This article contains spoilers for The Winchesters through episode 8.
Back when it first aired in November 2020, the ending of The CW’s beloved Supernatural was met with some criticism. Some viewers were miffed about a tacked-on “Destiel” fan service, while others were incredibly angry that Dean met his end in a seemingly run-of-the-mill hunt, and some more still were just bemoaning that the series had just been on for too long at that point. Supernatural ended in a big way, with God being replaced, Dean (Jensen Ackles) dying, and Sam (Jared Padalecki) getting a really bad wig and old age makeup before he reunites with his brother in Heaven. It was a tumultuous time.
Supernatural had a long run, and in so doing had several spinoff shows tossed around before being eventually dumped. Wayward Sisters: we hardly knew ye. Bloodlines can stay dead. Supernatural creator Eric Kripke also once pitched a spinoff featuring Samuel Colt set in the Wild West.
The spinoff that ended up getting greenlit, and blessed by Jensen Ackles being a producer, was The Winchesters. The prequel series set in the 1970s follows Mary Campbell (Meg Donnely), a girl who’s grown up in the hunting life, and John Winchester (Drake Rodger), a Vietnam vet who has just been thrown into the world of the spooky when he learns his own father was a Man of Letters. John joins Mary’s team and learns the way of the hunt while they investigate the first season’s Big Bad – the Akrida.
The entire concept of the show presents a problem though – it’s not a true prequel.
Is it about John and Mary Winchester? Why yes, yes it is. But it could only do this setup by ignoring continuity established in Supernatural lore.
- John never knew about the supernatural until after Mary died in 1983.
- Neither John nor the boys knew Mary was a hunter until Dean time traveled in Season 4 Episode 3 “In the Beginning.”
- John never knew about the Men of Letters, and therefore didn’t know his father was a member.
The Winchesters retcon (a narrative device in which previously established continuity is changed) by having John and Mary meet and hunt together. This is interesting, if not dangerous territory for a fan of the established series. What’s sacred if the basic facts of this world are changed? What does this mean for the Supernatural universe as a whole?
A little clue at the end of the last episode has left us further questions and theories to bounce around.
The Winchesters season 1 episode 8 “Hang On To Your Life” ended on a tease of our main characters looking at some badly developed photos. The film in the camera was overexposed, which led very little to see, until we get to one photo. John exclaims, “I know this guy. This is the guy who gave me my dad’s letter.” It’s none other than Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester in the photo, standing beside the iconic Impala.
Previously, Dean has opened each episode with a voiceover that gives a little color to the upcoming story. In this episode, Dean says “Being a hunter, it means living a life of sacrifice. Not a lot of room for dreams. But you open your heart and get a little lucky, you’ll find you gain more than you lose.” The “A” story of the episode is about a musician dealing with the consequences of making a deal with The Trickster (Richard Speight Jr). The beginning voiceover does seem to hint about other dreams coming true, perhaps those of the devoted fan who felt spurned by an ending after fifteen seasons.
There’s been a few time travel episodes in Supernatural, but ultimately when Sam and Dean left, things went back to normal or convenient amnesia took hold. Dean being established in The Winchesters in yet another time travel scenario means the writers are taking another look at things. Dean sets John on this path, a path that very much indicates the beginning of Supernatural would change.
Early in The Winchester’s airing, I assumed the series would have to come full circle with some convenient amnesia that would lead to John forgetting his adventures and set up for the pilot of Supernatural. In established continuity, Mary makes that deal with the demon, loses her life, and sets our Winchester boys on a path of vengeance. But what if a fork in the road in the 1970s changes things up? Mary never makes the deal, and John never has to learn the hard way how to be a hunter. Maybe, just maybe, this continuity shake up is just the thing to rewrite the not-so-popular ending for Supernatural.
Questions arise. When in Supernatural continuity did Dean do this bout of time traveling? Is this even Dean, or something else?
The next episode is called “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.” Fate seems like a very appropriate word to use here. The trailer, however, highlights a plot about a vampire attack. So a lot is up in the air about the Dean mystery.
I also have to wonder how The Trickster might play into things too. Loki is a very powerful, world altering being. Perhaps he’ll be the one to tie everything all together. For now, he’s tucked conveniently away in a trunk, trapped inside a mirror. Can’t wait to see our boy Loki out and about, causing chaos again.
How is Dean there? How does he have the Impala? Why did he have the note to give to John? We’re left with so many questions, and only one option. To watch the next episode and hope to get further clues.
The Winchesters airs new episodes on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW in the U.S.