The Winchesters: What we know so far

Meg Connelly and Drake Roger star in 'The Winchesters' on The CW

Over the course of 15 seasons, Supernatural followed brothers Sam and Dean Winchester—and later, the angel Castiel—across a monster-filled universe, saving people, hunting things, and winning fandom’s heart. When the show ended in 2020, fans mourned. Now, Executive Producers Jensen Ackles and Danneel Ackles are giving fans what they longed for: a return to that universe. On Tuesday evening, a Supernatural prequel called The Winchesters premiers. Robbie Thompson, who wrote so many of Supernatural‘s best beloved episodes, including Baby, The Girl with the Dungeons & Dragons Tattoo, and Fan Fiction, is the showrunner.

The Winchesters team has dropped all sorts of delicious tidbits on the road to the show’s premier. What follows is a collection of all the details I’ve been able to glean as I’ve prepared for this coming Tuesday night.

The Winchesters: (L-R): Drake Rodger as John Winchester and Meg Donnelly as Mary Campbell — Photo: Sally Montana/The CW — © 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

What’s the story?

While we don’t know for sure the actual plot of The Winchesters pilot itself, we do have an idea of where it starts. The series trailer presents us with Dean Winchester. He leans against his beloved ’67 Chevy Impala by the side of an empty road, writing in a journal. Dean tells us that his parents’ story has always been a mystery and that he needs to discover the truth. Ackles will narrate each episode going forward, so Dean will be our guide.

And so the story begins: John Winchester (Drake Roger, whose name and square-jawed good looks could have been plucked out of a romance novel) returns home to Lawrence, Kansas in the wake of the Vietnam War. When his mother Millie (Bianca Kajlich), a mechanic, asks what he intends to do with the rest of his life, he admits he has no idea.

Soon afterward, he meets Mary Campbell (Meg Donnelly, whose beautiful cheekbones could cut glass) as she fights a demon. Mary introduces John to the world of monster hunting. He meets her friends, the colorful hunter Carlos Cervantez (Jojo Fleites, whose hair deserves its own casting credit)—already a fan favorite based solely on his appearance in the trailer—and hunter-in-training Latika Desai (the winsome Nida Kurshid). Mary also introduces him to their aid and mentor, bookstore owner Ada Monroe (Demetria McKinney). The disappearance of John’s father Henry has always haunted John. Millie knows that once John goes down the monster-hunting trail, he’ll uncover secrets from which she’d hoped to protect him.

L to R: Drake Roger, Meg Donnelly, Nida Kurshid as Latika Desai and Jojo Fleites as Carlos
Cervantez The CW — © 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

We know from Supernatural that Henry Winchester was a member of the Men of Letters, a secret society devoted to studying the supernatural. The Winchesters trailer shows us more than one reference to the Men of Letters, so it’s clear that this family history will be relevent. We also know that Samuel Campbell, Mary’s father, was a hunter and raised her in the life.

But wait! This isn’t the story we’ve been told!

If you’re a Supernatural fan, you’re probably confused. The history Supernatural fans have come to know is that John and Mary met outside a movie theater, shared a love of Led Zeppelin, and fell in love over coffee and “Kashmir”. Furthermore, Henry Winchester disappeared long before John was old enough to be bequeathed any Men of Letters legacy. We also know that Dean’s journey ended in a Heaven newly renovated pretty much just for him with the help of Castiel.

So how is Dean narrating John and Mary’s story? Why is their story in The Winchesters so different from the one we learned in Supernatural? Why do John and Millie know about the Men of Letters, but John appears unaware of them later in his life?

So what story will be told?

There’s so much to unpack here that fandom has expressed justified curiosity and no small amount of skepticism. At Creation conventions, Jensen Ackles has said that half the fun of watching the show would be to see how the team would preserve the history laid down by Supernatural while discovering the twists and turns that The Winchesters has in store. In fact, in an Entertainment Weekly panel at New York ComicCon (NYCC), Robbie Thompson said, “It was very quickly apparent that . . . there was about 10 or 15 different ways we could approach this without undoing anything from Supernatural.” At the NYCC panel about The Winchesters, Thompson clarified, “We will not be doing any revisionism. Nothing is being rebooted. We are not going to have, as Jensen likes to say, the Sam and Dean polaroid from Back to the Future fading.”

So the creative team is very aware that fandom’s eyes are on the show. They know fans will carefully examine any apparent deviation from established canon. All that remains is that we watch and find out what’s what.

Will we see familiar faces?

The answer is yes, both in front of and behind the camera. We already know that Ackles, as Dean, will be appearing in the pilot and narrating the series going forward. Ackles has suggested, during CreatonCon panels, that other familiar voices may yet be heard, but has not been specific about which those might be.

The NYCC panel was a treasure trove of revelations about The Winchesters. The biggest news was a casting announcement: Samuel Campbell, Mary’s father, will be played by Tom Welling. Welling made a surprise appearance on stage with the cast, saying, “This is all Jensen’s fault. I lost a bet.” Ackles appeared in season four of Smallville playing Jason Teague to Tom Welling’s Clark Kent, so this casting is a reunion of sorts. Mitch Pileggi played an older version of Samuel on Supernatural.

'The Winchesters' Executive Producer Jensen Ackles welcomes Tom Welling to the cast at NYCC
The Winchesters welcomes Tom Welling to the cast at New York ComicCon. With Damian Holbrook, panel moderator, and Executive Producer Danneel Ackles. Photo care of ReedPop

Will we see members of the Supernatural family? Will Castiel appear? Crowley? Ackles’ answer was, “Sure. I’m taking requests all night, guys. Like Robbie said, if you guys give us an opportunity to tell more of this story, I guarantee you’re going to see a lot more familiar faces.” Ackles mentioned that even now, Supernatural alum Richard Speight, Jr. is in New Orleans, directing an episode.

Another name familiar to Supernatural fans is John F. Showalter, who directed 26 episodes of Supernatural. He’s helming The Winchesters‘ second episode, “Teach Your Children Well.”

What’s coming up on The Winchesters

The Winchesters‘ first three episodes are:

  • “Pilot” written by Thompson and direct by Glen Winter
  • “Teach Your Children Well” written by Thompson and David H. Goodman, and directed by Showalter
  • “You’re Lost Little Girl” written by Gabriel Alejandro Garza and directed by Claudia Yarmy

It’s clear that the show is continuing Supernatural‘s tradition of using period-appropriate song titles for episodes. The CW tells us that in “Teach Your Children Well,” John and Millie are on different pages about his new interest in hunting and Ada tries to bridge the gap. Mary follows a trail from her father that points to the disappearance of a teenage boy in Topeka. Meanwhile, Carlos has a heart to heart with Mary as Latika dives into her books to identify the monster.

And of course, Dean Winchester will be setting the stage for each story along the way. At a roundtable at NYCC, Ackles said, “I’ll never be done with Dean. Dean will never be done with me.”

Thompson dropped one more hint about what’s in store for viewers. In context of how Dean is telling the story and in answer to the questions that the whole first season poses, he said, “What exactly we’re doing will be revealed in Episode 13.” Stay tuned, friends.

The Winchesters premiers on the CW on Tuesday, October 11 at 8/7 Central.

Janna Silverstein covered Supernatural for the ESO Network during its 15th and final season. She’s delighted to be covering all things Winchester now.

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