Earlier this month saw the 200th episode of Supernatural, an impressive milestone that few shows manage to reach, especially high concept genre shows. Ten seasons and 200 episodes means we’ve seen an awful lot happen to the show’s stars, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (emphasis on the ‘awful’) but somehow the show is continuing to bring in new fans and new mythology to keep the show alive.
While the show started with the simple premise of Sam and Dean driving across America hunting the things that go bump in the night, it has evolved into something much more. Season Four saw the introduction of the angel Castiel, played by perennial fan favourite Misha Collins. This opened up the show to a much wider mythology than had been covered before, embracing Christian mythology as wholeheartedly as the Pagan mythology the earlier seasons had dealt with. Since then we have seen the brothers travel through Hell, Heaven, Purgatory, and, of course, Earth, all the while supported by a strong network of family and friends.
While it would be easy for the show to drown under the weight of its own mythology, the seriousness of the life and death situations the brothers routinely face is lightened by the show’s consistent sense of humour and infamous meta episodes. Few shows can so frequently break the fourth wall. Season Six’s The French Mistake sees Sam and Dean sent into an alternate universe where they are the actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles on the set of the TV show ‘Supernatural’. In Season Four they discover a series of books based on their lives has been published by an alcoholic author who has been receiving visions of them due to his role as the (unknowing) Prophet of God. Other fun episodes include a Groundhog Day episode, where Sam is forced to watch Dean die again and again, and Season Five’s Changing Channels, where the brothers are transported into a world of fake TV shows.
Creator Eric Kripke stepped away from the show at the end of Season Five, after Sam and Dean had successfully managed to fend off the apocalypse. Many thought this would be a natural conclusion to the show, but Sera Gamble, who had been with the show since its inception, stepped up as show runner for the next two seasons. By general consensus, Seasons Six and Seven were a low point for Supernatural. While Kripke’s tenure had an overarching story and goal, Gamble and co. focused on storylines that only lasted one season as the constant fear of cancellation hung over them, and the quality of episodes dipped.
Jeremy Carver, series writer Seasons Three to Five, returned from his stint as show runner on the US version of Being Human to take up the mantle of show runner from Season Eight onwards. Season Eight was considered a spectacular return to form, and the show steadily gained viewers as angels fell from Heaven.
Supernatural would not have survived ten seasons without its fanbase, and it would be remiss not to mention them. Supernatural’s fanbase is one of the largest for any TV show, and to give their impact on the show proper justice would require a separate article. Suffice it to say, Supernatural’s 200th episode was called ‘Fan Fiction’, and saw a girls’ school put on a musical about the book series ‘Supernatural'. This was a fitting way to shout out to fans and fan culture, and will surely go down as a favourite for years to come.
Very few people expected Supernatural to last beyond its first few seasons; for it to survive past its 200th episode and still be gaining fans is truly remarkable. It’s unclear how long the show will remain on air, but its availability on Netflix and DVD box sets means that new fans are appearing all the time. If you have a love of the supernatural and family who go above and beyond for each other then Supernatural may just be the show for you.