1×01 “Pilot”

God bless the internet. Do you know why? Because if not for the buzz of the internet, I’d never have had a chance to find out how great this show actually is.

I’m a horror fanatic; I grew up on Evil Dead, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. Freddy Kruger doesn’t give me nightmares, and I’m not afraid of Jason’s hockey mask. The Grudge scared the crap out of me only because you weren’t safe under the covers, and 28 Days Later was less terrifying and more a social study of human stupidity.

That’s the groundwork with which I first looked at Supernatural. Granted, it’s a skewed one. I mean, how could a WB-produced show (that brought us such epics as Smallville, 7th Heaven, and Dawson’s Creek) carry the demon-hunting scary-movie premise into a one-hour show? So I dismissed it.

Until a friend pointed out to me just what I was missing.

So, being the intrepid person I am, I found (of course they were legal!) downloads of the show, and by the time I finished the first hour, I had fallen completely in love with Supernatural. The biggest thing I found when I watched the show was, it wasn’t *trying* to be a Stephen King or a Freddy Kruger. Supernatural was trying to be it’s own brand of scary, and you know? It succeeds.

The Pilot does a great job of being a pilot. It does a great job of being a TV show, quite frankly; it’s an episode that makes you want to watch MORE. (Thank God for DSL. I downloaded the entire season in the span of two days and had watched it all within a week.)

It sets up the premise, which sounds basic and stupid, but in truth, it’s not. It sets up the backstory, which again is not nearly as simple as it sounds, and it sets up the two main characters within… fifteen minutes. There’s been few pilots of a show that can do that; if this is the only episode of Supernatural that the network saw, I’m not surprised they picked it up.

But why should I watch it?

Well, I can answer that. In bullets, even.

  • Family relationships. The Winchester brothers (Sam and Dean, portrayed by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively) are probably four or five years apart in age, but by the end of the first hour, you can feel that gulf both shrinking and growing. By the end, Sam and Dean have agreed to work together, but you’re left wondering if that can turn out remotely well, or if they’re going to end up killing each other.
  • Concise storytelling. This show manages to mix it’s seasonal arc with stand-alone stories seamlessly. And they don’t fill it in with a lot of useless stuff centered around a trivial character that suddenly jumps into the forefront. The focus stays on Dean and Sam Winchester, and John Winchester. It doesn’t wander off into left field and lose you there.
  • It’s actually scary! Not like you’re thinking. Not dripping blood and monstrous claws. But the kind of quick-cut action, shadows-on-the-wall, leave-most-of-it-to-the-imagination kind of storytelling and visuals that you might see in a modern Hitchcock movie, if that makes sense.
  •  Great acting. While I wouldn’t call Jensen Ackles or Jared Padalecki the next Olivier by any means, both young men are amazing at what they do. And what they do is bring two incredibly scarred, issue-toting brothers to believable life. They have chemistry together that makes you believe they could actually be brothers, and Jensen Ackles has a slightly laconic delivery that belies the passion that bubbles under his calm surface. (You’ll see this especially during the bridge scene; in the span of a few lines, Ackles goes from calm to angry-passionate and back to calm with barely a blink.)

But what *is* the premise?

Well, it starts back 22 years ago, when Dean is four or five, and Sam was a baby. Their mother was murdered by a demon, and their house burned as a result of the fire that consumed her body. Obviously traumatic, but it’s not until we meet Sam and Dean together for the first time, at present-day Stanford University, that we find out the rest of the story.

After that night, John had become obsessed with finding the demon that murdered his wife and the boys’ mother. He trained his sons like soldiers to become demon hunters like him, and Sam had broken away from the “family business” at some point to attend Stanford. It’s not until John goes missing that Dean is forced to seek his brother’s help in finding their father; “Dad went on a hunting trip, and he’s been gone for a few days.”

To tell anything else about the premise is to spoil the episode, and it’s so good that I don’t want to do that. You’d lose the enjoyment of watching it for the first time yourself!

There’s a twist at the end of the episode that you won’t see coming, but it’ll make you hungry for the next episode as soon as you see it.

Best Line:
Dean:  House rules, Sammy.  Driver picks the music.  Shotgun shuts his cake hole.

Sam and Dean on the White Woman's bridge

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