The Winchesters series premiere didn’t waste any time before delving straight into the mystery of this new spin on Supernatural history. With Dean at the wheel driving us through the story, it’s time to find out the truth about John Winchester and Mary Campbell. Read on for our review of The Winchesters pilot.
When The Winchesters made its debut on the CW this week it brought the world of Supernatural back to our screens almost two years since we said goodbye. It’s been a long road to get here, but given the warm reception from old and new fans alike, I think it’s safe to say that the wait has been worth it.
Related: ‘The Winchesters’ premiere marks the end of the longest ‘Supernatural’ Hellatus ever, and I can’t wait
I’ve got plenty to say about The Winchesters pilot, but rather than a regular review—because at this point I think most of my feelings are still best summed up as a very excited, very primal scream—I thought I’d take a different approach. Robbie Thompson, series showrunner and the writer of this first episode, is responsible for some of the most quoted lines of dialogue in Supernatural. As an ode to his talents, I’m exploring my reaction to this banger of a pilot through the medium of its most noteworthy quotes.
The official synopsis of The Winchesters pilot reads:
SERIES PREMIERE – Before Sam and Dean, there were their parents, John and Mary. Told from the perspective of narrator Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles), THE WINCHESTERS is the epic, untold love story of how John Winchester (Drake Rodger) met Mary Campbell (Meg Donnelly) and put it all on the line to not only save their love, but the entire world. When John returns home from fighting in Vietnam, a mysterious encounter sparks a new mission to trace his father’s past. In his journey, he crosses paths with 19-year-old demon hunter Mary, who is also searching for answers after the disappearance of her own father. Together, the two join forces with young hunter-in-training Latika (Nida Khurshid) and easygoing hunter Carlos (Jonathan “Jojo” Fleites) to uncover the hidden truths about both their families. Their investigation leads them to a rare book emporium, whose owner Ada (Demetria McKinney) takes an interest to the occult and could provide the missing pieces to their puzzle. But secrets run deep for both the Winchesters and Campbells, and despite the best efforts of John’s mother Millie (Bianca Kajlich) to protect her son from pursuing a dangerous life of demon hunting, John and Mary are both determined to work together to uphold their families’ legacies while beginning to form a family of their own. Glen Winter directed the episode written by Robbie Thompson.
‘The Winchesters’ season 1, episode 1 review in quotes
“Now, I know this story might sound familiar, but I’m gonna put the pieces together in a way that just might surprise you.”
And what a welcome surprise it is so far! In my previous article, I briefly touched on Wayward Sisters, which was until now the most recent effort at expanding the Supernatural universe, but an earlier attempt was also made. Bloodlines, which aired as a backdoor pilot in season 9 and was to follow the lives of various monster families as they fought for control of Chicago, was certainly interesting on paper, but the look was too glossy, the characters too disconnected, and ultimately it just didn’t feel like part of the same world.
Wayward Sisters learned from this (or I suspect, though this is pure speculation, that it simply had slightly less interference in terms of what it should look & feel like if it had any chance of capturing the existing audience) and while it certainly had its own voice, it utilized characters we already knew and loved, and fit so seamlessly into the original series that many of the threads established in the pilot were eventually tied up in future Supernatural episodes. I bring all of this up because, much like Wayward Sisters, The Winchesters has successfully retained the overall feeling of Supernatural while also having a distinct visual and tonal quality all of its own.
No small part of that comes down to the framing — just having Dean’s voice as our guide on this journey says you’re watching Supernatural — but the introduction of new characters alongside those we already know breathes new life into this world we already love. After two years away, this is the perfect blend of elements to make tuning in to The Winchesters feel a lot like coming home.
“I should have been watching where I was going.”
This might seem like a simple meet-cute between John Winchester and Mary Campbell as they run into each other outside a movie theater playing Slaughterhouse-Five, and sure, that’s what it is on the surface. But Robbie Thompson loves a metanarrative, and the foreknowledge that fans are privy to as viewers riding shotgun with Dean as he digs into his parents past means that we’ve got layers upon layers here to sink our teeth into. And although Slaughterhouse-Five wasn’t a new addition to the story — their meeting outside that particular movie was established long before The Winchesters was a twinkle in Jensen Ackles’ eye — there are still some fascinating thematic connections between The Winchesters and Vonnegut’s story, concerning fate, free will, time travel, death, and war — not to mention the unreliable narrator of it all.
But I digress. Compare this moment to the version Dean recited to Mary in the Supernatural season 12 premiere. “March 23, 1972, you walked out of a movie theater – Slaughterhouse-Five. You loved it, and you bumped into a big Marine and you knocked him flat on his ass. You were embarrassed, and he laughed it off, said you could make it up to him with a cup of coffee. So, you went to, uh, Mulroney’s and you talked and he was cute, and he knew the words to every Zeppelin song, so when he asked you for your number, you gave it to him, even though you knew your dad would be pissed.”
Related: ‘The Winchesters’ EPs Jensen Ackles and Robbie Thompson on maintaining the integrity of ‘Supernatural’: ‘We’re starting in the sweet spot’
Of course The Winchesters was going to subvert that anecdote, we knew that going in. Pay attention, this moment reminds us. Count the differences. Keep an eye on the details, and don’t lose sight of the destination. Shades of this same reminder show up a few more times throughout the Winchesters pilot — John reading the wrong side of the paper Carlos hands him is another prominent example; if he’d been a little more observant, he would’ve gotten it right the first time — and considering that Robbie Thompson said during recent press that “savvy fans will probably start to piece [Dean’s role] together” before the big reveal comes in episode 13, it all feels like a deliberate nudge for fans to pay close attention.
It would be remiss not to mention, at this point, the weight of Mary revealing that she didn’t see the movie — she doesn’t know how that version of the story goes — but she’s pretty sure the book was better. Given that the Winchester family history we’ve known over a decade was a tale literally authored by the cruel, capricious writer-God Chuck, is something being implied here regarding this new presentation of the story versus the volumes of the Winchester Gospels? What’s the verdict on this rewrite of Mary and John’s lives? Will the adaptation be preferable to the original? Or at the end of everything, will they need to return to the pages in the book?
“Far as I’m concerned, you are the same age as when you illegally joined the Marines.”
From a behind-the-scenes angle, this moment was an unexpected fist-pump regarding attention to detail, and speaks to the measures The Winchesters team are taking to write to the established Supernatural canon, even if that canon may have been an inconsistency in the first place. John Winchester was born in 1954, and given his mentioned length of service (and also his rank when Dean meets him in 1973, during Supernatural season 4) the dates don’t check out unless he signed up when he was underage. Supernatural never addressed this — it seemed like a math error — but right off the bat, The Winchesters is using it as a plot point. If that’s how they’re going to be approaching tiny elements of established Supernatural canon, my trust in the process is skyrocketing.
But let’s talk about how The Winchesters has already used that factor of John’s life to say something about his character. Less than five minutes in, and the Winchesters pilot is already drawing attention to the fact that John Winchester, for all he seems like a sweet, charming, and good-natured guy, definitely has some demons of his own. He’s single-minded and ruthless, dogged in his pursuit of answers despite his mother’s concerns. Already, it’s easy to see how he will grow (or more accurately, decay) into someone with such an intense hunger for revenge that he would willingly set aside the wellbeing and happiness of his own children in his attempt to satiate it. But even before any of that, before he starts “working through his demons killing demons” as Drake Rodger recently put it, we learn that he forged his father’s signature sometime in late 1969 or early 1970 in order to join the Marines in the Vietnam War, a war seen by and large as unjust and immoral, right at the height of the anti-war movement.
Precisely why he did this still isn’t entirely clear, though he later mentions traveling “halfway around the world” in an attempt to understand why his father disappeared, and his mother Millie also seems to believe that his need to know what happened to Henry was his main motivation for enlisting. But Henry went missing in 1958 when John was only four years old, and though there had been US involvement in the war since the 50’s, combat troops weren’t deployed until 1965. Further, as far as we know at this point, Henry wasn’t ever a military man. So what was it about the war that made John believe he might find answers there? Was it truly about understanding his father, or was he searching for an (extremely dark) outlet for his anger, like the one he later finds in hunting? He certainly didn’t come back from Vietnam any better off — rather, he’s plagued with PTSD, particularly regarding a friend’s death on the battlefield.
I’m not sure if I was expecting The Winchesters to thread war trauma into John’s current headspace, but given that we’re doing this — it’s a pretty prominent factor of the pilot — my biggest focus regarding John’s military background right now is actually on how (and how much) Mary, Latika, and Carlos will find out about John’s time in Vietnam, and what that ultimately will mean for them as a group. Obviously, Mary already knows that John has just returned from active duty. She didn’t seem immediately judgemental of a man in uniform, and she later empathized about his personal losses, but the circumstances of why he was there in the first place have not come up. His choice to enlist at all feels huge in terms of potential fallout within this newly established Scooby Gang. The show has not yet made an ethical stance about Vietnam, but given that the title of episode 4 is currently listed as “Masters of War” — a reference to the 1963 anti-war protest song by Bob Dylan — I’m interested to see if things come to the forefront then.
While we don’t yet know a lot about these characters, both Carlos and Mary show signs of being into counter-culture, and Latika is explicitly labeled as a pacifist during the Winchesters pilot — “The box did the killing part!” Based on that alone, it seems likely that none of them will be happy to learn that their new friend was so eager to join the war that he forged his dad’s signature to enlist before he was of age. Supernatural fans will also remember that, according to the cupid we met in the season 5 episode “My Bloody Valentine”, John and Mary allegedly “couldn’t stand each other at first.” I can’t help but wonder — could the truth about John’s military past be the cause of some early friction between them?
“That was a demon… from Hell.”
Mary’s blunt delivery and general badassery aside, this scene highlights something that I loved about the creative direction of The Winchesters pilot: monsters look like monsters, and demons sound demonic. While I’m sure that we’ll be seeing other creatures throughout the series that look more or less like people — just given boring real world factors like special effects budgets — kicking things off with such a strong emphasis on wholly inhuman monsters is extremely exciting to me. We caught a brief glimpse of our first monster during the cold open when something with far too many legs attacked Samuel Campbell in the Men of Letters New Orleans crypt, and then later the loup-garou that stalks Mary and John in the same place.
I’m especially keen to know more about this monster, given that mythologically speaking, loup-garou (which is the French term for werewolf) is believed to be the root origin of the term rugaru, a somewhat different monster which Supernatural did its own spin on back in the season 4 episode “Metamorphosis”. Could this simply be what a Supernatural rugaru becomes after many years of rabid hunger, or is the in-world mythology making a firm separation between the two? Will we see it turn up again? Paging Robbie Thompson, inquiring minds need to know.
The creepy vocal modulation that sets demons apart from humans is also a nice touch, though it does have me wondering if it’s something demons can do at will in the same manner as letting their eyes turn black. (Don’t mind me, just imagining an alternate version of Supernatural’s season 10 in which Dean takes a while to get the hang of activating his demonic vocal cords and sounds like the world’s spookiest teenage boy while he’s hanging out with Crowley at The Black Spur. No wonder the karaoke crowd hated him.)
Along with the sound and appearance of the demons and monsters, the early arrival of magic in the form of protective charms, spells, and the Men of Letters demon trap box all give The Winchesters an almost Buffy-esque vibe while still retaining the qualities I loved in Supernatural. I know I’m not alone in that I always wanted to see a little more magic (very Charlie Bradbury coded of me, I know) so that’s an especially fun aspect of this so far. Given the lack of access to modern technology like cell phones and the internet I won’t be surprised if magic continues to play a larger role in The Winchesters than it did in the mothership.
“When I got back from ‘Nam, a man that I’d never met gave me this. And then he just disappeared. Like, vanished.”
I’ve gone back and forth on this line ever since I first watched the episode. On the one hand, I had the nagging thought that it might have been Dean, having traveled back in time to quietly plant the seeds that will help stop the Akrida from decimating existence at a time when the Men of Letters were no longer able. Perhaps the shots of him driving are actually on Earth, in 1972. Perhaps he’s ‘Sal Moriarty’, the conspicuously-named first owner of the Impala, who drove it before it ended up at Rainbow Motors for John to eventually buy in 1973, during the events of Supernatural’s “In The Beginning.”
But on the other hand… a mysterious man who vanished after delivering a note? Did John mean that literally? I’m trying to keep my feet out of the proverbial clown shoes here, but that sounds a whole lot like angel bullshit to me, and I haven’t forgotten that tiny shot of Castiel’s shadow in The Winchesters series trailer, even if Jensen Ackles did claim at a recent convention that he didn’t know anything about it. Of course, it might turn out to have been someone else entirely — it’s far too soon to tell if it’s even someone we’ve met before — but I’m going to be keeping an eye out for clues about who this unknown visitor was, and how (and why) he came to be involved.
“You’re not exactly who I thought you were.”
It’s impossible to watch Supernatural and hear anecdotes about John and Mary without coming back to the cold hard fact that John never knew his wife. His memory of her, the Mary the brothers knew about from stories, was, unknown to all of them, a lie. She was keeping huge secrets about herself and playing a role, trying to live inside an escapist fantasy with a normal boy, far away from all the things she wants to leave behind. It proved impossible to sustain. But in this version of the story, John is going to get to know — and presumably fall in love with — the real Mary Campbell, curt, practical, powerful, “black as night” worldviews and all.
For a long time, Mary Winchester existed within the world of Supernatural as little more than a venerated, almost mythical mother figure. She was nothing but a rose-tinted childhood memory for Dean, while Sam had no memories of her at all, due to only being six months old when she died. When it was revealed in season 4 that she was, in fact, a hunter who had made the demon deal which led to her death and Sam’s eventual demon blood addiction, that illusion was somewhat shattered, and when Mary was resurrected in season 12, she proved to be a messy, complicated, and far less perfect person than the brothers had built her up to be in their minds (though I will fight anyone who even begins to suggest she was “just as bad a parent as John”, a wild take that gets and grinds all my goats and gears at once every single time I see it) and it didn’t take long for her to fall from the pedestal she’d been unfairly placed on top of.
Even though the boys knew the truth about her history and her secrets, they had trouble coming to terms with her actual personality, which was far less warm and nurturing than they’d imagined – a very brick-over-head example being the reveal that she was not, in fact, a domestic goddess and that family meals Dean remembered were in fact store-bought. More complicated is the fact that while Mary was grieving her lost children, she refused to coddle grown men, men who are in fact much older than she was at her time of death. But that Mary was also juggling an insane, impossible trauma and sense of displacement, interacting with her sons as their (technically younger) peer.
Now, in The Winchesters, we finally get to see who Mary is at her core, and it feels significant that attention is being drawn to the idea that she isn’t someone who can be easily read. She’s more than the surface, more than she presents herself as being. Learning who Mary was and who she wanted to become if she “live[d] long enough to find out” (and yes, that line destroyed me, thank you) is one of the things I’m most looking forward to as the season progresses. Given the vulnerability that Meg Donnelly is already bringing to the forefront of her character, I feel confident that she’s probably going to make me cry before we get too far.
“Look at the symbol on the envelope. Big Freemason vibes.”
From magical sigils like the one we see Samuel Campbell draw in his own blood in the cold open, to devils traps, to the anti-possession charm, to the warding on the walls of the crypt, there’s no shortage of symbols in The Winchesters pilot. But none features quite so heavily as the Aquarian Star, the symbol adopted by the Men of Letters. It’s on the title card, and in the episode it appears in all the places you might expect—their crypt, their Lawrence chapter house, their stationary, the magic box they built—but it’s also visible (if a little painted-over) in the signage over Millie Winchester’s garage.
While we’re on the topic of the Aquarian star, I have to tip my hat to whoever was responsible for that clear shot of Mary’s mostly-empty charm bracelet. Why is this significant here? Because well before the Men of Letters were introduced in Supernatural season 8, the Aquarian Star had appeared among several other trinkets that Mary wore in her 20’s. While the re-use of the star was more than likely an accident — not even an egregious one, as it was only spotted by eagle-eyed fans rewatching season 4’s time travel episode “In The Beginning” years later — it still resulted in speculation that there might be some hidden backstory that explained why or how she had that charm. With Mary finding out about the Men of Letters alongside John in The Winchesters pilot, that minor loose thread from the mothership has been neatly tied up. That said, I’d love it if we actually get to see her add the star to her bracelet later on in the season, and before whatever occurs to make her unaware of all of this in the future.
But let’s get back to those paranormal Freemasons. Like I said, the Men of Letters are all over this pilot, and despite knowing that John was bound to find out about them eventually, ten minutes into the first episode was a whole lot faster than I expected. What might this mean for the rest of the series? With John solving at least part of the mystery of what happened to Henry so soon, where do we go from here? Will he come to learn the significance of being a Men of Letters legacy? How much did Millie actually know? The Winchesters is already subverting my expectations, because I’d maybe have predicted that Men of Letters reveal to come into play half way through the season or longer. But nope! Here they are. And Mary, John and the gang have the Lawrence clubhouse all to themselves. Bring on Bunker 2.0. Baby Bunker? Is this anything? The Bunkerlet? Bunkling? Bunkerito? Okay.
“Rats are scary! You don’t think there are rats involved, do you?”
I have a lot of feelings — and almost as many questions — about Latika Desai. She’s sparky and smart and cute as hell, with a hint of Buffy’s Willow Rosenberg in her DNA, and she’s clearly willing to go up against the things she fears if it will help her friends. Nida Khurshid is instantly likable in the role, imbuing her with a sense of determination that has already made her one of my favorite parts of this new series. But what exactly happened that got her involved with the Campbells? What did Samuel save her from? How recent was it? How did this British Pakistani teenager find a home in the American Midwest? Is there a chance that she, like John, is an unknowing Men of Letters legacy — the British Men of Letters?
Also, why is she the only person working at the town library, and if she’s not, how exactly is she getting away with storing a weapons chest full of ammunition and blades right there in the main room? That seems like an OSHA violation. (…was OSHA a thing yet in 1972? Google tells me yes, but it was only just a year old, so perhaps they were still getting things up to snuff in Lawrence. Sure, I might as well incorporate that into my worldview.) As many questions as I have, I don’t mind having to wait to find out the answers, because I already adore her. In a long tradition of putting characters I love in my pocket? I’m putting her in my pocket.
“Nothing more hydrating than holy water. Want some?”
Great news! I have a second pocket. In you hop, Carlos, you glorious one-man-band. During The Winchesters NYCC panel earlier this month, Danneel Ackles made it clear that she was instantly aware of what kind of lightning in a bottle they’d managed to find in Jojo Fleites. “They are a huge, huge star,” she said, and I really have to agree. The energy they bring to their portrayal of Carlos is absolutely show-stealing, and five seconds on Twitter is all it takes to see how many people have immediately fallen in love with their character.
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like Carlos’ entrance into the Supernatural universe to the tune of Free’s “All Right Now” was easily one of the most iconic since Castiel slammed into a warded Illinois barn in season 4’s “Lazarus Rising” and Death strolled down the sidewalk of Chicago in season 5’s “Two Minutes to Midnight”. Also, I have to assume that if Dean is somehow seeing all of this play out, he was absolutely impressed with Carlos’ driving chops—not to mention the fact that he calls his van “my beloved.” Just like with Latika, I’m desperate to know a lot more about his backstory, and how he came to know Latika and Mary. Did they meet before or after he lost his family to ghouls? Was Carlos from a family of hunters as well, or were they just unfortunate victims of a random monster attack?
Or is this all a cover story in order to blend, and is Carlos — a bisexual musician, whose name is the Spanish variant of Charles — in fact the prior human form of Chuck, aka God, aka the Big Bad of the Supernatural universe? As much as I want to believe Carlos is every bit the darling I’ve assigned pocket space to, I do still have a tiny, nagging worry that those little details aren’t purely coincidental, and that he might not be who he seems. It would be just like Chuck to insert himself right into the action and be a part of things at a crucial turning point, pretending to help but in fact just balancing the scales how he wants them. After all, he did it during Sam and Dean’s big apocalypse, and from the events of the Winchesters pilot, and the mention of Carlos’ history with Mary, he keeps disappearing or “flaking” at important, life-threatening moments. Letting things play out as he wants them to, perhaps, without getting too hands-on?
“Congrats on your first exorcism, Jonathan. Let’s celebrate by getting you some new clothes from this decade.”
Let’s take this moment to talk about the absolutely stellar costuming on this show. John, in his straight-laced–and yes, dated–button down that looks more like it belongs on the dad from That 70s Show than on a 19 year old has a far more conservative look than the rest of the gang, and the fact that this is deliberate enough to have been explicitly called out is just very satisfying for me.
“Everything means something,” Drake Rodger explained in a recent interview, talking about conversations that he’d been a part of along with the hair, makeup, and wardrobe teams. “The color of the clothes that we’re wearing means something.” As someone who tends to pick at every single thread that appears on screen (pun very intended, I’m not sorry) it’s always exciting when it’s clear that a show’s creative team is just as into setting up those visuals as the fandom is into analyzing them. While it might take a little while for the in-show symbolism to take shape in a way that’s meaningful to us as audience members, I’m definitely going to start keeping track.
”I can’t believe I ever had a crush on her.”
First off, it bears acknowledging that this isn’t a will-they-won’t-they story. They will. We know they will. For better or worse (much, much worse) John and Mary are a foregone conclusion, and whatever happens in the interim, they’re eventually going to get married and have two sons together. That said, I’m already seeing the potential for other relationships as part of the reason WHY so much angelic fuckery needs to occur in order to get them together in the first place. Because, while it’s clear that Mary and John already like each other to some degree, Lata and John seem to like each other just as much, and hell, there was even a little bit of an energy with John and Ada at the end.
Though I’m definitely going to be hissing leave her alone, get a job any time John even looks like he might be considering flirting with anyone, including Mary (You’re doing great work, Drake! It’s not personal, I promise!) I’m not going to deny the fact that there is absolutely chemistry between him and Lata—something even Mary notices, both in the library when they meet, and later as they’re leaving Carlos’ van. Is it possible that, left to their own devices and without celestial interference, they would be better suited and end up together instead, thereby cutting off the line that leads to Michael and Lucifer’s true vessels being born? Oof. Upsetting to think about on several levels.
Meanwhile, Carlos’ claim that he “can’t believe [he] ever had a crush on [Mary]”, along with the moments of teasing and the somewhat messy history between them makes me wonder about the potential for something there, as well… So I’ll be keeping my eye on that. (I won’t yell at Mary or Carlos to get a job, though. They have stressful lives, and I’ve decided that they’re allowed to have a casual fling, as a treat. And none for Gretchen Weiners John Winchester.)
There’s also the possibility that Carlos’s crush may shift from Mary to John. John was pretty awestruck when meeting Carlos (who wouldn’t be) and they have some bonding moments of their own in the pilot. While the idea of actually shipping John with Carlos is, to me personally, confusing (at the very least) due to the perception of Supernatural canon John, I can’t exclude the possibility that The Winchesters may attract new viewers who enjoy the chemistry between the two without John baggage, or Supernatural fans who simply don’t see John the way that I do. It could be that we’ve got a full-on love square on our hands, at least in the world of fanfiction. Maybe Mary’s glances at John and Lata were about her interest in Lata, not John? Anyway, I’m sure this group will be shipped together in every possible configuration. Take your pick!
”Gimme your keys. I’m driving.”
A lot has been said over the years about how Dean takes after his mother, and this comment from Mary was just one of many moments in the Winchesters pilot that made their similarities abundantly clear. I mean, “Demon BO”? “Ground control to Major Tom”? The snark, the speaking-in-pop-culture-references, the loud music, the leather jacket, the stake-out snacks, and the fact that she always wants to be the one behind the wheel. Her projected cynicism as a mask of self-protection, the way she was raised, and her deep-down desire to have a normal life warring with her certainty that it’s not an option for her until she’s made sure the people she loves are safe. Even the way she inspects the wall in Ada Monroe’s book store and recognizes her father’s thought patterns in the research is reminiscent of Dean as he and Sam first looked for John in the Supernatural pilot.
Of course, this is all extremely heartbreaking when you think about how little time Dean had to pick up so many of her mannerisms and idiosyncrasies before her death, but I’m a glutton for emotional distress, so I’m eager to see more of this as the show goes on. And speaking of similarities to their future children — though Dean is, at his core, Mary’s child, Sam was always John’s. The Winchesters knows this, and a little Easter Egg I caught as John was digging the silver cross out of his arm in an extremely Sam Fucking Winchester moment (I don’t think I’ll ever forget Sam Winchester biting into his own arm so he could use his blood to trap a demon in season 6’s “Caged Heat”) was that young John has a moose on his belt buckle. I see you, costume department. Keep it up.
“The only thing worse than how it starts for a hunter is how it ends.”
The tragic trajectory (I am now coining “tragectory” and you can’t stop me) of their lives is already being laid out for us, I see. Everything about this comment from Carlos to John is anti free will; defeatist. There’s only one path forward, and it’s bad, and it’s already been decided. Similarly, when Millie tells John “Maybe one day when you have kids you’ll understand,” — a moment underpinned by one of the most recognisable pieces of Supernatural score, Dean’s family theme, which appears courtesy of the show’s inspired decision to bring former Supernatural composer Jay Gruska onto the team — I felt it like a roundhouse kick to the solar plexus, because of course we know that when he DOES have kids… well. Let’s just say that being worried about them getting involved in dangerous situations wasn’t exactly at the core of his parenting strategy.
All of this is already brutal to consider as a viewer — but I feel like it’s a good time to remember that we’re seeing this story through Dean’s eyes. Dean’s research. Dean’s narration. How many nitty-gritty details of this story he’s actually privy to remains to be seen, but the thought of him somehow watching this play out, of him hearing Carlos predict what’s coming, of him hearing his grandmother say those particular words to John, who reacts pretty dismissively to it… Ouch ouch ouch.
“There’s a dangerous world out there, and our family has fought that danger for centuries.”
Beyond being the catalyst for John’s late-night encounter with Mary and the demon in the vacant lot by the movie theater, the letter from John’s father Henry — voiced by Gil McKinney, who’s now confirmed to be reprising his Supernatural role in person in episode 7 — seems likely to play an important part in the overarching plot of the series. This particular line in Henry’s letter alludes to the ongoing fight against the Akrida, something which Mary’s father Samuel (to be played by Tom Welling in future episodes) has recently become involved with, and while we don’t yet know how Samuel learned of this threat, or how he came to be in contact with Ada Monroe (who we only saw for a short time in the Winchesters pilot, but I hope to learn more about soon,) the fact that he went missing right around the same time that Henry’s letter was delivered to John has me guessing it wasn’t sheer coincidence. Could the mysterious vanishing man have been in contact with him as well? I expect that this question is going to hang over the story for quite some time, and while I’m personally excited by the prospect of many weeks of speculation and anticipation, I do hope that fandom at large is patient–and trusting–enough to wait.
“You look like him, you know?”
I sometimes suspect witchcraft is involved when it comes to casting within the Supernatural universe—there’s simply no other explanation for how perfect it is. (Kidding, casting team. Y’all are clearly very good at your jobs.) Drake Rodger somehow looks like combination of Gil McKinney, Matt Cohen, and Jared Padalecki, and yet occasionally when he speaks his face moves in such a way that I get hints of Jeffrey Dean Morgan despite not yet seeing the full depth of that part of his character (which we shouldn’t, given that he’s got a ways to go before he becomes so broken.) Meg Donnelly, meanwhile, is absolutely nailing the Mary energy already, with her vocal cadence and manner of speech feeling like a flawless match for the version of Mary that Samantha Smith played during her long run on Supernatural, along with the tense undercurrent of Amy Gumenick’s portrayal from the few flashback episodes she appeared in.
“Now, like I told you, there’s gonna be some surprises. Hell, I’m still trying to find all the puzzle pieces myself. But I’ll explain everything. And until then? I’ll keep picking the music.”
I’ll be honest: it’s taking a lot of effort for me to keep from just screaming incoherently here. That’s Dean! He’s right there on our screens! There’s a lot to unpack from his narration, but to keep from making this article twice as long as it already is, I’ll just touch on the two things that stick out the most.
First, Dean’s line about picking the music. This may very well just be a callback to his line from the Supernatural pilot, “Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole”, but it doesn’t escape my attention that every upcoming episode title we’re currently aware of is also the name of a classic song from the era. With Dean as the narrator, we are to some extent seeing this series play out through the filter of his viewpoint, and as such I’m interested to see if we might find further clues about what’s going on by digging into the themes and lyrics of the songs that—from a meta perspective—he has “picked.” Jensen Ackles also mentioned that they may be “asking for forgiveness,” as some of the songs that feature in future episodes are of the general time, but may not have actually been released yet in 1972, and that discrepancy could be explained if the soundtrack of The Winchesters is being put together by a present-day Dean.
Second, the element of mystery surrounding Dean’s role in all of this is something I’ve really been looking forward to dissecting, and aside from my one wild piece of speculation that he’s somehow back in 1972 and meddling with the past, I feel fairly confident at this point that the little we’ve seen of him so far is taking place on the road in the afterlife, traveling on whatever counts as the Axis Mundi since Jack and Cas knocked Heaven’s walls down during the gap between his arrival and Sam’s in Supernatural’s finale. I have never for a moment believed, as some did, that Dean just drove around waiting for his brother for the afterlife-equivalent of 40 years — it seemed far more likely that we simply skipped ahead to see him welcome Sam to Heaven as his own chosen father figure Bobby had welcomed him—and this makes sense to me as something he might have done during the intervening years.
That said, I feel certain that there’s more to it than a simple desire to write down the details of his family tree, and given the fact that the Akrida—established by the end of the Winchesters pilot as the big bad of the season—are described as “a malevolent force, not of this world,” it seems plausible that the existential threat they pose might originate from some place outside of linear time, making them something Dean is able to help his parents deal with from Heaven. Maybe eventually there’ll be true peace for him, but if one thing is clear from all of this? Dean isn’t done, and this story is just getting started. Carry on.