Fans of Supernatural have been down this road before: The long-running series once had another spinoff in the works under the title Supernatural: Bloodlines. And, much like ‘Wayward Sisters’, it too was presented as a backdoor pilot, though it appeared late in season 9. That one didn’t go very well, as evidenced by the fact that we’re looking at another potential spinoff just a few seasons later. But after checking out ‘Wayward Sisters’, it’s a good thing The CW decided to pass on the first attempt, as this feels much more like the kind of show the network should be working on to expand the Supernatural franchise.
‘Wayward Sisters’ approaches its potential as a series from the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of spinoffs, which is an early point in its favor. Other points are quick to follow, as the cast of characters, headed up by Jody (Kim Rhodes), Donna (Brianna Buckmaster), Claire (Kathryn Newton), Alex (Katherine Ramdeen), and Patience (Clark Backo), make for an engaging ensemble of smart, capable women who assemble to save the Winchester brothers, after they find themselves eating lizards and running from scary noises in the ‘Bad Place.’ It’s not the most novel approach, but spinning off a Supernatural series with a very Supernatural-like episode is probably the best way for the show to establish itself with a very devoted audience.
With the characters already having been introduced in previous seasons — going back as far as season 5 in Rhodes’ case — ‘Wayward Sisters’ runs like it’s on rails for most of the hour. It’s such a swift pilot filled with familiar faces that is immediately comfortable operating within the world of Supernatural that once the episode is done airing you’ll be wondering, why the hell didn’t anyone think of this before? Regardless the reason or reasons these women are only just now joining together for their own series, it does feel like the right moment for a series like this to be told from a female point of view.
As was already mentioned, the plot to the episode is about as straightforward as you can get: Sam and Dean are in trouble and the only help they can possibly hope for (though not that they’re aware of it at the time) is from Jody and the other women. That puts Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki in an interesting spot throughout the hour, as they mostly attempt to look busy while running around another dimension, dining on the aforementioned lizards and contemplating a lifetime being stuck in such a hostile environment. Not having much to do seems to suit both of them just fine, and considering how much time Sam and Dean have spent in Purgatory or Hell, the brothers’ response to their newfound environment comes off as earned nonchalance rather than boredom on behalf of the actors.
But, the Winchesters not having much to do is a feature, not a bug, as ‘Wayward Sisters’ clears the brothers out of the way and dives headlong into its plot by assembling the team that will be the upcoming show’s foundation. Everyone has a part to play, and although the various designations aren’t exactly new — Ramdeen’s Alex Jones (they should really think about changing that name) is a nurse who also has access to important databases (or something), Backo’s Patience provides the team its supernatural element, and the other three women are around to dish out punishment to whatever otherworldly baddie needs it most — there is a comfortable familiarity to the way the Sisters’ various abilities compliment one another.
For her part, Buckmaster adds most of the humor to the proceedings, though it would do well for the writers to give the good-natured sheriff some wittier lines rather than rely on her regional accent as the primary source of levity. Supernatural was never one to take itself too seriously, a fact that no doubt has contributed to its longevity, and it’s good to see the spinoff intends to follow suit. Hopefully it plans to spreads the humor around, so that the yucks don’t always have to come from Donna.
The series seems to be grooming Claire for a prominent spot, as it makes a point of highlighting both her skill killing monsters and the conflict of her desire for Jody’s approval and need for autonomy from the team's de facto leader. There’s a bit of Sam and Dean’s relationship with their dad in that dynamic, and it will be fascinating to see how it unfolds with a someone like Jody playing the part of the seasoned veteran instead of John Winchester. Watching as those differences present themselves will be an interesting angle to track, as will the ways in which Claire’s role as a hunter mirror or diverge from Sam and Dean’s own experiences. The episode gave at least one example with Claire’s emotional response to Kaia’s (Yadira Guevara-Prip) untimely death and subsequent vow to track down and kill the shadowy figure responsible -- though she doesn't yet know the twist offered at the episode's end.
Since the audience has already seen these women in action before, there’s not a lot here that wasn't going to work. The show mirrors Supernatural in all the right ways but has enough of an angle on its own to distinguish itself and make it feel like something new. There are still a few kinks to be worked out, but all in all, Wayward Sisters feels more as though it’s ready for primetime than the failed Bloodlines. Fans have had nearly 13 seasons worth of the Winchester brothers’ point of view, and while that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, seeing the world of Supernatural from the point of view of these women feels like an exciting opportunity.
Supernatural continues next Thursday with ‘Breakdown’ @8pm on The CW.