Cover Image Credits: VanityFair.com
Student Review: “Supernatural” Series Finale is a Mixed Bag
Written by Yasmin Miranda
November 29, 2020
Warning: Major Spoilers ahead!
‘Supernatural’ was never supposed to last for 15 seasons.
Premiering in 2005 on the CW Network, “Supernatural” tells the story of two brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Wincherster (Jensen Ackles), who hunt down supernatural entities such as vampires, ghosts, demons, etc. As the story progresses the audience comes to learn that the Winchester brothers are destined to be the centerpieces of a biblical apocalypse.
Over the course of its 15 seasons and over 300 episodes, “Supernatural” became about much more than that. Stories of heaven and earth, angels and demons, Lucifer and God himself made “Supernatural” into a cult favorite. However, this favorite did not come without its faults. Throughout its years on television, “Supernatural” had to grapple with its own shortcomings that made a lot of fans develop a love-hate relationship with the series. The lack of representation of minority groups and blatant misogyny seemed to be the biggest issues the show struggled with, and were unfortunately, never able to fix in 15 years. Throughout the show, female characters were largely used to further the plot of the Winchesters and enhance their manpain. This can be traced back to the pilot episode where the boys’ mother is killed and Sam’s college girlfriend is burned alive in front of his eyes. This type of storyline is found in almost every season that follows. The lack of representation comes from the series relying on largely, white, male, cis characters whilst teasing homoeroic subtexts and using as few as possible POC characters.
Supernatural was never supposed to last this long because originally the show was only going to last up to its fifth season, as per show creator Erick Kripke’s original vision. However, the response from fans kept renewing the beloved series. Yet, nothing lasts forever and on Thursday, November 19th 2020 Supernatural debuted its very last episode. The finale, “Carry On”, aptly named after its theme song, “Carry on My Wayward Son” wrapped up the larger than life show in a way that was partly satisfying but also partly confusing.
So, let’s talk about it.
“Supernatural: The Long Way Home”
The finale was preceded by a one-hour special centering around the journey so far and cast and crew reflections. This special set the typical nostalgic, bittersweet tone of seeing a beloved series end.
“Carry On” has a simple episode storyline. The Winchester brothers have found themselves living a new life of free will, liberated from the shackles tying them to Chuck/God and therefore trying to find new joys in life. Some of these joys include adopting a dog named Miracle and attending a pie festival. At the festival, the boys find a new case, which turns out to involve vampires abducting children.
That’s when the show’s long-anticipated finale took a turn for the worst and where its issues overshadowed any acclaim “Carry On” got.
Issue #1: Dean’s Unimpressive and Lackluster Death
During the violent confrontation with a nest of vampires, Dean Winchester gets impaled with a metal rod sticking out of a barn pillar and dies.
For a man that fought God and Lucifer and won, this death leaves a lot to be desired. Dean’s death is underwhelming and to a point, uncessessary. As Vox described it, “Dean actually dies, not nobly or epically, but in an inconsequential baddie-of-the-week fight, after he gets randomly impaled. That very weird injury allows him just enough time to bid a teary goodbye to Sam, and allows Sam enough time to come to terms with the fact that it’s really the final goodbye.”
However, as random as it felt, Dean’s death was not necessarily surprising. At the core of the series, “Supernatural” was about the family struggles Sam and Dean go through with Sam attempting many times to escape the life of “hunting monster, saving people, the family business” and trying to live a life apart from the one that became synonymous with Dean.
After Dean’s death, Sam finally gets that life. He moves on and marries. He has a son (named Dean, obviously) and dies of old age. A full life. The life Sam had hoped to live way back during the pilot of the series.
Meanwhile, after his death, Dean goes up to heaven where he meets up with Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver), his father figure who died in season 7, and finally comes to live in peace, in death. In the end, Dean meets up with Sam where they meet for one last time, now together forever. The End.
The end for the show but not for many viewers that were left with more questions than answers. A big question that was left unanswered was, why wasn’t Castiel, a major supporting character, not in the finale?
Image Credits: The Supernatural Finale: How Sam & Dean’s Journeys End | CBR
Issue #2: A Staggering Lack of Representation
Probably one of the series biggest disses to its LGBTQ+ community has been its lack of representation of minority groups. Just before his demise in episode 18 “Despair”, Castiel confesses that he has found his true happiness: “I never found an answer because the one thing I want is something I know I can’t have. But I think I know now happiness isn’t in the having. It’s in just being…I love you, Dean.”
After such a confession, many expected to see Castiel again since death is never something that seemed to stick in “Supernatural.” That, however, was not the case this time. This move was widely criticized by fans, DigitalSpy calling it a, “especially blatant example of the ‘bury your gays’ trope.”
Castiel’s ultimate sacrifice to save Dean ultimately does not make a big difference to the outcome of the show. Screenrant puts it perfectly:“While his intent to sacrifice his life was to allow Dean to live a long life, Castiel’s sacrifice eventually becomes meaningless as Dean dies in just weeks.”
Many Castiel fans believe that Castiel should have had a better ending for the amount of time he was on the show, since season 4. Although there is a mention of Castiel in “Carry On” referencing Jack saving him from the “Empty”, for the rest of the finale, he is nowhere to be found.
Issue #3: Where is everyone?
Because of COVID-19 “Supernatural” had to go on a hiatus and then when filming resumed it was restricted and with many health security protocols. This could be to blame for the absence of many memorable characters that fans were hoping to see again, both dead and living. However, it seems that COVID-19 could not be the only thing to blame as showrunner Andrew Dabb stated, “in terms of plot, in terms of character, nothing is fundamentally different.” The show’s ending could have been vastly better had fans been able to see characters they reminisce over such as Jack (Alexander Calvert), the adopted son of Castiel, Dean, and Sam, as well as the biological son of Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino), Elieen (Shoshannah Stern), Sam’s love interest, and Charlie (Felicia Day), a primary LGBTQ+ character, just to name a few. In heaven, one might have expected a reunion between Dean and his parents, Mary (Samantha Smith) and John Winchester (Jeffery Dean Morgan), but that didn’t happen either. So many special moments that could have happened, but instead fans got a vampire’s nest.
Issue #4: A Rushed Finale and the Questions left Unanswered
With a simple storyline, and lackluster plot, “Carry On” felt lazy and left many additional questions unanswered. When the season 15’s plot was finished by episode 19, there seemed to be nowhere else to go. Alas, “Supernatural” chose to take the storyline of a filler episode for the first half of the final episode and then rushed towards Dean’s death and Sam’s long lived life. No intricacies, no twists and turns, just a straightforward storyline filled with broad strokes to the end. This lack of specificity raised many questions. Apart from where recurring characters were, it also raised questions about what happened to all the characters they left behind, characters they called family, Jodi Mills (Kim Rhodes), Claire Novak (Katherine Newton), Sheriff Donna Hanscum (Briana Buckmaster), etc. Most importantly, what about the boy’s legacies? What happened after the Winchesters? Were they remembered, what did their many sacrifices mean? Audiences may never know.
Although the show’s farewell to their fans was far from perfect, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “Supernatural” drew 1.38 million viewers, and Cinemablend reported that, “Those numbers easily marked Supernatural’s largest-watched same-day audience in nearly two years.”
Regardless of its disappointment of an ending, Supernatural will remain one of the longest-running fantasy-series in American television history, and will live on in the memories of fans that loved the series, many of them trending #ThankYouSupernatural on Twitter. Thank you for 15 years of hard work from the cast and crew. Despite any criticisms of the show’s end, no one can take away its many accomplishments.
Author Bio: Yasmin Miranda is an Anteater TV intern for the 2020-21 academic year and is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Irvine.