Tuesday , 24 November 2020

The Road Comes to an End on Supernatural.

“Carry on, my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more”

For the past decade and a half, a battle has been waged by two brothers against the forces of evil right under our noses for the very soul of the world. Through extreme hardship and devastating loss, and with the help of various friends, foes and family along the way, the brothers have persevered, all for the sake of saving mankind. Whether mankind was worth saving came up for debate many times, but Sam and Dean Winchester certainly thought so, and it was that belief, that faith in the goodness of humanity, that kept them going when all others would have laid down their weapons and given up. But now, after fifteen seasons and 327 episodes, that journey has come to an end, and as we say goodbye for the last time, it’s only fitting that we show our much deserved appreciation and pay tribute to the long-running CW show, Supernatural.

On September 13, 2005, audiences were first introduced to the brothers Winchester, the headstrong Dean (Jensen Ackles) and the more studious, Sam (Jared Padalecki), hunters who tracked down and killed a variety of, well, supernatural creatures, from the more widely recognized vampires, werewolves and zombies to the less commonly known banshees, leviathans and wraiths. When Supernatural debuted on the former WB Network, genre favorites, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and offshoot, Angel, had recently finished their runs, and Smallville and Charmed were in the middle of theirs. As the WB morphed into the current CW Network, and became home to the DC Universe of Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl, one show carried on and survived against improbable odds, much like the Winchester brothers themselves in their war against the wicked. In fact, Supernatural has lasted even longer than the network that begat it! Just think about where you were fifteen years ago, where we all were. Barack Obama wouldn’t be President for several more years. The Cubs still hadn’t won a World Series in over 100 seasons. And the Marvel Cinematic Universe had yet to begin dominating movie screens. For those fans who began watching the show in their teens, they’re in their thirties now, while today’s younger viewers might not have even been born yet. Supernatural has become the longest running North American sci-fi, fantasy, horror show in history, surpassing the likes of the aforementioned Smallville and the iconic, The X-Files, a remarkable achievement and one that everyone associated with the show should be extremely proud of. And that includes a lot of people both in front of and behind the camera.

Supernatural was created by Eric Kripke, who remained showrunner for the first several seasons before moving on to develop the excellent NBC series, Revolution and Timeless, and is now behind the Amazon Prime vigilante superhero show, The Boys. Robert Singer, who has been with Supernatural since the beginning, has served as showrunner, along with Andrew Dabb, for the past several seasons, right up to the very end, with Dabb writing the final episode and Singer directing it. Jensen Ackles, who plays the burger-eating, beer-drinking, classic rock-loving, impulsive Dean, previously had a steady gig on NBC’s Days of Our Lives, and had runs on Dawson’s Creek and genre shows, Dark Angel and Smallville, before landing his monster hunting role on Supernatural. Jared Padalecki, the more reserved, measured, booksmart, Sam, had just finished several seasons playing a character, ironically enough, named Dean, on Gilmore Girls, and also co-starred in the horror remake, House of Wax. Both hailing from Texas, and sharing an affinity for the Cowboys (erghhh!) helped them form an instant bond, and that camaraderie and chemistry carried into the show and is the main reason it has been so successful for so long. However, Sam and Dean haven’t traversed the American highways and fought their many battles alone. They’ve had plenty of help along the way.

For most of the series’ first half of its run, Jim Beaver’s Bobby Singer (no doubt named after the show’s exec producer), an old family friend and fellow hunter, served as a trusted ally and father figure to the boys. His gruff, no-nonsense demeanor helped keep Sam and Dean, who he often called, ‘idjuts,’ in check. As often happens on the show, Bobby returned in later seasons, either in flashbacks, as a spirit, and most recently, as a counterpart from another universe. You see, on Supernatural, you never really die, unless you really do. One of the show’s longest recurring characters is Sheriff Jody (Kim Rhodes), an initial skeptic who quickly learns the world is full of monsters and is always willing to help the brothers at the drop of a hat. The beginning of season four introduced the angel, Castiel, played by Misha Collins, in one of the most magnificent debuts in TV history. His heavenly powers, contrasted with his naivety when it comes to humanly ways, have added to his charm and appeal, and those incredible powers have come in handy on numerous occasions over the years, as he has been their loyal sidekick right to the very end.

A big part of what makes the Winchester brothers who they are is the relationship they had, or didn’t have with their parents. Their dad (played by The Walking Dead‘s Jeffrey Dean Morgan) was a hunter who raised the kids on his own, and often left them on their own, after their mother was torched to death by a demon when Dean was just a few years old and Sam only a baby. Having lost their dad, John, too, at the beginning of season two, the boys’ memories of family have existed only in the rearview mirror. However, their mother, Mary (Samantha Smith), who we’ve only seen sporadically as a spirit, or in flashback, since her demise in the pilot episode, was resurrected in the season eleven finale, perhaps a television first in bringing back a character that we barely knew to begin with, after more than a decade. It was a stunning, surprising and emotional addition to the evolution of the show, and another example of how the producers were constantly finding new and exciting ways to keep the series fresh and dynamic.

Supernatural — “We Happy Few” — SN1122b_0012.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Misha Collins as Castiel, Ruth Connell as Rowena, Jared Padalecki as Sam, Mark Sheppard as Crowley and Jensen Ackles as Dean — Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Now, not all of Sam and Dean’s cohorts over the years have been beloved family members, friends or beloved angels. no, some have come from the very depths of hell itself. In season three, we had the demon, Ruby (played initially by Katie Cassidy and later by Genevieve Cortese (who later became Mrs. Padalecki)), who helped train Sam in killing the demon way. Season five introduced us to one of Supernatural‘s most memorable and longest running antagonists/allies, the demon, Crowley, played with wit and wile by Mark Sheppard. Oftentimes a frustrating adversary, like during the time he ruled Hell for a spell, Crowley would also become a contributive cohort when the situation could benefit both sides. The producers took the family theme even further when they brought on Crowley’s mother, the witch, Rowena (Ruth Connell) several seasons later. With her thick Scottish accent and mischievous demeanor, she was a colorful addition who was generally too a thorn in the brothers’ side before becoming a valuable associate.

While Supernatural has depicted incarnations of a number of biblical figures, from the archangels, Michael and Gabriel, to Eve and the first murderer, Cain, perhaps it has never been more audacious, and maybe even blasphemous, by showing God himself in earthly form. In season four we meet a nerdy novelist and prophet who goes by the name of Chuck. In season eleven, it is revealed (as fans had previously surmised) that Chuck was indeed the Great Almighty. At first, Chuck/God seems relatively harmless enough, for an all powerful being who created the universe. But during this final season, Chuck is shown to be a total dick, a grade A a-hole who has been writing the Winchesters’ story this entire time, manipulating them solely for his own amusement. Oh, and he’s become intent on destroying every world he’s created, including our own Home Sweet Earth. Seriously, what other show (other than maybe Rick & Morty) would have the balls to not only portray God, but paint him as the ultimate evil? Furthering the family bonds, as Supernatural is wont to do, in season eleven, we meet God’s sister, Amara, aka, the Darkness to his supposed Light. Yes, you read that right, God has a sister, portrayed with beauty and splendor by Emily Swallow. It was just another of Supernatural‘s masterful developments by the writers and producers.

Supernatural — “Exodus” — Image Number: SN1322a_0009b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Alexander Calvert as Jack and Mark Pellegrino as Lucifer — Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC All Rights Reserved

Of course, you couldn’t have God without his unchosen one, the fallen angel, Lucifer, who we first meet in season five, and has been appropriately played with menace and might by Mark Pellegrino. In a role that can be hell to play, Pellegrino’s Satan, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub – he goes by so many names – is in a league with some of the best to ever play the pariah – Tim Curry in Legend, Robert DeNiro in Angel Heart, Ray Wise in the short-lived, Reaper, John Glover in the even shorter-lived, Brimstone, and Tom Ellis as the titular, Lucifer, formerly on Fox and currently on Netflix. And, lo and behold, in season thirteen, Lucifer has a son, not Damien, mind you, but, wouldn’t you know, Jack, played with innocent charm by Alexander Calvert. Jack is a ticking time bomb as he comes to understand and control his powers, causing the brothers immeasurable heartache, but ultimately becoming their most important ally in defeating God. Yes, only in the world of Supernatural would the son of Satan be the one to take down God and it be a good thing.

“Red Sky at Morning”– stars in SUPERNATURAL on The CW. Photo Sergei Bachlakov /The CW © 2007 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

While those are most of the key characters we’ve come across over the fifteen seasons of Supernatural, there have been numerous others to come in and out of the Winchesters’ lives over the years. Before her longstanding role as Maggie on The Walking Dead, and even before her turns on The Vampire Diaries and Chuck, Lauren Cohan played a recurring role as the conniving thief Bela in season three. Kathryn Newton, currently starring in the horror comedy, Freaky, which was just welcomed into theaters, portrayed Claire Novak, the daughter of the vessel who Castiel possessed (long story – Castiel, being a celestial being, needed a human vessel to take earthly form. OK, not that long of a story.) She too became a hunter who aided Sam and Dean along the way. Sterling K. Brown, presently in his Emmy-winning role on NBC’s This Is Us, was a vampire hunter in several episodes in earlier seasons of Supernatural. Felicia Day, a fan favorite in the genre, has shown up a number of times throughout the course of the show, as hacker-turned-hunter, Charlie. And, most of all, the powerful presence of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s John Winchester has loomed over the show since its inception. Those are just a few, and for the most part, they become better known later in their careers for other roles. Supernatural has never relied on big name guest stars. It’s always been about the brothers, Sam and Dean, and their immediate family, friends and foes. That’s always been the heart and soul of the show, and it’s why it’s been so successful and lasted for so long.

Supernatural — “Lebanon” — Image Number: SN1413d_BTS_0372bc.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Jensen Ackles as Dean, Jared Padalecki as Sam, Samantha Smith as Mary Winchester and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as John Winchester — Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

When the show debuted in 2005, if you were a high school student then, now you’d be in your thirties, an adult with grown up things to deal with, like a job, a spouse and children. Just like the show’s stars, Jensen and Jared, who began Supernatural in their twenties and are now married with children, yet still remain the closest of friends. This show has meant so much to so many. No doubt it will be highly emotional when that final credit comes up. We would’ve originally had this last episode back in May, but thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, our last goodbye has been staved off for several months, possibly the only positive thing to come out of the virus. So now as the series comes to its conclusion, we can look back at all the fantastic episodes and appreciate just how special and monumental it all has been. (Check out an earlier Gore 4 look at Supernatural.) The show truly broke new ground, with many an entertaining and emotional episode along the way, from the high school musical based on the brothers’ lives, to an entire episode shown from the perspective of Dean’s beloved ’67 Chevrolet Impala. Like The X-Files before it, the show seamlessly balanced itself with stand-alone, monster-of-the week episodes in conjunction with its ongoing mythology or whatever that season’s particular threat was.

In perhaps a bit of a surprise, the denouement of the big battle with God was reached in the penultimate chapter of the show, with our heroes alive and intact and even healed from their most recent wounds, though many scars still remain. Fans have always wondered how the Winchester brothers would go out. Would it be a one last stand, ala Butch and Sundance? Or possibly a more open-ended, against all odds, ongoing battle with monsters, as in the final moments of Angel? The white picket fence, apple pie ending they probably deserve is also probably not in the cards for them. Maybe they’ll just hit the road and ride off into the sunset, like a good, old-fashioned Western.

In that sense, Supernatural has truly been the great American show, from the Winchesters’ base in Lebanon, Kansas, the geographical center of the country, to their love of beer, rock and roll and the open road. It encompasses that American spirit of continuing to get up no matter how many times you’ve been knocked down, never more evident then in the brothers’ final confrontation with God. But it’s not just about physical durability and stamina. As Castiel explains to Dean, “You are the most caring man on Earth, you are the most selfless, loving human being I will ever know.” It is that combination of strength and determination to keep fighting the good fight, and the love and compassion we have for one another that represents the best of us. It is only by encompassing those values that we can come together and take on everything from worldwide pandemics to climate change or any other threat that comes our way.

So, farewell, Sam and Dean Winchester and Supernatural. Thanks for never giving up on us. We promise to keep on fighting.

“Now your life’s no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you
Carry on, my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry, don’t you cry no more”

— written by Brian de Castro

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