How The Winchesters Challenges The Supernatural Canon

This post contains spoilers for the first episode of "The Winchesters."

After 15 years of airing the traumas and tribulations of Sam and Dean Winchester, The CW has finally decided to spice things up by creating a "Supernatural" spinoff that centers a monster-hunting duo with crippling daddy issues! Now, I know that sounds like the exact same show but trust me, it's very different. It takes place in the '70s now.

"The Winchesters" sends us back to the past to hang out with young Mary Campbell (Meg Donnelly) and John Winchester (Drake Rodger), the future parents of Sam and Dean. These 20-something-year-olds have no idea that their future marriage will kickstart a saga of tragedy that nearly ends the world multiple times — but there's no reason to worry about any of that because it's far off into the future. For at least a little bit, we get to sit back, relax and bask in their budding romance while they behead monsters, stake vampires, and exorcise demons.

As fun as that sounds, when the premise of the series was first revealed, it raised a few eyebrows (and not just because of the Twitter meltdown from Jared Padalecki). For "Supernatural" devotees, the story of John and Mary's love is hardly worth an entire prequel series — we already have all the details! A hunter meets a veteran, they catch a movie at the cinema, fall in love over coffee and (briefly) enjoy their happily ever after. That's all she wrote, folks!

Or so we thought.

Will The Winchesters rewrite history?

The biggest fear for fans of the original series is that "The Winchesters" will rewrite the "Supernatural" canon as we know it. 

The courtship of John and Mary plays a crucial role in the backstories of Sam and Dean not just because they need to be born, but because the details of this love story will shape the people they end up becoming. The basis of their 15-season journey is the idea that their father only discovered the world of the supernatural after his wife was killed by a demon. Not only does he have no idea that she spent her youth killing monsters, but John's ignorance also means that he doesn't discover his own family history with the Men of Letters, a secret org of "supernatural freemasons" who protect the world from evil. All of that is uncovered much later in life by his sons. 

As for John, his wife's death is the inciting incident that transforms him from a small-town mechanic into a dedicated monster hunter, obsessed with getting revenge on the Prince of Hell who murdered his wife. But the premise of "The Winchesters" challenges that reality.

The prequel sees John crossing paths with Mary and stumbling into the middle of a hunt. He confronts a demon, learns the truth, and by the end of the episode, joins the team of young hunters on a cross-country trip. So, uh, how the hell does that fit into the origin story presented in "Supernatural"? In truth, we don't yet have an answer, but the creative team behind "The Winchesters" has made it crystal clear that the prequel will enrich, not erase the "Supernatural" canon. Or as Dean says in the pilot, "this story might sound familiar, but I'm going to put the pieces together in a way that just might surprise you."

In Robbie Thompson we trust

Based on how the series kicks off, it's pretty hard to believe that "The Winchesters" won't be ignoring the family history. So if you need a boost of confidence, then consider this: the prequel is being headed up by three "Supernatural" alums who have more stake in the series than anyone else. Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester himself) created the series in tandem with his producing partner and wife Daneel Ackles (who also played the angel Anael).

Most promising is the inclusion of Robbie Thompson as the showrunner, writer, and executive producer of the series. The former "Supernatural" writer is credited with some of the show's highest highs, including "Fan Fiction," "Baby," and "Don't Call Me Shurley," three episodes that display a tremendous memory for the established lore of the show. While Thompson and co have kept things vague, they never stop insisting that "The Winchesters" is more than what it seems. During a chat with TV Guide, Thompson said:

"We were all very, very clear that we wanted to make sure that we weren't breaking anything. I know it seems like we have, but without spoiling anything, I can say with 100 percent certainty that we will not be undoing anything of Supernatural."

Even though it doesn't yet make any sense, it's comforting to hear that the writers are keeping the original story in mind. Ignoring established lore is one thing, but completely changing character arcs is another: John Winchester always knowing the truth about hunting would completely change him as a person. As for Mary, hunting alongside John negates the basis that their love was built on: she wanted to leave the world of hunting behind for something simpler. Part of her affection for John was because, as she put it, "He's everything a hunter isn't." So how will all of that stay true as this series progresses?

Why erase canon when you can erase memories?

The most obvious possibility is that whatever happens in this series will ultimately be reset. With angels running amok, anything is possible — but that's especially true for the love story of John and Mary. "Supernatural" previously hinted that their romance was sparked thanks to an interfering cupid. When Sam and Dean tried to disrupt the past by traveling back in time, an angel thwarted them by erasing their parents' memories to keep everything as it was. Perhaps this excursion will end with a very similar conclusion, sending Mary and John back to that marquee where they will meet and fall in love, without embarking on a cross-country hunt.

But then again, wouldn't that be a disappointing premise for the show? Surely the events that go down in "The Winchesters" won't just be erased at the flick of a series finale wrist? That leaves us with another possibility: maybe everything originally went down as expected but is now being rewritten.

When John stumbles his way into Mary's mission, it's because a man he's never met handed him a letter from Henry Winchester, along with a key to a Men of Letters bunker. And after that? John claims the man "disappeared — like, vanished." 

Could it be ... a baby in a trenchcoat?

An instant disappearance smells a lot like angel magic to me, but why would the soldiers of heaven lead John to uncovering his past? Unless, of course, said mystery man resembles a baby in a trenchcoat and is played by Misha Collins.

For now, we can't possibly know if that's true because the interaction happened offscreen. But if Castiel is indeed involved, then maybe he and Dean are trying to reshape history. After all, the mystery man seems to be the reason that the details of this story feel different. Otherwise, Mary and John still would have met by the theater, without John discovering the warehouse and learning about demons.

Unfortunately for us speculators, the absolute insanity of "Supernatural" means that there are endless possibilities. The OG series dedicated multiple episode to the concept of a multiverse so for all we know, this is just an entirely new universe. And then there's the matter of Dean Winchester playing the part of series narrator: when and where is he telling this story from? How is he tracking down the details? And if he's simply searching for answers, why would he be altering history?

There are currently more questions than answers but on the bright side, that may change before we know it. In the same chat with TV Guide, Robbie Thompson promised that everything will make sense after episode 13. At the mid-season point, viewers will understand how the two series connect:

"We have to make sure that what we are doing does not upend or undo 15 years of Supernatural. We have our way of doing that, which, again, all will be revealed."