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Found Family, Free Will, and How the Supernatural Finale Disappointed Everyone

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“Freedom is a length of rope. God wants you to hang yourself with it.” – Castiel, Supernatural S6E20 “The Man Who Would Be King”

Content Warning: frequent usage of the word “queer” and mentions of suicide.


On November 19th, some two million people around the world sat down to watch the final episode of the CW’s Supernatural, my favorite 15-season long, pseudo-religious horror-fantasy soap opera. Fans were excited to see our beloved characters one last time, waiting for the final loose threads to be tied off, and anticipating a complete, if bittersweet, ending to the show.

Instead, I’m here, trying desperately to figure out what went wrong.

The final season has been fairly well reviewed, particularly by fans, who were delighted by the meta-narrative of the season’s villain—the returning character of God (or “Chuck”, played by Rob Benedict), as a sort-of stand-in for the writers in a metaphor about free will. It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the characters as they fight to write their own story and find meaning.

The penultimate episode, “Inherit the Earth,” followed the Winchesters finally defeating Chuck and giving the power of God to Jack (Alexander Calvert), their adopted son. It was a fitting end to the Season 15 arc that would now allow the series finale, “Carry On,” to say a thorough, fulfilling goodbye to Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) without the threat of an apocalypse hanging overhead.

Instead, we got a disaster. Themes were abandoned, character arcs were torn to shreds; the writing was trite and confusing and TWO versions of “Carry On Wayward Son” were played back-to-back. 

What, on Jack’s green Earth, happened to Supernatural?

Sam & Eileen

“Carry On” was so bad it managed to commit the world’s first heterosexual hate crime in whatever they did to Eileen (and the second by putting Jared Padalecki in that wig).

Eileen Leahy (Shoshannah Stern) was a fellow “hunter” (monster-hunter) introduced in Season 11. Not only was she one of only a handful of actually well-rounded women on the show, but she was also Supernatural’s first deaf character. Stern (also Spn’s first deaf actress!) played her with a delightful sense of humor and heart that instantly made her a fan favorite. Eileen returned a few times, only to be killed in Season 12 to invoke some man-pain for Sam. Fans were quick to call out the show for “fridging” Eileen (a term used in media criticism to describe the way women are often killed off to motivate/sadden/develop a man’s character), but she stayed dead until her resurrection this last Season.

Eileen was brought back in S15E6 to thunderous applause from fans, both as a beloved character in her own right and as a potential love interest for Sam, with whom she’d had crazy chemistry in her previous appearances. The scene where Eileen gets her body back after wandering around as a ghost after her return is one of the most beautifully shot, loving moments in the series.

It was clear from a narrative standpoint that she would be there through the end, finding her own peace by establishing a relationship (and potentially a family) with Sam, and helping him achieve his own. Both of their characters’ arcs would have benefited by being safe and loved. In S15E9, “The Trap,” Eileen’s body is taken over by Chuck and she is forced to torture Sam. At the end of the episode, Eileen tells Sam she needs to go away for a while, exclaiming “I don’t know what’s real anymore.” They kiss for the first time, and he says to her in return “I know that was real.” (Remember this moment for later.) Eileen gives him a knowing smile and walks out the door.

Sam and Eileen share their first kiss.

And is never seen again.

No, for real. Eileen is mentioned a few episodes later, when Sam takes her out on a date (off-screen) and it’s implied that they sleep together (also off-screen, and might I say, what a crime it was that we were not privy to that interaction). In S15E18 “Despair,” when Chuck is killing everyone on Earth, Eileen disappears mid-text (off-screen) before Sam can get to her. Sam takes a moment to grieve, then shoves it down and he and Jack drive away in her abandoned car. She is not even mentioned for the rest of the show.

It gets worse. Halfway through the finale, Dean dies, and Sam is left alone. Not only does Sam not even call Eileen, he lives out the rest of his life in a five minute montage, featuring a hilariously monogrammed-overalls-wearing child named “Dean;” the ugliest grey Party City wig $5 can buy; and a now infamous faceless blurry blonde wife in the background of one shot (check out “sams-blurry-wife” on Tumblr for some well-deserved giggles). Sam dies of old age to a Neoni cover of “Carry On Wayward Son” (played IMMEDIATELY following the original version of the song) and meets Dean on a bridge in heaven. Fade to black.

It would be impossible to read the writers’ minds when they came up with this borderline hilarious ending. Presumably, they wanted to return to the “two brothers one road” situation that started the whole show, but that’s not all Supernatural is anymore, and to imply that returning to the beginning of the story would be narratively satisfying ignores the entire central theme of the show.

Sam’s whole storyline has revolved around wanting to find his own place in the world—first, by abandoning hunting to go to college, then by discovering fulfillment in the hunter’s life; by becoming a leader in later seasons and eventually through his love for Eileen. Dean, the obedient son, had to learn to let go of the mythological images he had of his parents and seek his own life. Sam, the rebellious son, had to forgive himself for abandoning his blood family to discover joy and self-forgiveness in the arms of chosen family. 

Found family has always been at the heart of this story. Yes, the show began with two brothers and yes, they are the emotional core of the plot, but their relationships to the people they chose are the only thing that moves the narrative forward. Fan favorites like Cas, Bobby, Charlie, and Kevin were the boys’ family. Stated explicitly by Bobby as Dean and Sam try to leave him behind for Dean’s self-sacrifice at the end of Season 3: “Family don’t end with blood, boy.” 

Sam and Dean clung desperately to each other throughout the show in a myriad of unhealthy ways. Sam learning to let Dean go in death has been played out over and over again—in Season 4, when Sam shirks the pain by hooking up with Ruby, in Season 8, when he chooses to settle down with a girl and a dog, in Season 10, when he drives himself near-mad searching for Demon!Dean and Crowley.

Over the past few years, the brothers have learned to treat each other as human beings and respect their differences. Since Season 13, they’ve talked about retiring; Sam has mentioned settling down with someone who understands their life; he led an army of hunters in Season 14 in Dean’s absence. Sam even grew a beard at the top of Season 14, as visual shorthand for “he is his own person now.” When Dean comes back and tells Sam he hates the beard, Sam shaves it. They’re not quite there yet.

So now we come around to Season 15, and the narrative revolves around seeking free will—what it means to make your own choices. Sam and Eileen are clearly falling for each other, and it’s looking like Sam will finally have love and peace at the end of the show. Then Dean dies, and the plot comes to a halting stop. Like a pileup at a traffic circle. 

Sam’s entire life is suddenly devoted to grieving Dean. Gone is his will to pursue his own dreams, the love of his life, and his ability to lead. The audience gets no information as to his occupation, his hobbies, or his joys. All we get is that he devoted his remaining years to raising a son named Dean and sitting in the Impala in the garage as a sad, old man. He dies surrounded by photoshopped pictures of only his blood relatives and with his son at his side. When he meets Dean in heaven again, nothing has changed. For Dean it’s only been like five minutes, for god’s sake. 

There is no purpose, no thematic point to Dean dying and Sam living an apple-pie life; the plot unfolds the same way it would have if this had happened in Season 1. If the point is “you have to move on without the people you love,” then they’ve done that about twenty million times on this show, and furthermore, Sam clearly didn’t get to move on. He is reduced to the repentant, remorseful 22 year-old from the pilot who abandoned his family to go to college and let his girlfriend be murdered by a demon. When Sam tries to get away, he’s just pulled right back. The show may as well not have happened at all.

Sam plays catch with his son Dean while blurry blonde woman looks on from the porch in the Supernatural finale

And poor, poor Eileen. We thought you’d be safe as the newly-resurrected love interest of a straight white man, but no! There is no logical conclusion as to her absence from the last episode. Even if they couldn’t get Shoshannah Stern, there’s no reason the extra playing Blurry Wife couldn’t have had dark brown hair, or that Sam couldn’t have signed something to her so the audience would know it’s Eileen. She is simply erased from the narrative, as though she had never existed. It’s the final regression of the finale to its woman-less, found-family-less Season 1 state. Sam is only allowed to mourn Dean, which demands clumsily cutting Eileen from the narrative with jagged scissors. 

I also want to acknowledge that with no story-related reason, the only speculation fans can come to was that the decision was rooted in ableism—that the writers never actually intended to let Sam settle down with a deaf woman. We can’t know that was the case, but we also have no evidence to the contrary, and it is, unfortunately, not uncommon in Hollywood. Either way, my heart goes out to all the disabled fans who loved Eileen and were heartbroken by the finale. You deserved so much better.

Castiel

Alright, I know why you’re all really here. You want to hear about Destielgate.

“Destiel,” as I’m sure you all know, is the wildly popular ship between Dean and Castiel (Misha Collins). Here we have a human who, in Cas’s own words, doesn’t think he “deserved to be saved,” and a four billion year-old being of celestial intent, suddenly struck with a singular purpose—to save one man.

Castiel stands in a trenchcoat and tie in front of a wall covered in symbols

Forgetting the fact of the bonkers-level chemistry between Ackles and Collins (the only reason Cas wasn’t killed off three episodes in, like he was supposed to be) and borderline-explicitly romantic plot lines, it’s easy to see how Castiel, to many fans, was coded as a queer character. 

Cas comes from a strict religious upbringing. He is only freed from that when he first has a serious relationship (of whatever sort) with another man. Hell, the narrative goes so far as to make it a plot point in Season 8 that Cas has nearly rebelled against Heaven before, and every time he does, the other angels literally lobotomize him. In a flashback we discover he once came to Earth in a woman’s body. Many people were hoping the show would be brave enough to take a step towards textual queerness before it ended.

Buckle in. 

In Season 14, in order to save Jack’s life, Cas promises his own life to the “Empty,” a being/place where angels and demons go when they die. The Empty, who has clearly seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, agrees to the deal, on the condition that it will take Cas when Cas experiences a moment of true happiness (speaking of, just… go do yourselves a favor and watch Angel).

Flash forward to S15E18: “Despair,” and all the Winchesters’ friends are dying. In a moment of desperation Dean and Cas go to confront Billie (or, Death, played by Lisa Berry), who they believe to be the one responsible. Billie, angry that Dean mortally injured her at the beginning of the episode, chases Cas and Dean through the bunker. In a moment of brilliant visual storytelling, Billie takes a grip on Dean’s heart as she stalks the men, Castiel half-carrying Dean to safety in the Winchesters’ dungeon. Cas cuts his hand to draw a sigil on the door, revitalizing Dean’s heart and keeping Billie temporarily at bay as she knocks: the cold, ever-present countdown to death. 

Billie chases Cas and Dean through the bunker.

They try to think of a way to defeat Billie, and Cas remembers the Empty deal. The Empty, in true deus-ex-machina fashion, not only hates Billie but is the only thing powerful enough to defeat her. As Cas explains the deal to Dean for the first time, Cas begins to smile. Slowly, through tears, Cas tells Dean everything he learned from him: most importantly—how to love. Dean and Cas step closer together and Cas finally allows himself one moment of true happiness by saying: “I love you.” The Empty is summoned; it takes Billie. Cas knocks Dean down to safety, offering him one last smile before being consumed by the Empty. Dean is left gasping on the floor with nothing but Cas’s bloody handprint on his shoulder.

It’s a beautiful scene. Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins are magnificent, but Collins deserves considerable praise as we see the rare truly emotional breakthrough (and smile!) from Castiel. The episode ends with Dean sobbing on the floor, ignoring calls from his brother—the person he puts before everything—as he mourns Cas. 

And, if you’re sensing a pattern, Cas’s confession is never mentioned again.

Here’s the thing: on Supernatural, death is rarely ever the end. Particularly for its leads. Cas has died at least three times off the top of my head, and already escaped the Empty once this season. Clearly the writers wanted his final sacrifice to have weight, but not only does Dean never speak about Cas in a non-expository way ever again, but the fact that Dean’s best friend of 12 years (and one of the show’s leads) just confessed his love to him is never mentioned again. Even if Dean didn’t return Cas’s feelings, his silence is baffling, given the lengths he has gone to to revive his best friend in the past. It’s out-of-character at best, shady at worst.

While Cas’s death fits an exhausting pattern on this show, if it had happened independently of all the other queer deaths I would’ve been fine with it. His final monologue was entrenched in a gay experience, written by a gay writer who knew what he was doing. It was beautiful and heartbreaking in all the good ways. It was excellent, intentional storytelling. Queer love was the one true thing in this entire universe. Cas’s romantic love for Dean and Cas’s parental love for Jack are the only two things that saved the world. What a bomb-ass way to go out. 

Except the writers decided that Cas’s sacrifice was not worthy of attention.

Cas’s character arc hinges upon his discovery of his own free will, and how he’s attached that to Dean. He found the only true family, the only love he’s ever known, through this man. In a near-death experience in Season 12, Cas admitted his love for Dean…and his family (ouch). Dean has never returned the phrase, and it remained an unanswered but ever-present question in their narrative.

Romantic or not, their relationship conflict has been the main tension of Season 15. They spend the first three episodes fighting over Mary’s death the season before. In Episode 9, Dean nearly loses Cas and falls to his knees in prayer, crying, and finally forgiving him. Cas’s want for human experiences—love, joy, will—is what drives him, and what would be the most satisfying completion to his character for him to receive.

Dean turns to see the Empty approaching, with Cas over his shoulder.

Over 12 years on the show, Dean and Cas learned to trust, to teach, and to find faith in each other. Cas rebuilt Dean’s body and soul after Dean was in hell. At the end of his first season, Cas learned free will from Dean and managed to cast off an abusive family to choose a new family with the Winchesters. Time and time again, Cas has chosen Dean over the world; over God; over himself. Their arc together is epic. It’s the cosmos-melting shit that people write poetry about. Canonically, “the first time Castiel laid a hand on [Dean] in hell, he was lost.”

Oh yeah, and that “I don’t know what’s real anymore” exchange between Sam and Eileen from earlier? That was a Cas and Dean scene first. In S15E2, Cas and Dean have a terse exchange as they’ve discovered their whole lives have been dictated by Chuck. Dean angrily exclaims “Nothing about our lives is real,” mid-argument. Before he exits the scene, Cas replies: “You asked, ‘what about all of this is real?’ We are.” Seven episodes later, an explicit romantic pairing in Sam/Eileen mirrors this exact conversation as they kiss. 

Cas has spent his (considerably long) life looking for meaning. He found it in the Winchesters, and when he finally revealed his truth, he was abandoned by the narrative. Found family who? Free will what?

Cas dies for loving Dean, and nobody speaks about it again. He is subtextually deemed not worthy of love. It is a gaping hole in the fabric of the finale, crappily stitched up by Bobby as he meets Dean in heaven—telling him “Cas helped” in the rebuilding of a peaceful afterlife. Two words. We are not offered anything as to Dean’s thoughts on the matter. Dean smiles and nods. Silent. 

With that, let’s talk about Dean.

Dean

Dean Winchester died on a meaningless hunt, perhaps just a day after defeating God and writing his own future. He and Sam rush into a barn to save some kids (brothers, of course) from a bunch of vampires, and Dean is impaled in the back by eight inches of rebar sticking out of a beam. (Yeah, he gets nailed-from-behind to death. Let’s…not think about that too much.) 

For many of us, Dean represents what it feels like to be stuck in a life you did not choose. He was the eldest sibling; he wanted to protect his baby brother and so he was forced into a life of abject violence. Dean saw his mother brutally murdered when he was four, and has lived nothing but blood and pain ever since. But that’s not who he is.

In Season 2, Dean is kidnapped by a monster that makes him live through his deepest desires in a fantasy. Remember what Dean’s most precious wish in the whole world is? To mow his mother’s lawn. Dean’s greatest desire is to have a safe, happy family; his S13 retirement plan was himself, Sam, and Cas on a beach in Hawaiian shirts with little umbrella drinks. 

Dean is one of the most violent characters on television, but not by choice. He did it to protect his family; something he learned to step away from over time. He learned his mother was no longer a myth and could take care of herself when he finally met her; most importantly, he learned to treat Sam as a fully-grown, independent human being. The brothers’ unhealthy codependency has been broken down over the last few seasons to allow them freedom—the very freedom removing Chuck promised. The freedom this ENTIRE season was about. The freedom Dean offered Cas, that set their storylines in motion, entwined, as the main dramatic conflict of the final season of this show.

His whole life, Dean thought he would die young and bloody on his father’s mission towards vengeance. Never of his own volition, never of old age. He wants his own life badly enough that he was willing to threaten his brother—a person he has given his LIFE to—to achieve it in S15E17. 

Dean pulls a gun on Sam.

Dean’s character arc was begging for him to grow old. With Castiel’s last sacrifice, Dean finally knew he was loved. Cas spent his last moments on Earth telling Dean that his life was worth living; that Dean was not the heartless, violent monster he saw himself as. Cas told Dean what we, the audience, all know to be true—that Dean does everything for love. In the following episode, Dean refuses to kill Chuck after Chuck begs him to, saying “see, that’s not who I am.” Dean is ready to live his own life, free will in hand, finally learning to love himself.

This is the true crime of the Supernatural finale. 

The paradox of having your vaguely suicidal and at best self-sacrificial main character’s arc end by telling him the only way to achieve peace is through death is cheap, uninspired writing at its finest. Dean’s entire character arc is swept under the rug when he dies; there is no other family around but his brother, who he was finally ready to let go of, and who he instead has to spend his last minutes on earth consoling.

To be clear — both actors do a tremendous job with what they are given. I sobbed my way through this scene because of their performances, but that doesn’t change the fact that it makes absolutely no sense. Dean dies scared and sad, never able to express his true desires, never speaking about his own wants or needs until his comically long death speech, plagiarized from the other time he died in Sam’s arms in Season 9. 

And I would maybe take it if it had been framed that way; if the message was about accepting your life as it comes to you (regardless of how that clashes with the whole, y’know, “free will” thing), but it wasn’t. This was framed as the “bittersweet and fulfilling” ending to the show. Dean goes to heaven, is consoled by Bobby, and is immediately fine. Then goes on a drive to wait for Sam, who he left a few minutes ago in his own timeline. 

The brothers have died and mourned each other so many times that it’s almost a running gag on the show. Sam and Dean deserved to love and honor each other, not through death and grief, but through life. 

Which begs the question…why did Dean die?

Dean looking heartbroken as Cas's body burns (off-camera) in the first episode of Season 13.

Every time Cas dies, Dean grieves loudly. The last time it happened at the end of Season 12, Dean spent the first five episodes of Season 13 being a general asshole to everyone around him until he attempted to kill himself, then immediately recovered to the point of giddiness when Cas returned. Their decade-long relationship was integral to the very basic plot of the show; it was with free will that Dean first released Cas from serving heaven in Season 4; it was with free will, by falling in love with Dean, that Cas created the one and only deviation from Chuck’s story.

Because of this, I, and thousands of other viewers, were waiting with baited breath for Dean to talk about Cas in the finale. What would it be? Will Cas stay dead as Dean learns to grieve and move on? Would Cas return? Can Dean finally pray a well-earned “I love you” to the angel, platonic or otherwise?

Nope. Dean barely speaks in the finale outside of his Season-9-plagiarized death speech. He is reduced to a stereotype—pie, Sam, car, hunting. It’s…conspicuous, to say the least. 

If they brought Cas back, they would have to address the “I love you”; if they addressed the “I love you,” Dean would either say it back and be canonically queer, or turn Cas down gently. It wouldn’t have been difficult to keep Dean straight—even sexually ambiguous—while allowing him an emotionally satisfying conclusion. Instead, they killed Dean and sent him to heaven, then resurrected Cas off-screen to pacify the shippers.

Dean dies, because for whatever reason, the writers knew they couldn’t address the rest of his life without Cas. In the most accidentally meta, most Supernatural-y way possible, they kind-of-adjacently confirmed his queerness via untimely and narratively unsatisfying death. Go figure. 

We will never know if Dean is canonically queer or not. We were never allowed to answer that question. Dean’s answer died in his throat, on one of his father’s old hunts, relegated to being the parental substitute he was forced to be his whole life. Young, like he was supposed to. The writers chose to abandon Dean’s entire character arc—the last fifteen, hell, forty-odd years of pain and growth and healing—instead of addressing the slightest possibility of queerness. 

Cas and Dean’s relationship was so baked into the fabric of the show that removing it took a sledgehammer to the plot, themes, and basic storytelling narrative of the finale. Nobody gets to exercise their free will, and the only family that matters is blood. 

Dean’s death means nothing. The brothers are reunited in heaven to live out the rest of their lives(?) as they could have on earth.  I guess, after all that, I’m just trying to say that absolutely nothing of consequence happened in the Supernatural finale. What a waste.

Carry On

So, fans, where does that leave us?

I myself have been oscillating between abject despair and peaceful detachment. 

But I will say this: I think it’s important to allow yourself to build space between you and the media you consume. That isn’t to say Supernatural can’t or won’t be important to you—it was a fundamental part of my exploration of my queerness, discovering my gender identity, and learning to have compassion for myself and my own traumas. Even if it’s just something you enjoyed casually, there’s a reason we love the show in the first place. But take time (even if it takes a long time) to remember that at the end of the day, it isn’t real. 

That’s not to say that the stories we tell exist in a vacuum. What you put out into the world will determine how people see themselves and each other (that’s kinda the point of this whole review). But just because Supernatural ended in a shitty, disgraceful, offensive way does not make you any less worthy or the experiences you had with it any less important. Many storytellers touched this show and impacted your experience. That’s never going to go away. The urge to scream and be mad and look for a conspiracy may feel good in the moment, but it may not actually bring you any answers. It may not actually bring you peace. (See where I’m going with this?) 

The writers, executives, and actors can only offer so much input. I implore you to step away from their social media, to take some time to yourself, and to breathe. All these people are just people, like you and me. They have the resources to learn and grow, and if they truly mean to do well, as individuals, they will. That’s what it comes down to in the end.

And, hey, if you liked the finale, I’m not trying to dunk on you. You do you. I’m glad you get to love this show completely and wholly all the way through the end.

For the rest of us, move on from here with your love intact. It’s okay to be sad and exhausted—hell, I leapt in to write about this stupid finale because I was so hurt by it. But at the end of the day, it happened. We’re going to learn and move on and create more beautiful art impacted by our drive to not disappoint people the way we were let down, and more importantly, by all the invaluable, many good things in Supernatural.

Over the past three weeks, tens of thousands of dollars in donations have flooded in to “The Castiel Project,” funding the TREVOR project for LGBTQ+ youth; the National Alliance on Mental Illness via the “Dean Winchester is Love” fundraiser; and the National Association of the Deaf in Eileen Leahy’s name. What did the fans do, when the show they loved so much for so long betrayed the values they fell for 15 years ago? They organized. For a fandom known for being quite rabid, they actually have some of the biggest hearts in the world. 

It’s time for us to write our own stories and carry on.

Written by Natalie Parks

Natalie Parks is currently a BA student studying theatre. They're a founding board member of their university's Theatre for Social Change organization (TR4CE), working to create ethically conscious and socially aware art. Loves dogs, Shakespeare, and Evelyn Baker Lang's shoes.

35 Comments

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  1. Natalie, thank you for writing this heartfelt content.Cas and Dean’s unfinished story line has destroyed my moment of happiness forever.Writers and production house of SPN have done so terribly dirty with the characters, just flushed down the drain all these years of emotional investment with the show.

  2. I read this because a friend asked me to but I have to say it caused some strong reactions for me and I disagree with almost everything you’ve said starting with the title of the article. The show didn’t disappoint everyone. As a member of several Supernatural fan communities and Misha Collins GISH community the vast majority of responses I’ve seen to the finale were loving and positive.

    ““Carry On” was so bad it managed to commit the world’s first heterosexual hate crime in whatever they did to Eileen (and the second by putting Jared Padalecki in that wig).” Casually referring to anything other than an actual hate crime as such is extraordinarily insensitive. Eileen, along with many characters, was supposed to appear in the finale but due to Covid protocols they couldn’t ask the actress to quarantine for two weeks before and after to film one scene. We do see a blurry character that Sam grows old and has a child with and I assume that was her.

    I do not believe Cas was a queer character. If you saw him as such that’s your opinion but remember, he started off as an asexual angel and solider of the lord. Yes, he did explore sex as his character developed but I do not believe his profession of love for Dean in his death scene was intended to be romantic. Cas was the third Winchester brother. I believe you are projecting your wish for him to be queer and disappointment that that wasn’t the case.

    Dean’s death was not meaningless and it certainly wasn’t a suicide. He died, on his feet, the way he always expected to, saving people and killing monsters. It was also the only way Sam could have his chance at a normal life with a partner (who probably was Eileeen but again they just couldn’t get the actress) and the chance to raise a son.

    “Sam dies of old age to an Evanescence cover of “Carry On Wayward Son”” Neoni, not Evanescence.

    “But just because Supernatural ended in a shitty, disgraceful, offensive way does not make you any less worthy or the experiences you had with it any less important.” That’s an ugly, hurtful thing to say. I thought it ended beautifully and I’m very offended by your comment.

    And the final paragraph that asserts that donations are pouring into charities in defiance to the finale by fans who feel betrayed is just wrong. Those charities are supported by Misha Collins GISH and Random Acts foundations. The donations aren’t coming in defiance, but in love.

  3. Paul, “who probably was Eileeen but again they just couldn’t get the actress” I think you missed the point of how easy it would be to have insinuated it was Eileen (have Sam sign to his kid) to confirm it inspite of Covid. The fact that they didn’t even bother is the crime. Accepting shitty writing and the EXECUTION of story arcs… because Covid? That logic is almost as pejorative as the finale.

  4. Thank you so much for this article. Its everything I’ve been feeling and you are so SO right on every single point. How anyone can disagree and see the finale as anything other than a butchered mess that completely undermines any coherent narrative that came before it is beyond me. It truly was a huge disappointment and I really feel for everyone involved especially the actors who gave it their all.

    Also, anyone trying to deny Castiel’s queerness, both the writer Robert Berens (a gay man) and the actor Misha Collins have explicitly stated that it was a queer confession of romantic love. Please don’t try to erase the efforts of queer creatives to bring queer stories to our screens. It’s homophobic to do so.

    Thank you for your efforts writing this brilliant article. We will in time heal from the pain this terrible 36 minutes of television caused, and in the meantime celebrate the characters we love in our own creative ways.
    <3<3<3

  5. You are right and you should say it! This pretty much encapsulates all of my struggles with how the show ended.

    Thank you for writing this.

  6. Thank you so much for writting this. These are exactly my feelings. And thank you for that last part. All of us that were really hurt need to be reminded of that.

  7. That’s beautiful and sums up everything I’ve been trying to explain to people about why the finale didn’t land for me.

  8. Dean is a lot more important than a ship. It says so much that Dean endured and sacrificed his life for people, that all you reduced him to was violence and a ship. Why does Dean have to reciprocate? You had Cas’ declaration of love but it upsets you because you’ve been reading meta that Dean is in love with Cas instead of watching the show. Dean has NEVER loved Cas romantically. Platonically, yes and that is just as good. I’m sick of you all using representation like you care about us. I say this as bi person and it’s shitty.

  9. Wonderful article. You managed to accurately sum up exactly what many of us thought. This whole thing was a disaster of epic proportions and I can’t pick anything out of this mess that should’ve made tptb feel like it wrapped the story in a satisfying way.

    And Singer, out here with his “bold and moving” baloney. Ugh. Dude needs to retire permanently.

  10. THANK YOU! As an aspiring filmmaker the finale left me feeling hollow and disappointed in the writing/production quality from one of the most prominent companies in Hollywood. I will never understand how a creative team and/or the executives allowed for one episode, THE FINALE, to upend almost all of the previous 15 years of storytelling narrative. You can literally watch 1×1 and then 15×20 and follow along without being too lost. It was a complete butchering of Dean story arc. The characters, Sam, Dean, Cas, Jack, and Eileen all deserved a better ending. We deserved a better ending. Unless they backtrack and do a movie or special I do not see Supernatural in the long run surviving as a franchise. With one episode it might have condemned itself to the episodic graveyard along with GOT and HIMYM.

  11. As a fan, I’m part of the “everyone” who was NOT DISAPPOINTED by the finale, probably because I didn’t go into it with the faulty premises on which your article relies.

    We knew from interviews that Saileen wouldn’t be endgame. It was also not even a very heated “romance.” The first date? No clothes disarranged other than Sam’s tie off & later we see a photo on her phone of him researching.
    He shows as much guilt & angst when Molly (Mindy? Marge?) the AUHunter goes missing.

    The fact that we knew it wasn’t endgame & were given only a pseudo romance/one date makes the ending sensible. Thanks to his promise to Dean, Sam walks away from the hunting life.
    Eileen was already played a fool by Chuck this season. Would you want her to abandon all sense of fierceness?

    Also, in conversations, talking about scripts, Jared said they didn’t even mean to indicate the person on the porch was Sam’s wife. (Reasons why there were NO photos of her.) It could be a nanny of a child adopted. He could be single with a child. He could have a man as a spouse even.

    It was intentionally left open. Which is wonderful for the audience who may not be as into Het Sex as some are or have a different ship they like.
    Or be single. You know. Like some are.

    Him just not being that into Eileen isn’t able-ism, unless you somehow have different rules for disabled characters. Sam has had women before & left them. (And Jared has not shied away from filming sex scenes, even recently as s12, even if that one was in torture/mentally.)


    I would argue with even more passion several of your other underlying premises. Which are your opinions, on which you then stack other opinions in a jenga style article.
    But suffice to say I disagree.

    This cast risked their health to film the ending. It’s an ending they’ve ALL said in interviews they’re proud of. Their silence now is from being trashed in various forums.

    Don’t like it? Fine. But some of us do.
    And moreover, some of us RESPECT AND APPRECIATE them being the first ones to try to film under the covid rules. With an extremely restricted budget (only two eps worth) With a cast of highly paid actors who might not want to quarantine for a walk on, as was originally in the cards.

    They lost out on more than we did.
    And I appreciate them for their work. The GREAT acting. Their great ending.


    It wasn’t what I expected. But as for me (one member of your so-called “everyone”)
    I LIKED IT JUST FINE.

  12. The Good, the Bad & the Ugly of the finale so wholly defined in this article. The pain & love felt for this show reminds us of how our family redefined the word fandom forever. We cannot change the past, but we can write/right a new chapter together.

  13. E.N, you don’t get to speak for all of us in the LGBT community either. Everyone is entitled to voicing their opinions. I am pan/demi and related alot to Cas and Dean’s relationship. My biggest problem is narratively in fiction, if one character confesses their feelings the other character should at least respond/acknowledge it? I can not name a fictional cis-hetero character whose romantic confession went answered either negatively or positively. And yes it was a romantic confession on Cas’ part. I can accept Dean being straight and not recuperating if he had at least acknowledged/reacted to Cas’ death in the same way he had canonically before in Season 7 and Season 13.

    Also my issues with Dean’s ending has more to do with his death. He had Fortuna’s luck right? Why didn’t that save him this time? Sam not doing anything to save Dean when he inherited Rowena’s witch knowledge and knew general battlefield first aid? Dean’s death also dampens Cas’ sacrifice. It is also its just bad writing for a hero’s journey arc. A better ending narratively would have been to give Dean the ending that he didn’t expect for himself which would have been a happy life. He always thought he would go out bloody and the fact that its what happened erases all of his character arc and growth. Plus Dean seemingly giving up when always keep fighting is a continuous theme with the spn family community just sends a bad message for anyone living with MHI (myself included). The message it sends is no matter how hard you fight you can’t find happiness and peace in life, only in death. Its a terrible ending imo. Dean deserved better.

  14. This beautifully summed up how I felt – the story was abandoned and not having Castiel and Eileen in the finale was unforgivable.

  15. Thank you SO much for putting words in what I’ve been feeling for weeks since the finale. For me, it’s liked they burned whatever was planned for the ending and ended up giving us this shitty plothole-filled wtf mess.

  16. Thank you – this says it all perfectly. I was left so deflated by the finale. It wasn’t even that my initial reaction was to hate it. It was more like bafflement, like “wait, that’s it?” In fact, the only emotional reaction I had was to burst into tears at the final shot, showing the cast and crew on the bridge.
    Oh look – there’s the extended found family I thought this show was about!

    I know the last scenes/episodes were impacted by COVID filming restrictions, but within minutes of the episode ending, twitter et al was brimming with fan suggestions of multiple tricks that could have been used to suggest the presence of characters who couldn’t physically be present – one-side of phone conversations, video calls, off-screen voiceovers, photoshopped family pics of Eileen, or use of ASL (as you mention). None of that was considered?
    After the desperate attempt to save everyone in 15×18 and the grief in 15×19 (Sam could barely talk, let alone mention Eileen’s name), I got no confirmation that ANY of their friends were brought back. I have to assume, since they were so giddy and carefree at the pie festival, but…. *shrug* who knows?
    It undermined EVERYthing.

    And istg – if I’m told by one more person “oh you’re just mad cos your ship didn’t go canon. You’ve missed the whole point of the show.” Yes, I am mad about Cas. I’m mad that he got barely another mention. I’m SUPER mad that the last time he ‘appeared’ on the show, it was actually fricking Lucifer. I’m mad that only 3/4 of Team Free Will made it into the finale. I’m mad that all of us who found such comfort and recognition in the nerdy little outcast with the crack in his chassis were left feeling so bereft.

    However, I am grateful for everything the show has given me – especially the friends I’ve made around the world, who have supported me, and each other, through this crushing disappointment.

  17. I guess my question is why would we see Eileen as a partner for Sam when as YOU pointed out her character is so minimized & misused. She’s weakened from the hunter we met in season eleven. She is once again manipulated and pulls the boys (Sam) into a trap. She runs away.

    Then she becomes the most invisible girlfriend ever. One date on which I saw no evidence of sex, no matter what the article writer thought. (WHERE did you get that?)

    Why would we see Eileen as a partner for Sam?
    I’d have gone with Rowena. More eps. More chemistry. Much in common.
    But Eileen? Nope.

    And we know from what was said the intent was always to make them two people who never got together because of circumstance. SHE WAS NOT BLURRY WIFE and never was supposed to be, even by inference of photos or ASL.

    I’d have only liked to see her at the funeral so Sam could have said a goodbye and clarified what they told us in interviews was the truth. And yes I’d have liked to see Jody & Donna to have a goodbye, the girls, too.

    But to have a scene at the pyre would be two weeks’ quarantine for half a day’s work. Only worth it if you were up to Vancouver already for a party (that never came.)

    Same with the scene in heaven that only had Bobby. Notice they filmed the last three days. Same idea.
    If they’d all been up there, how wonderful to see a crowd of familiar faces welcoming Dean. But it truly was covid that knocked it.

    Could they have implied more people inside? Yes. Maybe got one or two. But then it would have been full of gimicks, not just a scene with Bobby. (A man who actually ORIGINATED the line about blood. For himself.)

    They made the best decisions they could given the pandemic and the basic A plot they had in mind.
    And that was Dabb, who wanted a “truly final” ending to the story. A circular ending that nailed things shut.
    Everyone this season had their Big Moment. And the death toll–as he warned us all along–was high.

  18. Thank you for putting it so eloquently and I agree with almost every point you’ve made. I would just like to contribute my own theory as to why Eileen has been erased from the story. She had to “go” precisely because her relationship with Sam was set up, in some ways, as a parallel to the Dean-Cas relationship. If the writers/network had given us Saileen as endgame, while denying us Destiel, the homophobic reasoning that led to Cas’s erasure would have been even more blatantly obvious. Eileen is just collateral damage in their attempt to scrub the gay away.

  19. This was beautiful. Thank you so much for conveying so eloquently what so many of us have been thinking. It’s so weird to me when people defend this ending. Narratives aren’t supposed to be circular. A good ending does not deposit you back to where you were at the beginning (negating everything that happened in between). Endings are supposed to *bookend,* calling you back to the beginning while demonstrating the importance of everything in the middle. Basic storytelling. Circular narratives are not desirable.

    In great irony, the most circular narrative in SPN was the brodependency–broken many times over and resurrected to keep the show on the air., while becoming unbelievably stale and boring for the audience. The obvious final step was to break it for good–that’s a bookend, but instead they did…this. Reducing Dean to nothing more than he’s dad’s weapon and a means to an end for Sam to live a real life–that’s just yikes. Implying some trauma suffers are just too damaged to live and can only find peace in Heaven? More yikes. The entire queer issue (silencing, Cas’ conspicuous absence even in discussion) on top of it? Yikes cherry on top.

    Anyway, you nailed this from beginning to end. It’s a damn shame this is their legacy. To go down in history as the show that could have done something brave and spectacular and bold, but decided to put out offensive trash instead. Hope they enjoy being equated with the worst finales on TV in perpetuity. What a waste of 15 years.

  20. Thank you for pointing out exactly why the finale hurt me this much. I couldn’t speak for at least two hours and I spent most of Friday in bed with a crying-induced migraine. Many of us are still not okay, but seeing everything explained like this makes it easier to understand and digest.
    I’m genuinely glad for the people who loved the finale, but for me it will forever be a lost opportunity to conclude my favourite tv show in a satisfying way.

  21. Just wanted to leave this link:
    https://www.pride.com/geek/2020/11/10/misha-collins-confirms-castiels-homosexual-declaration-love

    For anyone who is confused about whether Castiel is canonically queer. Misha, plus the director of the episode (Rich Speight, Jr), and multiple other cast members talk about it in a panel under that link. It’s not up for debate. The writer of the episode, Robert Berens, also confirmed that the declaration was romantic in nature.

    Jensen Ackles, separately, in content from Creation’s last online convention which he participated in, also said that Dean’s feelings are open to interpretation and that the romantic reading is valid. He loved the scene, he helped construct it, you can find multiple videos of him talking proudly and excited about it. He confirms Cas is queer, he also says that it isn’t that Dean didn’t reciprocate, it’s that he “didn’t realize Cas could love like that.” There’s as much, if not more evidence that Dean does reciprocate than he doesn’t, including the entire narrative of the show and the need to keep him from talking about Cas at the end.

    But you *can* headcanon what you want about Dean, because they didn’t make it explicitly clear. Castiel, on the other hand, sorry homophobes, you are out of luck. He is canonically queer and in love with Dean. That isn’t up for discussion, it’s not a “read,” it’s a fact. In that same vein, everyone who called us “delusional” for seeing that clearly all along NOW wants to gaslight us and say well, you may have been right about that, but we’re still wrong about Dean. Lol. I mean, you were wrong about Cas, you were wrong about the show stating it outright, seems like we’re the ones with the accurate track records. We saw a love story because it *is* one.

  22. Literally yes yes yes to all of the above, especially the section about Dean and his death, which sends a very dangerous message, especially in light of how many of the fans benefitted from the AKF campaign and for the reasons why that campaign was so important to them.

  23. thank you for this very heartfelt and accurate post-mortem of a finale that could have been great with so very little. you’ve touched every single point that bothered me.

    I see a lot of people commenting about the ‘beauty’ or ‘circularity’ of this finale, and I’m saddened by the total lack of understanding of narrative concepts some people have.

    a good story doesn’t have to end in death, or death doesn’t have to be meaningless. a good story has to make sense, and SPN’s ending did not make a lick of sense. that is the real tragedy of this show–for 15 years it told a story, only to end it as if 1×02 to 15×19 were never written.

  24. Natalie – Thank you so much for this article! It so perfectly puts into words everything that bothered me about the finale. I watched that episode and immediately felt like they this wasn’t the show I had watching for so long, wasn’t a show that fit with the where the season was leading, and wasn’t a show that did the characters, story, or family justice.

    To those who liked it – I’m honestly glad you liked it. I’m not trying to change your opinion. But if any of you are wondering why so many DIDN’T like it, this article does a great job at listing and explaining what we felt was wrong.

  25. I agree, and thank you for saying it. It’s such a shame how they tossed out everything that made supernatural great at the last second. I will live the rest of my days not understanding how they messed this up so badly when a decent finale should have been the easiest thing in the world to write. Sure, you can never please everyone, but you can sure as hell do better than whatever happened there. Thanks again!

  26. This does not represent everyone. Your writing is mediocre at best. I am assuming you are one of the destiel shippers that has totally lost their mind. Keep going to school. You still have a lot to learn.

  27. Natalie, I personally agree with every word in your article! Well done! Every critique is wicked on the mark!! Don’t listen to the haters (which, ironically, are people who LOVE the finale). Keep up the great job! You have a bright future ahead of you!

  28. Don’t speak for everyone. I certainly don’t agree with you. I loved the finale. It was tough to watch and I definitely cried a lot, but I still loved it. I honestly don’t think it could have ended a better way.

  29. Your article covers almost everything wrong with the episode. The writing was sloppy. The initial premise of the hunt was canonical impossible. Jenny was the girl turned vampire in season 1 episode 20, Dead Man’s Blood. This is the episode that John says he thought vampires were extinct. Sam and Dean already have his journal. So how/why did he have a case in the journal involving a vampire, who didn’t exist yet, and he couldn’t have been tracking because he thought they were extinct? I could have handled Dean dying if it had been a well thought out, well written, and well edited episode, but this episode was trash on so many levels (except the acting) that the CW should really be ashamed of it. One more point, Sam didn’t tell any of the found family that Dean was dead. If he had, Donna wouldn’t have given her colleague Dean’s phone number. She would have given Sam’s. And it was obviously Dean’s phone in Dean’s room. The writers weren’t even paying attention to that. Dean dying sucked but even if he had lived, the writing and editing was so bad that not even the actors could save it.

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