For the first time in years, Sam and Dean Winchester have been off the table for a while when Supernatural returns tonight for its midseason premiere.
Even with the British Men of Letters doing more or less the same job -- and thinking they can do it better, to boot -- the absence of figures like the Winchesters is not going to go unnoticed, and that's something that the hunters will have to deal with when they get out of federal custody in tonight's episode, "First Blood."
"By the time we pick up with them when we come back this week, still taken off the table for about six weeks," executive producer Andrew Dabb told ComicBook.com. "So, you know there's seems this kind of six-week gap, and we've dealt gaps when Sam has been gone or Dean has been gone or the guys are kind of circular hunting, but not really hunted, we've never really had a situation where both guys were gone and just vanished. It has a lot of ripple effects. Sam and Dean have gone from being two brothers in an Impala, driving around chopping the heads off monsters, and really become really a focal point of the universe in some ways. And so to have that gone, it creates ripple effects."
And not just among the aforementioned monsters. Before Sam and Dean were scooped up by the U.S. Secret Service, they had been engaged in a battle of ideas with the British Men of Letters, an overseas organization that serves a similar function to American hunters, but handles their responsibilities much differently.
"In terms of British Men of Letters, it creates a power vacuum. You've got the British Men of Letters who have been extremely hostile, and they've softened a little bit as new leadership has kind of taken over," Dabb said. "You're looking at a world where something they may see an opportunity that didn't exist before: when Sam and Dean come back in, they may be coming back into a world that's changed just a little bit. I think the British Men of Letters, as opposed to when before, with Mick Davies running the show right now, they see a lot of similarities with Sam and Dean. I don't think he really understands why they're on the outs, because they both want the same thing, which is to make the world a better place, both organizations do. So it's not the end result that is in question, it is the method by which we do that. And I think that becomes the rub. Do the ends justify the means? Those are the questions that we're asking ourselves and Sam and Dean are asking, when it comes to the British Men of Letters."
Between that philosophical disagreement, and the fact that their biggest challenge yet this season has been facing arrest, it almost feels like the show has been grounded a little bit this season -- even if they're still hunting angels and demons while the President of the United States is possessed by the Devil.
"We played much more with the idea of them being hunted by real law enforcement in the first three seasons, and then it kind of went away for a minute," Dabb said. "Once you bring angels and things like that into it, suddenly the threat of getting arrested feels a little less important. What we found is as we went through, it felt like, 'Oh they're getting arrested again, it's getting boring,' and then throw some angels in. Now it feels like 'They're going up against angels again and that's something we've gone done a bunch,' and we try to find new ways to make it fresh and exciting, but actually bringing some real-world consequences as one of the more interesting things we've tried to explore this season, both in terms of what happens in episode nine, but also in terms of their relationship with their mom and things like that. There's a supernatural world and then there's the real world, and sometimes when those things cross other things part. That was the idea that Lucifer himself is a major threat and we've had all these bad things going on, but in some ways, the Secret Service arrested Sam and Dean poses a different kind of threat, and one that in some ways they are less equipped to deal with."
And, yes, after a divisive and contentious U.S. election, Dabb is aware of the hundreds of tweets about the Satanic President that fans have been lobbing their way. He sees the humor, but with the caveat that it was obviously not a political move by the show.
"Look at polls. The number of people trust the government is like 20% or something, so I think it's always ripe for demonization, in this case quite literally," Dabb said. "But Supernatural is not a show that is not The West Wing, we're not Scandal, we're very much a blue-collar show, and one of the few blue-collar shows on network television. That's what we're really more interested in is the human side of these things. When we do explore social issues what we're really more interested in is kind of this day to day small town, Midwest experience of that kind of stuff, versus big, high-powered Washington, D.C. stuff. Even when we did our President episode, we didn't send our guys to the Oval Office, we kept it a little bit more within our sphere of influence, which is like, [The President is] in Indianapolis doing a bunch of fundraisers. It was still new world, something we hadn't done before and I'm not sure we'll do again, but it made it feel a little bit more in our wheelhouse."
Supernatural airs Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. "First Blood" airs tonight.