This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
This article contains major spoilers for Supernatural.
Supernatural creator Eric Kripke had planned on a five-year run for his show. Ratings were always decent but not sky-high and at times it looked like they wouldn’t make it. But the series kept on going, and although season three was shortened by a writers’ strike, it made it to its season five finale, a grand, climactic send-off for the show that wrapped up all of its on-going storylines and sent our heroes off to their eternal fate.
And then – it kept going.
There have been times when Supernatural seemed to be the televisual equivalent of the undead monsters it features, a series that couldn’t die. But not only is Supernatural the longest continuously running US SFF TV show in history (only beaten in the UK by Classic Doctor Who), it has had the same core cast of two people, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, for that entire time. Third and fourth regulars have come and come and gone, and Misha Collins’ Castiel is now almost as much a part of the core cast as the other two, but these poor guys have been chasing monsters around the United States for fifteen years now, and all concerned have decided it’s time to lay it, finally, to rest.
The show has a loyal fanbase who’ve continued to watch through thick and thin, but there are also a fair few who drifted away after the Kripke years, but might be interested in returning to see Sam and Dean meet some kind of final ending once and for all. So, if you stopped watching with the obviously-named “Swan Song” ten years ago, what have you missed?
We met God. And His whole family. And then He had a massive fit.
“Swan Song” had implied that Chuck, the writer of the Supernatural books and apparent prophet, was God, but after that we didn’t see him for a long time. He turned up briefly in a cameo as a benevolent overseer in the 200th episode “Fan Fiction,” still somewhat mysteriously. He was eventually forced out into the open when Sam and Dean released The Darkness, a.k.a. His sister, in their latest attempt to keep both of them alive. For a while, this led to good things – our heroes finally benefitted from an honest-to-Chuck miracle, and as a reward for all their good work, sister Amara even brought Mary Winchester back to life to cheer Dean up.
But then, right at the end of the 14th season, it all went sour. It was revealed that Chuck had never been a benevolent God after all, but rather was using Sam, Dean and everyone else as a form of entertainment. When they refused to play according to His rules, it led to an almighty falling out that culminated with God killing the Winchesters’ foster son Jack, Sam trying to kill God, and God plunging the whole world into darkness and chaos in a fit of pique, allowing all the monsters our heroes have defeated since the beginning of the series to rise back up out of Hell (or Purgatory, or wherever). And that’s where we start Supernatural season 15…
Mary Winchester came back. Then John Winchester came back. Then John died again. Then Mary died again.
Mary Winchester, resurrected, was supposed to be a reward of sorts for Dean and to make him happy. Of course, things are never that simple. For one thing, women do not always take kindly to being presented as rewards to men, even their own sons. Mary was pleased to get to know her adult children, but she’d missed 30 years of not just their growing and developing, but of world news, technological developments, social change and so on and felt lost in a new world. Also, the show didn’t have the money to pay Samantha Smith to be in every episode, so she had to keep going away and coming back again.
For the series’ 300th episode, Dean got another of his wishes granted and John Winchester was briefly pulled forward in time to join them all. The Winchesters got the chance to spend one evening as a family but, of course, John’s presence in their timeline erases a certain amount of world-saving in his own and he has to go back. And then, at the end of season 14, Mary was killed by surrogate Winchester Jack (Lucifer’s son) in moment of rage. So she and John are back together in Heaven and Sam and Dean are alone again, apart from Castiel (Jack’s dead now too, unsurprisingly).
Then he was a ghost. Then he went to Hell. Then he went to Heaven. Then he ticked off some angels. Then Bobby from a parallel universe came to live in our universe and shacked up with Mary for a while.
Supernatural has always been a bit too trigger-happy and willing to kill off important and beloved characters. If you stopped watching at the end of season five, you’ve never even met Kevin Tran (both versions now deceased), Charlie Bradbury (our world version now deceased), Balthazar (killed by Castiel during a temporary descent into villainy), or Benny (no vampire can come between Dean and Sam).
But in season seven, the series got really carried away and killed off both Castiel and Bobby. Castiel got better about six months later, but after a brief spell as a vengeful ghost, Bobby has stayed determinedly dead ever since. Thankfully, they’ve still found a way to get Jim Beaver into every season since – as a spirit in Hell, an hallucination, a spirit in Heaven, a flashback, and eventually as an alternate Bobby Singer from another dimension.
Sam and Dean are Men of Letters…
…which means they’ve inherited an awesome bunker complete with a dungeon for keeping captive demons. Also there’s a British version that’s basically the Watchers’ Council from the Buffyverse.
Supernatural has gone through a few different phases under three different showrunners since Eric Kripke left (Sera Gamble, Jeremy Carver, and Andrew Dabb). Various themes, concepts and villains have come and gone – we’ve seen the introductions of the Leviathan (monsters from Purgatory), the Mark of Cain, Cain himself, and Amara the Darkness; we’ve seen Heaven fall and Death killed (by Dean). But by far the most enduring, and probably the most popular development has been the introduction of the Men of Letters bunker.
The bunker has changed the nature of the show at a fundamental level. Although it was carefully placed in Kansas, as close to the middle of the United States as possible, so that our heroes can still drive out to investigate mysterious deaths all over the country, the bunker has given Sam and Dean a home. The series is no longer an endless road trip. Not only do the boys have bedrooms and a kitchen, they have all the resources of the Men of Letters, which can be expanded as the plot demands and which include a library, a garage and a dungeon.
The Men of Letters themselves are essentially upper-class hunters. They look down on hunters and they put a lot of emphasis on research and learning, but at the end of the day they hunt monsters just like hunters do (or they pay hunters to do it for them). The British Men of Letters, naturally, are the same but even more snobbish.
Gabriel came back. And then he was killed again.
After a brief tease in season nine, Gabriel was finally, finally brought back in season 13. No one had any problem with the idea that the Trickster angel had faked his death and everyone was delighted to see him back.
So naturally, he was killed again nine episodes later.
In addition to Gabriel, Bobby, and Death, Seasons six-14 have also killed off other long-term recurring characters from earlier seasons including Meg Masters (host and demon together – she joined our heroes before she died), Rufus Turner, Raphael, Tommy Collins (a Wendigo survivor), Sarah Blake (an art dealer and ghost attack survivor), Crowley, and Lucifer. An alternate universe version of Michael has been killed, but not the original.
There are still a handful of new and returning recurring characters who haven’t yet been killed off.
Sheriff Jody Mills (of Sioux Falls, South Dakota) and Castiel’s host’s daughter Claire Novak both made one-off appearances during the first five seasons and have since become recurring characters, with the former adopting the latter as well as a former vampire victim and a psychic (the granddaughter of Missouri Moseley – she’s dead too). Jody sometimes hunts with Sheriff Donna Hanscomb (of Hibbing, Minnesota). So far, the urge to kill them off has been resisted, partly because it was hoped they would star in a spin-off called Wayward Sisters. Unfortunately the spin-off wasn’t picked up, so with this being the final season, expect them all to die horribly at some point soon.
The Afterlife has been expanded.
Seasons one-five stuck to just two afterlife possibilities – a remarkably depressing version of Heaven in which most people are isolated unless they happen to have a “soulmate,” and Hell, which was pretty traditional hellfire and torture. Both have been shown as rather more bureaucratic in later seasons. Heaven has acquired white offices full of grey-suited angels, while Hell at one point had been changed to one giant queue, and has more recently appeared as rather dingy dungeons. Meanwhile, the death of Death resulted in Reaper Billie being promoted to the position after her Reaper form was killed by Castiel.
Seasons six-14 have introduced some more areas of the Afterlife besides the most common two, intended for other beings. Monsters go to Purgatory, which is a sort of washed-out woodland where they chase each other down forever (what happens if you’re killed in Purgatory is unclear). Angels and Nephilim go to the Empty, from which there is supposedly no return. Except for Castiel, of course. Team Free Will’s foster son Jack, a Nephilim turned human turned soulless Nephilim, is currently in The Empty after he was personally killed by God, but Billie wants to talk to him, implying he may not stay there for long.
Love interests have been few and far between.
The first five seasons offered a few significant love interests for both boys, most memorably Sam and Jessica, Sam and Ruby, Dean and Jo, Dean and Anna, and Dean and Bela. We’re certainly not implying they’ve been living like monks throughout seasons six-14, as both have had a few encounters, and in some cases the woman even survived the episode.
Really significant love interests, however, have become increasingly rare. Sam’s insufferably dull relationship with Amelia (a vet) in season eight is the last major love interest he had, while Dean was pursued by God’s sister Amara in season 11. Castiel lost his virginity (at several thousand years old) but has lacked long-term significant love interests. It’s Mary Winchester who’s had the most action in later seasons, having relationships with both British Man of Letters Arthur Ketch and the alternate universe Bobby.
Other Things You’ve Missed
Dean, Sam, and Castiel have all died and been brought back several more times.
Adam is still in the Cage with the original Michael.
There you go, you’re all caught up! Onwards to see if our heroes get their chance to ride off into a heavenly sunset…
Supernatural returns to The CW on Oct. 10, 2019.