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.

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The Time In Between – Weekly Wrap Up of Last Week’s Supernatural Happenings

This is such an unusual time to be in the Supernatural fandom. I feel like we’re suspended in this bubble that’s about to break, acutely aware that the show is returning in less than two weeks but also that it’s already filmed its last scenes and wrapped for good. I’m both full of anticipation to see those last seven episodes, and dreading seeing those last seven episodes – because they will be the last.

One thing I’m grateful for is that this interim time has not been quiet in terms of my favorite show. As the crew and production office continue the rather depressing work of taking apart the offices and sound stages, some of them posted along the way, including this lovely post by one of the women in the costuming department as she prepares to start work on a new show. For most of them, as for us, I don’t think there will ever be a show quite like this one.

There was also a brief video of workers dismantling the Men of Letters bunker, which I could only watch once and then had to put aside. I was only there once in person, but that set was so real and so important to so many of us – because it was so important to the fictional characters we loved – that it literally hurt to see it being destroyed. Knowing it was home to them made it, in a weird way, feel like home to us too.

Shortly after, my friend Alana King posted a Tik Tok saying her own goodbye to the bunker and Sam, Dean and Cas, and the combination singlehandedly resulted in me going through half a pack of tissues in one morning.

Alana said she’s sorry, but she’s not. (And ultimately the video was validating and cathartic for me too). I’m sorry I told you to go to your room, Alana. (Kinda)

We’ve also been blessed by lots of content from the cast, which lets us know how they’re doing (Yes, I worry about these things). Last week we got video interviews with both Jared and Jensen, and although Jensen’s was not new, it was still a helluva lot of fun.

Richard Speight, Jr. and Rob Benedict have had a podcast for some time, as most of you know, but they kicked off their new name and format (a return to Kings of Con) with special guest and good friend Jensen Ackles on Tuesday.  As is the tradition on the podcast, everyone fixed themselves a drink before they started, and that made for a fun and laid back video of their chat. (Jensen tweeted the day after the video “Not gonna lie….I was pretty drunk”, shocking exactly no one). He also dressed like a train engineer and somehow made that ridiculously attractive anyway.

Richard: We’re going right down the shitter from here. There’s nobody we know that’s gonna show up with a hat-shirt-kerchief combo that matches their throw blanket and their background….

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As the video begins, Ackles realizes his spotless Vancouver apartment has the bedroom door open.

Jensen: Let me close my bedroom door, nobody wants to see that!

Everyone watching: Umm…

Jensen insisted he’d gained the Quarantine Fifteen but got the word at the end of May that they’d be back to shooting in August, so had two months to ‘clean it up’ and work out. Whatever he did, looks like it worked out fine.

Jensen and Rob apparently had some epic zoom calls during their quarantines in Vancouver, hanging out for 5 or 6 hours with their computers propped up while they talked and made dinner, and there was some talk of them doing music together, which yes please.

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Jensen also talked about how odd it will be to film with the Covid regulations (the podcast was filmed before he went back to the set), with everyone in a color coded group and not allowed to “cross pollinate”.  In his chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, Jensen talks about the unique closeness of Supernatural’s cast and crew, and he said that’s what would make it difficult.

Jensen: This is a crew that’s so intertwined. Most shows, the grips show up, they do their work, and camera, sound, then actors and hair, makeup. But the camaraderie that has grown on this particular set is unlike most, so it’s gonna be really tough. These are friends that we talk to on and off set quite often. People I’ve spent my birthdays with, celebrated life achievements with. To now have this barrier between is us gonna be weird and sad.

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They all agreed that not being able to shake hands with someone you meet will be weird if that custom doesn’t ever come back, saying that they were taught that by their fathers, that it’s a cultural thing.

Jensen: That physical connection is so ingrained in me, I can’t imagine meeting someone and not shaking their hand. With people you know, I’m hoping that hugging will still be, because we all hug each other, whether it’s the bro hug or the full bring it in.

Honestly, I love that about this cast. They’re all demonstrably affectionate with each other, and the feeling is clearly genuine.

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Happy 300th Episode Supernatural! Five Reasons ‘Lebanon’ Brought The Tears

 

I watched the milestone 300th episode of my favorite show of all time, Supernatural, with a horrendous case of the flu and no voice at all. I couldn’t live tweet and I didn’t have the stamina to read what anyone else thought of the episode, on twitter or anywhere else, so I missed a bit of the ‘we’re all in this together’ feeling that I relish when the Show has a special episode like this. I watched it on DVR later that night, curled up under a blanket with lots of tissues (for multiple purposes) and a cup of hot tea with honey instead of the wine and cherry pie I’d been planning. It’s taken me almost a week to finally find the strength to sit down at a keyboard and write out my thoughts. But you know what? I was as emotional as I’ve ever been about an episode of this Show that consistently makes me VERY emotional. And that’s really saying something.

Now that I can think a little more clearly, I’ve come up with five reasons why this episode worked so well for me (and I think for most people), but to do the episode justice, let’s start at the beginning. I also note a few things that shouldn’t have worked so well, but those mostly got lost in the shuffle of OMG FEEEEEELINGS that characterized my viewing experience.

The emotional hooks start immediately – we’re vaulted right back to the start, the boys (babies!) uttering the iconic lines “Dad’s on a hunting trip” and “We got work to do.”  For someone like me who has been watching from the start, it meant everything that the ‘Then’ went all the way back to the beginning and reminded me of just how long this Show has been a big part of my life.

Then we’re rolling, and instead of guest stars of the week, we get to follow the Winchesters right away, so color me happy. Sam and Dean in a pawn shop searching for something specific, buying their way into the secret back room where the occult items are shelved. Sam surprised me by being the one to mess with an ominous looking teddy bear (it’s usually Dean who can’t keep his hands off things like that and Sam doing the eyeroll, though Dean does get his chance later with the dragon’s breath thingy).

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And then with a twist, it turns out the boys are tracking down the shop owner who killed a hunter and stole all this dangerous stuff. He makes the mistake of attacking Sam with a giant scimitar and threatening him, with a speech that ends with “You’re a big boy…” so of course Dean kills him.

Dean: They always talk too much…

I laughed out loud – or I would have if I was capable of making any actual sound. So this is going to follow the Show’s tradition of being a little self referential and a wee bit meta then, and that makes me very happy indeed. The Robbie Thompson-penned 200th episode, Fan Fiction, one of my favorites of the series, was more than a wee bit meta and I loved every minute of it. It seems fitting that the Show should give both its fans and its cast some wink wink nudge nudges in a milestone episode, and that’s Reason No. 1 that this episode worked for me. There were numerous call backs to previous iconic scenes, plus a whole bunch of Easter eggs scattered throughout, from items we’ve seen in past episodes to Family Business Beer signs. I loved every one of them! Thanks, Meredith Glynn and Andrew Dabb, for working so hard to get them all in, and so organically.

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Last Con of 2017! Supernatural Returns to San Francisco

 

The last con of 2017 was once again in San Francisco. It was an emotional con for me, because exactly one year ago, as I was attending this same convention, I got the news that my dad had unexpectedly passed away. I remember being in shock, only telling a few of my closest friends there – but word got around. My friends from Creation made sure I was okay, even walking me to my seat. My fellow fans checked on me all weekend long. And word got out to the cast too, who were incredibly kind. I remember Matt Cohen jumping off the stage in the middle of the Saturday Night Special, enfolding me in a hug and telling me how sorry he was for my loss; Jared and Jensen hugging me for a long time, asking me what I needed. Everyone was just so very kind – fandom and the SPNFamily at its best.

This year, the anniversary brought all that back. I was touched that many people remembered it had been a year, and didn’t hesitate to bring it up. Cons can be therapeutic for a lot of reasons, and this one definitely was. There’s nothing quite like being enfolded in your SPNFamily when you’re feeling emotional, for whatever reason.

It was also Mark Sheppard’s last convention with Creation. He’s been to just about all of them since he started on the show, so it’s just been a given that I’ll see him whenever I’m there. I’ve come to expect that Jared, Jensen, Misha and Mark will of course be there, every single time. Mark will be snarky and will answer one in five questions but will melt every time there’s a baby in the audience, and will suddenly get very real and give a heartfelt testimony about why he loves fandom before he leaves the stage. I don’t like change – I love Mark’s panels. I was tremendously honored that he wrote an essay for Family Don’t End With Blood, with many of those same heartfelt words about his love of fandom. I was lucky enough to spend a bit of time in the green room with him and other cast a few times, and was able to get to know him and his lovely wife Sarah a bit. It’s weird to think he won’t be there again.

Because this fandom can always be counted on to be awesome, Mark’s last con didn’t go unrecognized – just like Alex Calvert’s first con didn’t either. There were signs for all of us to hold up with the line Mark had wanted to say in his last episode, that inexplicably got cut. ‘Even when I lose, I win’ on red signs were held high all over the ballroom when Mark took the stage, and he was clearly moved. He pulled out his phone and started filming, and from where I was sitting, I could tell how much it meant to him. As the panel progressed, Mark was more serious than usual, and there were several times that I could see his eyes were glistening. Or maybe that was mine; it got hard to tell. I didn’t expect to be as emotional as I was, but when Mark left the stage I had already grabbed for the tissues several times. Thank you, Mark, for the amazing job you did bringing Crowley to life, for being a fan yourself and for loving fandom the way you do, and for being a part of Family Don’t End With Blood.

Those were the very emotional parts of this con – there were also parts that were purely fun. (Isn’t that always the case with cons? Half strong emotional reaction and half laughing until I’m needing a tissue for an entirely different reason).

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Supernatural Comes To The Capital – DC Con 2017

Right now Honcon (aka Conolulu) is in full swing, and it looks like one of the most amazing cons ever, so I’m sad not to be there – though it’s always a surprisingly emotional experience to follow along at home too. I always end up struck by the generosity of fandom, so grateful for very photo shared, every live tweet, every bit of information, and every video clip. I was especially grateful for the live audio feed for Honcon, which made me feel more like I was there – and made me anticipate the visuals that would eventually be shared even more! I knew that Jared was probably going to play guitar at this con, so I was especially grateful to be able to “experience” it live, even if it was mostly audio. It was a moment that was eventful and meaningful for a fandom that lately has been more fractured than family, and that felt really good – and I desperately wanted to be a part of it. Luckily, the generosity of fandom allowed that, and we all felt like we were sharing the moment with Jared, Jensen, Misha and company.

Today is the Sunday of that convention, so while I wait for more panel news from twitter I thought I’d go through my DCCon photos and post some memories of that con – which was only a week ago!

DC is a political place, and this is a cast of strong beliefs, so it wasn’t surprising that Richard started off the con with a shout out to the #metoo message, an admonition to men not to be assholes and to respect women, and a reassurance to the mostly female audience.

Richard: This is the year of women standing up and not taking shit anymore, and we’ve got your back! Let’s make this the new normal.

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