Supernatural is heading into its 13th season, a huge accomplishment for any series, let alone a genre drama with only two main characters on the CW. So why has Supernatural endured and survived this long. Well, there are many reasons, and here are just 13 of them.
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The stars of the show, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, have been there since the beginning and their performances and chemistry are at the heart of the series. Both were coming off roles on cult shows (Gilmore Girls and Dark Angel), but the combination of these two is what keeps viewers coming back.
From Azazel the Yellow-Eyed Demon to Lucifer himself, the larger-than-life, terrifying villains helps make the show a true battle between good and evil. Sometimes the villains are objectively evil (Abaddon and the Leviathans), but the more compelling ones are those who blur the lines, like Crowley, Amara and even the British Men of Letters.
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The Other Hunters
While Sam and Dean may be at the center, the show has expanded the world with plenty of Hunters who serve as their friends and allies. It started with Papa Winchester and Bobby, but with great supporting and minor characters like Rufus, Jo and Ellen Harvelle, Ash, Garth, Charlie and Sheriffs Jody and Donna, the world of Supernatural is so much more than just Sam and Dean.
Fighting monsters and demons is fine, but that premise alone couldn’t sustain 13 seasons. The introduction of angels in season 4, led by Castiel, opened up the universe so much that it’s been able to continue to grow nearly a decade later. Whether the show is exploring Heaven and Hell, the conflicts between angels or God Himself, the introduction of Cas helped give the show a bigger scope and more longevity.
The first scene of the series showed the death of Sam and Dean’s mom (though she was brought back to life for season 12). That origin has informed everything that followed, whether it’s Dean’s need to protect his baby brother or Sam’s desire to escape the world of hunting because of his own insecurities. That backstory is filled with turmoil and drama that is still being explored on the show.
The Seasonal Arcs
I call this the Buffy Rule of television, where each season must have its own, self-contained arc with a Big Bad. Supernatural has done a great job of sticking to that formula, with a simple and easy-to-follow narrative for each season that gets neatly wrapped up, but always results in opening an even bigger problem for the next season. Giving fans resolution at the end of each season, while still offering a cliffhanger about what’s to come, is a great way to keep the show going. It’s definitely better than the Lost model, which never resolved anything.
The Monsters of the Week
To succeed for 13 seasons, you can’t rely entirely on one big, never-ending story arc. The procedural element of Supernatural, with a new case, a new town and a new monster almost every week, makes it much easier to come in and out of the series. It also helps reruns as you can watch one or two episodes by themselves without having to see the entire series that preceded it.
The Special Episodes
When a show has been on the air for so long, the formula could get a little monotonous. But the writers find inventive ways to tell the story every year, special episodes that keep viewers on their toes and remind us how clever Supernatural can be. Whether it’s a black-and-white classic horror film homage, a fourth wall-shattering journey to an alternate reality where Sam and Dean are actors named Jared and Jensen or an entire episode set in the Impala, it’s always fun to see what they’ll come up with next. And for season 13, that includes an animated episode with Scooby Doo.
The Brotherly Love
Supernatural has action and thrills and scares, but it’s not just a horror show. At the center is a loving relationship between Sam and Dean. Their constant sibling love is what grounds all of the drama and raises the stakes. After 13 seasons, the fans are extremely invested in these two and they feel like real, actual brothers who sometimes fight, but always come back to each other.
Did I forget to mention that this show is also hilarious? It’s not heavy, serious and dark all of the time, there are plenty of genuinely funny moments. That levity keeps people around because it’s not so depressing or scary that you can’t handle more than 250 episodes. Whether it’ Dean’s obsession with hot chicks, cheeseburgers and pie or Sam being mocked for his nerdy tendencies, you can always find a laugh in even the saddest episodes.
Some people might claim that Misha Collins as Cas is the third star of the show. They would be wrong, because it’s really Baby, Dean’s 1967 Chevy Impala. The car has been a staple of the series since the beginning and a crucial element to the plot. It also looks cool and has earned a spot alongside the most iconic of TV automobiles, like KITT or the General Lee.
To last this long, you need cool gadgets. Supernatural has plenty. Shotguns filled with rock salt look awesome, the angel blades are slick and stylish and the invention of bullets etched with a Devil’s Trap on them was inspired. But no weapon is cooler than the Colt, a gun with its own elaborate backstory. It’s a credit to Supernatural that inanimate objects are as beloved as characters.
While the 12 elements above all make for a great show that keeps people coming back, the people themselves are the reason the show is still on. Supernatural has the best fan base of any TV show ever. Fan conventions and fan fiction are so prevalent that the show itself even uses them on occasion. The passion of the fans for 13 years has kept the show going. The president of the CW has even said, repeatedly, that as long as Jared and Jensen want to keep doing it and the fans keep watching, he’ll keep renewing Supernatural. That’s why Supernatural is heading into season 13 and the odds are good that this won’t be its last.
Why do you think Supernatural has lasted as long as it has?
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8/7c on the CW. For more SPN updates, follow BuddyTV’s Supernatural Facebook page.
(Images courtesy of the CW)