Supernatural Series Finale: How to Wrap Up 15 Years of Story

It ain't easy wrapping up 15 years of storytelling. How did Supernatural do with its ending?

Sam Stares Off into the Distance in the Supernatural Series Finale
Photo: The CW

This Supernatural article contains MAJOR spoilers for the series finale. Obviously.

It’s hard to believe it, but Supernatural has come to an end. We had our theories about what might happen in the 15-season show’s ender, but Supernatural kept us guessing right until its final moments. “Carry On” is essentially a forty-minute epilogue to tie up loose ends after the definitive battle against God. It serves its purpose of bringing the series full circle to its humble beginnings: Sam gets his normal life. Dean goes out as a hunter. They reunite to keep riding that road together… in heaven. If you are having trouble (emotionally) processing everything that went down in the series’ final hour or you’re just not ready to let go of this show yet, here’s an explainer of everything that went down in the Winchesters’ final ride…

Ad – content continues below

The Supernatural Series Finale Calls Back to the Beginning

Interestingly, the Supernatural ending episode plot centers around a normal hunt: a gang of kidnapping, masked vampires that Daddy Winchester had investigated years ago. There’s something poignant in being bested by a classic villain mentioned in Dad’s journal, something they often referenced in the early seasons. (Not to mention that Season 1’s Jenny is part of the group.) Things don’t play by the same rules though because Team Free Will were victorious against Chuck’s plans. There’s no more “get out of jail free” cards, no more divine intervention or “I’m Batman!” lucky pen throws. This is real, and for the first time in a long time, death is final. But it’s not the end.

There are so many references to the early days in this episode, including details like the zippo lighter Sam uses at the hunter funeral, to Harvelle’s Roadhouse making an appearance at the end. There’s a grudging lack of Ellen, Jo, and Ash, but that was a recurring issue with many guest characters who could have made a cameo.

Ad – content continues below

Who Returns for the Supernatural Series Finale?

Many beloved characters were missing from this ending, from the aforementioned Harvelles to Mary and John Winchester to Castiel and Jack. This could be for a number of reasons. In interviews, showrunner Andrew Dabb explained that COVID lead to some changes in production. From these interviews we can ascertain that more people would have been involved with the finale, but in order to keep episodes tight and more COVID-restriction compliant, some of these other character appearances probably had to be sacrificed. In any case, it’s good that Bobby made the cut. He was more of an emotional attachment for fans, and had way more screentime than John while acting as the defacto father figure for years. 

Dean Dies in the Supernatural Series Finale

No matter what, everyone can’t be happy with an ending to such a long running show. One major contentious point is Dean’s death. The main character is fatally stabbed during a fight with the aforementioned vampires, pushed against a wooden post and impaled by a metal rod. Before he goes, Dean says goodbye to his brother, saying: “Hey, I’m not leaving you. I’m gonna be with you. Right here. Every day. Every day you’re out there and living and you’re fighting—because you always keep fighting, you hear me? I’ll be there. Every step.”

Ad – content continues below

But Dean’s story doesn’t end with death. We see him arrive in heaven, and reunited with Bobby. This heaven is a place where with “everyone happy, everyone together.” For Dean, it also includes Harvelle’s Roadhouse and Baby. Dean’s parents and Rufus live nearby and, as Bobby tells Dean: “It ain’t just heaven, Dean. It’s the heaven you deserve.”

Driver Picks the Music

One of the most famous music riffs in the series is what I’ve always dubbed the “sad Supernatural theme” which is really called “Americana.” The theme is usually played slow, in piano, underpinning the most heart wrenching scenes at the biggest moment of loss. Obviously it’s used to its tear-jerking potential over Dean’s final words to Sam, but the theme resurfaces, changing its meaning. For Sam and Dean’s final embrace of the episode on that bridge, “Americana” is played via electric guitar, in a more upbeat, uplifting tone. The theme has become triumphant, and indicative of a job well done for these weary hunters.

Ad – content continues below

One can’t talk Supernatural music without rejoicing in the liberal use of Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son” for the ending scenes. This song has always resonated strongly with fans, from its initial use in the season one finale Salvation to its subsequent appearance in every season finale since. Not only does the musical group share the name of the state the boys hail from, the lyrics in this progressive rock masterwork always seemed to perfectly line up with the story Supernatural was telling. 

The lyrics “On a stormy sea of moving emotion/Tossed about, I’m like a ship on the ocean/I set a course for winds of fortune” easily translates to the boys’ eternal fight against their supposed destiny. The line “Surely Heaven waits for you” is a promise fulfilled. 

Ad – content continues below

From their biggest tragedies to the hopeful optimism that would finally be peace when they were done, this song meant more than a tune you could tap a toe to. It was the musical embodiment of the heart of this show.

Metallicar

You couldn’t have Supernatural without the other main character since the pilot — Baby the Impala. Both Sam and Dean have plenty of scenes with the car when they are separated by Death, but a fun nod to the fans is in the details. 

Ad – content continues below

In Heaven, Dean drives the original version of the Impala, with the Kansas KAZ 2Y5 plate. Sam drives the Impala with the new Ohio license plate CNK80Q3. The plate had changed in the show after the Winchesters were arrested in Folsom Prison Blues at the end of Season Two. What had been a way for the boys to evade the law became a neat bit of trivia the fans have stored away all this time. 

“This is Dean’s Other Other Phone”

Dean tells Sam to “Always Keep Fighting” which rings so true because it’s the name of Jared Padalecki’s real life charity T-shirt campaign, the proceeds of which went to programs dedicated to mental health, including To Write Love on Her Arms and The Wounded Warrior Project. In a way, Dean is also telling the fans to keep fighting, to not despair at the end. 

Ad – content continues below

Sam is obviously in a funk after all this takes place, going through the motions in a haze, tearfully petting Miracle while feeling the emptiness of the bunker. It’s when Dean’s phone — his other other phone — rings that he’s put back on his path to keep fighting. A werewolf attack in Austin, Texas — notably the city that Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles both live in real life. 

The “other other” phone has only really been on the show as a voicemail recording Sam gets when all other contact options have been exhausted, and Dean must be in trouble. The fact that we finally see the phone in this episode, and it’s Sam that answers? It’s showing that Sam is the one to carry on. 

Ad – content continues below

Sam Has a Family

You can be a “Sam girl” or a “Dean girl” (or guy) but there’s a reason Sam was the surviving brother. Sam had to “carry on” because he was the one who could. When Dean went to Hell all those years ago, or even in the episode when the Trickster had him die over and over, finally leaving Sam to wander on his own for some time, Sam’s had a lot of experience being the one left behind. He learned to carry on from these experiences, as hard as it must be. Sam completes his own character arc, effectively picking back up where he left off and having a family with some out-of-focus-in-the-background wife.

Sam Joins Dean in Heaven

Years later, after living a long life, Sam dies and joins his brother in heaven. Here, the end mirrors the beginning. In the pilot, Dean picks Sam up from school in order to find Dad, thereby starting their 15-year journey. In Heaven, Sam ends up joining Dean again and they both happen to be wearing the same clothes as in the pilot: Sam, a tan jacket over blue t-shirt and Dean, a dark jacket over a red plaid shirt. 

Ad – content continues below

They reunite on a bridge. One of the most pivotal moments of the pilot episode was when they saw the Woman in White on the bridge. This time, it’s a brightly lit sunny day, but a bridge between the pilot and finale seems oh so perfect.

Heaven was self-contained before Jack “made things right.” Simply a rehash of your greatest memories playing over and over, yet so singularly lonely since everyone had their own version of Heaven. As Sam joins his brother, you get the sense that they’ve done their work and things are truly, finally, at peace. 

Ad – content continues below

Was the Supernatural Series Finale Good?

It ain’t easy wrapping up a popular series after fifteen years. Not everyone will be happy, but the finale did find a way to pay homage to the beginning while bringing it all to a bittersweet end. In a sigh of relief, the show exemplifies that there really is peace to strive for after all. No matter the end, fans have fifteen years of show to look back on, meta episodes to laugh at, monsters to creep you out, and enough chick flick moments to make Dean blush. There’s a lot to love there, and at the core of it all is family. And family don’t end with blood.