to get under her bra) to such an extent that he summons a murderous creature to help him do it.
Now, it’s not a perfect fit for John, but there are parallels here with John’s story: the need to prepare and protect their children, even to the extent that it hurts them, a misguided but nonetheless harmful influence on their kids’ lives. The first we see of the Winchesters this week involves them trying to get in touch with their dad, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the writers made sure to remind us of John before delving into another complex father-child relationship involving malevolent supernatural elements. It’s not an outright statement of John-as-villain, but it is at least a parallels that seems meant to hint that his influence over his sons (and especially Dean) isn’t exactly benevolent.
Hook Man is a very fun episode for the series, a really gleeful delve into classic urban legend-ary that also allows for a little deepening of the Winchesters central plot (not dissimilar to the excellent Bloody Mary episode, now that I think of it). Again, Supernatural has a confidence here that I have to admire, one that allows it to indulge in tropes in that nudge-wink way while also expanding its own lore in the process. Oh, and one that still makes me want to flick on the lights when I go to the bathroom at night. Just in case.
If you enjoyed this post and want to see more stuff like it, please consider checking out my other recapping projects – Jericho, Lost, Sex and the City, Doctor Who, and Carrie are good places to start! Please also have a look at my fiction work, such as my short story collection, Misandry. And you can always support me on Patreon for access to exclusive blog posts!
(header image via IMDB)