Although Supernatural ended in 2020 with a somewhat divisive series finale, the Winchester’s story isn’t done yet. Though, the Winchesters in question might not be the Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) that you’ve come to love… It was announced in June of 2021 that Ackles and his wife, Danneel Ackles, are in the process of producing a Supernatural spin-off series for the CW called The Winchesters, with the former Ackles set to return to his break-out role of Dean Winchester. Padalecki seems to have no involvement in the series as he’s a bit busy starring in the CW’s reimagined Walker, though there’s no doubt that if the series were picked up, he would make a cameo of some sort as Sam. The series, narrated by Dean, would tell of the epic love story between the boy’s parents, John and Mary (played most often on Supernatural by Jefferey Dean Morgan and Samantha Smith), and would tell of the love that would eventually help save the entire world.
Fans of the long-running series will remember that this isn’t the first attempted spin-off set in the Supernatural universe… Back in Season 9, writer (and future showrunner) Andrew Dabb and director Robert Singer conspired on “Bloodlines”, a backdoor pilot for their proposed Supernatural: Tribes series. “Bloodlines” saw Sam and Dean discover a vast monster conspiracy in the city of Chicago, only to turn it over to the young police academy trainee-turned-hunter Ennis Ross (Lucien Laviscount) after his fiancee was killed outside a monster club. Tribes, which quickly became Supernatural: Bloodlines, was set to follow Ennis as he sets his sights on the five monster mafia families who control all aspects of the Windy City’s infrastructure. Ennis would be joined by the shapeshifter David Lassiter (Nathaniel Buzolic) who wishes to end the blood feud between his family and the family of his lover, the werewolf Violet Duval (Melissa Roxburgh).
Bloodlines was an interesting and exciting concept that had a lot of potential to work on the CW. For one thing, the diverse ensemble cast and setting allowed for different stories to be told within the Supernatural universe, stories that Sam and Dean had no business telling. Bloodlines seemed to cater heavily to the CW’s young adult audience through younger, hotter actors and romantic subplots, while also adding the genre element and vast conspiracy to keep fans of Supernatural interested. Shows like The Originals and Angel became obvious blueprints for success as they also followed a blend of human and supernatural creatures navigating love and loss in a major city.
Why Supernatural: Bloodlines didn’t happen, we might never know for sure. After Bloodlines didn’t move any further at the CW, creator Dabb would eventually reflect, explaining that the timing just wasn’t right and that their idea “was probably a little too similar to The Originals.” But what makes the most sense is what he would say later, that they “wanted to do something set in the Supernatural world but very unlike Supernatural.” He hit the nail on the head. Not only was “Bloodlines” one of the most hated episodes of Season 9 (though some say it’s underrated), but the concept was so unlike the road-show that was Supernatural that it felt somewhat unnatural to watch. The characters weren’t as exciting as Sam and Dean, and the story, while terribly compelling, didn’t quite land the same way as the Winchester’s revenge-fueled first season did.
Had Dabb and company taken a more Chris Carter approach to spin-offs, they might’ve had a hit on their hands as The X-Files creator did with the short-lived series Millennium. While Millennium only lasted three seasons (due largely to its dark, thematic content, which was somewhat ahead of its time), the series made its mark and has a large cult following to this day. What made it work was that it didn’t rely on an X-Files connection other than sharing the same series creator. Instead, it allowed itself to be its own thing, eventually crossing over with The X-Files as time went on and the series found its legs. Contrast this with Carter’s later spin-off, The Lone Gunmen, which followed three X-Files supporting characters and only lasted one short season. Its heavy reliance on X-Files fans, though the series ran a starkly different tone, kept it from ever standing on its own and the characters were quickly drafted back into the main series.
Other spin-off shows like Angel or The Originals, which originated from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Vampire Diaries respectively, succeeded because they followed fan-favorite main cast members and honored their character arcs. While these shows weren’t afraid to be unique compared to their parent series, they found their own voices naturally while still retaining similar tones to the originals. Supernatural: Bloodline‘s ultimate downfall was that it tried to break away from the Winchesters too much, something Dabb would learn for the next attempted spin-off.
When “Wayward Sisters” aired in Season 13, Supernatural fans thought for sure that this next spin-off series, titled Supernatural: Wayward Sisters, would be an immediate hit at the CW. Having spent years with characters like Sheriffs Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) and Donna Hanscum (Briana Buckmaster), and the past few seasons developing the complex Claire Novak (Kathryn Love Newton) and Alex Jones (Katherine Ramdeen), Dabb and company used the beginning of Season 13 to set the stage for their next attempt at a spin-off. They introduced the psychic Patience Turner (Clark Backo), the granddaughter of Sam and Dean’s one-time ally Missouri Mosely (Loretta Devine), and the dreamwalker Kaia Nieves (Yadira Guevara-Prip), who tried to help the brothers find their missing mother. With lots of character history behind them, the Wayward Sisters seemed like an instant hit, feeling “more like an outgrowth of Supernatural” rather than some random side-plot, according to Dabb.
As Supernatural grew into more of an ensemble series under Dabb and Singer’s lead, it felt natural that the Wayward Sisters gang would branch out into their own series, protecting the people of Sioux Falls, South Dakota from otherworldly monsters and demons. It felt like a place that Jody, Donna, Claire, Alex, and the rest could grow and continue their own personal journeys in as Sam, Dean, Castiel (Misha Collins), and Jack (Alexander Calvert) would continue hunting across America. Sioux Falls had already been a recurring location on Supernatural, appearing at least once a season when the Winchesters would visit either Jody or their surrogate father, Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver). If the Winchesters had Kansas and the rest of the world covered, then what better place for a Supernatural spin-off to take place than South Dakota?
Unfortunately, Supernatural: Wayward Sisters wasn’t picked up either, and it’s a little bit unclear why since Dabb wanted to “cross-pollinate” between the two shows as often as possible, which would have easily helped the series ratings right off the bat. Maybe it was the overtly “girl power” tone or the infinitely less complex characters (compared to Sam and Dean), or maybe the network saw Supernatural‘s end in sight and wasn’t confident enough in Wayward Sisters‘ ability to carry on without the Winchesters… But whatever happened behind the scenes, it was sad and disappointing that the world of Supernatural wouldn’t continue on past Sam and Dean themselves.
Of course, since Dabb and Singer were the showrunners of the main series, Jody, Donna, and Kaia all returned to finish out their stories in the final two seasons of the show, with three episodes specifically dedicated to continuing on the “Wayward Sisters” story. Claire, Alex, and Patience would get passing mentions over the years, with all of their continued character development and hunting occurring off-screen. As unsatisfying as that could be, it’s better than the never-again-mentioned events of “Bloodlines” which is possibly the biggest ball the Winchesters ever dropped (that and not closing the Gates of Hell).
Over the years, there were rumors of other Supernatural related spin-offs, including series creator Eric Kripke‘s idea of one set in the Old West following the demon-killing hunter Samuel Colt (Sam Hennings). Colt, the creator of the magical demon-killing gun of the same name, actually made an appearance in Season 6’s “Frontierland” when Sam and Dean travel back in time to the 1800s. Kripke considered Supernatural to be somewhat of a “modern western” and thought that continuing Colt’s story as a “horror western” would have been a neat way to go. However, talking about it was as far as Colt’s spin-off ever got.
While there are plenty of failed Supernatural spin-offs, the creators successfully spun off the series in 2010 (albeit briefly) with the short-lived web series Ghostfacers, which was based on the Season 3 episode of the same name. The series only ran for 11 episodes and followed then-recurring Supernatural characters Ed Zeddmore (A.J. Buckley) and Harry Spangler (Travis Wester) as they and their Ghostfacing team investigated a haunted theater. They even got to meet Castiel in the final episode who warned them that they were to bear witness to the Apocalypse. But, that promise aside, the Ghostfacers weren’t ever seen again beyond one Season 9 episode (“#THINMAN”) that finally broke the Ghostbusters-wannabees up for good.
Then, in 2011, the Japanese studio Madhouse adapted the first two seasons of Supernatural into Supernatural: The Anime Series, also known as Supernatural: The Animation. This series would be released in both Japanese and English, with Padalecki reprising his role as Sam for the English dub and Andrew Farrar voicing Dean for the first 20 episodes until Ackles would return for the final “All Hell Breaks Loose” two-parter. Benefitting greatly from its animated format, the series expanded heavily on the Supernatural mythology by both adapting some of the first two season’s greatest hits and also releasing original stories like “Temptation of the Demon” and “The Spirit of Vegas”.
Maybe Jensen Ackles and the other creatives will finally figure out the magic spin-off formula for The Winchesters and get another Supernatural series on the air, or maybe the reason nothing seems to stick outside of the original is that Sam and Dean are the only real draws to the world of Supernatural. Maybe without the Winchesters, the studios, audience, and everyone in-between just doesn’t care about that world, especially since we can all get our paranormal fixes elsewhere. With Sam and Dean’s story now completed, it can be hard to let go of 15 seasons and countless memories, no matter how much you like the ending. “But then again, nothing ever really ends, does it?”