SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “The Bad Place,” the winter finale of “Supernatural” Season 13 that aired on Dec. 7.
“Supernatural” is no stranger to setting up potential spinoffs through backdoor pilots, but unlike “Bloodlines” in Season 9, Season 13’s new attempt features characters that have been a part of the “Supernatural family” — at the very least for an episode, but in some cases for years.
“‘Bloodlines,’ by design, was to drop you into a world that was part ‘Supernatural’ but supposed to feel very different,” Andrew Dabb, “Supernatural” Season 13 showrunner and the writer of the previous backdoor pilot “Bloodlines,” tells Variety. “When we started talking about ‘Wayward,’ it was something that had been built up for years and seeded in our show for a long time. And when we made the decision last year to trudge forward on this, it was really important to us that, unlike ‘Bloodlines,’ it did feel like an organic [extension] of ‘Supernatural.'”
“Wayward Sisters,” which will air when “Supernatural” returns with its winter premiere in January, was set up in the winter finale episode when psychic Patience (Clark Backo) had a vision of death for Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) and set out to warn her, despite her father’s instance she stay out of the hunting life. Additionally the winter finale, “The Bad Place,” introduced dreamwalker Kaia (Yadira Guevara-Prip), a young woman who thought her powers were a curse because she could only ever visit a place that left her with physical and psychological scars when she woke back up in the “real” world.
However, Dabb says that the episode was designed so that whether or not the audience member watching knew it was a backdoor pilot, they would still feel like they were watching an episode of “Supernatural” proper.
“We think this episode steps up and has relationships and a big mythology that can support a show, but if the stars don’t align for us, they can just enjoy it as an episode of ‘Supernatural,'” Dabb says. “That’s important to us. I think a lot of the reason ‘Bloodlines’ turned so many people off was that it didn’t feel like an episode of ‘Supernatural.’ This feels like an episode of ‘Supernatural,’ and should it go forward, we would build on that DNA to make it feel unique and different but still part of that world.”
Working with nephilim Jack (Alexander Calvert) in “The Bad Place,” Kaia found enough focus to see other worlds besides her titular bad one, including the alternate, post-apocalyptic world in which Mary (Samantha Smith) was trapped at the end of Season 12. Her power was strong enough to open a rift between worlds — but unfortunately left Jack stranded with Mary, while Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki) were sent to another, unknown place, and Kaia herself was left back in the regular world.
“Kaia just survived an incredibly traumatic incident, and Jack gave her hope that maybe her power didn’t have to be as dark as she’s been experiencing, but then what happens? A giant calamity occurs, so she’s a reluctant ally of the girls,” says “Wayward Sisters” writer and “Supernatural” co-executive producer Robert Berens. “[‘Wayward Sisters’] will shine a little light on Kaia’s power, but if we go to series it will be a deeper dive. Her connection to this other place is actually very personal. She has a very dark and complicated relationship to this world.”
“Wayward Sisters” has to pick up in the “Supernatural” story where “The Bad Place” left off, which means finding out a way to get Dean and Sam back from this other world — a world which Dabb notes is “unlike anything we’ve ever seen on ‘Supernatural.'” But it also has to flesh out the ensemble dynamics of the women who will not only work together to save Dean and Sam, but also who will make up the cast of the spinoff, should it go forward to series.
In addition to Jody, Patience, and Kaia, the show is set to follow Claire (Kathryn Newton), Donna (Briana Buckmaster), and Alex (Katherine Ramdeen).
“There’s a number of POVs and there are a number of beautiful character beats for every character. You have a couple of core relationships that are very warm and established, like Alex and Jody, and Jody and Donna — they’re very ride or die,” Berens says, noting that past episodes of “Supernatural” have already introduced the POVs of each but that the “focal POV” of the “Wayward Sisters” episode will be Claire’s story.
Claire, who Berens calls “the prodigal daughter,” is conflicted about the family unit at this time in her life and the show’s history. “[She’s] returning to the fold after an absence. She feels like she’s a solo hunter — like maybe she’s outgrown this family — but under the circumstances, she has to come back. So there’s a lot of emotion and interpersonal relationships to work through with the rest of the group,” Berens says.
For Dabb and Berens there is both a great challenge and a great joy in being able to dive into such a rich group of characters with different points of view. In addition to exploring “the ego and the glory and the freedom of being a solo hunter” through Claire, characters like Patience and Kaia are still not fully certain of their powers — or of the other women with whom they are thrown together and tasked to work.
“Patience has something of a connection with Jody but she doesn’t have that emotional connection with everybody else [and there’s some interesting tension between Patience and Claire,” Berens says.
Meanwhile Berens calls Kaia “pivotal” because “she’s the only one of all of these women who knows, more or less, what went down [with Dean and Sam].”
And then there are Jody and Donna who have been in the hunting game longer and feel a responsibility towards the other women.
“It’s the tension between the two generations of ‘Wayward.’ Jody and Donna have a responsibility to protect and train these young women, and these young women are finding their strength. That family dynamic of conflict is going to be the core conflict of our series,” Berens says. “They ultimately work together very beautifully, but the road there is very complicated.”
“Supernatural” airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW. “Wayward Sisters” airs on Jan. 18 2018.