Supernatural Showrunner Andrew Dabb on Reaching the 300th Episode

We speak with Supernatural showrunner Andrew Dabb about making it to the 300th episode and the return of a very special actor.

Supernatural 300 Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Supernatural premiered in 2005 as a show about two brothers who grew up hunting evil. As adults, they reunite in order to save their dad who went away on a hunting trip and never came back. Fourteen years later, and our Winchesters are tested to their furthest limits. They’ve faced monsters thought unheard of, done battle with demons and angels alike, and even had a heart-to-heart with God. The longest running American sci-fi/fantasy series has come so far from just a traveling monster hunt show, which, if we’re being honest, it never really was at its core.

The heart and soul of the show has always been family. The search for John Winchester, the vengeance for Mary Winchester, and Dean and Sam constantly sacrificing themselves for each other–it’s the bones of a show that’s stood the test of time. Having explored that theme at length is writer and showrunner Andrew Dabb. He’s been on the show since season 4, has produced in many forms for over 170 episodes, and personally written over 40 of them.

Andrew Dabb co-wrote tonight’s 300th episode, “Lebanon,” with Meredith Glynn.

“It was the first time we wrote together; it was a great experience,” Dabb says. “I was very fortunate to work with Meredith, who is a great writer. [She was] incredibly instrumental in crafting the show both in terms of the story but also the emotional arcs of the characters.”

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According to Dabb, bringing John Winchester back has been in talks since season 4, but it just wasn’t the right time yet. It didn’t help that Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been quite busy since 2009, from chick flicks to a brief stint as Bruce Wayne’s ill-fated dad, and then there was that little business of taking on the character of Negan for The Walking Dead.

When episode 300, titled “Lebanon” loomed, the time appeared finally right.

Explains Dabb, “What we wanted 300 to be was not necessarily about a victory lap—‘We’ve been around for 300 episodes, here’s a clip package of everything we’ve done before’—but more about something that can galvanize the emotional journey the guys have been on. Best way to do that was to have John come back. And, very thankfully, Jeffrey was available.” The showrunner also credits the persuasiveness of Supernatural star Jensen Ackles for getting Morgan back into the fray. “Thanks to the strong insistence from Jensen, he agreed to come back and did an amazing job.”

During the actual filming of the 300th episode, Dabb was in Los Angeles working on the episodes to follow “Lebanon,” but he heard from director Bob Singer that Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s return was something that made everyone on set happy to experience. “Jeffrey was incredibly gracious and amazing to work with,” Dabb says.

Longtime fans of the show might notice a number of nods and easter eggs throughout the episode, referencing the history of the show and key moments. Such contributions don’t only spring from the writers of this particular episode, Andrew Dabb and Meredith Glynn, but also from the other series writers, as well as the director. One notable moment was John Winchester’s return. In a dark room, Sam and Dean fight an unknown assailant until it’s revealed they are fighting their own father. Viewers should recognize the stark similarity to how Dean was introduced in the pilot.

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“That was very much Bob Singer’s idea,” Dabb states. “Bob has been [executive producer] on the show, and was director of the episode. We said ‘How should John come in?’ and he said, ‘It should mirror the pilot.’ Things like that come from all over. Jerry Wanek does a lot of our production design and art direction, you know. He put stuff in the background that you weren’t even aware of that has a deep well of history. The great thing of having a show that’s been around for this long is having a crew that’s also been on the show for a long time and that has a deep knowledge and love of the show. Television is very much a group effort so when it comes to that stuff, you know those ideas come from everywhere.”

Dabb’s personal favorite moment this season was John’s emotional return. “John returning and his scenes with the guys and with Mary were the emotional highpoint of this season.” Dabb says. “I think the conversations we had at the end of the previous episode was great, and Jared and Jensen played it amazingly.” The sillier favorite he chose was from the episode “Mint Condition.”

“Just seeing a possessed animated Panthro beat someone to death, that was a highlight for me, personally.”

Supernatural has just been renewed by The CW for a 15th season. Remarking on that, Dabb says, “The question becomes, ‘What’s going to end first, Supernatural or the sun?’ I don’t know, I don’t know the answer to that. I will say that at this point, we have planned out the end of this season which I think tees up and gives us a lot of fun stuff to play with going into season 15.”

It’s early yet, but we also ask Dabb what we might expect from Supernatural Season 15, which is currently in the planning stages. “That’s more of a problem for May when we come back from break and can re-attack it,” he admits.

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One thing can be sure: This milestone episode proves Supernatural has found the secret to longevity. It doesn’t lie in the special effects or the horror, but in the heart. The longest running American fantasy series has a formula that works, and a trust in the fans who made it what it is.