clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Supernatural’s 15th season will be its last

The show can thank its fangirls for its unexpectedly long life.

Family don’t end with blood.
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

After more than 300 episodes, two demonic possessions, several trips to hell and back, two failed spinoff attempts, and a complete sea change in its attitude toward women, Supernatural’s 15th season will be its last.

Stars Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and Misha Collins — who play, respectively, demon-fighting brothers Dean and Sam Winchester and Dean’s angel boyfriend Castiel — broke the news to fans in an announcement posted Friday to their social media accounts.

Ackles described the upcoming final season as “15 years of a show that has certainly changed my life ... the grand finale of an institution.” (The show is currently in its 14th season.) He also added a note from Supernatural’s creator, Eric Kripke, noting that the show is “the pride of his life.”

Padalecki posted a grateful note on Instagram, along with an old photo reminding fans of just how far the Winchester boys have come since the show debuted in 2005.

As demon fighters (and occasional demon frenemies), the Winchester brothers and their manly angst have driven the show from a cult hit to a minor cultural juggernaut. The news of its end quickly rocked the SPN fandom on Friday, with my entire Twitter and Tumblr feed exploding into a collective cry at an intensity not seen since Zayn left One Direction. The fandom takes its collective motto that they are the “SPN family” very seriously — since, as the show famously notes, family don’t end with blood — and the announcement kicked off an unofficial mourning period for a show that has had a huge impact on geek culture.

Supernatural is significant less for its long life than for its ultimate evolution

From its unassuming beginnings as one of the last shows to be launched on the WB network before it was relaunched as The CW, Supernatural endured to become the flagship show of its new fledgling network and one of the sleeper hits of the mid-aughts. Though it was originally planned to have just a five-season run, the show continued.

But what was perhaps most remarkable about Supernatural is that has both intersected with and reflected a much larger gradual change within geek culture. Its lasting popularity has been due to a fan base composed largely of women. It grew and became a cult hit during an era when women, thanks to the internet, were gaining more prominence within geek culture, while still meeting lots of resistance from men who until that point had largely been able to gatekeep what a geek was and wasn’t.

The result was a show that kept trying to appeal mainly to male geeks, while resisting its core appeal to women — so much so that early fourth-wall-breaking episodes explicitly shamed and mocked female fans.

But by the time Tumblr appeared in 2007, with its vast fandom communities turning women-dominated fandom into a significant cultural force, the producers of Supernatural could no longer deny that its future was female. In fact, in conjunction with the show's rise to prominence as a major Tumblr fandom, its ratings actually increased as it entered its ninth season — a shocking feat for a show that creaky.

In 2014, at last, the show’s creative team seemed to finally accept the way the wind blew: Its 200th episode was a long-overdue loving embrace of the women of Supernatural’s fandom. In addition, after years of enduring criticism for a long line of female characters who were so expendable they became a meme, the body count started to go down, and the show started to feature — gasp — a group of permanent women guest actors.

These changes, remarkable for any show but especially for one as testosterone-heavy as Supernatural, led to the brief, beautiful idea, in 2018, of a women-driven spinoff. And while that ultimately didn’t become a series, there’s still hope for a future spinoff that takes the lessons learned over the course of the show’s long reign and turns them into something new and refreshing.

Of course, we all know that what many Supernatural fans want most is to see their three favorite characters drive that Impala into the sunset. But whether they wind up living happily ever after or go down fighting as season 15 comes to a close, one thing is certain: The fandom will make sure these wayward sons carry on.