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The Pop Culture References You May Have Missed In The First Episode Of The Winchesters

"Supernatural" was a show that never shied away when it came to pop culture references. Everything from "The X Files" to "The Evil Dead" get loving homages across the show's 15 seasons, so it's only natural that its prequel series, "The Winchesters," would include its fair share of pop culture shoutouts too. 

"The Winchesters" tells the story of John and Mary Winchester (Drake Rodger and Meg Donnelly), the parents of Dean and Sam (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki). Dean even narrates his parents' story, with Ackles also serving as one of the show's executive producers. According to the actor and producer, "The Winchesters" was the first story he wanted to tell when he and his wife, Danneel Ackles, who portrayed Anael on "Supernatural," formed their own production company.  "I always felt like my character, Dean, would have wanted to know more about his parents' relationship and how it came to be," he said when announcing the series in 2021, per Deadline

"The Winchesters" has now finally arrived and its inaugural episode had a few choice pop culture references to go with its 1970s setting.


The first pop culture reference in the pilot episode of "The Winchesters" comes early. Fresh off a tour in Vietnam, John Winchester returns home and literally runs into Mary Campbell, the woman who will eventually become his wife. The two bump heads outside a theater showing "Slaughterhouse-Five." John asks Mary if she's seen the movie after helping her pick up the snacks that are tumbling out of her bag. Mary informs him she was only there to grab snacks, but she's pretty sure the book is better than the movie. 

"Slaughterhouse-Five" was released in 1972 and is based on the novel of the same name by Kurt Vonnegut. The adaptation was written by Stephen Geller and directed by George Roy Hill. "Slaughterhouse-Five" follows Bill Pilgrim, a soldier traveling between time, from the planet Tralfamadore to the horrors of the bombing of Dresden in 1945. It's a perfect fit for John and Mary's first meeting. John is both a soldier dealing with what he experienced overseas, and he's also a stranger in a new world. Not long after their first meeting, Mary introduces him to the supernatural through a fight with a demon where John's soldiering skills unfortunately aren't much help.

The title "Slaughterhouse-Five" isn't revealed during the first encounter between John and Mary, with the marquee only being shown later after the demon tussle when John tells Mary his name for the first time.


Horror movies get plenty of love from the "Supernatural" universe, and 1971's "Willard" got a mention in "The Winchesters" pilot. After John and Mary come to an agreement that they are going to work together to find her missing father, John is introduced to Latika (Nida Khurshid). She's an ally of Mary's and is eager to join in on the adventure, but Mary reminds her she almost fainted just watching "Willard." Latika gets a little nervous at the title of the movie and asks if rats are involved in this mission. 

The 1971 horror film stars Bruce Davison as Willard Stiles, a loner who uses his pet rats to get revenge on his enemies. The film is based on Stephen Gilbert's "Ratman's Notebooks" and was adapted to film by screenwriter Gilbert Ralston and director David Mann. The flick was also followed by a sequel titled "Ben," released in 1972. 

If the story sounds familiar, but the '70s date doesn't, that's because "Willard" was one of the numerous horror movies to receive the remake treatment in the early 2000s. In 2003, director Glen Morgan released a remake starring Crispin Glover in the title role. R. Lee Ermey — who also appeared in the Michael Bay-produced "Texas Chainsaw" remakes around the same time — also stepped in to take on a role originally played by Ernest Borgnine. 

Ground control to Major Tom

During a car ride in the pilot of "The Winchesters," we see signs of John's PTSD as he envisions a friend lost in the war in the car with him and Mary. As he's consumed by his memories and pain, Mary snaps him out of it by saying, "Ground control to Major Tom." 

The line is from David Bowie's "Space Odyssey," a song that also plays during a Dean Winchester scene in "Supernatural" Season 6. The song was released in 1969, so it makes sense that it would be a topical reference for Mary. It's an appropriate reference too, as the lingering effects of war appear to almost put John in his own world away from what's happening around him as if he's lost in space. 

The first thought in a prequel series to "Supernatural" for most fans would likely be that John is literally being haunted by a demon or a ghost, but luckily, the creators don't trivialize John's PTSD like that right out of the gate. After saying he feels like he's being haunted, Mary pulls out an EMF reader, which doesn't go off around John. Mary informs her new partner that this means there is no ghost with them, just his memories. 

In the name of Jimi, Janice, and Jim Morrison

Also introduced in the pilot of "The Winchesters" is Carlos (Jojo Fleites), a demon hunter and musician who saves John and Mary from a demon at one point with his van. He then proceeds to use a water pistol filled with holy water to fight the demon, which itself could be an homage to "From Dusk Till Dawn." After vanquishing the demon and getting John up to speed on a few techniques, Carlos makes like he's saying a prayer for the deceased, but instead of referencing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirt, he chooses Jimi, Janice, and Jim Morrison, the first two names, of course, being references to Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin. 

Classic rockers of the time getting some love on "The Winchesters" should be no surprise as even on "Supernatural," Dean Winchester is often cranking some good old-fashioned rock and roll from the time period we're now seeing firsthand in the prequel series. "Carry On My Wayward Son" by Kansas, for instance, is played numerous times in the "Supernatural" franchise, mainly used in segments on the original series to catch fans up with the events of the season so far.