Eleven years is a long time to stick with anything. A lot can happen in 11 years. Cars quit running. Breakups happen. People come in and out of our lives. I’ve had few constants in the last decade, and family and Supernatural are among them. Fitting, since no matter what else Supernatural is and no matter where it goes, it is a series about family. The Winchester brothers have been there for me through a long list of changes; they’ve been as reliable as Baby. Over 11 seasons, the show has stretched to the stars with intelligent writing and heartrending emotion, but also dipped into some valleys with tired cliches and flimsy plots. I’ve almost walked away from the show. I’ve certainly fallen behind a couple of times. But at the end of the day, I’m here and I don’t plan on leaving.
No, it’s not a feeling of, “Well, I’ve come this far so I may as well stick it out.” It’s true I’ve invested I don’t want to know how many hours into the twisting paths of Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), but I don’t tune in because I’m obligated to watch. Well, I do review the series week to week, but I would watch regardless. I promise.
I don’t care what ultimately happens to the Winchesters. Ideally, I’d like to see them rid the world of evil, survive ridding the world of evil, and receive an overdue thank you present in the form of lifetime supplies of beer, cheeseburgers, and pie from humanity, but I’m not watching simply to get to the end of the journey, if that makes sense. I’m all in every week to see what Sam and Dean do and experience. I don’t look to the road ahead; I focus on the moment and where the Winchesters are.
This is a show about two brothers. Sure, they fight Wendigos, interact with Lucifer, and face threats from mythological and biblical fronts. The stakes and the monsters are secondary though. Supernatural lives and breathes through the exasperated looks Sam and Dean give each other. Through the heavy heart-to-hearts about their dad and the family business. Through the times they lie to each other (which is far too often) and bare their souls to each other and have each other’s backs. Through the way Padalecki and Ackles convey entire conversations between the brothers without speaking a word. These little slices stack up to build a layered, troubled, loving relationship stronger than the Impala’s engine.
The importance of family extends beyond Sam and Dean to include regular sidekicks Castiel (Misha Collins) and Crowley (Mark Sheppard), recurring cast members, the crew, and the fans. Spending 11 years exclaiming over important topics like Destiel and the whereabouts of God creates a tough bond. Supernatural recognizes its fan and pulls them in for warm hugs with episodes like “Fan Fiction” and “Baby.” The cast often pauses to thank the show’s supporters, and as far as I can tell, they don’t do it with an insincere bone in their bodies. It makes for a special community around the show—a community I haven’t seen replicated in any other corners of pop culture fandom.
Part of the reason the community exists, I think, is due to Supernatural being self-aware. The show chews on meaty questions about good and evil and about destiny and freewill, but it also breaks down walls to go meta and poke fun at Misha Collins’ tweeting habits. Because they recognize some of the silliness inherent to the stories they tell, they can turn the tables and use the fodder to make episodes that work better than they have any right to.
Supernatural takes chances. Their bets don’t always pay off, but they keep experimenting. But beyond the format and the lore, Supernatural puts its characters first. Spending time with Dean and Sam and their angst, humor, and camaraderie keeps me coming back again and again, even after 11 seasons and even when the going gets rough.
Images: The CW, All the Supernatural Gifs