From the opening guitar riff to the flash of “Then” and “Now” along with narration by Supernatural’s Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles), Supernatural fans will feel like they’re putting on an old comfy flannel shirt. For those of you who have been living in a cave for the past 15 years, Supernatural was the CW’s longest-running show about two brothers and their angel BFF who hunt demons and all other manner of monsters, saving the world time and time again. The Winchesters, a Supernatural prequel, unravels the story behind the Winchester brother’s parents, John Winchester and Mary Campbell.

The show was developed by Supernatural alum Robbie Thompson and produced by Ackles and his wife Danneel under their Chaos Machine Productions, along with Glen Winter (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow) and David H. Goodman (Without a Trace, Fringe, Once Upon a Time). With the fading of the CWverse and the inability of the CW DC shows to even remotely compete with the bigger budgets of the streaming networks and even within its own franchise (Titans, Doom Patrol), the CW knows it needs some new blood, that’s also old blood. With rumors of the CW Network potentially fading into existence like a demon exercised from a host after 75% of its ownership was sold to Nexstar, it’s no wonder the network was looking to bring back some of the magic from its most successful show and the longest live-action fantasy TV series of all time.


Whenever networks try to recreate the magic of an iconic show, it often falls flat, even when they bring back the original characters (I’m looking at you X-Files). Supernatural creator Eric Kripke has no involvement in the show. Instead, it is being helmed by Thompson, a writer and eventual co-executive producer on Supernatural. While fans may be comforted that someone who was deeply involved in Supernatural developed the show, as Doctor Who has shown us, that doesn’t always mean it’s going to be a success. Despite the pilot being written by Thompson, you can instantly feel the Arrowverse influence of director and executive producer Winter.

One of the biggest challenges the show will face is that Supernatural already had an amazing Mary in Samantha Smith and an iconic John in Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Instead of using Supernatural as a jumping-off point for what could have been an intriguing spinoff (Wayward Sisters) that would have involved a broader representation of ages, the network decided to go backward and employ the typical CW trope of attractive 20-somethings and characters that have been well established in the fandom. It’s kind of like how Disney can’t get away from the Skywalker-era. The studios seem to feel like it’s safer to rely on that cozy familiar flannel shirt than to try something new.

Drake Rodger, Meg Donnelly, Nida Khurshid and Jojo Fleites in The Winchesters on the CW


The pilot to The Winchesters wasn’t bad and it wasn’t great. It honestly wasn’t much of anything. For Supernatural fans, there are plenty of fun Easter Eggs – the familiar black demon eyes, making fun of John’s flannel shirt, referencing Mary’s appetite. Mary even jokingly refers to John as “soldier boy” several times in the episode (“Soldier Boy” is the name of Ackles’ character in season 3 of Amazon Prime’s The Boys produced by Supernatural creator Eric Kripke). The pilot is even directly tied into the mystery that set up the final few seasons of Supernatural, with the uncovering of The Men of Letters.

John Winchester (Drake Rodger) has just returned home from Vietnam and is dealing with the PTSD that comes with it when he crashes into Mary Campbell (Meg Donnelly) and their lives are forever linked. John has been oblivious to the world of hunters up until this point, but in searching for his long-lost father, he is thrown headfirst into Mary and this supernatural world. Unlike John, Mary was born into the world of hunting. Her parents put a knife in her hand before she could even hold it.


I credit the CW for learning from some of the faults that surrounded Supernatural and giving us a strong female protagonist from the beginning. But since we, the audience, already know John and Mary will end up together, I fear that their love story is going to bog down what made the original Supernatural show so great – that it was a show about family rather than romance and trite love stories. But wait, this isn’t just a show about John and Mary, as the title might lead you to believe. This is the CW after all, so we need a posse. Enter Latika Desai (Nida Khurshid) and Carlos Cervantez (Jojo Fleites).

In Flash terms, Latika is the Caitlin (early seasons) of the group and Carlos is the Cisco – the smart brainy one whose strength is analyzing ancient tomes and isn’t in a rush to fight actual demons and the cool fun one who makes you laugh, gives out fashion advice and apparently sleeps with other people’s boyfriends. Whereas Supernatural had the intimacy of following two brothers (with the addition of Castiel a few seasons later), The Winchesters seems to be setting up more of a Nancy Drew-type ensemble-mystery show with a bit more action. Perhaps this is how they will avoid the trap of falling into a mushy romance with monsters show.


Meg Donnelly and Drake Rodger in The Winchesters on the CW

None of the young stars in The Winchesters are weak, they all handle the roles they were given with vigor. But those roles, unfortunately, are fairly formulaic and as I mentioned above, reek heavily of an Arrowverse influence. We might as well be on the Waverider (Legends of Tomorrow) – the brash badass leader, the fish out of water, yet smart and charming side-kick, the brainy assistant, and the comic relief. So far, none of The Winchester characters have the chemistry we saw between Ackles’ Dean, Jarad Padalecki’s Sam and Misha Collin’s Castiel.

While Donnelly plays a convincing young Mary (though slightly one-dimensional at this point), I’m still wrapping my head around how Rodger’s charming and boyish John becomes the grizzled version made so iconic by Morgan. And I truly hope the creators use the fact that he’s a Vietnam vet to really dig into the trauma and PTSD the character is dealing with and not just use it as a plot device or window dressing. Khurshid and Fleites commanded every scene they are in and were a pleasure to watch. They definitely have the energy that will be needed to keep this show moving forward.


I’m hoping that, as the season rolls out, the writers start to give some real substance to these characters. The same can be said for the plot. The pilot gives us a tired search for lost fathers. For those who have forgotten, this is exactly how Supernatural started – Dean shows up at Stanford and pulls Sam back into the hunting life as they search for their lost father. But unlike Supernatural, where we end the episode with the visceral image of Sam’s girlfriend pinned to the ceiling, engulfed in flames (the same way Mary died), The Winchesters ends more like a mid-season hump episode – the gang gets ready to drive off in search of a mystery.

I’m sure the network is hoping that Supernatural fans will stay with the show out of nostalgia, but for those new to the franchise, nothing in the pilot packed enough punch to make the average viewer want to stay interested. All that being said, I have faith in Thompson’s leadership and hope he can eventually bring a little more Supernatural and a little less CW to the show. I’ll be sticking around to see where it goes and hopefully be pleasantly surprised by the end. As Dean narrates in the pilot, there will be many surprises. Maybe we’ll get an appearance by Crowley. Hey, a girl can hope.

The Winchesters premieres tonight on The CW at 8 PM eastern, 5 PM pacific.

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