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Supernatural will soon reach its 300th episode on the air, which is an accomplishment few other shows can boast. Thanks to all the problems with Michael inhabiting Dean’s mind, Season 14 hasn’t been the lightest of the show to date, so the question as we approach the big episode is how it will compare to previous milestones. The 100th episode was a game-changer, while the 200th turned the meta storytelling to the max. What would the 300th episode, called “Lebanon,” be like?

I spoke to Supernatural executive producer Brad Buckner at the red carpet for the 300th episode celebration, and he said this about what to expect:

It is different. It's different from a lot of our benchmark episodes, which tend to be the kind of meta episodes and very memorably strange and wacky episodes. I think if you keep repeating those kinds of attempts, it's a show that kept redoing itself. Eventually you get to the point where you keep having to top yourself in a certain way. So I think this is kind of an unusual way to go in the fact that the population of Lebanon, Kansas has never been dealt with. What these people must think of these kind of mysterious, handsome strangers in their midst who don't seem to live anywhere. And then there's some surprises in it, and I think the surprises of this episode for people who might be expecting it to be kind of silly is that there's real emotionality to it.

As fans will undoubtedly remember, the 200th episode milestone was called “Fan Fiction,” and it saw Sam and Dean investigating a case at an all-girls high school production of a musical… all about them. Few episodes can claim to be as wildly meta without actually naming characters “Jared Padalecki” and “Jensen Ackles,” a la “The French Mistake.” According to Brad Buckner’s comments, “Lebanon” will not be silly and overly meta.

That’s not to say that there won’t be humor in the 300th episode. Even just imagining the normal folks of Lebanon, Kansas’ reactions to the “handsome strangers” who are always around but don’t appear to have a home and always somehow wind up in mysterious hijinks are fun to even think about. Seeing them should be a joy.

The trailer for “Lebanon” revealed that the boys will be involved in at least some lighter shenanigans thanks to the timeline craziness, but the return of a certain long-lost character means that some good old-fashioned Winchester angst is on the way. The return of John Winchester more than a decade after his death will be an emotional affair for both of his sons, especially given Dean’s current situation.

John will also reunite with his wife, which should be especially emotional. He lost Mary back when Sam was just a baby, and he was so devastated by her death that he became a hunter and removed his kids from anything resembling a normal life.

So much of his life since Mary’s death was motivated by his love for her, although that relationship got a bit of a bad rap in the years since he died way back in Season 2. That bad rap of John’s is actually part of what motivated Jeffrey Dean Morgan to reprise the role for the 300th episode. Whatever goes down with John, Morgan seems happy with it, given that he also revealed that he wants to play John again in the future.

All things considered, “Lebanon” seems like something new and exciting for fans, which is not something that many shows can do after more than a decade on the air. When I asked Brad Buckner what goes into reinventing a show over and over again over the course of 14 seasons, he gave this answer:

That's challenging and fun and interesting. I think, back in Season 5 and looking down the road, you think, 'How long can we keep these guys on the ride, fighting monsters?' Because the show keeps evolving. We've been so fortunate to attract other actors with the kind of chemistry that Sam and Dean have, to be part of this extended family. And the family keeps growing. So now they've got a home base, and they never had that before. All of these things keep making the show evolve.

If Supernatural remained just Sam and Dean traveling the country all by their lonesome, staying in seedy motels and basing their investigations on the contents of John’s journal, the show undoubtedly couldn’t have remained on the air. The original format, while fun and more than enough to get the show off the ground and win an audience, couldn’t have sustained the series for year after year after year.

Instead, the show expanded Sam and Dean’s circle of friends, and not all of them have died tragic (and permanent) deaths just yet. Bobby became a key part of their dynamic, as did Castiel. Sadly, some of their friends -- such as Gabriel -- seem unlikely to return after their latest deaths, but Sam and Dean’s family circle has never been bigger since they settled down into the Men of Letters bunker.

The Season 14 premiere had the bunker packed full of hunters as Sam tried to coordinate cases without Dean on hand. Throw in Jack, and they have a lot of friends and family nowadays. Who could have seen such a status quo when the boys first started saving people and hunting things back in 2005? (Yes, it’s really been that long.)

The big question now is how the show will continue to evolve moving beyond the 300th episode. Supernatural was recently renewed for a whopping fifteenth season, and The CW’s longest-running show (that began back when The CW was still The WB) shows no signs of stopping. CW President Mark Pedowitz even revealed the only ways Supernatural will ever get cancelled, and all signs point toward a long future still for Supernatural as long as Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles remain on board.

What will the Winchester boys have to deal with next? Dean still has Michael in his mind, Castiel’s deal is bound to come back and bite them, and whatever happens with John could impact Sam and Dean in the long term. Jeffrey Dean Morgan did say that he wanted closure for Sam and John!

Tune in to The CW on Thursday, February 7 at 8 p.m. ET for the 300th episode of Supernatural in the midseason TV lineup.

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