Supernatural S1 E1 (Part 1): When Your Brother Breaks Into Your House and Ruins Your Life

****Update: Additional insight from Zeroth inside!****

Welcome to our first Supernatural analysis! How many daddy issue can two brothers have? How badly will Dean fuck up Sam’s life? How many women can one pilot episode stuff in a fridge? We’re about to find out!

Zeroth and I will be doing a full recap for this inaugural episode. After that, we’ll only be doing a summary and then pulling out the juicy bits so that most of us will still be too young for a nursing home when we finish this series. Let’s get started then, shall we?



Supernatural Season 1 Episode 1: “Pilot” begins in Lawrence, KS twenty-two years ago. Twas a dark night, but not a stormy one. Typically happy family of four. We all know this will go terribly wrong…

We’re introduced to the family: Baby Sam, Big Brother Dean, Mommy Mary, and Daddy John. There’s a sweet little put-the-kids-to-bed scene, and then the house settles. All is calm, until…

1:03 – Zeroth

ominous flickering…

1:03 – Dana Hunter


This is our first taste of a recurring motif on Supernatural [SPN]: the flickering lights, interference with sound and/or video on electronic devices, and assorted inanimate objects suddenly animating all let us know something paranormal is afoot.

The baby monitor is making strange noises of electrical interference, along with the more typical wee one cooings. Mary wakes, and goes to check on baby Sam. There’s a silhouette of a man in the nursery. He shushes her when she asks if Sam’s hungry. She heads back toward their bedroom, but is distracted by the flickering hall light, which she investigates by tapping it. Then she notices that the television is on downstairs, and OHNOES! It turns out that John’s asleep in front of the teevee downstairs. So who’s in the baby’s room?! She rushes back up the stairs.

2:25 – Zeroth

so I rather like how they mix steady shots and shaky cam here

She reaches the baby’s room and screams, waking John downstairs. He rushes up the stairs. The shaky cam follows his mad dash, and switches to steady cam as we reach the baby’s room, where all is completely calm. Only, there’s no Mary. Sam’s cooing in his crib, perfectly content. John sees something drip beside Sam’s head and reaches to touch it: blood drips on the back of his hand. He looks up, and sees Mary sprawled on the ceiling, her hair spread around her head in a golden halo. The music reaches straight into our brain stems and gives them a good terror-inducing twist.

She looks chalky and horrifying. Her abdomen has been slashed. Flames erupt around her as John shouts her name.

Image shows a blond woman in a white nightgown, lying contorted on a ceiling, surrounded by flames.
3:11 – Dana Hunter

Five minutes in, and we already have our first woman in a fridge!

Woman in the Fridge: 1



patriarchy needs a lot of fridges

Dana Hunter


Maybe I should talk about how lucrative being a fridge salesman in the patriarchy is.

One of the most annoying elements of SPN from the perspective of those of us who are completely tired of tired tropes is their constant use of Woman in the Fridge. We’ll see several examples in this episode alone. Right now, Mary exists exclusively to be the tragic impetus of the Winchesters’ quest to hunt and kill monsters, ghosts, demons, and other pesky supernatural entities. She’s had no characterization. She’s just a pretty mother who died in a most gruesome fashion in order to turn John from suburban husband into gritty Hunter.

With about ten minutes’ thought, they could have come up with something fresher. At the very least, they could’ve gender-flipped one of the instances. But no. We’re stuck with a bunch of women getting killed off in terrible ways in order to shock us, and get the characters raging.

If they were literally stuffing women in fridges, you could make a bloody fortune selling refrigerators to the writers.




Poor Sammy starts crying, on account of his mother burning to death right over his head. John recovers from his shock, leaps up, grabs Sam, and runs for it. In the hall, he encounters his older son Dean and passes the baby off with orders to haul ass out of the house. This is the start of Dean’s lifelong mission of taking care of his baby brother. He’s just four years old.

John rushes back into Sam’s room to try to rescue his wife. The entire room is now engulfed in flames: we can’t even see Mary’s body now. Flame roars out and seems to engulf John, and then we cut to Dean running across the lawn with his brother bundled in his arms. “It’s okay, Sammy,” he says, as he turns to look up at the flames in the upstairs window. Then John gallops out the front door and sweeps both brothers away before flames explode from all of the upper story windows.

We cut to a fire truck (with a lingering shot of the Lawrence FD logo on the door in case anyone missed where we were – they’re quite keen to have us note that the Winchesters, like Dorothy, started out in the very normal land of Kansas). The camera follows the firefighter who emerges, and we watch them try to extinguish the blaze. John sits on the hood of a cop car, holding Sam, with Dean leaning against him. Everyone except for the baby is pretty much devastated.

Image shows the Winchester family sitting on the hood of a police car. Dean is leaning against his dad, who holds baby Sam.
4:28 – Dana Hunter

And thus our historical interlude ends with a cut to a flickery version of the Supernatural title. There’s no song, just that word. It’s simple right now, but that logo will change with every season, and it’s awesome that they do it that way. Some people complain about the lack of a title song, but I like this so much better.

Now we’re at Stanford University in the present day. A lovely young woman is yelling for Sam.

4:41 – Zeroth

and the first appearance of this woman is up her legs…

Image shows a woman's legs stepping from one room to the next. She's wearing red high heels over knee-high white stockings. The edge of a short, flaring white dress with red trim is visible. To the right, part of a chest of drawers can be seen. Behind her, the tire of a bike is visible. To the left, a maroon easy chair can be seen. The whole scene is dimly lit.

Dana Hunter


Swimming in Sexism: 1

The woman, Sam’s girlfriend Jess, comes into view, wearing a naughty nurse outfit and putting on earrings. The camera pans over a framed photo of John and Mary Winchester on the bureau. We get our first view of Sam, and he’s whining about going out. “You know how I feel about Halloween,” he says. Well, however he feels, he gets dragged out to a bar anyway.

5:07 – Zeroth

exposition dump!

In the bar, Jess raises a shot glass to toast Sam’s LSAT scores. Their black friend nearly chokes on his shot hearing the score, so we know it’s huge. We learn in quick succession through some rather clumsy exposition dumping between the friends that Sam’s trying to get into Stanford’s law school, that his family is fractured, and he has an interview to get into the school on Monday.

5:53 – Zeroth

[Sam] “what would I do without you?”

Dana Hunter

Sorry, Jess. You are no prophet.


guaranteed her death right there

Dana Hunter

Heh, that it did.

“Crash and burn,” Jessica answers, which is definitely Subtle Foreshadowing.

After a kissy-face transition, they’re home in bed. Something falls over downstairs, and Sam goes to investigate. A shadowy figure darts past. Sam alerts.

6:30 – Zeroth

so here calls back to the opener

but Sam is way more prepared

He follows, then grabs the silhouetted figure, which we see has spiky hair. There is a brief struggle with much manly yelling and many martial arts moves. Sam gets thrown down, and we are now looking up into his brother’s grinning face. Sam can hardly believe his eyes. Dean accuses him of being out of practice, so Sam throws him and changes his mind. We learn that Dean’s go-to response when asked questions is a wisecrack, as he tells Sam he’s here looking for a beer.

7:03 – Dana Hunter

And here we can see how well-adjusted the Winchester bros are.

Brotherly Love: 1

Jess appears, Sam introduces her as his girlfriend, and Dean comments on her Smurfs nightshirt, which is v-cut to reveal cleavage.

7:23 – Zeroth

wow Dean, subtle

Dana Hunter


Swimming in Sexism: 2

Dean tells her she’s way out of his brother’s league as he runs appreciative eyes over her body, and basically does a lot of completely-hetero posturing before saying he needs to talk to Sam about some family business.

Swimming in Sexism: 3

7:37 – Dana Hunter

Oh, this is weird. Notice Dean’s not as gravel-voiced as he will be later?


good catch

he’s younger, calmer

they’re babies here

Dana Hunter

I was about to say that!

This is so weird. Especially after seeing Jared in Gilmore GIrls.

Yes, Jared Padalecki starred in Gilmore Girls. As a boy named Dean. Who was working-class and loved to build cars. Something tells me that the show’s creators were secret Gilmore Girls fans.

“No,” Sam says, and goes to join Jess. “Whatever you want to say, you can say in front of her.” Dean’s like whatevs, and we begin an exposition dump, with Dean saying their dad hasn’t been home in days and Sam implying he’s probably off on a bender.

7:45 – Zeroth

I’m noticing a lot of shots have movement in them


Dana Hunter


It’s giving me the impression of Sam trying to get away

Dean tries to emphasize it’s not just that by saying he went on a hunting trip. Sam asks Jess to excuse them, and the brothers head downstairs, with Sam doing quite a bit of yelling about the etiquette of breaking into your brother’s house to tell you daddy’s missing. He mentions other times Dad’s gone missing, finishing with “He’s always missing and he’s always fine.” Dean tries to emphasize that this time’s unusual, but Sam’s having none of it. He’s done hunting, he says. We learn that Sam’s had an unusual childhood, wherein his father gave him a .45 when he expressed fears about something in his closet at the age of 9.

Daddy Issues: 1

8:38 – Dana Hunter

Love that “He was supposed to say, ‘Don’t be afraid of the dark’” bit.


exposition dump…


Dean tells him he should be afraid of the dark; he knows what’s out there. We learn that their dad’s been obsessed with finding the thing that killed their mother

Daddy Issues: 2

and that they’ve spent their lives killing a wide assortment of monstrosities. They’ve had all sorts of weapons training, etc. Sam finally got fed up and took off to pursue a normal life at college, and his dad told him to stay gone.

Daddy Issues: 3

So Sam is most certainly not interested in chasing after their missing father. Dean says he can’t do it alone. Sam gets him to admit that actually, he can, but he doesn’t want to.

Zeroth’s Note:

I’ve been thinking about the use of light and shadow in these scenes. Sometimes one can get a little… introspective and add meaning where there isn’t any. There’s a whole discussion on Death of the Author that’s somewhat relevant here, but what I think is that they’re using light and shadow to send a message about crossing a line and revelations. These scenes between Dean and Sam are constantly half shadowed. Consistency of aesthetic is a strong clue here. This kind of light and shadow process is used here to depict Sam’s crossing a line. He’s being encouraged across by Dean, back to the Hunter life. Sam brings up the intensely FUCKED up things about how he was raised, he’s struggling back across that line, away from Dean.

My problem here is they’re using light and shadow for multiple purposes in this episode. They use shadow to indicate a red herring(when they’re told by the young woman about the grisly murder) and light when Sam and Dean show up to solve a mystery. And then we have the journal(see part 2) being spotlighted.

Now multiple ambiguous uses of symbology isn’t necessarily bad, but when done wrong, it can muddle your message. At the same time, strict consistency can also undermine your message by making it blatant and obvious(see Green Lantern and the word/theme ‘fear’ or Terminator 4, and the word ‘heart’). It is clunky, hitting the viewer over the head with your meaning. But I think what happened here was Exposition Tax. There’s so many things they need to go through and explain that several different plots were merged into one for this pilot episode. It’s also indicative of a team that doesn’t quite have their “sea legs” for the show yet. Supernatural gets both more consistent and more sophisticated with its aesthetic language in later episodes(which I cannot wait to break down for you guys).

9:36 – Zeroth

Aw, vulnerability

Dana Hunter

Awww, poor Dean. He tries to be all manly-man, but he’s so alone.

Really shit of his dad to put this responsibility on him.

Sam gives in just enough to ask what Dad was hunting. We cut to the trunk of Dean’s car, which is full of weapons. Sam wonders why Dean let their dad go off by himself, and Dean says he was working his own voodoo gig down in New Orleans. Sam scoffs at the idea that Dad would let Dean go off on his own, which is where we find out Dean’s 26. He tells Sam that their dad was investigating an incident outside of Jericho, CA. He finds what he was looking for: a stack of print-outs from some web pages.

10:16 – Zeroth



old internet days

Image shows printouts of a web page from a newspaper called the Jericho Herald. It's in an older design, back when pages had a frame along the side and were a bit clunky looking. There's a photo of a middle-aged man in the middle, with the headline, "Wife Pleads for Her Husband's Safe Return."

Dana Hunter

So weird how the technology changes.

The incidents involved men who vanished on a particular stretch of highway, leaving their cars behind. There’s been ten vanishings over the past 20 years, happening with escalating frequency.

10:59 – Zeroth

enjoy Sam’s shortest hairstyle

Dana Hunter

I HATE that haircut

It’s true. There was one time, I think in Season 8 or 9, where I thought Jared Padalecki’s hair looked okay. Every other show he’s been in, up to and including this one, I’ve wanted nothing more than to grab him and drag him to a competent barber. And this season’s hairstyle, with it flopping all over his forehead, just drives me nuts. He’s got a nice face, but this cut makes him look like a teenage Neandertal.

We get to listen to a message Dad left, which is badly distorted, and tells them they’re all in danger. Sam notes there’s EVP (electronic voice phenomena). Dean tells him he’s done all sorts of enhancements, and then plays the result: a woman’s voice saying eerily, “I can never go home.” Sam ponders this while Dean shuts the trunk. We learn how long he’s been at school through Dean’s comment about not asking him for anything for two years.

Sam gives in, agreeing to go with Dean, as long as Dean gets him back in time for his law school interview. He goes upstairs to pack, telling Jess that his dad’s off deer hunting and that he’s probably got “Jim, Jack, and Jose along with him.”

12:14 – Zeroth

“jim, jack, and jose”

Dana Hunter

Intimation his dad’s an alcoholic.

Daddy Issues: 4

Jess is worried about him, his family, and his law school interview. Sam looks her earnestly in the eyes and says, “Everything’s going to be okay. I promise.” Which, as we all know from every horror movie ever, is the kiss of doom.

12:29 – Dana Hunter





And off they go.

Meanwhile, a dude is driving in the lonesome outskirts of Jericho, California. We see headlights through a screen of bare branches at night. It’s all very spooky.

12:40 – Dana Hunter

Notice how dark all of the filming has been so far?


yeah definitely

very subdued color palette

the fire has been the brighest thing so far

and Jesse’s nurse outfit

Dude is talking on his cell phone while driving. We find out he has a girlfriend named Amy, whom he’s ditching tonight, saying he has to work in the morning. We begin to hear EVP noises over his stereo, and the camera pans away to show a woman in a white dress standing in the mist by the side of the road. He disconnects from Amy and stops to pick her up.

Image looks through a windshield at a young, dark-haired woman in a white dress, standing beside the road.
13:30 – Dana Hunter

I loved this bit. One of my favorite stories as a kid was Resurrection Mary, and I think that’s where they’re getting this from.

Yeah, Jess has been all bright and girly colors. And of course, we have the woman in white.

Ah, here come the male wish fulfillment fantasies.

The dude’s checking out the hitchhiking woman’s boobs in her low-cut bodice, and sez a girl like her shouldn’t be alone out here. She slowly pulls her skirt from her knee up her thigh and says, “I’m with you.” It’s about as subtle as a lead brick to the brainpan. There’s some general sexy writhing and she touches his chin to make him look at her and argh.

Swimming in Sexism: 4

14:14 – Zeroth

bright colors only with women…



stop mistaking porn for reality

SARAH SHAHI! Didn’t recognize her first off, but she’s Sameen Shaw on Person of Interest. I knew she looked familiar.

The hitchiker asks the dude to come home with her, and he’s all “Hell yeah!”

14:21 – Dana Hunter

Boys: if a girl immediately comes on to you, be afraid! Be very afraid! Because in this world she’s usually going to be evil or a whore.

Swimming in Sexism: 5

He peels out and drives on up the lonely country road. We arrive at a ramshackle farmhouse. He scoffs that she can’t possibly live there, and she, mournfully, says, “I can never go home.” Just like the voice on Dad’s voicemail message.

The dude notes the place is vacant, and asks her where she lives. He looks over at her, but – SURPRISE! – her seat is now empty. Confused, he looks all around and then gets out of the car, calling for her, thinking she’s playing a prank. We see the imprint of a hand over the passenger side windshield, which fades away as he exits the car.

Image shows a windshield with a ghostly white imprint of a hand. Caption says, "That was good."
He takes a few hesitant steps towards the farmhouse, which is illuminated with his headlights. The camera takes us inside, panning over a framed photo of two small children. It’s hard to make out through the dust and grime.

He approaches a broken window, calling for her, and disturbs some bats, which fly into him and scare the bejesus out of him and us.

15:35 – Zeroth

heh, jump scare him

He falls down screaming and then goes running off.

15:36 – Dana Hunter

I’m gonna call this guy Sir Robin.


it was just a bat dude

He drives away frantically. As he’s back on the road, and beginning to breathe normally again, the camera pans to his passenger seat.

15:54 – Zeroth


Surprise, surprise: she is sitting in the passenger side back seat.

15:56 – Dana Hunter

This is what you should actually be worried about, kiddo.

He screams and goes careening off-kilter, driving through a “ROAD CLOSED” barrier onto a bridge. His car slews to a halt. We get an exterior shot of the car, and hear him hollering inside as the camera zooms in. There’s a lot of the dude shrieking, some indistinct shadows, the car rocks, and

16:12 – Zeroth

blood splurt…

Dana Hunter

And here we have for the first time the SPN blood splash

Blood and Gore: 1

Image shows a car with blood splashed on the interior of its windows.

they do that a lot

sure makes me crave some pasta

Dana Hunter


And that’s the end of that dude.

Death by Femme Fatale: 1

We’ll break here. Join us next time, when we reveal our final Women in Fridges count and discover just how badly Dean can fuck up his brother’s life. Yay happy families!

Supernatural S1 E1 (Part 1): When Your Brother Breaks Into Your House and Ruins Your Life