“Reflections,” the winter midseason finale of The Winchesters, left us breathing heavy after a series of reveals including Mary (Meg Donnelly) and John’s (Drake Rodger) first kiss, Papa Samuel (Tom Welling) saving everyone (for now) by using the Ostium to banish the Akrida, and the surprise tag of a Queen Akrida building her power to return. The series returns today, JAn. 24 on The CW to continue building on those threads with “Hang on to Your Life,” the first in a run of six new episodes barreling towards their massive Season 1 finale. Showrunner Robbie Thompson got on the phone with SYFY WIRE to tease what to expect as The Winchesters returns with its successful formula of “monster-of-the-week” storytelling and the continuation of its mythology that carries through from Supernatural.
The winter midseason finale episode, “Reflections,” left audiences with some big revelations to ponder. Which of those story threads were baked in from the series start?
Well, we often looked at the midseason, or the winter break, as a point of inflection. When we were talking about it from an emotional standpoint, we asked, “What are the mysteries from the pilot that are outstanding that need to move forward?” The first one being: Where is Samuel Campbell? But the second one was the more emotional standpoint, which was, “What are these kids doing? Where are they going?”
A lot of shows like to “will they, or won’t they” with their central romance. Supernatural fans know Mary and John are going to get together, but in this series, you control the when and where. Did you debate holding them at arm’s length longer?
When we started talking about the longer form of the season, and the series, we didn’t want to be afraid to let them get together. The way we’ve always talked about this from jump, from the first conversation I had with [executive producers] Jensen and Daneel to the most recent conversations I’ve had with Meg and Drake was, this is a love story. We’re going to be dealing with the fallout of that kiss in the second half of the season. But it’s not necessarily going to go exactly the way I think people think.
Whose idea was it to get Tom Welling to join as patriarch Sam Campbell?
When we were talking about specifically Samuel, we needed somebody that had that gravitas that could show what Indiana Jones says: “It’s not just years, it’s the mileage.” Jensen and Danneel were just sitting there at video village and they were like, “What about Tom Welling?” It was one of those moments where you have that person as a comp but you’re like, ‘Well, we won’t get Tom.” But because they knew him, and obviously both the studio and network have a pretty substantial relationship with them, we did.
Samuel is a big mythology character to come into the series. What’s the mandate been about how many of these “known” characters should be folded into the first season?
You know, our mandate — and that’s a great phrase for it — was: What’s the story? What’s the story we’re trying to tell with these characters? They can’t just be Easter eggs and fun for the fans. We never said “no” to any character. We never said, like, “Absolutely not!” But when we got into the nitty gritty of if we do bring in that character, what is the story? What are we saying about Supernatural? And are we breaking anything that we, therefore, have to buy? Anytime that was the case, where it felt like there was no more story here, and therefore it was just an Easter egg fun thing, we moved on from it. It’s not like they’re Pokemon and we’ve got to collect all of them. [Laughs.] We really wanted to find a way to tell our story, and then how those characters could exist within ours. So that was really the mandate.
What does that mean in terms of fan expectations going into the back six episodes?
I was surprised there were a lot more [characters] than I thought there would probably be, but we found story for all of them. And I’m really excited. We have a really exciting legacy character coming back in Episode 12. We’re bringing back some really, really cool and exciting characters in our Season 1 finale that fans will instantly recognize, and I’m hoping that we can announce that sooner rather than later because I’m not a fan of holding on to stuff. I reached out to all of those actors individually, so I could say, “Hey, here’s the story we’re telling. Here’s how it fits. I wanted their input. I wanted their collaboration because, for the most part, these are people that have been playing these characters way longer than I’ve written them. They have unique insight. They have a unique perspective on who these characters are so I’d be crazy to not use that.
Did The Winchesters not getting a full 22-episode order throw off your storytelling for the end of Season 1?
For me, there are certain chapters in a book, and our first chapter was always designed to end with 13. And that hasn’t changed as we found out we were just a 13-episode order. We are building towards a big finale that will resolve a lot of our Season 1 mysteries, but still leave things open, especially on the emotional side for much, much, much more story to come. That’s sort of the plan for the back half.
With the changes at The CW, do you think there’s a future on the network for more seasons?
It is a time of uncertainty but that goes for all of us. We don’t know. But what we do know is the task at hand in front of us and we’re really focused on putting forth the best story that we can.