The fifth episode of ‘The Winchesters’ starts with an unlucky councilman having terrifying nightmares he can’t wake up from, waking up from one into another into another until he finally wakes for real only to fall to the floor screaming and holding his head. Ouch.
And then, we’re at the Winchesters Garage…
Dean Winchester words of wisdom for the day: Spending a lifetime hunting monsters takes its toll. There comes a time when you gotta let out that pain inside you. If you don’t, it’ll eat you alive.
Well, Dean Winchester should know. But easier said than done for most of the characters on OG Supernatural and this prequel!
The episode is mostly about our merry band of young hunters trying to figure out who’s turning people’s brains to mush (surprise, it’s the Akrida) but the more personal story running parallel is John and Mary trying to figure out if they like each other and if they have the courage to talk about it if they do. John’s working on a motorcycle that Millie bought Henry for his birthday – and then he left two weeks later.
John offers to teach Mary the ropes, which she pretends to go along with until he realizes she already knows, taught by her parents so she “wouldn’t be faced with a starter that won’t catch while escaping a pack of werewolves”.
John says she could work at the garage after she leaves hunting, but Mary confides that she may leave Lawrence too when she leaves hunting, which John doesn’t take all that well – but doesn’t say anything. Millie is glad John’s taking a little break and spending time with Mary, though he insists it’s “not like that” with Mary.
Then Mary finds the councilman’s case in the newspaper (which I love that it’s always in the actual newspaper) and they head to the ‘Clubhouse’ (which I hate because it makes them sound too much like kids playing at something instead of hunters). Anyway, they read about the poor guy who died in the opener, of a massive brain trauma that came from the inside and turned his brain to mush.
The fourth episode of ‘The Winchesters’ first season is titled “Monsters of War,” which is a good description of what it was about – fighting your monsters, whether you’re a hunter or a veteran or anyone who’s experienced loss, grief and trauma. The opening is an older man stumbling down a psychiatric hospital corridor, walking right into a vivid flashback of his time in the midst of a war, bombs flying, warning shouts of “Incoming!” blaring. He takes refuge in an empty room only to find himself facing something that calls itself “Destiny” armed with a spear.
Blood splatter, title card, Dean Winchester, narrator.
Dean: Fighting the battle between good and evil isn’t easy, especially when the first monster you have to face is the one inside yourself.
I don’t really need it spelled out for me, but yes, true that. One of the main premises of Supernatural from day one, when the monsters Sam and Dean were fighting were not just the literal ones we saw onscreen. Cut to John and Mary sparring like the aforementioned Sam and Dean often did, Drake Rodger shirtless because, well, Drake Rodger, and Mary looking authentically seventies and I’m pretty sure I had those shorts.
John doesn’t want to stop or take a break, saying he missed fighting, even though in the service it was 24/7 “gym class with grenades” which does not sound like fun. He laughs it off defensively, but when Mary laughs too, he admits that was Murph’s line, and the defensive laughter fades away as he remembers his friend’s violent death. Mary realizes that he needs to punch something “that can punch back” to get those kind of big feelings out, so they spar for real. Mary taunts him a bit with “monsters aren’t gonna play nice and neither should you”, and bests him what seems like a little too easily to me – he’s a trained fighter too, after all, and I wouldn’t mind him coming out on top once in a while to make it realistic.
Carlos arrives when they’re in what looks like a compromising position, asking if he’s interrupting “whatever kind of hetero mating ritual this is” which did make me laugh. Sparring always seems a bit like it should engender those kind of questions to be honest, no matter who’s doing it.
Get ready for a brand new episode of The Winchesters tonight with our review and recap of last week’s episode…
The second episode of the Supernatural prequel, The Winchesters, is titled after a song I loved in the 70s even though I was too young to ever really be “into “ CSNY or see them in concert. Still, it brought back fond memories to actually hear it play in this episode.
As someone who was alive then, I enjoy this show being set in that time period, though sometimes it strikes me as an idealized TV version of the 70s, which was complicated and not all peace-love-flower-power. This episode lets the show really sink into the flower power part of the time, the monster taking up residence outside a commune. It opens with kids (okay young adults maybe, this is a very young show) singing and swaying around a campfire, wearing flower crowns, doing drugs, walking in the woods… It’s a 2022 version of 70s nostalgia, and a little less gritty than I remember.
In a typical opener of a Supernatural universe show, one kid soon sees what he thinks is his dad (in the middle of the woods inexplicably) telling him it’s time to go home – and then growing menacing looking tree vines from his arms and wrapping poor Barry up and spiriting him away.
The Winchesters logo pops up and sparks out just like the Supernatural logos have always done, and that makes me smile for some reason.
To Savannah, Georgia, as we get the Dean Winchester narration about family ties being complicated. (That is the most gigantic understatement ever for Dean Winchester to say!) They raise you, teach you what’s right and wrong – and in some instances teach you how to kill monsters. But no matter who you are, there comes a time when you have to break from them and make your own way.
I guess that was sort of Sam and Dean’s journey; John himself never had to break from his dad since Henry was gone.
Dean: And if you’re not careful, things can get pretty ugly.
Again with the gigantic understatement, Mr. Dean Winchester monster hunter!
Moving on to a pretty flashlit scene, the Core Four finding a bunch of dead zombies while Mary barks orders and Lata enthusiastically investigates a zombie’s dislocatable jaw.
Carlos: You are deeply weird and starting to concern me.
The weird is kinda the point though, Carlos!
The file cabinets are empty of any Akrida information, but Mary finds shotgun shells with “SC” on them – Samuel Campbell always signed his work. She’s convinced this is his way of contacting her. It’s very much a repeat of Dean always convinced that their dad was trying to contact them in Season 1 of Supernatural, insisting that he and Sam keep following his coordinates and his leads.
A few zombies, it turns out, are not dead, and they attack, the very convenient monster trapping box rendered unworkable for some reason (perhaps because it was too convenient). They’re all pretty badass fighters, including John, who ends up splattered with zombie guts. Drake Rodger is very good at the subtle comedy, so this is a running gag that tends to work.
I already posted my emotional non-spoilery reactions to the pilot episode of The Winchesters which aired at New York Comic Con, but I also wanted to do a rewatch and a deep dive into the events of the episode itself and the introduction of the younger version of John and Mary Winchester who we know from the original series, Supernatural. As a very very passionate Supernatural fan who watched that show for 15 seasons, I felt both anticipation and trepidation at a prequel kicking off – it was mostly due to the reassurance of people who knew the Supernatural world intimately that I went into watching ‘The Winchesters’ pilot hoping for the best. I was also anxious, though. I am very protective of “My Show” and always will be.
So it was with a lot of conflicting emotions that I watched the series premiere. Now that I’m home and have done a rewatch, here’s my deep dive into the events of the pilot and the characters, familiar and new, introduced in the episode.
It’s a suitably spooky beginning, a dark graveyard and an Indiana Jones-esque character entering a crypt by torch light to slice his palm and draw a blood sigil, opening a stone container to retrieve something – and then run like hell trying to escape from the monster that’s now after him! As Supernatural beginnings go, that’s pretty on point!
And then we’re greeted by a “Welcome To Lawrence” sign and an instrumental music background that’s also reminiscent of what Jensen Ackles likes to call “the mothership”, OG Supernatural. That show used lots of signage to mark the brothers’ travels, so this also feels familiar. Young John Winchester (Drake Rodger) is on a bus heading back to Lawrence, fresh from the war, still rattled by flashbacks thanks to the PTSD he’s brought back with him, and clutching a mysterious letter addressed to him.
Apparently the show had to fight hard for the extra budget to film John’s war scenes, but I think those instincts were good – we need to understand how much impact the violence John experienced had on him, and how much guilt he’s carrying around as a result of not being able to save his comrades. Those experiences are integral to his determination to head down the ‘saving people hunting things’ path, especially the guilt and the subsequent need to save everyone he can. Similar motivations will send his sons down the same path eventually, as we all know.
“March 23, 1972” a familiar voice narrates – it’s no surprise to anyone that it’s Jensen Ackles reprising his role of Dean Winchester. The narration is emotional for any Supernatural fan, but it’s also a bit confusing, because we don’t know who Dean is supposed to be talking to, and it actually sounds like he’s talking to us, the audience – and that he’s somehow savvy about the anxiety fans have had over whether this prequel will mess with established canon. “I know this story might sound familiar, but I’m gonna put the pieces together in a way that might surprise you” seems directed at us, the anxious viewers. Perhaps that’s only for this first bit of narration but it struck me as interesting. I guess we’ll see!
I’m not entirely convinced that we really needed Dean as the narrator, as much as I’ve missed having my favorite character in the history of the universe on my screen. I would kinda like to watch this story as its own thing, and am not sure I need the frame of Dean looking back. But hopefully they worked that into the ongoing story in an organic way that just hasn’t been revealed yet.
Anyway, John does indeed bump into Mary Campbell (Meg Donnelly) just like we’d heard in the original show. It’s a “meet cute” in the tradition of meet cutes, and both John and Mary are likable, but they don’t get that cup of coffee that we heard they did right away. Instead, Mary walks away with a “see ya around, soldier boy”, a cheeky shout out to Jensen Ackles’ role on The Boys as Soldier Boy.
I admit I smiled at that and both her and John’s love of licorice (something their son Dean will later share and which I cannot fathom at all..). Also I love Mary’s bell bottoms! Don’t tell me that bell bottoms aren’t awesome, I remember how awesome they were! I’m hoping fervently that Danneel Ackles agrees with me, because I’m fairly certain she’s the biggest influence on the fashion choices we’ll see on this show.
John’s reunion with his mother Millie (Bianca Kajlich) is frosty to start, which is interesting. Millie owns the gas station and is a mechanic, and she pulls no punches reminding John that from her perspective, “my husband and son walked out on me, so…”
She also clearly adores him as she sweeps him into a welcome home hug.
To say this was a momentous day in the Supernatural fandom would be a ridiculous understatement. Somehow, Jared, Jensen and Misha have all ended up in new shows on The CW and thus they were all in attendance at the CW Upfronts today, which is a story in itself that I’ll make a separate post about so we can remember the lovely happy-making chaos.
It was also the day that the trailers for the Padalecki-executive-produced Walker prequel, Walker: Independence and for the Ackles-executive-produced prequel, The Winchesters, were released as part of the Upfronts. And that means the Supernatural fandom, myself included, are having A LOT of feelings right now.
Let me just say that I loved the trailer for Walker: Independence (aka Windy) – I don’t have the same kind of emotional reaction to the Walker universe as I do to Supernatural, which means I can sit back and just enjoy both the OG Walker and this new prequel. The cast seems awesome, the look of the show is amazing, and the characters are ones I’m looking forward to getting to know. Add to that director Larry Teng, who I’ve so enjoyed following, and the show’s determination to hire Indigenous actors and get that representation right, and Windy looks like a great way to spend a Walker-intensive Thursday evening.
The Winchesters trailer left me with an emotional reaction so big and so complex that it’s taken me all these hours to be able to write about it. It should be no surprise to anyone, because I am Very Emotional™ about all things Supernatural, so this was probably guaranteed to destabilize my always-a-little-raw feelings when it comes to this show. Its very existence has been contentious in the fandom since its leaked announcement and Jared being in the dark about it before then, which only served to heighten just about everyone’s reaction today. Mine included. I knew that would be the case. What caught me off guard is how intense my emotions are and how conflicted – it’s not very comfortable to be feeling multiple (and sometimes seemingly mutually exclusive) feelings all at once. Humans are notoriously confused by that; we want to think we only feel one thing at a time, but unfortunately that’s not always how we work. Today was one of those days.
I was expecting Dean Winchester to be in the trailer. So I wasn’t shocked when I heard his voice, or when I saw him, leaning against the Impala, like he’d never left (and truly, he has never left my heart or even my brain since the show ended exactly 18 months ago). (Oh yes, and that just added to my emotionality, btw).
I have MISSED him and thought about him, every single day. So my heart soared seeing him on my screen again, and seeing him with Baby, on a deserted highway, everything that I’ve missed so much feeling so familiar. I’ve missed Dean Winchester like I’d miss someone I’ve ‘known’ for seventeen years, and who has meant alot to me. I am beyond grateful to have him back, even if only as the narrator of this story.
It felt so good. We saw the Green Cooler in the backseat, as it should be. And then the Samulet, hanging from the mirror. In that moment, when I noticed that, I think I gasped out loud for the first time – because the emotions were so strong and so mixed up.
I cherish the Samulet, its history, its meaning. I love the episode Robbie Thompson wrote to bring it back, glowing in Sam’s pocket, and the look on Dean’s face when he knows Sam kept it. I love that it’s there now in the prequel, that Dean has it right there in front of him at all times, reminding him of his brother. I love that it’s there; but it hurts that Sam is not. Supernatural to me is the story of two brothers, and that will never change. There are other characters and stories within the story that I love too, but Sam and Dean, that’s the heart of the show. I know that The Winchesters is not that story, but it is the story of their parents, and it tugs at my heart that Sam is not sitting beside Dean as he goes on this quest to tell their parents’ story.
I understand that the network probably wanted some Sam and Dean involvement if they were going to attempt another spinoff, since they’ve made it clear they understand that’s critical to any success. So I get why Dean needed to be added in as narrator. But I am counting on Jared and Jensen to be able to bring Sam into this show also; I can’t imagine how it will feel if he isn’t in some way. I’m going to trust that they’ll work it out the way Jared and Jensen work things out in real life, even when bad things happen. They’ve both told me how they feel about their friendship, and I believe them. But wow, that mix of emotions left me literally breathless for a while today. The fandom reaction was mixed too, with some fans just plain ecstatic to see Dean, and some really missing Sam/Jared’s presence, and some trying to figure out what to make of the two seconds of Lazarus Rising footage that appeared in the trailer. Supernatural fandom is nothing if not multifaceted.
There’s still so much we don’t know, so today was a day of speculating. Is Dean narrating from Heaven, while he waits for Sam? I’ve been assuming he is, and that’s the reason why Sam is not beside him. He has the Impala with him, and she has her original KAZ25Y plates, so that fits. He wasn’t wearing the Samulet in Heaven, but it could have been in the car – or maybe he wished it into existence because he missed his brother and hey, this is Heaven. On the other hand, I think he’s wearing his watch, and if this takes place while he’s waiting for Sam, Sam’s back on earth and wearing his brother’s watch. See how complicated this is? I usually love when fandom is busy gnashing our teeth and trying to figure things out, but this is too emotional to be very enjoyable right now!
Some fans, no matter how you feel about Sam or Dean’s involvement, were more intellectually confused than emotionally. The Winchesters was going to be an ambitious show no matter what, because while there wasn’t a ton of time devoted to John and Mary’s past in the original show, there was some – and that canon is tough to line up with exploring their early lives if they were hunting together. Fans from all ‘sides’ are wondering just how that is going to be accomplished, and the trailer didn’t answer any of those questions. Perhaps intentionally!
The premise of Dean not knowing his parents’ story – actually of no one apparently knowing their story – isn’t an expected launching point from past canon, where Dean went back in time and witnessed his mother making a deal to save his father’s life and a John Winchester who knew nothing of the supernatural or hunting or the Men of Letters as far as we know. How they got together was less an epic love story and more an angelic manipulation in original canon, with angels bringing them together and not hunting. I wonder why is Dean urgently needing to know his parents’ story now? Is there some imperative that’s related to him being in Heaven?? Why can’t he go ask John and Mary from wherever their house in Heaven is?? Fandom, as always, has its own ideas. The theory that Dean is writing some John/Mary fanfiction to pass the time while he waits for Sam to get to Heaven is currently my favorite. Ah fandom, you never disappoint.
So there’s a lot of speculation and confusion. That said, Supernatural’s universe has always left a lot of room for pulling the rug out and altering what seemed like established canon (and sometimes outright retconning, I know – I love my show, but it’s not perfect. ‘lolcanon’ is a fandom term for a reason, after all). Memory wipes and time travel and angelic manipulation are all part of established canon, though the show has usually shown that there are also serious consequences to all of those. So Supernatural leaves room for a lot of options, and I’m going to stay cautiously optimistic that something like that will be able to reconcile whatever canon divergence happens. I’m an optimist by nature, and I very much WANT Supernatural and its universe and its characters to keep going for a long long long time, so I’m here for the ride and hoping for the best. I’m also sentimental as hell, so thank you Robbie (or Jensen or whoever) for including the Samulet, even if it did launch me into an emotional crisis. I would expect nothing less from anything Supernatural!
That’s my emotional reaction to the trailer. The trailer itself – other than the Dean introduction and my big feelings about that – also was interesting. I like the look of the show and the way it’s filmed, the technical aspects of which I know nothing about but which I’m sure producer Jensen Ackles geeked out over and had some impact on. Other than the hapless demon lady who gets launched into space by a VW bus, I really liked the look of the show and how it’s filmed. I love that it’s set in the 70’s, and yes, it really does have a 70’s vibe, and I love that. I was also instantly charmed by Jojo Fleites’ character, Carlos, who seems to have great chemistry with everyone and be a bit of a smartass.
One of the things I valued about OG Supernatural was that it wasn’t about romance, so the John and Mary romance isn’t a pulling point for me, but the other characters seem interesting outside what I presume will be the central romance. Nida Khurshid’s character Latika is intriguing, and so is John’s mother Millie (Bianca Kajlich) who it appears was the mechanic in the family to Henry’s more bookish Men of Letters occupation. That could be interesting indeed! I wasn’t a huge fan of Mary or John (or their occasionally A+ parenting) in the original show, but Meg Donnelly and Drake Rodger seem up to the challenge of bringing the characters to life, so maybe I’ll feel more positively when I get to know them better.
It’s been an emotional day.
I loved seeing Jared, Jensen and Misha all up on that stage, thriving, and still goofing around together like old times. I feel incredibly proud of them, all with new shows and these young vibrant new casts who are just starting out on their own journeys thanks in part to J2M and what Supernatural taught them. I loved seeing Dean Winchester on my screen again, driving the Impala down a deserted road. I love knowing that Supernatural will never die, because I want that to be true more than anything, and I’m grateful that The Winchesters is keeping it alive. I’m going to cross my fingers, savor what we have, and hope for even more to love!
And in a few hours, I’m gonna settle in to watch yet another show that Jensen Ackles is in, the season finale of Big Sky.
But for now, I’m gonna go watch a few minutes of Dean Winchester again. I really really missed him.