The Official The Winchesters: “Pilot” (1.01) Recap and Review

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Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: We don’t start with any recap from the Mothership, just a cold open on a prologue. Said prologue begins in a New Orleans cemetery (looks like the notorious St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which houses Marie Laveau’s tomb) with the words “March 1972.” It’s night and a man dressed a lot like Indiana Jones walks past the gravestones. We can’t see his face, but his satchel has the letters “SC” on them. So, I’m guessing this is Samuel Campbell. Hello again, Grandpa Shady.

He enters a tomb so big it looks downright Egyptian. It’s lit by torches and has an open archway inside. As an eerie celestial choir sings, he cuts his hand and makes a symbol like a fish standing on its tail on a dish that’s on what looks like a stone well. As the (iron?) slab covering the well cracks open, he starts to lift the lid. But a huge arachnid shadow on the wall and ceiling nearby makes him turn and run back out into the cemetery. He’s waving his flashlight behind him so much that even though he manages to hurdle one fallen tombstone, he trips and sprawls over another one. It’s at this point that the arachnid monster (which looks like a giant version of the Alien facehugger) comes around a sepulchre and flies at him/the screen. Cut to black.

Title cards (“The Winchesters” in metallic, 3-D lettering on a red-and-gray background with sparks, and a pentacle burning in the ‘e’) and the familiar Supernatural growling on the soundtrack.

Cut to daylight and a bus going down the road past a sign that says, “Welcome to Lawrence.” Generic rock music. I want to note that the lighting, which was very Indiana Jones in the prologue, is now washed-out, 1970s TV Movie of the Week (kind of like the film, In the Heat of the Night (1967)). John is on the bus, having a dream-flashback to Vietnam. He’s running through a battle in the rain. There’s a helicopter. Someone gets shoved out of the way of gunfire by someone else. Another soldier says his name. He wakes up with a gasp.

I like that Meg Donnely gets top billing over Drake Rodger. We’ve always gotten a lot more of the background of the men on both sides of Sam and Dean’s family. I’m here for more on the women. Much more.

Right before the bus pulls into the depot in Lawrence, John pulls out a letter with just his name written on the envelope. “I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After (from 1971) plays on the soundtrack. Dang, I had not realized that song was quite that old.

Annnd here is where Dean’s narration starts, in which he casually tells us that what we thought we knew about John and Mary’s history may not have been the truth (AKA Thar Be Retconning A-Comin’), but he’s here to set things straight. He tells us it’s “March 23, 1972, the day Dad came home from the War. The day he met Mom.” In fact, pretty much the first thing John does after he gets off the bus is run into Mary – literally – right outside a movie theater.

As Mary crouches down to put her spilled bag back together, John goes to help her. When they both look up, they have … a Moment. There follows some Meet Cute dialogue in which he asks her what movie she saw, she admits that she “only came for the snacks,” he comments on the “licorice drops” and that he hasn’t seen them in “two years,” and she (after a look that is a little too understanding of what that means, for a teenage girl of this period) gifts them to him as she leaves, saying “I’ll see you around, Soldier Boy.” (Ha, I understood that The Boys reference.) It wins a smile from John.

This strikes me as a very significant scene. I’m not entirely sure if the showrunners actually understand that, but the subtext is still there. Vietnam vets did not generally return to an enthusiastically patriotic homecoming to way their WWII predecessors did (prior to MASH, many liked to pretend that Korea didn’t happen), even though WWII-worship in Western popular culture was ongoing well into the late 1970s. Some of you readers may remember/know that. Or not. I was a military brat, born in the 1960s, and I was fascinated by the Vietnam War in the same way that my dad was obsessed by World War II (his father and three uncles all served in the Pacific). I then, as some of you do know, served in the Peace Corps.

So, aside from the less-than-rapturous welcome (which, besides being called “baby killer,” getting spat on, or just plain refused a ride while hitchhiking, could involve even “patriotic” folks not knowing how to deal with one’s PTSD), Vietnam vets faced some obstacles that were entirely of the military’s own making, because the government bureaucracy can be really stupid, sometimes. These kids could, quite literally, find themselves standing hip-deep in a rice paddy in grungy green combat fatigues, trying not to get shot at or step on a mine, one day, and standing on the tarmac of an airport in their dress uniform half a world away, less than 24 hours later, facing an entirely different kind of enemy, a domestic one. The change in climate alone was a massive one – and I can attest to that, having gone from two years in 82 degrees in the rainforest to 17 below in a snowstorm, 6,000 miles away, inside 27 hours. With a major back injury. By myself.

It sucks.

The fact that Mary, a young civilian woman back home, responds to John’s uniform and comment about having been in Vietnam for two years with low-key compassion and zero judgment, is a BIG DEAL for this time and place. Most people would not have done that.

Anyhoo, John manages to get himself across town to a mechanic’s shop, The Winchesters Garage, where he greets the owner, who is under the hood of a very cherry car. The owner turns out to be a woman in her 40s(?) with long brown hair. She is his mother. At first, she seems not thrilled to see him, commenting to his “Love what you’ve done with the place!” that her “husband and son walked out on me,” forcing her to run the business herself. But this turns out to be a joke, and she smiles and welcomes him home with a big hug.

Later, after he’s changed into civilian clothes, we get some infodump as he tries to help himself to a beer and she tells him he’s still too young to drink. We find out that John forged his father’s signature to get into the Marines underage, that said father “ran out” on the family (we, of course, know Henry did no such thing), and that his mom is still bitter. She then asks him what he’s going to do next.

Cut to nighttime, with John in a space between what looks like two motels. It’s not quite an alleyway. He’s looking at the contents of his letter, which includes a skeleton key. Behind him, a man says, “Hand over the key, Slick … and I’ll kill you quick.”

Looking as if he expected this, John slides the key back into the envelope and turns around to confront … well, it’s not really a man. It’s bald and shows black eyes. A demon. John trades some blows with it, but it barely flinches when he punches it in the face. John barely gets out a “What the Hell?” before it grabs him by the throat and lifts him off his feet, then tosses him across the grass.

At that moment, Mary slides in out of nowhere with a sweeping kick to the demon’s legs. She then gets into it with the demon. John tries to help, but keeps accidentally hitting her until she smacks him in the face and growls (in my favorite line from the trailer), “Stop. HELPING.”

Mary beats the demon enough to kick it into a nearby water tank, which is full of holy water because she just blessed it. She and the demon trade some pleasantries about how “her kin” are all down in Hell, including someone called Maggie, and she demands to know where her father is, before she says the Rituale Romanum and exorcises the demon.

She then gathers up her stuff to leave, but John has questions. Lots of questions. Like why was Mary saying an exorcism ritual and who was Maggie? Mary quickly tells him to calm down and gives him The Talk, which is a bare bones explanation of what just occurred. She checks on the host, but the host is dead. She says that happens a lot. Then she has some questions for John, like what was he doing out here? He tries to flip it back on her, but she just gives him a level stare.

John spills. He says that right after he got back from Vietnam, a man handed him a letter (as he waves it around, we see the Men of Letters pentacle seal on it) and then “vanished.” (Gee, I wonder whoever this mysterious man could be.) The letter is from his father, who has been missing for 15 years, and it says that if John has received it, his father is “gone” and John should go to the address where they are now. John notes that Mary’s father appears to be also missing, so maybe they can work together.

Mary just says, “Come with me” and they start going round the edge of the large square structure that looks suspiciously like the Bunker, but not near a bridge. Mary says that her father called her “from the road,” said demons were involved and that he would meet her back home. This did not occur, so of course, she’s worried. John comments that she is not what she first appeared to be and she says likewise. When he asks about the snacks, which he admits he already ate, she says they were for a stakeout. Her father wanted her to get a schematic of the inside of the place, but she can’t get in without a key because the lock is magicked. When John, astonished, asks if “magic is real,” she just says, “It’s all real.”

At the door, John sees a devil’s trap drawn in red and guesses it’s Mary’s. She says it would have stopped the demon. Then she tells him she knows about the key in his back pocket and they need to use it to open the door. When John pulls out the key, commenting that he has more questions now than answers, Mary sees an anti-possession charm on it. Pulling out her own (on her wrist), she says that must be why the demon couldn’t possess John before.

The key works and they go inside. Yep. It’s the Bunker. The Bunker is back, babies.

Inside, John asks if Mary has been doing “this” long. She says that yeah, she’s been a Hunter since she was a child. He asks her if she’s heard of Henry Winchester and she says no. John refers to whoever was inside as “paranormal freemasons” (LOL! Well, it’s an apt analogy, as I’ve said in previous reviews for the Mothership, though perhaps a bit redundant). When Mary insists that there’s no such thing, John points out the symbol on the envelope.

Oh, wait, not the Bunker. It’s the clubhouse where Abaddon killed everyone. But where are all the bodies? If someone cleaned up, where did they go?

John finds a book with the Men of Letters name on it and asks who they are. Mary claims she has no idea, but considering all the dust, they’re probably all dead. As Mary is picking a lock, John finds his dad’s locker, with a photo of his dad inside it. The lock has the same combination as one John had back home. John comments that he went all the way to Vietnam and back to figure out why his father left him.

Mary finds what she was looking for – a file in a filing cabinet. Her father had asked her to get it for him, on behalf of a woman named Ada Monroe. She said her father sounded afraid.

Outside, John asks her name, but Mary tries to dissuade him from getting any further into the Hunting life. As Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” comes on, John gives her his name, but she just keeps walking as it starts to rain.

The cinema is showing Slaughterhouse 5. Remember Dean’s Kurt Vonnegut obsession?

Cut to Ada Monroe’s shop, while Patsy still sings and it still rains. She’s opening a book when the lights flicker. She doesn’t grab an anti-possession amulet and start to run, though, until the demon comes smoking out of the vent. She runs downstairs as books fly, but trips and loses her grip on the amulet (boy, people sure do trip a lot in this episode). So, she gets possessed.

Cut to morning (or at least daytime) and Mary rolling up to the curb on Main Street, only to find John waiting for her with two cups of coffee and some news (how come these two never met if they both grew up in Lawrence?). He found a news item about Ada Monroe going missing from her shop in Lubbock, TX. Mary realizes her dad was recently in Lubbock. John immediately suggests a road trip. Mary demurs, not wanting to get a civilian involved, and points out that John’s father kept these things from him for a reason. John admits that he hates his father for that, but also loves him. Yeah, family is confusing in this verse.

Mary rather reluctantly agrees by telling him her name. She’s surprised when she tastes the coffee. Turns out John got it black to suit her worldview – “black as night.”

Mary’s first idea, though, is to go to the library. Her reasoning becomes obvious when she enters and tells the librarian they need “iron and buckshot.” Turns out the librarian is a woman named Latika who is also a Hunter. Mary briefly introduces them, then shows Latika (“Lata” to her friends, of which, she confesses to John, she has very few) the file. It contains information on a box of some kind, a puzzle box. This is Latika’s forte, so Mary hopes she can figure it out.

Mary fills Latika in on her father’s disappearance, saying he went “hunting demons without us.” Latika has never heard of either the Men of Letters or of Ada Monroe, and isn’t thrilled that Samuel went hunting alone (apparently, he doesn’t do that often). As she pulls out some impressive weaponry, Mary says she and John are going to go down to Texas and find Ada, while Latika works on the box. Latika wants to come with.

Mary points out that Latika doesn’t even do well with horror movies (Latika says it was just that one movie, Willard, because “rats are scary”). Latika suggests Mary at least contact Carlos to help out, but Mary says that after what happened in “Tupelo,” she’s not hunting with Carlos again any time soon. As she stomps out, John asks about Tupelo and Latika comments that Mary stomps out of rooms a lot.

Cut to Mary and John leaving Lawrence, driving through a row of creepy trees. John, riding shotgun, has another PTSD flashback. It was John who pushed a man named Murph to the ground to avoid getting him shot. But Murphy panicked and ended up stepping on a mine. At that moment, John has a quick vision of a dead Murphy in the rearview mirror.


“Ground control to Major Tom?” Mary asks. Like mother, like son.

John tells her she’ll think he’s crazy and she finds that amusing. He confesses that he thinks he’s “being haunted.” Ever-pragmatic, Mary has him pull an EMF meter and see that it’s not picking up anything. He’s not being haunted. But she then asks him to describe what he’s seeing. He tells her about Murphy and says that he still has pieces of Murphy’s silver cross (which Murphy kissed right before he jumped up and stepped on a mine) in his arm. He says it was the only thing left of Murphy afterward. Mary admits she sees the faces “of everyone I couldn’t save.”

Cut to Ada’s shop, where Mary is using her lockpicks to get inside.

John: So, is breaking-and-entering a big part of Hunting?

Mary (opening the now-unlocked door): Who’s breaking?

Inside, of course, the place is trashed. John notices the smell, which Mary calls “Sulfur, demon BO.” They find a map that Mary recognizes as her father’s design. He was in Ada’s shop.

Then they hear a woman’s distorted voice from outside. They run out to find a woman (not Ada), possessed and standing next to Mary’s trashed car, holding a tire iron. The demon tells John, “Nice to see you again, Slick.”

John is surprised the demon’s still alive, but Mary says you can’t kill demons (well, not yet). The demon comments that its host is new, implying that said host is not yet mortally wounded. But just as the demon is gearing up, a Scooby-Gang-type van nails its host from the behind, sending it sprawling. Out gets Latika and a long-haired man who turns out to be Carlos. Carlos to Mary is like, “When are you gonna let Tupelo go?” He then literally walks John through an exorcism of the demon (which is pretty funny) and it turns out the host is okay afterward, though Carlos notes she will probably wake up with a headache and maybe a broken leg. I found the holy water pistol an especially nice touch.

Carlos (genuflecting over the groggy host) : Jimi, Janis, Jim Morrison, amen.

Carlos is about to bail, but Mary insists they all go back inside and do some research. As they’re doing so, Mary and John check each other out when they think the other isn’t looking.

Downstairs, Carlos is reassuring Latika that Mary is wrong and that she is ready to hunt. Carlos grumps about Tupelo and Latika calls him out on it. Turns out he “flaked out” on Mary and “nearly got her killed” when he started making out with her ex-boyfriend and hooked up with an old flame. Latika also calls Carlos out on his claim that he is over his “crush” on Mary.

Latika then finds another book, with more details about the box in the Men of Letters file. Outside, Latika identifies the box to everyone as a monster trap “powered by dark magic” (when is it ever any other kind?) that can suck monsters in and kill them. When she frets that she’s never heard of the Men of Letters, even though they’ve been around for centuries, Carlos refers to them as “paranormal masons,” causing John to smile and Mary to say, “You’re the worst.”

Latika finds a slip of paper with numbers on it. Carlos (wrongly) guesses that it’s a phone number. John (correctly) guesses that it’s coordinates. Mary recognizes it as Samuel’s handwriting, so off they go. Mary insists on driving the Scooby Van and threatens to “knock another tooth” out when Carlos whines about it. Carlos comments to John, “She’s a lot meaner once you get to know her,” which John finds amusing.

Inside the van, at night, Mary asks Latika (who is riding shotgun) if she can open the box, should they find it. Latika says she thinks so. As she told Carlos earlier, the schematic was inside the Men of Letters house. This book she’s found at Ada’s contains the proper runes and their order for opening it.

Mary is silent, prompting Latika to ask her if she’s angry. Mary isn’t. She’s just upset that Latika feels she owes it to Samuel to get into Hunting. Mary thinks Latika should just walk away from it before it kills her. Latika tells her that “what happened to Maggie, it wasn’t your fault.”

In the back, Carlos is trying find a new wardrobe for John, which is proving frustrating. John notes that Carlos is a musician (he has a guitar) and asks him how he got into Hunting. Carlos says he killed a Ghoul, but not before it killed his family. When John extends his condolences, Carlos shrugs. “It was a long time ago.” John asks if “rough” is the usual way Hunters get started in the Life.

Carlos: The only thing worse than how it starts for a Hunter is how it ends.

Yeah, that was a bit on-the-nose.

When the gang arrive at the cemetery in New Orleans, Latika is visibly nervous and tries to reassure John. John recognizes this and reassures her back. Mary notices it, with a very ambiguous look on her face. As he walks through the cemetery with Mary, later, John admits that this is not the first cemetery he’s been in since he got back – he stopped off to spend some time with Murphy’s mother. He then asks Mary about Maggie. Mary admits that Maggie was her cousin, her age, who was killed by a vampire last year. They were raised like sisters and Mary still feels guilty. Mary insists that as soon as they find Samuel, she wants to retire, just walk away. She has no answer to John’s question of what she wants to do. She just wants to make it far enough to get there.

Inside the crypt, they find the well and Samuel’s lighter. Mary uses it to light a torch as John and Carlos note the sigils on the well, which they saw at Ada’s shop. Carlos says, “He used it to unlock the door.” They pull open the lid and John drops the torch down there.

The torch lands on the floor of a tunnel at the bottom of a rough-hewn shaft. Lata points out that tunnels under “an above-ground cemetery” can’t be a good thing. Mary figures they have no choice but to explore them, though, since Samuel could be in them. And she’s ready with a climbing rope. She assigns John to back her up, with Carlos and Lata on backup up top (you know, if things go sideways, which they certainly will). Carlos and Lata exchange a knowing look before getting to work decrypting the sigils on the well, which Carlos interprets as warding symbols – anti-demon symbols. They both judge it “awesome,” but then Carlos just walks off into another room, leaving Lata wondering what the hell is going on.

Down below, Mary and John immediately hear growling as soon as they land and follow running water in the tunnels to another well. The lid on this one is not warded and John pushes it off fairly easily. Inside, they find a box, which Mary identifies as the one in the MoLs’ schematics. But then they hear growling and, just as Mary is saying they need to bounce, a reptilian-like creature attacks them. John shoves the torch in its face and they run. In mid-flight, Mary identifies the monster as a loup-garou (a kind of Cajun werewolf) that the MoL must have left down there as their “watchdog.” She says that silver can hurt it, beheading can kill, but their silver knife is in the van.

John does his first badass thing in the episode and digs Murphy’s silver cross out of his arm. Then, against Mary’s strenuous objections, he goes to distract the loup-garou so that Mary can escape. Mary doesn’t waste any time arguing and takes off in the opposite direction.

Up top, Lata is confronted by a possessed Ada, who demands the schematic. But Carlos holy-water-pistols her from behind. It turns out he went back to the van for the silver knife after recognizing a sigil for a loup-garou. At that moment, though, the demon kicks him across the room and grabs the schematic. Mary crawls out of the well to see Ada with the schematic and the silver blade. As John is getting his ass kicked, she tosses it back down the well to him and fends off Ada long enough to throw Lata the box. After some fumbling, Lata opens the box, which sucks the demon out of Ada and kills it. Down in the well, John beheads the loup-garou, which insta-rots into a skeleton, then he crawls out of the well. He’s a little miffed to discover his first kill has just been upstaged before he even finished it. Ada is still alive. Mary is mainly grateful for that because Samuel is still missing and Ada may have an idea where he is.

Back home, in daylight, John is upset that his mom lied to him all these years about knowing about Henry’s occult activities. Millie retorts that she’s the parent “who stayed.” She always wanted her own mechanic’s shop, like her father. But then she met Henry and they got married. When she had John, she realized she would do whatever she had to in order to keep him safe. She suggests that when John has children of his own, he will understand.

John then gives her the letter from Henry that he got from the Mysterious Stranger. It reads: “If you’re reading this, then I’m gone. I’m sorry I’ve kept the truth from you, John. There’s a dangerous world out there and our family has fought that danger for centuries. The answers to all your questions are at the address below. I love you and your mother, always.” Henry narrates this in voiceover and since Gil McKinney is listed in the end credits, I’m guessing that’s him.

John apologizes for not showing her the letter sooner, but points out that Henry didn’t abandon them, whatever happened to him. Millie begs him, “Don’t go down this road, John.”

John demurs. He feels he has been searching for this kind of clear fight against evil all his life: “Saving people. Hunting Things. I was born to do this.” Millie admits that John sounds just like Henry and tells him, “Just come home.” He promises. Yeah, that’s easier said than done.

Later, Mary gives John a coffee and asks if he’s “all in.” John avers that he is. He also is committed to helping Mary get Samuel back. She points out that Murphy will still be dead and John deflects to her vow to leave the Hunting life. Mary looks stonefaced. John is conflicted (since he just told his mom Hunting is what he wants to do from now on and his new mentor’s biggest wish is to retire). When he tastes the coffee, he’s surprised. Mary says, “Figured you like your coffee like your worldview – too sweet.” They share a UST moment, which is interrupted by the arrival of Lata and Carlos.

Mary calls Lata out on killing the demon when she’s a pacifist. Lata points out that the box really did the deed. Mary still is uneasy about pulling Lata into the Hunting life, but Lata is committed. Mary compliments her and even Carlos (“not terrible”) on their support. Carlos is startled (I guess Mary finally got over Tupelo) as she hands him a coffee and says, “That is the nicest thing you ever said to me.” They go off to visit Ada at the Men of Letters hall.

Cut to John talking to Ada about his father. She knew him. As she recovers from her possession (she’s wearing a blanket), she tells him that Henry visited her shop when she first opened it and bought a book on wraiths from her. She remembers him as “kind” with “a great smile.” But she has no answers about what happened to Henry, only that every MoL she knew “disappeared 15 years ago.” So, I guess no one outside the situation really knew about Abaddon’s attack on the MoL.

Mary asks her why Samuel was looking for the box. Ada has more answers about that. The box is the only thing that can kill the “Akrida.” This is a new monster, “a malevolent force, a monster not of this world.” They have repeatedly tried to invade this world, but the MoL were always able to stop them. This tracks, since we know the MoL had a telescope in the Bunker that could see other worlds. Ada says that the Akrida want to “wipe out” every human, demon, even monster, and take over the world, and that the MoL had their records on previous Akrida invasion attempts in an office in Savannah, GA. Allegedly.

Mary immediately decides to go to Savannah. John and the rest of the gang immediately volunteer to join her. After a moment, she smiles and welcomes the backup.

As the gang heads out and “I’d Like to Change the World” starts up again, Dean explains in voiceover that they don’t realize just how big of a threat the Akrida really are. They don’t just threaten Earth, “but all of existence.”

Cut to an overcast day on a road in the middle of nowhere. It’s Dean Winchester himself, writing in a Journal while leaning against the Impala. Dean looks different than in the Mothership – shaggier, a bit more weathered. He promises to tell the story fully and that there will be “surprises. Hell, I’m still trying to find all the puzzle pieces myself. But I’ll explain everything. And until then, I’ll keep picking the music.” Then he gets into the Impala, which has the Amulet hanging from its rearview mirror. Looking pensive as the music gears up into a climax, he drives away.

The last words of the song are “Stop the war.”

In Memoriam

Lou Bollo (stunt coordinator for the first 12 seasons of the Mothership, who died on July 11, 2022)

Credits

Ratings for this episode came in at 781,000 viewers and a 0.12 in A18-49. Woof, that’s a lot lower than CW shows in previous years, but remember that TV ratings have been dropping steadily across the board for four decades. It was, in fact, the largest season debut for a CW show, even above Walker (though, in all fairness to Walker, it’s beginning its third season) and well above Walker‘s spinoff, Independence, which premiered to 617,000 viewers and 0.05 in A18-49. With that kind of beginning, even if The Winchesters drops a lot, the CW pattern would be that it’s already practically a shoo-in for a season two – assuming something dire doesn’t happen, like the new Warner Bros top exec being a dick about it’s being “too woke” or something.

I really should check out the show’s lead-out, The Professionals, because Brendan Fraser and because it didn’t do nearly as well, so it may not be around as long (though, since it’s a foreign import, it may be playing by summertime CW rules and therefore be okay). It’s gotta get in line behind Big Sky and the two Rookie shows, though. I haven’t even had a chance to watch Walker‘s season premiere, yet. I’ve been pretty busy.

Review: According to the credits, Jay Gruska is still on board to do the soundtrack music, along with Philip White. It was nice to see a fair number of women and People of Color in the end production credits. Nary a sign of Andrew Dabb, Bob Singer or the Nepotism Duo, thank God, though McG shows up first as EP in the beginning credits, right before Danneel and Jensen Ackles. The bulk of this, of course, was filmed in New Orleans, though there was a credit to the Canadian government. So, it appears some filming was done in Vancouver. That said, with main production apparently moving for good to the Big Easy, it makes sense we will be seeing a lot more Southern locations than we did on the Mothership.

Overall, I quite liked this. It was fun and engaging. It moved quickly. The worldview twist actually intrigues me rather than irritates me. But most of all, I liked the characters. People bring different wants to a story. Some want a good plot. Some want to bury themselves in a new world. Some like the characters. We all like those things to varying extents. We just have favorites. Mine tend to be characters. I am okay with a plot spinning its wheels for a bit as long as I’m having fun with the characters. Ditto if the world-building isn’t the most original. But a story with blah characters, for me, is like a musical with no good songs. A waste of time.

One thing I quite liked was that these characters aren’t stupid. Some of y’all who follow me on social media have heard me complain (loudly) about how damned dumb the entire Walker clan is on Walker. They do Dumb on Cue things, just to advance the plot, all the time. In The Winchesters pilot, the main characters were not dumb. They just live and fight in a very dangerous world.

Mary is sympathetic to John being a recent combat vet. John doesn’t bug Mary with unnecessary hostility and doesn’t even blast his mother with childish angst when he finds out she lied to him about knowing about Henry’s job. Ada goes for that anti-possession charm the second she realizes the demon is coming after her – it’s just bad luck she drops it (okay, characters do stumble a bit much in this episode, but it is a horror story, after all).

Lata wisely takes Carlos along when she goes to back up Mary and while Mary’s reasons for not calling Carlos herself are personal rather than professional, since Carlos is actually a very good Hunter, they also make sense. Sadly, the flip side to all of these characters being smart is that the show is going to have to generate drama some other way, which means somebody(s) is probably going to die by the end of the season.

It was nice to see some increased diversity. In addition to Mary, you’ve got Latika, Ada and Millie as main/recurring characters, with Lata and Ada also being Women of Color. Carlos, in addition to being a PoC, is nonbinary. I was a bit meh about the show’s idea of a 1970s nonbinary character just being a hippy with a funky wardrobe and a groovy van. Back then (yes, I do remember that far back, even if Robbie Thompson, who wrote this episode, doesn’t), people didn’t believe long hair made a guy nonbinary so much as gay or an actual woman, per Charlie Daniels’ “Uneasy Rider” (1973) and Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” (recorded in 1971, but released in 1973). But the hippy men in question were generally straight.

I lost count of the number of times I got misgendered as a kid due to wearing jeans all the time and I’m a cis girl. So far, what I see of Carlos (who uses “he/him” pronouns) is that he’s a bisexual hippy guy, which isn’t terribly revolutionary in 2022. Let’s just say that the show’s no Ingrid Michaelson’s “Girls Chase Boys” (2014) just yet.

I hope we do get more exploration of his nonbinary side, though, especially since actor JoJo Fleites is nonbinary – and is the main reason Carlos is arguably the best part of this pilot. Carlos as a character manages to evoke Dean’s free sexuality and sass without trying to be a Dean analogue or replacement. Which is good, because Dean is hardly missing from this narrative, as we find out at the end of the episode.

Alas, as often happened in the Mothership, where the writing on the micro level wasn’t always up to the level of the perennially classic concept, the writing for the episode is not as good as the casting. So far, I see a rather odd juxtaposition of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (with Mary as Buffy and John as a more competent version of Xander, Lata as Willow, Ada as Giles, and Carlos as Spike) with a literal Scooby-Doo gang vibe. It’s a bit derivative.

Yes, Mary has always been blonde, but it’s a bit too close to the CW’s obsession with blonde girl leads that we saw in the previous backdoor pilot with Claire. Thompson just can’t quite resist trying to turn Mary into a Sue. I also felt that John was awfully soft and naive for a guy who had just spent two years getting shot at in the jungle. It doesn’t help that the two main leads, who we know will make it to the end of the story and be the Endgame couple, are both white, while all of the diverse characters are supporting characters. For example, I sure hope Lata doesn’t get stuck being Exposition Girl or that Carlos gets handed the Perpetual Cockblock role for Mary and John. I felt, especially, that Robbie still writes women and people of color in a way that makes it obvious they are written by a white guy.

Fortunately, the casting director for this show did an impressive job. The cast are great and have wonderful group chemistry, already. Maybe it’s just because she finally gets to portray Mary as an actual badass who doesn’t get reduced to a Fridged Mommy or Damsel in Distress by the Third Act, but Meg Donnelly is arguably the best version of Mary that I’ve seen up to this point (and this is coming from someone who was both thrilled to see Samantha Smith come back to the Mothership at the end of Season 11 and heartbroken by the dreck the writers saddled her with).

Carlos is already a break-out character. Nide Khursha as Lata is adorable. Demetria McKinney as Ada didn’t get much to do in this episode, but brings plenty of mystery to the table, as does the other woman over thirty, Bianca Kajilich as John’s mother, Millie (for unknown reasons, Mary’s mother Deanna is MIA, despite being alive during this time, and Mary never mentions her).

Even John, who is by far the most conventional character, the traditional POV character who introduces the audience to the world of the show, is filled out by the sweetness and charisma Drake Rodgers brings to him. Rodgers also has really good son-mother chemistry with Kajilich. There’s genuine love and caring there. Millie’s definitely got her secrets, but I get the impression she would kill for her son without so much as blinking. It’s also interesting that Dean got his strongest traits (such as his abilities as a mechanic and a cook) from his two unconventional grandmothers.

I’ll bet some of you are wondering where Sam fits into all this. Well, so far, he doesn’t. Unless you count Dean hanging the amulet on his rearview mirror, Sam is entirely absent from this pilot and even at the end, Dean’s riding alone. Keep in mind that the Mothership was extremely thorough in telling us Sam’s story and that we already know how Sam’s story ends. Sure, he could be written into the story later on in some way, it’s no big surprise that he is not in this pilot nor is his presence necessary to it, even by off-screen reference.

Dean’s own status remains mysterious. He is the narrator of the story, but he also appears to be retelling it in a way that is different from the backstory we got on the Mothership, including the backstory he directly witnessed. This might well put him at the same level as Chuck was for most of the Mothership (I’ve seen spec that Jack is the one orchestrating things, but so far, the show acts as though Jack never existed). We don’t even know where Dean is, whether he’s in Heaven or on Earth, or even if he is in the same time as Mary and John. Is it an alternate reality? We don’t know. Is he the mysterious stranger who handed John the letter from Henry? We don’t know. When did Henry write the note? Was he in Heaven? Folks, we really don’t know.

One last thing – there were only two original Classic songs in this one, but that’s more music than too many episodes toward the end had on the Mothership. Also, I liked the way the episode visited and revisited these songs, rather than using them as bookends or background or filler. I hope the show continues to use them as thematic notes and subtext to the story.

Next week: Teach Your Children Well: A new Hunt promises the possibility of finding Samuel, but creates friction between John and his mother.

Supernatural (AKA The Mothership)

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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6 thoughts on “The Official The Winchesters: “Pilot” (1.01) Recap and Review”

  1. Happy Halloween.

    I always wondered if war related PTSD from being in Vietnam informed who John became. We know he was a drinker. That’s not necessarily related, but it seems like the whole world was a battle for him, and everybody was the enemy. But it’s still tough to think of that nice young man becoming the John we know from SPN. Hunting corrupts.
    No wonder Mary wanted out of it. And I like that Mary was compassionate about a returning veteran. Of course, she and her family have been fighting a war all along.

    I’m curious to see about that “ghost” John saw in the rearview mirror. If he’s having flashbacks like that, it could be a real impediment to hunting later if he can’t distinguish personal ghosts from actual ghosts.

    Now as far as the new characters, I didn’t really feel like I got to know them well enough yet to have much opinion, except that Lata showed real courage given her history, and after 15 years of Mr. Stick up his ass Sam Winchester, I really did enjoy Carlos’s flair.

    Somehow, the thought of Dean searching alternate realities to find the version he likes best/feels gives his parents the most free will, just makes me happy.

    1. It is pretty intriguing that Dean is doing that. And Dean is not afraid to go dark or hardcore in pursuit of his goals, especially alone, so this could get, uh, twisted.

      PTSD doesn’t necessarily harden you. It appears that losing Mary is what turned John so cold. Maybe we’ll find out.

      1. Oh, I know. Perhaps I said it badly. I thought it was hunting itself which hardened him, though that was prompted by Mary’s death. And angel manipulation.

  2. I also really enjoyed this episode. It’s not the best episode of telly ever, but it was a stronger offering than Supernatural’s pilot. The characters were fun and the show had a much different vibe than SPN. I noticed similarities with Scooby Doo, too, and I honestly didn’t mind at all. It’s not the most original, but SPN started life as The X-Files in a car (And yes, Dean is Mulder). I’m very happy for Jensen that he managed to make this happen: he always wanted more to be done with the MoL, and he really wanted Wayward Sisters to be a thing.

    Dean’s cameo notwithstanding, Carlos was definitely my favourite part of this episode. You said that a bisexual hippy in the 1970s is hardly revolutionary in a 2022 show, but please bear in mind this is a spin off of The 15 Year Hate Crime, America’s Last Great Gay-Bait. For Jensen – *the* Jensen – to be EP’ing a show with a canonically-acknowledged bisexual man as one of the main leads is HUGE.

    Remember also that this is THEE network which was brave enough to have Kerr Smith’s character canonically acknowledged as gay in Dawson’s Creek, but had next to no physical intimacy between him or any of his boyfriends. It’s also the same network which forbade any kissing between Willow and Tara for over a year after they got together. I’m just ecstatic to have this much gay both on The CW AND on a project so closely associated with SPN.

    Him being my (second) favourite part of the episode is only partially because of his sexuality. The biggest draw was his energy. He’s definitely not Dean, but he has a similar energy and I think they’d get on really well.

    As for people saying it’s ‘woke’: no, it’s not. It just includes people who are black- and brown-skinned, as well as a man who’s not heterosexual.

    It’s a shame none of the cast is Native American, though. That’s one of the big issues I had with SPN: it’s supposed to be American mythology, but it’s almost all European folklore and mythology crammed into an Abrahamic framework. There’s next to no Natives in it. Of course, Natives can be white-, black-, or brown-skinned due to intermixing, so a lot of the characters we saw might have had some Native ancestry, but this was never acknowledged and had no bearing on the story.

    I’ve seen a lot of people whining about how this show ‘doesn’t respect the canon’, but SPN never cared about continuity or its own story, so this doesn’t bother me. Aside from that, we were only ever TOLD that Mary and John hated each other at first, but we were SHOWN angels wiping people’s memories or creating alternate realities on various occasions. It confounds me that people can remember that SPN John knew nothing about demons before Mary’s death, but completely forget Zachariah sending Dean to end world in 5×04, or Michael wiping Mary and John’s memories in The Song Remains the Same.

    You concluded that the man in the cold open was Samuel Campbell, but other people have suggested it might be Dean, perhaps the same ‘mysterious man’ who gave John the key. Dean IS shown as being on a journey, after all…

    I view this show as in a different reality than SPN’s main universe, but Dean is still our Dean somehow travelling between realities trying to find… something. Something important which was taken from him. Something shaped like a gay angel… Dare I hope that? Do I have the constitution for several more years of tin-hatting?

    And personally, I’m fine with there being as little Sam as possible in this show. Dean was co-dependent and Sam a narcissistic abuser. I’m sure he’ll turn up at some point or other, but as far as I’m concerned the Emo King outstayed his welcome about a decade ago.

    1. I have mixed feelings about the CW and the Mothership’s approach to LGBT issues. I was probably a bit too old for Buffy when it first came out and was a big fan of Xena at the time. I thought Buffy did a lot of things Xena had already done, but in a way that was pitched to teens. I also wasn’t thrilled about how the show just up and made Willow suddenly bi, then fridged Tara.

      I think a big part of the problem with making Dean bi is that it would get into Wincest territory and I don’t think anyone wants to do that. I’d be fine with Dean in a relationship with Castiel, but whoever wrote it would have to deal with Dean’s relationship with Sam.

      The Mothership had its problems, but it started doing sympathetic gay characters who not only survived, but got into healthy relationships, a bit before the rest of the CW (let alone the rest of network TV) really went there. However, the CW has done a fair bit of LGBT representation in recent years, particularly in Supergirl, Charmed and Batwoman, so I found Carlos’ intro a bit more bland than it could have been. It ain’t 2008, anymore, you know?

      Mary thinks the guy in the teaser (whom they’re all chasing) is Samuel and Samuel has already been cast (so he’s definitely appearing in s1). So, I don’t think it’s a big stretch to think that was Samuel unless there’s a twist. I mean, there could well be a twist. I just don’t think we’ve seen it, yet.

      As for the man who handed John the letter, it’s most likely Dean. With Dean appearing at the very end of the pilot as a sort of reveal, that’s a heavy hint tying him to the letter. Otherwise, it would be a loose end and that kind of loose end usually leads to … the kind of coda reveal we got with Dean.

      Carlos is most likely of Native American descent and may well be the member of a tribe. His name indicates he’s Hispanic and he dressed like someone owning Native American identity in the early 1970s. I’m guessing “Carlos” is a reference to “Carlos Castaneda,” for example. Hispanic and French Canadian people in North American frequently have Native American heritage and are often assumed to be so, whether or not they are.

      I don’t think there’s really any retcon just yet, since we don’t really know what’s going on and the writers of this show are really filling in blanks that were vaguely outlined, at best, by the Mothership. I think it’s possible that Dean is trying to restore the Multiverse, but that could just be me being hopeful, as part of trying to bring back Castiel.

      1. I think The Show made Dean bisexual a long time ago. Nobody except perhaps a gay!Dean truther can convince me he’s not bisexual, not even Jensen. The subtext and coding is there right from the pilot. You picked up on it a LOOOOONG time ago, too, e.g. when you wrote that Dean and Cas having something going on between them in series 7 would’ve made the Leviathans ‘weeding out unwanted traits’ actually have some bearing on the main characters.

        The problem (as you probably know) is that it was only supposed to be Kripke’s childish, homophobic joke at first. ‘Dean likes to pretend he’s all big, tough, and manly, but really he’s a f*g’. The result of this was a huge subsection of the fanbase said ‘Nope, it’s not a joke, Dean’s bi. Do something with it!’ and most people involved in the show panicked and tried to backpedal as hard as possible. Jensen ended up in the firing line far too much, which resulted in much upset for him AND us.

        I don’t believe for a second Jensen’s a homophobe, but he was kept in the dark about the (intentional) coding and subtext for years. When he eventually cottoned on to the truth, he was in a difficult situation stuck between the homophobic studio execs at WB/The CW who would NOT want a bi man as the lead in SPN, writers like the Nepotism Duo, and fans like me who identified with Dean for loads of reasons. We wanted that part of him officially acknowledged. Some sections of the fanbase REALLY didn’t help things with the death threats, pornification of Dean and Dean/Cas, and everything else.

        I’ve been in the fandom for almost a decade (yes, I have a tumblr account. Yes, I’m one of those. No, I am not ashamed XD), so I was a bit confused for a moment when you wrote the writers would have to deal with Dean’s relationship with Sam if Dean were canonically acknowledged as bi. The reason was that almost all of the Wincesties I’ve encountered hate the idea of bi or gay Dean (they usually hate Misha and Cas as well. And they always INSIST on Dean being The Bottom TM because they don’t like him, but want Sam at least to still be a ‘Real Man’).

        Then I realised you have a point: it’d be like the people who thought Dumbledore being gay meant his mentor-student relationship with Harry was ‘creepy’, whereas before Rowling’s revelation, nobody batted an eyelid at it. Unfortunately, you’re probably right that a huge section of people would see incestuous vibes between Dean and Sam if Dean’s lack of heterosexuality were acknowledged. Dean and Sam have already shown disgust at Wincest as long ago as 4×18 The Monster at the End of This Book in 2009.

        I think this’d be an easy solution to have a demon or something make an incest joke about Dean (perhaps coupled with some pointed gay/bi jokes) and rather than have Dean brush it off, have him show actual genuine disgust. Dean’s grown up with this crap, so it’d be a good opportunity for him to dismiss the last of his remaining internalised phobias and insecurities surrounding his sexuality.

        I’ve barely watched Xena. I tried about a decade ago, but it didn’t grip me, unfortunately. I might try again one day. I’m aware Xena and Gabrielle were posthumously confirmed to be in love with each other. I unfortunately haven’t watched the other shows you mentioned because I don’t like having to get to know new characters unless there’s an actor or two I know in the show. Big Sky was fine because I know Kathryn Winnick and Jensen, but I’ll have to take your word for it that more sexual orientations are present in CW programming nowadays.

        Did you know Buffy is sort-of bi in the comic continuation? Only sort of, though. Willow’s orientation has bothered me for a little while: she could be gay and her relationship with Oz could’ve been performative, OR she could be bisexual. She insists she’s gay, but I detect the writers playing Keep Away with the word ‘bi’ there.

        As for cold open guy, it probably WAS Samuel. I’m used to fan speculation being MUCH more intelligent and interesting than the actual show (I was one of the tin-hat clowns convinced Cas HAD to turn up in *the* barn in 15×20), but I get the sense Jensen and Danneel care a lot more about the world and the story than most of SPNs writers did. They’ve also started The Winchesters on a much stronger note than SPN did, so I’m willing to hope for a decent plot this time XD

        This is getting long. Spot the author-in-training XD I’ll try to keep the rest concise:

        It surprises me that Americans classify Latins and Hispanics as not-white. I see a man like Carlos and think ‘He could be from anywhere in Europe and I wouldn’t know the difference’. It’s the same with most Latins and Hispanics I see in American shows. Ugly Betty, for example, is full of Latin characters and I never once thought for a second they were anything other than white. The same with Che in And Just Like That… (I hate-watched it, don’t judge me XD ) They just looked a little tanned sometimes. America and Europe apparently have totally different conceptions of these things.

        That said, skin colour doesn’t tell us much about a person’s genetics: my closest friend is a white-skinned Canadian of Anglo-German and Algonquin (probably Ojibwe) descent, but you couldn’t tell he’s Native by looking at him. Even if Carlos isn’t Native, I hope there’s a stronger influence and presence of Native folk in the show. Given how liberal and progressive Danneel, Jensen and Chaos Machine seem to be, there’s reason to hope so.

        I also forgot to mention that while I loathe SPN John, Winchesters John is a sweetheart, one more reason I’m insisting it’s an alternate universe. Drake Rogers is great in the role, but I think the writers should do more with his PTSD and survivor’s guilt. I also took to Meg as Mary almost instantly. Dean’s the only character in SPN I actually, genuinely care about (I like and have sympathy for Cas, especially his autism, but he was too underused and absent for me to get particularly attached), so it’s a pleasant change to have a cast of likable characters, none of whom is a whiney brat to rival Dawn Summers.

        I need to learn to write less.

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