I could have tried to get an early preview of the episode from the studio (to watch and review it before it aired to the general public), but I decided to wait and see it when everyone else did. Actually, due to a mishap with the DVR, I didn't see it until the day after. I have to say, I'm pleasantly surprised. I'm not someone who issues harsh judgement on pilots. After all, they exist to set the foundation of what's to come. I can't name too many pilots that have blown me away (even Supernatural fell in the "acceptable" class for me). My criteria: was it enough to get me to watch on the second week? The answer is yes.
One cannot help but comparing The Winchesters pilot with the other two spinoffs, "Bloodlines" and "Wayward Sisters." Both aired as backdoor pilots as a regular Supernatural episode. I hated "Bloodlines" with the fire of a thousand suns. I still to this day list that episode as the worst episode ever made on Supernatural. Not only did I not want that to go to series, I never wanted to watch it again when doing Supernatural rewatches. I pretend it never existed.
"Wayward Sisters" was an awesome concept...on paper. If you watched Jensen's interview in the press room at New York Comic Con, he blamed the failure of "Wayward Sisters" on it not having a Winchester in the cast. I disagree. It failed because it was poorly written. A pilot is supposed to setup a concept that will take a series into the next few seasons and offer many possibilities. "Wayward Sisters" failed to do that. There was no strong plotting, no exciting setup, and nothing that truly defined what the series would be other than Supernatural with girls. The choice of Claire as the lead was also a poor choice, but the series, had it gone forward, could have overcome that. Characters can evolve and change. But the lack of direction and true series definition just didn't attract enough attention to convince the network it had potential as a long term series.
The Winchesters may be billed as a prequel, but the pilot in the very beginning revealed a history altering trajectory. John received a letter from Henry from a mysterious stranger (it's got to be Dean, right?) telling him about the Men of Letters, the address where their operations were located, and the key to get in, thus triggering John to get into hunting years earlier than he did by running into Mary and demons while checking it out. This is no longer a prequel. It's alternative reality. Alternate Universe (AU) is very popular as a story telling device with franchises these days. The biggest example is the Star Trek movies starring Chris Pine. One twist in history and suddenly Star Trek can tell a different story where they aren't bound by existing canon. The same applies here with The Winchesters. This sets up, of course, parallels galore, which is popular with Star Trek as well (Kirk giving the touching dying speech to Spock instead of vice versa). Here, it's John's story of telling Henry about monsters under his bed, much like Sam recounted the same thing about John in the Supernatural pilot.
I liked the premise. It's been said by many here, but Drake Rodger as John is fantastic. I saw so much of Sam Winchester in his performance. No wonder Sam and John were at each other's throats all the time! I really liked that John has not come back from the war unscathed. Being haunted by the memories is very real for a Vietnam vet and it adds layers to John that we didn't get to see before. I loved that we finally saw Millie Winchester. I'm curious about her story, being aware what Henry did and learning that he didn't just leave. She's a survivor for sure, but I do think there is more to her story than they are letting on. She had to know what he was up to! I really love that they have tapped into the Men of Letters lore, something that was sorely underutilized in the original series. There's a wealth of stories that can come from that and they've started with a Men of Letters foe, the Akrida. That alone fascinates me enough to keep tuning in for more.
The plot was fast paced and moved very well. Actually, the writing was kind of refreshing, but I've always been a fan of Robbie Thompson's work. I got really tired of the slow plots in the later seasons of the original series. Glen Winter was no slouch as director either, leading the crew to deliver something visually appealing. You can't go wrong with cemeteries in New Orleans though! Lots to work with there. The VFX wasn't too bad either, especially the Loop-Garou monster in the ground below the cemetery. That could have gone badly! I'm a little disappointed in the soundtrack, hoping for more, but what they used worked. There are so many good classic rock songs in 1972. I hope they can tap into that more.
The weakness is certainly the rest of the cast and how they work as an ensemble, but there's time and room for that to grow. Ensembles are tough and take a little time to work. I'm just surprised they've gone that route right away and didn't start with just two leads like Supernatural. I've read a lot of comments that people thought Mary was a little rough. I often have to remind people that Sam was really rough when Supernatural premiered. He really didn't find his footing until season two, and really took off in season three. I do think she will improve with time and more, richer storylines.
All in all, I give the pilot of The Winchesters a B+. And now, for the next episode...
The next episode is called "Teach Your Children Well." It's written by Robbie Thompson and David H. Goodman and, this is pretty exciting, it's directed by John Showalter! - a Supernatural fav director with tons of great episodes behind him! Can't wait to see what he does with the new material. Here's the official description from The CW:
FAMILY MATTERS – John (Drake Rodger) and Millie (Bianca Kajlich) are on different pages about his new interest in hunting and Ada (Demetria McKinney) tries to bridge the gap. Mary (Meg Donnelly) follows a trail from her father that points to the disappearance of a teenage boy in Topeka. Meanwhile, Carlos (JoJo Fleites) has a heart to heart with Mary as Latika (Nida Khurshid) dives into her books to identify the monster. John Showalter directed the episode written by Robbie Thompson & David H. Goodman (#102). Original Airdate 10/18/2022.
Here are the 13 preview photos. I'll tell ya, the photos don't tell you much about the story, but someone must really be having fun with the outfits! They are going all out. Still, John should be wearing flannel. The hippy outfit he's wearing seems out of place.
Finally, here is The CW preview for the episode. It's...cute, but tells us nothing. Promo monkeys strike again.
So, how many of you will be tuning into episode 2? Interested in the premise or doing so out of loyalty? Speak now or just give your opinions after the episode has aired.
Want to see our reviews and other articles on The Winchesters? Check out our The Winchesters page!