Supernatural: Season 1, Episode 1: “The Pilot”

Re-post for Sheltering-in-Place Re-watch


Directed by David Nutter
Written by Eric Kripke

There are a couple of story formats set up in Supernatural‘s pilot. There will be the “Monster of the Week” story (which sometimes, in later episodes, doesn’t come up at all), where the Winchester brothers travel to some random small town on a tip that weird supernatural shit is going down there and they proceed to investigate the case. The whole show could have ONLY been “Monster of the Week”, but thankfully Supernatural had bigger tricks in its pocket, and they laid those seeds down in the pilot. A really bold choice in the show, as it is set up, is to delay gratification for sometimes SEASONS. It’s an enormous risk. But it paid off, and it is amazing to see how well the Supernatural mythology holds up, even being drawn out over 3, 4 seasons, sometimes even more.

The other story format is the larger arc I’ve discussed, which is set up for us in the teaser to the entire series. It is the mystery at the heart of the Winchester family. It is what gets the ball rolling. There is still more to learn about the history of not only the Winchester family but the Campbell side of the line, and we are still doing that now, in season 9.

This dovetails into the larger THEME of the show, which I would say as being to do with the crucial question of Free Will: what is it? How does it work? Is “destiny” real? Are things foreordained? Or do we have a choice? In later seasons, the Free Will issue becomes (literally) a celestial conversation, with implications for all of us, but it’s far more earthy in the pilot. Free Will in the pilot has to do with the roles assigned to you in your family dynamic. Are we free to choose another role? So-and-so is the “black sheep”, so-and-so is the “good one”, and these roles continue to play out into adulthood in sometimes destructive ways. Can you break free? Sam Winchester seems like the “good” one, because he’s in college and has a nice girlfriend and goals, but then we learn that HE was the “black sheep” of the family BECAUSE he went to college. This unfolds in sometimes-awkwardly-written exposition in the pilot, but they had to get that all in there somehow at the get-go, and they did.

Free Will brings up larger questions, which are also hinted at here, things that will explode later. What does “destiny” mean? Is it real? Dean’s not big on destiny. He believes you have choices and you act accordingly. But in the same breath, he tells Sam that dreaming of a white picket fence life is bullshit because what Sam IS is a hunter, “you’re one of us”. So I guess it depends on whose destiny you’re talking about, hey, Dean?


This underlying Free Will theme sets up the series in yet another genre, which is Family Drama. These are a lot of balls to keep in the air.

So let’s get down to brass tacks. This is long. I can’t seem to help it. I’ll try to rein it in in future re-caps, but this one seemed to demand more conversation. Or, whatever, I just felt like talking about it. Avaunt!

Eric Kripke and his team (producer McG, and brilliant pilot director David Nutter) wanted the series to feel cinematic. They wanted it to be a horror movie a week. That’s a tall order. Each episode is filmed in 8 days. There are only a couple of repeat sets. For the most part, it takes place in different motel rooms, and different towns, with brand-new interiors each week. The creative team does a hell of a job in creating all of these things on a weekly basis.


They were lucky enough to get David Nutter on board as director. He clicked into the thrust behind the series, he understood the mood, the issues on the table, and the overlying goals. He got the “entelechy” and directed accordingly. Each scene has equal weight: the stunning teaser, the way Sam is set up, the way Dean is set up, the interactions of the brothers, the weaving-in of the ghost story, the missing Dad. All of this could have been a big ol’ MESS but it wasn’t, in large part thanks to David Nutter.

They also were so lucky to get Aaron Schneider as DP for the pilot. DPs are responsible for how everything looks, for where the camera is placed, for establishing important point of view shots. It has to be specific, it can’t be stock. The team was ambitious. They wanted to stand out, and they knew they had to do it in the pilot. You don’t get 10 shots at something like this, you get one. Supernatural is also one of the darkest (if not the most dark) series on television. I’m talking about the lack of LIGHT in it. Apparently the network balked when they saw the first dailies, because every scene is so dark you can barely see anything. Kripke/Nutter/McG stuck to their guns and got the darkness they wanted.


Schneider won an Oscar for a short film the previous year, and had already been nominated for an Emmy for work on another series. Supernatural had to feel like a film, that was an explicit goal from Kripke, and so it’s put together in a cinematic way, with editing choices that flow and complex shot construction: point of view shots, closeups/medium/long (lots of closeups but not JUST closeup-to-closeup shots which is standard television structure), dolly shots, panning shots, tracking shots … Sometimes entire long scenes play out in one take, with a moving camera following them. This is rarely seen in television, this is a from the Cinema Toolbox. A lot of the scenes between the brothers are shot with two cameras, so what we are seeing, essentially, is the same take, but from different angles. This is a huge reason why the brothers’ dynamic comes across so strongly (along with the talent of the actors): they are not performing their closeups in isolation, talking into thin air. They are talking to each other. What we are seeing has life and air and reaction-time in it, it’s a live take. Shooting like that is practical: it helps to save time, for sure, you don’t have to do all of those individual setups, and Time is obviously a huge factor with such a breakneck schedule, but it also helps ground us in the relationship. Their conversations have such a freshness, their silent reactions to one another, the spontaneous flashes that go across their faces in response.

The pilot was filmed in Los Angeles and soon after that the entire operation moved to Vancouver, where it is filmed to this day. Lots of things are shot in Vancouver (and Canada, in general). It’s cheaper. They have world-class crews based up there, you can get great people. Vancouver also features an evocative and (more importantly) diverse landscape, which was totally important to Supernatural, which is supposed to be a road trip across America. So how to create the illusion that these guys are traveling from St. Louis to Nebraska to Pennsylvania? Flying the entire cast and crew around America would obviously not happen, not for a TV series, the cost would be prohibitive. But Vancouver has ocean front, and mountains, and fields, and a bustling urban area. All in one place. Vancouver can stand in for different things. Los Angeles can stand for different things too (it has mansions, it has a downtown, it has a desert, it has an ocean, it has suburbs), but one thing it cannot stand in for is “gloomy, cold, and rainy”. The Vancouver location scouts for the series are superb, and most of the series is done on location. These guys are walking around in real towns and real swamps, and that also gives the series its cinematic atmosphere. The “sets” constructed for the series are the motel rooms (almost one per episode), and then, later, we get more regular stopping-off-places, like the roadhouse, or Bobby’s house, or the Bunker. But for the first season there is no home-base. Perfect because it unmoors the Winchester boys from familiarity. They belong nowhere.

This was an incredibly ambitious pilot for a series that had a low budget. The special effects for the series have always been of the less-is-more variety, a HUGE strength. Ghosts are shown through suddenly speeded-up film (reminiscent of Japanese horror films, which makes them look completely creepy and “other”), and when they get destroyed it’s usually done in a burst of flame and screams. It feels theatrical. I appreciate that. I’m tired of slick CGI anyway, it never looks real enough. Supernatural, on the other hand, is often legitimately frightening. The series gets pretty gory, and more so as it goes on, and the makeup team is superb.


That being said, it took them a while as a team to understand how to make up and light their two lead actors: they hit their stride on that in season 2, although you can almost feel the struggle to do so in the pilot. It’s hit or miss on occasion (and the above shot from the pilot is an example of the “hit” side of the spectrum). So many of the scenes have them both in the same shot. How to light each one appropriately? One size won’t fit all. Jared Padalecki is six foot four. He has brown hair, sallow skin with brown undertones, and cheeks that flush red. His features are delicate and sharp, his forehead is big, his eyes deep-set (making them difficult to light) and while his body seems lanky, he is freakin’ CUT. He’s a big brown boy. Jensen Ackles, meanwhile, is six foot one with a thicker jock-type body, a thick neck, so he’s also massive, but he looks “minz” next to Padalecki. In contrast to Padalecki, his features are soft and gentle. He is very pale with freckles on his cheeks and nose. His eyes are light green, and his eyelashes are long and curly. So. The challenge is how to light these two guys, with different skin tones, different heights, especially when they are in the same shot. They don’t always get it right in that first season. Sometimes both guys are wearing too much makeup, it flattens them both out. Or the lighting that hits them feels artificial, television-ready, and it makes them look like everybody else. Good-looking, sure, but generic. All of this would be figured out by season 2, when everyone knows how to light both of them, everyone knows how to make them up.

On to the re-cap.

The Teaser


It’s a stunner and it is hard to imagine how it could be improved. Words on the screen tell us: “Lawrence, Kansas. 22 Years Ago.” That has to be the creepiest shadow I’ve ever seen in my life. The series could have overwhelmed us with the “normalcy” of the Winchester family 22 years before, showing their lives in quick snapshots of suburban happiness, with sunlight and flowers and laughter. It would have been a valid choice: to have the horror come out of a clear blue sky. But instead they start out dark. They start out with that creepy shadow on the nice house. And so, this family is already marked. The innocence they may experience, their sense of safety, is just a delusion, anyway. Time has already run out for them. We do not know where we are going, but an image like that one works on multiple levels.

We are then introduced to a sweet sleepy goodnight ritual, with John and Mary Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Samantha Smith) putting their 6-month-old baby Sam to bed in his nursery. Dean, who is 4 years old, leans into the crib and kisses his baby brother, and it’s one of those moments that absolutely breaks your heart once you’ve seen more of the series. Dad appears in the door, in a rumpled Marine Corps T-shirt (shout out to the costume department, who always clues us in to who people are through such details, which perhaps won’t become clear and explicit until later). He calls out to his son Dean, who runs to him and is then scooped up in a huge bear hug. More perspective from watching the entire series: seeing his father love on Dean like a father should, and treat him in age-appropriate way (i.e.: a small innocent child) is heartbreaking, because you know that this is all Dean’s ever gonna get of THAT. So revel in those fatherly hugs, kid. Because this is the End of the Road for you in terms of tenderness and feeling safe.


Sam is left alone in the nursery, looking out of the slats of his crib. Suddenly, the mobile starts turning on its own. Suddenly, the clock ticking in the corner stops. There’s a golden moon light in the corner that starts to flicker. Sam lies peacefully staring around at these wondrous events, not questioning any of it.

Small shout-out as we go along, again, to Schneider, as well as to the props department. The work, overall, is exquisite. Shots are chosen for their creep factor, as well as a clear point of view (this stuff works on audiences in subconscious ways, but it’s all there). The first thing we see is the view of the mobile, and it is clearly from Sam’s point of view. This is very important: it is already letting us know that Sam is going to be one of our “ways in” to this story, he is the protagonist, even though, as of right now, he is an infant.

Look at these beautiful shots. Each prop chosen with such care, such a sense of detail.



There’s a time-lapse, and we are now in the dark bedroom of John and Mary, and suddenly the baby monitor starts to make beeps and crackles, waking Mary up. (Remember M. Night Shamalayan’s Signs? The baby monitor ends up being a crucial sign of supernatural activity there as well. It’s a great detail. ) Mary wakes up, and the camera follows her movement, as she glances over for her husband. He is not there. She gets up to go investigate, leaving the frame, and the camera, startlingly, stays behind, and moves back to the bedside table, where we see both the beeping monitor and a framed picture of John and Mary, smiling and happy. I like to point out camera moves when they are effective, when they help tell the story, and what Schneider did there is eloquent.

What follows is incredibly frightening. Mary, still sleepy, goes to the nursery and peeks in. She sees a dark silhouette there standing over the crib who turns his head slightly when he hears her and whispers, “Shh.” So far so good. She turns to go back to bed, when she notices a light flickering at the end of the hallway.


I mean, come on. That is horrifying. I love that it is an old wedding photo, presumably from the Winchester or Campbell line, BOTH family trees ending up being so important to the entire series, and we are STILL learning more about them. It is especially interesting to watch this scene, knowing now what we know about Mary. Why doesn’t her spidey-sense get activated by that flickering light? She then hears something from downstairs, and goes to check out what it is. The following is a very important shot, and will return again in the pilot, only in another context, looping together the Monster of the Week arc with the Winchester Family Drama arc.


At the bottom of the stairs, she sees that the television is on, and her husband is lying there asleep. (He’s watching a black-and-white war movie, nice touch.) But … then … WHO WAS THAT IN HER BABY’S ROOM? The music jumps to life, jagged and terrible, and she races back upstairs, the camera swooping down the hallway towards the nursery door. We do not follow her in, we do not see what she sees. We just hear her bloodcurdling scream.

John wakes up with a start and races up the stairs calling his wife’s name. He bursts into the nursery, but nobody is there. What follows doesn’t make sense to me: his wife SCREAMED. But he slows down, approaches the crib, and looks down into it, smiling fondly and lovingly. I get why they made this choice, because he had to be there for what follows, but dude, your wife screamed, the baby is still in the crib, why don’t you flail around a bit more? It’s a glitch of un-reality for me. He looks down at Sam, who is awake, and fine, and he reaches out to touch his son’s baby face. And then, like something from out of a nightmare, something thick and dark drips down onto his hand. Confused, he looks up at the ceiling, and sees …


Brilliantly done, and so unforgettable. It is seared into everyone’s minds. It is why everything follows. It is the image everyone tries to obliterate, through revenge, through self-sacrifice, through alcohol, through promiscuous sex, through running, running, running. Mom pinned to the ceiling with that look on her face, that look before the room bursts into flames. Which it then does.

John scoops up the baby and races to the hallway, handing it off to Dean, who has woken up and is terrified. John commands his son to hold onto Sam and run outside, not looking back. Which Dean does. Dean, on the front lawn, looks up at the fire in the bedroom window, and says to the baby, “It’s okay, Sammy,” in his little voice, which is tragic, even more so when you know that 22 years later, and beyond, Dean will continue to take on that role, even when Sam has outgrown him. But that’s his job. His father told him what to do and he did it. And he did it as though he was born to it. Back up in the room, John watches helplessly as his wife’s body on the ceiling bursts into waves of flame, which then explode through the room. Well done, team.


Later that night, firemen work to put out the blaze. There’s a complicated great shot of a firetruck door opening, a fireman getting out, the camera moves along the truck, as we come across firemen unfurling the hose, the camera keeps moving around the back of the truck, into a wider shot of the front lawn of the house, covered in firemen, the fire still going, total chaos. It’s a great shot. It takes a lot of work to make a shot like that come across. It’s an A-Game kind of shot. John, Dean and Sammy Winchester huddle over on the hood of a car, wrapped in blankets, traumatized, confused.

End of Teaser.

1st scene
Words on the screen now tell us: “Stanford University. Present Day” as “Gasoline” by Ginger plays, and while it has a nice generic rock sound, what is interesting to me is the lyrics and the title. One verse goes:

Hello again it’s me
Hello hello again
In an old Mercedes
That she fall from a wrecking yard
You tried to leave me
But you never get far

‘Cause you’re burning up the gasoline
Jumping on the trampoline

So although we have now jumped far away from that Kansas night, the song is a clue of what is coming (even though you barely hear the lyrics, it doesn’t matter). And here we meet Sam, now 22 years old, a student at Stanford University, living with his sweet girlfriend, far far away from that original trauma, and yet the song that introduces us to him as an adult is telling us a different story. What it is saying, really, is, “Get ready. Your brother’s on his way.”

This scene is pretty short and the first thing we see is a hot blonde wearing a sexy nurse outfit. This is Jess (Adrianne Palicki), Sam’s girlfriend. They’re going to a Halloween party. Sam peeks his head out of the other room, and there below his face is the framed portrait of his parents that we saw in the teaser. This connects him immediately to the teaser, this helps us to know that it is the same person who stared up the mobile.


Sam says to her, gently, “You know how I feel about Halloween.”

Incidentally, I love that the first time we meet Sam Winchester as a young man it is Halloween, and he is surrounded by people who are dressed up as monsters and ghouls. His childhood was spent training to fight monsters and ghouls. And he broke free, and here he is again, surrounded by yahoos dressed up as monsters and ghouls. It’s just a great and ironic detail. They could have had him just going out with friends to a bar on any random night, but no, it’s Halloween.

2nd scene
Next we jump to the Halloween party, where Sam, Jess and a friend drink shots and do toasts to Sam’s recent LSAT victory. This is a strictly exposition scene, but it’s filmed in such a strange and specific way that we feel weird stirrings beneath the “and here is who I am” and “here is what I am up to” dialogue. I mean, look at this image of Sam.


Hilarious. Scary objects, albeit in benign form, are literally crowding into the frame around him, leering at him in the background. Look at the green eyeballs of the black cat! You may have thought you escaped that life, Sammy, but take a look around you. It’s coming to claim you, as we speak. Meanwhile, Sam tells his friends that he has an interview on Monday with the Stanford Law department, and he thinks they might offer him a free ride. His ghoul-costumed friend whoops in triumph and says, “You are the golden child of your family, right?” Sam replies, “They don’t know.” And there’s Jared Padalecki’s brilliance in under-playing. He says it with just a whiff, just a WHIFF, of wistfulness, but underneath all of that is the sense that this is a man who has to tell the truth. He can’t lie and pretend and say, “Oh yeah, everyone’s really proud” because that’s not true. There isn’t bitterness, not yet, Sam’s too shy for that with this crowd, but you feel that core of him in the moment. There’s a whole LIFE behind that moment.

David Nutter/Schneider make a beautiful choice here, to cut to Jess’ face as Sam talks about his family. I flash back on her expression many a time in the upcoming season and beyond, because it is a look of love and understanding, but also pain for him. It’s an empathetic look. It shows us that she loves him, but more importantly, it shows us why he loves her. And it’s just a MOMENT, but Nutter and Schneider were smart enough to know that we had to have it.


3rd scene
It’s night, and the camera slowly pans through a dark bedroom, where we see Sam and Jess lying in bed together. This calls us back to the shot of Mary Winchester in bed (and it will be a shot that is repeated a couple of times throughout the series, sometimes in almost exact replicas). Sam hears a bump in the night and goes to investigate. It is pitch-black out in his college housing (which, by the way, is perfect: Sam has moved out of a dorm room and into a big rambling rental. That’s the way it went for me in college, too. The production design here gives us just glimpses, but it tells us everything. There’s dark wood, one door has beads hanging in it, there are ratty shades in the windows.) You can barely see anything, but what you do see is specific and informative.



Someone is moving around in the next room. You can’t see anything. Sam attacks. Then follows a ferocious fight in the dark room where all you can see are two black silhouettes going absolutely NINJA on one another, and all you can hear are grunts and the sound of punches landing. I’ve talked about how important this fight is in another post. Up until this point, we’ve seen Sam being encouraged by his girlfriend, and getting pep-talked by his buddy, and so we could be forgiven if we assume that that baby in the crib grew up to be a gentle sensitive soul. He is that, but the way he fights is like a trained professional.


It is, of course, Dean, his brother, who pins Sam to the ground, drawls, “Easy tiger” in his face before Sam flips him over, pinning him back. This is when poor Jess appears in the door, in a Smurfs T-shirt, and she unfortunately looks super-sexy and Dean changes his entire vibe, going in for the kill, leering at her lecherously, even after Sam introduces her as “my girlfriend.” It’s gross. I don’t see it as a come-on, actually. I see it as a moment where Dean, instinctively, is putting her in her place, using sexual harassment. Who is this chick in his brother’s house? She’s irrelevant. Here’s what I think of YOU, little miss sexy britches. What I have to say here is IMPORTANT and you are not invited.


There’s a lot going on in this moment: he’s asserting his dominance over Sam and over her (I trump you, bitch, I’m the big brother), he’s also emasculating Sam, swaggering his dick around showing that it’s bigger than his brother’s (what the hell is she doing with Sam when she could be with him?), and he’s also diminishing her, reducing her to a sex object in order to neutralize her. Dean has zero interest in getting to know Sam’s girlfriend. This will be a common problem between them as the series goes on, as the guys get involved with this or that woman. Both of them have a hard time dealing with it. It is also important to remember that while Sam was getting civilized in college, and courting a pretty girl and doing his homework, Dean was out in the wilderness with his Dad, hunting monsters. He’s barely house-trained at this point. But still: in this introductory moment we don’t know any of that. All we think is (or all I think is, upon my first time viewing it) is: What the hell happened to that little boy on the front lawn, holding his baby brother, and reassuring him it was okay? How did he turn into THIS?

Dean dismisses Jess, or tries to, saying he needs to “borrow your boyfriend” so they can talk family business. Yes, because the Winchesters are a completely closed system. No outsiders allowed. But Sam puts the kibosh on that, moving over to Jess’ side and saying, “Whatever you have to say, you can say in front of Jess.”


One of the things this moment does is clearly establish Sam’s not only desire for independence, but his actual accomplishment of achieving it. Dean thinks all he has to do is snap and his brother will come calling, because that’s the way it’s always been. Sam, intractable, firm, moves away from his brother and to his girlfriend’s side. It’s one of those deeply destabilizing moments that the series is so great at portraying. The closeness of family, and the wrenching-away that must occur in order to be your own person.

BUT. BUT. And this is even BETTER. Dean says to Sam, with a deeply significant “I’m talking in code” look on his face, “Dad’s on a hunting trip. He hasn’t been home in a couple of weeks.” The camera moves in close to Padalecki’s face, so that Jess is now outside the frame (one of the many examples of how a camera movement can actually illuminate/illustrate an emotional shift). We see Dean’s message land on Sam’s face. AND, beautiful acting choice, Padalecki doesn’t even LOOK at Jess when he says his next line, “Jess, excuse us.”

Wow. The call of the family business is so engrained in him that at the first mention of it, she vanishes to him. He can’t even get it up enough to turn to her, and pretend like everything is normal, or reassure her that he’ll be just a couple of minutes, go back to sleep, I’ll be in in a bit. Nope, his eyes are riveted on his brother’s face, and he doesn’t even look at her when he says his line.

So well played. So well conceived. It’s almost scary, how Sam was able to turn it off. His current life. It happens in that moment. Sam Winchester in a nutshell.

The brothers head outside through a creepy-ass stairwell and a demonic-looking iron gate which sends crazy black shadows wheeling over the brother’s faces as they argue about their childhood. It’s gorgeous and disturbing.


Then begins what is a somewhat-clunky exposition scene, saved by the brilliance of both of the actors playing it (as well as the deep dark noir mood, with crazy shadows and blurry street lamps-) We learn that Dad “trained them like warriors”. He gave Sam a .45 when he was 9. Dean, realistic, says, “Of course you should be afraid of the dark. You know what’s out there.” Basically, they have different interpretations of their own childhood and this is their first argument about it. Dean insists it wasn’t so bad. Sam tells him that yeah, it WAS bad.

There are a couple of interesting moments in the following scene. At one point, Sam says, “Do you think Mom would have wanted this for us?” Dean can’t even respond, and slams out the door. Dean remembers Mom, Sam doesn’t. To Dean, Mom is sacred. To Sam, she isn’t even a memory. They’ll almost come to blows later in the episode over this issue. They come out to stand by Dean’s car, which you don’t get a glimpse of yet, but everyone knows is a ’67 Impala, one of the coolest and toughest-looking cars ever made. The confrontation by the car gets heated. Dean plays it cool, but one of Jensen Ackles’ main abilities (and I actually would call it a gift) is that he is able to suggest the hurt and vulnerability beneath the cool surface in a way that is not telegraphing it to us in a presentational way. Dean is a tough guy, and the tough-ness is a true part of him, but I would say that the character operates from a place of vulnerability. Another one of Jensen Ackles’ aces in the hole as an actor is how powerfully he LISTENS to other characters in any given scene. Watch him listen. That’s how it’s done. Dean is tough but he is not impenetrable. Things still get through, we see him be taken aback by things, we see him take a second to react, we see him stunned. This is his vulnerability. Sam doesn’t have that. Sam is the younger brother and his older brother is a powerhouse so he has learned to stand his ground.



Dudes, look how dark this scene is. Television doesn’t look like this. Maybe a scene or two, but the whole thing?

We learn that Dean hasn’t “bothered” Sam in two years, and Dean wants to get points for that. But now he needs Sam’s help. Dad was hunting something in Jericho, California, and he hasn’t been heard from in three weeks. Something’s not right. Sam tells Dean he can’t just drop everything and go off with him; besides he has an interview on Monday morning. “Skip it,” is Dean’s supportive response. At any given moment in this scene, the brothers are on the verge of fighting about the old days, and about who they should be to each other now. Finally, and this is crucial in terms of setting up the characters, Dean says to Sam, “I can’t do this alone.” Sam yes, “Yes, you can.” And Dean replies, “Yeah. Well, I don’t want to.”

It’s stubborn and it’s vulnerable and it’s true. Dean kind of hates saying it because it shows where he is actually coming from. He needs his brother. Sam considers this, and then asks, “What was he hunting?”

The fat lady has sung. Sam will never go back now. And watch how Padalecki plays that moment. You can feel the curiosity in his voice, the backbone of steel, the NEED to know what is out there. He’s not hesitant, he’s ready. Dad had been investigating the mysterious disappearance of a series of men on a certain stretch of blacktop in Jericho, California. Dean opens the trunk of the car, and we see the arsenal he’s got going on there. Mad props to the props department again. Kripke was determined that these would be “blue-collar low-tech guys”. Their weapons would be old-school, hand-made, sawed-off, customized, and covered in grease and dirt. These are not James Bond-style guys, up on the latest technology. They certainly use the Internet to do research when they have to, but their killing-style is hand-made, duct-taped together.


It takes a lot of work to make a shot as gorgeous as that one come across. There are two (and possibly three) sources of light: at the top of the trunk, the dim streetlamp in the background, and probably a light-source from within the trunk. Everything else is blackness. Controlling light sources is one of the most important jobs of any cinematographer and his lighting team, and that shot is a great example. We see everything we need to see. His face is lit gently, and we can see his expression. But everything else is lost to us.

Dad left Dean a staticky phone message which sounds desperate and urgent. The brothers lean over the phone, listening. Sam says, “You know there’s EVP on that?” Dean looks pleased: his brother hasn’t forgotten everything from his former life. Dean then explains that he stripped out Dad’s voice, bumped up the whatsit and ran it through an E-meter or some such gobbledygook, and here is what he heard: a mournful woman’s voice saying, “I can never go home.”

Well, now, what country friends, is this. It’s compelling enough that Sam finally relents and says he will go to Jericho with Dean to look for Dad, but he has to be back by Monday. Dean hates the time constraint, thinks it’s bullshit. Sam stands strong and goes back in to pack his bags. Jess is there, wondering what the hell is going on. Sam reassures her that their Dad is hunting with some buddies, probably drunk off his ass, and they’re just gonna go and bring him home. (Let’s not forget the voice of the woman on the phone, and the deep reverberations that her words have for the Winchester brothers. That’s how the Monster of the Week story connects to the Larger Arc of the Family Drama. It’s never made explicit, but that’s the beauty of it. Nobody says, “OMG, she can’t go home, and neither can we!” But that connection reverberates through the episode.) Jess tries to get Sam to slow down for a second. She knows he’s estranged from his family, and suddenly the long-lost brother waltzes back in in the middle of the night and Sam drops everything to go with him? What about the interview on Monday? Sam assures her he’ll only be gone for the weekend.

I just want to point out that when she stops him at the door of their bedroom, asking him to slow down a second, the look he gives her when he turns around is striking. It’s soft and open, open to her, open to her support. It’s intimate. You get their whole relationship (and it’s important: it helps drive the rest of the season).


It’s also striking, having seen the rest of the series, because you never see that look on Sam’s face again. In a way, Sam is the one who has transformed the most over the course of the series. While Sam never had the experience of his mother, being too young, he has had the experience of being loved by a woman who picked him. Dean has never had that. Both men are missing something, missing something essential in their makeup. And even though Sam exerted his Free Will in order to get a college education, even if it meant breaking ties with his family, it doesn’t matter: the destiny of the family reaches out its hand for him. He, too, can never go home. And this, this look on his face as he looks at his girlfriend, is his “home”. Not the Winchester home, because he never had that home. He was 6 months old when Mom died. He grew up in motel rooms and fleabag hotels. The series is still exploring that divide in the current season, with Dean’s devotion to creating a home in the Bunker, obsessing on things like tomatoes and cooking breakfast and memory foam (hilarious). Sam totally doesn’t get it. Home? Whatever.

4th scene
A jump to the “Monster of the Week” plot-line. Normally each episode starts off here, establishing the Monster, and the Winchester boys come in later. Here, it’s reversed. The screen tells us we’re in Jericho, California. A guy drives along a dark street talking to his girlfriend on the phone, telling her he’s sorry but he can’t come over later. He sees a woman in a white dress (Sarah Shahi) standing by the side of the road, so he pulls over to see if she needs assistance. She is odd and intense.


She gets in the car. The man is distracted by her heaving sexy bosom. She looks at him meaningfully and asks if he can “take her home”. Despite the fact that he was clearly just talking to a girlfriend, he says enthusiastically that of course he will go home with her. It’s his lucky day! She leads him to her house, which is an abandoned falling-down creepy-as-hell ruin. Then, strangely, he turns to look and she has disappeared from the car. Hmmm. He gets out to go look for her and we see the breath of a ghostly handprint on the windshield, a very cool effect.


Schneider pulls out all the stops here using horror-movie tropes that may be cliches, but they are only cliches because they are effective. As the guy approaches the house to see if he can find Sexy-Girl, the point of view suddenly changes and we are seeing him from within that ruin, peeking at him through the broken windows. It gives a terrifying sense to the scene that he is being watched, that something bad is about to happen. Then, there is a false alarm, when a bird suddenly flies out of the front door at him, scaring him (and scaring us) half to death. You know, it’s one of those “It’s just a cat!” horror-movie moments.


Guy decides that a little infidelity is not worth being scared out of his wits so he runs to his car, peels out of the drive, careens down the dark road, and then glances in the rear view mirror and sees Sexy Girl sitting in the back seat. Freaked, he loses control of the car, which barrels through a barrier onto a rickety wooden bridge coming to a diagonal halt. We don’t see what is happening in the car. We hear his screams, and as the camera moves in close, we get our very first Supernatural blood splash.


5th scene
The Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man” introduces this scene, which lets us know we’re back in Winchester Territory, and the brothers have stopped at a gas station on their way to Jericho. Nothing happens in this scene to propel the plot along, and Kripke had been afraid that he’d be asked to cut it. Thankfully, it stayed. It’s a character scene, not a plot scene, and often TV has to sacrifice those, due to time constraints and other considerations. It might be my favorite scene in the episode. Dean comes out of the gas station with “breakfast” (candy bars and Doritos), and Sam, sitting in the car, asks, “How’d you pay for that? Still running credit card scams?” The interaction here is more teasing than the scene that came before. Dean is a pretty easy target for teasing, because he takes himself so seriously. He has so many sacred cows: his car, his heavy metal music collection. He doesn’t own much, but what he DOES own is sacred.

Sam riffles through Dean’s box of cassette tapes, all of which appear to be bootlegs, with Dean’s writing on the labels: MOTORHEAD. METALLICA. This brings back so many memories, of taping records for friends and having to write out the song-list on the labels. A lost world. Dean still lives in that world. He probably taped these albums from his dad’s vinyl when he was a teenager.


The brothers’ exchange goes like this:

Sam: “You gotta update your cassette tape collection.”
Dean: “Why?”
Sam: “For one, they’re cassette tapes.”

The teasing repartee between Jared and Jensen is established early. The two actors clearly hit it off. They are now best friends and were each others’ best man in their respective weddings. They didn’t know each other before Supernatural, so it’s so fun to see how they took to these roles, and formed this relationship that is real off-screen as well as on. You cannot plan that kind of chemistry. You can only HOPE that it happens.

So Sam makes fun of the music and then follows another important (and funny) exchange. Dean pops in a tape, and says, “House rules, Sammy. Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cake hole.” (Dean has a very distinctive way of speaking, his use of language is often hilarious.) Sam, however, does not balk at the music, his response is: “Sammy is a chubby 12 year old. It’s Sam.” (This is moving. Later in season 1 and 2, we meet a character who calls Sam “Sammy”, and Sammy seethes: “Only Dean can call me that.” So this is a nice set-up: the series does a great job of calling us back to these earlier moments, and they are still doing so.) Dean cranks up the music (which is AC/DC’s immortal “Back in Black”), and yells at Sam, “Sorry. I can’t hear you. The music’s too loud.”

Sexy brats. Both of them.

6th scene
Dean and Sam arrive in Jericho at sun-up. We are reminded of the dual purpose of the mission (1. Find the ghost 2. Find Dad) because Sam is on the phone in the passenger seat, calling the morgue and local hospitals looking for their Dad. No luck. It is at this moment that they come across the crime scene on the rickety wooden bridge. There’s that poor dude’s car. The local sheriff is there, and a couple of cops are digging through the river below. Dean and Sam peer out of the car at the scene. Dean matter-of-factly pulls out a cigar box which is filled with bogus badges. FBI, CDC, the works. Sam is a bit taken aback at the illegality of this, and Dean gives him a cocky grin. This whole pretending-they-are-someone-they-are-not thing will become a regular aspect of the series and they have so much fun with it. But here it’s in its infancy.


Posing as federal marshalls, they question the cops about the victim and the other victims. Dean is rude and arrogant, Sam is conciliatory, and also stomps on Dean’s foot to shut him up. The cops don’t seem to buy that these two young guys are who they say they are. As Dean and Sam walk away from the crime scene, you can see Dean seething at how that went down, at Sam pulling rank on him, and he moves forward and bats Sam across the back of the head. It’s so funny to watch, because Jensen is clearly doing this for real, it’s not a stage-fight, and it’s so immature. They start to bicker about it, a power struggle, common between brothers, and are suddenly confronted by a team of FBI agents who are looking at these bickering so-called Federal Marshalls, and everyone knows that something is not right. As they pass by the FBI guys, Dean greets them solemnly with, “Agent Mulder, Agent Scully.”

Classic Dean. Also a conscious choice on the part of Kripke: he wanted to put Supernatural in the same genre-bucket with X-Files, he wanted to explicitly make that connection.

7th scene
They drive into Jericho the town, and come across a young woman putting up MISSING signs along a wall, and guess that this is the one they need to talk to. They present themselves to her as the victim’s uncles (if I’m remembering correctly) and ask if they can ask her a couple of questions. It’s a tiny scene. It could have been totally boring, done in broad daylight on a sidewalk, like any other scene in any other series. But they wanted to put a twist on it, they wanted to invert it, and so as they talk to the girl, the camera moves around behind all of them so that the camera is staring at them through a grate, and they are looking into the light so everyone comes up as a silhouette. It adds a level of menace to what is a totally stock scene. It’s a stylistic choice, an important one, but as with all successful style, it is also an emotional choice.


8th scene
Dean, Sam, and the young woman and her friend move to a nearby restaurant. We see them from the back of the restaurant and we see that the whole place is empty. This was a practical and financial choice (no extras), but it ends up being an asset. It makes the scene creepy, when it very well might not have been. The lights are low, the big windows have curtains over them, and it seems that ominous forces are pressing in around the four characters. That empty space seems frightening.


The two girls they talk to are Goth chicks, wearing net shirts, piercings, dark lipstick, black fingernail polish. This is part of the world of Supernatural. These boys do not circulate in a white-bread world. The women they know have tattoos (and got said tattoos before it became mainstream), throw back shots of whiskey, ride motorcycles, and shoot guns. The regular women we will meet later on, the female hunters, are all tough chicks. My old pal Mike Hendrix wrote, years ago, a really cool piece on Tough Chicks. Worth a read. Ellen’s a Tough Chick. Jo is on her way to being one. Pamela is a Tough Chick. These types of women don’t balk at the cock-swinging commando behavior of their male brethren, although they may roll their eyes at it on occasion, they don’t put a high premium on domestication, they’re too realistic for that, as well as too wild themselves, and they have a “boys will be boys” thing going on. However, they don’t tolerate nonsense and are unafraid to walk into the middle of a macho display and cut everyone down to size. Tough Chicks are not “Bad Girls” (and, as Mike makes clear in his piece, they are not “Hard Women” either. Tough Chicks are also not “Cool Girls”, broken down so insightfully in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, a girl who compromises herself repeatedly in order to seem “cool” to the boys.). It’s an important distinction and it is something that both Sam and Dean would understand. Tough Chicks can only really operate at full throttle in a world of Tough Guys. Because Tough Guys are not intimidated or threatened, they value the Tough Chick (in the way a more domesticated guy might not), and understand that she is a force to be reckoned with on her own terms. Having dated a couple of Tough Guys myself, I know of which I speak.


I just thought of that because of the slightly grubby and tough outlaw vibe both of these girls give off. They come from Dean and Sam’s world, not the white-collar world.

Sam notices that one of the girls is wearing a Pentagram necklace and compliments her on it. Watch Dean’s silent “WTF” reaction. It will be the first of many. Both men are excellent investigators but both have different strengths. Sam picks up on details of wardrobe and decor, and will bring it up, leaving Dean to play catch-up. Why is Sammy complimenting someone on her necklace in the middle of an investigation? Sam patiently explains what the Pentagram symbolizes, and Dean responds with, “Okay. Thank you, Unsolved Mysteries.” Second pop culture reference from him, which will become the way he talks throughout. He is clicked into the culture. He has seen EVERYTHING, every television show, every movie. (“Rent Juno, get over it,” he says in a later episode. He refers to torture in future seasons as “So we gonna Zero Dark Thirty the guy?” etc.) This is why it is super frustrating when the writers forget this on occasion, and have him not recognize (for example) “Clarence” from It’s a Wonderful Life. I am sorry, but it is inconceivable that Dean Winchester would never have seen that film. There’s another episode when he doesn’t recognize the name “Mary Poppins”, another goof-up. I get that continuity is a bitch but the fact that Dean Winchester is a movie/TV fanatic should never be lost in the shuffle. It’s a character-thing, too: he spent his childhood holed up in motel rooms, waiting for his dad to come back. He wasn’t allowed to leave the room. He would have watched television all. day. long.

One of the girls says, “With all these guys going missing, people talk.” And the brothers reply in unison: “What do they talk about?” The best part about this moment is that neither of them blinks an eye at the fact that they just said the same words at the same time. Neither of them register surprise. Even after years apart, they are clicked back into each other in a symbiotic way (and God, isn’t that true with siblings?) The Goth girl tells the local legend: A girl died out on that highway and her ghost has been seen hitchhiking ever since. Any man unfortunate enough to pick her up goes missing.

9th scene
I am a librarian’s daughter. I grew up in libraries, and my first job was as a page in a local library. My father was an archivist and he was also responsible for helping to digitize the university library’s vast collections of journals, local papers, and other important information. The fact that Sam and Dean Winchester use local libraries is something that warms my often cold heart. Let’s hear it for libraries. Let’s hear it for helpful local librarians. Let’s hear it for the devoted archivists who helped put all of this stuff online so that it is find-able to those looking for information. Supernatural, without ever making a point of it, celebrates such people. Sure, Google exists and is very helpful. But sometimes, you need actual books, you need a librarian to pull out an archive for you, you need to go to a place devoted to the holding of information.

I also love that even though Dean and Sam are now in a library, the scene is still dark. There is no reason for the darkness, besides a style choice. They haven’t broken into the library after-hours. But a flourescent-lit scene would not fit with the style, so Nutter was like, “What the fuck, let’s just turn all the lights off.” Hysterical and fitting. Dean and Sam huddle by a computer (Sam kicking Dean out of the driver’s seat, which is so annoying to Dean who sacks his brother on the arm, again, like a 5-year-old). They are looking up mysterious deaths out on Centennial Highway. Murders? They find that years ago a woman named Constance Welch leapt to her death from the rickety bridge, after her two kids drowned in the tub at home.


Sounds like a good candidate for the Monster of the Week. They are still wondering where their Dad is, and why he would ditch the job in the middle of it, but they figure that they will try to finish what their Dad started.

10th scene
Dean and Sam hang out on the rickety wooden bridge where the murder went down. It’s night. They’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the hitchhiker-ghost. It’s so beautifully filmed, so evocative and creepy, that every shot is a work of art. Mist rolls through the darkness, the slats of the bridge rise up out of the blue, and the street lamps are dim and fuzzy. I revel in the artistry of such scenes.





As they wait for the ghost, an argument ensues. Sam chooses this moment to remind Dean that he still has to be back at Stanford on Monday. This sets Dean off.

“You think you’re just gonna become some lawyer, marry your girl?”
“Maybe. Why not?”
“Does Jessica know about you? Does she know about the things you’ve done?”
“No, and she’s not ever going to.”
“Well, that’s healthy.”

This scene is really about Identity. You need to “face up to who you really are”. Dean is arrogant, he thinks he knows Sammy better than Sammy knows himself. Sam won’t fit in with a normal life, because he’s a Winchester, and the Winchesters are warriors. You can’t fight your destiny. (As I mentioned, this is ironic because Dean is normally so anti-destiny.) Sam fights back, bringing them both into dangerous waters, by saying, “If it weren’t for pictures, I wouldn’t even know what Mom looks like. Even if we do find the thing that killed her, Mom’s gone, and she isn’t coming back.” This is a mistake. Dean attacks Sam, pushing him up against the side of the bridge, and it’s heartbreaking.

Let’s not forget that the ghost they are tracking has two dead children. Ever since that moment, she has been wandering this dark highway, looking for revenge (although they don’t know yet what they are really dealing with). She can “never go home”. The trauma of a broken family unit, a family with two small children, and a mother who is no longer with them … It’s not rocket science to put together the connections with the Winchesters, that what they are actually chasing is an entryway into their own past, that trauma, so buried and subverted into a desire for vengeance. The hurt they both feel is all here in this scene on the bridge.

Suddenly, they see “Constance” in her white dress standing on the railing looking over at them. She falls into the water. They can’t see her. Then, Dean’s cool car suddenly starts up, headlights blaring through the mist. Dean has the keys in his pockets so this is clearly not a good sign. The car then chases the boys across the bridge. Both are forced to leap over the side. Sam catches himself on a railing but poor Dean plunges into the water below.

They meet back up at the car. Dean looks like a Mud Monster From the Black Lagoon. He is furious that his car has been touched and he yells into the night, “That Constance chick, what a BITCH!” Dean loves that word. Jensen Ackles is covered in mud, soaking wet. He looks like a half-finished papier mache project. Sam wrinkles his nose when Dean gets close to him. “You smell like a toilet,” says Sam.


Humor comes when a character who places a high price on personal dignity is deprived of that dignity. Cary Grant’s entire performance in Bringing Up Baby comes from that struggle, of a man trying to preserve his dignity and FAILING. It’s not just about acting goofy, it’s about the infuriating reality that the world is not cooperating in the way that you wish to see yourself. Dean Winchester goes through that a lot. The series has a lot of fun putting him in situations where he loses control of himself. This could only work with a clown at the level of Ackles’ ability. Yes, it’s funny to see him lose control of himself, but what’s funnier is to watch Dean FUME about said loss of control. A lot of actors who specialize in playing Tough Guys don’t want to “lose”, even down to individual moments. Every shot, every reaction, is there to protect him, to prop him up in his cool-ness, to re-establish his status and privilege. Jensen Ackles has no interest in that. He can do Tough Guy, he’s as good as Bronson at it (and I do not say that lightly), but he is also GREAT at showing us the cracks in the facade, and letting us see what it is like for a guy like this to lose. It’s the vulnerability in the character that is the turn-on for him.

11th scene
Using bogus credit cards, they check into a nearby motel, and learn that a guy with the same bogus name had been holding up there for a month. Sam and Dean proceed to break into what was their father’s room.

Now we come to one of the true aesthetic joys of Supernatural: The Motel Room aesthetic.

These guys do not stay in generic Holiday Inns with generic interiors. They stay in weirdo roadside lodges, and rat-trap motels with strange themed interiors. The production design team has so much fun with these motel rooms. Each one is different. Each one has its own personality. Sometimes it’s clear they’re staying in what is basically a sex motel, where you rent rooms by the hour, sometimes they’re staying in a place that includes disco balls or deer heads on the wall. This is the weird landscape of so much of America. It’s one of the best parts of the show, those motel rooms.

Dad’s room is filled with salt circles and leftover food going rotten. The walls are covered with pages of information: all of the missing guys on one wall, and then a collage of other material on the other wall. In looking at their Dad’s research, they see that he was on the same track that they were, only he had gone a bit farther. There’s a small collage labeled WOMAN IN WHITE.


Sam says to Dean that he thinks they are dealing with a “Woman in White”, and Dean’s response, which may be incomprehensible to us at first, shows us that he is smart, he is not just the dumb brawn, he knows his business, he knows what he is doing. Dean glances back at the posters of the missing men and says, “These sly dogs.” We may not understand what it is that Dean sees, unless we already know the legend of the Woman in White, and we WILL understand but not yet. The series was smart enough to let us wait for it. But I like that they let Dean be smart too. It would have been way too easy to make Sam be the nerd brain and Dean the brawn. Already, their roles are mixed.

Sam tries to apologize for what he said earlier on the bridge, and Dean stops him in what is now one of his most famous moments in the series, by saying, “No chick flick moments.” These guys do not do emotion well, particularly with one another. Sam is more willing to talk things out, and Dean often treats such overtures with similar dashes of cold water. You know, Sam tries to discuss an emotional moment, and Dean will say, “Do you want me to put on the Cowboy Junkies for this?” He’s a jerk. But it’s funny, too, and both brothers laugh, and it’s such a relief to see, because the episode is so dark and gloomy.


Next up, Dean goes out to grab some food and sees a cluster of cops down the parking lot, pointing over at him. He knows the jig is up, they’re onto him for something. He can’t get away. The cop comes over to him and says, “So, fake U.S. marshall. Fake credit cards. You got anything that’s real?” Dean replies, “My boobs.” He is then thrown down onto the police car’s hood, put in handcuffs, and taken in.

12th scene
We now come to the interrogation of Dean at the local police station which is, again, the darkest police station in history. There are even Venetian blinds, recalling us back to every film noir ever made. There are no overhead lights. Apparently these policemen don’t like them. I’m kidding. It’s clearly just a stylistic choice and I love the show for going for it.




Look at how the light hits his badge, a deliberate and stylish choice.

The sheriff is played by great actor, R.D. Call. Supernatural always has wonderful actors filling up these guest spots. These are some serious people with some serious resumes, and it helps to ground the show. The Sheriff has discovered the Dad’s motel room (Sam has escaped undetected), and all of those Missing posters signs, and all of that weirdo shit on the wall, and so, “Boy, you are officially a suspect.” Dean struggles to maintain his cool. He gives his name as “Ted Nugent”, which will become a staple of the show. Every time Sam and Dean show up as FBI guys, or local detectives, or Health Department officials, listen to the names they give. It always has to do with rock music. Sometimes someone calls them on it: Dean: “My name is Detective John Bonham.” [Pause.] Person: “Isn’t that the drummer for Led Zeppelin?” Hahahaha.

Dean maintains his innocence but you can see he is worried. The cop tries to tell him how much trouble he is in, and Dean asks, “We talkin’ misdemeanor trouble or squeal like a pig trouble?” Dean always goes to the sexual connotation of anything. Deliverance comes up quite a few times in the series as a whole. This unspoken dread of being raped, which Dean usually treats as a joke, is an undercurrent in the mood of the show, where demonic possession is a regular occurrence. Dean uses sexually charged language to talk about it, “you’re Hell’s bitch”, for example, a nasty sentence. Being possessed means you’re getting fucked against your will, and it makes everyone deeply uneasy. The show has fun with this in sometimes sick and triggery ways, they have fun with sexuality, subverting norms, inverting what we expect. The fear of being raped, never spoken, will become pretty explicit in Season 4, where it is no longer treated like a joke, because it is NOT a joke.

The sheriff throws down a fat leather book in front of Dean and wants an explanation for what it is. It is Dad’s journal and it is a masterpiece. It doesn’t feel like a prop, it feels like a real thing. They come back to it again and again throughout the series. It is their Bible. The prop department outdid themselves. This thing LIVES.



On one page is a small sheet of white paper with Dean’s name on it and a series of numbers following. The Sheriff wants to know what it means. Dean says it is his high school locker combination.

13th scene
While Dean is in lock-down, Sam goes to find Joseph Welch, the husband of the woman who had committed suicide. He poses as a journalist, and finds that his dad had done the same thing, and had questioned Mr. Welch the week before. Steve Railsback plays Joseph Welch, and X-Files fans will remember him. He is a fantastic actor who brings his entire talent to bear here. It is a devastating scene, and you can almost see Jared Padalecki up his own game to meet the power of what is coming at him from his scene partner. Railsback reeks of tragedy. It twists his face and his body. Sam questions him gently about his wife’s death. It’s hard to imagine Dean doing a better job of it. The brothers are stronger together. The two men stroll through a junk yard, which is another great atmospheric detail. The America the Winchesters travel through is not ironed-out and homogenized. It’s made up of left-over parts. Sam asks Mr. Welch if he has ever heard of “the Woman in White”. Sam then tells us the legend (so often poor Padalecki is saddled with these explanations of the “lore”, and he always does a great job with them). The Woman in White exists in every culture, in different forms. Sometimes she is called “the Weeping Woman”. These ghostly figures kill themselves in a temporary fit of insanity after finding out that their husbands have been unfaithful And ever since then, they wander the earth, targeting men who are also unfaithful (which now illuminates Dean’s “you sly dogs” comment.) Sam is wondering if the Welches had a happy marriage. Watch how Railsback pauses, briefly, before saying “Definitely.” Fine actor.


Of course Sam’s line of questioning is not only inappropriate and intrusive but painful. Mr. Welch throws him off the property. It’s a slam-dunk cameo.

14th scene
Back at the Pitch-Black-Noir-Shadowed police station, an urgent 911 call comes in, and the Sheriff has to go handle the situation. He handcuffs Dean to the table. Dean quickly gets out of that situation by using a paper clip. He escapes in the ensuing chaos. There is one shot of him hiding in the police station that is, to my mind, one of the most gorgeous shots of Jensen Ackles in the entire damn series.


It’s a beautiful face but it has to be lit properly. If he were on a soap opera (which, of course Jensen Ackles was), he’d be lit in the flat light of soap opera land, and that weird sensuous almost fragile beauty he has would be normalized, neutralized, neutered. Jensen Ackles is handsome, but he’s also glamorous, and he really needs to be lit accordingly. That shot above is a perfect example. He’s great in darkness, where the dramatic contours of his face and eyelashes can cast shadows, but he’s also great in full natural light, where his eyes blaze translucent and his freckles run rampant. There’s a reason why the great female stars of the Golden Age had their own lighting designers who worked on their projects. Joan Crawford’s face, with its sharp angles and wide high forehead, could look almost masculine if it wasn’t lit right. Instead, she is bathed in moody shadows, where her brow casts shadows down, her eyelashes cast long shadows, the curve of her cheeks make interesting shadows … It’s an art, lighting these faces.

15th scene
Dean, free now, clutching Dad’s journal, calls Sam from a pay phone (what happened to his cell phone? Lost in Noir Police Station?). Sam, who now knows that Joseph Welch HAD been unfaithful (even though Mr. Welch hadn’t expressly said so) is barreling out to the old Welch homestead in order to track down the ghost. Both brothers babble at each other about what they have discovered. Dean knows that Dad has left Jericho, but, “typical Marine crap”, left Dean coordinates in his journal to tell them where to go next. And Sam confirms that they are dealing with a Woman in White. But the big mystery for both of them is why Dad left the job?

As they talk, Sam basically runs over the damn Woman in White who stands in the middle of the road and he nearly crashes the car. She then suddenly materializes in the car and demands that he “take her home”. She proceeds to telekinetically lock the doors and also telekinetically push her invisible foot down onto the pedal to drive the car herself. Sam has totally lost control of the situation. He has no more power, no more agency, no more say-so, not even in driving the damn car.

Something else in the driver’s seat. Destiny? Or Free Will?

Sam senses that although she says “I can never go home”, what she means is that she is afraid to go home, which starts the wheels turning in his head. Unfortunately, Ghost-Chick has other plans for him and materializes on his lap in the driver’s seat, grinding herself up against him, and kissing him. It’s super hot. It’s also super disturbing because Sam resists her, trying to get her off him. Imagine the genders reversed, and how the scene would feel. Supernatural wants you to think about such things. This is an attempted rape. Sam is desperate to get her off him. Probably because she’s giving him a boner, I mean, that’s obvious. He pleads that she can’t kill him because he is not “unfaithful” and has never been unfaithful. Chillingly, she whispers to him, “You will be.”

This is when Dean Winchester shows up like the cavalry and shoots the rapey ghost who then disappears in a shrieking staticky rage.

What follows is the final confrontation with Ghost-Chick inside the house, which gets violent and involves her shoving a gigantic dresser up against Dean and Sam, trapping them. You can barely see much of what follows, but stylistically it brings us back to the terrifying teaser. It is the images that give us that connection, not any dialogue. Water seeps down the stairway. Constance moves to look up the stairs and sees the shadow of her two children standing up there.

A perfect mirror of the shot in the teaser of Mary Winchester at the top of the stairs.


The kids then basically attack the mother who goes down in a shrieking burst of flames, dissolving into a puddle on the floor, the water from the drowned kids seeping into the floorboards. It’s all over. At least the Monster of the Week part of it.

Anyone else who comes from a normal upbringing would be totally traumatized by what both guys just went through, what they both just saw. But this is old hat for them. They are immediately back to the teasing vibe, that teasing that always has an edge to it.

I love this line from Sam: “What were you thinking, shooting Casper in the face, you freak?”

We then see the Impala barreling off into the night, as AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” blares.


16th scene
The Monster of the Week may be dead, but the other mystery remains. Where is Dad? Where do those coordinates left for Dean point to? The next scene takes place in the Impala, and is the first of many many scenes of the brothers driving at night. Shot in iconic fashion, dark and shadowy, sometimes with rain on the windshield, the driving scenes are filled with a nameless melancholy, a silent yearning, even when the air between the brothers crackles with tension. This is their lives. The road. There is no other reality. It is easy to un-hook yourself from connections if you are living such a life. Sam has figured out that the coordinates point to a place called Black Water Ridge in Colorade and Dean wants to haul ass there right now. But Sam reminds Dean that he has to get back. His Stanford interview is the next morning.

Dean is not good at processing emotions. He is fine with rage. He is fine with his need for sex. He does not overcomplicate those things. But hurt is destabilizing. He does anything he can to avoid feeling it. This makes him contemptuous sometimes, cruel. Dean has to be FORCED to acknowledge his own pain, and often he goes down swinging (sometimes literally). So he’s hurt. I think he loved working with Sammy, it felt good. I think, too, there was something freeing in working a case together without Dad there as well. This would be a forbidden topic for Dean, because he has been beaten into submission by their Dad (this becomes clear later), but he and Sam are both men now and they did some good work back there and it was fun. Why can’t Sammy stay with him? He needs Sammy to stay with him.


But Dean can’t say that. He can’t even allow himself to feel it. Up goes the protective mechanism, up goes the “whatever” stance. He does this to people, you’ll see him do it to others.

17th scene
Back at Stanford, Dean pulls up in front of Sam’s house. They have an awkward goodbye. It’s awkward because Dean makes it awkward. Sam is asking Dean to please keep in touch, let him know if he finds Dad, maybe I can meet up with you guys a bit later. Dean is over it. “Yeah. Sure. Whatever.” As Sam starts back up to the house, Dean can’t resist. He calls out to his brother. He says, “Sam, we made a hell of a team back there.”

It’s sad.

Sam comes back into his house, and calls out for Jess. He sees that she has left a plate of cookies for him with a sweet note on the table.


Notes like that will not exist in their future lives, beginning tonight. If the end of the road happened for Dean 22 years earlier on the night Mom died, then this night, here, now, is the end of Sam’s road. Yes, a new road is opening up, but this is what he will have to leave behind.

Sam comes back into their bedroom. He can hear the shower going. Interestingly enough, despite the fact that he fought going back out on the road with Dean, when Sam sits down on the bed, he has a sort of little smile on his face. The weekend was fun. It was like old times. That felt good. Family is important to him too.

He lies back on the bed, and a moment passes. We are given an omniscient shot (something that the series will use again and again.) We are basically on the ceiling looking down at Sam on the bed. We cannot relax with a shot like that. Then, horror, drops of dark liquid drip onto Sam’s face. Thinking of the Sam Winchester Arc, and what we eventually learn about what the hell went down in that nursery and why, it’s just brilliant how all of those threads come together, and even exist at all in the pilot.

Sam opens his eyes, and sees Jess, pinned to the ceiling.



Sam starts screaming. Jess and the ceiling burst into flames. Dean somehow knew that something wasn’t right and came back to the house, and it’s a bit “deus ex machina” phony baloney for me and interestingly they had shot a scene of Dean driving off alone, checking his watch, and then turning around to go back to the house. FORESHADOWING. But they cut it, probably due to time constraints, or maybe they felt they didn’t need it. Whatever the case, Dean magically bursts into the room at that moment, and then drags Sam, screaming, out of the room which is in the process of exploding.



Cut to the chaos afterwards, which is shot with a similar panning crane shot that we got in the teaser, where we see the firetrucks, the house, the crowd, the firemen, Dean standing in the crowd watching.

Now. What comes next is painful. But what comes next is wonderful, in terms of script, story, leaving us hanging, establishing character, etc. etc. And it’s all done with 5 one-syllable words. Here we go. Dean, filled openly with worry, it’s all over his face, comes back to Sam who stands at the Impala.

A lesser show, a show less sure of itself, would have had some kind of cathartic brotherly conversation here, with Sam breaking down in tears, and Tough Guy Dean showing he’s a softie after all, and hugging his brother, and telling him they’ll find who did this to Jess, everything will be okay, Sammy, and blah blah blah, we’ve seen it all before.

Nothing like that happens.

They don’t speak. The scene is so dark you can barely see either of them. Sam has obviously been crying, but the tears have stopped now. He stands there loading up one of the sawed-off guns in the trunk. Dean wants to help, beautiful soul, he wants to help. But nobody says anything. Not one WORD. How bold is that? To let the silence spread out, to not feel the need to fill the final moment with cathartic “and here is what we’ve learned” talk?



A slow eerie keen of music builds underneath, and suddenly our point of view switches, dramatically. We are in the trunk, looking up at the two brothers, who stare down at us. They look fucking terrifying, as indeed they are.


Sam says, in a voice cold as steel, “We got work to do,” and slams the trunk in our faces, leaving us in blackness.



Season 1
Season 2
Season 3

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94 Responses to Supernatural: Season 1, Episode 1: “The Pilot”

  1. george says:

    “This is long. I can’t seem to help it. I’ll try to rein it in in future…”

    Don’t help it. Prolixity is in the eye of the ADHD sufferer. Fight the zeitgeist. Think positive:

    This is comprehensive. I’m thorough that way. And what would you have done with the additional fifteen minutes otherwise – cure ADHD?

    Seriously, one would be hard-pressed to find expositions as qualitatively and quantitatively informative as you routinely provide, in the best of film schools/courses. I like it like that.

  2. Maureen says:

    Wow. I can’t express how much I enjoyed this, Sheila. Shoot, I wish it were longer :)
    I’m in Season 6 now, but later today I will watch the first episode again-I love hearing your insights-they add so much to my enjoyment of the show. I’m so glad I started watching this!

    • sheila says:

      Nice!! So glad you’re watching as well.

      Come back and share your thoughts once you’ve re-watched – would love to hear your observations.

  3. Dan says:

    OK, I’m in – especially since it’s available streaming on Netflix.

  4. Helena says:

    Brilliant, Sheila, keep them coming. Great choice of caps, too. The pilot is lit like a von Sternberg movie.

    Man, series 1 and 2 is full of seriously rumpled, older character actors you describe here. They are a joy to watch. Gradually they all roll into one: Bobby.

    • sheila says:

      Helena – It really does have such a deep moody cinematic look – totally dramatic!

      I love the character actor guest stars. They aren’t generic, they are heavy hitters and it really helps.

      and yes! Bobby!

      It’s so weird watching season 1 where Bobby isn’t in it. He becomes such a huge part of the show and their lives!

  5. Jessie says:

    Wow, what a luxurious read! Thank you so much. The pilot is so full of great little moments, great character work. I love the way you talk about what the production team and actors leave unstated. One of my favourite examples is that Dean rocks up to Sam’s place in that jacket that’s a little oversize; at times he looks a little like a kid in it, especially after he ends up in the drink. Such a weird juxstaposition for a Tough Guy. Then he has a shower and changes in his dad’s room, and what does he come out wearing? His dad’s brown leather jacket, a staple of Dean’s costume for the next 5 years (probably would still be but the item got pinched in transit). Iconic. Unfortunately not everything of John’s fits him so well.

    Thank god they changed the way they did Jensen’s hair!

    Thank you for mentioning all the distinctive direction and photography of the show. The first two seasons really were very, very darkly photographed. The colour palette was minimal. That’s changed. Kim Manners, who was instrumental in definining the look of the X Files, was a friend of Nutter’s. Nutter did the first two episodes; Manners the third and a lot of other pivotal episodes. They got it. By all accounts Manners was an extraordinary guy.

    • sheila says:

      Jessie – thank you!

      Oh that leather jacket!! Yes, perfect – and also not explained until later. Why is he wearing something that CLEARLY is way too big for him? Also, the necklace. We don’t get an explanation for that necklace until, what, season 3? Am I right? That is having the patience to cash in your chips – and Dean is wearing that necklace in every single episode.

      Such a great payoff. Worth the wait.

      Kim Manners, RIP – so sad.

      • Jessie says:

        Um, thank YOU. Looking forward to the next ones!

        The necklace is such a great example, and its meaning was so perfectly explained in the Christmas episode. And hopefully they’re planning something similar with its long absence — if Dean gets it back sometime this season I’ll probably die (sorry, have just finished watching the latest episode, and am still in a post-ep state of blissed-out exaggeration).

        • sheila says:

          // blissed-out exaggeration //


          I haven’t seen it yet – don’t tell me!!!

          • sheila says:

            Saw the latest episode! Crowley saying “I don’t like sloppy seconds”. hahaha. GROSS and MEAN to say in front of Dean – but that’s so what the show does, playing up the sexual/rapey nature of all of this possession stuff. I mean, the show is so funny and gross that way. I love Crowley so much. What an entertaining actor.

            Great episode – loved the scene with Dean and Castiel during the torture, and loved the joke of Castiel’s ridiculous car.

            But sad. Ugh. Poor Dean. He’s a mess. He’s gotta work that shit out. For realz. For good. That’s his End Game. He has got to let go of stuff. He has to be okay with himSELF. By himself.

            Funny – after writing all this out about the pilot and Dean wanting his brother with him again – and here we are 9 seasons later, and that Arc is still working and morphing and playing out. It’s taken me sometimes years to let go of certain things, or certain roles I feel I’ve been assigned to play – so I certainly relate and sympathize.

            But it’s killing Dean. It’s just awful.

          • Jessie says:

            Yes, it was an episode all about penetrating Sam! Who’s in him, whether they should be, whether he consented. Pretty crazy visuals with all that nasty subtext — and text, thanks Crowley! I love that actor when they give him something to do; his fun has been a little dulled recently, chained up in the basement.

            This episode I got more than most how important Castiel has become. After that opening scene I was thinking, Dean has literally no-one. No-one to turn to. And then Castiel arrived. I was so relieved. Share your burdens, Dean.

            That scene while Sam was being needled — great work from JA and MC.

            He is a huge mess, that’s for sure. At the end Sam warns him that there’s more that Dean has to work out — it’s not that he’s just a Death Magnet. Listen, Dean. Listen, writers. Work it OUT. Get it DONE. Don’t let us end up right back here next season.

          • sheila says:

            Right: we’ve been here enough. We need to move into something new.

            I was heartened by Sam’s mysterious comment, left hanging in the air. It was a good closer, and sets us up for the second half of the season.

            in re: poor Sam: I couldn’t help but laugh as first the angel streamed out of his mouth, then the demon – It was like, Jeez, poor guy can’t even catch his breath.

            I loved the alternate reality in Sam’s dream-world of fighting ghouls who are killing cheerleaders. I wish we had seen more of that, just for the laugh-factor, although I realize the episode wasn’t about that. The one shot of Sam looking through the books, saying, “But this doesn’t make any sense …” I was surprised at how relieved I felt, to see SAM again – regular old Sam. Jeez, I’ve missed that guy!

          • Jessie says:

            Yes I’ve missed him too! Come back to us Sam! Investigate something and tell us what the lore says!

  6. Helena says:

    Apart from Rumpled Older Men (ROM tm) the pilot introduces a couple of other I have come to relish over time. Other examples,

    A bewildered individual saying ‘But I already told the police/a reporter/this other guy all this – why do I have to go through this again?’ (You could play Supernatural Bingo to this sort of thing.)

    The last minute, frankly rather implausible but who cares, rescue – and this episode has two!!

    Police interrogation scenes – there are a couple of scenes in later series where Dean is not just cocky, but insanely, wildly provocative towards a male interrogator. (This one not so much, but it bears the seeds.) I find them amazing to watch these, so much going on, you could unpick them for pages. In them Ackles manages to unleash something truly disturbing in Dean’s character.

    • sheila says:

      Helena – Oh God, I love that whole “But I already told this to the cops” repetition thing. The show has no embarrassment about repeating itself – and it gets funnier with each repetition!

      And excellent observation about Dean with male interrogators. That’s a whole thesis paper in and of itself. This kind of goes back to (in part) the “Don’t objectify me” thing that I wrote about in that first post about JA. Dean is objectified constantly – by men and women. He is probably used to it. He uses it when it suits him, when he wants to get laid. He knows how to come on to someone, he understands what he’s got going on. (Chelsea Handler, when she interviewed JA, stopped in mid-sentence basically, gestured at his face and said, “That’s a jackpot.”) But when that is turned on him – as it is repeatedly – when demons basically lick their lips when they look at him – the worst kind of sexual harassment, the threat of rape (spiritual and actual) hangs over him – These demons say they can’t wait to get their hands on him, they fight over him, he’s so pretty.

      It’s NASTY.

      That does come out in disturbing ways with the character. Fine, you wanna skeeve on me, come and get it. I’m used to it.

      Very destabilizing for such a Tough Guy.

      • sheila says:

        This is in contrast to Sam. Sam, of course, is also a gorgeous hunk – but there’s something … complete about him … or something else that helps him avoid the kind of harassment that comes Dean’s way. Dean seems penetrable, in other words, and people smell that on him.

        Sam, of course, has other problems. He is open to temptation, to “dark side” stuff. But that’s different from being open to the kind of abuse that regularly comes Dean’s way.

        I honestly think JA is totally in charge of all of this. I think he knows exactly what he is doing, creating this character. None of it is an accident.

  7. Helena says:

    //This kind of goes back to (in part) the “Don’t objectify me” thing//

    Indeed, and it’s mixed up with a kind of professional standoff thing as well, in which Dean is totally underestimated by the ‘professionals’, which he plays up to, to manipulate them. It’s the cunning poker-playing manipulativeness of these encounters that I find surprising to contemplate about his character – unless I’m totally misreading what’s going on. For me these later scenes between the male ‘civilian professionals’ and Dean are some of the most serious in the show, as they are about how men actually behave to eachother, rather than being part of the supernatural liplicking skeevery. And you’re right, in terms of how it plays out, it taps into disturbing areas of aggression, sexual and otherwise. The fact that Dean can deliberately ‘summon’ or provoke it in certain people is, well, interesting – he can recognise the type, maybe.

    Quick question, Sheila, before I start inadvertently spoiling things – what’s the etiquette for discussing things that come up in later episodes/series?

    • sheila says:

      Helena –

      I think the series has been on for so long that we can certainly discuss what’s coming up – I’ll try to avoid it in the re-caps themselves, but here in the comments section, let’s let it fly.

      Can you give an example of the cunning manipulative poker-face thing? Like with FBI agent Hendricksen? (I love that actor. He’s great.) I know what you’re talking about, and I agree that the stand-off quality in those scenes is very strong and sometimes disturbing.

      // as they are about how men actually behave to each other //

      Super important, and almost never acknowledged outright but so THERE in the show. I honestly think the show is ABOUT “being a man”, and what that means, looks like, feels like. The only other show that tackles that topic in a serious almost analytical way is Mad Men. But Supernatural wants you to think about our assumptions about men, men’s assumptions about themselves, and also what it’s like when women are basically shut out of the equation. It’s all very sexually charged – Dean calling Uriel the angel “Junk-less”, to his face, over and over again. You know, “I’ve got a cock, and you haven’t.”

      Like, really?

      But it’s so real, it totally makes sense – when you boil humanity down, so much of what is going on is sexually based, we can’t help it.

  8. Helena says:

    //The only other show that tackles that topic in a serious almost analytical way is Mad Men.//

    As an aside, I’ve never seen Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire or any of those other behemoths of TV. This is my first time with a box set ;-)

    Will get back to you on the poker-playing thing.

    • sheila says:

      I’m always a couple of years behind the zeitgeist. I’ve seen season 1 of the Wire and thought it was aMAZING. But I’m not a huge TV person either!

      Mad Men is pretty great – although I think the first seasons, in the early 60s, are the best. It really examines male status and privilege in its most … un-examined state. Now that we’re moving into the late 60s, and the gender roles are morphing and changing – some of the tension of the show is lost.

  9. Helena says:

    //Like with FBI agent Hendricksen? (I love that actor. He’s great.)//

    Yes, he is. So, him and the cop in the episode with Linda Blair.

  10. rae says:

    Seriously, I know how long this is. I will try to keep it under control in future re-caps, otherwise we’ll be here until 2021.

    I’m not seeing a problem with being here until 2021 — anyone else?

    This was wonderful reading, Sheila! I think I’ll join those re-watching as you recap! I’m so glad they went with so much darkness — in the teaser and otherwise. Some episodes more than others have followed that trend, but the pilot especially set it off so well.

    I wonder anytime they replay that sequence with Mary at the disconnect from her Campbell upbringing, especially given her observation skills as shown in later episodes. Is it just that the Campbells weren’t a part of Kripke’s highly detailed five season arc? Not that they couldn’t have occasional continuity issues (and yes, Dean’s sudden lack of knowledge about movies/tv is right up there), particularly between the pilot and season 6 or 7 or whenever it was when we met some Campbells, but still. And like you’ve mentioned before, I wonder what Dean was up to for those two years, or when we’ll next learn some part of their family history.

    Helena — I particularly enjoy Dean’s interview with one of the cops where he goes on like a dating ad, “I’m an Aquarius, I like long walks on the beach,…” and the cop says, “You think you’re funny?” “I think I’m adorable!”

    Thank you again, Sheila, for the wonderful recap, and thank you, everyone, for the insightful comments! I keep reading (and learning) so much. Looking forward to the whole series worth of analysis and discussion!

    • sheila says:

      rae – hahaha all righty then, 2021, buckle your seat belts!!

      Thank you for reading!

      The way I try to justify Mary in that teaser is that the 10 years with John have lulled her into a sense of safety. But still … you’d think some of her instincts would be left over. I am sure they did not want to tip their hand too much – Kripke knew that Sam and Dean’s parents were not just your regular suburban people – but he wouldn’t want to reveal that right away. But still … it makes you wonder.

      We are definitely due for some flashbacks about those missing years. Especially when it comes to Dean. We’re piecing it together now. We know he was in that reformatory home for a while. Then there was the episode where he was 17 or whatever, and basically already a thug/slut who called his teacher “sugar”. He didn’t graduate high school. But then what?

      I think there are scheduling issues with Jeffrey Dean Morgan who is clearly a busy actor – we haven’t seen him show up in any of the flashbacks and I know they’ve tried to get him from time to time but it hasn’t worked out. I would LOVE to go back and have an episode where we see what the hell was going on between those two men, while Sam was at college.

      I have hope.

      And that’s right – “I think I’m adorable.” Hahahaha. Oh Dean.

      I have to find this quote – I mentioned it before, it;s from a novel I love about a Southern girl trying to make her way in NYC. And she’s a flirt. The sentence is something along the lines of: “She would flirt with the Grand Canyon. She would flirt with the Empire State Building. She would flirt with a concept or an idea.”

      Dean’s like that. The character in the book is not a TEASE, a tease is a very different thing. She just FLIRTS. With everything. So does Dean.

      He flirts with everyone. Male, female, hell, even dogs in that one episode. (But of course he was under a spell for that.)

      It could be so gross and smarmy in another actor’s hands – but in his hands it’s this weird destabilizing funny thing he’s got going on, he can’t help himself, maybe a way to deal with the fact that everyone he meets basically objectifies him – and with the underlying anxiety of demon possession/losing control all that – it’s one of the way he survives it. Who knows. He’s a charmer, he knows that, he can weasel out of a lot of trouble if he flirts with people. But I think there’s more to it – it’s such a consistent thing he does. So funny.

  11. Helena says:

    //“I’m an Aquarius, I like long walks on the beach,…” and the cop says, “You think you’re funny?” “I think I’m adorable!” //

    … and then, iirc, the cop rips him off his seat and hurls him against a wall. Whereas Sam, who is also being questioned, is very collected and plausible. Good exposition of the two characters’ different modus operandi.

  12. Sofia says:

    The pilot is CARVED in my memory indeed, even though I’ve never re-watched it – and only now with your recap did I realise that! I remember those lines like I just heard them yesterday, and you’re absolutely right, that image of their mother on the ceiling haunts me to this day.

    I love the X-Files reference in it, in fact the minute I read “Monster of the Week” that’s all I could think of. And the FBI scene, it’s funny and endearing for a fan of both shows. Oh and then Duane Barry, I complete forgot about his guest starring! Also yes, this show is very very dark, literally. I remember when I watched this episode (like NINE years ago, god!) – it was in the middle of the afternoon on a sunny day, and my home was new so I didn’t have any curtains yet, and that made it terribly difficult to see what was going on, haha. Still, I was completely hooked.

    Thanks for writing this fantastic and insightful recap Sheila. The show is a little crazy right now (still love it though), so it’s nice to go back and think about the “simple days”. I love that about the show, how it says so much with so little. And the recurring themes you mention, about manhood, family… it’s incredibly unusual to find a tv show like this, one that doesn’t resort to cheap dramatic flares and constant love affairs just to fill in the void. I’d say it’s a miracle they managed to be on air for so long, except it really isn’t, because it is due to the insanely talented writers, directors and actors who developed two characters SO well, they had us glued to the screen for all these years (or episodes). It’s a remarkable feat, and yet the award recognition is practically non-existent.

    Anyway, I’ll keep track of your recaps, it’s very interesting to read them while watching the new episodes, comparing and analysing the connections – fascinating stuff. Again, VERY well done!

    • sheila says:

      Sofia – thank you for your comment!! Re-cap for Episode 2 is now up!

      It is fun to go back and watch these early episodes and see how well everything was set up – there is no way the show would have got to 9 seasons without such a powerful set up. It’s why we invest in these guys.

      And you’re right: to have a show that is primarily about two grown siblings, hashing that out – without distractions such as a love affair a week or something like that – is rare. When the guys do fall in love – it’s pretty destabilizing to that primary relationship, which of course is dysfunctional but makes perfect sense.

      The show has really gone far – I mean think about things like Season 5 and Season 6 and how CRAZY it all gets. Somehow, the structure of the show can “take” it. It would get pretty repetitive if all they did was Monster of the Week stuff – although as I’ve said elsewhere, I love the one-off episodes the best. I love the comedic episodes the best. “Changing Channels” is, frankly, brilliant television. One of the best Supernatural episodes ever – and of course it drives the angels/demons plot-line along – but all of that is really an excuse to just go totally WACKY, and let those two lead actors show us their stuff. I cherish their comedic skills.

      Thanks again for reading! I appreciate it!

  13. Dri says:

    This is a beautiful essay. Thank you so much.

  14. sheila says:

    You’re welcome! Thanks for reading!

  15. Grean says:

    Thank you for this wonderful and insightful look at one of the truly unique shows on television today.
    I like a great many fans discovered Supernatural on Netflix. What a joy it was to sit on a day off and watch 5 episodes in a row. The story arcs and the continuity are much easier to sort out when you can follow one episode immediately with another.
    I remember watching the pilot caught up in the story and the horror of what happened to these two young men. So much information in so short a time. The actors had their work cut out for them. I thought they were both so talented. As I watched I was sure in this first episode that Sam would become a favorite of mine. By episode 3 Deans character had stolen my heart. Ackles has taken what could so easily have been a caricature of the tough guy and imbued him with such passion and soul and life. I was blown away. Not that Padaleki isn’t very good and that the two don’t have fantastic chemistry but Deans character is such a force of nature.
    The pilot caught my attention and I haven’t been able to look away since. I am going to go read all of your reviews and try to keep up with the wonderful comments everyone is adding.

  16. sheila says:

    Grean –

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

    Yes, by Dead in the Water – JA had sort of landed his character in the Tough Guy Tradition in cinema – the Bogart tradition, the John Wayne tradition, even the Charles Bronson tradition – who could be SO tough but then also so so vulnerable like his panic attack in The Great Escape – It’s such a compelling combination, and without that underbelly of vulnerability the Tough Guy thing is a cliche. There wasn’t an actor more vulnerable than John Wayne.

    I’m also amazed that it KEEPS being interesting after 9 seasons. Now that is no small feat. It’s a mini-miracle – and I credit JA and JP totally on that.

    Thanks again!

  17. *sigh* A woman after my own heart. A nice long, in depth look at the episode. All that movie knowledge and such just makes this even better. As a Dean girl, I love your deep look into Dean’s psyche as well. He’s not perfect…and that’s what makes him such an engaging character. That Sam & Dean are yin and yang to each other in some ways and destructive in others. It’s such a complex relationship that unfolds in 44 minutes of this pilot. And one that can hold 200 eps of a show. Even when we get upset with how a storyline goes, there’s this one truth that keeps the fans coming back.

    It’s all about family…and family don’t end in blood. Hallmarks to why this show drags me back in for rewatch after rewatch. Thanks for sharing your time with us. I’ll be back to read more.

  18. Tabaqui says:

    I just found these, this site, your reviews and your discussion about Dean and Mr. Ackles acting talents and I am *loving* it all. I hope you continue to do recaps of episodes, I hope you continue to talk about this show in such a smart, insightful, fun – and most importantly – loving way.

    • sheila says:

      Tabaqui –

      Hello! Thank you so much! The re-caps have been a lot of fun – I will definitely keep going!! I am glad you are enjoying.

  19. Tabaqui says:

    YAY! I so look forward to (hugely ambitious here) recaps of season four. And five. And seven and eight and nine…..

    Sorry. It’s just amazingly fun and *difficult* to find someone who not only enjoys the show as much as I do, but who has all kinds of behind-the-scenes and cinematic (and historical-cinematic, at that) knowledge to back up stuff, to notice tiny details, and to explain things that the average viewer probably isn’t aware of. So – yes – I’m just having *so much fun*, here, and of course don’t want it to ever, ever stop. :)

    • sheila says:

      I know – jeez, if I keep doing re-caps through all the seasons I’ll be done by, what, 2016? Can I keep it going??

      I’ll try, I swear!! :)

  20. Rije says:

    // I know – jeez, if I keep doing re-caps through all the seasons I’ll be done by, what, 2016? Can I keep it going??

    I’ll try, I swear!! :) //

    No pressure or anything ;-) , but what Tabaqui says is so true. Your blog is so amazing and fascinating because you know all the nuts-and-bolts stuff. For me, as an average viewer, it adds so much more to the show and I love that. It changes the way I watch tv and movies. I also love the positive approach you have. Criticizing something is so easy, but explaining WHY something is good or works or whatever is a thing you don’t see very often. It’s refreshing.

    • sheila says:


      // explaining WHY something is good or works or whatever is a thing you don’t see very often. //

      And right there you have hit the nail on the head on why I got into this racket (criticism) in the first place. So much criticism picks apart why something DOESN’T work (and you certainly have to be honest enough to admit when something doesn’t work and explain why you feel that way – otherwise you’re just a publicist for the show or movie) – but the REAL challenge is describing/capturing why something DOES work.

      It’s also just so much more of a gratifying experience.

      I can’t remember whose quote this is – I’ll track it down but it’s something like Spend your time talking about what you love, not about what you hate.

      That’s my whole thing. It’s been so much fun to approach SPN from that perspective!! The fans have such an intense love for the show. And so do I – but I love to try my best to discuss WHY.

      It’s very cool that people are enjoying what I’m doing.

      So. 2016 here I come. Ha!!

  21. Tabaqui says:

    Wheeeeeeeee! :)
    *happy dance*

    Also – what Rije said.

  22. SnazzyO (@SnazzyO) says:

    I just found you. I’m not leaving. Will gobble up your reviews as fast as I can. They are delicious.

  23. funder says:

    Another new visitor here. Gobbled down your S2 recaps then came back to start at the beginning.

    I marathoned the back catalogue during the fall of 2012, then (tragically) caught up to live TV during S8. I only mention this because for me, marathon vs. live definitely affects how I perceive the bigger arcs – it’s much easier to see the season themes if you’re watching the episodes back-to-back.

    Anyway, the thing that really captivated me about Dean from the pilot was how scared he seemed without his father. I immediately thought about how hard it must be for such a pretty stranger to walk into a small-town bar and hustle pool, over and over again. He’s certainly capable of doing it, but there’s gotta be so much sexual violence under the surface. He flirts with everybody because his beauty is a weapon, but it’s also a huge weakness that he can’t ignore. Of course he immediately finds Sam and clings to him.

  24. sheila says:

    Hi! Thanks so much for reading! I appreciate it! Look forward to more of your comments!

    I think it definitely helps to have back-up when you’re hustling and hunting. Dean needs it. Wants his family back together. All that. I see what you’re saying about being scared with the sexual violence – but I think Dean’s also a sexpot. He loves sex. He invites it. He’s reckless with it – he can’t help it. It would be like Brigitte Bardot trying to decide to not be a Sexpot in her heyday. Never gonna happen. So she went with it. It’s his natural milieu, and obviously yes a weapon to be used – but it’s also how he gets his needs met, sexually. Women allow him to be soft, vulnerable and they don’t turn it against him. He loves them for that. So he turns on the high-beams and puts it out there. He is totally indiscriminate with that energy. EVERYBODY gets a piece of it. Even gloomy unsmiling Scotty in “Scarecrow” and aggressive Roy in “Wendigo” and on and on. It’s how Dean operates. The miracle is how much he loves sex when he gets to have it. And the real ding-ding-ding alarm bell in Season 9 is when he ignored the cute waitress in that one episode. When Dean’s libido vanishes you know things are really serious. Sex has a very useful function in Dean’s life. He uses it to bait monsters and all that but it’s also how he evens out the scales, cleans out the pipes, relaxes. He’s a friendly lay. Even more miraculous, all things considered.

    I resist the victim filter for Dean and tend to see these things through a survivor filter – although there are certainly gradations!

    I think DEFINITELY, like you say, if you are gonna be hustling pool and flirting with biker guys in order to con them, it helps to have another person there with you just in case things go south. And with Dean, things go south about 80% of the time. :)

    Anyway, thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment. Discussing the show has been so fun in all of these posts. Everyone brings so much great stuff to the table!

    • sheila says:

      I mean, the fact that he can recognize roofies at a glance kind of says it all. He knows what they look like because it’s probably happened to him more than once.

  25. funder says:

    Good points! Both of the Winchesters are such survivors; it’s one of the things I love about the show.

    I wasn’t really thinking about Dean’s beauty in terms of victimization – I saw it as more of a moment of weakness that made me really like the character. Dean’s character, in the pilot, was riding that line of being really likeable or being a really attractive asshole, and for some reason, seeing that vulnerability made me like him a lot.

    • sheila says:

      Oh, I see what you’re saying! Yes, Dean without vulnerability would no way have been interesting enough to last us 10 seasons. It’s a slam-dunk what he’s doing with this character!!

      // Both of the Winchesters are such survivors; it’s one of the things I love about the show. //

      You and me both!!

  26. norah says:

    I thank you for articulating the things that draws me in. It has all the flaws of the genre, I mean, come on, whose fridge has a conveniently kid-sized empty space in it (Home)? But, there are so much heart in there, once it sank in, it gets people hooked.

    • sheila says:

      // I mean, come on, whose fridge has a conveniently kid-sized empty space in it (Home)? //

      HAHAHA I never noticed that. Hilarious!

      But yes, irrelevant in the long run.

      Thanks for commenting and reading!

  27. melissa says:

    I finally watched this episode. and, hooked….

  28. Imke says:

    Late to the party, but I just need to show my appreciation for these recaps. Sheila, and everyone commenting, this is awesome. I’m rewatching season 1 and it surprises me how the show seems to get more and more fascinating. I have a serious problem.

    Just some thoughts, for the heck of it:

    Loved Dean’s confession that he doesn’t want to do this without Sam. First episode and that dependency is already established. He can’t even look Sam him in the eye as he’s saying it. So important, so painful.

    The two of them having to experience the exact same thing that happened 22 years ago, I can’t begin to imagine what that does to person. Sam, already feeling like something is wrong with him, must realize this is linked to him specifically. And the way he quickly snaps into cold hunter mode afterwards… It seems to me he’s always known deep down this day was gonna come.

    What you said about the Free Will theme: That little moment you mentioned before Sam finds Jess, and also the grin on his face after Dean teases him about the 911 call he made – he seems to be enjoying himself a little. Maybe he’s picturing going on these trips a few times a year, possibly being able to combine them with a normal life. Not because he’s forced to, but because he wants to. (And his girlfriend is OK with it because she made him cookies.) And then the way in which that choice gets taken away as soon as he lays down on the bed. My heart. Shattered.

  29. Barbara says:

    Hi, Sheila, I stumbled on to your recaps while searching for analysis of Dean Winchester’s character and was amazed by the depth and knowledge you put into your reviews. As a photographer (though I shoot wildlife, not portraits of people) I absolutely revel in your appreciation for the art that went into some SPN shots. That was inspiring, actually, and thank you for that. I’ve been low on inspiration lately, so I found your essays at the right time, lol!
    I went through all of your SPN reviews and after a while thought that maybe I could add my two cents here and there if you don’t mind. It’s just that, watching SPN, I can relate to a lot of stuff and here the discussions are so friendly and constructive :) hope you don’t mind the long posts.

    On Dean meeting Jess. I really like how you picked up all the nuances there. That moment reminded me of a bitch fit my little sis threw when I started hanging out with my gang from the university (me and her went to different universities and were hanging out together much less). She sounded like a jealous wife and creeped me out so much I was ready to climb the kitchen sink! So I guess Dean here is being very possessive of Sam as crazy siblings can be. And he’s so aggressive, he overkills it. “I raised this kid, now I need him to come with me and you’re not invited! So back off, pronto!”
    It also reminds me of myself and the people I know (my day job involves some heavy crap), who come up from a very intense situation where your life’s on the line and there’s no place for anything more than a bark of an order in terms of communication. You come like that into civilian surroundings and scare the crap out of people. My mom usually is very strict about stuff like that. Me or dad start acting that way on pure inertia, like we’re not house trained and back on the front lines, we get whacked with a spoon (not literally… well, not all the time) to snap out of it. So right there and then someone really needed to whack Dean with a spoon!
    And I gotta say, when I mentioned that “.45 at 9 years, ’cause of the monster in the closet” thing, my whole family nodded in approval. I myself wouldn’t give the kid a firearm so he could shoot me or his brother, but maybe something like a fire poker… So, not much sympathy for Sam’s complaint here, lol)))

    //This brings back so many memories, of taping records for friends and having to write out the song-list on the labels. A lost world. Dean still lives in that world. He probably taped these albums from his dad’s vinyl when he was a teenager. //

    God, that box of tapes makes me nostalgic. I practically grew up in the back seat of my dad’s car. I remember going through his tapes to find my favorite one, so he’d put it on. Sweet memories!
    And I used to have a similar motto for music choices in my car, but Dean’s wording is so much better! “Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cake hole.” God, I love that phrase!
    Funny thing, my family doesn’t watch SPN, but when I share Deanisms, they get adopted almost instantly.

    //Sam won’t fit in with a normal life, because he’s a Winchester, and the Winchesters are warriors. You can’t fight your destiny. (As I mentioned, this is ironic because Dean is normally so anti-destiny.) //

    I’d like to go into this in a bit more detail, taking into consideration what we know now from episodes yet to come. Problem for Sam here is to accept what apparently everyone else makes of the Winchester brothers. Roughly speaking, they were bred to be what they are. That makes angels look like freaking Nazis, but hey, if the shoe fits… Azazel made his “demonic Ovaltine” input after Sam was born, so the angels must be held responsible for the eugenics part.
    We can make of it what we will, but the show does indicate that these people were bred for that life like fighting dogs or race horses. Sam has to struggle against his non-civilian genetics if he’s to become a civilian.
    Also, there’s John’s psychological heritage to be considered. PTSD is studied extensively in the show and it is so deeply rooted in both brothers, the viewers may sometimes mistake it for personality quirks.
    John is a war vet. We don’t see much of the effect war has had on him, but it is there, written into his character. Recent studies show that PTSD may be inherited by children genetically. It effects the brain, more notably, the part which is responsible for memories, the hippocampus. That’s how much damage is done by it. That’s what the kids got from their father even before the memorable night. Then later it was topped by more and more trauma, but what I’m saying is that Sam has to fight more than his family and childhood to get to his dream, he has to fight genetics. In the long run he loses, but he sure put up a fight. Gotta give him that.
    Sam might have had the chance if he didn’t deny this part of himself so much. He would have had a bit more of a chance if he accepted his past and his heritage instead of shutting it out (did that bite him in the ass or what!). Definitely should have shared more with Jess to make it work in the long-term. Maybe twist the truth a little, but share the key parts. Poor clueless bastard.

    //These guys do not do emotion well, particularly with one another. Sam is more willing to talk things out, and Dean often treats such overtures with similar dashes of cold water. You know, Sam tries to discuss an emotional moment, and Dean will say, “Do you want me to put on the Cowboy Junkies for this?” He’s a jerk. //

    Oh, does all that look familiar. But I must say that in similar instances in my life the person who is acting like a jerk usually isn’t an actual jerk. Emotions are hard to articulate, plus the moment might not be right for softening up and exposing your belly. For all you know, someone might fall a part a bit after a chick-flick moment and you can’t afford it. So a little jerkish joke actually means “I hear you, dude, and I’m cool with whatever you have to say. Now stop it, we don’t have time for touchy-feely stuff.” It is a different language from what people usually use for expressing emotions, but if you know it, that jerkiness speaks volumes and puts you at ease. Sam’s rusty on the language, he’s still in civilian mode, but it’s coming back to him. Hence the “jerk-bitch” exchange.

    //Dean always goes to the sexual connotation of anything. //

    I like this defense mechanism of his. And that boy does use sex as a weapon. He knows that such blunt references to sex make people uncomfortable and he just bangs them on the heads with innuendo. It’s sort of rapey. Scratch that, it is rapey. Poor Jessica couldn’t even find words to put him in his place, the sheriff wasn’t too thrilled either. Being insecure, Dean overkills it, but it works enough times to make him believe this tactic is effective. I am sure I’ll return to the subject later on, but this post is already too big.

    //Dean is not good at processing emotions. He is fine with rage. He is fine with his need for sex. He does not overcomplicate those things. But hurt is destabilizing. He does anything he can to avoid feeling it.//

    Yup, he’s so hurt his wounds have remained fresh and tender for years. Fear of any more pain on top of that or a threat of dealing with the massive amount already there is destabilizing to say the least. Personally, I went through a similar experience. I had so much pain pushed deep down it was getting in the way of my life. Had to deal with it while under hypnosis. The pain manifested itself physically and it was so intense I threw up. Sorry for that detail, but I just want to illustrate how hard it is to deal with pain when there’s so much of it.

    //But nobody says anything. Not one WORD. //

    That’s what made the relations and the characters so real to me. Guys like this do not use too many words. There’s no need for that. And honestly, when you have someone you can just be silent with… that’s worth a lot.

    OK, said enough , maybe a bit too much, but that’s the effect of your writing – it made me think and analyze not only the show but something else too. If it’s OK, I’d like to share my thoughts on other recaps.

    Best wishes!

  30. sheila says:

    So I thought I would pull up my old re-caps since so many of us are doing re-watches, particularly as this scary virus is forcing us all to stay home (and if you’re not staying at home, if you are disobeying the rules or being cavalier about it – you’re a dumbass and I’m pissed. I don’t want to hear it.)

    I did a re-watch last year – going through the whole thing – including seasons 12-14 – which was PAINFUL but also extremely illuminating. Only this way can you really grok – as in feel it on a visceral level – just how much the series has changed and also how it has abandoned its initial mission.

    I watched the pilot last night and in the process made a decision to ignore the Dabb years as … needless experimentation by a mediocrity. It has nothing to do with the show. It’s a mediocre man “tweaking” a genius set-up – because there is nothing more envious and arrogant than mediocrity. It feels good to “deconstruct” a really powerful work, dismantling it and weakening the structure – because then you get to feel like you’re thumbing your nose at something you could NEVER EVER create yourself. I’m being harsh but it’s warranted.

    Dabb has tried to create two spinoffs. We see what his sensibility is through those pilots. Like, those are his dream shows. That’s what he WANTS to be doing. Which, okay, maybe some people will like that shit – but it’s NOT Supernatural. So he has spent his time as the Head Honcho in chipping away at Supernatural’s special-ness, as well as de-centralizing the central characters. I know there’s a fan base who ADORES the ensemble format – and normally I don’t like to do this but in this case I question the motives of people who love the ensemble. It has clearly not enriched the show – it has destabilized the show.

    Watching the pilot … I thought of Rowena’s glowing purple eyes, and shouting spellwork as lightning bolts come out of her palms … and I thought, “Why the fuck am I still watching? LOOK AT WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.”

    Like the song says: “Look what they’ve done to my song, Ma …”

    I am not a YA fantasy fan. And there are obviously good examples of that genre out there – but to turn a horror show into a YA fantasy show … mainly because the people in charge grew up on Harry Potter and have no knowledge of horror films is … disgusting. I wish Kripke had intervened. I really do. There was a notorious moment in the long-running Broadway show Les Mis – it was like 15 years into its run – and the original producers came back to take a look – and were shocked at the laziness and sloppiness that had infiltrated the cast – an understandable byproduct of something so long-running. The lyrics weren’t clear, people were “marking” things as opposed to really DOING them, and an overall sleepwalking vibe infected the show. so the producers did something. They got rid of a lot of cast members – hired fresh blood – and put the cast through rehearsals again. !!! Unprecedented, but then again a show had never run that long before. It’s a piece of live theatre – it CAN’T go on autopilot.

    So I wish Kripke had stepped in. This is, after all, his main legacy. I will never understand why Kripke – or Robert Singer – or Serge – didn’t course-correct.

    I miss MY SHOW.

    Here are my observations watching the pilot – and after this pissed off preamble, I am just going to do my best to focus on the show AS IS – in the pilot and elsewhere. I don’t want to keep bemoaning what has been done – because then the disappointment bleeds backwards and inhibits my enjoyment of the early seasons.

    So here are some notes I took – in the next comment – hopefully we can launch a discussion again – especially since the show has shut down because of the virus and … honesetly it’s hard to picture at this point that they’re gonna come back to close it out. Everything is changing so quickly and getting worse so quickly … I have a feeling that what they’ve already done is … all we’re gonna get.

    So maybe it’ll be fun to “go back’ and live through this thing together.

    • lindah says:

      Hi Sheila,

      It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’m lucky enough to still be working, so I haven’t been binging anything. But I had a little time this past weekend and I figured I’d see what was up with your SPN posts.

      A re-watch! Yay! When it comes to choosing between a) re-watching from the beginning and b) continuing season 14, no contest.

      Last year, I got as far as watching the beginning of season 14. I fully intended to finish 14 in time to watch the current (formerly final) season in real time. But…no. Just no. (Michael is boring. Michael’d Dean is only slightly less boring. JA is interesting, but the character is still written boringly. Did I mention Michael was boring? Because he is. Boring. You know, if you say the word “boring” enough, Michael is *still* boring.)

      //I am not a YA fantasy fan. And there are obviously good examples of that genre out there – but to turn a horror show into a YA fantasy show … mainly because the people in charge grew up on Harry Potter and have no knowledge of horror films is … disgusting.//

      What you said got me thinking. I agree with your Dabb-disgust, but I admit I do enjoy fantasy and genre storytelling in general. And I especially like genre mash-ups. I don’t mind if SPN became a mix of horror, western, fantasy, drama, comedy & procedural. IMO, episodes have more options on how to approach their stories by shifting around the genre ratios and priorities.

      However, like you, I find Dabb’s version of SPN very disappointing (to put it non-profanely).

      Warning: Dabb rant to follow. (Opinions are my own. YMMV.)

      My main gripe with Dabb & co. is not so much that they’ve switched genres. It’s that I think they’re the kind of insidiously bad storytellers who truly believe that the most interesting aspect of any of their characters are their superpowers / heroism / genre trappings.

      The boys are Heroes who Always Sacrifice Themselves. Mary is a Badass Hunter who F*cks. Jack is a Teen who is Learning to Control His Powers. Cas is Whatever the Hell the Plot Says He Is. (IIRC, Dabb is on one of the Season 4 or 5 DVD extras complaining that Cas’s powers are inconvenient because they always need to figure out why he didn’t just fix their problems with angel mojo. If I’ve remembered that correctly, it means he hasn’t gained any character-building insight despite 10 more years of experience AND his ascendance to showrunner.)

      Anyway, it seems like they’re building stories from the outside in, planning for big moments or plots and shoving the characters around like game pieces. These high-concept events can be described in two words or less: Mom’s back! She leaves! BMoL crap! POTUS possessed! Un-fun prison! Billie: “Sacrifice.” Sacrifice Billie. Devil’s baby! Devil’s teen! Cas’s dead! He’s baaack! Mom’s lost! Alt worlds! Teen power!angst! “Wayward Daughters”! Bobby! Apoca-world. Sam’s dead! Just kidding! Exodus (aka: Screw apoca-world)! Bunker full! Bobby/Mary (wtf)**? Michael!Dean! (That’s as far as I’ve gotten.)

      ** Does anyone portmanteau the Bobby/Mary ship as “Mobby”? ‘Cause that would be amusingly eff’d up. Like a congested person saying “mommy.”

      The real crime is that any one of those two-word events could re-make or re-break the characters. But no, it’s like their inner lives were set in stone and nothing changes despite the event. (I can’t even use the word “experience” in place of “event” because that would imply progress or transformation.)

      // all these people who are like “they always choose each other end of story” seem to forget the struggle to make such a choice – the sacrifices – how DIFFICULT it is –//

      Dabb doesn’t see (or doesn’t understand) how the grief, trauma, resentment, love, hate, fear, rage, selfishness, generosity, sacrifice, damage, pain, disgust & appetite (horniness!) *should* drive the characters and their decisions and actions.

      Dabb’s kind of storytelling is flat and tends to run out of gas mid-season. The big flashy events could spark some interest for a while, obscuring the fact that he doesn’t seem to know how to vary the way the boys react to the world. And because the stories aren’t driven by the messy contradictions of character, instead of exploring their inner lives more fully, he has to resort to adding other worlds. (Literally.) Instead of deepening or shifting relationships, he adds other characters – including (spoiler/blatant pandering alert!) formerly dead fan favorites like Charlie.

      He doesn’t seem to be able to track emotional arcs beyond individual episodes. All of his multi-episode arcs, IMO, are plot-based, not character-based.

      Your re-watch here makes me appreciate how the early seasons slow-played the underlying brotherly conflicts and resentments. Here at the beginning, their chemistry and the implied habits of silence and accommodation delay their confrontation/impasse for another 10 episodes. (Miss you, Meg!) But most of it’s already there, pulling their strings.

      Thank you for your insights and your deep dives into the individual episodes. They remain bright spots in these endtimes. For the record, I would be happy to read and re-read them as long as you feel like writing & posting them.

  31. sheila says:

    Notes on the pilot: things I noticed, things I didn’t mention in the re-cap – or things I did mention but I just want to reiterate:

    — When Sam goes back to pack his bag, having consented to leave with Dean, the first thing we see him pack is a huge scary-looking … BLADE, glinting silver – like a scythe. Like … where’ve ya been hiding that, Sam? When he de-camped, he clearly brought some tools with him. Just in case. Hiding them from Jess. Dean wouldn’t have been able to hide it for so long. Cassie came along and he spilled the beans in … what … a couple days? Sam has managed to hide a gigantic SCYTHE in his series of dorm rooms and now in the house he shares with Jess – without batting an eye. Love this unmentioned bit of business.

    — There’s the moment when they’re at the bridge – it’s either before they get out, or when they get back in the car – that grinding “Supernatural” theme starts up and it suddenly made me realize: Where did THAT theme go?? The one that used to play over the end credits sometimes. I haven’t clocked when that theme vanished from sight – to allow in the horrifying “filler” music they’ve been using in recent seasons. I had a visceral response to that music – in the same way I used to do the Winchester Family Theme (still in operation – way over-used now). But that more grinding “rock” inspired music … Why I love it and why it’s so essential to the show is part of my further more general observation:

    — The roots of this show are a mood that has an EDGE. An edgy grease-under-fingernails blue-collar MALE – MALE ALL THE WAY – edge. The show is cocky, it’s got a chip on its shoulder, it swaggers – and that music SWAGGERS. Male swagger is out now – for obvious reasons – but the corrective swerve has been way too strong. I love male swagger – when it’s not violent or toxic – not all male swagger is toxic, sorry to tell you. Give me cocky sexual male swagger – and THAT’S what that music says, that’s what that theme emanates. Dabb’s only swagger is hostile – the hostile swagger of a Beta male. I’m so sorry, that’s really mean, but when I heard that music, I missed it so much – almost for the first time – and I realized how much the show in its current form doesn’t “go” with that music at ALL – because the male-ness, THE BOYS, the focus on Men-without-Women or Men-Longing-for-Women (which is what the Woman in White is all about, incidentally: woman wanting to go home, men wanting to find woman, follow woman – ARCHETYPES) – anyway, all of those things no longer exist in the show. Some fans call it “character development” – Sam and Dean have grown past “toxic masculinity” – there aren’t enough eyerolls in the world. If you think Sam and Dean represent toxic masculinity, you honestly don’t know many men.

    — LONG STORY SHORT: I am hungry for the show that could TAKE that Supernatural theme music, not the melancholy Winchester Theme – but that sexy swaggering grinding theme.

    — A shoutout to the PITCH BLACK library. I said this before and I’ll say it again: the use of public libraries in the early seasons was one of the many draws for this librarian’s daughter. It’s practically a PSA. Because NOT everything is online, and there will always be a place in this world for archivists and librarians. The two of them sitting in that pitch-black library made me yearn – again – for the bunker to be torched. Now they never have to leave the bunker – and they sit at the table, drinking smoothies and staring at their laptops. It’s unforgivable.

    Sorry I said I wouldn’t reference later seasons.

    But the gorgeous darkness of that library satisfied me on such a deep level.

    — While the Woman in White says to Sam – “You WILL be unfaithful when I’m through with you” – obviously there’s a deeper level, which I wasn’t present to in my first watch: Sam in a way IS being unfaithful already. On multiple weirdo Winchester levels. He’s been unfaithful to the Winchester BellJar(TM) by going to college. By going away with Dean, he’s cheating on Jess with his brother. He’s also cheating on his brother by living with Jess. I mean, the layers are endless.

    — It’s interesting in an episode about searching for the Lost Father … that what they find is a Grieving Mother who has killed her own children and “can’t go home.”

    This is the kind of plot-swamp they used to do so well – create such an ocean of associations that it can’t be nailed down into one thing. The associations are there – present and yet also subliminal – you can enjoy the episode on its surface level too. But even though this episode is filled with CONSTANT conversation about Dad – their goal is to find Dad find Dad find Dad … the Woman in White’s presence shows who they really miss.

    But – to twist it up even further – the two drowned children of the Woman in White – are not benign presences. They do not welcome their mother with open arms. They “rush” her and she is destroyed. They may be embracing her happily – but it’s still destructive. The children are dead. They are not happy about being dead. They haunt that house, too. They’ve been waiting for her. This is no happy reunion.

    Again, this is a very rich way to approach the Family Psycho-Melodrama – with all kinds of levels and associations.

    • Jessie says:

      A rewatch, and when my dvds are all packed away!

      I miss the plot-swamp so much. The swamp of associations, allusions, resonances, correspondences. Shadows on faces (haha, that scene by the wrought iron gate). The cheating thing is right on, and we’re complicit in it. We want them on the road together! You can never go home, but actually, at the end of this episode, Sam DOES go home.

      It’ll be lovely to revisit some of these old friends.

      • sheila says:

        // The cheating thing is right on, and we’re complicit in it. We want them on the road together! //

        Right! We are SO complicit. and when you ask yourself, “wait … what do I want and why do I want this?” it all gets so delightfully weird. I like being complicit in something I’m not sure I want to be complicit in. It gives all this tension.

        // You can never go home, but actually, at the end of this episode, Sam DOES go home. //

        Right, and look what happened!

        I am trying to put into words my feelings on how Jess is portrayed and/or conceived. Haven’t really got there yet – she’s a fantasy – the hottie in the Smurfs T-shirt – baking cookies – good student – so supportive of her gloomy-Gus boyfriend – but the costume choices – it’s all very Broad Strokes.

        I mean, they all are painted in Broad Strokes, really – and maybe it’s the broad strokes quality that helped this show survive as long as it did. The characters aren’t TOO specific in their conception – they’re archetypes – and she is an Archetype.

        I would be very interested to hear Jess’ side of this whole story. She is, in many ways, the Ideal – the Ideal of a guy like Kripke. so it’s sort of an adolescent Ideal. Nothing wrong with that. Like, she hates roses – so she’s a cool girl, not a silly romantic girl … someone that could actually keep up with Sam, intellectually.

        But I think I am “reading into” all of this – it’s not really there in the conception of Jess.

        Or is it?

        She has to be a kind of Dream Girl. Otherwise the character of Sam wouldn’t have such a huge arc in trying to let her go – she has to not just be this specific girl, but an archetype – a dream – the “thing” he wants. a safe harbor.

        anyway. thoughts?

  32. Pat says:

    I’m reliving the “good old days” of the show by watching Youtube reaction videos of people just getting into the show. I guess it’s like a re-watch where you get to relive the drama, suspense, humor, thrills, etc. with a new fan. Then you get to hear them give their insights and see them form opinions and get excited for more.

    • sheila says:

      Oh wow I haven’t seen those, Pat – I’ll have to find them. Do you have any links?

      • Pat says:

        Right now I’m enjoying the reaction videos of Dakara Jayne. She started watching the show back in 5/2017 and has just finished 9×02 this week.

        She has become very invested in the show and the lives of the brothers – moved to tears on many occasions. I started watching her on Youtube, which only allows ten minutes of copyrighted material to be shown, but I then joined her Patreon page where she is able to react to the full episode. At the end of her reaction, she spends about 10 minutes going over what she just saw, and gives her thoughts. She doesn’t go too meta, but is more how the show affects her viscerally and her “feelings”.
        Here’s her reaction to “On the Head of a Pin” :

  33. Carolyn Clarke says:

    Okay, let’s have some fun. We so need it>

    “Sam has managed to hide…” so much! Sam is so much more devious than Dean can EVER be. Dean is all emotion while Sam is more intellect. Dean revels in his emotion. Sam suppresses his. We can go on and on.

    “Where did THAT theme go?” Another indication of how the lack of understanding of the show. They may seem these musical themes as mere background (other than the Americana theme). We, the fans understand that those musical notes are grace notes that add power and depth and understanding to the scenes. They are the notes that guide us through the story. Mission Impossible used it all the time. The minute you heard that theme, it meant peril in some form.

    “Give me cocky sexual male swagger.” Absolutely. That allows me to have cocky ( in a certain sense) female swagger. I don’t have a problem with men being men as long as I can be a woman with NO sense of threat. The original Sam and Dean never threaten women other than demons, etc. I can’t remember a scene when a woman was truly afraid of either one, other than when Dean was a shapeshifter. (I don’t know how he did it but I was screaming at the woman to leave or pick up a weapon.) The current Sam and Dean are merely shadows of the originals. Still brave but way too politically correct.

    • sheila says:

      // We, the fans understand that those musical notes are grace notes that add power and depth and understanding to the scenes. They are the notes that guide us through the story. Mission Impossible used it all the time. The minute you heard that theme, it meant peril in some form. //

      That’s exactly right!

      I keep thinking about this as I continue my re-watch. That particular theme – not the melancholy theme, but the sexy-rock theme – with its dark metal undertones – really sets the tone and the style. It has a sex drive, I think is what I’m saying – AND – even more important than that – that music has a sense of humor. It can be used to punctuate funny moments – moments where we get to revel in how cool these guys are.

      Now, in every episode, we have people and THEM – saying how heroic they are. But back THEN, it was just the music that told us. THEY were too busy getting into the car, roaring out of town, cracking jokes … but WE felt “wow, these dudes are heroic.”

      I really miss that music!!

    • sheila says:

      // Sam is so much more devious than Dean can EVER be. Dean is all emotion while Sam is more intellect. Dean revels in his emotion. Sam suppresses his. //

      I love how you put this, Carolyn.

    • sheila says:

      // hat allows me to have cocky ( in a certain sense) female swagger. I don’t have a problem with men being men as long as I can be a woman with NO sense of threat. The original Sam and Dean never threaten women other than demons, etc. I can’t remember a scene when a woman was truly afraid of either one, other than when Dean was a shapeshifter. //

      i so agree with everything you said here. Particularly the part about how that kind of swagger allows for female swagger – and this is something some people just can’t or refuse to get. They need to watch some old Westerns with John Wayne – and watch the women in those movies – watch how much his swagger allows them to be strong too. If we suppress that totally – then we’re just in nowheresville.

      It’s a misinterpretation – TOTALLY – to see Sam and Dean as sexist. Okay maybe Dean is a little bit … but … it’s such a benign version of it and comes from a sincere place of appreciation (except how he treats Jess in the pilot – but that’s the pilot – it’s before Dean really emerged – which happened very soon after).

      // (I don’t know how he did it but I was screaming at the woman to leave or pick up a weapon.) //

      I KNOW. I just watched that one last night. I was trying to figure out how he did it. I think one of the ways he made that shifter so creepy was the shifter’s self-pity, the self-important “oh poor me” self-pity – which creates a sense of entitlement. It was SO good on JA’s part – he had real insight into what that kind of sexual entitlement looks like, and how it operates.

  34. Fortune says:

    Yes a rewatch! I am so excited. Especially since it looks like we won’t be getting new episodes for a while, thanks to corona. (Not that new episodes are much to look forward to. Last night’s was better than most, but riddled with so many inconsistencies, sigh. Like, would it kill the writers to actually go back and watch their own show?! But alas.)

    I love the Pilot now, but it’s actually not what hooked me originally. It was only after Devil’s Trap and In My Time of Dying that I realized, OMG, this show is going to consume my life and I won’t be leaving this spot until I finish every single episode.
    But wow, I miss the music and the gloominess and the care that was put into these early episodes. I miss discovering layer upon layer of Sam and Dean. I miss the tragedy.
    Like poor Sam, thinking he has a choice, thinking he can stay away from the Hunter life and live normal, when no matter what, he would always have ended up at Azazel’s summer camp with the rest of the psykids, even if Dean hasn’t come for him and Jessica hasn’t died.

    Looking forward to revisiting the good old days! Thank you, Sheila.

    • Jenna says:

      Fortune- just had to say, In My Time of Dying is the episode that really did it for me too! I do a lot of painting/drawing while watching TV so I got through the first season without a ton of looking up and I remember thinking a lot of it was pretty melodramatic and cheesey, but the end of season one and then Dean so desperate and gorgeous in his hospital clothes! I was done for! After that episode I was like a crazy person, it was all I could think about, all I could talk about!

      Sheila, finding your recaps and your writing about the show was SUCH a revelation! I’m on Tumblr and I see all those crazy shipping fans, and to some extent I am one of them, but your recaps and writing in general is so much MORE and it really satisfies something deeper in me. So thank you! So glad to be able to obsess over the old season during this time of self isolation. (Also people on Tumblr LOVE Dabb? The last couple of seasons have been really hard b/c I will see what they are talking about and I start to think “Am I crazy for not liking this?” So thanks so much for helping me stay sane!)

      • sheila says:

        // but the end of season one and then Dean so desperate and gorgeous in his hospital clothes! I was done for! After that episode I was like a crazy person, it was all I could think about, all I could talk about! //

        Ha!! This is so great!

        I also love the image of you painting and not really looking up all that much but suddenly you’re like … omg Dean with scar on forehead in scrubs … PUT THE PAINTBRUSH DOWN.

        // Also people on Tumblr LOVE Dabb? // Can someone please explain this to me??

        The emperor truly has no clothes – it pains me to say it but he has ruined the show – going back and watching the first season has made it crystal clear just how much he has destroyed the legacy. I don’t get people who are into the show but who don’t really LIKE the show – who want it to be something other than what it is. You know, filled with emo teenage girls … or something? I don’t know.

        I’m angry at Dabb. I did a re-watch last year but wasn’t as conscious then of just how much damage he has done to the show’s legacy. Like, what has he got against Kripke? why – too – has he been allowed to do this? A show is a show – you can’t just come in and wreck it from the inside – or at least some attempt SHOULD have been made to stop what he is doing. But he was just given a blank check.

        Is it that the show just … was seen as being on autopilot and you could do wahtever to it and it wouldn’t matter to the fanbase?

        I am baffled.

        • Jenna says:

          //I also love the image of you painting and not really looking up all that much but suddenly you’re like … omg Dean with scar on forehead in scrubs … PUT THE PAINTBRUSH DOWN.//

          Haha! YES! The forehead scar, I am a sucker for that forehead scar!

          I started a more purposeful rewatch myself a while back, and I was shocked at how beautiful those early episodes are, some of them are just shadows dissolving into half of JA’s or JP’s face, the barely there smoke from the barrel of the Colt. I mean really gorgeous, painterly stuff. You compare it to what we have now, this bland, plastic, prettiness where everyone looks the same- even JA and JP! Sometimes I wonder if they are doing it on purpose, b/c sometimes it seems to get called out in the scripts, but then what is the purpose? The show seems to lack any purpose at all anymore.

    • sheila says:

      // Like, would it kill the writers to actually go back and watch their own show?! But alas. //

      I am having an out of body experience watching these old episodes and comparing to what the show is now – how REAL these early seasons are, even with the supernatural element. real people – real places – Sam and Dean were real. and also the whole SWITCHING of genre – which was made totally complete once Dabb stepped in. Like … you’ve got a lot of BALLS switching a horror show into a YA fantasy show, just because you don’t like/get horror.

      How was this even allowed to happen? I wish Kripke had stepped in. Let’s remember this show is a HORROR show. Jeez Louise.

      In my Time of Dying! Yes!! // I realized, OMG, this show is going to consume my life and I won’t be leaving this spot until I finish every single episode. //

      ha. For me, that was the one-two punch of Dead in the Water (Dean sensitive and pained) and Phantom Traveler (Dean terrified and hilarious) – I was like, “OH. okay. This show is actually going to be about developing and deepening these characters and I am HERE for that.”

      // // Like poor Sam, thinking he has a choice, thinking he can stay away from the Hunter life and live normal //

      It’s really amazing to go back and watch – and try to forget that I know where all of this is going. It’s worthwhile to make that mental adjustment – because I’m really present to just how GLOOMY the first season is – so brave to make such a GLOOMY show – with such a sense of DREAD hanging over every episode. and trying to find Dad – it’s like they’re staggering forward in the pitch-blackness – and each episode they feel more and more abandoned, but they can’t even ADMIT they feel abandoned. Or … Dean can’t. Sam gets pissed off much earlier. and that creates all this beautiful tension between them.

      all these people who are like “they always choose each other end of story” seem to forget the struggle to make such a choice – the sacrifices – how DIFFICULT it is – I don’t know, I just don’t see the show through that same lens. I see the struggle and tragedy of it, and how it’s a choice, and how they must make that choice, but often they don’t WANT to make that choice. They both are drawn elsewhere – it’s agonizing.

  35. Mike Molloy says:

    Long time reader/first time commenter.

    I have never watched this but have been intrigued by your commentary; I started with the pilot Sunday night, prompted by your entry in the “What To Watch During A Quarantine” piece, and have gotten through the 3rd episode.

    First time I can remember hearing about Supernatural was I believe an old thread of yours, Sheila, about how you got into Supernatural by first getting drawn into an ongoing dispute over…some fan controversy over the show, I can’t remember the details. Is this a complete phantom memory? If it is not, and if it’s not too presumptuous a request, could you point to that post? Brief googling has not yet turned it up. I remember it being really interesting, about how an obsession with a show could predate actually watching it. (And, I apologize for trying to characterize your remarks based on rather dim memory. Sincerely hoping I am not misremembering altogether, and it was some other show, or worse, some other writer that I’m remembering.)

    So, my two cents after 3 episodes…it is still seeming pretty monster-of-the-week-ish so far. I’m actually finding that is helping keep me going. Not that I don’t appreciate a multi-season arc, but the sheer number of episodes stretching out before one, ~20 per season for 14 seasons, is daunting. But a show with a monster-of-the-week-ish aspect holds out the promise of being able to watch for a while, put the show down for a while, come back to it again later; which seems like a much more manageable prospect.

    Anyway, looking forward to your rewatch discussion!

    • sheila says:

      Mike – hi! I love it when people de-lurk!

      You have a really good memory – here’s the piece I wrote about how I discovered the show – and it for sure had to do with a fan controversy – the uproar was so ferocious it got me curious:

      // it is still seeming pretty monster-of-the-week-ish so far. I’m actually finding that is helping keep me going. Not that I don’t appreciate a multi-season arc, but the sheer number of episodes stretching out before one, ~20 per season for 14 seasons, is daunting. But a show with a monster-of-the-week-ish aspect holds out the promise of being able to watch for a while, put the show down for a while, come back to it again later; which seems like a much more manageable prospect.//

      This is very insightful! I think that’s the right approach. Season 1 is basically all Monsters of the Week – the main arc is really, as I’m sure you’ve figured out: “We have to find Dad.” Underneath that is the larger mystery of “what killed our mother?” So you get about 4 or 5 seasons out of all of that – but as you say it’s really grounded by the “working cases every week” structure. It’s not some huge Multi-verse. (It is NOW, as of the last 4 years – I am sure if someone tried to watch the show now in the current season without any leadin it would be completely incomprehensible – which does not speak well for how the show has developed!)

      But yeah – if you’re 3 eps in – then you kind of get the gist of it. For me, “Dead in the Water” (the third episode) was when I felt a real stirring of real INTEREST – something about how the character of Dean was deepened subtly – I got interested in the character and where they might be going with it. That was really the “hook” for me.

      I hope you have fun with it – would love to hear more of your impressions!

  36. Mike Molloy says:

    Hi Sheila, thanks for replying, and thanks for finding that link for me. My memory is not really so great; I think I only read that that “How I Found…” essay in the last few months. Probably cross-posted from one of your recentish SN posts; you are a big cross-poster, I’m sure you don’t need to be told. Looking forward to rereading that, I remember it as a wild ride.

    Yeah, knocked off 2 more episodes last night, so far so good! I found “Dead in the Water” to be a grabber too; Amy Acker’s character, the mother of the little boy who’s mute from trauma, is very appealing.

    Can’t promise much in the way of interesting impressions; I mostly just watch ’em. It does seem to me like episodes 4 & 5 (“plane demon” and “mirror demon” (checks list: “Phantom Traveler” and “Bloody Mary”)) are a bit of a turning point, with bits of information coming out about the younger brother (Sam?) & how his fate/destiny/nature as a demon-hunter was lurking over him, even before older brother turned up to pull him back into the demon-hunter world; how he’d been having traumatic, prophetic dreams about danger to his girlfriend, in particular. Also, I think both the airplane demon and the mirror demon seemed to recognize him and know something about his past.

    That said, those were the first episodes I watched, after reading your comments in this thread, which definitely indicated that “can’t get away from your nature” was going to be a theme. So I was primed to notice the hints the show dropped.

    • sheila says:

      I do cross-post. I can’t help it. I write so much here – I just have to leave all those bread-crumbs through the massive forest of almost 20 years.

      // I found “Dead in the Water” to be a grabber too; Amy Acker’s character, the mother of the little boy who’s mute from trauma, is very appealing. //

      Yes! I love her and I was glad they brought her in so early. They were very conscious of hiring people with “pedigree” in other famous things – in an episode coming up you’ll see The Smoking Man from X-Files in a small role (they really wanted to “ride on the coattails” of X-Files – and it may have taken them 5 years to get to it – but there is eventually an entire X-Files “homage” episode, complete with X-Files-esque opening credits.)

      // with bits of information coming out about the younger brother (Sam?) & how his fate/destiny/nature as a demon-hunter was lurking over him, even before older brother turned up to pull him back into the demon-hunter world; how he’d been having traumatic, prophetic dreams about danger to his girlfriend, in particular. Also, I think both the airplane demon and the mirror demon seemed to recognize him and know something about his past. //

      Yes! Sam has hidden depths which will of course end up dominating the narrative over the next couple years. I think Dean is used to being the Big Brother – has a hard time accepting Sam has a mind and drive all his own.

      So in my current re-watch one of the things I am noticing and really admiring – that I didn’t really notice in my first watch – or I DID but I didn’t really realize the significance – is how each episode is a little building-block in establishing this main relationship – and where the rifts are. This isn’t immediately clear – but Sam is the one who broke away, and Dean stayed – and this becomes increasingly an issue – and they (i.e. the show, and Kripke) get so much mileage out of it it’s still playing out literally a decade later. It all feels very siblings-ish in a real way.

      Plus, yes, the issue of fate/destiny. Hugely important.

      No pressure on weighing in – I just like to hear people’s first takes.


      • Aslan's Own says:

        “Sam …broke away, and Dean stayed” – I’ve always thought it so fascinating that Sam – the bookish, intelligent, caring, earnest one – is the “bad boy” who rebelled while Dean – who swaggers around like the traditional bad boy complete with leather jacket – is the obedient, compliant one. It’s such an interesting reversal of expectations.

        • sheila says:

          // Sam – the bookish, intelligent, caring, earnest one – is the “bad boy” who rebelled while Dean – who swaggers around like the traditional bad boy complete with leather jacket – is the obedient, compliant one. //

          Such a good point.

          It’s very insightful on Kripke’s part – about what things look like as opposed to what things are.

          and it kept us guessing, right? Every time you thought, “Okay, I feel like I know these guys really well now” – something else would come up and I’d realize how much more there was to learn.

        • Melanie says:

          This pilot episode brings home to me that the show was meant to be about Sam. When you talk about the good son and the bad son, what I hear is how completely Kripke modeled this on the Bible parable of the Prodigal Son. Sam is the younger son who runs away and squanders his inheritance (his “inheritance” being his partnership in the family business, so to speak). Dean is the older son who stays with dad and is resentful when the younger brother is welcomed back. Even though Dean is the one that draws Sam back in, here in the pilot the relationship of the brothers is established from the outset like that of “the faithful son”, Dean, and the “Prodigal Son”, Sam. When I saw the pilot for the first time, I think it was their first real conflict on the bridge, I remember thinking, “Oh, these are the brothers from the Prodigal Son story.” It comes out again very strong when the demon is possessing John in the last episode of Season 1. Kripke used so many Biblical references that I feel it must have been purposeful.

  37. Sara L. says:

    I am so thankful to have found your writing about this show. I was a half-assed fan of it back in Season 3 and 4, in the years where it didn’t feel that important to see every episode. My husband and I watched it together, not even from the beginning, just watching it whenever it was on. But then our babies turned into toddlers, and watching a horror show became almost impossible. After a few years, it felt like there was just too much to catch up on, and I sort of dropped it from my attention. When I heard that the 15th (!!) season was to be the last, I decided I needed to watch it from the beginning, finally, and see how far I got. I started sometime in February, and I am currently in season 13. Yep. Quarantine is letting me catch up a lot more quickly than I would have ever expected. And I am completely obsessed. I yearned to read some criticism about it, but the site I usually go to (AV Club) only has seasons 5-9 in their entirety. But someone in the comments mentioned your brilliant breakdown of Jensen Ackles’ acting, and when I read that, I knew I had found the perfect critic.

    I have only read this entry so far, but I am so excited to read all of your lovingly detailed and fascinating analysis. I might have to start a rewatch already. Thank you!

    • Sara L. says:

      And I totally forgot to mention, the thing that impressed me most about watching the pilot episode was how immediate and clear the brothers were in their relationship to each other. Like, how the hell did they get the casting so right on this show? They seem so well-worn into their brotherhood, you forget that these are near strangers acting in a tv show that may or may not become popular. Watching those first moments, with the benefit of hindsight, is almost unreal.

      • sheila says:

        // They seem so well-worn into their brotherhood, you forget that these are near strangers acting in a tv show that may or may not become popular. Watching those first moments, with the benefit of hindsight, is almost unreal. //

        It really is just unbelievable. I just wrote about it in the Ode to Supernatural I wrote for Ebert – not sure if you’ve seen it – the CHEMISTRY between the two leads – I’m sure it was there in the initial audition (and God I wish I could see their audition – I know we can see Jared’s – but I want to see the two of them auditioning together) – it’s such a crap-shoot, chemistry. Nobody could have predicted just HOW good they would be together – it was just a shot in the dark, a hope.

        And you’re right: it was there immediately.

    • Jessie says:

      Sara, I was just thinking about the AV club writeups the other day and what a lark we had in the comments! It feels like a different era. Were you posting there at the time? I always thought Handlen had a great grasp of the pleasures of the show and Dyess-Nugent was really sharp when it came to talking about the way JA works. It’s nice to see you here!

      • Sara L. says:

        Thanks for the welcome, Jessie! I wasn’t commenting at the time, but I have had a great time reading through them this past couple of months. I always feel like you read AV Club stuff half for the review and half for the comments. Some fascinating insights and conversation happen down there! Yes, I enjoyed Handlen’s reviews very much, but I felt like Dyes-Nugent was always a little too hard on the show, and didn’t feel like he fully paid attention. Although he did seem to give JA his fair due.

        • Jessie says:

          I miss that commenting community and I’m so grateful Sheila started posting about the show at the same time the AVC stopped (and then, sadly, changed so drastically). I agree, D-N and Thurm both came at the show from a sort of….disinterested angle. I suppose, as much as I enjoy s7-8-9 in retrospect, there were a lot of tonal shifts and incorporation of angel plotlines etc around that time that made the episodes feel thinner and different. At least they were never as bent on derision as Television Without Pity, haha.

      • sheila says:

        I’m friends with Dyess-Nugent on FB/Twitter – I should go back and read those re-caps, I think I did a quick scan at the time and enjoyed the insights, but it’s been a while!

        • sheila says:

          When did they stop “covering” it?

          • Jessie says:

            They (the site, with a few different writers on the supernatural beat) finished out season nine and then dropped it, except for a piece here and there on milestones. It’s always interesting to go back and see the reactions of the day! I know I’m on the record disliking the start of s6 and s9 so I always try to keep that in mind posting immediate reactions, haha. But I am correct about Dabb era sucking.

    • sheila says:

      Sara – sorry it took me a while to respond. Thank you for reading and commenting – I am glad you found me!!

      // I started sometime in February, and I am currently in season 13. Yep. //

      lol YES. Major binge-watch!

      // But someone in the comments mentioned your brilliant breakdown of Jensen Ackles’ acting, and when I read that, I knew I had found the perfect critic. //

      Ooh I didn’t know they talked about me over there. Thanks for the heads up! and thanks to the person who gave me a shout-out, that always feels good.

      • sheila says:

        oh, and how are you doing with the recent seasons?

        We’ve been … upset over here, to say the least. But curious to hear your reaction, since you’re binge-watching it all for the first time – what does it feel like to you, and I’m talking Season 12-now.

        Not to just focus on the negative!

  38. Zaz says:

    There is another interesting thing about this opener that flows through the series, I wonder if the writers were sub-consciously channeling this or not. When a child is baptized the parents bring the child to give babe to their God. They promise the child will be raised in the faith, proclaim the faith, serve all people as Jesus did and strive for justice and peace for all the earth. The water poured over the brow is symbolic of washing away sins, the oil symbolic of bringing the child and Holy Spirit closer together and salt is put between the child’s lips to symbolize purification. We don’t know exactly what YED was doing at Sammy’s bed when Mary saw him but we can surmise that he was not feeding Sammy blood, but when he killed Mary, blood dripped on Babby Sam’s head anointing him and between his lips in a horrible parody of baptism. Marking/ befouling Sam’s soul since he was six months old. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Sam will become evil, but it does put Sam behind the 8 ball from the start. Later Sam goes through rights similar to communion and confirmation is season4 and 5

  39. Kelly Driver says:

    I am on my 4th rewatch of Supernatural and I discovered the Plaidcast and they referenced your site and I am so glad! I am thoroughly enjoying your analysis of Supernatural and can’t wait to explore your other writings.

    • sheila says:

      Kelly – hello!! Wow, okay – Plaidcast – I haven’t listened. I want to check it out – I am thankful for the shoutout at any rate!

      It’s funny – just the other day I felt a hankering to do a re-watch. My last full re-watch was in 2020 – lockdown days. and in preparation for the delayed finale. (wahhhh!)

      I do have my faves that I watch as stand-alones but … a full re-watch is always so interesting. There’s always something new I notice, or some new shading comes into view. I had so much fun writing those re-caps – I didn’t make it to the end of Season 3. My actual real writing career started heating up – and … here we still are today. I just can’t devote the time like I used to. But I am happy I got as far as I did – so many people found their way to those re-caps and the discussions are so lively and fun!

      Would love to hear your thoughts!

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