How ‘The Winchesters’ CW plans to satisfy ‘Supernatural’ fans

Two of the fall season’s biggest new shows, Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon, have generated high expectations and sometimes controversial reactions from viewers. But no new series is arguably getting more scrutiny than The Winchesters, which premieres Tuesday under the watchful eye of Supernatural’s #SPNFamily fan base.

Based on the lives of monster slayers John and Mary Winchester, parents of “Supernatural” protagonists Sam and Dean Winchester, the CW show has garnered some strong reactions, from a series announcement that sparked casting drama to the first trailer. But while most preliminary talks have been positive, that doesn’t mean “Winchesters” executive producer Robbie Thompson wasn’t nervous.

“My apprehension was, ‘How the hell is this going to work?'” Thompson said of his reaction when “Supernatural” stars Jensen Ackles and Danneel Ackles offered him the opportunity to do the show. “One of the things that we had as a touchtone was the recent success of ‘Better Call Saul.’ I have a lot of friends who just haven’t seen Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad – which blows my mind – but they’re out there. One of the many brilliant things the show did was allow itself to live in its own space.”

The Winchesters may be trying to build on the original’s popularity, but that audience was built over 15 years and 327 episodes. There was a time when “Supernatural” fans were among the most active ever, and even after the show ended two years ago, Ackles and co-star Jared Padalecki still have enough followers to show support for their new shows to win (Ackles in “The Boys” and “Big Sky” and Padalecki in “Walker”). Briar Marum, the owner and editor-in-chief of Nerds and Beyond, is among the fans who enabled “Supernatural” to carry a fictional universe.

“‘Supernatural’ is the main reason I made it,” Marum said of the site. “I wanted a place to write about what I like, and Supernatural played a big part. I’ve written a bunch of ‘Supernatural’ stuff that’s been grabbed online and on social media and it’s exploded every time. So I started diving deep into the episodes and really started getting to know the cast and following their other projects. But our biggest audience is 100% Supernatural.”

Marum, like the broader #SPNFamily, initially had questions about The Winchesters: where in the timeline would the show take place? How can the protagonists “hunt” together when it is clear beforehand that one knew nothing about the secret life of the other? And most importantly, why would you choose these characters to spotlight when the fandom decidedly disliked one of them?

Thompson, not only a showrunner and former “Supernatural” writer, but also a fan (“born and bred”), anticipated and understood these concerns. Although he had to remain silent about future plot twists, he and the creative team had answers to important questions.

A man in a flannel, left, and a girl in a leather jacket looking angry

Drake Rodger as John and Meg Donnelly as Mary in The Winchesters.

(Matt Miller / The CW)

“We had a rule early on that we didn’t break anything from ‘Supernatural,'” Thompson said. “I can tell you as a fan of the show that we didn’t want to reverse anything that ‘Supernatural’ has done – and I’m going to be very specific – past, present or future.

“I can promise viewers that much, and we won’t be shy for several seasons,” he continued. “It’s something we’re going to unpack in our 13th episode. It’s an opportunity for us to let returning and new fans get to know these characters without the burden of 327 episodes.”

Whether fans stay long enough to see it unwrapped may depend on “The Winchesters” being able to maintain the whimsical, horror-comedic tone of the original with a slightly different angle.

“One of the bigger differences between the two shows is that we’re an ensemble,” Thompson said. “‘Supernatural’ eventually became an ensemble cast, but those early seasons were really about Sam and Dean on the road. The ensemble nature allows us to have different voices from the jump while hopefully still living in the tone that ‘Supernatural’ established on the mother ship.”

A man on the left and a woman look up while the woman holds a large old book

Jojo Fleites as Carlos and Nida Khurshid as Latika help complete the cast in The Winchesters.

(Matt Miller / The CW)

Marum has heard and discussed with fans the reasons behind the focus on John and Mary, and while she’s excited to see it, she knows it could be an uphill battle for some diehards.

“I know a lot of people didn’t like John because of the source material and his treatment of Sam and Dean. It gets interesting because what really drove John on the show was Mary’s death. So is the show going to show us, “Hey, that was John before this happened, and that’s how he became this person”? I think it would be cool to see that aspect, but I know there are people who are concerned,” Marum said.

“[Older] John was a bit of a jerk,” Thompson admitted. “There are quite strong opinions about it [him]. I guess part of the appeal of doing it [‘The Winchesters’] is to put the hood on the characters and see how they got to where they are. One of the things we’re playing around with this season is trying to understand John’s darkness and where it came from. And to understand Mary’s trauma of being born and raised as a Slayer.”

The pressure to tell a good story that will satisfy regular fans while attracting new ones. is a balancing act that Thompson knows all too well.

“Part of my job as a storyteller is getting people mad at me. Part of my job is taking characters who were either loved or hated and doing nice things to them or making things meaningful to them. That’s part of the deal.”

A man with a book leans against a car

Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester tells a lot in The Winchesters.

(Matt Miller / The CW)

For fans like Marum, Thompson admitted one small detail, pointing out the symbiotic relationship shows like The Winchesters have with their fans.

“We’re going to do a vampire story. I think I can say that. Whenever we can and how we can, we try to find new monsters. [Our writers] go to the ‘supernatural’ wiki and make sure it doesn’t have an entry and our goal is to add a creature! We still have the same rule [former ‘Supernatural’ EP] Sera Gamble always said we want our monsters to be googleable. But our versions of whatever you Google.”

Ultimately, the promise of Easter eggs, familiar faces, and rewarding answers serves to reconnect The Winchesters and its viewers with their roots.

“If it ended in 2020, that’s part of the end of your life,” Marum said. “Now you can revisit this world.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-10-11/the-winchesters-the-cw-supernatural-fan-expectations How ‘The Winchesters’ CW plans to satisfy ‘Supernatural’ fans

Sarah Ridley

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