Aquarian stars, missing fathers, bunkers, and flirtatious coffee orders abound in the pilot for The CW’s Supernatural prequel The Winchesters, which focuses on young versions of Sam and Dean’s parents. The show stars Meg Donnelly (Z.O.M.B.I.E.S.) and Drake Rodger (Quiet In My Town) as star-crossed lovers Mary and John Winchester. Rodger, Donnelly, showrunner Robbie Thompson, Ackles and his wife/executive producer/Supernatural cast alum Danneel Ackles all attended a New York Comic Con panel for the new series, which also served as a victory lap for Supernatural. The flagship series ended its 15-season, 327-episode-long run in 2020, but the story is apparently far from over.
Also on stage, albeit briefly, was Tom Welling, who surprised the NYCC audience with the announcement that he will play Mary Winchester’s father Samuel Campbell. Ackles and Welling worked together before Supernatural on Smallville, and Ackles had a lot of fun teasing that abbreviating The Winchesters to “TW” made him think of another “TW” before revealing his involvement. Ackles also announced that Richard Speight Jr., who played Gabriel and Loki on Supernatural, is directing some episodes. (If Thompson saying “I’m low-key excited” about upcoming cameos was a pun and a hint, Speight might appear on The Winchesters as well.)
One of the most interesting aspects of the pilot is the role played by Supernatural’s own Jensen Ackles. His past and future character Dean doesn’t just narrate the series — and, according to him, pick the music — he appears at the end and sets off on a quest related to the mystery. By running two narratives in two different time periods, The Winchesters keeps Supernatural alive and opens up the possibility for more returning characters. “I’m taking requests all night,” Ackles said to questions about characters like Castiel and Crowley. Even without the flash-forward, this is, after all, a supernatural world where time and living status don’t necessarily matter to all of the characters.
This could potentially tie into what Dean is up to in the present, as seen in the series’ pilot. Where is he driving his Impala to? Are one or more of the new characters introduced in the pilot still alive? Why does Dean know so much about the “malevolent force” that threatens not only Earth but “all of existence” and why is he still putting together some of the pieces?
Without giving too much away, the show takes place in 1972 and gets off to a running start well before the reveal that Dean is on a journey. In the first episode, we see his future father John return home from the Vietnam War, have his first few encounters with the supernatural, have a meet-cute with Mary, then make the decision to become a demon hunter. It’s an absolute whirlwind.
The aforementioned new characters in the pilot include Nida Khurshid (Station 19) as Mary’s friend and fellow demon hunter Latika Desai; and nonbinary actor Jojo Fleites as Carlos Cervantez, another friend and demon hunter who is openly bisexual, somewhat of a rarity in a franchise that has had queer recurring characters before, but additionally and infamously faced a decade of queer-baiting accusations from fans. There’s also Ada Monroe, played by Demetria McKinney (Tyler Perry’s House of Payne) who owns a bookshop and knows all about the Men of Letters and the specific monsters plaguing these young adults. All three characters, it should be noted, are non-white, which sits in stark contrast to Supernatural’s casting. Thompson said during the panel that one of the show’s goals was to be more inclusive.
With all of the Easter eggs and cameos, the “origin story” of the Winchester family and the new “core four” hunters feel like icing on the cake. But as Ackles said, when he and his wife conceived the series during Covid lockdowns in 2020: “If we’re gonna expand this world it’s gonna help if there’s a Winchester involved.” And involved he is.