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Supernatural: Pilot

Dean: "I can't do this alone."
Sam: "Yes, you can."
Dean: "Yeah. Well, I don't want to."

It took me some time to get into this show, but something just kept me watching. I think it was Dean. Jensen Ackles is as cute as a retriever puppy, and Dean, prickly on the outside but with a soft, chewy emotional center, is my favorite character. It took me longer to warm up to Sam, but I'm plenty warm now.

The pilot began and ended with the same event: the most important woman in their lives burning on the ceiling, and Dean taking Sam out of the house and out of his old life. From the start, Daddy Winchester gave Dean responsibility for his baby brother. Sam is an adult now, though, and Dean's tendency to think he knows what's best for Sam, and Sam's certainty that Dean most certainly does not, is the dramatic core of their relationship. I had a similar tension with my sister, who was exactly like our mother and was always telling me what to do. Even though I like Dean more, I tend to identify with Sam.

Although we jumped immediately from twenty-two years ago to the present, the dialogue gave us tidbits about what happened in between. Raised like warriors. Weapons training. Credit card fraud to fund a life on the road. Dean followed in his father's footsteps, while Sam rebelled and went to college. (Again, exactly like my sister and myself. Except for the warrior bit and the credit card fraud.) Dean has embraced his illicit but heroic calling. He thinks Sam should be out living on the edge and hunting evil like he does, not going to some namby-pamby law school.

The monster plot was the fallout of a tragedy: a "woman in white" who killed her children and committed suicide because her husband was unfaithful. (Overreacting a bit, don't you think?) The fairly scary "woman in white" couldn't go home again, much like Dean and Sam.

At the end of the episode, Dean and Sam still didn't know who killed their mother and Jessica. Their father was still missing. Sam may not want to be like his father and brother, but he's very good at the hunting, and he's on board now. But probably not forever.

Bits and pieces:

— Sam is 22. Dean is 26. Dean is four years older, but Sam is noticeably taller. That felt odd to me at first.

— The burning women on the ceiling turned me off immediately; killing off female characters in a horrible way just to provide motivation for male characters always bugs me. I eventually got over my pique, though. As I said, something about the show kept me watching.

— Why didn't Mary Winchester wake her husband when she realized there was a man in baby Sam's room? She was right there at the bottom of the stairs, definitely within easy earshot, and her husband John was an ex-Marine. Why did she silently turn and run back up the stairs?

— It's not all that obvious because the scenes go so quickly, but watch for the incredible changing baby in the opener. They used at least three different babies for baby Sam, and they didn't look much alike.

— This week's itinerary: Lawrence, Kansas, which is where the story started; Stanford, which is in Palo Alto, California; Jericho, California.

— Dean used the aliases Hector Afranian and Ted Nugent.

— One of my favorite bits is the way the brothers masquerade as someone in authority. Here, they were federal marshals. And yes, they did look too young to be federal marshals.


Quotes:

Sam: "What would I do without you?"
Jessica: "Crash and burn."

Sam: "When I told Dad I was scared of the thing in the closet, he gave me a forty-five."
Dean: "Well, what was he supposed to do?"
Sam: "I was nine years old! He was supposed to say, don't be afraid of the dark."
Dean: "Don't be afraid of the dark? Are you kidding me? Of course you should be afraid of the dark."

Sam: "Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Metallica... it's the greatest hits of mullet rock."

Dean: "Agent Mulder. Agent Scully." A nod to the X-Files people on the staff of this show.

Dean: "That Constance chick. (screaming) What a bitch!"

Sam: "Sorry."
Dean: "No chick flick moments."
Sam: "All right. (pause) Jerk."
Dean: "Bitch."

Sam: "What were you thinking shooting Caspar in the face, you freak?"

I usually don't rate pilots, so no rating this time,

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

35 comments:

Steve said...

I've been a longtime reader of your reviews Billie. I started with Lost and Buffy. You've gotten me into many great shows! Thanks! Anyway, I've got a question: why did Dean come back to the house to save Sam? Does this ever get explained? I really enjoyed the pilot but this bothered me.

Billie Doux said...

Hi, Steve:

Things that happen in the pilot do get explained down the line, but I don't think they ever explained why Dean went back for Sam. I've always assumed Dean just had a bad feeling. He's very protective of Sam.

You're new to Supernatural? I hope you end up loving it as much as I do. It's one of my favorite series ever, and I'm so pleased we're getting at least one more season.

Anonymous said...

First, I´m the one who commented on all your VM reviews. Supernatural is my next marathon my rewatch plans. After this, Angel and then my number one show and love of my life, Buffy.

Second, I am amazed to see Dean and Sam now because this Dean and this Sam are completely different from later seasons. They will have to go through a lot and how cool is it that I see so much more now and while rewatching this earlier season, I think alreday of what lies ahead. Great character development.

Third, I would rate this pilot an 8. It was good, it presented the storyline and characters nicely.
And btw, I also love Dean.

Gracie said...

I'm rewatching the series this summer before season seven, and I gotta say -- how oblivious can a guy be if he thinks he gonna get laid? Never mind that the hot chick is actually *flickering in and out*, that her clothes are filthy and in tatters, that the house she takes him to looks like it's the set of a horror movie. Nope, ignore all that, VW Rabbit guy, might get laid.

Jamil Walker Smith from SGU is in Halloween zombie makeup in the party scene.

Geez, the boys look so freaking young! Six years in a one hour action series can certainly age you, huh?

Valerie said...

I am also returning to supernatural before season seven begins since TNT is rerunning it and I have way too much time on my hands this summer.

I figured that Dean ran in to get Sam when he saw the flames or sensed it because of his awesomeness. In this episode we are introduced to Dean’s dislike of “chick-flick” moments but they seem to have them more than most chick flick movies. My only question is if that’s the same jacket Dean in wearing in the later episodes cause that thing has got to be ripped to shreds by now.

Unlike you Billie, I have always identified with Dean since I am incredibly protective of my little brother (whose name is Sam and taller than me, no joke). Sam Winchester pushes Dean away and doesn’t understand how powerful the responsibility of taking care of a sibling is. I just thought I would share my perspective on the other side of things :)

ChrisB said...

Having just feasted on six full seasons of this magnificent show, I decided to watch the Pilot again knowing what I know now. It was actually better this time around.

For one thing, I am impressed with how tight the writing has been. I could not find a single element that had been ret-conned. Even the teaser, which we will return to a lot, sets out three plot points that will carry through the series -- John and Mary Winchester, John's obsession and Dean's need to take care of Sam.

We see so many things for the first time that will matter -- the Impala, the boys impersonating some type of federal officer, Dean's necklace, John's journal, the music, Dean's eating habits, Sam's charm, Dean's big heart, Sam's big brain. In addition, comment after comment will be said again, often in a mirrored context -- "you just want some normal, apple pie life?" "Jerk. Bitch."

Sure, the monster of the week is one of the weaker ones, but what a joy to see the boys working together for the first time. And, as much as they bicker, it is already obvious how much they care about each other.

The biggest change comes from the boys. First of all, they both look so young! I guess six years of chasing bad things really takes its toll. But the biggest change is in their acting. They both improve exponentially -- especially JP.

All in all, a very strong start to a very strong series.

Susan O'Fearna said...

I'd be interested in a retrospective review of how the Pilot shaped up for the series (or at least the first 7 seasons)...

Susan

Anonymous said...

Just a short post - Dean went back for Sam because he realised that his watch had stopped (because of some electromagnetic thing about the demon). They cut this scene out but it was in the extras on the DVD.

shruti said...

Hey Billie... I am a totally loyal fan of your site because it were your buffy reviews that gave me the strength to sit through the first season (and i am SOOOOOO glad i did. Imagine never having watched Buffy!!!). I had tried Supernatural before but stopped after 5 episodes because I found it a lil too cheesy... I am starting again on your recommendation so wish me luck :)

Billie Doux said...

Hey, shruti: I hope you love Supernatural as much as I do. It's become one of my favorite series ever. What I always tell new viewers (you'll see it in the comments later) is to try and hang in until "Scarecrow" and "Faith", episodes 11 and 12, the two episodes that hooked me. The first half of season one contains the weakest episodes in the series; they were finding their footing. They certainly did find it.

Tishery said...

Just doing a re-watch on this show that I love so much. May have been partially inspired by the awesome references to past seasons in their 200th episode.

One major thing I noticed, besides the actors looking so young, is Dean's voice. It's not as gruff or low as it becomes later, which I thought was funny. Sam's voice too, but to a lesser degree.

Wendy said...

I don't like horror, but I love a good story, and so many people tell me this show is great at story telling. The first three episodes were too icky-scary for me. You've never steered me wrong, from Alias to Lost to Firefly to Buffy to Nikita to Battlestar, and I trust your taste. Should I try again? Thank you for your advice!

Billie Doux said...

Wendy, Supernatural has become one of my favorite series of all time, and it's definitely a great story. But it is also scary. For me, it's worth it, even though I'm not a fan of horror, either.

Also, the first half of the first season is the show's weakest. It doesn't start showing how good it can be until the second half of the season.

I hope this helps. And thanks so much for the kind words, Wendy.

Raya said...

Wendy, I get scared pretty easily, and just like you, this season was a bit too scary for me (the woman in white, the scarecrow and bloody mary really freaked me out at the time).

But it does get easier. Slowly, it becomes more about the characters and less about the horror.

I've been watching Supernatural for ten years, and I don't think I have been scared since season 1.

Juliette said...

I wrote a thing on scary episodes recently and looked up several lists of scariest episodes of Supernatural (obviously I won't explain why they were scary here as it would spoil it - these are just the episode titles). I think the only non-season 1 episodes that seemed to freak people out were No Exit (2) and No Rest for the Wicked (3) - nearly all the really scary ones are early season 1 I think! Though some are pretty high on the gross-o-meter - My Bloody Valentine (5) springs to mind!

ChrisB said...

Wendy -- I am the biggest scaredy cat in the world and had a similar reaction when I started the show. Hang in there. The scary parts become much less frequent and the show just continues to improve.

Ren said...

Since we seem to be going back to the cage in season 11, I decided to rewatch seasons 1-5 to refresh my memory. Oh boy do Sam and Dean look like such babies. Of course, the Mulder/Scully comment made me chuckle (X-Files is my #1). But what I didn't notice until this time is there's another X-Files connection! Joseph Welch was played by Steve Railsback - i.e. Duane Barry!! I'm sure I'm not the only one who noticed this, but it made my day somehow :)

Billie Doux said...

Ren, don't forget -- no spoilers! We're protecting the newbies here. :)

Ren said...

Oh shoot, in my excitement I didn't even think of that. I'm so sorry! My lips are sealed.

Katherine said...

Sam: "All right. (pause) Jerk."
Dean: "Bitch."

This is how bad a mother I am; my daughter and I frequently end pointless conflicts with this exact exchange. Sometimes I'm the jerk, sometimes it is her, but it dispels a tense situation instantly.

Thank you TV.

Katherine

Billie Doux said...

If you're a bad mother, Katherine, so am I. My son and I do similar stuff. Mostly Buffyisms.

Katherine said...

Misfiled due to older comment. I wanted to like Buffy so badly. I made popcorn, laid out couch blankets and pillows, we got all comfy for a long binge type watch, and just couldn't do it.
I wanted to like this show because you wrote so highly of it, but um, no couldn't become a Buffy fan.
No doubt the defect lies with me.

Billie Doux said...

Don't beat yourself up, Katherine. :) The truth is that Buffy is not for everyone, and unfortunately, it takes longer to get good than Supernatural did. If you'd like to check out a standalone Buffy episode or two that would give you some idea of how good it can be, try season two's "Lie to Me" or season three's "Earshot". They're not as amazing as some of the arc episodes, but they're really wonderful.

Katherine said...

"A hundred years, just hanging out, feeling guilty. I really honed my brooding skills."

Okay, I'm starting to see the quotability factor here.

Katherine said...

"...and oh my God, could you have a dorkier outfit?"

Okay, I'm going to stop quoting Buffy now...fandom is starting...

Billie Doux said...

Katherine, you made me laugh out loud twice, so I'm not complaining. And you could post comments here, too. :)

http://www.douxreviews.com/2002/01/buffy-lie-to-me.html

Katherine said...

Ah, sorry about that. It was a rainy day and I went on a bit of a Buffy jag, and posted where I felt most comfortable. If the Buffy jag continues, I will attempt to post in the correct venue.

I didn't want to like this show, but my opinion is changing against my will.

Katherine said...

Another misfiled comment: I got my sister started on Supernatural.
Those men are so cute, I'm surprised they don't come with Popsicle sticks.

Now starting her on Buffy by repeating selected quotes.

I'm a bad, bad girl! ;-)

Katherine said...

>> I'm surprised they don't come with Popsicle sticks.

This comment seemed more wholesome in my mind than it reads on the screen.


Anonymous said...

I love supernaturl and I don't get why anyone would not like the show. And both dean and sam are like my favorite heros on tv. Mulder/scully is my second fav. But I really loved your review s and its nice to see that spn has lasted this long on tv. My fav is dean also and he has always been awesome and yes very good looking:)

Unknown said...

Hi Doux, I just stumbled over your blog, after binging SPN from January, having never watched it before that. I'm looking forward to seeing your perspective on a show that has become my favorite in just a few months of watching it.

I personally disagree about the 1st season not picking up until halfway through it, though maybe that's just me. When I first started watching it (a friend had been trying to get me to watch it for 10 years lol) I was not impressed with the pilot. Then came Wendigo, and I almost quit watching.

And then came the 3rd episode (I forget the title, something with Water) and there was a scene between Sam and Dean that made me laugh out loud for so long that I had to rewind because I missed the whole next scene.

At that moment it hit me: this was not a show about fighting monsters, this was not a drama with humor, this was not anything I had thought it was in the first two episodes. This was, in its essence, a show about two brothers and the relationship they would have for however long the show would last.

Anyway, thought I would tell you my perspective. From that moment on I was hooked and it soon took the number one spot of favorite shows (after Buffy had been my favorite for 20 years, amazingly enough.)

Can't wait to keep reading, and I'll probably continue commenting, so I hope that's okay :)

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, the scene was after Amy Acker left them in front of the motel and Sam asks Dean to list the kids that he knows. Still makes me chuckle just thinking about the interaction between J2.

Billie Doux said...

Puppet James, welcome to the site, and you're more than welcome to post comments -- we love comments. We often have readers who haven't seen a series and who read along, so if you could, please don't post spoilers for future episodes. Thanks!

Unknown said...

I re-read my comment and still can't see the spoiler, but of course I'll be careful. I figured from the get-go that I had to watch it. I've been up for a long time, so maybe I'm just too tired to see it, sorry.

Billie Doux said...

Puppet James, you didn't post a spoiler! Sorry if I didn't phrase my comment correctly. I'm sort of half asleep myself. :) It's just that it's something that happens a lot and I thought I'd mention it.

Looking forward to your comments!

Unknown said...

Ah okay, sorry, got it. Too bad you deal with that a lot, I definitely wouldn't have enjoyed the show as much if I'd spent the past 12 years listening to spoilers. Out of 11 seasons and 8 episodes of season 12, when I watched in January I only had 2 spoilers which, granted, were pretty big ones, but I find that impressive :)