About to enter its 12th season, CW’s Supernatural is the longest running science fiction series in American television and along with Doctor Who is one of the longest running genre shows ever made. A large part of its success can be attributed to its passionate and loyal fan base who gathered in droves to fill Hall H on the final morning of this year’s San Diego Comic Con for the annual Supernatural panel. Both the panel and the press room were full of surprises (Samantha and Ruth!), laughter and a fair amount of spoilers. What is clear is these 5 reason why that the cast, it’s creators and the show’s fans are all still in love with this show.
#1 – WELL, THEY ARE NOT CALLED “LOSE-CHESTERS” …
For the second year in a row on the Supernatural panel. Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester) pulled that joke, a play on the main characters’ last name of Winchester. This year he snuck it in when asked about his character’s survival odds after being shot in the season 11 finale. The joke may be old, but it makes its point. The brothers have literally been to hell and back but season after season fighting all the odds, they always come out ahead and together and that is a big part of why people watch the show.
Supernatural’s newest showrunner, Andrew Dabb (taking over from Jeremy Carver), hinted that the show is not so much about whether or not the brothers will survive (of course they will), but it’s about how these beloved characters respond to the challenges that lay before them. As he put it, “The best part of the show is when you take something big or crazy or funny and throw these guys in and see how they react.”
Season twelve will test Sam and his brother Dean (played by Jensen Ackles) in their reaction to a potential new adversary, the British Men of Letters. Dabb indulged us with a little information on this new entity saying, “I think what we’re going to find is that the British Men of Letters, unlike the American Men of Letters who were kind of wiped out, were always very small, always very hidden, always very influential.” He continued, “We’re going to find out that there has not been a monster related death in Britain since 1965.” Apparently the British Men of Letters are fairly effective in their Orwellian ways which contrast greatly with the more cowboy-ish spirit of American hunters. This contrast will lead to some clashes with the boys who end up questioning how much of the British Men of Letter’s policies they might want to accept. However, judging by the teaser clips shown at the panel of Sam being tortured, Sam and Dean might not have much of a choice in the matter.
#2 – MONSTERS WITH DEPTH
Producer and co-showrunner Robert Singer has been with the show from the beginning and in the press room commented on how the show has evolved from its inception. The show’s creator, Eric Kripke had some rules from the get go and while a few, like never use flashbacks, were broken pretty early on, much of the original intent for the show has remained. As an example, Singer pointed to the complexity of the show’s monsters and villains. Although plots have expanded beyond the original focus on “google-able urban legends,” monsters still play a key role in the Supernatural universe. On the importance of a good monster Singer revealed, “Eric used to say, a good villain is the hero of his own story and we’ve always tried to do that, to make the monsters interesting and that’s probably the smartest things we’ve done. They’re not just stock werewolves or stock vampires. They all have their own story.”
Although this season doesn’t focus on a single big bad, we will see the return of one of the perennial Supernatural villains, Lucifer, with both Mark Sheppard’s demon Crowley and Misha Collin’s angel Castiel (Cas) having very good reasons to go after this uncaged fallen angel. On Lucifer’s season 12 storyline Dabb revealed, “When we meet Lucifer early on even though he’s bouncing from body to body in search of a host, there is a part of him that’s like, I want to go on a vacation. I want to have fun.” He finds a suitable host in washed-up rock star, Vince Vicente (played by Rick Springfield). Dabb goes on to hint at where that storyline might head saying, “I think it’s going to take a turn. What he really wants is devotion and devotion has two sides. There’s a very good side to it and a very bad side. If you really love someone, like fanatically love someone, you’ll do horrible horrible things if they ask you. For Lucifer, he’s like this is awesome, a new set of toys to play with.”
#3 – EVERY SEASON IS A NEW, COMPELLING STORY
Over the years, the stories told in Supernatural have gotten bigger and bigger in scope from vampires and demons to angels to Lucifer and hell to battles with other species and thwarting the destruction of the world and finally to God himself. Because you can’t get any bigger than God, next season Supernatural is instead going smaller, almost back to the beginning with a focus on family and hunting, but this time with a new player, the boys’ mom, Mary Winchester.
At the end of last season Amara told Dean she was going to gift him something he’s always wanted… and there appears his long-dead mother Mary, looking exactly like she did 30 plus years ago before the yellow-eyed demon burned her into the ceiling of Sam’s nursery. End scene.
Mary’s return brings the opportunity for entirely new storytelling adding a game changing character to the boys’ lives while also providing a fresh prospective on the weekly hunt. It was confirmed rather quickly that Mary is indeed alive, having been brought back from heaven. However, she does not exactly find her sons like she expected. Her portrayer, Samantha Smith, a surprise addition to this year’s panel, gave some insight into Mary’s return saying, “I will be hunting, working with the boys and trying to digest the new reality of being 28 still and my boys are grown men and gigantic and living a life that I did not want for them.” On how Mary is as a mom, Padalecki added, “She’s a hunter. Like if we’re going on a hunt, she’s not going to get a zip-locked bag and make a sandwich, she you later. She’s going to come hunt with us.”
The arrival of their mom brings up many issues for the brothers, giving them someone new to fight for/over and protect. “She’s a liability,” Ackles remarked. For Sam, the return of the mother he never really knew brings up a lot of issues from his childhood. Padelecki expressed excitement over the new acting challenge saying, “You’ve seen Sam as a demon, an angel, a killer, a friend, but you’ve never really seen him as a son.” Explaining further he said, “He [Sam] put a lot of blame on his dad for a long time, the irony being that it was probably his mom’s fault more than the dad. She was the Campbell. She was the hunter. She was the one that brought Azazel into our lives and he’s going to have to come to terms with that.”
Beyond her interaction with her sons, Collins teased a unique friendship between Mary and Cas saying, “I think it affords an interesting opportunity for Cas and I’m looking forward to Cas getting to know Mary and how that relationship unfolds. How it potentially changes the dynamic between him and Dean.”
In preparation for her return to the role, Smith has been watching Jensen Ackles on set in an attempt to develop some “reverse inheritance.” Beyond a few basic mannerisms expect Mary to share with Dean both his love of food and his “baby,” the Impala. Asked about the possibility of Mary driving the beloved car, Robert Singer responded, “She knows that car very well. She was very surprised to see it still in working order and looking good. So, yeah, I think she’ll probably get behind the wheel.
#4 – MISHA COLLINS
Everyone loves the angel Castiel and his portrayer, Misha Collins.
In fact, people love him so much he’s not only found his way into a long-standing series regular on the show, but Misha Collins has started a revolutionary world-wide movement in the form of his incredibly successful world-wide scavenger hunt, GISHWHES. The scavenger hunt requires people to do a range of ridiculous, random and even a few meaningful things. When asked if there were any scavenger hunt ideas that have been vetoed Misha laughed and said, “we’ve made the mistake of having people recite really bad poetry and when you have to watch submissions of that you want to shoot yourself.” He also told the story about the year he asked participants to wrap themselves with Christmas tree lights at night and stand on a roof. That got taken off the list pretty quickly. Regardless of the sanity in his GISHWHES choices, the popularity of the event is a true testament to the actor and his character who remains one of the reasons many continue to tune in each week.
Last season, Castiel was the chosen vessel for Lucifer. Misha reflected on his opportunity to play someone else for a while saying, “I love it actually. I really enjoyed it. I felt like Cas’ turn as a human wasn’t as long as it could have been and I was really enjoying playing him as human. But when we got into Lucifer I was worried that it was going to be cut short somehow and the truth is I ended up playing Lucifer for nearly a whole season and that was fun.”
#5 – IT’S ALL ABOUT FAMILY
Who doesn’t love a show with family at its core? It’s one of the oldest ploys in the book. It’s also one of the things Supernatural does the best and does consistently well. Mark Sheppard (Crowley) attributed the show’s longevity to this very fact and put it in perspective saying, “You’re watching the Winchester brothers and if you don’t care about the Winchester brothers, you don’t have much to watch. Crowley’s not just Crowley as a standalone. It’s always with or against the Winchesters. It’s how he relates to them. I think it’s a wonderful way to go.” The focus on family will be high with the return of Sam and Dean’s mother, but Sheppard teased a rumor that Crowley’s family unit might be expanding further this season as well.
The idea of family is also evident in the cast and crew on the show who have grown very close over the years and still love coming to work every day. Among the cast, the word “fun” is probably the most oft-used descriptor when talking about the job, but it’s clearly more than that. Padalecki mentioned how family doesn’t have to be blood. Padalecki and Ackles both have homes in Austin and their children are friends. Jenson told a story on the panel of how his young daughter called Padalecki’s two older boys her boys and you could hear hearts melting all over the 6,500 person capacity Hall H.
Beyond the show, the family of Supernatural fans is one of the most passionate and dedicated fandoms. During the panel, clips from the season finale were inter-spliced with fan reactions and it was hard to tell which were more entertaining. It was a real testament to how personally invested the fans have become after nearly 250 episodes with their favorite demon-hunting brothers.
The dedicated family of fans come out in droves for Supernatural’s numerous conventions. About his convention experiences, Ackles reflected, “I know we’re in season 12 but it’s still a show we’re all passionate about. We still love telling these stories. I still love playing this character. So to come somewhere where I can surround myself with people who also have an interest in the show and in the characters, it’s fun.”
Newer member of the Supernatural family Ruth Connell who plays the witch Rowena with a familial connection to Crowley, talked about how nervous she was entering a world with such a strong fandom. “I had no idea,” she declared in response to a question about the ardent fanbase. She continued saying, “Casting tried to explain it to me. They said to my agent at the time, I don’t think Ruth quite understands the effect her character might have on the Supernatural fandom or quite what the Supernatural fandom is like.”
Connell has since been positively embraced by the fan community. In the convention circuit, she is known for giving fans who ask questions the most random “prizes” often accrued from her hotel room. Connell explained, “You know Erica who plays Hannah. She’s my dear friend and the first big convention we did together up in Vancouver she had these handmade cupcakes that said Supernatural and I was like, I got nothing! So when I went home that night there were toiletries in the bathroom and I don’t know, my crazy mind. I turned up the next day and I was like you can have cupcakes but I have hotel soap!” It doesn’t feel any more like family than with the sharing of soap.