It’s November 19 – a date that will always make my heart ache a little. For most people, it’s just another day, but for me it carries a significance that might seem silly to some, but has real emotional weight for me. It’s the day Supernatural ended. After 15 seasons, the show that changed my life aired its final episode, Carry On, on this date one year ago.
I sobbed my way through the second half of that episode, so violently I came close to making myself ill, and then smiled through my tears as Sam and Dean were finally reunited in Heaven and allowed to live happily ever after. As much as I was on the same page as Jensen Ackles with having a hard time just getting my head around the idea of Dean Winchester dying at all, once I did I was on board, as he was, with how the finale showed us his last moments and gave us an even deeper understanding of him than we’d had in the fifteen years before. I’ve had several conversations with Jensen about Dean’s ending and the finale episode (and one with Eric Kripke) over the past year or so, and my appreciation for Carry On has only grown as a result. None of us wanted to say goodbye to Dean Winchester – I sometimes think they are the only two people who love him more than I do, though I know some of you might quibble with that – but that ending felt true to the show that I love and to Kripke’s vision, and ultimately to Jensen’s understanding of Dean and Jared’s understanding of Sam.
I know some people don’t feel that way. Some of my closest friends don’t feel that way. I know it’s been a tough year for people who didn’t like the finale, or even hated it, and that anger and disappointment has fueled a year of infighting in the fandom that – improbably – sometimes seems worse than the infighting that went on when the show was actually on the air! I am tremendously grateful that it worked for me. I feel fortunate, because I care so much about this show, and if it didn’t it would hurt. A lot. So I have empathy for the people for whom it didn’t work, and I hope that one of these days that sense of loss and disappointment will ease and new passions can help people heal.
For me, the show ended reiterating the themes that came to characterize it over its entire run. The Winchesters finally had free will, thanks to their own determination and intellect (and help from Cas and Jack). We got to see them living what passes for a normal life as a Winchester, long enough that there were well established routines and rituals and time for pie fests and snuggles with Miracle, while also doing what gave their lives purpose and meaning: hunting.
The fact that the inherent danger of their profession caught up to them just made their heroism more powerful, to me. Every time they went out there, saving people and hunting things, they knew they could die. They knew there could be a bullet that found them or a monster that ripped them apart or an exposed rebar that a vampire could use to impale them. Every single time. And they did it anyway. That’s what makes them big fucking heroes. The fact that it stuck this time (forgive that choice of words) makes it glaringly obvious that the stakes were back to where they were when we started this journey. No deals with demons to bring them back, no pleading with Death, no playing with time. They were mortal, as vulnerable as all of us are.
And they went out there and did their jobs anyway.
I could have watched 300 hours of Winchester domestic life – that episode that Robbie Thompson always wanted to write and never got to – but I’m grateful for what we got. And as much as it was agonizing to watch Dean die and to watch Sam lose his brother, the raw genuineness those last minutes allowed felt like a gift. Dean got to say what he wanted to say, right out, defensiveness stripped away. All those times he covered up his feelings or struggled with vulnerability, we got to see how far he’d come, how open he could be. I love everything that Jensen and Jared added on that day, from the ‘yeah, there he is’ to the ‘always keep fighting’ to the callbacks to the pilot when they started this journey together so many years ago, both the characters and the actors. I know how much it meant to them and how proud they are of it.
I was teaching a graduate course in Grief and Loss most of last year, and I used the finale episode so many times, with its realistic depiction of grief and its hopeful message of being able to carry on. I’m also grateful that the show didn’t leave me there in the barn.
It’s a beautiful scene, one of the most emotional I’ve ever experienced, but it still makes me tear up every time I watch. Supernatural could have left us there, or ended with Sam having permission from his son that it’s okay for him to go now too. Instead we got to experience Sam and Dean’s reunion, Sam and Dean and Baby on that bridge, smiling. The scene didn’t need many words and it didn’t give us many. “Hey Sammy.” “Dean.” A call back, along with their close-to-the-pilot wardrobe. Saying each other’s names has always meant a lot more anyway.
I kept crying long after Bob Singer called that final “cut” and Jared and Jensen said goodbye to us, the fans, forever incorporating us into the story. Simply because the ending was an ending, and I don’t think I was ever going to be truly ready to say goodbye to this show. I was so worried, a year ago today, that the fandom would disappear. That everyone would find a new show to love and forget about this one, while I knew damn right well that I’d be sitting here one year later still madly in love with these characters and this show and missing them. I don’t do moving on very well when I’m this passionate about something. I worried that I’d be all alone here, marking the anniversary with a glass of wine and a rewatch and a box of tissues and wondering if I was the only one who remembered the significance of November 19.
Instead it has been a week of shared emotions and memories and beautiful tributes to Supernatural and its ending, social media timelines filled with art and meta and gifs and heartfelt posts about what the show has meant and still means to so many people. I’ve smiled over a million photos of Dean hugging Miracle and Sam kicking the washing machine. I’ve sobbed over every line of dialogue in the barn scene flowing over a screencap that has no right to be as gorgeous as it is. I’ve smiled reading fans’ imaginings of what Heaven is like for the Winchesters and what Sam and Dean are up to now. I’ve tripped down memory lane and all the best times with Sam and Dean and Cas (and Jared and Jensen and Misha) over the years. My timeline has been every bit as vibrant and alive this past week as when the show was on the air and on the covers of EW and TVGuide and everything in between.
I don’t know why I was so worried.
Supernatural has never been ordinary – it has always been extraordinary. It stayed on the air when the network didn’t support it, when viewership was tiny, when the WB went out of existence. It pulled people in from the tiny CW network, and then from Netflix, and TNT, and Hulu, and… It kept pulling people in year after year after year, word of mouth spreading the word organically and the talents of its cast and crew keeping people hooked. For most of the past year, it has remained in the top 10 streaming content despite being off the air. And more than all of that, what’s extraordinary about Supernatural is that the show has made a difference to countless people. When I decided to put together two books about how Supernatural had changed lives with Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, I wasn’t prepared for the powerful stories I’d receive – not only from fans but from the actors themselves. The show has changed us, and it has changed them. And that is extraordinary.
I don’t know what will happen a year from now. I don’t know if this will be the last big hurrah of a fandom that has survived a lot of ups and downs and a level of infighting that would have tanked a less determined group of people for sure. But here we are. Still loving this show and these characters. Still wanting to celebrate what it’s meant to all of us.
In their chapters of There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, Jared and Jensen both wrote about what they hope Supernatural’s – and the Winchesters’ – legacy will be. I reread both their chapters and a few others to remind me today that there is a legacy, and how proud these actors are of that and the characters they brought to life.
From Jensen’s chapter:
I think that the people who have found Supernatural and become part of the fandom and found each other through the show—the SPNFamily—are probably the legacy that we’re going to be proudest of… The show carries the message to always keep fighting for each other, and that has inspired the fandom to keep fighting too, whatever fight they are facing… We started out thinking we were making a horror show about monsters, but it became clear pretty quickly that’s not what made the show important. So many fans have told me that what is special is that it’s a show about two brothers who will do anything to fight for each other and to fight to save the world. Not in a way that people tell them to or according to what’s written in a book, but by making their own choices about what’s right and wrong and always trying to do what’s right. That’s the legacy of the show and that’s what has made a difference.
From Jared’s chapter:
I’m very proud of what we’ve done and of the story that we got to tell. Sam Winchester has inspired me, just like he’s inspired many fans… I think most of us, like Sam, probably do struggle to forgive ourselves sometimes. But I feel like Sam’s actions have been kind and sacrificial and loyal, and I have always wanted him to keep fighting—for his brother, for his family, to save people. I value that about him. The way the Winchesters have faced insurmountable odds inspires me and hopefully others to keep on working as hard as we can.
Jensen’s chapter had an important ending that will be a comfort to me every November 19th and all the days in between:
And let’s be clear. Supernatural will never end. The show might, but what it has built? This will never end. Besides, nothing ever stays dead on Supernatural.
Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Ackles.
Happy one year anniversary of wrapping up, Supernatural.
Here’s to celebrating many more.
You can read Jared and Jensen’s chapters
in both Family Don’t End With Blood and
There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done,
along with contributions from Misha and
many more – Links on home page or at: