Supernatural: Pilot
May 13, 2021 7:56 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Twenty-two years after their mother died in a mysterious house fire, Sam Winchester is in line for a full scholarship from Stanford Law School when his older brother Dean comes to find him with the news that their father is missing and he needs his help. With the caveat that he needs to be back at school by Monday, Sam joins Dean on a search for their father, and an elusive woman in white.
posted by orange swan (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is this a rewatch party? Ahhh, Supernatural and your almost perfect pilot. So much of this single episode reverberates through the series. The secret shared childhood, the normal Apple pie life, the different way they view their dad, John’s alcoholism, the easy professionalism and trust when hunting between them, Dean’s request to stay together and Sam’s choice to walk away.

Also they look like babies in this episode, so young!
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:25 PM on May 13, 2021 [4 favorites]

It may be a rewatch for some, but it's a first watch for me. I'm more than okay with spoilers (see my Ask from earlier this month).

I'll give the pilot a lot of credit, in that it pretty much just worked. The rest of the first season, however, I'm finding to be a bit of a slog. It's too much monster-of-the-week for my liking and (of course) the production team hasn't had enough time to gel and start producing the off-beat gems that I've so far pretty much enjoyed during my best-of sampling.

And you're right. They're definitely babies.

I'm not sure if I'll be contributing and participating too much in these threads, but I'll be watching and reading with interest.
posted by sardonyx at 8:57 PM on May 13, 2021

It'll be a rewatch for most of us, probably, but I'm doing my posts as a first watch because seasons 9-15 are in the database already as a first watch and my intention is to just complete the set, then comment in the existing threads. I think we should avoid any big spoilers for the sake of anyone who's watching for the first time (i.e., no referring to what happens in the finale!), but otherwise it's fine to talk about the show as a whole.

Yes, holy crap do Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles look young in this episode. Whenever Jared speaks, I half expect to hear that his voice hasn't changed yet. And Dean is cocky, cocky, cocky, a hot shot in a leather jacket with an upturned collar. He hits on Sam's girlfriend Jessica the second he meets her. 

Sam and Dean's relationship doesn't feel much like it does later on, but then it wouldn't. They seem not to have seen each other at all in two years, and would barely have seen each other in four. There is definitely a bond between them, but this is the beginning of their adult relationship. 

That ghost didn't die anything like the ghosts in later episodes do, but then she was effectively taken out by other ghosts, so I suppose that could account for it. 

Dean must have been waiting just outside the apartment building to be bursting down that door so quickly after the fire started. He couldn't have known what was going to happen to Jessica. Was he going to come back to ask Sam to come with him on Tuesday? Could he simply not bear to leave and be on his own?

Sam: "Sammy" is a chubby 12-year-old. It's "Sam". 

Sam: I swear, man, you've gotta update your cassette tape collection.
Dean: Why?
Sam: Well, for one, they're cassette tapes.

Dean: Driver picks the music; shotgun shuts his cake hole.

Sam: When I told Dad I was scared of the thing in my closet, he gave me a .45!
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? What are you, kidding me? Of course you should be afraid of the dark. You know what's out there!

Deputy: So, fake US Marshall, fake credit cards. You got anything that's real?
Dean: My boobs.
posted by orange swan at 10:18 AM on May 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

One of the best things about the first season of Supernatural was the soundtrack. Except the musical rights licensing issues means that most people watching it for the first time now don't get to hear all of it. For reference.
posted by Pryde at 12:21 PM on May 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yeesh, if they don't pony up for the rights to Carry On My Wayward Son, you might as well not even start watching the show. Heck, I'd probably tell people to bail of they can't get Def Leppard's Rock of Ages for use.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:41 PM on May 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

It was sorted for season 2 and beyond, but watching season 1 with the substituted music just makes it feel FAR more generic.
posted by Pryde at 1:53 PM on May 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Ah, good to know.

About the pilot, there was a post on the Blue about the show a while back and I mentioned there I spent all last summer into fall watching almost every episode of Supernatural in order, thanks to TNT's morning blocks of the series. My memory of the details of each individual episode are getting foggy, so you will happily be spared long rambling posts from me on the rewatch since I don't have Netflix or cable at the moment. So everyone can rest easy on that score.

I will say that I'm not sure I would have been hooked on the show enough to get to the later seasons if I'd come in blank to the pilot. I saw a couple random episodes and then the finale of season 14 before starting in from the beginning, and seeing where it would go was what kept my interest. The pilot was fine, but the backwoods X-Files feel isn't really my flavor if that's all there was going to be. But even though they hadn't quite got all the relationship stuff and tone completely nailed down, you could see there were was a lot of skill and a sense of direction involved in the production from the start, which made watching it a quick habit to pick up even with some of the less successful episodes of the season.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:05 PM on May 14, 2021

Lol, Sam was literally in swaddling.

But yeah, Padalecki and Ackles were already 23 and 27 in the first season in 2005 - compared to the last season, looked a lot younger than their biological age. Padalecki especially and he aged a lot better than Ackles. His dimples and haircut or maybe being a stringbean? Ackles from his oversized clothing?

I forgot that was Adrianne Palicki was in the pilot.

Yes! I loved the licensed music in the early seasons even if they were mostly "before my time." A show-not-tell for Dean's hero worship of his father. Similar with the Impala (so glad they didn't go with a Corvette or Camero).

As pilots go, very competently executed and good production values. I got a distinct feeling that the show was something that finally started transcending 90's TV, despite the X-Files vibe.

Didn't recognize any filming locations in the pilot, and the show was better than some at disguising it, but still a lot of "hey, that's where they are" moments over the years.

I enjoyed the story of a rougher less polished older brother and a more traditional-achievement naive younger brother who had become partially estranged for a few years. Effective hook to introduce the viewer to the Hunter lifestyle and sets up Sam's (very brief) conflict of whether to return to the fold.
posted by porpoise at 2:22 PM on May 14, 2021

Not so much the locations (as I don't really know B.C.) but in the episodes I've watched so far, I've gotten a kick out of spotting old Canadian actors. Some are well-known. Others, kind of fell into obscurity. My favourite spot so far was Winston Rekert in season two's Roadkill episode with fellow Canuck Tricia Helfer. Anybody up for an Adderly watch/rewatch? (Just kidding. Well, mainly just kidding.)
posted by sardonyx at 3:08 PM on May 14, 2021

Dean must have been waiting just outside the apartment building to be bursting down that door so quickly after the fire started. He couldn't have known what was going to happen to Jessica. Was he going to come back to ask Sam to come with him on Tuesday? Could he simply not bear to leave and be on his own?

I have no source for this, but I read once that they deleted a scene where Dean got in the car and the headlights and radio began flickering, alerting him that nefarious actors were nearby. He was already running to warn Sam when trouble began.
posted by lilac girl at 5:50 PM on May 14, 2021

I don't remember which episode it was--I'm up to 14 I think or maybe 15--Dean and Sam talk about his visions and he Dean said something to the effect of "I saw what was going to happen to Jessica, I just didn't want to believe it."
posted by sardonyx at 6:24 PM on May 14, 2021

Another ongoing thing this episode indicated was that Sam takes a more scholarly approach to hunting than Dean, which makes total sense given that he has a university degree and Dean has a GED. He was able to think of different search terms to find information on the woman in white because he has research/critical thinking skills Dean wouldn't have. Dean, of course, has more hunting experience and other practical/mechanical skills that Sam doesn't seem to have. They complement each other well as hunters.
posted by orange swan at 8:09 PM on May 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Ah, I meant Sam. "Sam said something to the effect.."

For whatever reason the younger brother physically seems more like a Dean to me and the older one more of a Sam.
posted by sardonyx at 8:30 PM on May 14, 2021

::rollerblades in a dozen comments late with a starbucks:: let's DO this

-I very slowly started rewatching the first season from Netflix recently and it KILLS ME to lose some of those musical cues. ("Fire of Unknown Origin" is SUCH A WEIRD DARK JOKE and no one has heard it for like fifteen years! I always thought Don't Fear the Reaper was too on the nose personally, but gah, no BAD MOON RISING? agony.) There's a box set coming out later this month that I'm semi-tempted by, but I would love to know if they sorted out the rights issues for it or if that's just a thing that will probably not happen ever.

-I recently finally saw the deleted scene of Dean driving away at the end and then turning around (maybe he noticed his watch stopped?), but I absolutely spent most of the first season lowkey convinced he'd been waiting outside the door because he was, if not partly responsible for the fire, then at least forewarned by and working with someone who was. (yeah no it is a VERY different show if you are as wrong about things as I am.)

-This is the kind of thing I didn't appreciate at the time because I'm a year younger than Sam and they just looked like guys I was around all the time, but there's that moment where the cops comments they're kind of young to be federal marshalls and I try to imagine now Jared Padalecki at 23 with that haircut, getting out the passenger side of a muscle care and trying Very Seriously to convince me he was a very serious law enforcement officer and, oh, oh goodness, oh kiddo

-Coming off the later seasons, the difference in cinematography is so striking. The SETS.
posted by jameaterblues at 9:21 PM on May 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have to laugh every time they try to pull off impersonating feds with those haircuts and clothes and arriving in that car. I guess it's supposed to be part of the joke, but man, if they've been trained since birth in this line of work, you'd think they'd take their undercover personas more seriously, especially being so young. Of course the real authorities are going to give them the side-eye treatment (or they would if this wasn't a TV show).
posted by sardonyx at 10:14 PM on May 14, 2021

Especially with the rock n' roll pun joke names they usually used.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:01 PM on May 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Oh, cool, a rewatch thread! I fell away from the show during S5, but I wrote a lot of fic for it during the first 3-4 seasons. This, for example, plays with a particular facet of the casting in the pilot.
posted by suelac at 10:40 PM on May 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

For whatever reason the younger brother physically seems more like a Dean to me and the older one more of a Sam.

He did play Dean on Gilmore Girls, which has always confused me.
posted by chaiminda at 8:03 AM on May 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


This was the only episode of the show filmed in Los Angeles. The rest of the series was shot in Vancouver, Canada.

This episode features a cheeky nod to the TV show that many initially claimed it aped, The X-Files. As Dean walks past an investigating pair of FBI agents, he says, "Hello Agent Mulder, hello Agent Scully."

In one version of the pilot script that Eric Kripke turned in to the studio, the episode ended with the Winchester boys finding their dad dead on the ceiling. In another version of the pilot script, Sam suspected Dean of being a serial killer, and of murdering their father.

Jensen Ackles originally read for the part of Sam Winchester.

The show was pitched as a supernatural Star Wars with Dean being Han Solo and Sam being Luke Skywalker.

This episode was directed by David Nutter, who has acquired the reputation of being the pilot king. Nutter has directed many pilot episodes of leading TV shows including Space: Above and Beyond (1995), Millennium (1996), Roswell (1999), Dark Angel (2000), Smallville (2001), Without a Trace (2002), Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008), The Mentalist (2008) and Arrow (2012).

The plot of this episode is based on the Mexican folktale/ghost story of "La Llorona".

The scene where Sam and Dean research in the library was the first scene of the show to be filmed.

In an early draft of the pilot, the Winchester name was actually Harrison and John's name was Jack.

Hearing the static on his father's last recording, Sam says, "You know there's E.V.P. on that". Since the 1970s ghost hunters and parapsychologists have claimed that 'Electronic Voice Phenomena' are recordings of supernatural voices, and claim to interpret the words. Others believe it is a mix of static and wishful thinking. See also "backward masking" and "pareidolia".

When Sam is leaving to go find their father, he says to Jess, "He's probably got Jim, Jack and José with him," meaning Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and José Cuervo.
posted by orange swan at 5:10 PM on July 19, 2021

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