Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the 'Supernatural' Cast Take Us Inside the 300th Episode

Ileane Rudolph
Preview Dean Buscher/The CW

On Supernatural, dying rarely means goodbye.

For 14 seasons, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), the monster-killing heroes of the witty horror series, have survived death countless times. The same can also be said for their friends and family, like their revived mom, Mary (Samantha Smith), and angel ally Castiel (Misha Collins).

Now that even extends to the duo’s dad, demon hunter John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who is making his comeback in the show’s moving 300th episode. And he’s not a spirit or just seen in a flashback.

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The CW’s longest-running series (it began on The WB in 2005) airs the benchmark episode “Lebanon” on February 7. The story involves a magical totem, occult lore and an altered reality, but the real action begins when Dean makes a wish that brings about a surprising result: John’s return to Lebanon, Kansas, and the Men of Letters bunker that’s home to his sons.

To Ackles, shooting in the bunker where John’s father (Dean and Sam’s grandfather, Henry) had worked as a scholar of the supernatural seemed like the perfect spot for the momentous occasion. “For John to see how his sons have taken up that work and legacy is pretty powerful,” Ackles says.

Speaking of powerful: The phenomenon that brings John back also resuscitates Zachariah (Kurt Fuller), the angel whose list of sins led Dean to kill him back in Season 5. This Zachariah, however, isn’t the alt-world baddie who dropped by in Season 13, teases executive producer Andrew Dabb, though the higher angel definitely still “has a grudge.” Other changes are afoot as well: The reality has an unexpected effect on fan-favorite Castiel.

“It all felt like Back to the Future,” Ackles says, “like when Marty McFly is in the past and sees his siblings start to disappear from photos. By bringing Dad to our world, things start to change and get a little kooky.”

Morgan, who was introduced in the pilot and met his demise in Season 2, calls his return for the milestone installment a no-brainer. “You never think anything will make it to 300 [episodes], let alone a horror show like this,” he says. “I got a kick when we were picked up for the back end of the first season! I owe a lot of my genre credit to this role.”

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The actor had just wrapped Season 9 of The Walking Dead, where he plays bat-wielding sociopath Negan, when he filmed his one-episode Supernatural stint. “Being on set was like putting on an old pair of boots. My first scene was with Baby,” he says, referring to the Winchester’s beloved ’67 Impala. “Once we started the big scenes with the boys — who I sort of see as my sons — we just fell into it.”

Though no one would confuse the Winchesters with the Cleavers, “there’s something beautiful about having the family, for the first time in 14 years, sitting around the table having dinner,” Dabb says, noting it’s the episode’s centerpiece. “The last time the boys saw their father, there were raw feelings from their upbringing. It made sense that the 300th would force them to confront those issues as adults.”

In an equally touching — and romantic — scene, John reunites with wife Mary, whose fiery death by the demon Azazel launched both John’s, and later his sons’, mission as hunters. (Mary was resurrected by the primordial Amara in Season 11.) “Like her sons, Mary had struggles in her relationship with John,” Morgan says, “and it’s important that he addresses each of them on their own.”

That dialogue between father and sons was on Ackles’s bucket list. “It’s about seeing a family that does right by each other,” he says. “There will be closure and a lot of heartstrings pulled.”

Both Ackles and Morgan would love John to return for a longer arc. “I have always said that I hoped to get back to Supernatural before it ended,” Morgan confirms. “Now I’m going to start saying that all over again.”

Considering “Never say die” seems to be the series’ motto both on- and offscreen, we believe Dabb when he promises, “This is the 300th. It’s not the end of our story.”

Supernatural, 300th Episode, "Lebanon," Thursday, February 7, 8/7c, The CW