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Things You Never Noticed In The Pilot Episode Of Supernatural

After more than 300 episodes, it's hard for any fan to remember what monster-hunting brothers Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) get up to in the inaugural Supernatural episode. Here's a quick refresher: We get backstory intrigue with Mary Winchester's mysterious death, Sam and Dean's very first on-screen hunt, and Jessica's fiery end.

Now, that's quite a lot to shove in a single episode, but Supernatural is known for its explosive action — a reputation it established early on. Those story beats are the pilot moments we do remember, but what about the ones we don't? The fandom is nothing if not astute, and, let's face it, we've all seen the series' first episode more than a dozen times. You might be wondering, then, what's left to discover. 

Quite a lot, actually. Between some mysterious photos, the evolution of hunting (and a certain speaking voice), and a major blast from the past, the Supernatural pilot is packed with elements, details, and secrets you've likely forgotten. We're here to uncover them, one salt circle at a time.

The mysterious photo of Mary Winchester

In the first episode, Sam remarks that he wouldn't even remember what Mary looked like if it weren't for pictures — and it just so happens that he has one displayed prominently on an end table in his Stanford apartment. However, the photo of her and John isn't just any photo: It's the one that sat on her nightstand the night she went up in flames, along with their house.

So, we know that ghosts, demons, and an incalculable number of supernatural entities exist in the Supernatural canon. But still — how exactly did that photo make its way from Mary's room to Sam's college dorm? It's hard to believe it could've survived the sentient fire that claimed Mary's life that night, and 1983 was way before digital photos were commonplace, let alone smartphones. A few episodes later in season one, the new owners of their rebuilt house give them a box of photos from the basement, so it's pretty clear that they didn't hang back and try to salvage any of their belongings. No one was carrying anything when John made sure the boys got out of the house before trying to save Mary, either.

The likeliest explanation is that there was another copy of the negatives in the car. Plus, early digital cameras did exist in 1983, though they weren't common. But it could also just be Movie Magic, which we're looking into way too much.

Hell's wedding bells

If Supernatural has taught us one thing, it's that creepy pictures are usually haunted. When Mary goes to check on baby Sammy the night she dies, she walks past an unidentified couple's wedding photo. Of course, the picture is chilling under the flickering light, which usually marks the presence of something ghostly (or demon-y). Yet she doesn't seem as phased as she should, given the fact that she's an ex-hunter who made a demonic deal a decade ago.

The wedding photo in question is likely supposed to be either set of the couple's parents. However, the introduction of time travel in season four allows us to meet three out of four of Sam and Dean's grandparents — and the photo looks nothing like any of them. It certainly doesn't look like John or Mary themselves either. So, who exactly is captured in this photo the night Azazel comes to "visit" the Winchester residence?

In reality, this scene was filmed long before fans first met Samuel and Deanna Campbell or Henry Winchester, so it's not surprising a photo from the pilot ended up being random. However, the flickering light above the family portrait is one of the first subtle implications that the Winchester family is forever cursed, from the time of Cain and Abel all the way to the third or fourth (or 15th) apocalypse.

"Better than mother's milk"

While we couldn't have imagined Sam chugging demon blood for sport back when we first saw Mary's blood drip from the ceiling above his crib in the series opener, it's definitely true that he's always been tied to blood. The clues to Sam's darker side were there all along, if you knew where to look. 

Before he commands a barrage of supernatural fire, Azazel flings Mary onto the ceiling and slits her stomach so he can drip demon blood into her son's mouth. Yum. Here, we get a clue that blood is tied to Sam: Mary's blood drips from the ceiling onto John's hand when he goes to check on baby Sammy. Specifically, it splatters right beside Sam's infant face. What's more, when Azazel condemns Sam's girlfriend Jessica to the same fate as his mom, her blood drips from the ceiling onto his face in the same way. Coincidence? Unlikely.

After two seasons of Sam demonstrating some concerning psychic abilities, we finally learn the truth about what Azazel was up to in Sam's nursery all those years ago: Sam Winchester has demon blood coursing through his veins. John Winchester, father of the year that he is, has known for a while — as in, long before Sam finds out from the shady demon responsible. Of course, John's genius solution to the issue is commanding Dean to kill his baby bro if he can't save him.

Burn baby, burn

We only see Jess a few times throughout the series, but it's hard not to fall in love with Sam's fiery girlfriend — too soon? When she gives Sam a pep talk about his law school interview, he asks, "What would I do without you?" Without having any idea of her impending fate, she quips back, "Crash and burn." She has no clue just how right she is.

What would otherwise be a cute moment is sullied by the foreshadowing the small exchange provides for Jess' (lack of a) future. The scene also marks the moment the fandom discovered that the Supernatural writers would never let fans be happy for more than 0.5 seconds. So, when Dean and Sam are off chasing their father's ghosts, Azazel puts his plan in motion, to ensure Sam will fulfill his destiny. Jess pays the price.

Just like Mary, Jess is flung up onto the ceiling and stabbed in the stomach. Sam must watch another woman he loves burn alive. There is, just as she predicted, a lot of crashing and burning — but sadly, Jess is the one who burns, just like Mary. Fate is a cruel, twisted beast.

The "Dean voice"

Watch a clip of Dean from the pilot episode of Supernatural, and follow it directly with a season 15 clip. We'll wait. Notice anything different? Oh, just the fact that Jensen Ackles progressively lowered his voice throughout the series. While it's not something you notice unless you go back and watch season one after enjoying over a dozen seasons of Gruff Dean, the change is pretty noticeable. At first, it seems like Dean is progressively trying to be like his dad — especially after his untimely demise. But after the show adds Castiel in season four, it's almost like Dean and Cas develop a competition to out-gruff each other.

As it turns out, when you play a character for 15 years, it can be a little challenging to separate the character from yourself. Ackles even told Us Weekly that his wife Danneel has called him out on this more than a few times. He revealed, "Sometimes I'll say something at home and I'll say it in 'Dean voice,' as it's known in the house, and my wife is like, 'Stop using the Dean voice.'" Most Supernatural fans certainly wouldn't mind the slip-up, and even Danneel Ackles has been known to appreciate Dean's gravelly tones on occasion. As Ackles added, "But then [there are] times where she's like, 'Maybe you could use the Dean voice.'" 

"The damn door to hell"

Wait, back up. We didn't know the Devil's Gates were a thing until the season two finale ... right? Wrong. When Sam spews a laundry list of times John has been missing, he mentions the "Devil's Gates in Clifton." Sam assures Dean that "he's always missing, and he's always fine" when Dean initially tries to rope his little brother into helping  find their elusive father.

Sam's mention of the Devil's Gates is such a throwaway line that you don't really notice it unless you rewatch with keen attention to detail. However, the reveal that Samuel Colt built a devil's trap via iron railways to keep the gates of Hell protected (and locked tight) is one of the series' biggest early revelations. The discovery of the gates' existence, and Azazel's plan to open them, is shocking news to the boys — but it seems like the Winchesters already knew about the gates, at least to some extent.

While the gates Sam mentions in the pilot are in New Jersey and the season two gates are in Wyoming, it's unclear how much the boys knew back then and how the instances are connected. Yet John's connection to the Devil's Gates, teased a whole season before, later comes full circle. A very dead John Winchester (who sold his soul for Dean's life) escapes Hell from the Wyoming Devil's Gates to help his sons finally avenge Mary.

Momma, just killed a ghost

The youngest Winchester brother (that we knew of at the time) grew up with a barrage of stories about the mysterious circumstances surrounding his mom's death. But they're just that to him: stories. He doesn't have the emotional connection Dean has to Mary, built on lazy Sunday mornings and baking enough pies to feed an army. While Dean tries to shield his little brother from the more gruesome aspects of growing up as John Winchester's little demon-hunting soldiers, at least Dean got those four years of domestic normalcy — Sam didn't.

As a result, hunting monsters is personal for John and Dean: It's vengeance for the woman they both loved. But Sam, who can't even remember her, simply wants the normal life she would have wanted for him. When the Winchesters confront the pilot episode's Woman in White, Sam asks, "Do you think mom would have wanted this for us?" The question, of course, is rhetorical, but we end up getting an answer later in season four, when Dean time travels back to 1973.

Mary tells a heartbroken Dean, "You know the worst thing I can think of — the very worst thing – is for my children to be raised into this like I was." Mary Winchester tried everything she could to prevent her kids from becoming hunters, but her death set things into uncontrollable motion. Sam's emotional dig at Dean becomes that much more meaningful as a result.

Mending bridges

Obviously, with a show like Supernatural, fans have to suspend some disbelief. The series is about a pair of demon-hunting brothers, after all. However, some scenes require a bit more flexibility than others. The series is just getting its legs in the pilot, so we can better forgive some of its oversights. But seriously, what's with the bridge that a good chunk of the episode takes place on? We're supposed to believe that Constance Welch, the ghostly Woman in White, died by suicide when jumping off this bridge. However, the bridge can't be much more than a few feet high!

What's more, the vengeful spirit hijacks Dean's beloved '67 Chevy Impala (known as "Baby") to try to run the brothers off the bridge. Both men fling themselves off the bridge to avoid her wrath: Dean goes barreling into the river while Sam somehow manages to grip onto the ledge. Given the way Sam launches himself up in the air while running from Constance, it makes zero sense that he could hang on. And Dean, who actually falls into the water, only ends up with a bruised ego and a rank smell. This sequence is incoherent and inconclusive, and it leaves us wondering how exactly Constance died, when the fall clearly isn't that dangerous.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

You can't shoot a ghost, Dean!

After 15 seasons of Supernatural lore, most fans probably feel like they could gank a ghost themselves. Ghosts bad, salt good! However, back in the series debut, the show hadn't yet fully developed (or at least relayed) the tools and tricks of the demon-hunting trade. We get snippets of info, like the fact that Dean and Sam find a salt circle in their dad's abandoned motel room, but we don't get a full explanation on what salt is used for at that point, beyond some kind of protection.

So, when Dean shoots the Woman in White with regular bullets when she tries to kill Sam, we can surmise that it's dumb (and pretty useless), but we don't exactly know why yet. Now, Dean definitely knows a regular gun is futile to use against a ghost. At best, it startles them, but it's not going to ward them off. However, Dean keeps the bullets coming, and it does ... nothing.

We haven't yet seen the boys arm themselves with rock salt pellets in their shotguns, so there's no real context as to why this is pointless. Sam's on the money, exclaiming, "What were you thinking shooting Casper in the face, you freak?" Dean, however, somehow thinks his bullet barrage was actually useful, claiming to have saved Sam. Did he, though? Did he really? Or did he just irritate Constance enough to give Sam a two-second reprieve?

The Woman in White's laser light show

We've all seen horror movies where the protagonist defeats the ghost, demon, or monster in the most dramatic way possible. So it goes in Supernatural's  pilot episode. A Woman in White becomes a vengeful spirit by killing her children in a fit of rage and later dying by suicide. It's kind of a bummer that this happens enough in Supernatural lore to create a whole subsection of ghosts, but bleak storylines are pretty par for the course on this show.

Upon joining the ranks of tortured spirits, Women in White then troll highways, trying (or forcing) men to cheat on their significant others so they can spread their misery post-mortem. When Sam forces our resident Woman in White, Constance, to confront her ghost children, her skin splits from her skeleton with a dramatic light show as her children hug her. She disappears with the sound of a drain clogging.

What in the what? Yeah, it's weird. The scene is almost like watching a ghostly butterfly hatching from its cocoon — except 100 times creepier and more gruesome. There are always special effects when ghosts die on Supernatural, but this is excessive. The water even lingers on the ground after her destruction. Ghostly destructions become much less flashy and ridiculous after the pilot, so it's easy to forget this scene in the grand scheme of 15 seasons. But boy, there's definitely a reason the show dialed back the ghostly drama.

Coming full salt circle

Back when the pilot first aired, fans had no idea just how influential the boys' first outfits, quotes, and greetings would be in the series finale. When Dean dies in the last episode, Sam says, "I can't do this alone." Dean argues, "Yes, you can." Sam fires back with, "Yeah, well, I don't want to." This tearjerking exchange is a role-reversal of their pilot conversation, in which Dean tries to get Sam to ditch his law school interview to hunt. Dean even admits with his final breaths that he waited outside Sam's Stanford door for hours before he gained the courage to come in. 

The pilot references don't stop there. When the brothers finally reunite in heaven, after Sam lives a long life with a white picket fence and a son, both brothers wear outfits strikingly similar to those they wear in the pilot. Of course, those specific outfits are long gone, but production did what they could to closely match the ensembles. And, as if the fandom needed more throwbacks to cry about, Dean and Sam's last words to each other are also the first ones they say to each other in the pilot. Sam says, "Dean," and Dean responds with, "Hiya, Sammy." During a virtual fan convention following the finale, Jared Padalecki explained that many of these pilot callbacks were ideas he pitched to the Supernatural writers.