Supernatural could never end. Sure, the show ceases to exist without Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, but as long as they’re still alive and kickin’ it, the show goes on. Hell, the two stars could be 85 years old, sauntering around with nurses, and you could still find a way to make it work. That’s the power of this series, and also a testament to its seemingly infinite sandbox — the best in the business, come to think of it.
None of this is hyperbole. For 15 years, the long-running CW series has run the gamut and back when it comes to world-building. We’ve seen Sam and Dean Winchester ascend to heaven, discover other worlds than these, join the Scooby gang, play themselves, attend Supernatural fan conventions, and flip through channels. At some point, the depths of hell become so commonplace, the two treat the place like a rest stop.
There have been rough patches, sure. Season 6 takes some time to find steadier footing after series creator Eric Kripke concluded his five-season run. And, yeah, Season 12 struggles to find conflict after, well, seeing God throw down. But, the writers always find another misadventure for the two Winchesters to solve, even if it’s something as obvious as staging an entire episode in their car. They make it work.
Even now, this team just can’t quit. During their recent interview with Variety, Ackles and Padalecki admitted that they have another idea for an episode — one they just couldn’t fit into Season 15. “We called it Naked Supernatural,” Ackles admitted. “It was like the Naked Gun version of Supernatural. Everything that happened in the episode would have been tongue-in-cheek.” Fans are already demanding it.
Odds are they’ll see it come to fruition. Again, there’s just no end in sight for the Winchesters, and that’s not because the creators are trying to exploit something and ruin a good thing. No, it’s because it’s too good a thing to walk away from — even after 15 years and 15 seasons. The fact that the creativity keeps coming speaks volumes about the series as a whole, and says even more about the characters in question.
They’re family, we’re family, and it’s been one long family road trip ever since the show premiered on Tuesday, September 13, 2005. Let that date sink in. Try to imagine all the things that have happened since then: the places you’ve seen, the people you’ve met, the culture we’ve experienced. That should help contextualize the road so far, and add some weight to the entire journey. Will it end in November? Who knows.
All we can do is carry on.
Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief
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15. “The Curious Case of Dean Winchester”
Season 5, Episode 7
The Road So Far: Stalled on trying to halt the Apocalypse, the Winchesters do what they do best: save people and hunt things like malevolent presidents, powerful children, and old foes.
Now: The Winchesters roll into a town to probe the peculiar death by old age of a 25-year-old man. Bobby (Jim Beaver), Sam (Padalecki), and Dean (Ackles) then stumble upon a poker game where players can win big, but the stakes are even bigger. In this game, you bet years off your life, and both Bobby and Dean find themselves on the losing side of the game.
Carry On: Ah, there’s nothing better than a good ol’ poker flick. Maverick, Rounders, Casino Royale, The Gamber — with James Caan, of course — all boil down to one thing: the stakes. The sweatier the stakes, the better the game, and for Supernatural, writers Sera Gamble and Jenny Klein truly subverted the medium by tossing in a little Benjamin Button action. It’s one of the more brilliant conceptual marriages in the show’s history, toeing the line between comedy and intrigue as we watch Dean go grey.
None of it would work if it weren’t so tightly wound. Gamble and Klein tie all the threads efficiently, from the story-of-the-week backstory involving Patrick (Hal Ozsan) and Lia (Pascale Hutton) to Bobby’s ensuing arc involving his own physical ailments. It’s razor sharp genre writing that affords the entire cast to flip the board. The greatest swap is seeing an elder Dean huff and puff behind an in-control Sam, who channels his inner Caan as he gambles his own life for the house. It’s funny, it’s gripping, it’s a diamond one-off.
Team Free Will: Ackles reunites with his former Dawson’s Creek pal in Ozsan. Also, we get a good look at Dean as an old man via Medical Center veteran Chad Everett. How about that.
Season 14, Episode 20
The Road So Far: The young Nephilim Jack (Alexander Calvert) has gone too far, killing Mary in a blast of anger. Sam, Dean and Castiel have locked him up in the Ma’lak Box in an effort to contain him – but it doesn’t work and now he’s free.
Now: Sam and Dean are on the hunt for Jack, who is causing chaos around the world by forcing people to “stop lying.” Elsewhere, Chuck (Rob Benedict) appears with a weapon too good to be true, the Equalizer. In a classic Supernatural catch-22, the weapon promises to kill Jack, but also vanquish the individual that wields it. Naturally, the ensuing confrontation changes everything forever.
Carry On: The title “Moriah” comes from the Book of Genesis — specifically, chapter 22, verse two — and reads, “And He said: ‘Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” So, it’s not particularly hard to parse out what showrunner Andrew Dabb was thinking when he chose this title for the season finale. After all, Jack has become like a surrogate son to Dean, and these last few episodes have been winding up to Dean being forced to kill Jack — an act he cannot bring himself to commit.
Beyond that drama, the revelation that Chuck, aka God, has been orchestrating all their misery for their entire lives is quite the game-changer for Supernatural. It turns God from an absentee father of a benevolent nature to one of a malevolent force that actually makes quite sense when you consider the long-game storytelling. Narratively, the twist breaks the fourth wall in a different way, dissecting the agency the characters have when they’re being written by someone. They don’t want the pain that’s being thrust upon them, and that’s the key to it all – it’s finding the will to fight against what’s already been written.
More importantly, if we drill down deeper, God’s love of putting the Winchester brothers through pain and suffering is a commentary on the audience who watch Supernatural. They, too, love it when the Winchesters experience loss and heartache. It’s a narcotic to the fans and the cheapest one on the market – the written word.
Team Free Will: Benedict reprises his role as Chuck/God here, while Lisa Berry returns as the formidable reaper, Billie.
13. “The Real Ghostbusters”
Season 5, Episode 9
The Road So Far: The Winchesters meet their biggest fan, a fan fiction scribe named Becky Rosen (Emily Perkins). They also discover that one of their oldest nemeses, the Trickster (Richard Speight Jr.), is actually the archangel Gabriel.
Now: Becky uses Chuck’s phone to trick the Winchesters into showing up at a convention for the Supernatural books. Unfortunately for the cosplaying con-goers, a real poltergeist shows up on scene and begins making violent trouble.
Carry On: “The Real Ghostbusters” is a love letter to fans, and one of a handful of meta episodes in the show’s catalogue. Taking place at the first-ever Supernatural convention, it’s a hilarious look at the series from the perspective of its viewers — but also through and Dean and Sam.
Naturally, the two brothers are understandably shocked to see people cosplaying them, talking in gruff voices, and even reenacting personal conversations between the two brothers. And while the episode pokes fun at fan culture with its nitpicking questions and analytical theories — “Frightened Little Boy – the Secret Life of Dean Winchester” and “The Homoerotic Subtext of Supernatural”, anyone? — writers Kripke and Nancy Weiner never shame the fans. Instead, they explore the uplifting power of fictional characters.
Two such characters Barnes (Ernie Grunwald) and Damien (Devin Ratray) steal the show as partners and con-goers inadvertently roped into helping Sam and Dean on the LARP Ghost Hunt that veers a little too close to reality. What’s more, their touching moment at the end of the episode is a nice step toward inclusiveness on a show working towards diversity. Meanwhile, Prophet Chuck gets a hero moment, and No. 1 fan Becky Rosen is fantastic, creepily ogling Sam before “dumping” him for Chuck. And lest we forget, it’s all set against the backdrop of a truly creepy ghost story. Who wouldn’t want that?
Team Free Will: This episode features post credits ad lib by Benedict as Chuck; the second appearance of Perkins as Becky, and the first mention of the demon Crowley (Mark Sheppard).
12. “The Monster at the End of This Book”
Season 4, Episode 18
The Road So Far: Sam and Dean are embroiled in an all-out war involving angels and demons, only to learn from a new angel on the block, Zachariah, that they cannot escape their fate.
Now: While Lilith makes her final moves, Sam and Dean stumble upon a series of novels that detail all the trials and tribulations in their life called Supernatural, all written by a man called Carver Edlund.
Carry On: By Season 4, the series was already waist-deep in meta humor, mostly thanks to the arts and crafts provided by the Trickster (Speight Jr.). Even so, “The Monster at the End of This Book” still felt like a total game changer by acknowledging the then-budding fan base without losing any steady ground. Writers Julie Siege and Nancy Weiner did their homework, too, managing to even squeeze in a reference to the online Slash fiction that has become a curious part of the show’s legacy.
More importantly, though, Siege and Wiener opened up another door for the series creatively. Looking back, there’s a lot of table-setting in this episode, and the idea that Supernatural was an in-world entity helped condition later concepts like alternate universes, animated crossovers, and even the inclusion of Oz. Not to mention, it also introduced arguably the most important character of the series beyond Sam and Dean: Carver Edlund (Benedict), aka Chuck, aka God.
It’s through Chuck that Supernatural became what it is today, and his introduction is seamless. Christ, Benedict plays the role with so much burden and conviction that you really do believe he’s this exhausted Prophet of God — even when he literally says: “Obviously I’m a God… I write things and then they come to life. Yeah, no, I’m definitely a God. A cruel, cruel, capricious god.” Granted, fans sniffed out his true identity long before Season 11’s “Don’t Call Me Shurley”, but hey, hindsight’s 20/20.
Team Free Will: Well, as mentioned, Benedict joins the mythos. Keep up!
11. “LARP and the Real Girl”
Season 8, Episode 11
The Road So Far: Dean, his vampire friend Benny (Ty Olsson), and Castiel (Misha Collins) have escaped Purgatory and the prophet Kevin is working to decipher a “demon tablet” in the hopes to banish all demons to Hell for good.
Now: A mysterious case involving a man being drawn and quartered drags the brothers into the world of Live Action Role Playing and back into the company of the fiery, friendly computer hacker, Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day).
Carry On: “LARP and the Real Girl” sees the return of fan favorite Charlie Bradbury, aka the Queen of Moons, lead a group of LARPers (or Interactive Literaturists) living out their medieval fantasies in attempt to escape the mundanity of their lives. While Sam is mostly dismissive of the concept, Dean is into it, offering Charlie tips on the battlefield and enjoying his new role as Handmaiden. True to form, Charlie is a non-traditional queen, wearing battle clothes, sparring with squires on the pitch, and even rescuing the damsel in distress. Eventually, she saves the day by destroying the book of spells and freeing the fairy that caused all the mayhem, even making out with said fairy before she returns to her magical realm.
But there’s a flip side to this coin: While all the participants take their roles seriously, writer Robbie Thompson presents a darker side of this world through the episode’s villain Gerry (Hank Harris), Boltar the Furious. Unlike Charlie and her friends, Gerry is someone who takes the game so seriously he is willing to murder his friends for an imaginary role. It’s an important commentary on escapism taken too far and the ensuing toxic fandom that tends to poison any fan culture. But there’s a tangential lesson to also be learned when Sam and Dean are mistaken for FBI LARPers: Like Charlie’s crew, they chose to be hunters, a life that gives them more purpose and fulfillment than the “normal” lives they’ve both tried to lead.
On a side note: Special shoutout to the Braveheart reenactment concluding the episode. It may be the only speech Dean knows, but it’s the perfect ending to a fun and empowering episode.
Team Free Will: This episode is the second appearance of Charlie after she was last seen in the Season 7 finale, The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo.