Via Bloody Disgusting:

On September 13, 2005 a series aptly titled Supernatural premiered. The pilot began and ended with a woman sliced across her midsection, telekinetically pinned to a ceiling, and burned alive as her significant other watched helplessly. Straight-up horror, to say the least.

Those scenes set the tone for the first few seasons of the series and introduced viewers to two of the most iconic characters to ever grace a television screen: The Winchester Brothers. They were portrayed by two of the hardest working, consistent, and dedicated — if often underappreciated — horror actors we, as a community, have ever had: Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. At the time, network television was primarily consumed with comedies and crime dramas, but the Winchester brothers brought horror into our homes during prime time.

The show began with a monster-of-the-week format, exploring classic horror stories, and pitting the brothers against the likes of Bloody Mary, wendigos, a pagan god, and even a version of La Llorona, to name just a few. Each week there was a new case and we learned a little more about the family dynamic and backstory of these relatable, misfit hunters. Slowly, the focus shifted from the monsters to the boys finding their father and tracking down the demon that killed both their mom and Sam’s girlfriend.

Throughout the course of the series, we fell in love with the brothers and the various friends and family members to whom we were introduced. The show became a comfort, a haven for countless people seeking entertainment a bit askew of the mainstream. We learned about salt circles, devil’s traps, and that “most vampire lore is crap.” We learned that an angel can be a badass and rock a trench coat, that Lucifer is incredibly charismatic, and that the new King of Hell is a nice guy once you get to know him. We grew with the characters. We were with them through the good and the bad…I mean, ghost trucks…haunted ballet slippers…come on, guys…the bugs…I digress.

We watched as the boys reunited with their father, tracked down, and killed that yellow-eyed demon in such a cathartic moment for all of us. We laughed at Dean’s pop culture references, googled each phony FBI agent name we didn’t recognize right away, enjoyed LARPing for maybe the first time, and talked with God, who we learned actually wrote Supernatural. We went heavy meta in “The Real Ghostbusters” episode, as the guys were tricked into coming to a Supernatural convention and fighting ghosts with die-hard fans. We went even heavier meta in “The French Mistake” episode, finding the guys on the actual set of the CW’s Supernatural, and we dissected each self-referential jab.

We cried when a rough-around-the-edges father died, and we waited over ten long years to see him reunite with his sons. We waited all that time to see him finally have a long overdue conversation with his youngest son. We watched as that youngest son got the approval for which he had long been searching. We spent over a decade of our lives invested in a series that allowed an arc to finally pay off in such a satisfying way. Some of us watched with our own fathers, appreciating the relationships we have with them. Some of us watched alone, admiring the paternal bond. Some of us watched with our friends in bunkers of our own and bonded. All of us who watched felt like we were part of the family.

On March 22, 2019, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and Misha Collins, the stars of a series aptly titled Supernatural, simultaneously broke our hearts, as they announced that the upcoming fifteenth season would be the final one, and comforted us with a nostalgic reminder that this series about a family had grown to *become* one. Posit, whether conscious of the fact themselves or not, and moreso, whether the majority of the horror community was either, they were not only addressing the Supernatural family but horror fans in general.

This show was a gift to the horror community, yet one with which a lot of its members were not too familiar. Supernatural was often discounted as conventional horror due to its position on a major network. Yes, they toned down the gore and violence when compared to some of the cable networks. True, they could not drop F-Bombs when it was so obvious that was exactly what they were implying. But that was a fair trade for the longevity the show has had and the kinship it created within its own subcommunity.

The fact that it has to abide by the guidelines of a major network should in no way be a detriment or determine its value to horror. Imagine what it would be were it on or produced by a streaming service like Netflix. Imagine how dark, how visceral it could get. Now, focus on what they brought to the table within the parameters they were given. There are countless brutal kills, witchcraft, sex, blood, and rock-and-roll. They did their part. The show pushed the boundaries it was given and never hid the fact it was doing so.

It maintained within that often formulaic paradigm of network television, producing consistently engaging content. When Dean opened his eyes to reveal black, demon possessed orbs instead of his infamous green gems, that “crap” was fucking scary. When Sam confessed his biggest regret and sin is letting Dean down during the last trial, it was emotionally impactful. And some of it, no matter the whimsy, despite how over-the-top it could be, was just badass. “Dude, you killed Hitler.” “Yeah. Awesome.”

“Supernatural” was often excluded from certain horror circles because of those whimsical elements. However, the show never shied from that fact. It wholly embraced what it was and remained true to itself and its audience. There were sharks, yes. They were jumped, definitely. But they always called themselves out and let their fans know that it is okay to laugh at yourself from time to time. It told the fans that none of us are perfect and that is okay too.

Over the course of the series, the show maintained its core while really finding a footing within its own fanbase. The series became a vehicle for fan service. They indulged their audience, giving them exactly what they were asking for as often as they could. Even the weird Sam and Dean sexual fan fiction got a nod. The show was comfortable being fun for the sake of having fun. That speaks volumes about knowing who and what you are and using it to your advantage.

Sure, there have been, and currently are, other long-running horror shows on television, but none for this long and certainly none that have maintained their principal cast for its duration. The cast has been involved in other projects throughout the life of the show, but always came back. In 2009 each of the series’ leads went out to do a movie. These guys were huge stars by this time. They could have agreed to any number of romantic comedies or summer blockbuster cash grabs. What did they do? Horror. They each continued to play around in the horror genre.

Jensen starred in the remake of My Bloody Valentine and Jared took the lead in the reboot of Friday the 13th. Both films were eagerly anticipated by the horror community. I watched each of them in theaters on their respective, opening weekends. Despite any personal opinions of the films, both of which I loved (I could talk all day about why that Friday flick is one of the greatest things to happen to the franchise), they were both inarguably HORROR. These guys, in their off time from a successful, fan-driven horror show, decided to make films that feel like personal love letters to the horror community. They each helped reboot a classic slasher film or franchise. You cannot ask for more dedication to a genre than that.

Supernatural, at its core, is horror. It may come packaged a bit differently than what we are accustomed to, but it is horror nonetheless. Demons. Possession. Werewolves. Vampires that do not glitter. Those are all classic elements in horror and the list could still go on and on. Horror fans have been given a show that, by the series finale, will have run fifteen seasons. That fact alone deserves to be celebrated.

In the current climate of horror renaissance, it is easy to take for granted the fact that there is always something amazing to watch. Filmmakers like Jordan Peele have redefined what the genre can mean and what we can expect from it. Shows like The Haunting of Hill House have begun to explore horror in very intriguing ways. These are valuable to horror as a community and we should definitely recognize and appreciate them while we are experiencing such a flow of content. Because amidst the flood, it is all too easy to forget the ebbing we have previously endured.

To that end, we should also recognize and celebrate an institution, like Supernatural, that has been here for so long. It is easy to use horror as a stepping stone. It is easy to move on from it. It takes a lot of work to continue making a series for fifteen seasons. Love or hate the show, that is impressive and deserves to be acknowledged. Although, the best recognition would be to not polarize any opinions, as we often do when we are passionate about something. Instead, find the gray area on the spectrum. Find the imperfection and embrace it. There is a beauty in that. You do not have to like every aspect of something to still enjoy it. You can wish something is different while still appreciating it for what it is.

The fact that for a decade and a half we have had horror on a major network, during primetime, should carry weight within our community. It should be humbling and endearing to know that it is imperfect, like so many other things we love. It is imperfect like us. And like us, it loves and celebrates all things horror.

There is one full season of Supernatural left after the current season finishes. We are counting down the days until this bizarre, fun, outrageous, hearty-warming journey comes to its end. Do not miss your chance to be a part of the family. Thanks to Netflix, most of the series is currently streaming. If you start now, you can literally watch the show, continually, for over a week straight. After that, catch up on Season 14, and wait with us for the final season of the longest running horror series in television history.

To Jensen and Jared, our beloved Sam and Dean — our heroes, our brothers — on behalf of the horror community, thank you.

Thank you so much. Have a beer. Eat some pie.

We’ll see you on the road to come.