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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Remembering #NashCon Over The Years – Sunday Panels!

Kim and I and quite a few of my other friends have had a bit of a tough time this weekend, since we’re all very aware that we had planned to be at the Creation Supernatural convention in Nashville right now. We’re missing our favorite show, and we’re missing our favorite cast, and we’re missing each other – so we thought it would be therapeutic to take a walk down memory lane and remember all the fun times we’ve had in Nashville in the past. So here are a few memories from me, and alot of pretty pictures and more memories from Kim. Enjoy this walk down memory lane with us!

2011 and 2012

[Lynn]  I went to the very first Nashcon, as it was then called, way back in 2011. It was before I did convention recaps here, back at the time Kathy and I were working on our very first book about Supernatural and fandom. We hadn’t planned on going, but impulsively decided to take a road trip down to Nashville, with Kathy’s ever-patient husband Dave as our driver. We stopped for hushpuppies along the way. Yum. I remember being awestruck by the Gaylord Opryland hotel complex, and getting lost every time I tried to make my way from our hotel room to the convention area. I had no decent camera and no decent seat in the back of the GA section, but Dave did manage to grab a giant cardboard poster of the Impala advertising the convention from a stand in the hallway on the last day of the con because I didn’t have the guts to – it still hangs in my office at the university to this day. Thanks, Dave.

Nashcon 2011 was also an incredible experience because it was the first time I got to witness Jensen Ackles and Steve Carlson play together. They did a jam session for a small group of people, and it was amazing – even though Jensen was clearly anxious. I caught up with him in the green room later and he asked with trepidation if it had been “okay”. OKAY?? It was fangirl heaven – and it seems even more special now, almost a decade later, as Jensen and Steve have released their amazing Radio Co collaboration. Here’s a small excerpt from my write up of what we were treated to that day (alas, no photos were allowed):

The last song they saved until last for a reason – it was the first song they ever played together. Steve was working on it one day and Jensen came over and started singing harmony. So Steve threw him in the woodshed (aka studio) and that’s how they recorded “Come Around More Alabama”.

Steve: He thought he was coming over for a beer, and I threw him in the woodshed and put him to work! And now that’s one of the most requested songs on itunes, because of Mr Ackles’ popularity.

Jensen (interrupts): And your genius writing skills.

Fans: Awwwww.

Their rendition of the song was incredible, the harmonies spot on, everyone in the room pretty much riveted. Afterwards, Jensen gave a heartfelt thank you to the fans for their donations (proceeds in part going to charity).

Jensen: It’s humbling and gratifying to be around people who are so supportive. You guys are awesome.

As he and Steve got up to head out, Jensen stopped once again, and sounding a little choked up, shook his head and said, “Best fans in the world.”

We couldn’t agree more, but it goes both ways. Right back at ya, guys.

2011 was also the year we spent a lot of time in the green room doing interviews for our first two books, Fandom At The Crossroads and Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls. We were chatting with talented singer and great guy Brian Buckley while Jared was also in the room, so we got to witness him starting his Twitter account and hear the conversation that led up to making it @jarpad! We were privileged to be there as he watched his follower account slowly start to take off. Hard to believe that now, in 2020, he has 3 Million followers!

This seems to be the one blurry photo I managed to take in 2012 at Nashcon, but I remember it being a special convention for it being the first con after one of our books had been published, and how gracious and supportive the entire cast was about wanting a copy.

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The Last Supernatural Con of the Decade – Jacksonville 2019

 

Jacksonville is a great venue for a con, with the vendor room in a gigantic brightly lit room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river. I was fortunate to have my friend Christina with me at the vendor table all weekend, along with other friends who stopped by to chat or bring food and a latte or give me a bathroom break. I always leave conventions feeling so warm and fuzzy about this fandom, and this cast, and this show. Maybe because we all knew this was the last con of the decade, there were even more warm and fuzzy feelings than usual – along with some anticipatory sadness, knowing the end of the show is coming.

The con kicked off, as it often does, with a panel by Rachel Miner. Rachel always makes me smile, so it’s a good way to start the day.

One of the things I love most about Rachel is that she’s a bona fide geek, just like so many of us are. She spent a few minutes sorting her colleagues ala Hogwarts.

About Billy Moran?

Rachel and Rob: Slytherin for sure!

Rachel: I’m a big Dr. Who fan. I’d love to be on that crossover. I feel like that’s why we all connect, because I’m such a nerd.

She’d also love to see Meg team up with Rowena.

Fan: Double sassy!

Rachel: Meg and Dean are also alike in some ways. Snarky and afraid of their feelings.

I also love that Rachel is a proud shipper – of Meg and Cas – but also a vehement supporter of ship and let ship (or don’t ship at all).

Rachel: Everyone should ship who you want, but I ship Meg and Cas and in my fanfic version she would never turn on him.

Rachel l had some kind words for Rob and the work he’s doing as Chuck.

Rachel: I think Rob is doing such a great job. We should all be extra nice to him, because he’s still a great guy – he’s just a good actor!

She also had nice things to say about the Supernatural set, and how special it is.

Rachel: I’ve never had that feeling of being taken care of on another set, and that feeling like you’re doing something important, but not self important, as on the set of Supernatural.

She’s also very excited to have Shoshannah Stern back. Shoshannah has written another project for her and Rachel, which is doubly exciting!

On a more serious note, Rachel acknowledged that life is sometimes hard.

Rachel: It’s okay to feel like life is really hard because sometimes it is, and don’t beat yourself up about feeling that. And then you can move on and notice what joy there is right here. It’s work to find that joy, though. It’s not easy. You’re allowed to feel your feelings, and also take time to find the joy in even moments that are difficult.

How can you describe the SPNFamily?

Rachel: We take care of each other, and that’s a model for the whole world.

Jason Manns did his traditional “quoncert” next, playing some tunes and answering some questions.

Someone asked him how he got Jared Padalecki to sing on his Christmas CD.

Jason: I was up in Vancouver recording Jense, and Jared was hanging out and I was like, well, you’re here if you want to record a song…no pressure…

Good job, Jason!

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One More Time While Filming – Supernatural Vancouver 2019! (Part One)

Thursday, Friday and Saturday at SPNVan….

I love when Vancon is in August, because that means I can head up there a few days early to just have FUN. My first flight was cancelled and it took five hours to get it straightened out and get off the ground, so Wednesday was pretty much a no go, but I did get there in time to have a nice dinner with my friend Betty (who was kind enough to pick me up at the airport). After we’d indulged in lots of good pizza, we drove by the filming location for that evening, a nearby school. Due to our prioritizing of food (okay, it was my prioritizing, tbh) we arrived just as they were wrapping filming for the night – but in time to wave cheerily at the vans and trucks as they pulled out. Oh well.

Betty dropped me off at the Air BnB I was sharing with my friends Alana and Illy, who had spent the day braving the Vancouver rain and searching for past filming locations (all captured on Alana’s @_KingBooks_ Wednesday blog if you’re curious). We had the tiniest little Air BnB ever with a portable air conditioner that required us to leave a window open so its flexible tubing could protrude when we ran it but the shower was lovely and there was a fridge and two beds so we were happy fangirls.

Thursday we got up (relatively) early, walked to the little shopping area a few blocks away to a) get Lynn a latte before she gets too cranky and b) drop off clothes at the laundromat. The laundromat made me picture human!Cas stripping down to do laundry and that made me smile. The latte helped too.

The three of us then piled into the car (Kansas plates, and yes that made us giggle) and hit the road, armed with Alana’s list of past filming locations thanks to a generous fan on LiveJournal who has painstakingly logged them all for going on fifteen years. Fandom, y’all.

We got incredibly lucky at our first attempt, finding the iconic fence by the river where Dean famously told Sam that their father had said that if he couldn’t save Sam, he might have to kill him. If you’ve read ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’, there’s a chapter in which Kathy and I and some friends also try to find this fence, but have a lot more trouble (without the benefit of any directions). We finally found it at midnight that time, only to be stopped and questioned by flashlight wielding police officers who were sure that a bunch of women scrambling down an overgrown bank in a wooded area at midnight could only be up to no good.

The place has changed a bit – the overgrown banks are now just grass, with a lovely park bench, and there’s now a paved pathway along the fence. The fence itself, which was just a couple of ramshackle boards on posts, is now four new-looking boards. It’s an incredibly beautiful, peaceful spot – which made such a striking contrast when Dean has to say something so horrible to Sam.

The posts were still there so we could use those as a reference as we did what we’d come to do – reenact that iconic moment, of course! Illy set up the camera and she and Alana took their positions while I got to play director.

“You need to be on the other side of the post, Alana. No, I don’t care if there are a bunch of stink bugs there, move over!”

“Lean in more, Illy. Now look at the bridge, be somber. You’re tormented by this. Alana, you look at Illy.”

Photographer @superinspired67 sets up the shot

I kinda liked playing director, can you tell? I think the results speak for themselves.

Photo: @Superinspired67 (but I pushed the button…)

Alana left her video camera running the entire time we were there, so god knows what other footage she has of us being total idiots – and having the time of our lives. It’s what fandom is all about, after all.

A man and his wife were sitting on a nearby bench and came over to compliment our ‘work’, which was such a Vancouver thing to do. They are the nicest folks!

Our next search missions weren’t quite as successful. We found the field where the gigantic boat from the Wayward Sisters episode is run aground, but it’s on the most forbidding sort of private property you can imagine. I wanted to just get the hell out of there but Alana and Illy are more intrepid, so we got of the car and walked a ways down the gravel road (which WAS a road, so it was technically okay – the private property signs were on the cornfields all around us).  But as we passed by a few sketchy looking guys and foreboding looking farmhouses – think The Benders –  (were they glaring at us or was that my imagination?) and more signs, I got more and more anxious. Finally we reached a sign that in big letters said “PRIVATE PROPERYY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.” And then said something about trespassers being violated!

That was it, I was outta there. We later found a vantage point where we could at least see the ship and take a few photos from far away, and that was as close as I was getting!

Next we found the river bank where the Wayward girls skipped stones but – you guessed it – another private property sign. Oh well.

After that we had more success, finding the school where the 200th episode was filmed. The Russ Hamilton set tour earlier that day had been able to go inside to the auditorium and even sing “Carry On” on that same stage, and of course we couldn’t do that, but just seeing where the Impala had been parked and the entrance where the Supernatural sign had been was a thrill. We are nothing if not easily amused.

Our final stop of the day was a complete success, and SO much fun – the field where the climactic fight scene of LARP and the Real Girl took place (which, by the way is adjacent to a little swim club). We found the exact place, which is much smaller than it looked in the episode, and decided to reenact that wonderful moment when Dean, painted and bedecked, gives his Braveheart speech – and gets interrupted by a non-LARPer playing Frisbee. You see, the field is a real life Frisbee course. And what happened just as we were setting up the camera to film? A real life guy tossed a Frisbee right onto the field! I was freaking out about how perfect that was, and immediately directed Illy or Alana to go convince the two young guys that they needed to be in our film. (This whole director thing is hard to let go of, tbh…)

They did – and the two nicest guys ever were happy to help.  They threw the Frisbee, Illy channeled her inner Dean, Alana her inner Sam, and me my inner Felicia Day – the results are frankly hilarious. If Alana hasn’t posted that video yet, be sure to check it out. Just so you can laugh your ass off at us. We don’t mind.

(Sincere apologies, Felicia Day, if you ever see the video…)

Illy and Alana channel their inner Dean and Sam

After that we headed to the con hotel for pre-reg, but every so often I’d remember what we just filmed and just burst into laughter.

I met up with my friend Alicia for a late dinner and lots of catching up and reminiscing, and then it was time to get some rest for Friday.

Friday I got to sleep in and have a nice breakfast, then the con kicked off with Rob Benedict holding down the fort (Richard Speight Jr. was busy with directing Supernatural). Poor Rob ended up introducing himself when there was no one else to do it, but all the props because he played all his multiple roles seamlessly.

Rob: (sheepish)  Don’t hate me too much, I know I took a turn last season…

Everyone: We could never hate YOU, Rob!

As if.

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It’s the Saturday Recap of Dallas!

And then it was Saturday!

That means Misha day and Saturday Night Special day as well as plenty of other panels that brought the laughter (and occasionally the emotional grab for the tissues).

Here are my (Kim’s) thoughts and photos from Day 2 of SPN Dallas. SNS post coming up soon!

 

Briana Buckmaster was the first panel on Saturday morning, and let me tell ya, what a joy it is to start the day with her! She had several things to say about Supernatural, including:

If she could play another character on the show, she would like to play Ash… or maybe Cas… then she speculated how it would go if she were Cas and Misha were Donna? Sounds like an episode worth watching! She also said she thinks Donna would be completely fascinated by Rowena, but really, aren’t we all? Briana also said there have been rumors of a musical episode this season, and while she is in No Way confirming these rumors as truth, she did say that If there is a musical episode, then she wants to be in it. #YesPlease #IdWatchThat

Briana also had some interesting insights into her character, Donna. She said, “I love people who are aware of their trauma and they’re working through it. I think I’d love Donna because she’s like that and we both like to connect with people.” On the other hand, she said, “I don’t think I would have been as strong as Donna when she said ‘This is who I am’ and let Doug go.”  It’s interesting that the characters in Supernatural are so richly written that they inspire not only us, the fans, but the characters who play them as well.

She also talked about her friendship with Kim Rhodes, telling us she bought rings for both of them when the spinoff didn’t get picked up. The rings have shields on them and they both wear the rings every day.

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