The Big Picture
- Supernatural should have ended after its fifth season, as it achieved its initial goal of completing story arcs and gave Sam and Dean fitting final bows.
- The show’s quality declined after Season 5, and staying on for more seasons only revealed that less is more.
- The CW’s decision to extend the show past its planned ending was a mistake, as Supernatural lost sight of its future and became bloated and uninspired.
The CW’s Supernatural proved to overstay its welcome on the network, stretching itself out to be far longer than what was necessary. The once-horror show lost its luster after Season 5 and proved that even with a popular following, there wasn’t enough strength given to support its long legs. The show was originally supposed to conclude with its fifth season, and honestly, it should have. Supernatural Season 5 gave Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester fitting final bows that reflected an ending that was more honest to each of their characters. It told each of their stories concisely without having the need to reach for ways to see them go on their next adventure. Supernatural achieved its initial goal by completing story arcs, and wrapping the first handful of seasons up with a climatic battle felt like the most memorable way to send the series off. The series continuing to move past season 5 made it more evident that perhaps less is more regarding its constant renewal status. The canonical ending of Supernatural, and the seasons leading up to the show’s ultimate demise, make evident that The CW should have agreed to end the show earlier on. There was a plan in place for how Supernatural initially wanted to unfold, and it was foolish for the network to ask for more.
Supernatural first aired in 2005 and quickly became an iconic series on The CW. The intense following allowed the show’s presence to flourish on social media platforms and continue to become more prominent in the public eye. Supernatural became inescapable, yet despite how obsessed and dedicated the fan base became, doomed itself by staying around for far too long. The horror-drama followed the monster-hunting Winchester brothers across the United States, chasing down theological figures, cryptics, and other legendary creatures. It leaned heavily into themes of Catholicism and pulled its plot points directly from Biblical stories, re-imagining each for the modern day. Unfortunately, Supernatural could only stay self-engaged for so long, and the early signs of the show losing sight of its future began to show following Season 5. Once things moved past that fifth season, it became obvious that Supernatural should have stopped while it was ahead.
‘Supernatural’ Was Originally Supposed To End With Season 5
The Supernatural showrunning team originally didn’t plan for their show to carry on past a fifth season, and their initial plan was to bring the series to a close by the end of its fifth season. Swan Song wanted to be the definitive end of Supernatural, and honestly, it should have been. It was designed to satisfy Supernatural‘s core storyline and keep the Apocalypse from being too large for the series to handle. Later seasons proved that Supernatural bit off more than it could chew. Ackles and Padalecki had contractually obliged themselves to a six-season run, and The CW permitted Supernatural to return due to how high ratings continued to be. “Swan Song” was literally supposed to be the swan song of the show as a whole. Even if there was one more season that had yet to be honored, there wasn’t really a written agreement that kept cast and crew bound to the series past a sixth season. Six seasons of Supernatural was more than enough, though The CW should have honored that five-part plan.
Dean’s arc was supposed to be finalized by the time the fifth season took its final bow. The transition of how his loyalties took new shape over the course of the show’s first five-part installment gave Ackles’ gruff monster hunter a larger purpose than just following in his father’s footsteps. Having Dean take on an identity crisis was detrimental to his character development, and allowing him to become his own person by the end of Supernatural Season 5 was a suitable note to dismiss the series. That meaningful journey of self-discovery was essential to exploring Dean’s full potential and gratifying his narrative without needing to be excessive. “Swan Song” successfully caps off the battle between Earth and Heaven.
Season 5 of Supernatural delivered a strong, confident ending to the show, just as the showrunners once intended there to be. The fifth season cleanly wrapped up everything the show had accomplished so far, and was crafted to touch on making sure each narrative was given its own resolution. The scope of the Winchester family was fleshed out to give their dysfunction depth and meaning. This unconventional, uncomfortable take on a family unit was reflected by the show’s religion-inspired subplots, and the parallels were designed to stretch across five seasons. Sam’s arc in particular was a carefully measured approach to the struggles he’d face, and purposefully knows how it wants to pace itself throughout a five-part arc. The impact of how Sam’s life is changed over a handful of seasons is crushed beneath the weight of a show that’s become too bloated for its own good and diminishes the care that was put into his personal storyline. Sam sacrifices the dream of a normal, domestic life in order to seek out his own revenge over the course of a long-term series. By the time Season 15 rolled around, it felt like his choice to invest in the “family business” of saving people and hunting things over pursuing a life of his own was a mistake.
The CW Opted For Quantity Over Quality
Supernatural didn’t need to venture out past five seasons. Just because Supernatural creator Eric Kripke could go on to pursue an additional 10 seasons didn’t mean they had to. Supernatural ventured deeper into its long-winded catalog while logging over 300 episodes into its total count. Things started to thin out once Season 6 rolled around and Supernatural started to face a decline in quality. The plot lines began to break under the weight of expectation, and the central narrative was running out of ideas when it came down to originality vs. redundancy. A dead end was hit fairly quickly, and the success of the initial five-season run slowly yet surely started to crumble. The quality of shows aired on The CW remains questionable, with series like Riverdale or abandoned projects such as The Powerpuff Girls presenting themselves with more shock value when dissecting how the network approached them. Supernatural fell victim to CW-ification and remained to be at its best when it was a horror show. In later seasons, the show took itself less seriously as a whole, fell out of touch with its horror roots, and had an almost fan-fiction feel when exploring later chapters of its self-propagated saga.
If Supernatural had stuck to limiting itself when parsing itself down to a shorter televised run, it could have avoided exhausting itself altogether. Supernatural suffered from being uninspired in its later seasons, and struggled to introduce compelling, new, and fresh aspects of the show. Not every season of Supernatural was perfect, and that redundancy began to kill the spirit of the earlier seasons. It began to play as a contractual obligation when The CW ordered more of Supernatural, and the show’s actual ending was deemed to be incredibly divisive. There were no more “monsters of the week,” and Supernatural‘s ongoing need to be relevant cost the show its reputation.
From one point of view, it could be said that Supernatural felt like a chore to finish, and the lack of a clear plan for where the series wanted to take itself next spoke for its desire for quantity over quality. Characters started to feel dry and inorganic while running out of things to do on screen, and it became challenging to invest in them past a certain point. Supernatural didn’t have to be so long to insist that it was still good. Short-form storytelling in television, like the show’s first idea of sticking to five seasons, can remain to be incredibly impactful when crafted to the best of its ability. The first five seasons of Supernatural were all the show really needed to be successful as a whole, and it should have ended there.
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