This first episode starts with the events that initiated everything so I’ll go into a bit of detail with it. At the home of John and Mary Winchester. Mary is awakened by noises from baby Sam’s room and goes to investigate. She sees the silhouette of a man and just assumes it is John and heads back to bed. The she hears the TV on downstairs and sees John asleep in front of it. She screams Sammy’s name and run up to nursery. John wakes up and goes upstairs to Sammy’s cot and at first he sees nothing. A drop of blood on his hand makes him look up to see Mary slashed across her stomach and pinned to the ceiling. Flames erupt around her body and John lifts Sam from his cot before the flames engulf the room and gets the boys to safety giving Sammy to Dean to carry outside.
Forward 22 years to the present and baby Sammy is now straight-A student Sam studying law at Stanford and looking forward to a future with his girlfriend Jessica Moore (Adrianne Palicki). Then Dean turns up in their apartment wanting Sam’s help to track down their father John who’s gone missing. In the intervening years John has been on a single-minded quest for vengeance against whatever supernatural entity killed his wife, hunting and killing every evil thing they come across and when his sons were old enough training them to be hunters too. When Sam left for college John took it badly and they fought so Sam has mixed feeling about seeing John again. Dean really turns on the guilt-tripping and pleading and persuades Sam to come with him.
The brothers investigate a missing person’s casein Jericho California that John was investigating and found it is a Lady in White style haunting though he left before getting rid of the ghost. These are the spirits of women who were driven mad by their husband’s unfaithfulness and murdered their children then killed themselves. Now she haunts the road and bridge where she died, getting a ride from cheating men who she kills and makes vanish.
Sam and Dean investigate the case with their usual brand of wit and deceit including impersonating state marshals which gets Dean arrested and this means he can get his hands on his father’s journal that the Sheriff (R.D. Call) has been reading. This journal has a record of every evil thing John has hunted and how it was killed as well as relevant passages copied from old books.
The ghost attacks Sam and he comes up with a very original solution – the ghost would ask to be taken home but then say she can never go home so Sam smashes the car into the house. This gives the two ghosts of the murdered children a chance to get their vengeance on the spirit of their mother and the ghosts consume each other and vanish.
They find coordinates left by their father in his journal as some sort of message but Sam wants to go back to his college and really has no interest in returning to hunting. He has no memory of his mother and so is not motivated to avenge her death Dean is disappointed but he drops off Sam at his apartment. Sam relaxes back on his bed and drops of blood hit his head. Jessica is pinned to the ceiling with her stomach slashed and there is an eruption of flames that engulf the room. Dean kicks down the door and drags Sam out to safety. Now Sam is just as committed to the hunt as his father was in his quest for vengeance.
A group of campers go missing in the wilderness at Blackwater Ridge Colorado, captured by a wendigo, a creature from Native American legends. It used to be human but it has gained powers including speed, strength and immortality from cannibalism and is a fantastic hunter. Sam and Dean find themselves having to take care of a brother (Alden Ehrenreich) and sister (Gina Holden) who are searching for their older brother (Graham Wardle) and the smartass guide (Callum Keith Rennie) they have hired when they realise what they are up against is immune to their guns. Fortunately their father taught them what was effective if they survive long enough to use it.
Sam and Dean are following coordinates left by John in his journal as a message to the brothers hoping they will lead them to him. Sam is twisted by grief and rage and this is making him impatient to find John and then find whatever killed Jessica but Dean tries to get him to realise that their search may take time and he can’t run on rage all the time. Their mission is to stop people getting killed by things and they have people to take care of right there.
3. Dead in the Water
The spirit of a young boy is haunting Lake Manitoc, Wisconsin and taking vengeance on those who killed him by killing their families before killing them. Dean and Sam have to keep the local sheriff’s (Daniel Hugh Kelly) daughter Andrea (Amy Acker) and his grandson Lucas (Nico McEown) from the clutches of the spirit who can travel through the pipes to attack people anywhere in the local town. Since the dead boy’s body was lost in the bottom of the lake they cannot get rid of his spirit by their usual method of by salting and burning the remains. The spirit does seem to be appeased when his killer sacrifices himself willingly to save his family.
Dean forms a connection with Lucas who is mute since seeing his father killed on the lake which reminds Dean of how he lost his mother at a young age . The boy seems to have precognitive powers and tries to warn Dean of the attacks through his drawings.
4. Phantom Traveller
A black smoky spirit creature is entering frightened air travellers and causing them to crash the planes they are on 40 minutes into the flight. This is the first demon the Winchesters come across in the series but this is very low level demon. They learn that it was a demon from the sulphur residue it left behind on the wreckage of a plane. The plan is to find the demon then exorcise it from whomever it is possesses and banishing it to hell.
They are brought into this case by a guy Jerry (Brian Markinson) that Dean and John helped before with a poltergeist so he knows this the sort of thing they deal with. Sam learns that when John spoke about him it was with pride which surprises Sam since they had big argument when Sam left.
They learn that John has put a message on his phone telling people to contact Dean if they need help. This seems to suggest that John knows what they have been doing and Dean is right that he wants them to take over his work of saving people by hunting things.
Dean like likes to act like he is the fearless one and he certainly has no fear when taking on supernatural creatures but he’s afraid of flying in airplanes which isn’t even an irrational fear since if they cannot stop the demon the plane they are on will certainly crash.
There is a running sub-plot about Sam’s difficulties getting to sleep without nightmares that gets first mentioned in this episode and so far it’s just the recurring memory of her death and though Dean is concerned he doesn’t push it.
5. Bloody Mary
In Toledo Ohio three young girls on a sleepover are playing truth or dare and one dare is the old Bloody Mary thing – say her name in the mirror three times ans she”l gouge out you eyes. It is treated as just a stupid easy dare but the audience gets to see a spirit in different mirrors when no-one is looking. This example of the urban legend turns out to be a ghost in a mirror who kills people who have been secretly responsible for someone’s death but not necessarily the person who called her. The victims are found with dead with eyes burst and massive cerebral haemorrhaging. Sam and Dean use ultraviolet light to reveal the names of people who have died on the back of the mirrors and they discover the link between those names and the people killed by the spirit.
Once they figure out the spirit’s MO Sam thinks he has the right qualifications to attract the spirit which basically means he’s been keeping something important secret from Dean. Though Dean knows Sam has been having nightmares about Jessica’s death Sam has never mentioned that these nightmares started before Jessica died and his guilt is that he said nothing to her out of fear of revealing the secret of his life as a hunter. Psychic Sam is a long-running plot that sees many twists along the way.
They find the original mirror that Bloody Mary was murdered in front of and Sam calls to her and sure enough she appears and attacks him but Dean manages to smash her mirror but this just frees her from the mirror. She attacks both of them but Dean holds up a mirror and her spirit is compelled to attack her own murderous manifestation and destroy itself or something.
In St Louis one of Sam’s college friends Zach (Aleks Holtz) is arrested for murdering his girlfriend but his sister Rebecca (Amy Grabow) insists he was with her when the murder happened. They discover there is a shape-shifter in town and even though they are very familiar with the method for taking down a shape-shifter this one causes extra grief for the brothers when it takes the form of Dean and gets his face noticed by the police.
This shape-shifter changes form by shedding its skin, teeth, hair, everything and it seems to have a psychic link to whoever it impersonates so it not only looks the same, it has the same memories. While in Dean’s form it is a lot more frank with Sam about Dean’s feelings than Dean ever is. It talks about Dean’s fear of abandonment with both Sam and his father leaving him and about how much Dean has sacrificed to follow this mission and keep them together
Sam realises at the end of the episode that he really can’t have a normal life now that he has seen how much keeping things from his friends could hurt them and that Dean may be right about keeping attachments to a minimum.
7. Hook Man
Another urban legend gets an outing with a killer with a hook killing people off around the Eastern Iowa University campus with deaths staged just like in the tales children tell to scare each other. They seem to be associated with a young student Lori (Jane McGregor) who is the daughter of local church minister Reverend Sorensen (Dan Butler)
This is a fairly straightforward case with investigations uncovering a hook handed killer pastor in the past and this is the spirit who is killing people now. The only complication is that after salting and burning the remains the spirit is still active. Sam figures out that the hook also counts as remains but it was reforged. They have to get all the silver in the church and put it in a fire to destroy the spirit. I always notice this solution as it makes no sense since this exactly what happened to the hook when it was reforged so that surely must have destroyed the spirit.
This episode didn’t have very much to do with main series story arc. There was a bit of a mention at the start of Sam’s effort to find John and the trail going cold.
A series of deaths in a brand new housing development called Oasis Plains Oklahoma are caused by bugs and creepy crawlies. After investigating it turns out to be down to a Native American curse and there is no getting rid of the curse, there is just getting away from it.
Matthew (Tyler Johnston) the teenage son of property developer Larry (Andrew Airlie) gets a hard time from his dad and Sam sympathises with him and offers advice to the boy that Dean takes as an indirect swipe at their father. It seems Sam is having mixed feelings about meeting their father since in many ways he is still angry about many things but by the end of the episode he accepts he may owe his father an apology.
We see Dean raising funds by hustling pool at the start of the episode. This was mentioned back in the pilot but this the first we actually see how the boys make a living since hunting doesn’t earn any money and is quite costly at times. Sam complain that they could get day jobs but Dean is having none of that.
As soon as they get to Oasis Plain Dean expresses his disdain for suburbia with its manicured lawns but knowing Dean this is him discounting the life he could never have to convince himself that he’s lucky to never be cursed by a life of boredom.
While investigating the brothers pose as potential buyers and there is a running joke of everyone mistaking brothers for a gay couple. It is taken in good humour by Dean who even makes joke of it himself. There’s another nice scene where they go talk to an old Yuchi man who takes instant dislike Dean for trying to lie to him but happily answers all Sam’s questions