This article contains spoilers for Supernatural and The Winchesters through episode 2.
Certain questions are raised when a franchise gets a prequel. How true will it be to the source material? Who will make an appearance? One of the little joys of watching a prequel series is to meet characters you know will be influential later. When we look at a show like The Winchesters, we must wonder which baddies might play a part when its predecessor Supernatural established 15 seasons of continuity. And this is me telling you I think it should be a classic, our original Big Bad, ‘Ol Yellow Eyes himself.
The Winchesters has proven to be a little bit canon and a lotta bit retcon (or “retroactive continuity” a term that means a previously held truth in the story is recontextualized, changed or ignored for the purpose of the new story). Keep in mind that The Winchesters could not exist if the writers didn’t take some liberties with the source material.
John and Mary’s past has been meddled with several times, and not just in the writers’ room but in the plot itself. Time travel is established as early as Supernatural season 4. In fact, it may be Dean and Sam’s time traveling with Castiel that explains how things have skewed off the timeline, a la Back to the Future. But we’re not here just to talk about reconfigured continuity. We’re here to discuss the one villain The Winchesters could – and should – bring back.
For those keeping score, season 1 of Supernatural established John Winchester becoming a hunter after Mary is killed by the demon Azazel. Before that, John didn’t even know wicked things went bump in the night. That iconic image of Mary burning up on the ceiling of Sam’s nursery set John Winchester on his path of revenge. It’s only much later that our boys Dean and Sam learn Mary had grown up in a family of hunters, and how John had unknowingly been a progeny of The Men of Letters. The Winchester family is so tied up in supernatural hunting lore that it becomes a Celtic knot.
How could Azazel make an appearance now, in this prequel set in the 1970s? Well first of all, he’s a demon. He’s old as time itself and he’s a schemer. Azazel laid his plans far before the advent of bell bottoms and lava lamps.
See, we know that Azazel caught Mary’s “scent” (ew) in the season 4 episode “In the Beginning.” In the episode, Dean is sent back in time by Castiel to witness when Mary made the deal with Azazel. This deal would eventually let Azazel enter the Winchester’s home in 1983, poison Sam with demon blood and kill Mary. Azazel was making deals left and right in order to set up the next generation of children for his master race and his ultimate plan of freeing Lucifer. You know, not big stakes there or anything. This is also the episode in which Dean learned Mary was a hunter.
To the casual viewer at the time, Mary revealed as a hunter might have seemed, in itself, a retcon. But Mary’s secret was established in season 1 in a sneaky way.
In the season 1 episode “Home,” Sam and Dean return to Lawrence, Kansas to investigate a haunting at their old family home. In an emotional moment, the boys meet Mary’s ghost. She says pointedly at Sam, “I’m sorry.” She doesn’t elaborate why.
Mary is sorry because she didn’t know what would happen when she made that deal, setting the Winchester boys on their path of saving people, hunting things – the family business. Without Mary making that deal, the boys would never have been hunters, never have been fated to play out a Celestial battle between the forces of good and evil, and never held an integral part in saving the world. There’s a lot of good, but also a lot of bad that happened because of Mary’s fateful decision. Supernatural has always had a thing for fate.
It wasn’t just the forces of evil that wanted Mary to die and set her sons on their father’s quest for revenge. Even Heaven conspired to get John and Mary together. “The union of John and Mary Winchester? Very big deal upstairs, top priority arrangement,” said the literal Cupid to Sam and Dean in the season 5 episode “My Bloody Valentine.” Team Free Will had been established by this point in the series, and they were toying with whether they had any choice in their lives or if it was all predestined.
Azazel represents the inciting incident of the entire series. He is the reason Sam and Dean hunted together. The reason Daddy Winchester left on a hunting trip. Since The Winchesters starts with a similar plot device of “Dad’s on a hunting trip,” it would truly come full circle to reintroduce – or at least tease – Azazel.
Supernatural has always leaned heavily into the themes of destiny and generational family trauma. A subplot that allows Azazel and his master plan to play into the prequel series would be a rewarding choice for die hard fans, and it doesn’t even have to take over the main storyline. As it is, The Winchesters set up the big bad as the Akrida. Yellow Eyes and his long awaited master plan could start being teased alongside this, playing as an ongoing story behind the scenes, eventually wrapping up when The Winchesters reaches the end of its run and ties into the beginning of Supernatural.
Bonus points will be awarded if Azazel could be woven into the plot in unexpected ways, paving more story before the initial meeting we see in “In the Beginning.” It’s also dealer’s choice on who plays him, as demons jump from host to host and any actor could portray him in the 1970s. That little fact would pose an element of surprise as he could reveal himself to the audience at an opportune time.
Time will tell if The Winchesters wants to play with the continuity of Supernatural further. We could surely run into a number of characters who share both series, but a special treat would be the big bad that started it all. Well Jensen Ackles is a producer on this show, so we’re just going to have to trust his instincts on this one.
The Winchesters airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.