When the CW’s long-running demon-hunting drama “Supernatural” returns with its 13th season, brothers Dean and Sam Winchester (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) are not separated from each other but from a different Winchester family member — their mother, Mary (Samantha Smith), who fell through the rip between worlds at the end of last season.
“This will be the most alone Sam and Dean have been,” series executive producer Andrew Dabb tells Variety. “They don’t have Castiel, they don’t have Crowley, they don’t have Mom, they don’t have Rowena. They have each other and this weird kid who could probably kill them if he wanted to.”
When season 13 starts, the Winchesters will feel an urgency to get to the bottom of how Jack (Alexander Calvert) can tap into his powers as Lucifer’s son to re-open the rip between worlds. “Overall, the push for mom is the driving factor behind a lot of what our guys do and the melodrama between them in the first chunk of the season,” Dabb says, adding that the question really is if and how Jack will help them.
The son of Lucifer is a “blank slate” when season 13 starts, which allows the show to play with the question of whether nature or nurture means the most to who a person becomes.
“As much as last season was about Sam and Dean being kids, this season is about them as parents,” Dabb says, adding that Jack begins to see the Winchesters as “role models.”
On the flip side, Dean and Sam begin to see themselves reflected in Jack at times. “Sam was cursed with powers for a big chunk of the show, and Dean sees this kid who is eager to please his dad and wonders if he’s turning into his father,” Dabb says. “And we say with kids all of the time, you hope they get your best qualities, but sometimes they get your worst qualities. Sam and Dean have been through dark times, and that’s something Jack will be exposed to.”
Convincing Jack to help them may take some time, as will teaching Jack how to harness and focus the power to re-open the rip. But that is not a new dilemma for a show that always mixes heavy mythology episodes with standalone cases of the week. Season 13 will follow the “general pattern” of the show, Dabb says, with episodes one, two, seven and nine being myth-heavy, exploring the alternate, apocalypse world sporadically.
“We won’t spend a lot of time with Mary and Lucifer in the apocalypse world, as we’re still most focused, and our audience cares most about, following Sam and Dean,” Dabb admits.
But having the world at their disposal to dip into occasionally opens up new storytelling opportunities for the show that has become known for going big with its season-long myth arcs. Although there is only one of each cosmic player (like God, Amara, or Death) in the world of “Supernatural,” anyone below that level (like archangels, Lucifer, and yes, Crowley) could have a counterpoint in the apocalypse world. Dabb says it’s “not a guarantee” that everyone does – after all, that is a world without Sam and Dean – but it is something the writers are playing with as a way to introduce some new versions of characters, like the archangel Michael (Christian Keyes). “The new Michael is a warrior. He already killed the Lucifer of his world, so it’s a new point of view. He doesn’t care about our Lucifer, and he doesn’t care about Dean – at least not at first,” Dabb says.
And although Castiel (Misha Collins) will be back in season 13, even though he appeared to die in the season 12 finale, he will not suddenly pop up “midway through episode one,” says Dabb. “Dean, and Jack to a great extent, had a great bond with Castiel, and they have to marinate a little bit and feel the loss. So even when he makes his triumphant return as a changed character, they’ll have an even bigger reaction.”
The apocalypse world is also a way for the writers to reinforce just how important Dean and Sam are after all of this time. “As the season progresses we are spending more time in the apocalypse world. It’s an on-going resource to really show the horrible difference in what the world looks like without these guys,” Dabb says.
And to that end, Dabb says that although the apocalypse world is not intended to be a new five-year arc, he also can’t say for sure that it will all be resolved in season 13. “What’s bigger than God? The answer is nothing. So after we did that, it was really about new directions that we could take our characters that will give them new things to react to? This opens up a lot of storytelling ideas in that way,” Dabb says.
“Supernatural” season 13 premieres on the CW Oct. 12 at 8 p.m.