Sometimes, on Facebook, there’s a question: Name the character whose death you’ll never get over.
For me, the answers have always been the standards: Henry Blake, Will Herondale, Dobby.
Now, I have to add Sam and Dean Winchester to that list, and twenty-four hours later, even typing those words makes me cry.
Isn’t that what we all want, as writers? To create characters that are so real, so beloved, that our readers/fans bawl their eyes out if something happens to them? In retrospect, I should have just said, you know what? I love the ending of the penultimate episode. They defeated Chuck. Jack has his destiny. Sam and Dean are finally free to live their lives. But no. I had to watch the series finale. Damn it.
It was my mom who got me hooked on Supernatural. Fifteen years ago, she started watching this little show about two brothers – who, I had to admit, were pretty cute – who ‘saved people and hunted things.’ But this was three years after the end of The X-Files, and believe it or not, I was still in mourning – and frankly, still pretty pissed off at Chris Carter for ending it that way, with no resolution, nothing. I had vowed I would never become that invested in a TV show again.
Not worth it, I said. Try it, she said. But I just couldn’t. I kept waiting for it to end. It seemed like it would, after all – it was fun, smart, with a great cast and a great premise. All those kinds of shows end up getting the axe. Moonlight did. Why not this one?
But it didn’t. And Sam and Dean won me over, with their cuteness and sarcasm and courage, their loyalty and resourcefulness, their amazing bond and the penchant they had for running pell-mell into danger – not because they didn’t recognize the danger, but because they felt they had no choice. This was their job. Their calling. And I liked that about them. I’ve always liked those kinds of stories, the ones where the characters know there’s a chance they’ll die (and Sam and Dean did die, several times!) but it’s not important. What’s important is fixing what’s wrong. Solving the problem. Whatever that problem might be. A ghost A vampire nest. The Apocalypse. Bringing their brother back from the dead. The usual.
For fifteen years, I’ve remained faithful, as characters came and went, as characters sacrificed themselves for the greater good (Crowley, Charlie, Rowena . . . Ellen and Jo . . . John Winchester . . . and our dear sweet Castiel, among many), as over and over, Sam and Dean defied the odds with nothing more than courage, a stubborn streak, and faith in each other.
“Endings are hard,” Chuck said in the episode Swan Song, which saw Lucifer taking over Sam so he could fight Michael in the final epic battle of good and evil – and Dean, unwilling to give up on his brother, driving to the showdown and interrupting two archangels intent on the Apocalypse. (This episode also features my favorite five second of all time: Castiel’s “Hey! Assbutt!”) At that time, we just thought Chuck was a prophet, and what he said was true of all writers. Endings suck. But what made this ending, this series finale, worse, I think, is that it was one of the last things I still shared with my mom. She died some time ago. She didn’t get to see this ending. I wasn’t conscious of that link to her, really, not until last night when I started crying and suddenly realized my tears and my grief ran deeper than watching Dean say his goodbyes to Sam, or seeing them reunited with that smile, and that “Hey, Sammy” – a line I’ve heard a thousand times over fifteen years, the line I said with him because I knew he’d say it.
Supernatural was first and foremost about family. That was clear in every episode. To Dean, nothing was more important. Never give up on family. Whether that family was his brother and dad, or whether it was the extended, adopted family they created – Charlie, Castiel, Jodi, Jack – family was first and foremost, and my mom was really the last of mine. I have siblings, but we don’t talk and after a lifetime of their treatment, that’s fine. But you knew, always, that Sam and Dean would do anything for each other – making a deal with a crossroads demon, whatever it took. It felt like not just the end of one of my favorite series, but it felt like that last tiny link I still had with my mom was suddenly severed.
So to me, this show about two brothers ‘saving people, hunting things’ was far more than that. It was inspiration and comfort. It was an hour of believing in the good in people again. It was a last bit of connection to my mom. It was hope. I know that sounds corny, but really, that’s what it was. The writers took big risks – making angels into douchebags?! Who would have done that?! But it was brilliant! You never knew what would happen next – but whatever it was, you knew one thing: Sam and Dean would survive it, together. They were an inspiration for how to live life, to never give up, which was the basis of the mental health initiatives that Jensen Ackles and Jared Padelecki have sponsored and supported.
So thank you to the cast and crew, the writers and directors and producers, for giving us fifteen years of an amazing show. Hopefully, I can find it in myself to start living my life with that kind of courage and conviction.
The sarcasm, I already have. 🙂