Supernatural S1E1: Pilot

by thethreepennyguignol

Supernatural, somewhat appropriately, just refuses to fucking die.

It’s been several lifetimes, it feels, since the show ended, but nothing is enough to get this train to stop rolling. I honestly haven’t seen a fandom so resolutely refuse to let a finished show die before, and I have to admit, I kind of love that. Supernatural, as a show, as a fandom, as a cultural phenomenon, lives on in infamy (and incest-y, but the less said about that the better). You can’t turn a corner on social media without crashing into a Winchester, and I have to admire the dedication of a decade and a half-strong fandom in making sure that nobody ever forgets this damn show.

And, in all fairness: I do quite like Supernatural. I’m not particularly invested in the long-term lore, but I have a soft spot for supernatural procedurals with pretty men, and this show has the prettiest – uh, I mean, the best procedurals. And, as a permanently online bastard, I have, whether I like it or not, absorbed a lot of the Discourse around the show and it’s ending. So I thought – huh. Could be interesting to go back to the start and see how much of this is applicable to its early run, right?

Which brings me to – well, this. I want to do a deep-dive into the first season of Supernatural, and take a look at from the perspective of 2021; exactly what was Supernatural when it first started, and how much of that is relevant to the place it has in pop culture right now?

So I’m coming into these recaps with three questions to answer, three theories to prove: the first, for my own enjoyment, is how does Supernatural deal with folklore in the twenty-first century? One of my favourite things about this early run in the show is how brilliantly it masters a lot of classic folklore tropes against a more modern setting, and this first season is a particular standout when it comes to that. The second: is John Winchester the real villain? Because, despite the enormous Dilfitude that Jeffery Dean Morgan exudes in this role, he is a bit of a knob. And the third, of course, of course of course: is Dean bisexual? Or, rather, is there evidence in the text that could be used to support the theory that Dean is bisexual? Because, after that Castiel confession of love prior to his trip to super-mega-hell, it has been on the tip of the fandom’s tongue (suggestive implications fully intended) ever since, and I want to provide a completely definitive – by which I mean an entirely subjective – answer to that question.

As far as that first question goes, this episode is pretty classic folklore, which makes sense, as Supernatural has to set up the rules in order to play with them and break them later down the line. The Woman in White is one of those old-fashioned stories that plays well in a million different settings; all you need is the tragically dead and beautiful young woman (and boy howdy, does this episode, with a mighty two fridgings of significant female characters, offer plenty of those) and a few young men too cuntstruck to not fall for their obviously questionable charms. The fact there are so many iterations of this character across so many different cultures’ folklore makes this a smart choice as an opener, as it’s so instantly recognizable to such a wide audience, and generally gives the show time to set up Sam and Dean as characters and as players in this world without having to spend too much time explaining our villain.

And what of bi Dean? To be quite honest, this episode is an aggressively heterosexual one for our real leading man (sorry, Jared Padalecki); he’s out here openly hitting on his brother’s scantily-clad girlfriend shortly prior to her combustion, generally being the frattiest of bros possible, but that’s not surprising this early on in the show (though, oh my fucking God, the realization that I am the same age as Dean is at the start of the show is one that personally turned me into a vengeful spirit). One could say that he’s overcompensating for something – who the fuck is telling their sibling’s partner to stay undressed right in front of them, after all? – but one could also say that there’s not much bi Dean to be seen in this particular outing.

But there’s still Mister Winchester Senior to deal with, here, and he’s probably the most interesting part of this episode with regards to my Grand Trio of Queries for this season. He is, after all, the impetus for this story – Dean turns up to hunt down his little brother and enlist him on a search for his father after WinchElder goes missing on a hunting trip, and it’s this which apparently leads Sam to leave his girlfriend alone to die horribly at the hands of some murderous spirit; it’s John that triggers the chain of events that lead to Sam basically having to abandon the apparently pretty happy life that he’s made for himself to return to his life of hunting, which he’s done his best to leave behind. It’s a villainy-by-proxy, if you like, if not an outright evil, but it does instantly set John Winchester up as at least the cause of the bad in the younger, larger Winchester’s life. An interesting place for the show to start with John.

I’m really looking forward to getting into these recaps with you – I know that this show is still a huge deal culturally, and I can’t wait to do a deep-dive into where it all started to find out just where that all might have begun. And I really hope you’ll be along for this Impala-ride with me (and maybe even join me in a weekly watchalong too). Ready your salt, poise your fanfic pens; it’s time to get Supernatural.

If you enjoyed this post and want to see more stuff like it, please consider checking out my other recapping projects – Jericho, Lost, Sex and the City, Doctor Who, and Carrie are good places to start! Please also have a look at my fiction work, such as my short story collection, Misandry. And you can always support me on Patreon for access to exclusive blog posts!

(header image via IMDB)