Six years later, we're still wondering what could have been...
The CW has become famous for their love of spin-offs, having launched several successful sister series of hit shows like Arrow and The Vampire Diaries. It almost makes you wonder why its longest-running series, Supernatural, doesn't have a spin-off or two at this point. The short answer is that it's not for lack of trying – the two times the network tried to spin off Supernatural, those potential series never got past the backdoor pilot stage.
While fans caused an uproar when The CW announced it wasn't moving forward with the female-led spin-off Wayward Sistersin 2018, it wasn't actually the first time The CW had passed on a promising sister show for Supernatural. Way back in 2014, when Supernatural was only just beginning to go gray, the network started making plans for an entirely different kind of spin-off called Bloodlines, which aired as a backdoor pilot in Season 9. Originally titled Supernatural: Tribes and written by Andrew Dabb, the drama was built around the warring supernatural factions in the city of Chicago, where monsters no longer operated as the isolated predators Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) were used to hunting. Instead, these factions were made up of powerful families bound together by an interconnected network of treaties. The whole thing gave off a supernatural mafia vibe with vampires, shapeshifters, djinn, and werewolves constantly on the brink of war with one another. Kind of brings a new meaning to the concept of bad blood, right?
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The pilot was stacked with fresh young faces — some of whom The CW had seen success with before, like The Vampire Diaries' Nathaniel Buzolic and Arrow's Melissa Roxburgh — while others were up-and-comers hoping this would be their big break. With all these different elements working in its favor, Bloodlines was one of the buzziest dramas during the 2014 pilot season.
The backdoor pilot depicted the lavish lifestyle of the underground supernatural community, focusing less on the grit of hunting and more on the finer things that could be acquired when you've got magical powers on your side. Vampires drank from swanky blood bars, ghouls ate gourmet body parts for dinner, and shapeshifters transformed into college professors to steal test answers. At the center of it all, there was a powder keg of old family rivalries just waiting to explode, and a Romeo and Juliet romance ready to light the match. To borrow the words of Dean Winchester, this potential new series was basically "The Godfather with fangs."
With its high society backdrop, Bloodlines was a far cry from the horror and mythology that Supernatural was known for, but it boasted a compelling foundation to build a solid show on. Unfortunately, the fledgling series didn't make a splash with fans or critics, and The CW opted not to order the show to series. All these years later, we look back on the pilot's failure as a missed opportunity. But even at the time, it was clear Bloodlines' grim fate was the product of two major mistakes.
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One was timing. In the fall of 2013, when Bloodlines was still in the development stage, Julie Plec launched her first spin-off of The Vampire Diaries, The Originals. Her new series focused on an ancient vampire family in New Orleans as they struggled to establish control over the supernatural factions of werewolves, witches, and vampires constantly at war within the city. Notice any similarities? In fact, the original pitch for this TVD spin-off even set the series in Chicago! By the time Bloodlines aired as a backdoor pilot in April 2014, The CW already had a similar series on its roster, and one that had been launched on the backs of beloved characters from The Vampire Diaries.
And thus we come to the second and biggest issue Bloodlines faced: its unknown cast of characters. While the backdoor pilot did feature Sam and Dean, the show itself wouldn't have starred the Winchesters or any of the characters we'd come to love on Supernatural during its run. As a result, the show's loyal fanbase didn't show up to support Bloodlines the way they supported Supernatural.
At the end of that day, that non-transmutable affinity for the Winchesters was also part of the reason Wayward Sisters never took off, and it's why we probably won't ever see a successful spin-off Supernatural on The CW. The real magic of Supernatural has always been and will always be the relationship between Sam and Dean Winchester, which is what sustained this epic series for 15 years. Bloodlines was a noble attempt at recreating that magic that ultimately fell short, but we'll always wonder what could have been.
Supernatural's series finale airs Thursday, Nov. 19 at 9/8c on The CW. An hour-long retrospective, Supernatural: The Long Road Home, will air prior at 8/7c.
In honor of Supernatural coming to an end after 15 seasons, TV Guide presents Winchester Week, a celebration of Sam, Dean, and the entire SPN Family. Find out how the stars feel about saying goodbye, look back on the best episodes and moments, and join us in sending the Winchesters off in style.