Saving people. Hunting things. The family business.

How “Supernatural” makes fans feel like family after 15 years on the air

In “Supernatural’s” pilot episode, Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) watch as Dean’s car is turned on by a ghost. (Photo courtesy of Justin Lubin.)

When The CW Television Network’s “Supernatural” first aired on Sept. 13, 2005, it was merely a show about two good-looking brothers who crossed the country in their muscle car fighting monsters. But a television series cannot last for 15 seasons without cultivating a strong audience-character connection, and by the time the last episode aired on Nov. 19, 2020, “Supernatural” made its fans feel like part of the extended family.

At the heart of the show are brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (portrayed by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles respectively). The basic premise of the show is that monsters are real, and the brothers come from a long line of monster hunters. Their motto is, after all, “Saving people. Hunting things. The family business.”

Senior Japanjot Kaur first started binge-watching “Supernatural” this past summer after hearing about it on social media.

“What makes ‘Supernatural’ a good show is that it’s not just about plot,” Kaur said. “I care about the characters that much, and their stories.”

Intriguing writing and fascinating monsters draw the audience in to the series. Eric Kripke, the show’s creator, is obsessed with urban legends, so in the show, in addition to fighting everyday monsters like werewolves and vampires, the brothers take on more famous legends.

For example, the pilot features a take on the legend of La Llorona, or as she is known on “Supernatural,” the Woman in White. The legend of La Llorona tells of a beautiful woman whose husband cheated on her. In despair, she drowned herself and her children, and haunts the place where she died. In the “Supernatural” version, she lures unfaithful men to their deaths. Brothers Sam and Dean intervene to stop her from taking any more lives.

In “Bloody Mary,” (S1:E6), Dean smashes a mirror that Bloody Mary had been occupying. (Photo courtesy of The Warner Bros. Television Network.)

After-school Drama Program lead Cayleigh Coester was hooked after watching the first episode in 2009.

“If there was an episode I had to say was my favorite, I’d have to say the pilot, just because it’s establishing such an incredible universe,” Coester said. “I like the interesting takes that they had for all the monsters, like the way that the vampires weren’t the classic Dracula vampire.”

The first season was packed with several strong episodes as the audience explored the “Supernatural” universe.

Viewers ride along with the brothers as they face the original “Bloody Mary” (S1:E5). According to this legend, if a person says Bloody Mary three times in front of a mirror, then she will appear and kill them. “Supernatural” explores Mary’s backstory by going into detail about what kind of people she targets and what happened to her in life. Sam and Dean must destroy the mirror she was killed in front of in order to put her spirit to rest.

According to entertainment news source Screen Rant, only “Game of Thrones” has a higher body count of those killed over the course of the series; there are only six episodes in all of “Supernatural” where nobody dies. Even the main characters have died several times to advance the plot. Fortunately, “Supernatural” deals with angels, demons, gods and other entities who can resurrect someone with the snap of a finger.

However, the series is not all dark and grim. There have been plenty of hilarious episodes throughout the past fifteen seasons. One of the most beloved episodes is “Scoobynatural” (S13:E16), where Sam and Dean get sucked into an animated episode of Scooby-Doo by a possessed television.

Castiel (Misha Collins), Dean, Sam and the Scooby gang try to hide from the ghost that is chasing them in “Scoobynatural,” (S13:E16). (Photo courtesy of The CW Network)

“[‘Scoobynatural’ is] another one of my favorite episodes because I love ‘Scooby-Doo,’ and I love ‘Supernatural,’ so having them both together was amazing,” Coester said.

“Supernatural” has not been afraid of making fun of itself or its fans, either. In “The French Mistake” (S6:E15) Sam, Dean and a homicidal angel get transported into an alternate universe, where they are just pampered actors, and the angel kills off large swaths of the cast of “Supernatural” before they figure out how to stop him.

“I had never seen anything like [‘The French Mistake’] before because they’re literally going into a different timeline,” Kaur said. “It was a really nice dynamic to see Dean and Sam to be super confused. They don’t really know what to do in that situation; it was hilarious.”

The show is not just great because of the monsters—it is also great because of the character development. The brothers make numerous companions while traveling the country, and some of these friends have become extended family. It is these relationships that make the show so interesting to follow.

“I really liked how [Dean] was kind of the Han Solo of the show for a little bit,” Coester said. “I do like how he developed, particularly the way that he found familial love and support, where he didn’t have that in the very beginning.”

Kaur agrees that character development played a crucial role in maintaining her interest for 15 seasons.

“I feel like I would have given up a long time ago if it wasn’t for the characters and how much I cared about them,” Kaur said.

One very popular character is Crowley, the King of Hell (portrayed by Mark Sheppard). Originally he is presented as an adversary, but over time he becomes an occasional ally, and eventually a close confidant. That does not mean he would not betray the brothers if the price was right, though.

“[Crowley] was sweet,” Kaur said. “It’s weird to say that the King of Hell is sweet.”

One relationship that took on a life of its own was that between Dean and Castiel (portrayed by Misha Collins). Castiel, nicknamed Cas, is an angel whom viewers first meet in season four when he saves Dean from Hell. He immediately becomes a fan favorite and stays on for the show’s duration.

The show’s fans love to say the two would make a good couple, otherwise known as “Destiel.” The show’s writers take full advantage of this and spend much of the next 12 seasons teasing fans.

Dean and Sam talk to Misha Collins, playing himself, to try to figure out where they are in “The French Mistake” (S6:E15). (Photo courtesy of The CW Network.)

Even some of the most influential world leaders ship Destiel; former President Barack Obama followed a Destiel fan account on Twitter. In the final season of the show, Cas finally declares his love for Dean. In the English version, Dean doesn’t reciprocate, but the Spanish dub includes Dean responding “Y yo a ti, Cas,” translating to “And I you, Cas.” A popular joke among fans is that Obama was the rogue translator.

Coincidentally, rumors spread that Russian President Vladimir Putin was announcing his resignation hours after Destiel became real. “Supernatural” fans quipped that Putin’s biggest dream was to see Destiel happen, and now he could step down happily.

People unfamiliar with “Supernatural” were confused to see “Destiel” trending with Putin on Twitter on Nov. 5, 2020.

It is only fitting that Supernatural’s most popular potential couple was causing confusion on the international stage. Supernatural’s writers would have probably had a good laugh and figured out some endearing way to write the incident into an episode. Cas’s awkwardly timed declaration is completely in character for the clueless angel.

Angels with human flaws and demons with hearts of gold are part of what makes this family relatable. The show presents flawed characters and challenges fans to accept them as they are. At one point, Sam was a demon blood junkie, and Dean became a torturer in Hell.

But their refusal to give up on humanity always brings them back.

“They have had very troubled pasts, yet they still have the motivation and the willpower to keep going and save the world,” Kaur said.