The CW's ludicrously long-running series Supernatural finally wrapped up its adventure after 15 demon-hunting years this past season. Fans were obviously still processing the (to put it mildly) surprising and extremely final series finale — when word came out of nowhere that the network is developing a spinoff prequel series from Jensen Ackles, one of the show's original stars.
It's obviously not much of a shock that The CW is game to keep its longest-running franchise around in some form — this is the network that used Arrow as a launchpad for a full-fledged superhero multiverse, after all — but did you know it took two Supernatural spinoff false-starts over the past decade for this new project to finally make it into production?
First, the basics on the new one: The new prequel is titled The Winchesters, and will serve as a prequel series focused on the origin of Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean's (Ackles) parents, John and Mary. Ackles is attached to produce and narrate the story, and it's being written by former Supernatural co-executive producer Robbie Thompson. The logline says the project will tell the "epic, untold love story of how John met Mary and how they put it all on the line to not only save their love, but the entire world." That's... not the worst idea, and the mothership series has dabbled with flashbacks and time travel over the years, so it's not too big a leap for the spinoff to focus on the franchise's main saga and two well-known characters. Plus, it literally keeps things in the family.
However, things got a whole lot more interesting when word of the project, which is in development with a script commitment, first broke. Instead of fans debating the merits of the concept and the creative approach, attention quickly turned to Ackles' OG co-star Padalecki, who tweeted to his 2.9 million followers that he was "gutted" to not be notified of the project, and "bummed" he seemingly hadn't been invited back. For a series with a fervent, tight-knit, active fanbase built around the found family of these two on-screen brothers, to see that drama play out publicly was a shock to say the least.
Fans, understandably, went ballistic over the very public beef. Thankfully, the two worked it out over the next day or so, and say they had a "great talk" and things are "good" as the project slowly starts to move forward. Regardless — not the most stable footing for a project designed to appeal to an engaged fanbase that follows these stars, the canon, and these characters with a fervor akin to religion. But still, at least it didn't take long to reach the damage control part.
Now, here's what could've been...
Long before The CW started mapping out the early days of the monster-hunting romance of John and Mary, the network eyed a different spinoff idea a bit more in line with the network's (at the time) core brand of soap-y supernatural love stories. The fruit of that effort was the concept for Supernatural: Bloodlines, a drama set in Chicago about monster mob families, forbidden romances, and, yeah — a bit of monster-hunting to tie it all together. It all came together in the 2014 episode "Bloodlines," which aired as a backdoor pilot in the back end of the series' ninth season.
It starred a who's who of good-looking young folks, led by a cast featuring the likes of Erinn Westbrook (Glee), Nathaniel Buzolic (Out of the Blue), and Stephen Martines (The Vampire Diaries). The episode was, to put it mildly, not well-liked by the franchise's core fans. The show felt more like a paint-by-numbers Vampire Diaries riff than Supernatural, and having Sam and Dean pop up in this world felt more like a disjointed crossover than a backdoor pilot. Once the episode aired, hopes for a possible series order quickly faded — and most fans didn't care much, so long as the mainline show was still going strong.
With Bloodlines, it was almost as if the creative team was trying too hard to manufacture a spinoff from whole cloth, which made it feel too inorganic to blend into the natural fabric of the (at that point) well-established vibe and universe fans loved. So when it came time for the second shot at a spinoff, the creators looked a bit closer to home in an effort to grow out something they had already naturally seeded along the way.
The second spinoff attempt, titled Wayward Sisters, came in 2018 as a backdoor pilot in Season 13 and focused on a crew of characters introduced in prior seasons. The pitch starred found family and aspiring monster hunters Kim Rhodes (Jody Mills), Briana Buckmaster (Donna Hanscum), Katherine Ramdeen (Alex Jones), Kathryn Love Newton (Claire Novak), and Clark Backo (Patience Turner). It was female-led, loaded with fan-favorite characters, and comfortably fit within the tone and style fans already knew and loved.
Of the two, this is the spinoff fans were really wanting to see make it to the finish line — but for whatever reason, the network decided to pass on a series pickup. Even the backdoor pilot episode remains a favorite among fans, perfectly showcasing that there's plenty of drama and mystery among these characters as they carve out their own niche to try and do some good while navigating their creature-plagued lives. It felt fully planted in the world of Sam and Dean, but with a fresh perspective and a new story to tell.
Even after the network passed on the project, fans started up a fan campaign in an effort to get the series back on the radar. But alas — their final appearance in the proper series remains the end of the story, though fans can write their own head canon of what might've been.
With The Winchesters now the only project in the works, telling a story set before the events of the mainline series (and the characters featured in Wayward Sisters), the odds of seeing the Sisters again sadly aren't great.
The weird ones
Though we've covered the proper would-be spinoffs, there's still plenty more outcasts from the Supernatural universe if you dig a bit deeper into the franchise. Like the fact that during the early seasons, the creative team loosely kicked around ideas about a Wild West-style prequel following Samuel Colt hunting demons that never made it beyond the idea stage. Then there's Ghostfacers, the Ghost Hunters spoof team introduced way back in the show's early seasons that recurred several times during Supernatural's run. They actually put together some webisode content that made it out into the wild, but grander plans for the ghost-hunting goofs were (sorry) ghosted.
In one of the more interesting twists, the Supernatural series actually spawned its own anime series with (you guessed it) Supernatural: The Anime Series. A 22-episode season hit shelves around 2011, loosely adapting the series into a more high-flying, anime-style world. The project was produced by Japanese anime studio Madhouse. Even Padalecki and Ackles popped back in to help out with some of the English dub for the Stateside release, though the project only ran for one season.
It's wild to think that a show that carried on (now wayward son) for 15 seasons and was consistently one of The CW's biggest hits could never manage to generate a spinoff series until now. Considering how the network has handled its superhero universe, it's a bit of a shame to think about the Supernatural-verse we could've had built out at this point, more than a decade later. Guess we'll have to just settle for that kinda-sorta Legends of Tomorrow crossover — and cross our fingers that The Winchesters can actually live up to the legacy.