As Supernatural season 13 reaches boiling point, all our major players come back together in the Apocalypse World. Mary Winchester herself, Samantha Smith, shares some thoughts about the Winchester family reunion.

This week’s episode, “Beat The Devil,” sees Sam Winchester and his band of merry men finally break on through to the other side, entering the Apocalypse World on a group mission to save their time-share baby angel son Jack and their long-lost back-from-the-dead mother Mary.

“Beat The Devil” is a fantastically balanced episode featuring a grand total of eight recurring cast members – aside from Sam, Dean and Castiel, there are that intertwine Gabriel, Rowena, Jack, Mary and Lucifer in a variety of combinations, all of which seem set to play out until the May 17 finale. Fates are changed, growth is had, dynamics are explored, and from every angle, every possible facet, this episode is technicolor proof of what many fans have long believed – that despite its irreversibly Winchesterial DNA, Supernatural does work as an ensemble show.

This is wonderful news for fans of Wayward Sisters – Robert Berens, who spearheaded the spin-off, wrote “Beat The Devil,” and Phil Sgriccia, a Wayward EP, should it move forward into a season pick-up, directed it. In a series that’s used to only really focusing on two or three characters at a time, it’s incredible to see how well this works, and it makes me even more passionate about how great Wayward Sisters – designed as an ensemble show and helmed by these creators – has the potential to be, and how many facets will be explored over there.

But here and now, Berens and Sgriccia have completely changed the scope of what’s possible in a Supernatural episode, and sent several characters down rich new paths that deserve at least a couple more seasons exploration – bring on season 15 and beyond, team. They’ve explored untapped chemistry between a variety of veteran characters, deepened dynamics that needed deepening (Cas and Gabriel, just as a starting point) and never does it feel overcrowded.

But at the end of the day, it’s still our core characters Sam and Dean who are left with their status quo turned upside down and shaken side-to-side (not in a brotherly conflict way, don’t worry) by a huge event that affects them both in deep, unforeseen ways.

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“Beat The Devil” simply has to be seen to be believed, but after 13 years, this is truly one of the best hours of television that Supernatural has ever created. Berens and Sgriccia swung for the fences and hit about a dozen home runs, and if this is their last episode for SPN Prime, what a way to go.

According to one star, things are going to get even bigger as we head towards the finale. We spoke with Samantha Smith, who’s portrayed Mary Winchester since the show’s pilot, about life in the Apocalypse World, what we can expect to worry about as Sam and Dean make their way across a war zone to find her, and how her character is in no hurry to get back to Heaven – or Earth itself.

We saw a lot of Mary last week and she’ll be featured for the rest of the season as everyone comes together in Apocalypse World. We’ve come back to this pretty intense story of Mary and Jack becoming crucial parts of the human rebellion. After a few breaks from what’s been going on in the other world, all the focus is converging there – either on what’s happening to Mary and Jack there or on the boys trying to get over there to save them, there’s been a few hints from the EPs that when Mary reunites with the boys, which is happening fairly soon — they’ll discover that she perhaps doesn’t really want to be saved. Is that something that is a part of the upcoming story?

For sure, Mary will be reunited with the boys before the end of the season. But what we have to consider is that when Mary is found, she has, I think, given up hope of getting back to the regular world, certainly any time in the near future. And she has become invested in the plight of the people in the new world, and to just abandon them would cause a lot of conflict for her. So, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to be with her sons, but in true hunter fashion, when there are people that need you, it’s very challenging to walk away.

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It makes sense — once you know about a problem existing, to say “Well, that’s not my problem” is a pretty difficult thing to do.

Especially if you’ve already been involved in the solution. You’re not just looking at something [from the outside] – Mary is a General in the army, she is part and parcel of the success they’ve been having, of course because of Jack, but also from her experience teaming up with Bobby, and to just abandon everyone would be very hard for her. So, you know — she will have to choose.

Mary has obviously had this arc involving a lot of guilt because of, I suppose, the ruining of the innocence of her sons. She comes back to her life, after being dead…

Right, as one does.

As one does. And her sons are really everything that she didn’t want — not as men, they’re wonderful men — but in terms of saving them from the harshness of her life. And now we have her in the Apocalypse World with Jack, who is a completely pure childlike being who has become a killer and a soldier, and is using his power as a weapon — such a shift from what we saw earlier, when the campt is caught out because he was trying to entertain the little kids. He has had a serious loss of innocence, one that he probably doesn’t perceive very well. What’s that like for Mary to experience with another child?

Well, I don’t think she ever got to experience that with her children. When she came in it was already done. Her disappointment was new, but the boys hd reconciled themselves and loved their life. As far as Jack is concerned, I think the fact that he is a Nephilim, the fact that he already lives in this place of power… it’s slightly different. I think what’s hard for Mary is that she sees the realizations coming and can’t save him from them, and that’s one of those parenting moments that she never got to have with her kids. You can’t protect your kids from life and learning the dark side and experiencing things you wish you could save them from. And on the other hand, she also needs Jack to be who he is. It doesn’t make her any less sad that he is experiencing all of these milestones of loss and regret and reality. But I think the difference is she is not really trying to protect him from them, she’s just trying to hold his hand through it.

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We had that moment earlier in the season when Bobby kind of gives her that moment of absolution, where she realizes that despite all her guilt, despite the choice she made, that in general, the world has been better for her decisions.

Right.

And that could extend onto this journey with Jack — experiencing that process as parents do — rather than walking back in and going “Oh my God, my children are cursed!”– experiencing that process of not being able to protect the children.

If anything, it gave her confidence in her choices, and knowing that they are doing the right thing.

And maybe it could alleviate that emotional burden in her relationship with Sam and Dean. But in this world, Jack and Mary have been imprisoned and tortured by Michael… We’re learning more as they become involved with the humans of this world and a little bit more was revealed last week about the circumstances and what they’ve been up to. There’s only a few thousand people around — there’s really, really minimal surviving camps.

It’s been decimated, yeah.

And what the threat seems to be is that Michael still wants to come to this world and do the same. Is there anything you can tease for what the end-of-season conflict might hinge upon?

I think that the most serious problem over the next three episodes is making sure that Michael a) doesn’t kill all of us, and b) doesn’t get to Earth, to our Earth, and both of those things are near-impossible goals. We’re not sure how he would get into our universe but he’s gone to the south-east where apparently the veil between the world is thin, and he’s a very powerful archangel, so he might have a way. But our issue is we’re just a ragtag bunch of ragtag, injured, dirty survivors, and to take on an archangel and his whole army as a whole… We could pick them off little bits at a time — not all the time — yeah, if he got to our planet he would kill everybody. It’s typical for us that we are in a lose-lose, no-hope kind of situation and we’re
going to have to figure it out.

Presuming that time moves in the same way as it does in the boys’ universe – no weird Narnia time jumps when crossing over – the Mary has been living in this place for many, many months.

Yup. I like to say she’s been in the same outfit for nine months.

I’m sure that’s pleasant. It’s going to be an exciting finale. I’m not
sure I can begin to predict what will happen with the boys, with Sam and Dean, and what their next evolution might be…

We never can.

But what can we expect from that reunion between Mary and Jack and the boys, aside from what you mentioned about her reluctance to walk away from duty?

As happy as Mary is going to be to see her boys, there is a large part of her that doesn’t want them there. It’s a dangerous world and as long as Michael is still in the alternate universe they’re safe from him. So there’s some chagrin there that they have obviously sacrificed so much to come find her and Jack, but that reunion and everything that follows is… You know, I say every year they bring a finale that we could never see coming, but last year we knew Jack was going to be born. We didn’t know what exact form that would take, or if he would be good or evil, but we knew how it would culminate.

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I can pretty much say that this year no one will see any of it coming. The characters and the event and the twists — every episode is so packed with characters and stunts and adventures. Shooting it we were like, out of breath, all of us. And the interpersonal relationships in between the characters, kind of like in real life, when so much is going on you don’t have time to deal with something, you look at someone and say, “We’re just going to shelf this, just for a minute, until we have a moment to actually talk about it.” And I think a lot of that is what’s happening. There’s so much going on, like, “I’m so happy to see you. This is
on fire! We need to go deal with it.” And I think that is a lot of what’s happening.

Your character brought up something in last week’s episode that was very interesting to me, which is for the first time — we have an idea of heaven in Supernatural, and obviously some part of it is corrupted like the angel power struggle — but it’s never been particularly criticized before is what it offers human souls, you know, ‘Oh, we’ll see each other in heaven’. We knew the deal, but it’s never been described by someone long-dead, and Mary says — after experiencing it —
that it’s just a projection, you’re not actually reunited with anyone, it’s all just imagination of memories to dwell in. It’s a really interesting concept for a portrayal heaven in general, and we are now seeing the problems the angels are currently having struggling to keep it heaven active and not spill out billions of ghosts on earth. Maybe there is a potential to find a different way for the souls to move on after death, if heaven is not genuinely a positive experience.

They’ve shown before that heaven is basically a bunch of cells — I mean they look like hotel rooms, but everyone’s locked in their own room. So, you’re very isolated, even if you’re imagining. There was an episode where we went to heaven, and Dean’s heaven was his childhood at home with his brother and Mary was there making him sandwiches, so that is a deeper discussion of do you care if it’s real, or if you think it’s real? What is the difference? And if you’re happy, do you care either way? For Mary to say to Kevin “it’s not real, it’s just memories,” he said “I don’t care,” like, “if I think it’s real, that’s good enough for me, because this is torture.” But knowing that, Mary’s not in any rush to get back there. She’s like, ‘I don’t really get to hang out with John and my kids, so what’s the point?’

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That’s a very interesting twist on it. I spoke with Richard Speight for last week’s episode and he said that these final episodes have a really deep bench of actors. That yes, a lot of Supernatural finales have been big — but this one is really big in terms of cast members — which you mentioned. Obviously you worked with Osric in the last episode, who you’ve known for many years but not worked with. Is there anyone — you don’t have to tell me who — but is there anyone that you have a scene with that you never have before, that is a really exciting new dynamic?

I’m in scenes with, but I don’t necessarily speak to – there are, for sure. I’m going to be able to send out a video i took, in a couple of weeks, of the room with all the cast chairs in it. It’s unbelievable, just the group of people that was there, and it was so fun to be a part of. More than just being able to work with amazing people that I haven’t been able to work with before, working with everybody at one time was fantastic. The fans are going to really love it. I can’t wait to see it. I know what happens and I’m still excited to see it. You’ll know when you see it, that this who I’m talking about in terms of who I haven’t been able to work with before.

Looking back at Mary’s arc in Season 12, her reintroduction was a huge validation for the character, an undoing the trauma that set off the show — not only onscreen for Sam and Dean, but offscreen undoing the fridging of a woman who’s story was to be killed and drive these men’s stories. Last season had a whole thread of mothers; Mary and her place in the world, and then Kelly. There was a thread of motherhood, and what it meant and could mean. And this season where the boys have been looking after Jack, and Cas has been looking after Jack, and there have been issues with Lucifer wanting Jack to raise as his own — a theme of fatherhood is sort of running through this season. After this time alive in the world for Mary, how does she feel, at the moment, about John? Obviously there is a lot of angst from the boys about what he became — if he was abusive, Toni Bevell saying it was child abuse, which in some flashbacks seen is possibly true — so she comes in initially with this memory of him as a great father, and we never really address how she feels about the truth of what happened after she learns it. Is that something that she ever thinks about, how she feels about John, or what she might say to him if she saw him now?

Well I’ve given a lot of thought to it, and I used to say she would be really angry with him for doing that. But here’s the thing: I realized she never told him that she was a hunter. He found this out after she died. So, she never said to him “Don’t raise my boys as hunters.” He didn’t know, so she couldn’t be angry with him for doing it. She could be disappointed and heartbroken, but not angry. And there is some element of somebody devoting your life to avenging your death that is very romantic. It’s not because he hated her, it’s because he loved her. So, he did the best he could. I think she would be upset that he basically shoved the boys to the side in lieu of his mission, but they obviously turned out amazing, and while her heart would break for the despair they experienced as children, it would all be forgiven because it wasn’t meant to be. He did the best, I think, that he could with the resources at his disposal. I hope for a reunion with Mary and John at some point, because I think it would just be so interesting. So much going on. It would be a heart moment, but also be super loaded with history and lapses in time. We’ll see. I’m hoping.

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

Images courtesy of the CW.

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