I just want to start by saying that the fact that we have had this blog going for so long now and this is the first post about Supernatural is a bit of a crime. It shames me. Thus, I am going to rectify this situation by using Supernatural as a platform to launch my next series of countdown posts. Unlike with my X Files countdown, these are not going to be ranked in the order of ‘favourites’ as such, they are just going to be a bakers dozen of seriously awesome pilot episodes from some of my favourite television shows (with a vague sci-fi/supernatural theme). So, without further ado, let’s get this countdown under way…
(the brothers Winchester, back when they were fresh young things, in possession of their souls and with no incidents of death and resurrection notched up on their belts)
I’m old enough to remember when this show premièred on Australian television. I was in high school (not sure which year, but it was near the end) and thus, I was part of the prime target audience for this, the latest in the CW line up. From the moment I saw the first television commercials, I thought ‘wow’, the show seemed to have everything: spooky phenomena, dark and brooding scenery, handsome leading men.. it was like my dream show! I’ll admit that, while I had watched a few of the earlier seasons of Smallville, Jensen Ackles was unknown to me when he appeared as Dean, but I recognised Jared Padalecki from his stint playing Dean on Gilmore Girls (which I loved until Rory picked Jess over Dean – which I still cannot understand nor forgive), so I was pretty happy to see him pop up again as a lead in his own show. It was with high hopes that I plonked myself down in front of the television in order to watch the first episode (in the dark and under the assumption that it was be genuinely scary – as the trailers had promised). I’ll be honest though, after that first viewing and finally meeting the brothers Winchester, I really wasn’t that moved by Supernatural. To me, it just seemed to lack a certain something. (Don;t ask me what, I was a teenager and probably impossible to please). The ‘Woman in White’ concept was awesome, but the whole ‘mother burnt alive while pinned to the ceiling’ thing didn’t make sense to me. Some of the jokes were funny. Some went over my head (at the time). It’s only now, re-watching the pilot that I can be impressed by the back and forth banter between Sam and Dean (maybe it’s because my sister and I get on better now that we’re older and we see so much of our relationship in them) and that I can appreciate what the writers were trying to establish (maybe it’s because I can now look back with a view of the grand plan that at that point in time was only unfolding before me).
With each new viewing I also come to further appreciate the woman in white story line, which until that time was something that had never been explored on prime time before. I’m still not completely on board with the ceiling thing (why the ceiling? why not the corner or in the cupboard or under the bed?) but I can look beyond that now, because the evolving agenda of the demon is known to me and I can see that, while his introduction was perhaps confused, by and large, his character arc was masterful.
Other things I love about it:
I appreciate that they give a nod to the X Files, a show which no doubt paved the way for shows like Supernatural, Charmed, Buffy, The Vampire Diaries and so on. In the first instance, it’s the bridge which Constance is haunting. For those of you that are hard core X Files peeps, you’ll recognise the same bridge was used in the episode in which Scully and Cassandra Spender are witness to the alien bounty hunters and their incineration of all those who had been tapped with the alien virus. The second nod is when Sam and Dean are on the bridge, masquerading as US Marshals. As they walk off, Dean says to the FBI agents, ‘Agent Mulder, Agent Scully.’ Finally, you’ll note that the husband of Constance is none other than alien abductee and enemy to Scully – Duane Barry. Could these things be coincidence? Perhaps, but I would prefer to think that they’re part of a carefully planned out script, honouring the genius of the X Files and setting the tone for Supernatural as a worth follow up to that original show.
The classic rock. This is perhaps the most constant theme that runs throughout the show – through every season, even the new ones and it began right here, in the opening scenes. I love the fact that there is a genuinely good soundtrack, which is constantly exposing younger viewers to some long forgotten classic rock gems and, in support of this, the running joke in which Sam and Dean are always adopting rock star nick names (Ted Nugent).
The lack of emotional drama. Now, this one might make you stop and say, ‘wait. what?’ What I mean is, there are no girlfriends being dragged around, it’s not a television show which is marred by the constant breaking up and making up formula that plagues so many other teen dramas. (I’m talking more about the initial seasons here). I like the fact that, due to the lack of romantic sub-plot, there is more time to spend on the demons, the ghosts and the ghouls and in explaining them properly. You get a good back story about the woman in white and you get the impression from early on that, despite the existence of Jessica, ultimately this needs to be a show about the two brothers and their reconnection. Yes, I’m sorry that Jess is incinerated, but it’s for the greater good, okay?
What I’m still perplexed about:
I’m not going to pretend it was all amazing. For instance, in the scene where Sam and Dean are at the gas station, arguing over the fact that Dean is still listening to cassette tapes, Sam clearly holds up a Metallica tape, which Dean then puts into the tape deck… which ends up playing AC/DC. Now look, I’m an Australian and I love myself some AC/DC but I wonder why they didn’t just say ‘AC/DC’? Maybe they wanted Metallica but couldn’t get the permission. Those of us old enough to remember the glory days of Napster will recall how precious Metallica are about their music being used by anyone other than Metallica. Maybe Dean is just really lapse keeping his tapes in their correct cases? I don’t know, it’s a plausible excuse…
Keeping your secret past as a monster slayer hidden from your girlfriend is one thing, but how did Sam manage to keep all of his weapons concealed? You clearly see him pull some kind of razor sharp, futuristic looking scythe out when he is packing to leave with Dean.
How did Dean survive his swan dive off of the bridge, when it had clearly killed everyone else who’d done it?
Admittedly these are just minor things that only a pedantic person would notice, so I can easily put them aside.
Why I’ve picked this for the list:
Seasons 1-5 of Supernatural presented a story arc the likes of which is seldom seen in television serials, particularly those aimed at a teen audience. Obviously, the pilot is where all the ground work was laid, which is why it’s on here. It wasn’t always perfect, but I thought the journey of Sam and Dean from estranged siblings to a relationship in which they were ready to (and did) die for each other was a wonderful representation of the ups and downs of sibling relationships in general. Yes, I realise that most of us aren’t out fighting demons and selling our souls but I think anyone with siblings can identify to some degree with the changing nature of the sibling relationship and how time and age can mature it into a really important part of life.
All of season five bought the story full circle***, I loved the introduction of Castiel in the season four episodes, and particularly ‘The Monster at the End of this Book,’ which not only revealed the oppositional balance to all those evil demons, but bought the weight of the Winchester story and their work to a full and logical conclusion. Obviously that was still a fair way off in the pilot, but again, the groundwork was laid here.
*** In future posts about Supernatural I am going to make a real effort to only talk about seasons 1-5. I love this show but really, I wish they’d ended it at season five, as was the original plan. With every subsequent season I just feel like Sam and Dean are becoming less and less the characters that I fell in love with and more like cardboard cut outs of their former glorious selves. Lauren feels somewhat more accepting of these later seasons, so I am going to leave it to her (where possible) to discuss them with dignity.
If you’ve never gotten into Supernatural, then it’s about time you did. The pilot is not only the most logical place to start but it is the best. The characters of Sam and Dean (Dean as the protective old brother with the smart mouth and Sam as the sensitive younger sibling with the brains) change very little, but they work well and the on screen bro-chemistry between Ackles and Padalecki is a thing of beauty.
‘Do you own anything that’s real?’
(possibly my favourite moment – Dean Winchester, perennial smart ass)