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The real reason Supernatural is ending after season 15

The year 2020 will mark the end of a television era, as the CW's Supernatural wraps its 15th and final season. The show, which premiered in 2005 (before the CW ever existed and the WB Network was still a thing), holds the title as the longest-running sci-fi/genre series in the history of American television. And it's easy to see why. For years, Supernatural's success has hinged on its stars, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. According to CW president Mark Pedowitz (via The Hollywood Reporter), "They have created something of these two brothers [Dean and Sam Winchester], we've had these discussions that actually transcends anything."

It's also one of the network's best performing series to date, bringing in more viewers in the 18-49 demographic than more than half of the CW's entire lineup. So why cancel it now? If Supernatural remains such a hit with both fans and studio execs, what reason is there to pull the plug? Here's everything that's led to the CW's decision to finally put Supernatural out to TV pasture.

It was only supposed to last five seasons

If you've watched Supernatural from the beginning, there's a clear-cut point in the series that feels like an actual finale, and that's because it really is one. Season five ended with the defeat of Mark Pellegrino's Lucifer and the prevention of the actual apocalypse. According to Syfy Wire, series creator Eric Kripke had always been adamant about ending Supernatural after five years, and its stars were keenly aware of that fact.

During an interview with TVLine prior to the show's tenth season, Misha Collins, who plays angel-turned-sidekick Castiel, said, "I'm stunned that the show is going as long as it is, not because I ever thought that it should be cancelled or wouldn't survive, but I joined in season four and I thought ... 'Well, this is probably somewhere near the end of the show.'" Collins then added, "Originally, five was going to be the end of it."

Season five was an ending of sorts, at least for Kripke. Following the finale, the showrunner stepped down from his position and took on an advisory role. When Supernatural returned for a sixth season, he told Entertainment Weekly it was a show in which reinvention was "hardwired" into its DNA.

It's told every supernatural story out there

Over the course of the last 14 seasons, Supernatural has tackled pretty much every ... well ... supernatural story out there. With the show pulling from various cultures' urban legends and lore, the Winchesters have come up against everything from vampires to apocalyptic horsemen to the wendigo. During a 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the series' showrunners explained that they try their hardest not to revisit old stories. According to executive producer Robert Singer, "Obviously we give nods to our past mythology, but we really want to be cognizant that we're not telling the same story over and over again."

Of course, sometimes they're less successful than they'd hope to be, especially when it comes to monster-building from scratch. "When we stub our toe sometimes is when we're trying to create new monsters with new sets of rules," Singer said. "I find that those episodes are not the best." And while the world of mythology is vast, at some point, it reaches an end. Which isn't to say that Supernatural has completely run out of ideas, but it's certainly getting close.

It's a chance to bring back old favorites

As Supernatural's seasons have come and gone, so too have some of its most beloved characters. But we've also seen several of them return to the show, at least temporarily. A time-traveling version of John Winchester was resurrected briefly for season 14, and Mary Winchester became a series regular after having died during the show's pilot. Ending Supernatural once and for all, however, gives showrunners the opportunity to really do whatever they want. 

Following the show's season 15 renewal announcement, Jensen Ackles told TV Guide, "The fact that [Chuck's] opened the gates to heaven and hell and said, 'You guys figure it out,' really puts us in a position to go anywhere and to have anybody come back. I'm hoping we take full advantage of that, and I have a feeling that we might." In fact, at least one former actor has been confirmed to return for the final season. During the show's 2019 San Diego Comic-Con panel, co-showrunner Andrew Dabb revealed that Jake Abel, who was last seen at the end of season five, will reprise his role as the Winchesters' half-brother, Adam.

Ending in season 15 allows for a better wrap-up

While some might argue that Supernatural reached its peak long ago, the show's numbers say otherwise. And if it were up to the network, the series would go on forever. CW president Mark Pedowitz said in January 2019 (via The Hollywood Reporter), "As long as the ratings hold up and the guys want to do it, we're in." But running a fan-favorite series into the ground isn't exactly the best option out there, which is why it's probably a good idea for Supernatural to go out on top.

In the season 14 digital feature, "The Winchester Mythology: The Choices We Make," Jensen Ackles said of the final season (via Entertainment Weekly), "The world has just opened up, essentially, and all of those things that we have spent so many years fighting, they're going to come knocking now." He then added, "In my opinion, they're teeing up what could possibly be the best season of the show." For its stars, that could possibly mean the literal end of their characters. Misha Collins told TV Guide, "I hate to say this, but I kind of hope that the main characters on the show die at the end. I feel like we need that finality."

They didn't want to fizzle out

For everyone involved with Supernatural, going out while they still had a really good story to tell was their biggest priority (on top of making it to the show's 300th episode, which happened halfway into season 14). Jared Padalecki told Entertainment Weekly in 2016 that he and Jensen Ackles would both "be truly bummed" if they weren't able to reach that milestone.

After news came that Supernatural would finally see its end after 15 seasons, Padalecki and Ackles spoke to the crowd at VegasCon in 2019 and gave some background on their reasoning for ending the show. According to Ackles, "It wasn't an easy decision. It was months and months, if not years of discussion. ... Nobody wanted to see this show fizzle out. It was everyone wanting to do the biggest service to the show that we could by going out strong." Supernatural has always been a series that approaches its future one story at a time. When Eric Kripke stepped down as showrunner in 2010, he told Entertainment Weekly that the end of the series would come down to its ability to keep telling new stories.

Supernatural's spin-off attempts were a bust

In an attempt to piggyback off the success of Supernatural, the CW has tried — and failed — to launch a spin-off series, twice. In 2014, there was Supernatural: Bloodlines, a "mafia-esque" drama about the monster families that rule over the Chicago crime circuit. Then again in 2014, series execs made an attempt with Wayward Sisters, which shifted the focus to Sheriff Jody Mills and a group of young female hunters. Both series were given backdoor pilots, but neither one got the green light for a full season.

At the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, Supernatural's executive producer, Brad Buckner, said (via CinemaBlend), "So this show is really an anomaly for the beauty of its machinery and the chemistry. So every time you pitch a Supernatural spin-off, or you shoot one, it's very difficult to rise to that level." Buckner went on to say that the show's ultimate success was with its stars, saying it "struck gold" with the cast, and trying to recreate that was too much of a challenge.

Finding reasons to continue was becoming a challenge

It isn't difficult to imagine how 15 seasons on the same set could become monotonous for its stars. While Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have both provided input on their characters to Supernatural's production team over the years, neither of them has ever felt the desire to produce themselves. That leaves them in the position of just being actors (although Ackles has stepped up to direct an episode or two), something that can start to feel stagnant when it's the same role for over a decade.

Speaking with Variety in 2018, Ackles discussed his and Padalecki's creative influence on the show and their collaboration with the showrunners, saying, "It works. And I think that's something where they're like, let's not reinvent the wheel. Whatever we're doing is working. And if it ain't broke, don't fix it." By the end of season 14, however, finding reasons to remain engaged with their characters was becoming a challenge. For Ackles, the ability to play a different character for a bit (he took on the role of the archangel Michael for season 14) renewed his love of coming to set everyday, but unfortunately, that role was only temporary. 

Mixed feelings about the show

When a show has been on as long as Supernatural has, it becomes easier to find fault with some aspect of its storytelling. That's exactly what happened for Mark Sheppard, who played the "King of Hell," Crowley, for seven seasons. At a 2018 appearance at Fan Expo Canada, the actor spoke about his feelings regarding the direction his character had gone over the course of his final few seasons. "They actually forgot they wrote me into the final scene of season ten," he explained. "They had no idea because there's no dialogue for me at all. ... For a few seasons, I think I was just treading water to see what they were gonna do."

It wasn't just his character that Sheppard took issue with. The entire series has been up and down, as far as he was concerned. "Seven was the worst season ever made," he said. "Eight was amazing. ... Nine was fascinating. Ten was good. Eleven started good, got weird. ... Twelve was just whatever it was. Thirteen was a reboot."

The Supernatural stars have other endeavors

As if working full time on a TV set weren't enough, Supernatural's stars have their own personal projects to look after. For Jensen Ackles, that means running a family brewery in his home state of Texas. Family Business Brewing Co. sits on 15 acres in Dripping Springs, and it's owned and operated by Ackles, his wife Danneel, and her brother Gino. Ackles told Forbes in 2018 that it started out as a passion project after the family decided to move to Austin. "We went down to Austin to check out the craft brewing scene," he said, "and it was the right location for starting something since the market was really starting to take off." They keep up to 12 different styles of beer on tap, and they're looking to build a restaurant and overnight accommodations soon.

While Ackles works on beer, Misha Collins focuses his time and energy into charitable work. In 2009, the actor took to Twitter and asked his followers for help in coming up with non-profit initiatives. As a result, Random Acts was born, an organization that works in a multitude of ways, from serving the homeless to building schools.

There was behind-the-scenes drama leading up to season 15

It would be strange to have a series go on for as long as Supernatural has without it experiencing any sort of backstage drama. And while the show's core group of actors have been outspoken with the press about their love for one another (as Jensen Ackles once told E! News about his friendship with co-star Jared Padalecki, "I know a lot of marriages that haven't lasted that long"), others have dealt with a different sort of publicity over the years. 

For example, Mark Pellegrino has come under fire for his controversial approach to Twitter. In 2017, the actor spoke with Movie TV Tech Geeks and explained that a list of "incriminating" tweets had been pulled without context from the 50,000 or so that he'd accumulated. "Sans context these folks attached their own meanings to them and began to spin a narrative of their own about my beliefs," he said.

But Pellegrino isn't the only one with bad blood. Since 2017, series creator Eric Kripke has been battling against Warner Bros. over unpaid profits. While the studio contends that Supernatural has actually created a $23 million deficit over its first eight seasons, Kripke believes otherwise and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, is heading into arbitration to prove it. 

Everyone felt the end was coming

At the 2019 VegasCon, Supernatural stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki told the audience that after lengthy discussions with the show's writers and producers, everyone agreed that it was time to let the series go. "It just seemed like the writing was kind of on the wall as to when that was happening," Ackles said. "I think everybody felt that it was coming soon," adding that they figured someone had made a crossroads deal, because all the signs had pointed to the show ending at season 15.

But although the stars acknowledged that the end was upon them, they were positive about the entire experience. "Let's paint that finish line and hold our heads high," Ackles explained. "Because what we've accomplished is unlike any other." And that's true. On Rotten Tomatoes, Supernatural remains a top scoring TV show, with an overall 88 percent approval rating, as well as having some of its highest scored seasons occur at the end of its run.

Supernatural's stars need a break

For at least one star of Supernatural, the break from filming is long overdue. Jared Padalecki has been outspoken for several years regarding his own struggles with depression, as well as his involvement with the non-profit organization To Write Love on Her Arms. In 2015, the actor told Variety, "I, in the past, have had my own struggles of not [being] so happy with where I am in life," saying that he'd suffered a breakdown during the middle of shooting a season three episode. 

In 2018, Padalecki told the audience at MEGACON Orlando that although he'd always known he wanted to be an actor, he no longer had the drive to do so. "All joking aside, I cannot wait to stop acting," he said, explaining that he was excited to put this particular chapter of his life "at least on hold for a while." Jensen Ackles cleared things up slightly, telling Padalecki (and the audience) that, "As an actor, you never have to retire. You just don't take jobs anymore."

It's time to go

Ultimately, ending Supernatural came down to having everyone involved agree that it was just time to do so. When it was announced that the series had been renewed for its 15th season, Jensen Ackles posted a video to his Instagram account in which he and co-stars Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins revealed that it would be their final run. Ackles called the show "an institution," saying that it had changed his and his co-stars' lives. "Though we're excited about next year," he said, "It will be the finale."

Of course, when it comes to the world of television (and of Supernatural in particular), nothing stays dead forever. And Ackles' caption has led some fans to speculate about whether or not this is truly the last time we'll be seeing the Winchesters. "One more round for the Winchester brothers," he wrote. "Though nothing ever really ends in Supernatural ... does it?"