TV discussion

Supernatural – Endings and Legacies

“Dad’s been on a hunting trip. And he hasn’t been home in a few days.”

It was those words said by Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) to his younger brother Sam (Jared Padalecki), back on 15 September 2005, that caught the attention of viewers who would eventually come to refer to themselves as the SPN Family. Supernatural tells the story of two brothers who fight against monsters, initially searching for their missing father, and is currently in its fourteenth season and was renewed for it’s fifteenth back in January. We now know that this fifteenth season will be it’s last.

In an emotional video featuring Jensen, Jared and Misha Collins, who plays the angel Castiel, the three men confirmed this, wanting the fans to hear it from them before it could reach the rumour mill. It was then posted to various social media sites, on Friday, where it has been retweeted and reacted to countless times. The Supernatural hashtag trended in both the USA and the UK as a result. Since then there has been an outpouring of emotional responses to the news across the board from the fans, ranging from disbelief, anguish, disappointment and some trying to actively overturn the decision with online petitions, and messages from those others who have worked both on the show and in front of the cameras, including creator Eric Kripke.

Although there’s sure to be those who will be looking at these responses and stating “It’s just a TV show”, given how there are those who still lament Firefly’s cancellation after only fourteen episodes some seventeen years ago, it feels an unfair comment. Supernatural has gone beyond being just a television show for so many people in part due to the numerous projects and charity works that have sprung out from it.

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Back in 2009, Misha Collins started down a path that led to the formation of a not for profit charity called Random Acts. Run by volunteers the charity has dedicated itself to improving the world ‘one random act of kindness at a time’. It has been responsible for rebuilding communities in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, building a school for a community in Nicaragua, and numerous other good deeds all over the world. Once a year the charity runs an event called GISH, which stands for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt, teams take part trying to complete a list of tasks ranging from the wacky to charitable. There is a prize to be won for those teams of serious participants but a lot take part just for the fun of it. Taking part costs, but all the money goes to Random Acts to further their good works. In addition to Misha Collins being the president of the charity, there are several other Supernatural cast members who are involved. Genevieve Padalecki (who played the demon Ruby), and Danneel Ackles (who played the angel Anael) are both board members, and Rachel Miner (who played the demon Meg) is the Executive Director.

In addition to these random acts of kindness, there has also been the creation and development of the Crisis Support Network. Random Acts, in partnership with IMAlive, To Write Love On Her Arms and the Pop Culture Hero Coalition, raised funds for this via a campaign spearheaded by Jared, Jensen and Misha. The Network devotes itself to 4 initiatives. 1) providing training opportunities for volunteers to become crisis responses in their spare time, 2) to give individuals in crisis immediate access to support lifelines, 3) provide local community resources for those needing support or information, and 4) run training programs for those affected by cyberbullying.

A number of fans have since trained up to be crisis responses, including Sarah who has been doing so since 2017. She got involved as a result of the campaign and wanted to be able to give something back. As she explains in her own words:

“Working with IMAlive has had a massive positive impact on my own life. Learning that as much as the training is there to help us help people in crisis, that it can actually work for me too. I’ve found a whole new bunch of wonderful people in the other volunteers and the supervisors, some I’ve even been fortunate enough to meet and conventions around the world. I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity thanks to IMAlive and Random Acts.”

Alongside all of this was Jared Padalecki’s openness about his own struggle with mental health issues. During season three of Supernatural, he had a break down which resulted in him being diagnosed with clinical depression. It was this, and other incidents that have occurred within his life, that saw him partnering up with TWLOHA and launching the Always Keep Fighting campaign. Via raising money for the mental health organisation and his own candid approach to what he was dealing with Padalecki showed fans that it was okay to be struggling and that there should be no stigma to suffering depression.

All of this dovetails into the themes of the show and the struggles that the Winchester brothers go through on a daily basis. Some fans credit Supernatural as saving their lives or helping to pull themselves out of dark places, and the feeling of family within the fandom has always been a strong one. Not just because of the fans but also the actors’ willingness to embrace the fandom and be open with it. As Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) said in the third season, “Family don’t end in blood”, and that has always run throughout Supernatural.

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Noted author, blogger and clinical psychologist Lynn Zubernis, has written extensively on the Supernatural Fandom, but most recently worked on a book entitled Family Don’t End In Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives. Chapters in the book were written by both actors from the show and fans, and it serves as a powerful love letter to the show. Lynn, who attends Supernatural Conventions on a regular basis, has drawn upon her own love of the show and on her professional experience to write a blog entry about how it is okay to be grieving the loss of a television show.

With only four more episodes left in season 14, filming has already wrapped on it, and the last season already confirmed as only having twenty, the end is a lot closer then many fans would like. Although it is good that the show will now have a planned end rather than one brought about by cancellation due to a decline in interest, Supernatural’s absence will certainly leave a hole in the heart of fans. However, the legacy that it leaves in its wake will no doubt go on for a very long time and the Supernatural Family will not simply diminish. For a show that was only supposed to be five seasons long, Supernatural will endure.

Perhaps the best thing we can do between now and the very last episode is recall John Winchester’s words in the 300th episode, and be grateful for everything Supernatural, its cast and crew have given us:

“Alright. Near as I can tell, we have two choices: We can think about what’s coming, or we can be grateful for this time that we have together. Now, me? I choose grateful. So, to whatever brought us together, we owe you one. Amen.”

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