The Best Character In The Winchesters Isn't Even A Winchester

If you thought that 15 seasons of fighting demons and daddy issues would be the end of the "Supernatural" saga, then you probably weren't paying attention. The titular family at the center of "The Winchesters" is evidently immortal and no amount of season finales or completed character arcs can keep them down for very long. This time around, the new CW spin-off series is delving into the untold love story of John Winchester (Drake Rodger) and Mary Campbell (Meg Donnelly), the future parents of Sam and Dean. In a lot of ways, this prequel is treading very familiar ground: it's the same family, once again on the hunt to take out the creatures that go bump in the night. But "The Winchesters" boasts a few key changes. This time it's a tale of romance not brotherhood, it's set in the '70s, and there's my favorite change of all — it's an ensemble show rather than a two-hander. 

Expanding its core cast is something that "Supernatural" spent years resisting. The wide world of hunters was slowly revealed over time, which led to the introduction of many fascinating characters, but the show always found a way of reverting back to the base structure of its core duo. Change didn't truly come until the introduction of Misha Collins as Castiel. Try as they might to remove him from the story, he became an essential part of Team Free Will and a gaping hole in the story whenever he went missing.

The expansion only continued from there: Crowley, the King of Hell became a series mainstay, Mary Winchester made a triumphant return, and in the final few seasons, the brothers basically adopted Lucifer's son. Since that wide ensemble became one of the show's best traits, it only makes sense that the prequel would learn from the wisdom of its predecessor.

Meet the monster-hunting Scooby gang

"The Winchesters" begins its story with a built-in Scooby gang — van included — and it's absolutely incredible. We may only be one episode into the series, but what's not to like about our new monster-hunting crew? Even John Winchester, a controversial figure amongst fans of the OG series, is hard not to fall in love with. Years away from his days of child neglect and irresponsible parenting, he's a wide-eyed newbie to the world of hunting who has big golden retriever energy. Following at Mary's heels, he only gets mixed up in the supernatural because he hopes to find some renewed purpose in life, answers about his missing father, and an escape from his PTSD.

Mary Campbell is, as usual, an absolute badass. Meg Donnelly has clearly checked out the character's appearances in the late seasons of "Supernatural" because she's channeling her inner Samantha Smith, giving us a hardcore return to the huntress who slices through monsters like no other. But Mary isn't without her own inner conflict — weathered by her years of fighting the forces of evil, she's ready to leave the life behind. But only after wrapping up one last job.

And then there's newbie Latika Desai (Nida Khurshid), the brains of the ensemble and a hunter-in-training. Booksmart and somewhat timid about charging into action, I get the sense that Latika will play a crucial role in keeping these lunatics alive when they opt to dive into danger. Less time is spent with Ada Monroe (Demetria McKinney), the occultist bookstore owner who spends much of the pilot possessed by a demon, but she provides yet another fierce presence in the series. 

This supernatural Scooby-Gang seems absolutely delightful and I look forward to every minute we get to spend with each of them — but based on the pilot, there's one presence that stands out amongst the bunch: Jojo Fleites as Carlos Cervantez.

Carlos Cervantez steals the show

Do you know what all great characters need? A memorable entrance. The folks behind "Supernatural" knew that pretty damn well and showed it off when they burst down some barn doors and brought Castiel into the picture. It seems like a very similar mindset was leading the way when it came to introducing Carlos, who gives the beloved angel a run for his money. Carlos' grand entrance sees him hitting a demon with his van before attacking the monster with one of the greatest weapons ever introduced into this universe: a squirt gun filled with holy water.

After years of having to watch Sam and Dean carry around little vials and flasks of holy water, we bear witness to a true innovator who knows that a children's toy can be transformed into a demon's worst nightmare with just little forethought. It's a solid summation of what Carlos is bringing to the table: confidence and a welcome boost of levity. He keeps it going by giving their new addition his first lesson in defeating demons, but by far the best part of this scene is when he insults and compliments John Winchester in the same breath. Seconds after meeting him, Carlos congratulates John on his first exorcism but also gives him a severe dress-down for his horrendous outfit. Ironically, John is dressed exactly as Sam and Dean dressed for 15 seasons of TV — flannel and jeans.

So yeah, Carlos is sharp, witty, and self-assured — but that doesn't mean he's perfect (which is even better, because we love a flawed king). Before that epic entrance, Mary has her reservations about getting Carlos involved in the case, still harboring an intriguing grudge over the last time they worked together. So what exactly went down in Tupelo? Thankfully, it's not a mystery for very long.

Carlos is a rarity in the Supernatural canon

As Latika quickly reveals, Carlos got on Mary's bad side because he abandoned her during a hunt ... to make out with her ex-boyfriend. A big yikes for their friendship, but at least everything worked out in the end! Hopefully. This particular detail happens to highlight the fact that Carlos is a rare queer character in the world of "Supernatural," whose sexuality and gender identity will be a natural part of his presence in the series. Executive producer Daneel Ackles previously explained that casting from a variety of backgrounds and identities was a conscious choice on their part. Carlos (he/him) in particular is a non-binary character played by Fleites, a non-binary actor, who uses they/them pronouns. Of this casting, Ackles simply told Variety:

"Life has always been that way. I know some people don't want to think that but there have always been non-binary people. So for us to include a non-binary character, that just makes sense because that is life."

She's 100% right, but longtime fans also know that it's no small feat to have Carlos, an openly queer character, in the "Supernatural" spin-off. 

Learning from the mistakes of Supernatural

The OG series took quite a few seasons to introduce queer characters who weren't the butt of a bad joke, and when it finally happened, they tended to become victims of the "bury your gays" trope in unimaginably brutal ways. Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day), the lovable hacker-turned-hunter who was like a sister to Sam and Dean, was literally murdered by a Nazi in one of the show's most egregious moves ever. And then there's the infamous case of Castiel, the angel who admitted his love for Dean mere seconds before he was dragged down to Turbo Super Hell. (Don't get me wrong, the memes that spawned from the Castiel debacle are almost worth the price of admission, but it's still unbelievable that it happened at all.) 

By virtue of being a hunter in this world, Carlos certainly isn't safe from death, but based on this series' vested interest in putting new voices at the helm, I sincerely hope he has a bright future ahead before that pesky hunter's fate comes for him.

Carlos' future is (hopefully) bright

Carlos himself seems to understand that death looms on the horizon for them all. After explaining to John that he entered the life after his family was murdered by a ghoul, Carlos speaks one of the truest sentiments ever uttered in the series: "The only thing worse than how it starts for a hunter is how it ends."

This isn't just tough love, but brutal honesty. Not just for John and Mary, whose tragic ends we happen to already know, but for most of the hunters that "Supernatural" has even introduced. As Dean once told his brother, "it's not like we're in the 'live till you're 90, die in your sleep' business. This only ends one way." Carlos makes this clear to John up front, with some brutal practicality that hints at the depth of his character — showing there's much more to him than meets the eye.

But all that darkness doesn't mean we can't have some fun! His good sense aside, Carlos will obviously be the problem child of this group in all the best possible ways. He makes time for brutal honesty with John and instills confidence in Latika, but he also shows off his flair for the dramatics and butts heads with Mary. From the looks of it, this Scooby gang has two alphas, but while that inevitably calls for some conflict, it doesn't change the fact that they're both essential members of the group. Look no further than the fact that Carlos is the one delivering our ride: it's no impala, but his groovy van is a vehicle fit for an ensemble.