This episode stood out as a very creepy crossover homage to low-budge 70s slasher and biker films. It even starts with “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly. By the end of the teaser, we’re grossed out by the sight of a bloodied and beaten woman tied to a chair and a fleeing suspect who turns when the cops tells him to stop and reveals himself to be Dean Winchester.
Of course, we don’t expect the star of the show to be a sadist, but, only six episodes in, we don’t know Dean that well, we don’t know anything about the woman, and no one knows about shapeshifters yet. It’s an intense moment of viewer uncertainty that can’t be replicated in later episodes.
After the opening credits, the show begins in earnest by starting the action one week earlier. Watching this more or less immediately after “Bloody Mary”, it seems Sam pulled back again after seeing the apparition of Jess. He’s constantly on his phone, checking messages from his friends. Dean teases him, which allows the show to highlight the difference between the introspective-yet-social Sam, and the extroverted-yet-loner Dean.
The shapeshifter’s psychic connection to the people they imitate give us more insight into Dean and why he’d never do what we saw in the teaser. (He may be violent, but he’s not a sociopath.) The scene where the shapeshifter takes off Dean’s skin is one of the grossest in the series’ history. Thanks, John Shiban (the episode writer) and Robert Duncan McNeill (the episode director)!
This episode is the first in which viewers see a shapeshifter, and it’s also a first for Sam and Dean. Shapeshifters were obscure lore to them. I miss the days when they were discovering stories were true. That said, shapeshifters as a species have undergone an impressive narrative arc over the 14-year span of Supernatural. They’ve gone from being fiction to Sam and Dean to being sociopathic menaces (in “Skin”), to being kind of sad (in “4.05 Monster Movie”), to almost getting their own spin-off (9.20 “Bloodlines) to actually being helpful (Mia in 13.04 “The Big Empty”).
The episode ends with Dean saying that he wanted Sam to go back to being “Joe College”, but Sam admitting that he never really fit with the posh crowd at Stanford. And so, Sam and Dean both feel like metaphorical freaks, in contrast to the actual shape-shifting freak they just defeated.
The original music for this episode was Grade A (including Lynard Skynard, Filter, and Free), while the Netflix substitutes were pale in comparison. The Supernatural Wiki was not able to identify the Netflix substitution for the last song. Does anyone know it?
1. Episode 1.01 “Pilot”
2. Episode 1.06: “Skin”
3. Episode 1.03 “Dead in the Water”
4. Episode 1.04 “Phantom Traveler”
5. Episode 1.05 “Bloody Mary”
6. Episode 1.02 “Wendigo”