A difficult task when watching, analyzing, and, dare I say, making a spin-off is giving it space from its source material. It’s easy to get caught up in comparing it with its predecessor, or, if you’re the creator, to steep it in Easter eggs and established lore. Nostalgia for the original is an essential part of the allure, and touches like theme music, cameos, and callbacks are part of the fun. But as we learned from the Netflix seasons of Arrested Development, recapturing the same magic is tough, which makes it all the more essential that a prequel or sequel series break away from its source and tell its own story, with its own cast of compelling characters.
The Winchesters’ first two installments were a bit too tied to Supernatural to achieve that, which makes sense, since the show is still trying to find its place in the universe. After “You’re Lost, Little Girl,” I’m still not sold on the series’s central John and Mary story, for reasons I’ll get to in a bit, but this was the first episode that felt notably distinct from the source material, which gives me hope that The Winchesters is ready to distinguish itself. This was kind of a fun one! Let’s dig in.
“You’re Lost, Little Girl” kicks off with a delightfully creepy cold open. (Sometimes I forget that the early seasons of Supernatural were genuinely scary — I watched season one’s “Bloody Mary” with my hands over my eyes.) A little girl named Carrie is looking for her lost stuffed bunny, when a magic sack appears in her room — with the bunny inside! Also inside: a monster, which grabs Carrie and drags her down to sack hell.
On the other side of the credits, the Scooby gang is still on the hunt for Samuel. Mary tells John that the last conversation she had with her dad was about how she wanted to quit hunting, which is a nice callback both to 1973 Mary from Supernatural seasons four and five and the Sam-John conflict from season one. John comforts her with some good puppy-dog-eye action — Drake Rodger having been well trained in the Jared Padalecki school of acting — and Lata suggests he and Mary blow off some steam with a movie. Like a date!
Sadly, there’s no time for romance. It turns out Carrie is Mary’s neighbor, and when she finds out the little girl has gone missing, Mary rushes to the scene. There, they find Carrie’s little brother, Ford, whom Mary whisks away to her house for protection, complete with warding and a hex bag. Mary and John also recover a piece of the sack Carrie got sucked into in her bedroom and take it back to resident lore-nerd Lata.
Lata gets some character development as she figures out that the sack belongs to a monster called the Bori Baba, a North Indian boogeyman that lures children into its sack using items that have deep meaning to them. We learn that Lata’s father used to torture her with stories about the Bori Baba when she was a child, which might be relevant later. It also appears that Lata’s parents are dead, or that’s what she’s been telling people, as she later reveals that her mother is still alive. Nida Khurshid is a good actor, and she peels back Lata’s backstory delicately, which makes me that much more interested to see more of it.
By the time John and Mary return to Carrie’s house to take on the Bori Baba, though, Ford has also gotten sucked into the sack, and in classic charge-in-guns-blazing Winchester fashion, Mary decides to get sucked into the sack herself in order to save him. I must point out that the inside of the sack is like a better-organized version of the junkman Gort’s house in Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, and if that’s not a reference you get, I suggest you head to Disney+ RIGHT NOW and watch the every Halloweentown installment. Even the fourth one. I’ll wait.
Back to The Winchesters: John, who has apparently fallen in love with Mary already, has a complete meltdown before he realizes he can communicate with her using transistor radio walkie-talkies. I hope they keep using this bit, since it solves the problem of not having cell phones. Thanks to Lata’s lore dump, they learn that the Bori Baba’s victims can escape the sack by destroying their meaningful item. Carrie beheads her bunny with the zest of a British monarch, but Mary can’t quite let go of Samuel’s hat — after a teary walkie-talkie session with John, she realizes she also can’t quite let go of hunting. John talks her through it, everybody gets out of the sack, John kills the Bori Baba, and the whole gang is saved, though Ford and Carrie are now candidates for lifelong therapy.
While John and Mary are dealing with the Bori Baba, Ada and Carlos handle the meta-plot. Thanks to Ada’s trance notes, the Scoobies figure out that the demons are looking for the same magical monster-box thingy as Samuel, because the Akrida are bad enough to scare them, too. The trance notes conveniently include an address (gotta love the Chuck touch), so Ada and Carlos do a cute little stakeout together. This inevitably leads to a demon attack and an interesting character moment for Ada, whom both the audience and Carlos are starting to realize they don’t know very well. Not that the Supernatural universe frowns on tricking or harming demons, but the fact that Ada wants to keep one trapped in a bonsai for centuries for her own pleasure is … suspect.
The major revelation here — that the Biggest Baddest Akrida has taken the form of a human woman, specifically a radio DJ named Roxy — is not particularly shocking for a prequel of a show that relied almost exclusively on humanoid bad guys. (I’m still hung up on that dragon.) But Roxy’s introduction, soundtracked by Dusty Springfield’s “Spooky” and complete with a menacing CGI spider creature, is intriguing. I’m curious to see what the show does with her in the coming episodes.
In general, “You’re Lost, Little Girl” is a good time. The Bori Baba is legitimately creepy (not relying on CGI really helped here), and the monster-of-the-week and meta-plots mesh together well. The supporting cast is fun to watch, and it looks like they’ll be handing out some backstory crumbs as the season progresses. But I’m still struggling with the chemistry between John and Mary, a relationship that increasingly feels forced on the audience. John’s feelings for Mary seem like they’ve come on too fast, and maybe it’s just the rom-com addict in me, but I would have preferred to see their romance build slowly over time. Mary’s internal conflict over hunting, while sourced straight from Supernatural, also seems unearned this soon into the series. I can’t help but think this central relationship is bogged down by writing that relies on what we already know about these characters, and where they’re supposed to go. But there’s also that big twist coming somewhere, so, you know. We’ll see how it goes.
• Last week I said that Mary’s cousin was missing, but she’s actually dead. Although, in the Supernatural world, death doesn’t have much finality, so maybe I wasn’t wrong.
• The Scooby gang officially dubbed themselves the Monster Club this week, so I’ll be referring to them as such from now on. They’re making jackets!
• This episode marks the first mention of Deanna, Mary’s mother and Dean Winchester’s namesake (really).
• The Bori Baba looks a little like the pagan scarecrow from Supernatural season one.
• I’m still not convinced by this 1970s setting. Not that I’m expecting Mad Men levels of period detail, but the way the characters look, talk, and interact with one another feels distinctly modern. Carlos and Lata wore some great outfits this week, though. Hit me up if you know where I can get Lata’s denim vest.
• I continue to be impressed with Drake Rodger, whose looks and mannerisms are an uncanny Sam-Dean mix. I can even see how he would grow up into Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
• No Millie Winchester this week, but we do get to meet John’s ex-fiancée, Betty the cop.
• The kids are named Carrie and Ford, i.e., Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. Ties back to Supernatural, where Sam and Dean were supposed to be stand-ins for Luke and Han (and initially had the last name Harrison).
• “Wayward monsters.” Nice.
• The man who tells Mary, “What’s a dime between strangers?” at the cinema ticket booth is DEFINITELY not a stranger.