Tonight’s episode of Supernatural brings back a device that has produced some of The CW show’s fan-favorite episodes: time travel. Playing with the fourth dimension has teamed up the Winchester boys with younger versions of their parents, with the legendary creator of the all-important Colt and with real-world Prohibition lawman Eliot Ness. This time, a bit of temporal displacement leads to Sam and Dean meeting the paternal grandfather they never knew, Henry Winchester, when he travels from 1958 to 2013.
The episode, titled “As Time Goes By,” reveals a back story fans never knew about John Winchester’s side of the family. Earlier this week, executive producer Robert Singer told reporters, “We make this stuff up as we go along, but we try to use what we’ve done before [with the family] and spin out from there and tell interesting stories and get into back story like this.”
In the role of Henry is Gil McKinney (Friday Night Lights, ER), who bears some resemblance to Matt Cohen (young John), though Singer said physical similarities weren’t a major consideration during casting. In fact, he wanted there to be a clear contrast between Henry and the Winchester brothers.
“This is a guy who is more elegant and more learned and more educated. Our boys are roughhewn,” Singer explained.
As for what’s up with Henry’s more bookish nature, we’ll just tease that that has something to do with his different approach to the world of supernatural creatures. That does create some clashing between Henry and his grandsons, but that’s not the only source of conflict between them. [SPOILER ALERT!] The boys – Dean especially – aren’t too happy to see Henry because all they know of their paternal grandfather is that he walked out on John when he was a kid. And we all know how Dean’s feathers get ruffled when there’s betrayal and abandonment of family – or insulting and hurting of the father he idolizes – involved.
“Dean had a probably more complicated relationship than Sam did with John,” Singer said. “Dean was always in defense of Dad, and John made the ultimate sacrifice for Dean, so I think he takes this stuff a little more personally than Sam does.”
To see just how Dean and Henry lock horns tonight, tune in when “As Time Goes By” – which was directed by longtime Supernatural cinematographer Serge Ladouceur – airs on The CW at 9 p.m.
Check back here on EW.com after the episode airs for more from Singer about what the episode’s new developments mean for the rest of the season.