10:35 pm EDT, June 20, 2017

Female-led ‘Supernatural’ spinoff ‘Wayward Sisters’ greenlit for backdoor pilot

Wayward Sisters? After months of subtle teasing, it’s finally confirmed: Supernatural’s fan-demanded female-led spinoff will get a true backdoor pilot during season 13.

According to information obtained by Deadline, our lady hunter show will be called Wayward Sisters rather than Wayward Daughters — the handle that this story concept has been dubbed with since it grew out of grass-roots fandom. Aside from the title change (at which I’m gritting my teeth, not due to the artistic license, but in pure pedantry, as it doesn’t match the pun on the Kansas song quite as smoothly), the show appears to be precisely what the fandom ordered: led by Kim Rhodes as the Winchesters’ long time ally Sheriff Jody Mills, it will follow the lives of the young women she takes into her care — those orphaned by the supernatural and those who wish to fight back in turn.

Deadline don’t name their source, and The CW has declined comment — perhaps they were hoping to save this announcement for San Diego Comic-Con — but now that it’s out there, confirmation from the cast and writers involved is more than enough to get excited about. Supernatural showrunner Andrew Dabb and longterm staff writer Robert Berens, who both promoted the news, are set to helm, and prominent cast members including Misha Collins and Samantha Smith tweeted their enthusiasm about the project.

The most emotional comments came from Kim Rhodes herself, who in the past several years has taken the fandom’s notion of Wayward Daughters and crafted it into a community, a charity campaign, a personal brand and lifestyle. If Rhodes’ words can be taken as gospel, the show will also feature, as it should, Rhodes’s partner in Wayward crime Briana Buckmaster as Sheriff Donna Hanscum, along with the two teenage girls who’ve already made their lives with Sheriff Jody: Katherine Ramdeen as vampire victim Alex Jones and Kathryn Newton as Claire Novak, daughter of Castiel’s vessel Jimmy.

It was comments regarding the Claire-centric episode during season 12 which first seriously perked ears up about whether Wayward Daughters — sorry, Sisters — was happening. At the time, I theorized that “Ladies Drink Free” was itself a backdoor pilot, given that it puts Claire through a huge coming-of-age experience as a hunter and sets her off on a new path. This turned out to be somewhat correct — in light of this news, “Ladies Drink Free” reads like a soft entry to Wayward Sisters, with the true backdoor pilot in season 13 set to hammer the idea home for those less attuned to analyzing tiny producer preview clips.

When “Ladies Drink Free” aired, I took the opportunity to write about the concept of Wayward Daughters, for those who may not have been aware of the significance of what they’d just seen, and spoke with Riley Keshner, one of the fans who truly instigated the “Wayward Daughters Academy” idea that Rhodes and Buckmaster ended up adopting and running with.

The concept — of Jody and Donna running a home for kids in need, hunters in training, women mentoring girls — took on a life of its own as the actresses and some of the writers also expressed their enthusiasm for the possibility. Keshner and another fan, Betty Days, created a petition, a twitter account and a tumblr in order to campaign for the possibility of the show existing, and were quickly partnered in their endeavors by Rhodes and Buckmaster themselves, who are the best of friends, as much of a double act in real life as Jody and Donna are on screen. The initial plan of the fan creators was simply to make a t-shirt, maybe raise some money toward making the idea a reality (perhaps in a Kings of Con-esque fashion), but they were advised by Rhodes that numbers — the volume of voices — would speak louder than cash.

“I knew we had the numbers,” Keshner explains, and indeed, the Supernatural audience has the numbers to move any needle — the engagement level on social media compared to the viewership of the show is astronomically high, and a faction of this fandom has a freaking mountain on Mars named after it — “and so I put out a call to action through the fandom, and Betty and I created the social media accounts and a petition so that we could funnel everyone’s enthusiasm through a central outlet. We called it ‘Wayward Daughters Academy.’ That was May 1, 2015, the day after ‘Angel Heart’ aired. That day, Kim and Briana both followed us and we discussed with them that we appreciated their support but wouldn’t do anything without their consent. They were both on board, and the rest is history.”

It’s currently unclear if Keshner and Days had creative involvement in pitching the Wayward Sisters spinoff, but what strikes me most strongly about this victorious development is that, in the most positive way possible, this project was pitched and greenlit bespoke at fandom’s request, specifically to highlight the female stars and female viewers of a male-dominated show. Fans identified what they wanted more of, they vocalized the support that they would offer in the eventuality that this was created for them, and the Powers That Be saw both moral and monetary value in that. Fans have saved mainstream television shows from cancellation, or revived them from the grave, but I can’t say I have any recollection of them outright creating one before.

Wayward Sisters represents a shift in the relationship between media and audience — far from mere “fan service,” this feels like a realistic acknowledgement of what has made Supernatural successful: women. Despite being male-centric on screen, Supernatural is a show most overwhelmingly loved and supported by women of all ages. Women who aren’t just tuning in for the eye candy, women who deeply value the relationships, the writing, the lessons and themes of what the 12-season behemoth of genre has offered up. Women have kept this show alive and relevant and have remained connected and empathetic to the lead characters — all finely, complexly drawn men, but men nonetheless — and made its female guest stars into beloved convention celebrities. We’ve been patient, accepting the status quo of Sam and Dean’s Supernatural for what it is while expressing, loudly and lovingly, that we’d like to see this world expanded to include the stories of the women who exist within it.

And someone, somewhere, said, “Okay. Fair call. This is who’s watching us, this is how we can serve them better.” And then people kept saying “okay” — all the way to the top. And now here we are, with a female-led Supernatural show on the horizon. If Supernatural itself is winding down and planning to finish at 300 episodes, that would give us until season 14 — the same period a season 1 of Wayward Sisters would be airing, if the backdoor pilot gets a full season order. I personally can’t think of a better way to keep the world of the Winchesters alive for its voraciously female audience than to transition to a show designed to represent and empower women, with an open door policy for guest stars, allowing us the opportunity to check back in on our old faves every now and then.

Aside from Wayward Sisters, all that’s known about Supernatural season 13 is that Misha Collins’ Castiel, despite his untimely death, will be back; that Crowley’s death was likely permanent and Mark Sheppard will not be returning as a series regular, and that there will be an animated Scooby Doo crossover, which has already been written and recorded. We hope to get more information about Wayward Sisters and Supernatural season 13 at San Diego Comic-Con next month.

Update: We’ve since learned that the Wayward Sisters pilot will serve as Supernatural’s season 13 mid-season premiere, airing January 18, 2018.

Will you be watching ‘Wayward Sisters’ on January 18? (Hint: Yes)

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