Second Take: ‘Supernatural’ leaves its mark on TV culture, coming to an end after 15 years
Misha Collins (left), Jensen Ackles (middle) and Jared Padalecki (right) frequently attended San Diego Comic-Con to promote their show “Supernatural,” which has been running on The CW for 15 years. The final season of the show will premiere Thursday. (Creative Commons photo by vagueonthehow via Flickr)
By Paige Hua
Oct. 7, 2019 10:35 p.m.
The Winchester brothers will finally be able to lay their weary heads to rest as “Supernatural” comes to an end with its 15th season.
With the first episode of its final season premiering Thursday on The CW, “Supernatural” marks the conclusion of another cultural phenomenon in 2019. From the conclusion of “Game of Thrones” to Marvel’s turning page in “Avengers: Endgame,” the fan culture is shifting in response to the end of multiple popular franchises.
“Supernatural,” which premiered in September 2005, grew from a cult favorite into a show that changed the way television interacts with its fanbase and popular culture. It is the No. 1 show on FanFiction.net with around 125,000 pieces composed about the Winchester brothers, while searches for a ’67 Chevrolet Impala have skyrocketed in recent years. Thousands of fans have also created and attended “Supernatural” conventions across the globe, which were built exclusively on the “Supernatural” fanbase – taking on a life of its own outside the typical Comic-Con location.
With the show’s hype leading to conventions and meet-and-greets, fan interaction became just as important as the weekly episodes. And fans didn’t just fall in love with the Winchester brothers, they fell in love with the actors who play them as well, supporting their outside endeavors and charities.
From episodes that broke the fourth wall to elaborate musicals, “Supernatural” has kept fans on their feet despite its 15-year time on the air, never falling to repetitive storylines. In fact, “Supernatural” is known to play off other references to popular culture as special episodes, for example, are set in Japanese game shows, act as parodies of “Grey’s Anatomy” and even cross over into the universe of “Scooby-Doo.” These stand-alone episodes bring the fanbase together, as fans old and new can enjoy plotlines that exist outside the season’s main mystery.
Not many television shows on the air or currently streaming can boast the same success. Even “Grey’s Anatomy” – arguably the main competitor of
“Supernatural” in terms of longevity and fanbase – has still yet to fill Hall H at Comic-Con as its contender has in the past.
In the wake of “Supernatural” and other fan-favorite series coming to a close, some fans have looked to “Stranger Things” or “Riverdale” to carry the torch of fandom obsession. And yet, the fan-following for these shows have remained small, targeting a specific teen demographic that has yet to age with the series. Meanwhile, “Supernatural” manages to satisfy preteen and adult audiences alike as its fanbase has grown with the show, with some fans considering it a generational treasure: something to be passed down from parent to child.
Despite differences in fan followings, “Supernatural,” “Stranger Things” and “Riverdale” have a common thematic line connecting them. All three shows rely heavily on supernatural elements combined with an overall mystery that acts as the throughline for the season and series. However, “Supernatural” carries one core difference that can likely speak for its syndication: the monster-of-the-week formula.
From wendigos to banshees to skinwalkers, each weekly episode featured fresh content as the Winchester brothers hunted down a new monster that possessed previously unexplored mythology. This formula created endless possibilities for the show to explore – enough for 15 seasons. It was these weekly episodes that hooked audiences in and established a consistently dark and gritty, yet realistic world viewers can return to.
And with a fan base that has tuned in week after week, offering feedback after every episode, “Supernatural” has had that guidance for 15 years that invariably allows it to take the show in a direction desired by not only the network but the fans. Therefore, even the choice to end the show distinguishes “Supernatural” from the current ever-widening pool of shows, because it will not continue for the sake of continuing like “Grey’s Anatomy,” beating storylines to death. It will end on its own terms, providing the Winchester brothers rest from the road so far.
That’s what makes the upcoming series finale of “Supernatural” so much more impactful. The show, which could easily continue for decades more, is choosing instead to give fans an ending that might resonate for a lifetime.
But while the Winchester brothers can finally rest, fans will have to look for another show that might inspire the same loyalty and dedication “Supernatural” has for a decade and a half.