After 15 years, Supernatural is finally coming to end in the US tonight and this will be the last we see of Sam and Dean Winchester – unless they survive the events of the series finale and The CW decides to revisit the boys sometime in the future.
15 seasons is no mean feat – early on in its run, Supernatural was on the cancellation bubble multiple times. But soon enough the show had cemented itself on The CW’s schedule and the yearly renewals kept on coming- until the stars themselves revealed the end was nigh midway through season 14.
But how did the show last so long, and what is it about the series that’s meant it’s endured in the hearts of viewers for a decade-and-a-half?
Sam and Dean Winchester
Most shows that run for anything as long as Supernatural have an ever-changing main cast and while this show has swapped a number of major players in-and-out, having Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles at the helm of this ship and their characters as the heart of the show since the beginning is the main reason it has survived as long as it has. While Sam and Dean have their issues, they are two largely likeable leads with the charm it takes to make them feel like friends or even family.
15 years is a long time and even when the show has hit rough patches (hello seasons 7 and 12), it has remained watchable because spending time with Dean and Sam is always a comfort – even when the characters themselves may be having an off day. It also helps that, off-screen, Jared and Jensen seem like two of the nicest guys in showbiz, always making sure the fans always know how appreciated they are. From press interviews to social media posts and their numerous legendary Comic-Con appearances, part of the appeal of Supernatural is following the actors who play them – and many likely will follow them as Jared moves over to his new Walker: Texas Ranger reboot while Jensen sets up shop over at The Boys for that show’s season three.
For 327 episodes, Jared and Jensen have given their all to Supernatural and I cannot think of one episode where either of them had an off day. Their affection for the property and the fans is always on display and I know I will miss seeing these two actors together just as much as I will miss the characters they play.
The supporting cast
Backing Sam and Dean up on their adventures have been a wealth of other rich characters – too many in fact to name them all. But to pick a choice few… fellow series regular Misha Collins slipped into the role of the angel Castiel with ease and became just as vital a character as the main two while antagonists like Crowley (played by the delightful Mark Sheppard) also brought fresh energy to the show and sparred with the others extremely well.
The ladies who should have headed up Wayward Sisters (a spin-off that, sadly, never happened) were always a delight to see. Headed up by the wonderful Kim Rhodes as Jody Mills, they were a great example of a group of side characters that were entertaining to watch and spend time with even when they were not with the brothers – Katherine Ramdeen (Alex) and Kathryn Newton (Claire) being two other standouts from a strong group. Then there’s Felicia Day, a favourite among the geek community who was instantly loved as Charlie – no matter which version of the character she was playing. And who can forget Bobby Singer, Jim Beaver’s gruff hunter and father figure to the boys for the first seven seasons? Another fine actor in a role that was loved by fans.
And speaking of fathers, before he was Negan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan was a brilliant John Winchester and even returned to the show in season 14, along with the amazing Samantha Smith who returned for a longer spell as Sam and Dean’s mother Mary.
I’m forgetting people, I know I am. Jo, Ellen, Ash, Lucifer, Ruby, Chuck, Gabriel, Kevin, Garth, Amara… all great characters with great actors on board to play them. I could write a thousand more words on why Alexander Calvert’s Jack was an amazing final addition to the main cast. But the point is, Supernatural has always been more than just two brothers, it’s a whole world full of interesting and fun people (amongst other things) and that’s a big part of why we will all miss it and why we loved it so much in the first place.
For a show that deals with all kinds of terrifying and dark subject matter, Supernatural almost always kept its sense of humour, with some of its all-time classic episodes being more light-hearted. Particularly from season two onwards, we got some outright hilarious instalments that have been some of the show’s most memorable.
The infamous The French Mistake is still one of the best (an episode where Sam and Dean are sent to a parallel world where they are actors called Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles and they star on a show called Supernatural) but I could list dozens more, Tall Tales, Bad Day at Black Rock, Yellow Fever, Changing Channels, Just My Imagination, Scoobynatural (yes, the show crossed over with Scooby-Doo) are just a few of many that showed how great at comedy Supernatural is.
And yet, it’s able to shift from being outright hilarious to terrifying or dark and disturbing in an instant. Some episodes that were flat-out comedy ended with a big reveal or a seismic plot development, Changing Channels being one, and that was one of the great things about Supernatural – you never knew what you going to get from one minute to the next.
Supernatural has one of the best TV soundtracks going and it has done since it began. There are so many musical highlights to choose from, ranging from ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ back in season one’s Reaper-focused episode, to Styx’s ‘Renegade’ blasting out as Sam and Dean fled from the law in the second season. ACDC, Metallica and many more have been used to open seasons with blistering recaps and Motorhead’s ‘God Was Never on Your Side’ helped make the season 14 finale one of the best the show has seen.
And of course, there is the Kansas classic ‘Carry on my Wayward Son’ that has played in all but one season finale since the beginning. The song has become an anthem for Supernatural (so much so that Kansas themselves turned up to play it live at a San Diego Comic-Con panel a couple of years back) and it is fitting that the final ever episode will allude to it with the title Carry On.
And that’s without mentioning classic moments where music was used in memorable ways as part of the story. The songs in the 200th episode celebration, Fan Fiction, are incredible with ‘A Single Man Tear’ getting played numerous times in this household. Jensen Ackles performing an infamous mime routine to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ in a post-credits bloopers always raises a smile, as does his incredible singalong to REO Speedwagon’s ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’. Music added to the show in so many ways from the humorous (Dean’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’ karaoke session) to the downright sinister (Jen Titus’s version of ‘Oh Death is inspired) and the series was all the better for it.
It sounds obvious to say that a show has come a long way over the course of 15 years, but Supernatural really did change the game multiple times over the course of its run. What started as a season of two brothers hunting monsters in ‘movie of the week’ style instalments has grown into a larger story that is epic and, quite literally, biblical.
The key turning point was season four when we met Castiel and found out angels were real and the show did not look back from there. Lucifer, Michael and even God himself have entered the fray since and there were bold choices made with how they were used – positioning God/Chuck as the final Big Bad was certainly a brave thing to do. But Supernatural pulled it off.
From Heaven to Hell to Purgatory to The Empty, nothing has been off-limits to the writers and they’ve put unique spins on the lot. Many say the show should have ended with season five – the legend goes that series creator Eric Kripke initially set out with a five-season plan for the show – and while, yes that was arguably the show’s best season, we would have missed out on so much had we stopped then…
The angels would never have fallen from the heavens, we would never have heard of the Men of Letters or seen the bunker, the Wayward Sisters would have never been assembled, Sam would never have been hit on by Velma, and Dean would not have had the chance to call himself a “posse magnet” in the Wild West.
Sure, Supernatural had some blips along the way, but it has been a rewarding 15 years of being a fan. Where we end up from where we started is not even close to what I had imagined and somehow, a decade and a half in, the show still had the ability to surprise and shock – right up to the very end.
And so, as the show finally draws to a close, I’ll take comfort in the inevitable rewatch. But I will miss not having these guys around with new stories to tell.
For now though, I’m off to watch season 11’s Baby, an episode that takes place entirely from the perspective of Dean’s beloved Impala. That’s the sort of show this is – it can take a premise like that and turn it into one of the best episodes.
Thanks for everything Supernatural. Now, carry on.