Last night, Supernatural wrapped up a fifteen year run with one final episode. Some fans are elated—others, not so much.
Chuck said it best in Season 5: “Endings are hard.” After fifteen years on the air, the Supernatural finale had a lot of answers to give us. With the big bad defeated in the penultimate episode, Episode 20 is free to focus on the Winchester brothers and what the end means for each of them.
Like most big moments in the show, the Supernatural finale was highly contested among fans. Some are thrilled, others affronted. Some fans got to watch their dream ending, while others stared blankly at a story they didn’t recognize. So which is? Did Supernatural stick the landing? Or did they trip at the finish line?
There’s no “correct” answer. As fans, everyone’s relationship with the show is different. We all connect to different parts of the narrative, and we all walk away with something unique. I’m really happy for the people who closed the book with a smile. For me, the Supernatural finale wasn’t what I needed from the story. Here are just a few reasons why.
This is the biggest hot-button issue in the fandom right now. We always knew that it was a possibility. For years, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles have been talking in interviews about the way they wanted the show to end. One brother would sacrifice himself, and the other would keep on going. It would be sad—heartbreaking—but it would feel real, and it would feel right. And while I agree that it feels real, it doesn’t feel right to me.
In the Past
We got a glimpse of this ending back in Season 5, the original Supernatural finale before the show got renewed. Possessed by Lucifer, Sam gave up his life to save the planet. He made Dean promise not to bring him back, because this was what he wanted. Dean never really moved on, but he tried to live his life for Sam. He settled in with Lisa and Ben, and for one brief year, he got to be a civilian, a husband, and a father.
That was really groundbreaking for Dean. In the early years of Supernatural, Dean rejected normality entirely. He teased Sam for going to college, for wanting to settle down, even for trying to balance the two. Then in Season 3, we started to get a glimpse behind the curtain. In Dean’s dreams, we saw just how much he wanted to have a normal life. He missed the childhood that he could remember when he had both Mary and John. He wanted to barbecue and pick his son up from practice and live the life he didn’t get the chance to live
Lisa and Ben are Dean’s chance for that. But when Sam comes back from the Pit, he can’t turn his back on his family. For one season, he tries to juggle them both. But in the end, it only ends up hurting the people he loves. Lisa and Ben had their minds erased and were written off the show, in a move that I will still never forgive from the writers. Dean returns to hunting with the view that he’s not built for a civilian life. He’s too broken, too cursed, and the hunt is the only thing he’s good for.
The final season put a lot of work into Dean’s characterization. So much of the story revolved around Dean’s anger and his self-image. On all sides, he was surrounded by people calling him violent, dangerous, broken. Death goaded him by telling him that he was the embodiment of human chaos. God himself looked at Dean and told him that he was the ultimate killer. But in the end, Dean stared back at him and declared that wasn’t who he was at all.
A big part of this had to do with Castiel’s speech in Episode 18, which we’ll circle back to later. Ultimately, it’s about Dean finally accepting that he is a good person who deserves a full life. He doesn’t want to be hampered by anger or guilt. He wants to help people and enjoy his life, because he deserves it. In the first half of the Supernatural finale, we see him living up to that promise. He eats pie and counsels Sam, saying that living happily is the only thing they can do to honor the sacrifice of their friends. That scene was so fulfilling to watch as a long-time viewer.
And then Dean dies.
While I agree that hunting was the only way Dean was ever going to go out, I don’t think it was something we needed to see on the show. It was clear that neither of the Winchesters was going to give up hunting. Dean’s story has been a battle for him to find meaning in his life. And as soon as he feels comfortable living that life, it’s taken from him. After fifteen seasons of blood, sweat, and tears, Dean lived free of his trauma for a couple weeks before going out on the job.
I think the reason I’m so deeply disappointed is because, going into this episode, I really didn’t see this coming. They’d been telling me for years that one of the Winchesters would die in the finale. Yet somehow, I still felt like we’d grown past this. For me, the part of Dean’s psyche that was so completely at peace with dying on the job was tied to his self-loathing. He always touted that he would go out in a blaze of glory because for him, the fight was all he deserved.
What I wanted from the Supernatural finale was to see Dean getting a chance to live that life. It wouldn’t be perfect. He wouldn’t have the picket fence, he might not get married or have kids, and he would still be hunting. But at the very least, he would be out there enjoying life. He could watch Sam enjoy his life. And they would feel some peace in that life.
And I understand that Dean does feel at peace in Heaven. I understand narratively how important the new Heaven is to the story. But fast tracking Dean’s story to Heaven implies that the peace that he deserves could only be found in death. And for a huge portion of Supernatural’s fan base, that isn’t a message that sits well with me. Dean deserved to be at peace on Earth too, and I’m sad to see how briefly he achieved that.
Yes, I’m still talking about this. I’ve written thousands of words on the subject, and I’m still talking about this.
When I wrote my article about Destiel becoming canon, I hadn’t made a final decision how I felt about it. The internet had its jokes, but I thought the goodbye scene in Supernatural Season 15 Episode 18 was beautiful. I cried and yelled and cried some more, but it was clearly crafted with love and care. Misha and Jensen both acted their hearts out, and came up with the idea to have Castiel’s handprint on Dean’s shoulder as they were filming. It played into some dangerous stereotypes in queer media, but at the same time, I was excited.
I said then that I needed to see how the last two episodes handled the situation before I could make a real decision. And now that the show is over, I can say confidently that I’m not happy with the way things panned out.
As a Ship
I’ll admit to being one of the people that always felt really strongly about Destiel. I didn’t have any real hope for canon confirmation, or to see Cas and Dean together on screen. But their married couple bickering and their profound bond, and codependence that rivaled Sam and Dean’s, always felt like such a strong, interesting relationship to me.
It would have been nice to have concrete confirmation or rejection from Dean. But I didn’t tune into the Supernatural finale expecting to hear Dean say “I love you, too,” or have a big cinematic kiss. What I did expect was to see the continuation of that unspoken bond, to see that Dean still deeply cared for Cas in his own private way. And yeah, maybe seeing something of Cas’s in his room would have been a nice touch.
Again, the beginning of the episode nailed this for me. Dean’s argument that living freely and continuing to fight was his way of honoring Castiel made sense. (If you disagree, rewatch Season 12 Episode 12, when Castiel is dying from Michael’s spear and gives this exact speech.)
But after Dean goes to Heaven, things are a different matter. Bobby confirms that Castiel is also in Heaven, free of the Empty and running things in Jack’s stead. Dean smiles, warmed…and the conversation moves on. He doesn’t ask to see Castiel. No one suggests that Castiel will be along to visit. And at no point does Castiel make an appearance.
From what I’ve seen online, people have two reasons for this. Number one being COVID which, alright. I know that bringing people to set was tough. But I’ve also seen a lot of people saying that not having Castiel appear at all was the “safest” thing for the writers to do. The CW was unlikely to give us a proclamation of love from Dean. Dean just greeting Cas as if nothing had happened also would have been bad. So Dean’s private smile is the best they could’ve done.
I understand the dilemma to an extent. They wanted to leave things open ended. But I don’t think not including Castiel was the solution. Take a look at Season 15 Episode 9, “The Trap.” Dean apologizes to Castiel in prayer, and tries again when they’re reunited. Castiel just tells him that he doesn’t need to say anything, because he already knows.
That’s all I would have needed from the finale. Castiel and Dean to continue their silent, profound bond. Maybe Dean tries to say something, but Castiel stops him because he knows. Does he know that Dean feels the same? Does he know that Dean loves him, but just as a brother? Who’s to say? The fans get to decide for themselves.
Best friends or boyfriends, all I really wanted was to see my two favorite boys happy and safe. While I’m glad to hear that Castiel didn’t spend the rest of eternity in the Empty, I’m gutted that I didn’t get to see it. Which brings me to one last point.
As a Character
For years, Supernatural has proclaimed itself a show about two brothers. And it was, at least when it started. But when Castiel was introduced to the show, it changed the very chemistry of the story. Ignoring that is a disservice to the fans, to Misha Collins, and the writers and crew who helped make his story.
When I think about Castiel’s progression, I become absolutely rabid. Here is a character who was meant to be a supporting role, someone who appeared for one of two seasons and the disappeared or was killed off. And because of his chemistry with the cast, and the instant connection with fans, he stuck around for another ten years. In interviews, they call Castiel the third brother. In the show, he’s part of Team Free Will. Whatever you want to call it, he became a permanent part of the group.
Despite that, I was prepared to lose Castiel first. Misha had talked in interviews about how Cas would duck out before the end of the show, leaving the Winchesters to face the end on their own. But the show’s ending is about being reunited in paradise with the people you love most. And to not have Castiel there, after he gave so much to the Winchesters, and he was so important to them for the last 10 years, that was an awful feeling.
When Supernatural got low around Season 9, and I decided to stop watching, I always knew that I would come back. And I always said that the reason I wanted to finish the show is because I wanted to finish Castiel’s journey. His story of falling in love with humanity was by far one of my favorite parts of the show. I wish they’d paid more attention to him in the end.
The Women of Supernatural
Let’s face it: Supernatural was never known for its diversity. The life expectancy of women on this show is so short, it’s become a joke in and of itself. And I’ve gotten so used to it, that it took me a while to notice something.
There was one named female character in the Supernatural finale. And she died after two sentences.
Now, I know that COVID rained hell on the end of the show. I understand that while they wanted to bring back a bunch of the actors and have a montage that paid dues to the rest of the show. Maybe Dean was supposed to meet more people in Heaven. Maybe there were supposed to be more people at his funeral. One way or the other, that wasn’t allowed to happen.
But I simply cannot give them a pass for this one. There are so many other ways to pay respect to the other characters on the show that wouldn’t have required a visit to the set. I’m not going to sit here and name every woman that should have been in the finale. But I do want to make a few points.
Eileen was one of the many female hunters that was killed off over the years. She died off-screen, and wasn’t mentioned again for another year. So when she came back into play in Season 15, I was elated. I’ve always loved Eileen and her relationship with Sam. Having her successfully resurrected was one of the rare wins we got in the final season. I was so glad to have her for the few episodes she appeared.
I only had three wishes going into the finale. One of them was seeing Eileen again. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that. And maybe I wouldn’t be so upset about that, if Sam’s last sequence hadn’t been a montage of him settling down and having a kid. We get to meet Dean Jr. and watch him grow up. But at no point do we ever see Sam’s wife as more than a blur in the background.
First of all, I think that’s laughable. In the end, the show was really only about two brothers. They were so focused on the fact that Sam named his son after Dean, that the identity of the mother was irrelevant.
Second, even if Shoshannah Stern couldn’t make it back to set, there are so many other ways to address her relationship with Sam: We could pan past a wedding invitation with their names. We could photoshop their wedding photo. We could’ve included any candid taken from set that had her in it. Better yet, we could have seen Sam and Dean Jr. using sign language at the dinner table.
But the only pictures on the mantle are of the Winchesters. The only woman we see is Mary. No wife, no Eileen, not even Castiel or Jack. It would have been that simple.
Friends and Family
In a show that revolved around the topic of found family, it’s odd to have a finale that deals only with family. True, Bobby is the one that greets Dean in Heaven, his adoptive father. But there were so many other people that deserved a shout out in the Supernatural finale.
The easiest way would have been to have Bobby mention them. The only people he singles out are Rufus, his own best friend, John and Mary. Of course, it wouldn’t make for a great viewing experience to have Bobby sitting there rambling off names as he ticked them off on his fingers. But there were two names in particular that were right in our grasp.
I was thrilled, thrilled to see Bobby sitting in front of the Roadhouse. I recognized it even before the shot pulled back for the final reveal. It would have been so easy for Dean to jab a finger over his shoulder and ask if Ellen and Jo were inside, or Ash, who we’ve already seen in Roadhouse heaven. But they wanted to keep things simple. The Roadhouse itself was probably intended to be a nod of thanks to the Harvelles.
Another option I would’ve liked to see is Sam telling these stories to Dean Jr. Instead of that shot of him helping his son with his homework, maybe they’d flip through a scrapbook filled with pictures: Jodie and the girls, Garth and his family, the singed photo from “Abandon All Hope.” This also would’ve helped drive home the fact that Sam finally found balance between hunting and normality. It worked this time because he didn’t run from his past; he embraced it.
I know that some people were really happy with the Supernatural finale. And for those people, I’m glad they got their closure. For me, I fear this episode will always be a sore spot—a tangled mix between where the show really ended, and how the writers originally want to it end.
People love to say that Supernatural is a show about two brothers. But I think that quote from the creators pales in comparison to the quotes from the show. Most importantly: “Family don’t end in blood.” This monumental show spent so much time and effort on developing a wide network of diverse relationships. Leaving them out of the Supernatural finale doesn’t make any sense to me.
I know this is the ending that people have talked about since the beginning. In fact, I think that’s part of the problem. Having one brother die and the other live on, letting the two of them reunite in Heaven—that’s a story ending that we predicted long ago. Supernatural has grown and changes so much since then. And when the story takes a life of its own, you need to let go of the ending you thought you had planned, and write a new one that makes sense. After all, isn’t that was the last season of Supernatural was about?
For me, it can be boiled down as simply as this. In Supernatural Season 1, Sam saw himself settling down with a wife and kids, and Dean saw himself dying on the job. In Supernatural Season 15, we watch Sam settle down with a wife and kids, and Dean die on the job. I know that a journey isn’t about the destination, but the path you take to get there. But I’m also frustrated to see the Winchesters go through fifteen years of torture and trauma, only to end up in the same place and be at peace with it. Maybe that says more about me than them, but this is not the Supernatural finale that I needed.
There are people who disagree. And the most important thing to remember is that, at the end of the day, Supernatural is a TV show. It changed lives and saved lives, but it is fictional. So when you discuss your opinions with other fans, be kind. Having a show break your heart can hurt, but that’s no reason to hurt anyone else. Personally, I’m going to put on my writer hat and write ten seasons worth of fan fiction. But we all have different ways of coping.