The Supernatural review: S01E1-10

From ‘Pilot’ through to ‘Asylum’.

Recently, I’ve had cause to watch the entire run of Supernatural through, by means of introducing it to my partner and various other friends. As a build-up to the new season next September, and as I’ve finished my previous series of literary micro-reviews, I’ve decided to go through every episode to date.

I’ll aim to get these up twice a week, on Tuesday and Friday mornings, but the schedule may deviate. For now, season one, episodes 1-10.

‘Pilot’
Writer: Eric Kripke / Director: David Nutter

The introduction to the world of Supernatural is neat, enclosed, and tidy. It does its job brilliantly, despite the occasional lapse into overly heavy exposition, but in terms of information conveyance it’s hard to find better. We see the brothers in microcosmic versions of the scenarios that will play out for the rest of the season, and it’s a testament to the strength of the characters that from the start we’re more interested in them than the plot.

‘Wendigo’
Writer: Eric Kripke / Director: David Nutter

Good old Callum ‘Leoben’ Keith Rennie guest stars in this often maligned episode. Personally, I really liked the creepy atmosphere that the ever-reliable David Nutter invests in his choice of colour, exposure and environment. The Wendigo itself is a bit hokey, but it’s a good follow-on, and stylistically you can’t really fault the work of the camera crew. Rennie is effective in his role, as are the other guest stars – a reminder of how solid the casting was early on in the series.

‘Dead In The Water’
Writer: Sera Gamble, Raelle Tucker / Director: Kim Manners

Visually, this is one of the finest episodes of Supernatural, and it’s unsurprisingly directed by the late Kim Manners, who is consistently responsible for the show’s best instalments later on. The desaturated, over-contrasted feel to the frames works perfectly in synchronisation with the story, a Ring-esque plot that features some outstanding guest work from the ubiquitous Amy Acker. Very good stuff, and certainly, for me, the most stunning in terms of aesthetic.

‘Phantom Traveler’
Writer: Richard Hatem / Director: Robert Singer

Supernatural has a habit of slotting in important plot points in seemingly innocuous episodes, and this was never more so than in ‘Phantom Traveler’, which introduced us to demons. It also did a good job of conveying the boys’ lack of experience with the creatures, and had a memorable scene with fake Homeland Security badges, giving it a modern edge missing in other shows. It lacks the same stylistic approach as previous efforts, however, and the stop-start plot causes it to suffer overall.

‘Bloody Mary’
Writer: Eric Kripke / Director: Peter Ellis

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for the mythology episodes of Supernatural. Monster-of-the-week outings can be good, but only if they’re done properly, which I feel as if the show failed to do for a string of its early episodes, beginning with ‘Bloody Mary’. Indeed, it risks feeling a bit like a poor parody of teen horror films, with the saving grace being the final showdown and the extensive use of mirrors. Peter Ellis still can’t stand up to David Nutter or Kim Manners, however, and it’s noticeable.

‘Skin’
Writer: John Shiban / Director: Robert Duncan McNeill

An enjoyable, if somewhat forgettable episode, directed by the former Tom Paris of Star Trek: Voyager, Robert Duncan McNeill. The episode does set up a sub-plot that runs intermittently for three seasons, but winds up being more or less redundant, so we won’t give it too much credit. It’s relatively well shot, although again it lacks the style of the first outings, with the new colour scheme stripping the show of some of its panache and impact.

‘Hook Man’
Writer: John Shiban / Director: David Jackson

Along with ‘Bloody Mary’, this was another monster-of-the-week episode that failed to hit its mark. It’s significant in terms of character development for Sam, as he begins to move on from the death of Jessica and her haunting memory, but as a story it’s a bit hackneyed. I’m personally of the belief that even at its lowest, Supernatural is still far better than the vast majority of its peers, but ‘Hook Man’ really did begin to stretch that hypothesis to its limits.

‘Bugs’
Writer: Rachel Nave, Bill Coakley / Director: Kim Manners

Manners is back! And yes, you will carry on hearing my praise for him every time we come across one of his episodes. I’m not alone in that either – Jensen Ackles also told us at Comic-Con that having Manners on board was crucial to him signing up. ‘Bugs’ isn’t a narratively strong episode, however, from the flimsy premise through to what must have been the shortest night ever in the American Midwest. Poor show, Nave and Coakley. Poor show.

‘Home’
Writer: Eric Kripke / Director: Ken Girotti

The overarching plot of the season gets a swift boot up the backside with ‘Home’, which sees the boys return to Lawrence to stop a haunting at their old home. We’re not entirely sure how the house was rebuilt so perfectly after the fire, but that doesn’t matter too much. This is a decent episode that uses established characters well. It’s a bit cheesy at the end, and perhaps a bit callous in discarding an important player, but the final scene is a nice twist. It’s just a shame that Loretta Devine didn’t return.

‘Asylum’
Writer: Richard Hatem / Director: Guy Bee

It’s clear to see that Supernatural is beginning to find its feet by this point, with the monster-of-the-week episodes losing their slightly one-note feel and becoming more layered and complex. It’s nicely directed, appropriately tense, and the guest stars are actually quite funny. ‘Asylum’ may not be on many top ten lists, but it’s a solid episode, one that begins to more accurately represent the bulk of the non-mythology instalments rather than a few creative misfires at the start.

All entries in this series: