TV Reviews

Supernatural’s “Wayward Sisters” Makes a Solid Case for an All-Female Spin-Off

It’s been nearly a decade since Supernatural’s original creator Eric Kripke left the show, having completed the Sam & Dean vs. the Apocalypse story he set out to tell. In the time since then, the Winchesters have met God AND God’s sister who was cut from the Bible, watched one ally after another die, palled around with the devil’s not-evil son, and fostered one of the more proactive fan communities in all of geek TV. The series has stabilized into such a solid ratings performer that it will pretty much keep going for however long the cast and crew want to keep doing it, but before that time comes The CW would love to have a spin-off up and running. So, last night saw the premiere of “Wayward Sisters,” a backdoor pilot episode dropped into Supernatural’s thirteenth season with the intent to set up an all-female spin-off. I wanted to love it more than I actually did, but there’s still a good TV show to be had here.

The plot of the episode is as straightforward as it gets: Sam and Dean have gone missing. Old friend Sheriff Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) and her Sioux Falls, Iowa foster home for female survivors of monster attacks – fellow Sheriff Donna (Brianna Buckmaster), monster-hunting Claire (Kathryn Newton), nurse Alex (Katherine Ramdeen), and clairvoyant Patience (Clark Backo) – rally to search for them. By the end, the Winchesters are saved from the evil alternate dimension they’d ended up in, and it’s up to Jody and her girls to round up all the monsters that escaped from the bad dimension into their town. Should it go to series, Wayward Sisters will stay squarely in Iowa and focus on the efforts of women to save a city and themselves, a clear contrast to Supernatural’s ongoing story of men constantly on the road, forever saving the world.

Thus, this backdoor pilot gives Wayward Sisters a reliable story generator. Heroes taking on monsters which slipped through a universal rift? Why not. It certainly worked for Torchwood and The Flash. Plus, Patience’s oft-misleading visions of future tragedies – she opens the episode thinking she’s seen a vision of Claire’s death – is lifted straight out of Angel, both in use and herky-jerky appearance.

Where the pilot falters, though, is character. For what will likely be an ensemble series, “Wayward Sisters” plays mostly as a showcase for Kathryn Newton, Hollywood’s current go-to choice for “petulant, cocky teenager.” She’s been playing the part in recurring fashion on Supernatural since the show’s tenth season and was cast to play the same basic character on Halt and Catch Fire and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. She’s done it so many times now she could probably play the eye-roll, “Mom, you just don’t get me!” scene in her sleep, and while “Wayward” eventually offers her more to do there’s still an awful lot of Kathryn Newton doing the now-standard Kathryn Newton thing.

Supernatural has been running so long now it’s basically using Claire and Jody to re-do the Jo and Ellen Harvelle relationship from the Kripke era.

That’s not always a bad thing. The opening scene with Claire taking out a family of werewolves to save a little girl is classic Supernatural action, and Newton fires off a badass action one-liner as well as any man to ever cross paths with the Winchesters. But Wayward Sisters will obviously need to make time for some of its others characters.

For example, we open and end “Wayward” on Claire, turning the episode more into the story of how she learned to stop being such a loner than about any kind of rebirth of this adopted family. It leaves little time for Jody or Donna, whose sole-defining character trait here is “I’m from Minnesota, and I talk funny, yah.” Alex and Patience at least get a small moment together to discuss what’s it like living with a family of monster hunters when you are not actually a fighter, and Patience at least has her own undeveloped arc about whether to run or stay, with Claire acting as an instant sibling rival.

However, these are all characters who have been on Supernatural before. If “Wayward” doesn’t spread the love evenly it’s because fans of the show already know (and in some cases love) these women. The idea of them now anchoring their own show where they fight monsters and aren’t simply waiting to be fridged on Supernatural seems like a no-brainer. I can’t wait to see how it turns out. This is at least more worthy of its own show than Supernatural‘s last backdoor pilot ever was.

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