I remember very well my reaction the last time we were in this situation in season nine, aka the other back door pilot for “Supernatural.” After much promotion and anticipation, I sat through one excruciating hour of “Bloodlines,” stunned beyond belief that anyone thought that horrible drivel and total insult to any television viewer was actually being pitched as a possible series, let alone a “Supernatural” episode. It was an utter piece of trash, easily one of the series worst episodes. My faith was restored in humanity when CW President Mark Pedowitz passed on the series. Thank Chuck, that man does have taste!
This season, when it was announced that “Wayward Sisters” would finally get it’s shot, I didn’t think that was a bad idea. It had a lot of merit. In these times of #MeToo a story of female empowerment, fighting against monsters of evil is timely as well as very sorely needed. Also, it would feature mostly strong female characters we have gotten to know through the years, much better than the random characters thrown at us for the first time in “Bloodlines.” So, now that the episode has aired, did it work? Well, it wasn’t as bad as “Bloodlines.” That’s a very low bar though. I didn’t hate it, but it in order for this concept to work, it needed to be much better.
This episode can be judged in two ways – as an episode and as a pilot for a series. As an episode, it wasn’t bad. As a pilot, there were many issues. I don’t expect “Wayward Sisters” to be Supernatural 2.0 with female characters acting the same as Sam and Dean. However though, I do expect something that is entertaining to watch. When that fails to happen, I’m forced to do comparisons in order to identify what didn’t work for me. A lot of the things that have made “Supernatural” great in the past were missing here. Brisk and clever plotting. A believable monster story. Crisp and witty dialogue. A sense of freaking humor (outside of one cooked lizard scene). Lively pacing. Incredible cast chemistry. What we got was a generic story that was safe and serviceable. The whole hour was lackluster for the most part and sadly lacked the personality I think is needed to make an impression against other pilots. That in itself is what makes me the most angry about this hour. Wasted potential of a truly good idea.
Sure, there was a risk to using these characters. While they’re familiar to us and we have a certain level of comfort with them, the past Jody/Alex/Claire/Donna episodes in various combinations have been flat to annoying most of the time, especially when Claire was the focus. What do I mean about flat? Aside from slow pacing and lack of brisk or interesting dialogue, shallow and cliched characterization (see Claire), stories that are rudimentary at best and the overall feeling that these female characters are just lesser sidekicks to Sam and Dean. What has been selling these episodes has been the actors themselves, well at least most of them. But even the best actor can only take substandard material so far.
What I was hoping for in this episode was the chance for the writing and story to rise above those shortcomings. By pushing Sam and Dean to supporting characters, the Wayward Sisters were supposed to stand out on their own and have a bond and chemistry that pulls us in and leaves us wanting more. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.
Let’s start with the biggest point of contention, Claire. She has been around for a while now, ever since season ten’s “Things We Left Behind.” At that time she was annoying, petulant, immature, pig-headed, disrespectful and made some very poor choices. Since then she has been featured in multiple episodes and…she hasn’t changed one bit. There has been no effort made to growing her character or making her more likable or in general interesting to watch. Through the years I’ve gotten so irritated with her I’ve fast forwarded through most of her scenes.
Now that she’s been out on her own hunting for a bit, has she finally mellowed or matured a bit or at least gained appreciation of the tragic nature of hunting? Nope, right out of the gate, she was the exact same character she was back in season ten. Annoying, obnoxious and making the exact same mistakes. All that changed is now she is spouting Dean Winchester lines with bravado that makes her look like a cheap imitation rather than anyone that should be taken seriously. It wasn’t cool, it was pathetic. The fact that the story focused primarily on her, essentially making her the lead character of what I perceived to be an ensemble show was a major disappointment.
I also wasn’t impressed with her conflict with Jody. It reminded me of her conflict in “The Things We Left Behind” with Castiel. The exact same issues! Oh boy, she doesn’t trust authority. Let’s run with that. It’s honestly hard to feel sympathy with the spoiled brat who hates being told what to do. I also hated her attitude toward Alex actually having a normal job and giving Patience crap for trying to warn her about her impending death. There was no tie-in or backstory on why she’s that way, aka being abandoned by her mother and father, or anything that would give us a perspective that would make her more sympathetic. This of course is possible as a new series progresses, but this hasn’t been picked up as a series yet. By not starting there, the viewer is already alienated. Since a second chance might not be possible, it had to happen here for Claire to be believable.
What I hated most was the end though. Claire tearfully saw that her reckless ways got Kaia killed. Finally, a lesson learned! She decided to buck up and join her family because she needed them. They could have cut right there, showing them all enjoying each other’s company at the table, lesson learned. Nope, the voiceover then went into Dean Winchester mode again, Claire proclaiming she was going to hunt down and kill whatever killed Kaia. Ugh. Moment ruined. Claire has flip-flopped again and back to her old ways, not to mention becoming a poor imitiation of the real thing. Heck, I even hate it when the real thing pulls that crap. Any small amount of momentum I was given regarding going forward with this concept has been killed.
No doubt, the highlight of the episode, and who should really be the true leads of the series, was Jody and Donna. They’re awesome together and I could see them being those tough women that could kick ass, take names, and look great doing it. They’re over the hunting honeymoon period and know their stuff. I’m still not sure how Donna, a sheriff in Minnesota, could spend a lot of time in Sioux Falls hunting but I’ll leave that up to the writing team should this go forward.
I really love Alex, still. The fact that she isn’t going to let the supernatural ruin her life and she wants to move on with a sense of reality as a nurse is refreshing. She isn’t getting consumed by it all. Her loyalty to Jody is endearing as well, because honestly, Jody has always deserved someone to look out for her like she looks out for everyone else. I’ve always loved the Jody and Alex relationship and it shined here again.
(Love the purple scrubs)
I like Patience too. She’s still a woefully underdeveloped character but she was better in this episode and shows some potential. I liked her standing up to Claire and proving she is the real deal. Remember “Supernatural” early on had trouble developing Sam’s character. I swear I really didn’t know the real Sam Winchester until season three. What brought his role value though was the extraordinary chemistry with Dean and I think Patience fits into this group nicely. I consider her a blank canvas and the real her can be brought out through her relationship with the others with time. Kaia was great, but considering her place in the universe was left a little murky, I’ll just stop there.
All in all, the chemistry between everyone was good, but not amazing. There were missed opportunities at emotional storytelling, making these ladies seem bland most of the time. This episode did spend some time to layout the character dynamics and show a bond forming between some of them. I liked that Alex and Claire are still good with each other and Alex’s attempts to work Patience into the fold. Even Claire and Kaia were good together. Jody and Donna together were great! But a lot of work still needs to be done to sell this as a true ensemble. Jody and Claire’s disagreement seemed forced and overwrought rather than natural. Donna showed up half way through just enough to give hugs and then provide weapons to the others, kind of looking like the odd fifth wheel.
I definitely hated the whole “Who goes through the doorway to save Sam and Dean?” debate. We get it, Jody is cautious, Claire isn’t. But man did the whole discussion and deliberation take way too long and it wasn’t all that interesting. Honestly, I think it would have been a more powerful moment if Claire and Jody went together. Donna could have given Jody a “We got this” line and taken the others boldly with her to fight off the monsters. The rescue of Sam and Dean lacked emotional punch because that’s what happens when it’s just Claire. She’s too wooden and all business. Jody would have added some gravitas to the scene that was sorely needed. We certainly know Jared and Jensen are capable of pulling off an emotional scene! Then when Sam and Dean were rescued they were sort of just there. No grateful hugs or moments of relief that they were alive from anyone. It was treated like they went on a milk run. “Oh, you’re back from the alternate universe. Great. Oh look, Claire is having a meltdown. Let’s watch!” Jody, Sam and Dean at the end did have a nice parting scene but why the others weren’t there to say their goodbyes was beyond me.
(Hey, remember us?)
The Plot Holes
You knew I was going to pick apart plot holes, especially when this show gives me so much to work with. This has been done before, and it totally irks me every time I see it happen. The “dumb Winchesters” TV Trope. Give me a freaking break. It’s a favorite of Andrew Dabb and it’s been used way too much to service his plots. Sam and Dean were stuck in the “Bad Place” for two plus days and didn’t see the open doorway nearby? They were just wandering around haplessly? Given the fact is was in a wide open spot and glowing brightly it didn’t look hard to to miss. Then it took them two days to realize that they might be in an alternate universe? I’m not sure what that comment was about. I’m definitely not impressed that they didn’t put up much of a fight against the being in the dark hood. So, Claire and Kaia just jumped through the doorway, found Sam and Dean in no time tied to trees IN THE DARK and then managed to guide them quickly and easily to the doorway they somehow missed, which is glowing brighter and more obvious at night. I could believe that finding the brothers easily was due to Kaia being a Dreamwalker, but we didn’t see any of that! We’re left guessing, or in my case, picking apart sloppy plotting again.
What got me the worst though was they got to the doorway they hung around to watch the monster and hooded figure threatening them from a distance. Especially when the doorway was getting smaller and they had little time. I was screaming at the TV, “JUST JUMP THROUGH THE DAMN THING ALREADY! That way no one gets hurt.” No, they waited, Kaia was killed, and that setup a supposedly “emotional” scene that might have had more of an impact if it freaking made sense why it happened. It all felt forced, and when my intelligence gets insulted like that, everything is pretty much ruined from there. The whole rescue and alternate universe plot was anti-climatic and lacked any kind of suspense or urgency. That was a major letdown after being the midseason cliffhanger.
Also, don’t get me started on what the Monsters of the Week were. They looked like red eyed Jawas from Star Wars and they, well, why could they be killed by bullets? So that team Wayward would look badass doing it? It was all too easy. Then the big giant monster that tried to eat Sam and Dean was King Kong? It all felt like campy sci-fi to me, shoutouts to somebody’s all-time favorites rather than monsters that made any type of sense in the SPN verse. How about something actually creepy and scary, and believable? “Supernatural” earned a lot of it’s charm by telling down to earth stories. That’s not a bad precedent to follow.
I do concede that this might be too nitpicky, and I’m still trying to put my finger on why, but when watching I had this feeling that the episode was written by two male writers that don’t know how to write the correct voice for women. Something was missing. There’s more to an empowered female story than giving women guns and letting them shoot the bad guy to show their strength. Something was off and I think it’s they were trying to force these the interactions rather than letting the situations flow organically. A lot of the scenes, especially the ones between Jody and Claire, felt more like a soap opera. Like I said though, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I definitely didn’t get a “Gilmore Girls” type vibe here. In other words, I’m not sure what they’re supposed to be.
Other Random Thoughts
Like “Bloodlines,” it looks like this premise will stay in one place, Sioux Falls. I’m okay with this. Sioux Falls has been established through “Supernatural” as a hot bed of weird ass crap, kind of like Sunnydale in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” With the loss of Bobby Singer, Jody has had to pick up the slack and I’m sure she has some stories to tell.
Since I mentioned Sunnydale, a few brilliant people have observed on this site in the comments that it’s possible they’re trying to setup Claire as the new Buffy. You know, the female slayer and the chosen one in the fight. I don’t know, if that’s true, I don’t think that message was clear. The issue here is I’m not sure what the long-term plan is. I don’t know what this show is truly about and the Kaia reveal at the end was too ambiguous for my tastes. But I do know Buffy took time to evolve and they did manage to pull seven seasons worth of material out of it, so anything’s possible. I’m just glad Buffy wasn’t a back door pilot. If it was, it may have never gone forward.
The Red Headed Monster
Ha! I’m back! I was told I wasn’t going to be needed for this special episode, but turns out some brutal honesty was needed. Or maybe not, but you’re getting it anyway! Everything that felt off with this “Wayward Daughters” pilot is what’s off with “Supernatural” right now. It’s not exactly spinning off when the flagship is at it’s prime. “Supernatural” is old and tired. Pacing is glacial, the plotting has been rudimentary and serviceable, the MOTW stories are often laughable, the editing and scene flow has been choppy, the villains are now more cartoonish than menacing, the supporting characters are given nothing to do and the only thing selling it has been the extraordinary chemistry of the lead actors. You ask any long time fan why they are still watching and the answer is simple, the boys.
Good acting can only take a TV show so far. When it’s a long established show, poor production quality can be waived by fan goodwill who just want to see the actors every week. But what if this is a new show trying to get it’s feet off the ground? That’s where the chances of success drop off dramatically. Can this premise work? Hell yes, with better writing. More humor, brisker pacing, far better dialogue, clever monster stories instead of a paint by numbers textbook affair and, wait for it, pushing Claire into a supporting role. Focus the story evenly on the ensemble and let the interactions between them happen more fluidly and organically. Better yet, give Donna and Jody more to do. When Jody is the focus past episodes have been good, but we already know that this youth oriented network doesn’t see a middle aged Kim Rhodes as a dynamic series lead that will attract attention, and same for Brianna Buckmaster as Donna. The focus needs to fall on the young girls and I’m just not feeling the choice that Claire be the lead. She isn’t good enough both in the writing and the acting department.
I love the idea that the CW wants to pursue a story that empowers women. I love the idea that Sam and Dean’s legacy and those they impacted should be continued. I think it was completely logical that these characters were the ones to carry on that legacy given their circumstances. But I’m all about story, not potential ideas. I wasn’t sold on the story. I didn’t see anything unique or different here. I wasn’t convinced that this would work as a series that would capture my interest. That is what disappoints me the most, the failure to capitalize on carrying a much deserved legacy forward.
Overall grade of “Wayward Sisters” as an episode – C. Overall grade of “Wayward Sisters” as a pilot (especially one that will gain attention of The CW)- D to D-. But remember, this is just the opinion of one person, one who isn’t in the CW core demographic, and perhaps younger people like these slower, less complicated and poorly developed stories. This isn’t for me but if it is for you, I’m still rooting for this show to go foward. Now make it better.