Last Thursday was a day full of anticipation for the Supernatural fandom – it was the day we finally got to see the Wayward Sisters episode. Wayward Sisters was not only an episode of Supernatural but a backdoor pilot for a possible spinoff starring instead of two brothers, six women! That fact alone, unfortunately, is pretty unusual on television, let alone on the CW. Women’s voices are finally being heard a bit more both in media and in the world in general, so the Wayward Sisters pilot is coming at a good time. Perhaps not only the Supernatural fandom but a whole lot of viewers are ready for a show whose leads are all female.
At least I hope so. Don’t get me wrong, I love Supernatural, and I love it just the way it is. The show has had some amazing female characters over the years, including the ones who star in Wayward Sisters, and it has evolved from the days when a female character was in danger of being ‘fridged’ to inspire a male character to start hunting. I love Sam and Dean and Cas to the moon and back and always will. The wonderful thing about Wayward Sisters is that it can be its own thing, an extension of the Supernatural universe just like fanfiction and fanvids and fanart are, which can be beautiful and important in its own way while Supernatural itself goes on (and on and on and on, as far as I’m concerned…) Not all fans were on board with the possible spinoff, and that’s okay – we all like and love and want different things, and nobody has to love the same thing as I do or you do. But for many fans, the idea of ‘Wayward’ had become very important, even beyond the possibility of a spinoff.
The idea for Wayward Sisters began over two years ago – and it began in the fandom. That’s not where ideas for pilots usually come from. Fandom has all sorts of fabulous ideas, as anyone who’s been in a vibrant creative brilliant fandom like the Supernatural fandom knows. But those ideas don’t get heard, and even if they do, they certainly don’t get taken seriously to become reality! Wayward Daughters, as it was first called, was an idea that fans had – not just for a spinoff, but as a rallying cry for some of the things I write about in my books on fandom and Supernatural. For finding the courage to be yourself and proud of it – for being “Wayward As F—k.” That ‘WaywardAF’ slogan ended up on tee shirts and pajamas and all sorts of things proudly worn by fans who were tired of not being real and ready to be wayward. Actresses Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster were on board from the start, adding to the empowering message. They wrote chapters in my book about the power of Supernatural and the SPNFamily (Family Don’t End With Blood) all about being WaywardAF, and so did the two women who started the Wayward Daughters movement, Riley, and Betty. Eventually the rallying cry was so loud that The Powers That Be heard it. Writer Robert Berens, who had penned some of the pivotal episodes introducing these characters, hopped on board to write the episode, now known as Wayward Sisters. And that? Is a big thing.
So Wayward was important – seeing Wayward Sisters succeed was important to many fans. And that made watching the episode slightly terrifying! What if it failed? What if, god forbid, it was boring? What if I wanted to love it but ended up hating it?
After all, Supernatural’s last attempt at a backdoor pilot wasn’t successful. I adore this show, and I must confess even I didn’t like ‘Bloodlines,’ largely because it didn’t feel like a Supernatural episode at all. There were no established characters who would transition to the new show, and the new characters seemed like they’d be more at home on Dynasty than on Supernatural. I couldn’t imagine Sam and Dean ever making a guest appearance – in fact, I was pretty sure they were secretly rolling their eyes at some of the newly introduced characters.
All those anxiety-provoking thoughts were swirling in my head as I headed to the ballroom of the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista to watch the episode with a couple hundred friends and fellow fans. We were all attending the Creation Entertainment Supernatural convention in Orlando, and a special free screening was arranged so we could watch the episode together. Wayward Sisters stars Kim Rhodes (Jody), and Katherine Ramdeen (Alex) were also there (Briana Buckmaster, who plays Donna, was on a plane somehow tweeting anyway as she headed to Orlando to join the fun). I sat next to Riley and Betty, the two women who started the Wayward Daughters idea years before, which made me extra emotional as their idea was about to come to fruition.
Of course, nothing goes smoothly when you arrange a live screening of a television show for hundreds of too-excited-to-sit-still fans, so five minutes before airing the connection still wasn’t working. I watched my friend Liz, tech wizard that she is, stay calm and collected as she tried to figure it out while I started biting my nails – but sure enough, with about 30 seconds to spare, the connection came through and the episode played on the big screen. As soon as the CW logo came on screen, a cheer broke out from the entire room. And we were off!
I was so caught up in the plot from the first few moments, that I forgot all about my anxiety. Wayward Sisters succeeded where Bloodlines failed (and to the show’s credit, the overwhelming NO response to Bloodlines didn’t sour them on considering a spin-off). Clearly, they’ve learned from their mistakes. Wayward Sisters is different in a number of ways. First, it stars characters who are already established on Supernatural. Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) has been a recurring character for some time, as has Donna Hanscum (Briana Buckmaster) – both are fan favorites on the show, and the actors are fan favorites on the Supernatural convention circuit too. Also in the cast are Claire (Kathryn Newton) and Alex (Katherine Ramdeen), both of whom have been in multiple episodes of the show. In Season 13, we were introduced to the remaining characters, Patience (Clark Backo) and Kaia (Yadira Guevara Prip), rounding out the cast. Instead of a bunch of characters we don’t know at all, this attempt at a spin-off utilizes characters who are already familiar to us as part of the Supernatural universe. We cared about them, from the second we saw them onscreen.
In fact, just the ‘Then’ segment had the entire room holding their breath, and it perfectly set the stage for 42 minutes of female empowerment – set to Halestorm’s “I Am The Fire”, we’re reminded of the history of all the women of Wayward Sisters and just how badass they can all be (and just how kickass the VFX department of Supernatural is too). After that beginning, it was sort of disconcerting to then open on a scared almost doll-like little girl crouching in the corner, and I had a moment of head scratching because of the contrast. (No episode is perfect, so I’ll quibble where I did some of that head scratching). The little girl is being held by some rather sadistic vampires and werewolves who seem like they were probably dicks long before they were turned, taunting their about-to-be-meal with knock knock jokes and terrifying her. In a bit of wonderful script writing, the vampire dick has just said ‘knock knock’ when there’s an actual knock on the door, so his ‘Who’s there?’ was priceless.
As was the response: “Delivery.”
The room screamed when it’s Claire, all bluster and confidence with “Mr. Werewolf” written on the box she’s “delivering”. She takes them all out efficiently, so we know she’s been doing a lot of hunting, and in answer to one of the monster’s questions of “Who the hell are you?” she answers after they’re dispatched: I kill monsters. That’s who the hell I am.
The first scene didn’t 100% work for me – partly because of my head scratching about a helpless young girl in a show about six kickass women, and partly because Claire’s Dean Winchester-esque bravado didn’t quite hit the mark. Dean can carry that off, and I appreciate that the show is drawing a parallel between him and Claire, but that may have been pushing it a bit too far.
Claire drives the traumatized little girl home and then watches wistfully from the car as the girl’s mother sweeps her into her arms. That was a poignant moment, showing us the vulnerability behind Claire’s brash and brusque exterior. We know that Claire lost her own mother in a violent and traumatic way, so seeing that maternal moment must have been incredibly painful – Claire herself pushes away comfort and demonstrations of affection just like another hunter we’ve come to know and love. This episode set up the parallels of Claire and Alex with the Winchesters almost explicitly; this scene, with Kathryn Newton letting the hurt show in her eyes, was reminiscent of the way we often know what’s behind Dean’s I’m-always-okay façade thanks to Jensen Ackles’ expressiveness.
Claire has not been one of my favorite characters in the past – in fact; she has often not been written as very likable – so I was concerned that her brashness here would again be offputting. Claire is not Dean Winchester, and in the first scene her talking like him didn’t quite land for me. It wasn’t until this scene when we see some vulnerability, and we see that Kathryn Newton can portray that, that I began to feel better about the character.
Claire gets a phone call from Jody, and writer Berens gives us a real treat – or at least it felt like one to me.
Jody: It’s Sam and Dean. They’re missing. They were on a hunting trip, and I haven’t heard from them in a few days.
Entire room watching the episode: loses their shit.
I love that it wasn’t the exact same words that Dean said to Sam to pull him back into hunting, but almost. Close enough that it gave me chills, and the perfect way to start a Supernatural spinoff – to mark the telling of another tale that may be the start of another incredible journey. That line was followed by the episode title onscreen, and when “Wayward Sisters” popped up, another cheer rose from the room. It’s almost like many people in the room didn’t believe it was really going to happen, until it did!
Claire returns to Jody’s, shrugging off Jody’s relieved hug with a very Dean-like quip of “When did we become huggers?” It’s a parallel to Dean’s iconic “no chick flick moments” when he shrugs off Sam’s relief and affection in the pilot episode. Again, I like that Berens made the homage work without repeating the lines. Alex and Claire have a sibling-esque reunion, making it clear that they care about each other but aren’t going to show it, Claire trying to push Alex away when she patches her up. Such a Winchestery moment! We also learn that Alex has a job (as a nursing tech of some sort) and some top rate computer skills, again painting a nice parallel with Sam. Their sibling banter is reminiscent of early season Sam and Dean, something I love very much.
Claire makes fun of Alex’s uniform, and Alex rolls her eyes at Claire’s outfit in return.
Claire (channeling Dean): What? I look great!
Alex (channeling Sam): You look like Biker Barbie.
Luckily for the show, Kaia is brought into the very hospital where Claire and Alex are for treatment after being picked up on the side of the road where she landed at the end of last episode. Which is a lucky thing for Kaia too, since she’s attacked by some gurgling monsters as soon as she tries to leave. Claire jumps in to protect her, gets in over her head, and then Jody saves them all. Yay Jody! I love seeing Kim Rhodes play this character – she can pull off total badass, but she also plays Jody with such nuance, letting us see all the emotion of a mother who has lost her own child and is now determined not to lose the wayward children she’s taken in.
Also, Yadi Guevara-Prip makes the BEST faces – Kaia’s WTF face when the gurgling monster is brought down is priceless. While Alex conducts an autopsy of the now dead previously gurgling monster, Claire and Kaia bond over comparing their scars, both literally and figuratively. Berens shows us the spark between the two young women subtly, with both tenderness and a bit of flirtation as they get to know each other a little. That spark, and Claire’s uncharacteristic openness, helps Kaia trust Claire as they try to figure out how to save Sam and Dean.
Patience, however, has a tough time with the monster autopsy and decides to go home to her dad, saying she’s not a hunter.
Alex: You don’t have to be a fighter, I’m not. We help in other ways.
Patience isn’t convinced (yet), but no sooner does she reach her jeep then she has another vision – that more of the creepy monsters are coming. The women get out just in time, and Jody tells the girls she called in some backup. At that, everyone in the room starts to cheer because there’s only one person who hasn’t been in the episode yet and we cannot WAIT to see her – Sheriff Donna.
Briana Buckmaster mentioned after filming the episode that she loved Donna’s “entrance,” and now I can see why. We see a truck pull up. Close up on the license plate: D TRAIN.
Donna steps out, Minnesota accent in full force and a trunk full of weapons in a nice call back to the Impala’s.
Patience: Why do you have all of this?
Donna: I’m from Minnesota.
Oh yeah. You betcha.
I love what Donna adds to this ensemble, not only a lot of humor with Briana’s gift for comedy but also a lot of vulnerability (as well as a lot of strength) because of who the character is and Briana’s willingness to show us that.
Jody and Donna go in search of Sam and Dean, while Claire stays behind. While Alex and Patience throw rocks in the river (which Katherine Ramdeen says got surprisingly competitive between her and Clark Backo), Claire and Kaia have a chat. The growing affection between the two is beautifully portrayed, with just the right mix of flirtation and a newly established expression of loyalty. Kaia encourages Claire to go save Sam and Dean if that’s what she feels is right, and vows to come with her. It’s clear that Kaia brings out the vulnerability in Claire, and that complexity adds to the characterization.
Jody and Donna arrive at the shipyard and find the portal, and Jody almost leaps right in, with Donna pulling her back.
Jody: I’m going in. If I don’t, she will. I can’t lose another child.
Oh my heart at that moment. Kim Rhodes nails the line, nails the emotion, all of it right there in Jody’s brimming eyes.
We learned the next day at the convention that a few lines were actually cut from that scene, which I’m really sorry about. Jody turned to Donna and said, “If I don’t come back…”
And Donna understood, replying immediately “…With my life.” As in, take care of my kids – I’ll protect them with my life. Where are my tissues?
Even without those lines, the moment was poignant. Before Jody can jump through the portal, the monsters appear, and it’s a full-on fight. We get to see Jody and Donna being totally badass, which was pretty damn exhilarating – and then pretty damn scary, as they’re outnumbered and cornered inside a car, surrounded by monsters.
Let me just take a minute to say that in my opinion, Rhodes and Buckmaster can carry a spinoff on their shoulders. They are talented actors and passionate people in real life who have inspired countless fans – especially female fans – to be who they are and to stand up to all sorts of challenges. I imagine that the CW thinks that a show of all females has to have young women as its leads, but I don’t think that’s the case – I want to see Jody and Donna be the main characters, which is why the name change from “Wayward Daughters” to “Wayward Sisters” didn’t sit entirely right with me. I get that they’re not 20 years old, but you know what? Neither are Jared and Jensen and Misha. Pretty sure they can carry Supernatural just fine, so women of a similar age should be able to as well, right? I’m perfectly happy with an ensemble cast, especially one that’s diverse in more ways than one, but I want to see Donna and Jody at the center of this story. Okay, CW?
Anyway… Just as it looks like Jody and Donna are going to be monster chow, Claire and company show up – with a flamethrower.
Jody and Donna saved for the moment, Claire is determined to go through the portal and save Sam and Dean – because they saved her. Jody tearfully lets her go, and Kaia goes with her, the women holding hands as they go through.
And then an awesome fight scene ensues in the ship, with all the women fighting all the monsters.
Jody: All right girls, let’s go to work.
Another subtle call back to Sam and Dean’s “We got work to do” – and sort of the essence of Wayward Sisters. Donna shows Patience how to shoot a gun, and there’s a pivotal moment when they’re standing there at the ready. Patience looks doubtful, understandably overwhelmed, and Donna looks over and tells her calmly, “You got this.”
It’s an empowering message to the viewers as well, a reminder that when we get hit with big challenges in life, we might have strength and courage we don’t even realize. That’s an important message in a show told entirely from a female perspective to a fandom that includes many women.
Meanwhile, Sam and Dean have survived several days in “the bad place” – and yes, I was very very happy to see them. I usually complain loudly and bitterly about episodes which don’t have enough Sam and Dean, but in this case, I was watching Wayward Sisters as a pilot instead of a typical Supernatural episode. Not that I didn’t miss my boys, because I did, but I also wasn’t expecting them to be featured as much in this one.
As is often the case with Supernatural, Berens managed to include some humor in between the scary and the emotional in this scene, namely Dean chowing down on a lizard they’ve managed to hunt and roast. This gives Jared a chance to make a patented Sam bitch face.
Sam: Don’t tell me it tastes like chicken.
Dean: (scoffing) No Sam, it’s a lizard. It tastes like lizard.
I was already laughing when they hear someone coming and take off, but I really lost it when Dean turned around and ran back to retrieve his lizard meal. I like to play a game of trying to guess which moments are unscripted, and I put my money on that one – sure enough, Jensen Ackles confirmed at the convention that he’d adlibbed the running back for it.
Jensen: I just thought, no way Dean would leave his food there!
Also, it apparently was an actual stuffed lizard to which they had helpfully added some chicken bits for Dean to gnaw on. Ewww.
The AU really is scary, btw. It takes a lot to make the Winchesters look small, but they did. Also unfortunately for the Winchesters, it seems like they’re unarmed in the AU (I think?) and the mysterious hooded figure hunting them is not, so they both get knocked out and wake up tied to trees. (Yes, that fight seemed a bit too easy, and I think we could have had more kickass Winchesters, and that wouldn’t have taken away from kickass Wayward Sisters, but I’m going with some AU powers or something here). I also sort of raised my eyebrows at their discussion about finding the portal, because OF COURSE, they’d be looking for the portal! Did they somehow land far away from it? I don’t know, and Show didn’t tell us, which is a bit of a plot hole. Anyway, they wake up tied to trees. That means we get to hear Dean yell “Sam! Sammy! Hey, hey….” which is how the Winchesters always immediately check on each other after something bad has happened, so that made me happy.
Once he knows Sam is okay, other than being tied to a tree, Dean addresses the hooded figure in typical Dean fashion.
Dean: Hey you Dark Dickwad!
The mysterious figure just whacks a big metal thing with its stick and walks away. Dean looks around and puts two and two together quickly.
Dean: I think they just rang the dinner bell.
Sure enough, there’s something big and probably thoroughly horrible (and hungry) approaching. Uh oh.
There was a fair amount of controversy over whether the most experienced hunters in the world (the Winchesters) should need saving, but in fact, they’ve gotten themselves in impossible situations before and had someone come to their rescue. True, Claire is not anywhere near as experienced a hunter, but she had the guts to go in after them and sometimes that’s all it takes. Claire and Kaia get there just in time and they all run for the portal, and very nearly make it. At the last second, the shadowy hooded figure appears and for some reason, they all pause instead of just jumping through the portal. Hooded figure thus has time to toss a spear at Claire. At the last second, Kaia jumps in front of her, saving Claire but getting hit herself. As she lies dying, Claire holds her hand, stricken.
At the screening, the room fell deathly silent after an audible collective gasp. Nobody saw that coming!
At that moment, the giant monster thing finally appears, looking a bit like King Kong (I’m of the less is more camp when it comes to big monsters, frankly).
The Winchesters stop Claire from going after the hooded figure and pull her back through the portal with them. After they come through, Jody holds Claire as she collapses, sobbing – and Patience realizes that’s what she saw in her vision. Not Claire dying in Jody’s arms, but being consoled. Her vision did indeed come true.
It was a bit of an awkward reunion, with Sam and Dean sort of standing there awkwardly, and I don’t know what that was about. I would have expected someone to be more relieved to see them, just saying. The whole rescue scene seemed a bit rushed and stilted, in contrast to the rest of the episode. Maybe they ran short on time?
We end back at Jody’s, with the Winchesters thanking Claire and hitting the road, Jody sending them off and setting up the spinoff.
Jody: You guys take care of the world. We’ve got Sioux Falls covered.
Dean: Damn right you do.
Claire admits to Jody that she was right, that running in without a plan might not be the best way to hunt. Jody reminds Claire that she doesn’t need to do it alone, that they’re all here for her.
Patience: (wonderingly) I killed a monster today.
Alex: Welcome to the family.
Claire writes in her hunter’s journal (another nice bit of continuity).
I needed to save Sam and Dean. And I did. No, we did. We saved Sam and Dean. All these amazing women. My family. My army. But the thing that killed Kaia is still out there, and I’m going to find it. And I’m going to kill it.
It’s a familiar beginning, a call back to the pilot of Supernatural. I wasn’t the only one feeling unsettled about it though – in our female empowering show, have we already had one female character killed? Can this be seen as a fridging to inspire Claire’s revenge quest?
And then a hooded figure comes through the portal, and takes off the hood. Kaia.
There was a collective gasp in the room.
We don’t know exactly what it means, and I admit to loving the character of Kaia and wanting to see where her relationship with Claire would lead, so I’ll be sad if that Kaia is gone. But I’m willing to wait to find out exactly what this means – and I hope we do!
So here we are, with a pilot and a whole lot of possibilities. The social media ratings for the episode were great, and the numbers were good, and the hashtag trended worldwide. Will that be enough for the network to take a chance on a series? I guess we’ll see.