Supernatural Pilot: A Look Back At How This All Started Post Series Finale

When some of my friends decided that the best way to cope with Supernatural ending and having no more new episodes was to just go back to the beginning and start a rewatch with the pilot, I honestly wasn’t sure I was emotionally ready to do that. I was still grieving the ending of this show that has meant so much to me for fifteen years, and just thinking about it brought a fresh round of tears every time my favorite fictional characters crossed my mind. Could I really go back and see where it all began? Remember a time when I had 326 episodes to look forward to and had no idea where the story would take Sam and Dean – and me?

It was one of those decisions that you make and then second guess immediately, but luckily for me I wasn’t watching alone – I was on a zoom call with three friends who share my love of the show and my grief that it’s over. Who wouldn’t make fun of me if I started to tear up or got emotional over a scene in the pilot that had a call back in the finale. Who get it. If there was any way to dare to do a rewatch, it was with these people. So we made drinks, chatted about the pandemic and the weather and life in general, and then we dove in.

Although I’ve been watching Supernatural from the beginning, I didn’t fall madly in love with it until the beginning of Season 2, and I didn’t start writing reviews until Season 8, so as long as I’m doing a rewatch, I figured I might as well catch up on those reviews I missed. The first seven seasons will be reviews with the benefit of hindsight, while the last eight will be fresh from a first viewing – but maybe that will be an interesting diversity of perspectives. So, from an emotional state still raw and grieving from the finale, here are my thoughts (and a whole helluva lot of feelings) about Supernatural’s very first episode, Pilot.

(Because these reviews are with the hindsight of the rest of the series, spoilers ahead up to and including the finale)

It took me approximately .5 seconds to get overwhelmed by emotion. Toddler Dean leans over his baby brother’s crib and gives him a kiss on the forehead, saying with so much affection, “Goodnight, Sam” and I am immediately thrown back to the finale, grown up Sam leaning his forehead to his brother’s as Dean says a final “Goodbye, Sam” with just as much love, after all these years and all they’ve been through together.

The first time I watched the pilot, this was just a tender scene, a happy family with a baby in a crib and a young boy in his father’s arms, everyone safe and warm and together. I had no idea what was to come, either in the next few minutes of that episode or in the next fifteen years. I had no idea how much the Winchesters would come to mean to me, or how excruciatingly painful it would be to lose them.

There’s such a sense of innocence now, watching the pilot – my own innocence reflected in the innocence of those two little boys, that short-lived peaceful moment before Sam and Dean’s happiness was shattered. From the first five minutes, Supernatural has never been a show about happily ever after.

I remember thinking that the Pilot was scary as hell too, as I sat in my dark living room watching with my three closest friends, one of whom had already decided Supernatural was the next thing we would all be fannish about. She was so sure about that, she brought VHS tapes of the show to our get togethers (yes, VHS videotapes. That’s how long this show was on the air). One of our foursome pronounced the Pilot “way too scary” and stopped watching halfway through; the rest of us stuck it out. Fifteen years later, that scariness still holds up. The show is so deliciously dark in the pilot episode, shot so beautifully, dimly lit by moonlight or flashlight.

We also get so much background in the pilot episode, although it takes barely any time at all to convey and at the time, we don’t realize just how devastating it will be to know what the Winchesters’ life was like before the event that changes everything. We get little glimpses that seem innocuous – toddler Dean’s love for his daddy, the family’s joy in new baby Sammy, John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) a loving father, the sheer normalcy of their lives with hugs and goodnight kisses in a nondescript house in suburban America.

We have no idea that we’re seeing the origins of the trauma that irrevocably shaped Dean Winchester’s life, yanking away his happy childhood and loving family at a time when he was just old enough to always remember, but not old enough to ever make sense of it without heaps of undeserved guilt and unacknowledged longing that would plague him almost his entire life.

Even 15 years later, knowing what’s going to happen, the opening sequence works to put you on edge – the ticking of the clock, the slowly spinning crib mobile, the baby monitor crackling and the hall light flickering. We don’t know what that means yet, but watching it now? It’s all I can do not to yell at Mary, “you know what that means!!”

At the time, we had no clue that she knew (and neither did the writers or Samantha Smith, whop played Mary, so her lack of suspicion about the flickering light seems logical then, but odd now – Mary grew up a hunter, we now know, so she might have been a little more alarmed). Even with that knowledge, the scene works so well, building up the suspense and letting the viewer know that something is just not right. And that terrifying moment after Mary sees “John” leaning over Sam’s crib and starts down the stairs, when she rounds the corner and sees the real John sitting in the living room watching TV and OMG THAT ISN’T JOHN IN SAM’S ROOM!

The pilot is brilliant in its rollercoaster of ups and downs, the look of terror on Mary’s face as she realizes someone else is leaning over her baby – and then John’s pov as he hears her screams and runs up the stairs, bursting into the nursery to find it quiet, Sammy in his crib. For a moment we sigh with relief along with him – even now, even knowing. John looks down at his son, Jeffrey Dean Morgan showing us all the tenderness that will soon be wiped away in John Winchester’s quest for revenge.

And then the telltale drop. Drop. Drop. Of blood. A motif we’ll see again. John looking up and screaming NO!

And Mary burning on the ceiling.

It was so shocking at the time, it became instantly iconic. Fifteen years ago, the special effects aren’t what they would be now, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan sells the horror of it anyway. And Supernatural started off with a BANG.

Toddler Dean appears, wide eyes shocked, yanked from his bed in his safe warm loving home in the middle of the night.  John places baby Sammy in his arms, and yells “Take your brother outside, Dean, as fast as you can!”

And Dean Winchester’s life is shaped forever by that moment, as his little legs carry him out the front door just in time, clutching his baby brother. Saving him.

The baby cries, and Dean holds him closer, big brother instincts already such a part of him, as their home and the life they knew burns behind them. The life they knew is over.

“It’s okay, Sam,” little Dean says to his baby brother.

Fifteen years later, it will be what Sam has to reassure Dean in a dilapidated barn when he’s the one who needs to hear it.

We’re less than ten minutes in, and I’m already sobbing.

It’s okay, Dean, you can go now.

The opening scene ends with John and his boys leaning on the Impala, mournful music playing as firefighters try to put out the blaze that killed Mary Winchester and set her husband and sons on the path to a very different life.

We don’t know it at the time, but we’ve also witnessed the origins of Sam Winchester’s trauma, never knowing what ingesting Azazel’s blood did to him and always struggling to think of himself as good, not evil. It works as a metaphor for the psychological struggle that so many of us go through, wondering if we’re “okay” even if we’re different in some way. Wondering if we’re worthy of being loved. Supernatural spends fifteen years exploring that question through its main characters, and ultimately answers it with a resounding yes, with both Dean and Castiel having the courage and emotional openness to express their genuine feelings.

There was probably a much needed commercial at this point back in the day, because I’m jarred by the sudden switch to “Stanford University – Present Day” that comes next.

Jess (Adrianne Palicki) in a sexy nurse’s uniform, a framed photo of John and Mary Winchester, and Sam reluctant to celebrate Halloween but drinking to his 174 LSATs and upcoming law school interview. Sam is somehow so estranged from his family that they don’t know about his academic successes, with Sam wryly explaining “We’re not exactly the Bradys”.

Again we get little glimpses of the Winchesters and who they are and what their life has been like. Sam grew up smart, that much is clear. And apparently that normal idyllic family life didn’t quite pan out.

“What would I do without you?” Sam asks Jessica, and she smiles.

Jess: Crash and burn.

Oh Supernatural, so cruel.

Another dark dimly lit scene follows, Sam waking in the middle of the night to sounds in their apartment and sneaking out to investigate. A shadowy figure passes by the door, then there’s a fight and Sam ends up flat on his back and – the guy on top of him grins down at him? Huh?

“Whoa, easy tiger.”

Sam: Dean?

As they help each other up, the brothers are silhouetted in the darkness, an iconic first image of adult Sam and Dean as they’re reunited. They don’t know it yet, but it will be their first moment of working together in the “family business.” The moment that started them on their 15 year journey, and us along with them. It also reminds me once again of their final moments of working together, and I tear up all over again. This image, full of the promise of so many years of ‘saving people, hunting things’ and the last, a remembrance and a goodbye.

Every other scene is iconic at this point, so I don’t get a chance to ease up on the emotions much. Dean is established as a flirt as he ogles Jess in her smurfs half shirt and sleep shorts (apparently the WB wasn’t all that different from the CW in 2005). The tension between Sam and Dean is also established, as Dean wants Sam to come with him and Sam digs his heels in, prioritizing his independence and thinking about that law school interview.

Then Dean says the words that let Sam know what’s really going on – and make me tear up all over again.

Dean: Dad’s on a hunting trip, and he hasn’t been home in a few days.

Sam: Jess, excuse us.

The brothers’ conversation is full of things unsaid, resentments that are there between them that we don’t understand at that point. They apparently haven’t spoken in years, Dean leaving his little brother alone because he thinks that’s what Sam wanted but clearly not happy about it.

Sam: You can’t expect me to hit the road with you.

Dean: What, you’re just gonna live some normal apple pie life?

Sam: Not normal – safe.

Eventually Dean allows a little vulnerability to show, telling Sam “I can’t do this alone.”

Sam: Yes you can.

Dean: Yeah, well I don’t want to.

We had to pause our rewatch then, because this is the conversation in the finale episode that Jared and Jensen modified a bit to be an explicit call back to this very scene in the pilot. Every time I think of that, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that they cared so much about doing justice to these characters that they’ve loved so much – and that we have loved so much.

Well I don’t want to

The finale barn scene made Dean’s evolution so strikingly clear – how far he’d come in being able to speak his own truth and express his genuine emotions. In the finale, he thinks back to this moment in the pilot that became so pivotal for him and Sam’s journey and relationship, and finally expresses what he was really feeling at the time. That he needed his brother to come with him, and that he was terrified that Sam would tell him to get lost, or even to “get dead.” That he stood outside Sam’s apartment for hours trying to work up the courage to come inside and ask for his brother to come with him. In stark contrast, in the finale he asks Sam right out, “Stay with me – please.” He’s as open as someone can be, expressing both the fear that he carried for so long and the love that has sustained him. What a brilliant way to make that contrast crystal clear, by going back to the very words we heard back then.

I read a post on social media from a woman who had been watching Supernatural for 15 years and whose husband got pulled in because of it. They’re not in the fandom, they just love the show. The husband was so moved by the finale and by Sam and Dean’s refusal to hold up the standards of toxic masculinity which don’t allow men to express their love, even when they’re brothers, that he went to the phone and called his brother who he hadn’t spoken to in over a decade, and was able to say “I love you”. Because of a little television show on the CW. Because Sam and Dean (and Cas in 15.18) and Jared, Jensen and Misha in real life, were able to be open and genuine and show emotions without shame.

Sorry, I’m in awe of my show sometimes. Not every episode, as you know if you’ve followed my reviews, but a lot of the time. Now is one of those times.

Back in 2005, Sam agrees to come with his brother but only to find their dad, just for the weekend. He listens to their dad’s message on the vintage flip phone.

Sam: You know there’s EVP on that, right?

Dean: (breaking into a big grin) Not bad, Sammy. Kinda like riding a bike, isn’t it?

Knowing what we know now about how desperately Dean wanted Sam to come with him, how he didn’t know what he’d do if Sam didn’t, makes this part of the pilot a little more heartbreaking now.

Dean points out that for two years he’s stayed away, never bothered Sam, never asked for a thing. We now know how hard that must have been for him, be he did it, for Sam. We also know that Sam hasn’t told Jess the truth about “what’s out there.”

Sam is still ambivalent, but he agrees to go with Dean – temporarily. And…. They’re off!

The woman in white (Sarah Sashi) is scary too in this episode (a stark contrast to how not scary she was when she returned  in Season 14 and 15, in episodes shot weirdly in bright daylight). This is a show meant to be dark, and the nighttime pick up of a hapless guy all too eager to cheat on his girlfriend is creepy from the jump, mixing that up with an uncomfortable sensuality and the guy’s slowly dawning awareness that something is very wrong. Just when you think maybe he’s escaped, she pops up in the back seat (pretty sure I screamed when watching this the first time) and the car skids to a stop on a bridge – blood splatters against the windshield, and Supernatural completes its defining trilogy of scary-sexy-gory. Nicely done, Show.

When the show brought the Woman in White back in the later seasons’ odd ‘Chuck brings back everything we killed’ story line, the way it was filmed was so different – in broad daylight she didn’t have the same creepy energy that worked so well in the pilot.

Sam and Dean hit the road, fueling up the Impala and buying road food with someone else’s credit cards at a gas station that will look like countless others over the next fifteen years. Sam makes fun of Dean’s cassette tapes, Dean defends Metallica, and we learn so much about the brothers in just a few brief scenes.

Dean: House rules, Sammy. Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole.

Sam: It’s Sam.

What’s really incredible is that in its very first episode, Supernatural managed to come up with so many memorable lines that became tee shirt slogans while also defining who Sam and Dean are.

Dean, the older brother, full of what we now know is bravado (and underneath longing to have his family back together and terrified that his brother will leave him again), a little bit obnoxious and behind the times, living his life on the road. Sam, the younger brother, who apparently struck out on his own and is setting boundaries to try to hang onto his hard-fought independence. It’s Sam, I’m not a little kid anymore. Right from the pilot, Sam and Dean were entirely believable as siblings – anyone who has brothers or sisters recognizes this dynamic and realizes how long it lasts. (Yes, I’m the oldest – is it any wonder I’ve always related to Dean Winchester?)

There’s a close up of Dean driving the Impala that took my breath away on rewatch, though I know that when I watched the first time, I wasn’t really sucked into the show until later. Perhaps I needed a new prescription of glasses at that time? I can’t think of another explanation…

The Winchesters catch up to the police investigation on the bridge, which gives Dean a chance to be sassy and Sam to stomp on his foot to stop him, which means Dean smacks him upside the head as they walk back to the car and once again they are so very BROTHERS. From episode one, the show got it so right – and Jared and Jensen got it so right. They are absolutely believable as brothers from the start, that mix of you-drive-me-nuts and fierce devotion and love that siblings can have (multiplied by a thousand because these are fictional characters and Eric Kripke is a genius).

Sam’s personality comes through from the start; his struggle to get out from under his older brother’s shadow and be his own person, his intelligence and independence and the anger that simmers under the surface of that little boy look (thanks to those adorable Season 1 bangs). Dean’s personality comes through from the beginning also, from his disdain for conventional authority to his tendency to want to amuse people – especially his little brother. You get the feeling that this is a long-standing thing, perhaps going all the way back to four year old Dean trying to entertain his baby brother while their father was drowning in his grief. Their relationship is tentative and fragile, a push-pull for who’s the boss of me and a lifetime of experiences that it’s already clear weren’t exactly “normal”.

I had to grab for the tissues again at this point in my rewatch because Sam and Dean are wearing pretty much the same clothes they wore in the pilot 15 years later when they’re in Heaven in the finale. Jared’s brilliant idea that Jensen loved, and once again I’m struck by just how much they CARE. After fifteen years of playing these characters and keeping this show going, they still cared enough to craft that call-back for the ending.

Jared said in a meet and greet that this was Sam’s happiest moment in a way because it was what started him on the path that became so fulfilling for him, as he got back on the road with his brother. Having heard Dean’s confession of how terrified he was that Sam would turn him away, Sam showed up in clothes that evoked that moment, at the time when Dean would never have to worry about being without his brother again. Damn it, more tissues…

In the episode, the brothers talk to the missing guy’s girlfriend, who tells them that people talk…

Sam and Dean in perfect unison: What do they talk about?

Me: I love it when they talk at the same time!

It will become a ‘thing’ but even in the pilot, it tells us so much about Sam and Dean. They might not be on the same page about how to handle finding their dad or whether hunting is a life they want, but in other perhaps more fundamental ways, they’re in sync from the jump.

The brothers do some research, on a primitive looking 2005 computer in the library, and again prove themselves quintessential brothers, fighting over who’s going to do the looking, shoving each other and accusing “you’re such a control freak!”  This was the very first scene that Jared and Jensen shot, and they already felt like brothers 100%.

Also? Look at them!!! Babies.

Back to the bridge they go, this time at night, another gorgeous shot in the moonlight. Sam insists he has to get back home by Monday, and Dean can’t leave it alone, his underlying fear of losing Sam again spilling out in the more socially acceptable emotion of anger.

Dean: You really gonna become some lawyer, marry some girl? Does Jess know?

Sam bristles right back, defensive.

Sam: I’m not like you! This is not my life – Mom’s gone and she isn’t coming back.

That pushes Dean right over the edge, all his insecurities and fears pushed to the surface by Sam’s reminder of their mother’s loss and Sam’s insistence that he’s not like his brother and not coming back. Dean slams Sam up against the bridge support, and I remember at the time gasping because of the suddenness of it, how unexpected it was. It also let us know that there was A LOT going on with these two brothers, the scene charged with intense emotion – this wasn’t just a show about monsters, it was a show about relationships and family. That was the thing that intrigued a lot of viewers, even more than the 42 minute little horror show playing out on our screens.

Dean: Don’t talk about her like that!

What Dean actually says doesn’t even make much sense, but Sam seems to know why he’s hit a nerve anyway. Sam doesn’t fight back, doesn’t even try to push Dean away, and that moment of interaction tells us so much. That there’s all kinds of strong emotion going on beneath the surface of Dean Winchester, some of it painful and intense and still raw, no one ever having helped him come to terms with the traumatic loss of his mother and, in a broader sense, his family. And that Sam, while he’s not on the same page as  his brother right now, clearly trusts Dean not to hurt him. That’s some nuanced story telling right there.

The WB recognized that fans were going to be pulled in by the complicated relationship between the brothers as well as by the scary horror movie vibe, so one of the promo shots for the pilot was this scene from the bridge.

The moment is broken by the Impala – at the other end of the bridge – suddenly starting up.

Sam: Who’s driving your car?

Dean: (dangles keys)

Cap salmondean

Watching now, 15 years later, I’m struck all over again by how gorgeous this show is. It’s a beautifully filmed scene as the brothers run from their own car, leaping over the side of the bridge just in time. Sam manages to hang on and pull himself back up, but for a second we don’t know if Dean’s okay or not – and neither does Sam.

Sam: DEAN!

He sees his brother lying in the mud beneath the bridge.

Sam: Hey, are you all right?

Dean: I’m super.

Back to covering up all those pesky feelings, and we start to realize that’s going to be a theme between the brothers, though Sam’s wide smile of relief gives his actual feelings away.

Dean climbs up, wet and caked with mud, and Sam wrinkles his nose.

Sam: You smell like a toilet.

Translation: I’m so damn glad you’re okay.

So this show is going to have humor too, and these two actors are going to pull it off like they’ve been doing it all their lives.

Sam opens the motel door and reaches out, yanking his brother into the room backwards, still covered with mud. Faced with almost losing Dean, it’s Sam’s turn to express his real feelings.

Sam: What I said earlier, I’m sorry.

Dean holds up his hand.

Dean: No chick flick moments.

Sam: All right, jerk.

Dean: Bitch.

Me: How can one episode have so many iconic moments???

gif rebloggy

Once again, this scene and the finale shows just how far Sam and Dean have come in fifteen years. “Jerk” and “bitch” is beloved by the fandom, myself included, but it was a shorthand the brothers used to say “I love you” because they weren’t comfortable saying it right out. As the show went on, the show examined the role of emotions and our culture’s norms for emotional expression, with the Winchesters and other main characters, especially Castiel and Crowley. The last episodes of the show showed how far they’d come – first in “Despair”, when Castiel had the courage to tell Dean that he loved him, and then in “Carry On”, when Dean opens up to Sam and says the same.

Watching now, I remember Jensen told me years ago that Sam and Dean know how they feel about each other, but they’re not the kind of guys who say it outright. He paused and said, ‘but maybe in the finale’.

I grinned back at him, fingers and toes crossed.

And sure enough.

From no chick flick moments to a scene that reduced me to tears that were so out of control I nearly made myself sick crying that hard, as Dean told Sam “I love you so much”. You’ve come a long way, boys.

Sam and Dean find their father’s research all over the motel room, and we get little reminders of the fact that the Winchesters, for all their unusual history, are a family that love each other. The urgency they feel trying to find their dad drives the first season, as we all root for these boys who have already endured way too much trauma and loss.

Dean decides to go out for some food – his appetite was established from the first episode apparently – and runs into the local law enforcement he sassily called Mulder and Scully earlier. We see just how smoothly Sam and Dean work together despite their sibling conflicts when he calls Sam and just says 5-0 take off, go find dad.

Cops slamming Dean down on the hood: You got anything that’s real?

Dean: (still sassy) My boobs.

Who didn’t fall a little in love with Dean Winchester right there, still sassy and smiling as he’s slammed down on the car hood?

But Sam gets away, so mission accomplished.  Dean is still sassy at the police station, until the cops produce something that makes him freeze and get serious: a weathered, well worn journal.

THE journal.

I got to see the journal on my second set visit to the Supernatural studios, and was fascinated to hear that its pages were all penned by the same crew member to ensure the handwriting was the same. I touched it with reverence, already understanding how important it was way back then in Season 4.

Meanwhile, Sam questions the woman in white’s husband and gives us some exposition about women in white – that if they find an unfaithful man, they kill him. It seems that’s what they’re looking for in Constance Welch, who drowned her own children.

Back at the police station, there are shots fired somewhere so all the cops have to run, leaving Dean alone with access to a paper clip. That’s all it takes for him to free himself, and once again we see just how in sync Sam and Dean are, as Dean reunites with Sam in the car waiting outside.

Dean: Fake 911 call, pretty illegal.

Sam: (grinning) You’re welcome.

The show is subtle about it, but once again, you can see just how much the brothers care about each other in these simple interactions and the expressions that Ackles and Padalecki let say so much for them.

I have to say, I was impressed. I have loved smart Winchesters from the start – I wish the show had kept its understanding of just how smart they were throughout its fifteen seasons, but unfortunately that knowledge waxed and waned from time to time.

Sam ends up driving alone and runs right into the woman in white, who forces herself into the car and demands that he take her home. When he tries to refuse, she takes over the driving and then climbs onto him as he tries to get away, which is pretty damn disturbing and won’t be the last time Sam is violated by someone. Once again, it’s dark and you can only catch a glimpse of the Woman in White’s true form, and it’s all scary as hell.

Sam: You can’t kill me, I’ve never been unfaithful.

Constance: You will be…

Sam screams as she attacks him, and then Dean is suddenly there and shoots her, temporarily stopping her.

Sam revives enough to drive again, saying determinedly “I’m taking you home!” and driving the Impala right into the dilapidated old house.

Dean is right on their heels, yelling “SAM! Sam, you okay? Can you move?”

Dean helps Sam out, Constance traps them behind a big wooden dresser, and they watch helplessly as her dead kids appear at the top of the stairs, water flooding down in a cascade. They are scary as hell too, saying “You’ve come home to us, Mommy” and then attacking her and dragging her down to presumably hell. BOOM.

Dean: Nice work, Sammy.

Sam: What were you thinking, shooting Casper in the face?

Dean: Saved your ass! And if you screwed up my car, I’ll kill you…

And they’re right back to being brothers again (and covering up their actual relief that both are okay).

The next scene is more heartbreaking than it was before, knowing how desperately Dean wanted Sam to go with him (though it was sad even at the time thanks to Ackles’ ability to convey so much emotion with one look) as Dean realizes Sam is not going with him, but going back home to keep that law school interview.

Dean: (resigned) Yeah whatever, I’ll take you home.

Sam: (as Dean drops him off) Maybe I can meet up with you later, huh?

Dean shrugs, like whatever, then calls his brother back just before he drives away.

Dean: We made a helluva team back there.

Sam: Yeah.

That conversation is called back in Season 15 too, in a flashback episode where young Dean finds out that Sam has applied to colleges and lashes out before trying to be more understanding. They made a good team back then too, though, and Sam realizes it just as he does now. It’s called back again in the finale, when Dean again reminds them both that the did, in fact, make a helluva team. For fifteen seasons.

Dean drives away, Sam finds Jessica’s sweet note and homemade cookies, and flops down on the bed.

Drop. Drop. Blood drips onto Sam’s face.

It’s just as shocking as when it happened in his nursery to his father – sudden pivot as Sam looks up, and Jessica is burning on the ceiling just like his mother did all those years ago.

Sam yells her name, horrified, as the fire spreads, and then Dean is there, slamming through the door and grabbing Sam, pulling him to safety from the fire for the second time in their lives.

The episode has a beautiful symmetry, just as the entire series eventually will, fire trucks again with sirens blaring as Sam and Dean watch Sam’s life burn to the ground once again.

Sam opens the trunk of the Impala, full of the weapons they need to hunt monsters, and full of determination.

Sam: We got work to do.

The screen fades to black with yet another iconic line – one that was echoed from time to time throughout the show’s fifteen seasons with similar scenes at the Impala’s trunk, and always with tremendous emotional impact. It’s the start of a wild ride that changed Sam and Dean’s life – and changed my life too, in the real world.

It’s also a reminder that this was the mantra that Sam and Dean lived by – that as long as they had work to do, they were going to do it. They both came to accept that as their calling and to find validation in it. When the finale script was read by the actors, Jensen Ackles wasn’t sure he could get his head around Sam and Dean dying, so he spoke to the person who he knew he could trust to give him a read on whether it really was a good ending – the man who created the characters and the show, Eric Kripke. After talking with Eric, he got it – and came to wholeheartedly support the ending.  (In fact, both Jared and Jensen have said that they count the finale as a favorite episode, perhaps the favorite). Shortly after Jensen’s chat with him, I had a chance to chat with Eric and I asked him what he’d said to make Jensen feel so much better. He didn’t spoil the ending, but he did remind me that Sam and Dean deserved “peace when they are done”. And the only way they could find peace is if it was no longer their mantra that “we got work to do”. As long as there were things to fight, the Winchesters would have work to do. Their peace, in other words, had to be on another plane of existence, one where there are no monsters. That’s what Sam and Dean found at the very end of Supernatural, in Heaven. And that’s beautifully full circle.

Knowing how proud they are now of the entire fifteen years, and how strong their emotional connection is to the pilot episode that started it all, I had to sit and dab at my eyes for quite a while after finishing my rewatch. It was always a special episode for what it began, but it feels even more special knowing that this show got a chance to do what so many shows do not – to wrap its own story up in the way that it wanted (other than having fewer people in Heaven due to Covid), and in a way that was meaningful to the people who worked so hard and so long to bring it to life.

In their chapters in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, both Jared and Jensen talked about how important Sam and Dean are to them, and how even the end of the show won’t change that. Pretty sure alot of us can say the same.

If you rewatched this episode with me, leave your comments below and let me know what stood out for you now, with the perspective of fifteen years of hindsight!

Next week, join me for a rewatch and review of Episode 1.02, Wendigo. In the meantime, you can read Jared and Jensen’s words about what this show and these characters have meant to them, along with Richard Speight, Jr., Shoshannah Stern, David Haydn-Jones, Adam Fergus, Julie McNiven, Lauren Tom, Chad Lindberg, Gabe Tigerman, Carrie Genzel, Andrea Drepaul, Todd Stashwick, Tahmoh Penikett, Rick Worthy, Brendan Taylor, Lee Majdoub, Hugo Ateo and Lee Rumohr, and a special message from Misha Collins, in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done — to remember fifteen years of Supernatural and what it’s meant to its talented cast.

— Lynn

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26 thoughts on “Supernatural Pilot: A Look Back At How This All Started Post Series Finale

  • I’m glad you’re doing a rewatch from the beginning. I always enjoy your thoughts and you always see stuff I’ve missed.

    After watching the finale, I was watching Dean to see if those words he spoke to Sam (in the finale) about waiting to see him because he was afraid would land differently to me. I see now, that it was more attitude than true feelings. I don’t have any siblings so I have nothing to compare their relationship to. I think I underestimated their feelings for each other. Watching from the beginning gives me a different perspective.

    Jared & Jensen’s chemistry was noticeable even then. Their trust in each other and knowledge of each other was (is) what drew people to the show in the first place. That and I personally like creepy monster movies! 😆

    • I agree, their chemistry seemed to be there pretty much from the start, and was undoubtedly one of the things that got the pilot picked up and then kept the series going for so long – Sam and Dean are believable as brothers right from the jump, and that’s on both Kripke and the writing and on the actors for their portrayals

  • Oh Lynn you are killing me. I love your recaps so I’m here for the duration. If I ever get called on at a con again I’m going to ask them to have a conversation as their characters. I’m sure the audience would appreciate that. The pilot demonstrated what we now know as fact. Jared and Jensen are as close as brothers can be. That they had an immediate connection that will last as long as they live. I love the lighting on this show. The talented crew is just as important and impressive as the actors. SPN FAMILY FOREVER!

    • That would be so wonderful – please do ask that! It would be like getting a tiny bit more of Sam and Dean, which I will want for the rest of my life!

  • I remember the day I changed channel and the first image I saw of Supernatural was Sam in the bar with Jessica
    ‘What would I do without you?’
    ‘Crash and burn’
    I loved the pilot as an episode, (I’m a bit gothic so this suited me perfectly) and for introducing me to the series…and I cannot believe it’s been 15 years
    I think it is a beautiful idea to re-visit the series and see again the parts we love and maybe find what we may have missed…
    And hear others think… Thank you
    And Happy 2021 to everyone

    • Stay tuned for the Wendigo rewatch review coming soon – I’m surprised at how different it is to watch with the perspective of the entire series. Needless to say, it’s even more emotional than it was on first watch! Happy New Year and here’s a much better 2021!

  • I started watching SPN in season 4 when a friend told me about it but only found the fandom recently (which is a total shame!).

    This is the first review of yours I’ve read and I’m definitely coming back for more now.

    One thing that sprung to mind while reading the review – why indeed did Mary not know the signs? But then I relented that Azazel wiped her memory when he brought John back. Could it be that the memories he wiped were not only of Dean’s warning but everything else connected with hunting? That would be the only thing that could explain it for me. Maybe John’s memory was altered as well? After all, we find out later that his father was a Man of Letters!

    Looking forward to more reviews soon!

    • I like your head canon! I think there are some things that ultimately aren’t going to entirely make sense, and I’m mostly okay with that – it’s difficult to keep 15 years of canon straight, I’m sure. Glad you’re joining us! More reviews, articles and interviews coming soon!

  • Just a quick something I picked up on. I always wondered why Mary didn’t yell for John before running into the nursery. But now knowing that she was a hunter (and he wasn’t), it makes more sense. She was trying to protect him, too.

    Watching the finale also changed how I saw Dean’s arrival in Sam’s apartment. Knowing that he was standing outside for hours first, makes me see through his bravado to the underlying vulnerability in that first scene of them together.

    • Yes, so much yes! It took me quite a while to really see Dean’s vulnerability that was so covered up by all that bravado. Watching it now, knowing what he was really feeling, makes these early episodes read so differently. And of course, at this point I’m already in love with Dean Winchester, so every episode is going to feel different now.

  • Lynn, I loved this! I started my latest rewatch after the finale and just finished season 3. The pilot is always even better than I remember, and as you point out, Kripke really set up the premise of the show and the brothers’ relationship perfectly. It was hard to watch it without getting choked up this time. It just reminded me why I love the show so much.

    And not to be a pain, but isn’t Wendigo episode 2? Dead in the Water is one of my all time favorite eps, so I know that it is #3! It’s the one that really cemented my love for Dean. He was so good with the young boy in the story!

    • Yes! Look for my Wendigo rewatch review in a few days and Dead in The Water after that – and let me know your thoughts when I dig into them too

  • Thanks for the recap of the pilot. I have also restarted watching the series – and I still remember being captivated by the show from this very first episode. I had started watching the show because of Jared and his Dean in Gilmore Girls, but immediately was fascinated by Jensen’s Dean – and he was the hook that kept me tethered to this show! Watching again now – and knowing how scared Dean was at the time brings a new depth of understanding of this cocky, brash and very complex character!

    I look forward reliving my love for this show over the next few weeks/ months!

    (FYI – small correction for your post – episode 1.02 is Wendigo, not Dead in the Water)

    • Ah thanks for catching – I’ve already done the rewatch of both of those episodes but haven’t posted my reviews yet, so I mixed them up. It’s interesting for me because I didn’t fall in love right away with the show – I watched the first season with friends but wasn’t pulled in until the beginning of Season 2, so rewatching Season 1 is such a different experience now!

  • thank you Lynn. i have always enjoyed your recaps and your thoughts on the episodes, so i’m thrilled that you are going to re-watch and review. right now, i can’t watch the pilot knowing now what dean thought at the time. his confession in the finale almost broke me. but i hope to be able to watch it again sometime. i look forward to the next review.

    • It was a really emotional experience rewatching the pilot from the perspective of the finale, that is so true. And everyone grieves differently, so respect your own boundaries. Next episode rewatch review coming soon!

  • Gosh this review had me crying again, I had forgotten how much of the iconic words were in the very first episode, ones which we all know so well and are constantly used in fan fiction. I had also started a rewatch but am now at the beginning of Season 4, I will probably slow it down so that I get closer to the ones you review. I am missing Jensen (Danneel and kids) so much, it is not so bad with Jared as Genevieve posts most days and lots of this includes Jared, and we have the Walker publicity so we get to see him but Jensen and Danneel have gone a bit underground and I need a booster shot from them! I guess we were spoiled before.

    • I feel like we’ve been spoiled for literally years, with all the interaction and content we got for Supernatural – and I’m really missing it too. I just posted a ‘how I’m dealing with it’ post so I could give myself a pep talk to get through it, and the episode reviews are helping too. Here’s hoping we’ll get a little more spoiled again when The Boys and Walker are both up and running, but I doubt it will ever be like SPN level!

  • Thanks for your restrospective recap, it puts some perspective on things I’m still working out.
    Whilst Heaven was the logical place for the Brothers to put down their load, the logistics of Dean just randomly driving around restlessly waiting on Sam showing up didn’t really feel fulfilling or satisfying, I get why Jensen was having troubles with it., Dean deserved better his whole life had been stolen from him, he gets it back and bam he’s gone.
    But as I thought about all parallels you raised in your article it brought me clarity ( as you often do Lynn) without the hunting the road is still logically Dean’s happy place, all his best times were there, it was the one place he was always comfortable moving from place to place was his life always seeking the next adventure. The road was the one place through it all Dean could claim his own sense of the freedom he was so desperate for. Finally free to choose, he stuck with the familiar.
    Sam, having so long sought more completed his journey realising he did indeed have everything he needed right there in the mission of saving people and in his faithful Brother, from their he took on the role of protectir of both his brother and others, finally finding the courage to set Dean free so they could both move on in a beautiful brother moment that rang so true.

    • Dean driving made sense to me too, especially if time moves so differently that it didn’t feel like very long – but Dean has long said that’s where he’s “at his best”, only with his brother beside him. I think the Winchesters dying is difficult for all of us, but it does make sense and it did give them that ending that was truly peace for them. (I just had to cry alot to get there!)

  • Your review is good but see you are forgetting one very important thing that makes this hole show a sham if you include season 15. EVERYTHING that happened from s1 to s15 episode 19 was because God was manipulating the brothers and what happened to them. Even the people they met along the way. You can even say Cas’s I love you was God talking not Cas because God doesn’t die until episode 19. The ONLY true I love you was from Dean to Sam. And Dean dies as soon as God dies so Dean wasnt the super duper hunter he was made out to be from s1 to s15 e19. That is the problem The Biggest problem i have with the show. I didn’t have it before s15 but now-It was all a lie. One big lie. Its a shame but God wrote it -he manipulated the brothers. everything. So they aren’t who the whole show said they were. I guess they were just normal people. Dean dies because he can’t hunt and Sam stops hunting and goes and has a family because he can’t hunt either. Its all crap. Now. Not before the God manipulation we learned was happening in Dabbs world.

    • Whoa Nellie. Hold your horses. I can read that you’re in pain and feeling angry and bitter. Those are your feelings and you’re entitled to them. I don’t know if you’re looking for an answer, an argument or just someone to really hear you.. if it’s the last one know that I hear you. If it’s the second one, all I’ll say is God made situations happen. But the people’s reactions are their own. That’s why he loved to watch them. They always surprised him with how they handled every situation. If it’s the first, I don’t have any answers for you. I’m not in The mind of the show runner or the producers or the actors or crew. So I have my own answer and you have yours. Peace out and have a Happy and Healthy New Year

    • I think Marilyn said this already below, but I don’t see God as having manipulated anything but the situations. He put them into situations of his making and then watched to see what they would do. But they were always them, all three of them. They reacted to those situations out of their own personalities and histories and emotions. They were incredibly heroic in eventually refusing to be manipulated any longer – or that’s how I see it. I can understand the ending being upsetting if you see it this way, it sort of ruins the whole show! I kind of need to hang onto the interpretation that makes sense to me and also keeps me from feeling let down, because this show has been very important to me. I hope you can make some sense of it that doesn’t leave so much pain, since we’ve all had more than enough of that in 2020!

  • Lynn, you have no idea how happy I was to find this today! As you were reviewing the final episodes, I wondered if you would ever consider going back to review the ones prior to when you started this because I would often watch a show from Seasons 1-7 and wonder what your thoughts would be. Having this to look forward to will be one of the highlights of my week again. I have a confession, though: with the exception of “A Very Supernatural Christmas,” because that is a tradition for my husband, daughter, and me, I have not watched the show since the finale. I had thought after the last episode that I would start back where we had paused re-watching during the COVID break when the show resumed–S2E1: “In My Time of Dying”–but I haven’t been able to do it. This coming from someone who had been using “Supernatural” on Netflix every night as a sort of visual comfort food that allowed me to relax and fall asleep (I thought I was weird until I found other fans do this, too), but every time I have tried all I can see in my mind is Dean suffering on that hunk of rebar and Sam suffering through those decades without him, and I just have not been able to do it, and that grieves me further because I’m missing my boys. So…perhaps with this added incentive, I can tell myself that if you can do it, I can do it, and appreciate our show without replaying those heartbreaking scenes over in my thoughts. I can be as happy as I was this afternoon when the receptionist at the mammogram clinic looked up at me and said, “Are you wearing a Supernatural mask?” I told her “yes” and that I was also wearing Samantha Smith’s “Rise” t-shirt. We chatted as she took my information and discussed the finale a bit, and it was just a joy to run into someone in the “family.” Then, stepping into the elevator as I was stepping out was a young woman in a “15 Years: End of the Road” t-shirt, and we had a moment over that. Having those happy little encounters, plus this wonderful, insightful review waiting on me when I got home, made my day special, so thank-you as always, and I will look forward to this as often as you’re able to do it. It’s time for me to go to bed now, so I think I’ll fire up the Netflix and let my show work its magic….

    • I love that you ran into fellow SPNFamily ‘in the wild’! That’s so awesome – and maybe a good sign for 2021. I posted a ‘how I’m dealing’ post here yesterday about the conflicting emotions I’m having about the finale and the end of the show (those two are all mixed together for sure). It’s complicated, but having the rewatch to look forward to is really helping me too. I’m seeing the earlier episodes through whole new eyes now, and that makes it a fresh and unique experience. Let me know if you were able to join in and if it helped – look for my review of Wendigo coming soon!

    • I do the exact same thing as you, I fall asleep to an SPN episode every night, whichever is next in my rewatch. It really is comforting. I’m a few episodes into season 4 right now.
      I feel you with finding it hard to see the early eps knowing now how Dean dies: not fighting god, not in a blaze of glory with his brother, killed by a monster or fighting the apocalypse, just backed into a spike. And then for Sam to live half his life without his brother, when the whole premise of the show is the two brothers together–it hurt me so much I just can’t accept it as canon yet. Not sure that I ever will.

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