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After a seven week holiday break, The Winchesters returns to us Tuesday, January 24 at a new time of 9E/8C (U.S.). Having aired seven episodes, the Supernatural prequel is half way through its 13 episode first season. In that time, we met the younger versions of John Winchester and Mary Campbell, and Mary's hunting buddies: Latika the pacifist researcher, Carlos the weapons and wardrobe specialist, and Ada the hoodoo herbalist wiccan. We also met John's mom Millie and dad Henry (contacted from beyond the grave), and the enemy that threatens to invade their world, the Akrida. We learned a few salient details of each of these characters' backstories - not as much as we would have wanted but enough to tease that there's more to come - and seen John and Mary's first kiss.

The cliffhanger mid-season finale revealed that the Akrida queen bee is still off world but her drone minions are one step closer to arranging her arrival with their collection of rare monster essences. To balance out the enemy's surreptitious advancement, our young monster club hunters succeeded in finding Mary's dad, Samuel Campbell, who they hope will have some brilliant plan that leads them to victory. They are reunited as a family, but will all their combined skills and knowledge be enough to save the world?

How have fans reacted to what's happened so far in the long awaited Supernatural spinoff? At this mid-season point, let's pause to discuss what we like and dislike in the show we hope gets renewed for many seasons to come. One gauge of the show's performance might be the varied opinions of The Winchester Family Business writers who have been closely following this show.  

  Episode  Nightsky's Last Word Review Summary Nate's Rating
1=Lowest, 5=Highest
 Alice's Rating
A to F Scale
Gail's Impression 
1.1   Pilot Loved it. Delivered an unexpected depth of story. Good tone, excellent music.  4 B+  Favorable
1.2 Teach Your Children Well Carlos, Ada and Latika added immensely to this episode. John, Mary and Millie stumbled a bit. Direction, lighting and music were superb. 3  B- / C+  
1.3 You're Lost Little Girl The Best so Far. Loved the pace, characters and multi-layered writing  4 B+  
1.4 Masters of War Absolutely Superb. Broke through superficial storytelling to deliver an emotional journey with its characters. 2 C-  
1.5 Legend of a Mind Solid MotW. Good myth arc advancement and isolated moments of excellent character development 3 C  
1.6 Art of Dying Solid MotW. Provided fascinating character insights that piqued my curiosity. 3 C+  
1.7 Reflections Loved components but its delivery needed more urgency and intensity 4 C-  

If we aggregate our varied rating scales, we all agreed: 

- 2 episodes achieved an 80% or better rating ("Pilot", "You're Lost Little Girl"), and  

- 3 episodes were 'Solid' MotW ("Teach your Children Well", "Legend of a Mind" and "Art of Dying").

The remaining two episodes struck one reviewer differently than the rest of us. Alice and Nate didn't care for "Masters of War" but it hit an emotional chord that strongly resonated with me. "Reflections" also missed the mark for Alice, but Nate and I thought it was pretty good. 

So none of the episodes were universally proclaimed as outstanding, nor conversely, completely without merit. Obviously, the show has some positive things going for it, but some areas to hopefully improve. Here's our compiled list of the best of what we've seen so far, what needs to change to elevate the series to its full potential, and the plot developments we hope to see in the second half of season 1.

Top 3 Strengths of The Winchesters

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#1 Unanimous agreement from all three reviewers: Drake Rodger's performance. (Alice) Drake's portrayal of John Winchester is emotionally engaging, nuanced and consistently superb. (Nightsky) He is really bringing something new to the role and showing us a believable portrayal of a boy who would grow into the man JDM portrayed. (Nate)

#2 Strong performances from the supporting cast. (Nightsky) Millie and Ada are both doing good jobs as different aspects of "team mom" and adding plenty to their roles even if their part isn't that large. (Nate)

#3 We all named different show attributes we liked after the resounding endorsement for Drake. That's encouraging, because it means the show has several strengths to build upon! So our remaining compliments include:

- Digging into the MOL legacy. (Alice)

- JoJo Fleites (Carlos). His portrayal of serious material is mesmerizing, and he can make even the goofiest of lines work comedically. (Nightsky)  

The retro setting. It's interesting to see how hunting was done before Sam and Dean had modern technology to help out. (Nate)

- The MOTWs have been different.  Not the same old vamps and werewolves that Supernatural got stuck in. (Alice)

 Top 3 Things that Need to Improve in The Winchesters

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#1:  All 3 reviewers referred to some aspect of the production quality. 

- The cinematography. The lighting of so many of the scenes completely destroys the potential emotional or psychological impact. This includes switching to casting the monsters into the shadows, or starting to film at night. Fully lit boogeymen are not scary. (Nightsky) Seriously, stop with the excessive lighting on the monsters, it's ruining their menace.(Nate) See Nate's comments about monsters in the light.  That’s just one glaring example of many. (Alice) 

- Better Directors. Why is the lighting not dimmed more? Why aren't the scenes shot at night? Why are characters calming walking from one position to another instead of conveying any urgency about what they're doing/facing/feeling? Too much of it feels acted instead of lived; good directors should see and change that. (Nightsky)

#2: Two reviewers referred to some aspect of the central story.

- The story. It feels like it is going nowhere.  Each week just gets a “meh” from me.  I like connecting dots and I’m not seeing it.  They aren’t giving me an incentive to watch every week. (Alice)

The love story. I WANT to be invested in John and Mary getting together. The writers aren't pulling me in yet. They need more challenges and more quiet moments. Don't assume these two are going to be together; make the case for WHY they should be together. (Nate)

#3: We all had different priorities for our last suggestion, so here are our remaining ideas (in no particular order):

- The portrayal of Mary Campbell. The nuances of this character continue to evade either the actress or the writers. We're told she's a "strong female character" but she's emotionally shallow, a wooden leader, and frankly, rather predictable. (Nightsky) 

The retro setting. The 1970s was a different world. They should be taking MORE advantage of the challenges that time and place would present to hunters rather than just "happening" to come across the right answers when needed. (Nate)

This cast still isn’t gelling quite right.  That could be the writing, but something is missing. (Alice)

The Winchesters Season 1 Story Wish List 

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So those are the strengths and weaknesses of what we've seen thus far, but let's brainstorm a bit. If you had a blank page, what would you like to see in the second half of the season? We know the last episode is when we're going to learn the secret of how this universe reconciles with Supernatural's version of events, but what do you hope to see before then? I'll get you started with a hope that the Akrida threat becomes more believable. I don't buy into them at all yet. They were mysterious threats as black blurs of smoke in the night but now they are caricatures. Why do they keep trying to invade the Earth? Where are they from? Why haven't they given up? How fast would they annihilate humans? The bag man was terrifying because I've frequently imagined the monster in my closet (or in my kid's bedroom), but 3 feet tall bugs? I need to feel threatened by them to care about their demise. (Nightsky) 

Now it's your turn! What do you think are The Winchesters' top 3 strengths? What 3 things would improve the show the most for you? Do you have a wish list for the last 6 episodes this season? To be fair, try to balance your comments, e.g. if you list 2 things you don't like, try to find 2 things you do like! Let's Discuss!