After 15 long years of battling everything from cannibals to gods, Sam and Dean Winchester finally reached the end of the journey in the denouement of ‘Supernatural’. When a full-length series comes to an end, you can’t hope to produce an ending that will please everyone.
The series ended with Dean (Jensen Ackles) dying during a vampire fight, leaving Sam (Jared Padalecki) growing old with an out-of-picture wife and son until they were reunited in heaven.
The two brothers who end up in heaven, along with Bobby (Jim Beaver), is not the part of the ending that fans have taken offense to. Rather, they are furious with the way the show, after making great strides to be more inclusive and progressive, scrapped that from its cast at the last minute, including all women, people of color, and perhaps most egregious. , love interest Eileen (Shoshannah Stern) and queer angel Castiel (Misha Collins).
‘Supernatural’ started in 2005 as a stereotypically ‘manly’ show. The boys wore a lot of flannel, a lot of guns, they fucked a lot of girls and they drove the sexiest car on television. The first seasons of the show featured homophobic slurs, very few people of color and female characters who were mothers or whores, and who usually died fairly quickly.
But 15 years is a long time, and as the show developed its mission of “family doesn’t end in blood,” new characters began to appear, starting with Castiel, the fan-favorite in season four.
It was a tough road for the show and they made mistakes. They received justified criticism for killing the brave lesbian hacker Charlie (Felicia Day) and the lovable prophet Kevin (Osric Chau), both popular characters and representatives of minorities. The producers seemed to accept the criticism, and the show consistently built a roster of great female characters, as well as featuring more LGBTQ + characters. The show also began to add more and more hints that Dean’s relationship with his best friend Castiel might not be platonic after all. That, however, was seen primarily as queerbaiting, something else the show has definitely been guilty of.
Going into the final episodes of season 15, there was a real sense that the series was poised to correct the mistakes of its past and transform into something that better reflected its own fan base and the world in which it was being created. The villain of the season was God Himself, or ‘Chuck’ (Rob Benedict), the author of all the Winchesters’ misfortunes, allowing the writers to directly criticize some of the show’s earlier failures.
Sam’s latest love interest as a deaf woman was revolutionary for the American television network, but all eyes were on ‘Destiel’. Season 15 was riddled with painful breakup scenes and tearful prayers of apology, all while Castiel’s feelings, at least, were becoming more apparent.
In episode 18, Castiel declared his love in a gesture of self-sacrifice to save Dean, before being immediately dragged to hell in an especially blatant example of the ‘bury your gays’ cliché. But that wasn’t the only death in episode 18: Eileen, Charlie from the alternate universe, and his new black girlfriend were also killed (And the rest of the planet, but all those characters were explicitly killed).
With two episodes to go, fans were expecting a massive resurrection, which in a way is what they got. Jack, the new God (Alexander Calvert), restored the world. But many character destinies were left hanging: Did Charlie return to his original dimension, or is he still with Sam and Dean?
What about Eileen, who had previously been illegally resurrected? Did he end up in hell again? What about Kevin, who was last seen roaming Earth as an untethered spirit, doomed to go insane? And where the hell was Cas?
The ending didn’t answer any of those questions, nor did we get to see any of Sam and Dean’s found families, other than Bobby. Hunter Donna (Briana Buckmaster) was mentioned, and Bobby told Dean that Jack saved Castiel from Limbo. But we didn’t see Castiel or Jack, nor did we get to see Dean’s response to Castiel’s declaration of love.
Dean didn’t give Cas a resounding no, and in the world of ‘Supernatural’ that amount of sexual ambiguity is apparently enough to impale you on a steel bar and unceremoniously bury you (or burn you, in this case).
The producers were happy to use Castiel’s “declaration of homosexual love” (as Collins called it) to build excitement and boost viewership numbers in the end, but they refused to address it in any meaningful way. We return to queerbaiting at the last minute.
We also don’t get an answer on whether or not Sam broke up with Eileen. His wife, blurred in the background, could have been Eileen, but Shoshannah Stern wasn’t in the episode so we can’t be sure.
Over the course of 15 years, ‘Supernatural’ had evolved for the better. The main characters and their supporting cast were richer and more diverse (although the show never fixed their racial problem). But after years of telling us how important found family is, the show redoubled the blood bond between the siblings, to the exclusion of everything else from the stunning female ensemble to the show’s third main character.
‘Supernatural’ had a chance to end on a note of celebration, knowing that God’s last villain was defeated. They had the opportunity to send a message that choosing to be who you are and surround yourself with the family of your choice and find the power in that is a beautiful thing. Instead, he went back to the old, outdated era of the show, leaving us with two dissatisfied and codependent brothers. But hey, at least they have a dog at the end, right?