Longtime viewers of the CW’s “Supernatural” have come to expect new seasons to start with the Winchester brothers in separate places and, more often than not, not entirely themselves. The 14th season followed the pattern, with the archangel Michael possessing Dean (Jensen Ackles), leaving him on the road alone, while Sam (Jared Padalecki) remained in the bunker to carry on hunting without his big brother. This time, it only took two episodes to bring the brothers back together — but their saga with Michael has not wrapped up nearly as quickly.
“Michael is, for all intents and purposes, the big bad of the season,” executive producer Andrew Dabb tells Variety. “He’s going to throw some levers that are going to awaken some bigger, scarier things, but it’s all a part of his design, so he’s the mastermind behind [it].”
With Lucifer “really and truly” dead after the events of the season 13 finale, Michael is the biggest looming threat in the Winchesters’ world.
“For him to vanish at the end of episode 2 and never come back, or to be defeated at the end of episode 7 and never come back, would not only do a disservice to that character and to Jensen who does a great job of playing him but also to us for taking time to tell that story,” Dabb says. “We’re certainly not in a position where we’re going to say this is the final season and Michael is the be-all-end-all, because I don’t think it is, and I don’t think he is, but…he is the biggest looming threat [now].”
However, the reason Dabb says the writers wanted to return to the dynamic duo of Dean and Sam so early in this season was because “if you have them apart for an extended period of time, for fans and for us, it’s in the back of your head that ‘No, these guys belong together.'”
“The show has always been Sam and Dean and will always be Sam and Dean,” Dabb says. “So when you put them back together, the show feels like, ‘This is the show.'”
The 14th season is also a slightly shorter one with only 20 episodes, so Dabb says the writers’ room has had to accelerate the plot a bit. For the time being, Michael has left Dean’s body, and he’s not the kind of being that will “show up for dinner every Thursday night or anything like that,” Dabb admits. But because the world of the show hasn’t seen anything as threatening as him, “our guys are very much aware that [he] could rear his head at any given time.”
Still, Dabb says that characters such as Sam, Castiel (Misha Collins) and Jack (Alexander Calvert) are “all very sensitive to [Dean’s] trauma” but are not afraid of him — or what he could become should Michael pop in again. Instead, they are focused on finding a way to take down Michael — or at least “keep him under wraps” and helping Dean put together the pieces of what Michael did when he was using his body.
“Dean’s memories of his time possessed are relatively spotty. [He’s] on an emotional roller coaster ride as more of Michael’s plan comes to light,” Dabb says. “It’s a learning process for [him], and I think you’re dealing with a Dean who, early in the season, feels a little bit besieged on all sides.”
After all, Dean has also returned to a bunker filled with hunters he doesn’t know very well, being led by his younger brother.
“Sam has taken on a role that Dean is proud of him for but wasn’t there to see him grow into, so he’s kind of coming into everything mid-stream,” Dabb points out. “Sam is in the role of leader, and being the leader is great — until you make a mistake or someone you’re leading gets killed.”
Castiel will also continue to take the lead on helping Jack deal with the fact that he lost his powers. “Cas has been looking to grow into a larger role in the show. He’s been looking for his place for many years, and he wonders if he found it as a father to this kid,” Dabb says.
Meanwhile Nick (Mark Pellegrino) will “be on his own for a little while,” Dabb shares, as he and the show unravel the mystery of what really happened to his family.
“Nick can’t make up for all of the terrible things Lucifer did when he was in his body, but what he can do is do right by the family, which is a very ‘Supernatural’ motivation,” Dabb says.
While Nick’s version of “doing right” by them has thus far proven to be more violent than the Winchesters might approve, Dabb says that comes as a consequence of being tied to Lucifer for as long as he was.
“Lucifer definitely lingers in Nick in terms of the trauma that he’s undergone,” Dabb says. “You can’t have something possess you for years and years and not absorb something from them, even if it’s just muscle memory.”
While these overarching stories come with a lot of questions and complications for the characters on the mythological level, Dabb is still excited to bring some standalone “short story” episodes to the season to allow the characters to grow emotionally.
Dabb points to the fourth episode of season 14, “Mint Condition,” as a good example, noting that “Dean is in a very dark place in the beginning of that episode” but quickly gets into the “cool ’80s nostalgia throwback” feeling when he comes face-to-face with his hero from an ’80s horror movie franchise. Dabb reveals that the episode was inspired by “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th,” and the “hero” Dean loves is “our version of Jason, basically.”
“It allows us to talk about how horror movies and Halloween generally have been a part of Sam and Dean’s life. … Dean loves horror movies, we’ve always said that on the show, and Sam [doesn’t] and we use the episode to explore more of those feelings and go deeper with [them],” Dabb says.
“Supernatural” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.