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Supernatural’s Ending Was Originally Different (and Way More Epic)


Supernatural’s Ending Was Originally Different (and Way More Epic)


Summary

  • Supernatural’s iconic 15-year run ended with a finale that faced challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting the original plans.
  • The pandemic forced creators to rewrite the final episodes, resulting in a smaller scale final showdown with God and a more contained atmosphere.
  • Fans had mixed reactions to the finale, feeling it fell short of the grander plans that had been initially envisioned before the pandemic disrupted production.



When it comes to long-running television series, one that stands out for many is Supernatural. Premiering on the WB in 2005 in the networks last year, it then became a staple of The CW for the next fourteen years. The story of monster hunters Sam and Dean Winchester, played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, evolved greatly over the years from a simple monster of the week show to a series with a grand mythology that includes angels, demons, and even facing off against God himself. The series got meta, broke the fourth wall, and even featured one of the best crossovers of all time when Scooby-Doo appeared on the series.


Supernatural seemed like a series that would just always be around, but after fifteen years, the series finally decided to end its historic run. Season fifteen began airing in October 2019 and was set for a twenty-episode run that would conclude on May 18, 2020. After years of battling major threats on the world, one that the Winchester brothers were not ready for was the COVID-19 pandemic. The series was forced to stop production with only two episodes left to film. While the series would finally be allowed to resume production and conclude in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the original final plans for the series in a big way.


Original Plans for the Supernatural Finale

supernatural

Supernatural

Release Date
September 13, 2005

Seasons
15

Studio
The CW


Supernatural‘s final episode, “Carry On,” aired on the CW on November 19, 2020. The episode picks up after the climactic showdown with God as it looks like the Winchester Brothers are going about on a classic Supernatural adventure from season one where they hunt a monster. Yet things take a turn when Dean finds himself impaled on a metal spike during a fight and dies after an emotional goodbye with Sam.

Dean awakes in heaven, greeted by former friend Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver), as heaven was rebuilt by fan-favorite characters Jack (Alex Calvert) and Castiel (Misha Collins), who are not seen in the episode. Meanwhile, Sam lives a happy life with a wife and son, dies of old age, and reunites with his brother Dean in heaven in a recreation of the same bridge from the pilot episode. What was a lifetime for Sam was only minutes for Dean.

Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester and Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester in Supernatural
Kripke Enterprises


The episode received mixed reactions from fans and critics, partially due to the fact that Dean died in what felt like an anti-climatic way following so many epic world-ending events, but also for how small the finale felt. Particularly with the idea of heaven, many were hoping to see Sam and Dean reunited with many other characters, including a reunion with their parents, John and Mary Winchester, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Samantha Smith, respectively, or the angel Castiel.

Supernatural co-showrunner Andrew Dobb told Entertainment Weekly that the series originally did have bigger plans for the final episode, ones that would have been different if not for the pandemic. He said:

“Dean was always going to end up in Heaven, and we were always going to see Sam’s life in fast-forward, but those final moments were supposed to take place somewhere else. When Bob Singer and I sat down to talk about season 15, and our inevitable end, we came up with something that felt like a fitting version of Sam and Dean’s Heaven: all the people the boys had met along the way (or at least, those we could convince to fly to Vancouver) crowded into a re-built Roadhouse, as the band Kansas played our (official unofficial) theme song: ‘Carry on Wayward Son.'”


The Realities of Shooting During COVID

Supernatural resumed production on their final two episodes on August 17, 2020. After having rewritten the script for the final episode, Dobbs revealed by that point how difficult it was to get everyone back.

“When we opened back up in August, getting that many people in an enclosed space, much less traveling some of our favorites from LA and making them quarantine two weeks for what would be a half day’s work, just wasn’t realistic. Even Kansas, always game, didn’t feel like they could make that trip, which we completely understood.”


For reference, Jurassic World: Dominion was one of the first major productions to resume filming during the COVID-19 pandemic as they returned to work on July 6, 2020, and Universal Pictures spent about $9 million dollars on COVID-19 safety measures, including renting out an entire hotel room for the cast and crew to quarantine in for two weeks. Even with all that, the production was stopped and forced to shut down twice due to two separate positive COVID cases. Universal Pictures had that money to spend on Jurassic World: Dominion, one of their biggest tentpole films, but it was not feasible for the CW to spend on Supernatural.

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There was also a matter of scheduling and time. Unlike other CW series that were halted during the COVID-19 pandemic, like The Flash or Supergirl, who could have plotlines left over from one season be folded in and resolved in the following season, Supernatural was in its final season, and it had to air by a certain point before the 2021 television season. Supernatural star Jared Padalecki had to begin filming Walker, which was set to air in January 2021, so Supernatural needed to conclude before 2020 was over, forcing the creators to rush the production.


The COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Supernatural’s Final Two Episodes

When Supernatural shut down production on March 12, 2020, they only needed to complete filming on two more episodes, but it was the two most important episodes. Episode 19, which was going to be the final showdown with the series’ ultimate antagonist, Chuck (Rob Benedict), the prophet who was later revealed to be God himself, and episode 20, which was, of course, the series finale and the resolution to the entire series. The pressure was already high for these two episodes, and the creators had much bigger plans, but the unfortunate reality of the pandemic forced the writers to rework the most important episodes of the series, which was what everything had been building to.

Dobb told Entertainment Weekly:


“We did a rewrite once we knew what our COVID rules were going to be for episodes 19 and 20, and it changed some things, it did. Particularly in episode 20, there were things planned that just aren’t feasible anymore…I love what we have now, Dean in the car on the open road, but I have to admit that I sometimes think about our original idea—all of Sam and Dean’s family and friends and one of the greatest rock bands ever on a masterpiece of a set, and I miss is … even though it never really existed.”

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The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is obvious to anyone watching the final two episodes. While episodes 14 through 18 were edited and broadcast during the pandemic, they were clearly shot before and featured more actors present in scenes. The final two episodes notably feel small, with the actors blocking, having them just far enough away from one another to maintain six feet apart. There are plenty of close-up shots, and the final epic battle between the two brothers and God feels small and contained. It is clear everyone is shooting around the pandemic, tying one hand behind their back.

The Supernatural finale was a victim of unfortunate timing. While fans certainly understand that, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that the final episode does exist and feels anticlimactic, particularly compared to what could have been. The further away the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic gets, for many, what will be left is the episode as is without the historical context, and that will certainly leave many fans disappointed and wondering what might have been.

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