The pilot of any show on television is very important. It can catch or lose a viewer’s attention in the space of an hour. I usually try to give a show more viewings than just the pilot to be sure, but mostly I can tell right away if I’m going to enjoy a program. Sometimes I’m wrong about that and have to give a show a second look.
When Supernatural was promoted before its 2005 debut, I did read about it. Unfortunately, I had just turned 40 and pretty much had already decided that after Buffy ended, I was done with teen shows. Everything I read about Supernatural seemed to say that the show was about teen boys searching for their father and coming across the paranormal. I was not interested because I saw the images of Sam with his hair in his face, looking exactly like the Teen that I was just too mature to care about anymore. I apparently didn’t read that Kim Manners (who I watched on many X-Files bonus features) was involved, or that the boys were college-aged and not teens. To my deep regret, I didn’t even watch the pilot and even though I kept hearing good things about the show, didn’t watch a single episode until we got Netflix at our house a couple of years ago. Finally, after watching every other show that interested me there, I clicked on Supernatural Episode 1, Season 1 “Pilot.”
From the minute the show started, I was hooked. I watched every episode as fast as I could, usually in binges way past midnight after I had done everything else I had to get done. When I finally reached the last episode available (which was the finale of season nine), I sat for a second and thought that I really should watch something else…do something else…and then started the whole thing all over again. So yeah, a pilot is a very important part in my television viewing and boy did I miss out by dismissing it. Anyone have a time machine?
The Road So Far
Even though this is the pilot episode, that doesn’t mean that there has not been a road well-traveled. I’m fascinated by the thought of what Dean and John’s lives were like while Sam was in college. I have a hard time imagining Dean and John sharing a motel room and eating every meal together. What did they talk about? It’s hard to imagine Dean saying, “No Sir, Yes Sir,” all the time and curbing his tendencies to joke around, chase woman, and bar hop. One of the wonderful things about our show is all the flashbacks that we get to see of Sam and Dean’s lives, but we were never shown a scene from those four years of just Dean and Dad.
Eric Kripke (or “That Magnificent Bastard” per Alice) worked to bring his vision to the small screen for ten years. His original concept would have featured a reporter, not two brothers. Thankfully Kripke came up with Sam and Dean - partly inspired by Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, but also Sal and Dean from Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road. The script for the pilot was changed numerous times. There was no “Woman in White” at first, and John died in the very beginning. They also had Sam and Dean being raised by their aunt and uncle, instead of John. Sam is kept out of the supernatural altogether, and Dean must convince him that monsters exist. The studio wanted Jessica to live, but Kripke needed a motivation for Sam to hit the road and he liked the symmetry of the deaths of Jess and Mary. Jensen was going to be Sam before Jared showed up to audition. I’m so glad that everything worked out the way that it did. I can’t even think of our show with Jensen as Sam and someone else as Dean. It’s perfect the way it is. I also can’t watch this pilot without thinking how great the future is going to be for our leads. They develop a wonderful brother-like friendship, and their wives and kids are best friends. It’s just amazing what came out of that casting office - good job, people.
This pilot is practically perfect in every way. The cinematography is beautiful, the locations and tone of the show are delightfully eerie. We meet Sweet Mom Mary, Cutie-pie Dean, Baby Sammy (Triplets, really), and Ordinary Daddy John in Lawrence, Kansas in 1983. Things go wrong fast and then we cut to 22 years later when Sam is in college. Dean comes to get Sam to help him with their father, who is missing. Scary Ghost Lady comes on the scene, Sam and Dean are victorious, and all’s well. Not really, because Dad is still missing and Sam is about to get a horrible surprise when he walks into his bedroom.
This has to be one of the best pilots of all time. From the first few minutes, I knew that this show would be exactly what I enjoyed in a program. Excuse me while I go clothe myself in sack-cloth and ashes, and flog myself with something unpleasant. Okay, you’ll know from my confession above that I never gave this pilot a chance. (More primal screaming) Sorry, I digress. Sarah Shahi plays the part of the Woman in White. I adore this actress and her character’s backstory. It’s very creepy and effective; it really makes this pilot very special. Sarah is also very good in Person of Interest. Also guest-starring is Steve Railsback (Duane Barry!) and Adrienne Palicki. I always get a chuckle out of how similar Adrienne’s last name is to Jared’s. That must have provided some fun on set. “Just call them both Padlicki,” I can hear the crew saying.
From the future, it’s very interesting to see Baby Sam and Baby Dean. Listen to their voices! Jared’s voice is higher and very soft and mellow. Jensen’s voice is not as low and gruff as it is now. Jared has his hair in his eyes (boo), but Dean’s is pretty much the same, though maybe a bit spiky. Sam and Dean are there in all their glory, however. John and Mary are shown as just an average couple living in an average house. When the lights flicker, Mary stops to look at a picture on the wall. Her parent’s wedding photo, perhaps? I stop and think about the dark and bloody family history that first-time viewers don’t know about yet. There are a lot of dead and missing parents and grandparents in this story. I love the way that Mary is puzzled, but not scared until she sees that John is in the living room, not in the nursery like she thought. So, who is in the nursery with Baby Sam? Someone terrifying, that’s who. The scenes of Mary on the ceiling, fire whooshing everywhere, Dean running with Baby Sam in his arms, and John running to pick them both up to get away from the fire are so well done. Amazing, in fact.
The introduction of the Brothers Sam and Dean is also very well done. Kripke could have just had them meet at a diner, or something, but we get to see a great scene of Dean sneaking into Sam’s apartment, and a fighting match played out mostly in silhouette. It’s perfection and such a fun way to meet these characters. The backstory of the brothers’ lives is told quickly in great dialog that is easy to follow and there is obvious tension and hurt between those two. We get our first look at Baby’s trunk, hear Sam not Sammy, first motel room, first wall of clues, first bitch and jerk, cassette tapes and classic rock, first no chick flick mention, cakehole, the journal, Dean’s amulet, code words, first arrest, first rock star alias, first crashing of Baby, first rescue of Sam by Dean (with Dean helping Sam out of the car), just to name a few. It really becomes clear that this pilot is so perfect because the concept is so well thought out (in the end). There are going to be updates and revisions to the continuing tale, but in this very long story, that’s to be expected.
It does bother me a little how many hostile moments we see between the boys. They hit, push, and scuffle quite a bit. It seems a little out of character for me, but then I only grew up with one brother, and I only have one son. I’m not the expert on how brothers act after four years apart following a difficult childhood. That four years apart has always confused me a bit. Dean says that he has not bothered or called Sam in two years. I know that things were changed to stretch the time apart so that Sam could conceivably graduate college, but what about Sam and Dean’s Epic Brotherly Love? Did Dean really leave Sam alone all that time and not worry about him? It’s just hard for me to imagine.
All the scenes with Constance are very scary. That is horror done right and I wish we could see more of that today. The sequences with Constance’s ghost and Sam are awesome. Smart Sam figures out that he has to take her home to get her vanquished. Those scary children, water cascading down the stairs, and the final disappearance of Constance and her poor kids is amazing to watch. I am reminded of The Grudge and The Ring, a few times, and that’s a compliment.
The whole pilot is wonderful viewing. The scene on the bridge with Sam and Dean being chased by Baby (complete with a reach-out between them), Dean being yanked into the motel room by Sam, research with random guest star chicks…it’s all very entertaining. It’s not over, though. Just like in marvelous horror movie fashion, when it gets quiet the excrement always hits the fan.
Drip, drip. Poor Jessica and Poor Sam - that moment is horrible. Dean runs in to drag Sammy out of the burning room because Sam is not leaving Jess of his own accord. The pilot ends in likewise perfect fashion as we see Sad Sammy and Worried Dean through Baby’s trunk. “We’ve got work to do,” Sam says.
I’m probably not going to rate the episodes very often, but this one deserves it. This pilot episode is 10 out of 10 for me. How could it have been any better?
Random Bonus Material (Sci-fi and Fantasy Pilot Edition)
Great Pilots that gripped me tight (from perdition) and didn’t let go:
The X-Files (1993-2002) Loved from start.
Wonderfalls (2004) Amazing, fell in love with show and the stars.
Dead Like Me (2003-04) Love the reaper concept.
Six Feet Under (2001-2005) Someone dies first thing every episode.
The Riches (2007-08) Okay, only dead bodies in pilot, but this is a great show.
The Magicians (2016- ) Sera Gamble for the win!
Wynonna Earp (2016- ) Sisters, guns, and heartbreaking backstory.
Legion (2016- ) Is this a comic book, horror, psychological thriller, or alternate reality show? Labels don’t matter with this one, it’s sublime.
The Handmaid’s Tale (2017- ) Better than the book, even. Now I just need an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake to be happy.
Killjoys (2015- ) Fun and filled with funny characters from the first minute.
The Dresden Files (2007) Sadly canceled after one season. It was a great show that should have continued.
12 Monkeys (2015- ) Great stars and production values.
Stranger Things (2016- ) I was taken back to my childhood immediately.
Arrow (2012- ) This does have some mystical elements and even though I don’t really like these type of shows, this one still has my attention.
Bates Motel (2013-2017) Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore convinced me that I really needed to watch this show.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016- ) I read some bad reviews of this one and only watched it because Osric Chau (Kevin) was in it. Those reviews were wrong. This is funny and delightful.
Humans (2015- ) A show about synthetic life-forms possibly taking over the world and finding friendship and help from an ordinary English family. I’m hooked.
Pilots that are good but the show needs time to blossom:
Orphan Black (2013-2017) Watched the pilot and didn’t like it. I thought it was dark and unappealing. Wrong, again. Came back and watched after reading about how great it is. It is very great and the star of the show is amazing.
Firefly (2002) I gave up after deciding that the pilot didn’t make sense and I wasn’t getting why we were being shown horses in space. I did watch the show on DVD, after many people loved it and said so.
Dollhouse (2009-2010) What were you thinking, Joss Whedon? You had a very good show, here, but you messed up the pilot. I thought that this show was about prostitutes, basically, and stopped watching. Out of curiosity, I borrowed the DVD and watched the whole thing. It’s genius! The show is really an apocalyptic thriller, and if it had been marketed like that, maybe it would have survived.
The Expanse (2015- ) Gave this one up too soon, also. On re-watch, it’s very good. The characters become lovable and the bleak world that they live in becomes really interesting.
Fringe (2009-2013) Liked this one, but didn’t love it at first. It gets really great, though.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2005) Okay, the pilot isn’t great, but I love this show to pieces.
Travelers (2017- ) The pilot is confusing. I had to watch it twice and do research to figure out what was happening. Once I did, I fell in love. This one is about an apocalyptic future that sends its citizens back in time. Not all of them, just their minds. I loved the first season, hope it keeps getting better.
Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007) I had a hard time at first getting used to the different actors after liking the movie. It didn’t take long to make this one of my favorite series, however.
Star Trek TNG (1987-1994) The pilot is a little weird. Troi has terrible hair and an even more terrible outfit. This quickly gets really good, and I love it.
Doctor Who (2005- ) I really liked Christopher Eccleston, but for me, this show really starts to fly when David Tennant and then Matt Smith come aboard. The current doctor (He That Shall Not Be Named) killed my love for the show. I’ll try again when he departs.
Pilots that grabbed me but I am losing/or lost interest in show:
Lost (2004-2010) No answers, no sense…bah humbug.
The Walking Dead (2010- ) Too much human on human war. I wanted to see people continue to band together against zombies, not kill each other.
Hannibal (2013-2015) Way too much gore, though some of the cast are very good.
Pilots that I regret not watching from the first:
Supernatural (2005- ) Duh
Teen Wolf (2011- ) Two words: Dylan O’Brien. He’s so funny, adorable, and the real heart of the show. I wasn’t going to watch a show on MTV, though. This show got bogged down in the middle, but the concluding episodes this season have been great so far. MTV, who knew?
The Vampire Diaries (2009-2017) I didn’t watch this pilot because, at the time, I had a low opinion of shows on The CW. When I watched the pilot much later, I instantly fell in love with Stefan and his very tight clothes. (Sam Winchester – take notes)
Is this a complete list of every genre show that I have ever watched and loved or lost interest in? Heck no. That would take a lot more pages and this article is too long already. Which shows grabbed you from the first viewing? They don’t have to be science fiction or fantasy; I just had to cut myself off somewhere. What is your story of finding Supernatural? Inquiring minds want to know.
Till next time --------Mallena
Jared and Jensen courtesy of buddytv.com
Constance courtesy of Femalepersonas.weebly.com
Stefan Salvatore courtesy of wetpaint.com