10:00 am EST, November 20, 2018

‘Supernatural’ at 300: Stars and EPs speak to the show’s legacy and what to expect in the milestone episode

This weekend, in the show’s hometown of Vancouver, the cast and crew of Supernatural attended a massive celebration thrown in their honor by Warner. Bros, and we were right there with them.

You’ve probably heard that Supernatural is approaching a pretty big milestone. With the 13th installment of season 14, set to air sometime after the winter break, the show will join an elite group of prime-time scripted series which have hit 300 episodes — there are only a couple dozen in all. This calls for a party — of course. And boy, did Supernatural deliver.

Supernatural’s legacy is truly one-of-a-kind, but once you’ve had any involvement with this show in any capacity, it’s not hard to understand why. Removed from the glitz and drama of Hollywood, many of the show’s crew have been with the production since day 1 — nearly unheard of — and Supernatural has kept on keepin’ on these past 14 years by fostering a family environment where everyone is just genuinely doing their best every day, with 100% heart and 0% ego. This is not lip service. It is real.

And it would not be possible if not for the lightning that Supernatural captured in a bottle during the project’s initial casting call – the irreplaceable energy that stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as Sam and Dean Winchester bring to the show, and the depth of their relationship onscreen and off.

Speaking about Supernatural’s legacy with some of the show’s current executive producers, they all cite that central relationship of Jared and Jensen, Sam and Dean, as the show’s biggest immovable object — the thing about Supernatural that’s stayed the same, for the better, after all these years.

“If they didn’t have the relationship they had, we wouldn’t have a show,” EP Phil Sgriccia admits, speaking of Ackles and Padalecki in real life, and explaining that the strength of the relationships on set after all this time allows the producers to make “big, wide turns in the stories” with complete trust that everyone has everyone else’s best interests for the show in mind.

Having both appeared in all 300 episodes, and having spent one weekend a month for the past decade talking directly with the current audience at conventions, there are simply no other actors on television as constantly connected to their characters as Padalecki and Ackles are to Sam and Dean. If you count up the literal man hours spent working on, or thinking about, these characters, there is just no basis for comparison at all. They are the realest, most deeply drawn characters on television.

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When Eric Kripke first created Supernatural, he was initially only attempting to make a horror show where the characters were a vehicle to the creepiness, but very soon it became apparent that what had fallen into his lap was a very different beast, and the story soon reversed those priorities, making the monster element the vehicle and the character relationships the primary focus. This was in large part due to executive producer Bob Singer, who is still co-showrunner to this day.

It’s pretty safe to say that that was a smart move. You don’t get to 300 episodes purely relying on the power of monster hunt procedurals. You get to 300 episodes by creating characters and relationship that people are so deeply invested in that they’re happy to spend time with them for the rest of their lives. At the party, Singer spoke about the Winchester relationship onscreen, reminding us that “[while] that has had its ups and downs – they’ve certainly gone through a lot – certainly the love they have for each other has been a constant in the show and I think the audience really responds to that.”

EP Brad Buckner, who currently works in the writers’ room, agrees, of course, but incorporates Castiel and other long-serving regular characters into that unshakable bond, as part and parcel of enhancing the family dynamic that the show relies upon.

Buckner’s fellow EP and writing partner Eugenie Ross-Leming expands on the importance of the larger cast of characters, saying “What’s gotten – not different, but deeper and bigger – is that we’ve expanded the ensemble. We’ve invited more characters in and then deepened our characters relationships to that reality,” explaining that the beauty in that is allowing us to explore different sides of who the boys are, and what is drawn out of them as they react to people other than each another.

Buckner brings up the shift to the permanent Bunker set as one of Supernatural’s biggest positive changes, something I was very happy to hear, as it’s my personal favorite turning point for the show. “It no longer became a show about two rootless guys roaming the country, in a different awful motel every week. It became guys with a home base, a clubhouse, a center to their lives. Those people all became sort of rooted together so it became even more of family that it had been before, and I think that just further enhanced all of those relationships, which is really at the core of the show.”

Speaking about what Singer believes has changed and grown for the show over the years, he reflects on the scope of the story – from the boys who didn’t even know that vampires were real to discovering alternate universes and having the actual God making pancakes in their kitchen. “I don’t think that 14 years ago we could have predicted where the mythology of the show has taken us. I think we’ve managed to grow the mythology and keep the show fresh. If we can’t keep it fresh then I don’t think the audience is going to particularly go with us so that’s something we try really hard to do, and so far so good I guess!”

Star Misha Collins, who has played Castiel – the brothers’ “third wheel that adds stability” – for the past ten years – offered a similar, but slightly different perspective on the show’s growth – one all about the trust and familiarity that everyone involved has for each other, the story, and the audience.

He reflects on the formulaic aspect of Supernatural’s original format, and admits that while it was a good foundation, the show began to push boundaries that made it less necessary. “As time went on and the show and the writers got more confident, and got to learn the voices of the actors and the characters, things loosened up a little, and began to evolve and maybe even devolve into a much more freeform paradigm.”

“In terms of plateauing in a good way, I think we’ve gotten to the point where the characters feel real to the actors, they feel real to the writers, and they feel real to the audience, so we can just settle into an episode where sometimes not that much happens, and it’s okay, because we’re just tuning in with people who are real, that we know.”

It could not be clearer that this is the direction that Supernatural is going and where its greatest strengths lie these days. Season 14 has rolled along very slowly, staying very close to the mental state of Sam and Dean and the nature of their home life, as opposed to giving the audience an omniscient view of Michael’s plan or any kind of Big Bad.

This stasis is intentional, and it relies on a huge amount of trust in the audience. To achieve something like this, you have to depend on the fact that your viewers care strongly enough about the characters to stick with them and feel with them and prioritize their state of mind over the quote-unquote story. Few shows could pull that off. Supernatural definitely can.

Aside from spending some time with Michael in episode 2, we have stayed glued to the brothers and only discovered things as they have, because the plot isn’t the point any more. How certain events affect the characters is what matters — Dean’s time with Michael, for example, is very clearly a vehicle to talk about Dean’s sense of self-worth and his ownership over his life, rather than any major focus on what the actual global scale problem of Michael and his monster enhancing may be. Yes, we’ll get there, but it’s incidental — it’s not what really matters.

Similarly, Castiel’s death in season 12 was never really about the drama of him dying or the threat that he wouldn’t return – it was about enhancing the character’s value and highlighting for the audience the boys’ unconditional love for him.

Season 13 went on to really shout this through a megaphone in terms of the viewer’s perspective – the grief felt by the brothers and the different ways they expressed it, the way episodes are structured to always include Cas’s whereabouts if he wasn’t at home (because he absolutely lives in the Bunker now, no question) the way Dean took many moments to check in on his condition, the patience, the reclaiming of responsibility… the message was loud and clear to everyone except Castiel himself.

However, the character is now catching up with his brothers-in-arms and his legions of fans, and season 14 is the year when Cas actually admits to himself that he belongs. Collins admitted that Cas didn’t really get the same hint the audience got during season 13, but that this year, as Cas has needed to counsel Jack about how much he matters purely because of who he is, he’s had to take the same lesson onboard for himself.

Collins also confirmed that he would be appearing in the 300th episode itself, a welcome change after the 200th only featured him represented via cosplay and did not include him properly. Life at home in the Bunker is of course a massive focus of Supernatural’s 300th episode, which we learned at San Diego Comic-Con would be all about the boys’ day-to-day routines in the Men of Letters’ hometown of Lebanon, a tiny Kansas town with a population of under 200 residents.

Talk about introspective episodes where not a lot happens – while I’m sure there will be a lot of exciting twists and turns, the entire point of the Lebanon episode is to focus on the mundanity of the Winchesters’ lives – the stuff they do when they’re not in the middle of a case. Who does the chores? Where do they shop? What the locals think of them? For fans who have followed the boys for 14 seasons and truly do care about them as people more than all the thrills and chills that they step into, this episode is, frankly, a wet dream.

We spoke to EP Bob Singer and Sam Winchester himself Jared Padalecki about what they could tease about the actual content of the actual hour of television we were all here to celebrate. Of course, they can’t give much away, but it sounds like it’s shaping up to be fantastic, and we hope it will answer a lot of the questions that the fans – and cast and writers – have always pondered when it comes to understanding the Winchesters’ world.

“Jensen and I often joke about doing episodes where the boys are washing their laundry. I think he had an experience 15 years – it wouldn’t be 15, it’d probably be 20 years ago – when he was traveling in Italy with his buddy and they were down to their last dirty clothes, so they just kind of took off their clothes, and they were sitting in their boxers doing laundry, and I was like “that should be what the Winchester boys are doing,” Padalecki jokes.

“Where do they get their money? Where do they buy their booze? How do they get their pizza? What does their Chinese food joint look like? What does their liquor store look like? And so we get to see a bit of their world, which I think fleshes it out, it makes the story that much more rich.” This is exactly what fans had in mind when showrunner Andrew Dabb revealed the concept at San Diego, so it’s delightful to hear that the script turned out just the way that everyone was hoping.

Padalecki brings up another interesting point — when we get to see what the locals think of these guys, we’ll see a perspective of the brothers and Cas from the point of view of normal people who have no idea about their lives.

“Most of the people we meet in Supernatural know who Sam and Dean are. Either they like them, because they’re other hunters and we help them, or they’re people we explain the life to, or they hate us, because they’re demons, or vicious angels, goblins, ghouls or zombies, vampires… So we get to see what normal people in a small town think of the crazy weird dudes who are always wearing flannel, driving an Impala.”

That car is not subtle, I tell him.

“No, it’s not! Especially in a town of 200!”

Singer reiterates all of these ideas, but he offered up an unexpected twist. “There’s also a guest star I think the audience is going to be pretty excited about.” Wow! Someone we know already, surely? “Someone you know… that’s as far as I’ll go!”

Episode 300 – as yet untitled, but I’d be happy with simply “Lebanon,” – is penned by showrunner Andrew Dabb, who was unfortunately not able to make it to Vancouver for the party, and supervising producer Meredith Glynn. Dabb revealed to us at Comic-Con that the entire concept was Glynn’s pitch, and the official co-writer credit was just released as the scripts have been distributed to cast and crew.

Filming will commence sometime after Thanksgiving and given a ballpark calculation based on previous years, it should air in February, but may be March depending on hiatus. Prior to the party, the Supernatural stars were present at a plaque dedication at the Canadian Motion Picture Park – their production building, which houses the standing sets, was re-christened “The Supernatural Stages” in honor of the show’s 300 episode milestone.

Hypable spoke to the more of Supernatural’s lead cast, recurring stars and executive producers about a wide range of topics, and you’ll be hearing more from us over the coming days and weeks about all the goodies from the show’s massive 300th episode party! The show returns next Thursday, November 29, after a Thanksgiving break.

Photos by Phillip Chin/Getty Images for Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Cake by Jeffry Kahle, Executive Pastry Chef, The Fairmont Pacific Rim

‘Supernatural’ airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW

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