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Family Remains: On the Enduring Appeal of Supernatural

On the day of its 250th episode!

supernatural

Earlier this month, the CW announced the record thirteenth season of Supernatural, and today will see the long running show return from winter hiatus with its 250th episode. The Winchesters have fought everything including vampires, demons, giant talking teddy bears, Hitler, and this season, the president (who was possessed by Lucifer, no big deal). The show has more seasons than many other cult hits have episodes, but for fans of the show, that’s not surprising at all.

Supernatural has always flown under the radar, perhaps because its devoted fandom is mainly women, or maybe because it’s easily dismissed a just another monster-of-the-week genre chestnut. But from the first season, Supernatural has been smart, funny, scary, heart-wrenching, and willing to explode the fourth wall. With innovative episodes running the gamut from a high school musical based on the show, an episode starring the Winchester’s iconic 1967 Chevy Impala, to taking Sam and Dean into our reality or finding out God is bisexual, after 249 episodes we’re still being surprised.

That success doesn’t just come from crazy plots. The show captured lightning in a bottle when they cast Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, whose chemistry and talent continues to grow more impressive. The introduction of Misha Collins as the angel Castiel in season four not only brought heaven and the apocalypse into the mix, but a new dynamic and a character that remains a fan favorite.

j2m2

Padalecki, Sheppard, Ackles and Collins

It helps that the three leads aren’t just gorgeous people, but remarkable humans dedicated to mental health awareness, random acts of kindness (and weirdness) and keeping their set and fandom great environments. It’s not just “J2M” that make the show and fandom a unique place: genre legend Mark Sheppard is a series regular, and the supporting cast is so beloved that God and the angel Gabriel (Rob Benedict and Richard Speight Jr.) crowd funded their own digital series (Kings of Con) set in the world of fan conventions. Calls for a spin off starring some of the fantastic women on the show, such as Briana Buckmaster and Kim Rhodes, get louder each year as well.

Beyond the monsters and cool car (and it is a really cool car), there’s always been something about Supernatural that resonated, especially with the scores of women that make sure the show wins every poll and award that can be voted on and keep it in the top fandoms on social media. It’s not just the pretty faces on the screen or the homoerotic tension between said pretty faces (though that’s certainly part of the appeal); what makes Supernatural special is actually an absence of romance.

Hear me out: In nearly every show on television, the most important relationships in the lead characters’ lives are romantic, and women so often function as just lovers or wives or girlfriends. That’s not the case in Supernatural. Not only are a wide majority of the women not romantic foils—they are strong, complex characters—but the show is also about a different kind of love. The foundational relationship for every bit of drama and tension is the relationship between the Winchester brothers, and the love that defines the show—and has in many instances saved the world—is the love between family. Supernatural fans refer to themselves as the “SPN Family,” and for good reason: family—especially found family that doesn’t “end in blood”—is the iron core of the show.

Collins, Padalecki, Ackles (and Baby)

Collins, Padalecki, Ackles (and Baby)

Supernatural has survived writers strikes, four showrunners, deaths on-screen and off (even the death of Death), low ratings, critical dismissal, racist trucks, bugs and a string of disappointing episodes about dogs (don’t ask). And it’s done that because of family: the family built between the Winchesters, Castiel and others on screen, the family that continues to grow and thrive behind the scenes, and the family of fans that are devoted to this little show that could and the hardworking people that make it. Especially now, in an uncertain and scary world, it’s both comforting and inspiring to think about two brothers who who fought for each other and the people they loved when even God had given up hope.

As creator Eric Kripke wrote in “Swan Song” 150 episodes ago: “Up against good, evil, angels, devils, destiny, and God himself, they made their own choice. They chose family. And, well… isn’t that kinda the whole point?”

Congratulation on 250 episodes. Onward to 300.

Jessica Mason is a writer and lawyer living in Portland, Oregon passionate about corgis, fandom, and awesome girls.  Follow her on Twitter at @FangirlingJess.

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