‘The Winchesters’ Review: ‘Supernatural’ Prequel Series Gets Off to a Bumpy but Promising Start

The 1970s-set spinoff will have to work hard to step out from the shadow of the original long-running CW hit


When horror series “Supernatural” debuted in 2005, no one thought it had the potential to last over 15 seasons. The series stayed on so long that it garnered multiple generations of fans, and found stars Jared Padelecki and Jensen Ackles marrying their co-stars in real life. But after over a decade of the longest monster hunter road trip in history that took siblings Sam and Dean to hell and back, (a few times), the series came to an end in 2020. And closed a chapter on the longest running and one of the most impactful genre shows in history. 

Six months after Sam (Jared Padelecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester drove their beloved Impala “Baby” off into the sunset, “The Winchesters,” a prequel series focusing on Sam and Dean’s parents John and Mary Winchester, was announced. “The Winchesters,” premiering on The CW Tuesday night, is the first “Supernatural” spinoff to make it to air. Achieving what the backdoor pilot “Supernatural: Bloodlines” and the highly anticipated “Wayward Sisters” could not. 

However, if the pilot released to the press is any indication, executive producers Jensen Ackles, his wife Daneel Ackles and co-creator Robbie Thompson are attempting to introduce a whole new generation to the “Supernatural” ‘verse while at the same time, leaving enough easter eggs to satiate “Supernatural” fans’ healthy appetites. Whether this is an achievable task remains to be seen. 

“The Winchesters” is a period piece taking place in The CW’s version of the 1970s and follows John and Mary on their exploits as their relationship grows. The series treads familiar territory covered in “Supernatural,” with Ackles narrating the story from an unknown future timeline, and also features a diverse crew of sidekicks that make the show feel more like a cross between “Scooby-Doo” and “Doctor Who” – with about as much chemistry.

The show begins with John Winchester (Drake Rodger) headed back home from a voluntary tour in Vietnam, with the PTSD to prove it. He is searching for his dad, who’s been missing for years when he crosses paths with Mary Campbell (Meg Donnelly), a monster hunter also looking for her father Samuel, who went missing on a solo demon-hunting mission. Mary is a legacy hunter — and apparently not by choice. 

Joining them in their parental search are members of Samuel and Mary’s team, Carlos (Jojo Fleites) and Latika (Nida Khurshid), who help provide context for the Campbells while injecting the storyline with a bit of comic relief. 

The team gets around either in Mary’s car (which looks a lot like Dean’s “ Baby”) or Carlos’s van (which looks a lot like the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine). The team is on their way to Texas to find Ada Monroe, a collector and historian of paranormal artifacts who was the last person to see Samuel alive. When they arrive, not only do they uncover the origins of the “Men of Letters” (a shadow organization woven throughout “Supernatural” lore), but a secret monster hunting device with the power to save them all.

The pilot of any spinoff has to work pretty quickly to introduce characters and immerse viewers into a story. However, “The Winchesters” takes off at such a breakneck pace neither the characters nor some of the show’s more tender moments have a chance to breathe. Although “Supernatural” fans will undoubtedly be able to follow along, those new to the franchise might need a rewatch or two to catch everything. The essential elements of what made “Supernatural” a fan favorite — the unexplained phenomena, the trauma of loss, and the ability to drive halfway across the country in 13 seconds — are there, but the moments of brevity feel forced. 

Rodger is perfectly cast as John. Not only does he favor both Padalecki and Ackles, but his charm and naivete onscreen make him very believable. However, Rodger’s chemistry with Donnelly isn’t as palpable as it was between Dean Morgan and Samantha Smith, who played their older counterparts on “Supernatural.” Hopefully, in future episodes, this dynamic will improve (only the pilot episode was made available for review).

As with most prequels of long-running shows, it’s challenging to plant flowers in someone else’s garden, especially one as expansive and well-cultivated as “Supernatural.” And since Sam and Dean traveled back in time and met their parents more than once, “The Winchesters” will need to find ways to cultivate new storylines out of old ones. 

“The Winchesters” is also going to raise some eyebrows with fans as John dives right into his first exorcism pretty early on and follows Mary without question, whereas on “Supernatural,” John supposedly didn’t become a hunter until after Sam and Dean were born and Mary was killed. However, Ackles has assured fans that “The Winchesters” is not rewriting history and that the new story will eventually explain all. 

Overall, “The Winchesters” is off to a decent, if not very creative, start. And since John and Mary’s origin was visited so thoroughly in the main series, for this new chapter in the horror franchise to thrive, the series will need more than its “Supernatural” fanbase to be a hit.

“The Winchesters” premieres on The CW on Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.