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Guide: Reflecting on ‘Supernatural’ – A Long, Strange Ride

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Start with a 15-year-long family road trip. Now mix in deadly monsters, devious demons, and not-so-angelic angels. Be sure to include multiple gods and God with a capital G. Sprinkle in ghosts, psychics, prophets, and various entities that are morally neutral. Bake with a huge, ever-expanding mythology and cool with multiple fan-favorite deaths. Now enjoy Supernatural, one of the longest-running and beloved TV shows of all time.

After 15 seasons and over 300 episodes, Supernatural racked up a huge base of devoted fans. Everyone has a favorite brother, favorite ally, favorite baddie, and favorite episode. Let’s go ahead and talk about some of the most common.

The first thing you have to know about Supernatural is that it’s a show all about family. It revolves around brothers Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles). They get into the monster hunting business young. Real young. When Sam is only six months old and Dean 4 years old, their mother is murdered by a demon. Their father goes on a mission to track and kill the demon that killed her and brings his boys along.

The boys grow up in the backseat of a ‘67 impala (known as Baby and kept in mint condition by Dean). Sam and Dean go through many trials and have plenty of fights along the way but they always come back to each other because family is the most important thing to the Winchesters.

[Warning: Spoilers from the fifteen seasons of Supernatural are below!]

Reflecting back on Supernatural: the early years

Supernatural starts when the boys are in their early 20s and are already killing machines (of monsters only). The only thing the brothers know for sure is that they can count on each other, and no one else. Locked in a possibly unhealthy codependent relationship they travel across the country in the same impala they grew up in fighting monsters and learning a whole lot more about the hidden nature of the universe than anyone else ever has.

The first season has Sam and Dean coming together after 4 years apart while Sam attended college. Their father has gone missing and they follow clues across the country to find him, fighting monsters along the way.

In the second season, the boys have identified the demon that killed their mother, Azazel, but they also learn that there is more to the story. The demon was really after Sam and his special psychic powers that suddenly begin developing. Sam and Dean try to work out the implications of these powers while continuing to hunt Azazel. Sam is killed during the hunt and Dean, beginning a recurring theme of cheating death, trades his soul to a demon to bring Sam back, payment due in one year. The boys end the season by stopping the apocalypse and destroying Azazel.

Supernatural Sam and Dean
LtR: Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki) from season two episode four “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things). Supernatural (CW/WB).

Season three is all about trying to save the boy’s souls from separate perils. Dean of course is facing an eternity in Hell unless the deal can be broken. Sam is sliding down his own slippery slope to damnation by working with the demon Ruby (Katie Cassidy) and drinking demon blood to strengthen his newfound psychic powers. In the end, as both fail, Dean goes to hell and Sam continues corrupting himself in exchange for power.

Season four opens with Dean being raised from Hell by an actual angel, Castiel (Misha Collins). But he wasn’t brought back just for fun. Another apocalypse is brewing and the Winchesters are humanity’s only hope.

With the help of Cass and maybe Ruby (now played by Genevieve Padalecki) the boys have to stop Lilith from breaking 66 seals that serve as a lock on Lucifer’s cage in Hell. They almost succeed but are tricked into breaking the final seal and actually set Lucifer free themselves. In season five the Winchesters attempt to stop Lucifer by locking him back in his cage. In the end, Sam is also locked in the cage with Lucifer and believed to be gone.

Supernatural’s middle seasons

Cue season six. Dean tries to have a normal life like Sam wanted him to but he can’t settle. When Sam mysteriously reappears with their maternal grandfather and a mess of Campbell hunters (their mother’s family that they never knew), Dean gets sucked back into the monster hunting life.

Dean has a dual problem with Sam and the Campbells though. Sam is not himself, and no one knows how he escaped the cage. Eventually, it’s revealed that Sam’s soul is still caught in the cage. Although he is warned that it may destroy Sam, Dean finds a way to retrieve the soul and return it to Sam. Secondly, there is something fishy with the Campbells. Turns out they’re working with Crowley (Mark Sheppard), the new king of Hell in Lucifer’s absence. Worse, they eventually learn that Castiel is working with Crowley too. Cass betrays Crowley and declares himself God but he ends up releasing something that should have stayed locked away forever, the Leviathans.

In season seven the boys have to defeat the Leviathans. They succeed but at a great price, both Dean and Cass are sucked into purgatory. Dean escapes at the beginning of season eight but Cass seems to be left behind before mysteriously showing up later. Together they begin fighting Crowley, who is quite a worthy opponent.

Their plan this time is to find the Demon Tablet, a tablet dictated by God that contains all there is to know about demons and hell and use its knowledge to trap all demonic souls in hell. They fail but the devious angel Metatron (Curtis Armstrong) tricks Cass into expelling all the angels from Heaven. This sets up season nine, which is a battle to first get the angels back into Heaven, then determine who will rule as the heavenly leader. In the final battle, Dean is killed and becomes a demon.

Reflecting back on Supernatural Mary Winchester
LtR: Dean (Jensen Ackles), Sam (Jared Padalecki), and Mary (Samantha Smith). Supernatural (CW/WB)

Season ten is largely focused on getting Dean back to himself. First, he is a demon and runs around having a good time with Crowley. After their relationship goes south, Sam finds him and makes him human again. But he still bears the mark of Cain from previous exploits and it continues to corrupt him as they search for a way to cleanse him of it.

Once the boys clean up the Cain mess, season eleven comes at them with the Darkness. Also known as Amara (Emily Swallow), she is the sister of God and has been locked away from her brother since he created the universe. Angry and vengeful, she insists she will destroy everything if he doesn’t come to her.

Amazingly, God reveals himself to be an old friend of the Winchesters who had dropped off the radar a few seasons back. Once he and Amara reunite they leave this universe behind to try creating together somewhere else. Before leaving, Amara gives Dean (whom she had a special connection with) a gift, his mother (Samantha Smith), alive and well.

Reflecting back on Supernatural: the final chapters

Needless to say much of season twelve is about the brothers dealing with the sudden return of their mother after 30 years. It isn’t an easy return for Mary either. She has a hard time dealing with suddenly being a middle-aged woman with grown sons and lots of friction develops between the three.

While all that family drama is going on, Lucifer has escaped from the cage and manages to impregnate a woman. She realizes too late who he is and turns to the Winchesters for help. Jack the Nephilim is born and it tears a hole in the fabric of space. Lucifer and Mary are sucked through into an alternate reality and the boys are left to raise Jack, who is already a teenager, alone after Cass is again killed.

Season thirteen has a whole lot going on. The boys have to save Mary from the alternate reality she’s in and they bring back a whole bunch of other survivors with them, including some familiar-looking ones. Meanwhile, Lucifer is trying to take over heaven, Cass is back from the dead (again), and Cass and the Winchesters have to stop Lucifer. Dean finally kills him but it was a devil’s deal made with an untrustworthy angel who possesses Dean and refuses to leave.

In the fourteenth season, Dean throws off Michael’s (Jake Abel) control but remains vulnerable to him. Michael goes on to join with monsters and try to take over the world. As they deal with Michael, God reappears and demands they kill Jack because he’s too powerful. They refuse him and God ends up smiting Jack and unleashing every horror locked in hell upon the world at once in a final apocalypse.

The final season was unfortunately broken up and shortened by the covid pandemic. It was largely a call back for every fan-favorite character from the last fourteen years as they work to stop the ultimate armageddon. They succeed and save the world one last time. Then there was the final episode.

While I loved it and thought it was a very fitting end, it was highly controversial among the fan base. I sum it up later in the article so keep reading for more details. Monster of the week episodes like the ones that launched the show continued to be sprinkled in among the larger storyline episodes through the end of the series just to keep things interesting.

Reflecting Back on Supernatural: loveable allies

Dean is the older brother who tries to carry the world on his shoulders. He is a typical oldest child, toeing the line laid down by his father even when daddy is nowhere to be found. He does everything he can to protect his baby brother and he feels the intense responsibility of protecting the world all the way to his bones.

Unfortunately, he feels guilt for every mistake just as strongly. Dean is one of the highest functioning alcoholics I’ve ever seen and it amazes me that his liver didn’t give out before a monster took him out. Still, he is the kind of guy that will do anything for anyone. He has a soft spot for kids and connects to them really well despite his “cool dude” persona. Young Dean is a real lady killer but as he ages and matures he takes a more brotherly approach towards most women that makes him even sweeter.

Reflecting back on supernatural bobby
LtR: Sam (Jared Padalecki), Bobby (Jim Beaver), and Dean (Jensen Ackles). Supernatural (CW/WB).

Sam is the “rebellious” child because he recognizes that they didn’t grow up normally, and he craves a normal life. He tries to leave the hunter’s life but is drawn back in when his father goes missing in the first episode. When the family needs help you go, so Sam does but he spends the entire series trying to get back to that normal life. It is one of the main sources of tension between Sam and Dean because Sam just wants out and Dean cannot imagine any other life.

Now picking a favorite brother can be tough but picking a favorite ally can be even tougher. Especially when the lines between allies and enemies tend to get very blurry. Even Cass (Castiel, an angel), who almost becomes a third brother, spends a good chunk of the show on the wrong side of the fight.

For the purpose of this discussion, I’ll divide allies and enemies by how they initially presented on the show. The boys meet many different hunters along the way but Bobby (Jim Beaver), a surrogate father, is easily the most important. But there is also Garth (DJ Qualls), Jo (Alona Tal) and Ellen (Samantha Ferris) (a daughter and mother), Ash (Chad Lindberg), and Rufus (Steven Williams), to name a few.

Some are regular people who get caught up in monster business and never quite get out, like Sheriff Jody (Kim Rhodes), Charlie (Felicia Day), Kevin (Osric Chau), and Sheriff Donna (Briana Buckmaster). These allies help vanquish monsters but they also give the boys a much-needed connection to humanity and remind them of why they’re fighting in the first place.

Lovable bad guys

When it comes to enemies the Winchesters have them to spare. Monsters of the week don’t repeat so they don’t really enter into this conversation. But when it comes to recurring villains, there are plenty to pick from, like Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino, however other actors have portrayed him in different forms), the actual devil, Crowley, the want-to-be king of hell, Lilith and Azazel (demons) all come straight from hell.

Eve (Julia Maxwell) and the Leviathan come from purgatory. Rowena the witch (Ruth Connell) hails from Earth. Heaven didn’t want to be left out so several different angels, Michael and Metatron to name a few, and God himself make the villain list as well. There are more but these are the most popular.

The greatest part of these villains is that they are so well written that they become some of the fans’ favorite characters. Fans are always happy to see some of the top-tier baddies like Crowley, Lucifer, or Rowena. Even more fun, some of these baddies grow and almost become allies. It’s very nice to see villains that are more than one-dimensional and it’s part of the appeal of the show I think.

Reflecting back on Supernatural: episodes of every kind

Supernatural is well known for their specialty episodes like the meta episode “Hollywood Babylon”, where they travel to a parallel dimension where Supernatural is a TV show and they’re the actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, the Scooby-Doo episode, “ScoobyNatural,” that’s a cartoon with the Scooby-Doo gang, and the musical episode “Fan Fiction,” where they visit an all-girl school putting on a musical based on the brothers lives. One of my favorites is “Monster Movie”, in the style of a classic monster movie. The list goes on but you get the idea that specialty episodes are sprinkled throughout the 320 episodes.

One of the most controversial episodes is also the last episode. Dean is killed fighting vampires. He makes Sam promise not to try and revive him this time but to get out of the hunting game and have a real life. Sam listens and goes on to lead a full life, raising a son that knows nothing about the things that go bump in the night. Finally, he meets Dean in heaven and there is finally peace for these two wayward sons.

And the ride continues, sort of

Now whether you love it or hate it, it did make a definite, full-stop ending for the show. This left plenty of fans with a Supernatural-sized hole in their hearts and no way to fill it. Lucky for them the CW has found a way to potentially fill that hole with a prequel show focusing on Sam and Dean’s parents, John and Mary, which happens to be narrated by Dean.

The Winchesters premieres on the CW on October 11th. I’m very excited to see where they go with, or if they retrace the story of John and Mary known from Supernatural. So carry on my wayward children, carry on.

Supernatural the complete series is currently streaming on Netflix and The Winchesters will air on The CW starting on October 11, with episodes the next day on The CW app. (Read my early review of the premiere here)

Are you excited about this next chapter in the Supernatural franchise? Let us know on social media! If you need a refresher for John and Mary’s journey so far, check out our The Winchesters Supernatural viewing guide, highlighting every appearance of these characters!

The Winchesters Supernatural Viewing Guide

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Luna Gauthier

I've always been a bookworm and fantasy is my favortie genre. I never imagined (okay, I imagined but I didn't think) that I could get those books sent to me for just my opinion. Now I am a very happy bookworm! @Lunagauthier19 on Twitter

Luna Gauthier has 229 posts and counting. See all posts by Luna Gauthier