However when done well, good backdoor pilots can build a fanbase before the series is even greenlit. To be successful, they have to do three things: 1. Establish a connection to the original show. 2. Build entertaining and engaging characters that parallel the dynamic of the original heroes. 3. Create situational tension that can drive the series forward.
I would bet my car that this week’s episode of Supernatural, “Don’t You Forget About Me," is an top secret backdoor pilot. And if it is, it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen, lightyears beyond the failed attempt at a spin-off, "Bloodlines." By integrating characters that were sparingly used throughout the series and taking (huge) suggestions from fans and guest stars Kim Rhodes, Brianna Buckmaster and Kathryn Newton, the show inadvertently created the compelling and kickass women to continue Supernatural’s reign.
So how does “Don’t You Forget About Me” fare as a backdoor pilot? Grab your favorite sword, and let’s dive in shall we?
Jody's first official adopted daughter is Alex Jones (Katherine Ramdeen), a beautiful girl who spent her formative years forced to work as a lure for a pack of vampires. Jody rescued her in the bloody and brutal season 9’s “Alex Annie Alexis Ann.” They have been living as television’s most dysfunctional family for a year.
Claire Novak was just a little girl when she was introduced in season 4’s “The Rapture” as Castiel’s meatsuit’s daughter. “Supernatural” pulled her back in the fold last season as a reckless foster child searching for her missing mother. After her mother's death, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) sent her stay with old friend, Jody.
Sam wisely tries to talk her down: “Monsters are going to be there, on and on forever. But a chance at a family, a home, a school…that won’t be.” Of course, Claire has to get a little kidnapped and beaten up by vampires before his advice even begins to sink in. There's that Winchester-esque stubbornness.
Alex is the moonlight and night sky to Claire’s noon-in-the-desert sunshine. She tucks her darkness away and tries to become what she—after eight years of being forced to live and obtain living food for monsters—never thought she could be: the homecoming queen, the athlete, and the star student. Like Sam, she's been dogged by evil since birth. In “Swan Song,” it was revealed that key people in Sam’s life—prom dates, teachers, best friends—were possessed by demons to keep on the sulfur-brick road.
When the janitor reveals himself to be a vampire Alex’s nest turned (who then went on to drink his family), and her boyfriend is in on the mysterious disappearance (which I totally called), Alex's knee-jerk is to sacrifice herself up to save her family by volunteering to her worst nightmare as a lure and vampire rations. Just as Sam recently did when he willingly walked into Lucifer’s trap in "O Brother Where Art Thou" and countless other times.
If Jody's role is a mirror of Bobby Singer. She’s brash and brave, and willing to break the law to save lives. She’s not hollering “Balls!” yet, but I’m sure another few months with machete-wielding teenagers and she will be.
Two siblings, one dedicated to the crusade, one seeking out normalcy, going in two different directions despite their shared tragedy. Sound familiar?
Though the end of the show sounds more terrifying than disco-dancing with the devil, it's an inevitable reality. However, the spirit of Sam and Dean could live on in Alex and Claire. The potential show has visceral action (the abduction and fight scenes were actually better than Supernatural's thanks to an epic intensity and realism) relateable issues, twisted comedy and some girlpower.
The best thing about backdoor pilot is that they can improve on the original. One note: Add in some young women of color to the core cast, because the lack of diversity one trait of Supernatural's no spin-off should inherit.
What did you think of the episode? If greenlit, would you watch the Wayward Daughters series? Hit up the comments below.