Supernatural S1E13: Route 666

by thethreepennyguignol

Alright, it’s time to talk about the Racist Truck episode.

Route 666 is one of the first-season eps of Supernatural that I’ve least been looking forward to. For a lot of reasons, to be quite honest.

Firstly, because I think it’s a squandering of a genuinely interesting premise. Folk horror as a reflection of the oppression of black people in America is a horror premise that is so rich with possibility and one that has plenty of proof-of-concepts to back that up: from Candyman to Eve’s Bayou, the horror of black American experience is a ripe well to tap into.

But it would be a disservice not to mention how important and powerful these stories can be when handled right. In 2005, even with the slightly cack-handed approach to race issues in the media, it wasn’t as though nobody had any idea how to handle them. These were and remain serious issues, and keeping them in our pop cultural consciousness is something genuinely worthwhile. Both within the horror genre and out of it, the historical oppression of black people is an vital part of the cultural narrative that leads directly into the experiences of black people today, and not one that should be picked up as a grounding for something, say, really fucking stupid.

And what does Supernatural pair this with? A fucking ghost truck. I mean, seriously. You’re telling me that I’m not meant to scream with laughter when I see that honking truck revving threateningly in the dark like my cat about to knock a coffee out of my hand before it whoosh-es off into the ether after having claimed another victim? Look out, everyone, it’s the g-g-g-ghost car from that one Simpsons gag! Imagine this premise, but used as a fun parallel for Dean’s love of his own car – this could have been a downright riot if it had been framed right.

Killer Truck as a villain could have been a really fun outing for Supernatural, but the incongruence of attaching it to something as serious and weighty as segregation and the history of black oppression in America means that neither side of the story really lands properly. Every time Route 666 starts leaning into the silliness, it interrupts itself with some Serious Discussion of segregation in Georgia (mostly expanded upon by white people, of course), and vice versa. I have no idea who pulled these two ideas out of a hat and had to write an episode based on them, but they should have discreetly dropped one in their coffee and pretended they’d never seen it in the first place.

But that’s not all that bugs me about Route 666. Because this episode…it just feels like nobody is really trying. It feels deeply like a mid-season slog, with generic dialogue and average performances that don’t show off anyone’s best side. Dean’s ex Cassie (Megalyn Echikunwoke) turns up to underline some point about the lonely ol’ job of ghost hunting, and so Jensen Ackles can get his shirt off and make sure all those chest workouts weren’t for nothing, but it all feels so…average. Here is a bad thing that’s happening, here’s the dark secrets of this small town, here’s the corpse on fire and the sacrosant ground of a church to round it all off. Bish, bash, bosh, we’re out.

Even the worst episodes of this season have had moments of spark, moments were things come together, but Route 666 is a dull and disappointing slog that feels out of place in a show in its first season. This lack of energy should be avoidable till at least season three, you know what I mean?

Route 666 isn’t just a disservice to the important topics it tries to take on, but a bland, by-the-numbers episode to boot. If you’re rewatching with me, skip this one, and come back next time – for a very special entry into my Supernatural reviews, that I can’t wait to share!

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(header image via TV Tropes)