Pilot Review

By John Keegan

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"Scary stories" don't scare me very much. Beyond the typical instinctual reaction of jumping at a sudden noise and visual flash, scary stories don't get a rise out of me at all. "The Exorcist"? Didn't bother me at all. I was more fascination by the psychological side of the story than frightened by the concept of demonic possession. It's easier to disturb me through unnerving concepts than to scare me with ghost stories.

That said, I have a deep and unending interest in the "paranormal". I love exploring the possibilities that lie outside of what many consider to be "normal". It's not so much that I buy into the typical explanations for these phenomena, because much of the time, it comes across as an artificial construction of "fact" designed to give order to the unexplained. But what I find interesting is the very fact that these anecdotal experiences are so prevalent. One can pass it off as purely psychological, but if something is unexplained, is that really a conclusion that can be made?

The old adage is that there is no such thing as the "supernatural", only those things that science cannot yet explain. These anecdotal stories evolve into urban legend and arcane lore as time passes and the line between reality and fantasy blurs. Unlike a lot of series out there, where phenomena are questioned or analyzed to death, this series revels in the idea that these urban legends and stories are all grounded in some basis of fact.

I have to say this: the writers don't try to make this series too deep, and they emphasize their hunt for their prized demographic. For all that, this is very entertaining escapism. The world of "Supernatural" doesn't have to be convincing from a "real world" point of view. The hook is that there's the "real world", and then there's all this other insanity that is kept nice and quiet, handled by semi-professional outlaw "hunters" who use conventional weapons to combat supernatural threats.

The two leads make for convincing "brothers with issues", and part of the fun is working out how deeply screwed up these guys are. Given their history and father, it's no surprise. When Daddy disowns you for wanting to be a lawyer instead of outlaw paranormal hunter, there are perhaps some psychological matters to be dealt with. The pilot gives me hope that this will be explored somewhat as the series progresses. Once the "coolness" is established, there's no reason to avoid a little reflection.

For a pilot, there's a minimum of intrusive exposition, which is a nice touch. The back story is shown, not explained, and that's always a good way to start. While I'm sure that many will be unnerved by the deaths that bookend the episode, I found it more interesting in terms of how this unknown entity might eventually be tied to the family. Clearly, it's targeting these people directly; it seems way too coincidental otherwise.

It also doesn't hurt that I've had a thing for Sarah Shahi since she was Jenny on "Alias". She's gorgeous, without a doubt, and she pulls off this role well. The producers were going for the hotness, and they got it. Clearly men and women both had something to enjoy. I wish the effects were a bit better, since they weren't always convincing, but this was a pilot and the effects may not be typical of the series as a whole. But that's a minor area of improvement.

I'm usually hard on pilot episodes, because they tend to serve two very different functions and don't come together well as a result. This is an example of a very good pilot. I didn't need to know much to get into the concept, and the producers convinced me that the series is worthy of being at least a guilty pleasure, should it be devoid of anything more than style. Not everything can be "Lost", after all, and sometimes, that's enough.

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