A 15-year-run is long for any TV series, let alone for a show about brothers battling monsters and demons and saving the world from destruction — repeatedly. And when “Supernatural” aired its 327th and final episode almost two years ago, that was definitely the end of the story for Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki).
I mean, they defeated Lucifer. They defeated God, who was trying to destroy all his creations. What else was there to do? Both Dean and Sam died once and for all, after multiple resurrections.
That was the end of the story, but it wasn’t ALL of the story. Now we’re going to get earlier chapters in the family saga in “The Winchesters” (Tuesday, 8 p.m., Channel 30), the story of Dean and Sam’s parents. Ackles and his wife, Danneel, came up with the idea for this prequel; they’re executive producers; and Jensen appears as Dean in rather awkward narration scenes at the beginning and end of each episode.
“I was ready to take a break, but I was never ready to put this world to bed,” he said.
Jensen Ackles reached out to Robbie Thompson — a writer/producer on “Supernatural” from 2012-16 — who came aboard as the showrunner/executive producer.
(Padalecki is not involved. He’s busy starring in and producing “Walker,” and he’s also an executive producer on that series’ prequel, “Walker Independence.”)
Blast from the past
The story of “The Winchesters” begins in 1972 New Orleans, then quickly switches to Kansas, where John Winchester (Drake Rodger, “The In Between”) is returning home after serving in Vietnam. He meets Mary Campbell (Meg Donnelly, “American Housewife”) and it isn’t long before the two of them are teaming up to battle demons.
The first episode feels very much like an episode of “Supernatural,” as John, Mary and a few friends take on monsters and demons. That’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a rather entertaining episode. And perhaps there is an appetite out there for more among “Supernatural” fans.
As with all prequels, there’s the question of maintaining continuity with the original series. And there’s some difficulty with that from the get-go. In “Supernatural,” John resents — even hates — his father for abandoning him and his mother. In the first episode of “The Winchesters,” John learns what happened to his father and why, which does not jibe with what happens in the original series.
When “Supernatural” began, viewers were told that Mary was killed by a demon, and John then became a hunter of monsters who always had an eye out for the demon who murdered his wife. Sam and Dean didn’t find out until years later that Mary was herself a hunter; that she came from a family of hunters; and that John’s father was part of a secret society (the Men of Letters) who were all about magic and spells and battling monsters.
In “The Winchesters,” both Mary and Sam were hunters for many years before those first scenes in “Supernatural.”
Violating ‘Supernatural’ canon
It seems pretty clear that the new show will continue to violate “Supernatural” canon. “It’s always the challenge on a show like this,” said Thompson, who alluded to “tricks up our sleeves” to differentiate the two series — plans that will be hinted at through the first 12 episodes of “The Winchesters” and then revealed in Episode 13. And he said there will be “a lot of different misdirects” along the way.
Ackles said that “the integrity of [’Supernatural’] is certainly something that is of vital importance to us that we do not want to tamper with. That said, we also want to make sure that this show is given its space to be what it needs to be and what we all want it to be. And doing so requires some tricky writing.”
In other words, they’re going to tamper with it.
There will be some fans, no doubt, who obsess over that. You can let it ruin your viewing experience. Or you can just let it go. It’s a TV show. It’s not a documentary.
By the way, you don’t need to have watched all 15 seasons of “Supernatural” — you don’t need to have watched a single episode — to watch “The Winchesters.”.
And it’s worth pointing out that “Supernatural” didn’t exactly maintain complete story continuity during its 15-season run. In early seasons, Sam and Dean made efforts to save people who were possessed by demons, and they were remorseful when they had to kill their bodies to kill the demons.
After a few seasons of that, the Winchester brothers wantonly killed demons with nary a thought about human bodies they were killing.
Will ‘The Winchesters’ win through?
I watched all 327 episodes of “Supernatural,” although I’ll have to admit that I was sort of watching out of habit for the last few seasons — and because my daughters were still engaged. Will I keep watching “The Winchesters”? Maybe. At least partially because I think it may not require much of a commitment. I’m skeptical that it will last beyond its 13-episode order.
Not because of the show’s quality — the jury is still out on that — but because the new owners of The CW have vowed to cut costs in order to make the network profitable. And to program more toward older viewers. “The Winchesters” isn’t cheap, and it’s aimed at younger viewers.
The challenge to make a go of it in the new CW reality may be a monster too deadly to overcome.
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