This The Winchesters article contains no spoilers but does mention plot details featured in the series trailer.
As the longest American live-action fantasy series, Supernatural lasted a whopping 15 seasons before it finally came to a dramatic close in 2020. But, in the 15 years it was running, it failed to successfully spawn any spinoffs.
Two backdoor pilots were filmed, one in season nine entitled Bloodlines with the intention of beginning a Chicago set series revolving around a Mafia-like war between powerful supernatural families. But with no established characters appearing, a dramatically different vibe and, well, a terrible script, the pilot fell flat and the episode often appears in lists of the worst Supernatural episodes ever aired. The second backdoor pilot, entitled Wayward Sisters, was aired in the thirteenth season of the show, and despite featuring fan favorites like Jody Mills, it also failed to transition into a fully fledged show.
This new spinoff, however, hasn’t been cursed with a backdoor pilot episode, predominantly because it wasn’t even conceived until the original show had ended. With Jensen Ackles, his wife and Supernatural alumni Danneel Harris-Ackles, and Supernatural writer Robbie Thompson at the helm, it’s actually made it into a fully fledged spinoff status, and the first episode is due to air on The CW on October 11.
If you hadn’t already heard, The Winchesters is a prequel, focusing on the love affair between John Winchester and Mary Campbell, or Mom and Dad Winchester. By being set in the ‘70s, it has managed to keep the vibe of the original show somewhat intact, complete with a kickass classic rock soundtrack. On top of that, it focuses on two characters we feel as though we already know, and are no doubt rooting for, because if they don’t survive and, of course, hook up then there’d be no Sam and Dean. So does this mean Supernatural fans will be satisfied?
Is It Really Made For The SPN Family?
Narrated by Dean Winchester himself, you’d be more than a little confused if your first introduction to the world of Sam and Dean was The Winchesters’ pilot episode. You are required to be at least somewhat familiar with the characters and dynamics of the original show, meaning that The Winchesters is without a doubt geared towards Supernatural devotees, but does it consider what the fans really want?
Seeing Dean’s onscreen return is a goosebump inducing moment in the trailer – and even when witnessing it in the pilot. We are able to dive straight back into the SPN multiverse as if we had never left. First off, Dean isn’t just narrating. In fact he’s back on screen and behind the wheel of the Impala, digging into his parents’ journals to find out the real story of their life before little Dean and Sam were conceived. Does this mean that we are going to be seeing Dean back on the road again as a permanent fixture of the new show? It sure feels like Dean will be back in a larger capacity than just a voice-over. As he explains at the very end of the pilot, “This isn’t what we were led to believe, but I’m gonna uncover the truth about mom and dad. Piece together how looking for their father’s brought them together and how that put them on a mission to save the world, and led to us becoming a family”.
Fans of Supernatural will of course be quite familiar with the so-called tale of Mary and John Winchester. We are first introduced to mom and dad in the first season, and the backstory of Mary’s death. When Sam was a baby and Mary was killed by the demon Azazel, John was driven to learn about the world of demons and the paranormal and become a hunter. John pursues the demon to his own detriment, and after he vanishes in 2005, Dean seeks Sam’s help to track him down. After Sam’s own partner is killed in the same fashion as his mother, he joins his brother in their quest for revenge and the rest is history.
What fans need
First off, this story is about John and Mary. Did we even want a flick that delves into their love story or even either of them taking up the roles of protagonists at all? There are a few concerns from fans concerning the focus on John and Mary, primarily if they will be a little more likable than they were on the original show and whether the couple will encounter Azazel.
We asked the Supernatural subreddit community what they want and don’t want from The Winchesters. Redditor Throwawayfishfingers responded that one aspect that would make them outright hate the prequel is if “they dropped the penny about their plans for Sam that early on. Foreshadowing is fine, but if John and Mary knew that early on what Azazel and company wanted, it would basically erase what little sympathy I have for John and the choices he made in SPN.”
John wasn’t a very likable character in the SPN universe, largely thanks to his fixation on catching Azazel and continued neglect of his children.
Kh-38 explained to us that they’d “like some exploration into who John and Mary were before we met them and before John’s life got turned upside down by Mary’s murder. John, in particular, has some good qualities that I’d like to see evolve.”
The prequel will have to make him a far more admirable character in order to erase the complex history fans have with older John. It’s likely, then, that the show will push to reveal the aspects of John’s character that Dean was said to have inherited – and not just his love of Classic Rock and American muscle cars either, his cheekiness and loyal nature. We need to see him when he was (relatively) care-free and witness his character develop into the bloody-minded devil may care dude he became.
Similarly, we need a lot more character development from Mary. After choosing to abandon her boys in Supernatural, there is a lot more to be done here for fans to care about her. So far, she might be a headstrong, independent woman, but we desperately need to see the softer side hidden beneath her harsh, demon hunter exterior.
The Winchesters, however, rewrites this story and has John begin hunting alongside Mary before the boys were even born. But how could this be? Everything we have ever learned from the main show’s lore suggested that John didn’t know anything about demons and hunters until Mary’s death in 1983. In flashbacks when John proposed to Mary, she was seen saying that there were things he didn’t know about her – which we presumed was in reference to her hidden life as a hunter. As far as we were lead to believe, John was in the dark about the supernatural until after his wife’s murder at the hands of Azazel.
One thing Supernatural fans understand is that anything is possible in the show’s universe. And while the main lore may have repeatedly explained how John entered life following Mary’s death, we also know that Sam and Dean introduced him to “the life” in 1978 – when they traveled back in time – but his memory was subsequently wiped. Memory wiping is often used in Supernatural, meaning that perhaps this happened to him at another point, and we don’t even know if Mary remembered being a hunter at the time she was killed, perhaps her memory had been wiped too, and she only recognised Azazel thanks to his distinctive face triggering the “erased” memories.
However, Jenson Ackles has commented that the show will not be “just tossing away 15 years of established story. It’s just how we’re going to get to it may not be what you expected.”
Speaking to a fan at Salute to Supernatural Orlando 2022 convention, he explained: “I had somebody yesterday in a Meet & Greet, [who said] ‘just so you know, John didn’t know about hunting until after Mary died.’ And my response was ‘oh, I’m well aware.’”
In The Winchesters, John returns from war in Vietnam and is thrust into a search for his father, somehow causing him to cross paths with a bunch of demon hunters. Again, as far as we are made to believe, John only learned the truth about his father and the men of letters in 2003 when he was summoned by Dean by mistake and brought to the future in season 14 – so how can this be?
However, in the prequel, John has already discovered the existence of the supernatural secret society, The Men of Letters, at least by name (even though we already know, the society is long gone by the 1970s – a part of the lore the prequel appears to keep intact).
But, history always tends to come full circle and repeat itself in the Supernatural verse, and The Winchesters starts off the very same way the beloved show began – in search of dad (or dads, as Mary is keen to track down her own hunter pa). It’s been set up so that he and Mary can follow a shared quest, mirroring their sons at the very beginning of Supernatural itself.
Whatever their plans, SPN fans won’t be hanging around for long to see what pans out – they will need to be hooked from the very start.
“We’ve heard a lot from the showrunners/producers that there is a plan/twist/explanation for why what we’re initially seeing contradicts established canon and I’m frankly not willing to sit around for half a season to find out what’s going on,” explains Supernatural fan and Redditor finalgirlsam. “If they either lay it out or give us a taste within the first few episodes that will go a long way.”
Bring Back Monsters Of The Week!
We can only hope that plenty of “Monster Of The Week” episodes are thrown in between the overarching story of ‘kids finding dad’ – because, let’s be honest, these were missing a little too much from the later seasons of Supernatural and were so brilliant in the beginning.
There’s no messing around in The Winchesters, either, we are thrown straight into the action in The Winchesters’ pilot, being immediately introduced to a demon and despite Mary’s warning to John (“you don’t want any part of this life, I promise you, let the past stay in the past”), just like his sons, he won’t take no for an answer – especially when it comes to family.
Setting this new series in the ’70s and following an origin story allows us to add to our understanding of the Supernatural mythos, and Sam and Dean’s family history. Furthermore, it allows the series to have a similar feel to the original, with the familiar soundtrack we know and love and, hopefully, eventually, that iconic automobile – even if it’s now accompanied by John and Mary rather than Sam and Dean.
The relationship between John and Mary in the series’ pilot is initially set up in a similar fashion to Sam and Dean’s, Mary is keen to leave “the life” while John is keen to join it. While Mary is strong, serious and uncompromising (and a little angsty), John, like Dean, is more playful yet determined and steers things where he wants to go.
We know their relationship is going to progress far beyond this, but maintaining that tension of whether to stay with all their knowledge of this supernatural world or leave a life they didn’t choose mirrors the main series and makes us fans feel comfortable with a dynamic we are so familiar with. It’s also great to see a strong female lead in a show where women had historically taken a backseat.
The fact that the “finding dad” storyline harks back to season one also gives us fans hope that the “Monster of the Week” episodes will indeed be a feature of the prequel, that this will be Supernatural brought back down to Earth, and focus less on the epic end of the world battles and heaven and hell politics that became the focus in later seasons.
While we all loved Castiel, let’s keep angels out of it this time, alright? It’s the ’70s after all, prime time for horror movies and urban legend development, so it would be nice to see some homage here and there and a return to the spookiness of the initial Supernatural seasons. The general consensus from the SPN family is to take out the big scale battles (we can’t exactly build up to a battle against the likes of God again, can we?), and explore some different monsters – or a few of those Sam and Dean came across in their “Monster of the Week” episodes.
The brilliance of a prequel, just as with successful spinoffs such as Breaking Bad’s Better Call Saul, is their ability to retain aspects of what fans loved about the original show as well as the characters themselves – whether they are dead or alive in the original show. And even catch up to where the original started off…
While we know that Mary and John will be taking the Impala’s wheel at the helm of the series, there is plenty of room to bring back some other familiar faces. If John was a hunter prior to having children, could that mean he knew fan favorite Bobby Singer before he re-entered the life in the 1980s? We can only hope.
Surely it would make a hell of a lot more sense if he left his boys with a longtime friend rather than a brand new hunter buddy while he was on his quest for Azazel? Bobby was often a much more likable father figure to the boys, and us fans were devastated to see him pass away, so bringing a young Bobby into the prequel would be a real treat.
Similarly, many fans are keen to see younger versions of other established SPN characters such as Ellen, Rufus and Missouri.
Where Could It Lead?
Whatever lies ahead for John and Mary (and we already have an inkling or where exactly it is going to go), the familiarity of The Winchesters feels like home, and it’s hard not to love a show that sucks you straight back into a world you’ve known and loved for a solid fifteen years. Whether or not you are irritated by the perceived plot inconsistencies or not, you’ll find it hard not to feel a deep sense of exaltation when that classic rock soundtrack kicks off and Dean is driving towards the horizon.
“What would make me possibly like/love it is if it eventually lead into the prequel I always wanted with Supernatural. John’s character arc after Mary’s death.” comments Reddit user JasgerP.
“Him becoming aware of the Supernatural through Mary’s death and gaining more and more knowledge on how to destroy certain monsters and Supernatural beings. All along the way dealing with being a single parent, post traumatic stress disorder that he inevitably would have had and meeting characters through his journey like Missouri, Bobby, Rufus, Ellen’s husband etc. With prequels, I always love to see how things add up.”
None of us needed a Romeo and Juliet-esque series about high powered supernatural families or indeed a spinoff about a small town sheriff who hunts demons (okay, maybe we’d have settled for that one). And while Ghostfacers was a good laugh, it didn’t have the chops to make it as a fully-fledged show (just like the X-Files’ Lone Gunmen).
What the SPN family wanted was something that encapsulated the very show we fell in love with, that went back to the basis of what made Supernatural brilliant: more angsty family Winchester drama, a heavy helping of horror set in spooky graveyards, a cheeky quip or two from a good-looking demon hunter and plenty of rock’n’roll – and it looks like we might have finally got what we were asking for.
The Winchesters episode 1 premieres Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.