The very idea of bringing John Winchester back has been a discussion within the Supernatural fandom for years. But it wasn’t until it was time to start planning the show’s 300th episode that the writers realized it might finally be time for dad to return. “The 100th episode was just an episode,” co-showrunner Robert Singer tells EW. “The 200th was so special. It was bold and great. We knew we weren’t necessarily going to top that so we said, ‘What would make the fans happy? What would they like to see? Bringing John back.’ So we sort of built the idea around that.”
Singer says that the episode is very “John-centric, with co-showrunner Andrew Dabb adding, “The 300th is in a lot of ways, for Sam and Dean, about home. You’re dealing with two guys who, when this story started and for the bulk of our show, never had a home. It was motel rooms and the Impala and they’d have a place they’d stay for a few weeks or maybe a few months at a time, but that’s pretty much it. Now Sam and Dean have a home, they have a family, and they have Lebanon and that’s really where the idea started. Like okay, what does the town of Lebanon think of these guys? And conversely, what do Sam and Dean think of the town? And then when the idea of Jeffrey Dean Morgan was floated it was great, because not only is it awesome to have him back for a number of different reasons but it’s thematically consistent because suddenly it’s about home, it’s about family, it’s about having that family dinner, it’s about coming home in a more emotional way.”
And seeing as how Sam and Dean have been through so much since they last saw their father in season 2 — including becoming father figures to Jack — the dynamics will have shifted when John returns to his boys’ lives. “The way you react to your dad when you’re 25 is much different than the way you react to that person when you’re 40,” Dabb says. “The fact that the guys were older now and could have different reactions to John was what made it exciting because they’re not going to have the same conversations they had in seasons 1 and 2 of the show.”
But just because the guys are able to have these conversations with John doesn’t mean their story is even close to over. (It doesn’t even mean John’s story is over.) “They finally get some closure with their father in a way that doesn’t feel like the end of the show,” Dabb says. “t’s not like, ‘And now roll credits, we’ll never see you again!’ It feels like it allows these guys to put some, not all, of their 14 years of baggage down and move on to the future maybe with some new knowledge, maybe a little bit more unencumbered. Because if we had just brought him back and it had been like, ‘And then they go and hunt a demon together,’ it wouldn’t have been satisfying.”
For more on Supernatural, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands now, or buy one — or all four — of our collector’s covers featuring Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, Jared Padalecki, and the Winchester family (also available for purchase at Barnes & Noble). Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
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Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki star as the Winchester brothers, hellbent on battling the paranormal forces of evil.