When it comes to Supernatural‘s 300th episode, “emotionally, you’d be hard-pressed to find an hour of television we’ve ever done that reaches this level,” co-showrunner Andrew Dabb tells TVLine.
With Jeffrey Dean Morgan reprising his role as John Winchester, it’s no surprise that emotions are running high during the hour. For Dean and Sam, the Winchester family patriarch’s homecoming also “represents a certain maturing of [their] characters,” Dabb previews in the following Q&A.
TVLINE | At Comic-Con, we found out that the 300th episode is going to explore how the town of Lebanon feels about Dean and Sam, and then later we learned that John is also back in this episode. How do those two things work together in the hour?
The episode is about family, it’s about home in a lot of ways, and I think that comes out in the first half of the hour [about] this world [that] Sam and Dean occupy. And then when John comes back… it gives them more a sense of belonging.
TVLINE | At what point did John’s return become a part of the picture when you were planning this episode?
We’ve been planning this for a long time. It was a topic of conversation our first day back in the writers’ room for Season 14. That’s very early for us to be planning an episode, especially a later episode in the season. But the idea of getting Jeffrey Dean Morgan at that point was an idea. And then Meredith [Glynn] and I were working on the episode to start writing it, [and we were] like, “The best version of the story has John in it. The chances of Jeffrey coming back are slim to low. He’s such a busy guy. But we’re going to try.” And we tried, and with a great assist from Jensen [Ackles], he agreed to come back for us. So it wasn’t late in the process. … He was in there from the very first draft, and the episode and season and the show is better for it.
TVLINE | Speaking for myself, there are many things that I would want to see for John Winchester’s return. What was most important for you to touch upon and address with John and the other characters?
The most important thing — and the reason he came back — is to allow our characters to articulate and galvanize some things that had been going on with them… For Sam, for Dean, for Mary, the way they approach John now is much different than the way they would have approached him before. We toyed with versions of this where… it was the family going out and saving the day and things like that, and ultimately, what it came down to is, how do you want to spend your time? Do you want to spend your time doing that? Or do you want to spend your time [having] conversations that we as writers and, hopefully, a significant portion of the fanbase have been waiting 12 [or] 13 years for? We decided to do that, which is why the episode is not possibly a more action-packed episode in terms of fireworks and action. But I think emotionally, you’d be hard-pressed to find an hour of television we’ve ever done that reaches this level.
TVLINE | How would you describe John’s individual moments with Dean and Sam? What do each of them need from their dad in those one-on-one conversations?
In terms of Sam, he doesn’t want the confrontation, and John almost forces him to have it, and in having it, [Sam] realizes he’s put a lot of his old anger behind him, which is something we’ve addressed in previous seasons. This is really the moment I feel like he can set that burden down permanently. For Dean, part of it is that he’s always been worried he let his dad down, he didn’t do what his dad wanted. … For both of our guys, it’s about making a turn in them as characters. We didn’t want this to feel like, “And now our guys are emotionally healthy,” because this is Supernatural and no one is ever emotionally healthy. But it represents a certain maturing of the characters, which after 14 years on the air and with the ages the characters are and everything they’ve been through, feels very, very earned.
TVLINE | When John died, he didn’t know about angels, that Mary was a hunter, that he came from a line of Men of Letters. How does he digest all of that information?
I would imagine that he really hasn’t digested all of it. I certainly would imagine our guys didn’t give him a week-by-week, day-by-day blow-by-blow of the last 13 years. [Just the] highlights. I think John reacts largely in shock. If he’d been there for a week or a month or a year, I think we would have been able to dive into it a little bit more.
TVLINE | What version of Castiel are we going to see in this episode?
We see a very pure distillation of Castiel.
TVLINE | One last question: What is Winchester Surprise?!
I’ve been told in Vancouver there’s a very specific recipe for it. It involves one pound of ground pork and two pounds of ground beef. Beyond that, I have no idea. [Laughs] I imagine it’s meat, noodles and cheese in some combination. That’s my theory.