Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Ending Of Supernatural Explained

During the 15 years that Sam and Dean Winchester went around saving people and hunting things in a '67 Chevy Impala on Supernatural, the series reduced its fandom to a messy puddle of tears. However, the show's second (and final) swan song cuts the deepest.

With a series that's been killing its main characters annually since season 2, the ending of Supernatural was never going to be a flowery goodbye. The boys, and their trenchcoat-wearing angel, spent more than a decade fighting for free will — and with free will comes humanity. Gaining the right to write their own story means that there are no cosmic forces to resurrect them when they're hunting. Sam and Dean are at peace, but why exactly did the show have to end this way?

To understand the ending of Supernatural, we can't just look at the final episode. Instead, we need to examine the last three episodes to get a firm understanding of where each pivotal character ends up, what it means for them, and what it means for the series as a whole. In other words, "We got work to do." This is the ending of Supernatural explained.

Castiel becomes a self-sacrificing Winchester

Supernatural creator Eric Kripke's "no angel policy" came to a fiery halt with Castiel, who actor Samantha Smith (Mary Winchester) described as having "the greatest entrance of any character in the entire run of the show." While wearing a self-cleaning trenchcoat, this particular angel spends just over a decade unlearning thousands of years of angel bias and brutality. Even from his first few lines, Castiel understands Dean like no one else has — not even Sam. When Dean seems skeptical of Cas' reasons for dragging him from hell, the angel asks, "You don't think you deserve to be saved?"

Yet despite Dean's bravado and snark, Castiel understands how Dean perceives himself: as a destructive, angry, broken man — Daddy's blunt instrument. In the third to last episode, "Despair," Cas finally tells Dean the truth when he sacrifices himself to the Empty, a plane of nonexistence where angels go when they die. Having made a deal for Jack's life, Castiel fulfills his one true moment of happiness while finally confessing his love for his human, Dean Winchester.

Cas points out that "Happiness isn't in the having — it's in just being." After acknowledging that he loves Sam and Jack, the angel clarifies, "But I cared about the whole world because of you." Oblivious, Dean asks why the monologue sounds like a goodbye; Cas confirms fans' hopeful suspicions when he says "I love you." And those three words save the world.

Falling in love with humanity

Cas doesn't need Dean to say it back or respond at all. He saves his human with a smile, pushing him away and leaving a bloody handprint on the hunter's jacket — mirroring the handprint scar left on Dean's shoulder when Castiel gripped him tight and raised him from Perdition in season 4. The gesture is one final corporeal mark of their "profound bond."

In a relationship that is as long, important, and formative to who a person (or angel) is, there's a moment where someone has to decide if they're going to allow the experience to break them or affect them positively. When Cas looks back at his time knowing and loving Dean, he realizes that the hunter's true feelings about him don't matter. Castiel's confession isn't about Dean — it's about him finally getting in touch with his deepest human emotions while being honest. Cas accepts himself with no apology or fear of rejection, setting himself free.

Many Destiel (Cas and Dean) shippers are looking to Collins and Ackles for answers on Castiel's confession — but they don't need it. What was once a relationship built on subtext has dissolved into text. The script tells the story, clearly illustrating that Cas is in love with Dean Winchester. No one says they want something they can never have before a platonic love confession. Whether Dean feels the same is up for debate, but the angel's feelings on the matter are pretty explicit, and no one would question it for a second if Cas' vessel were a woman. There are plenty of platonic and familial love confessions in the show. This isn't one of them.

The forgotten Winchester

So what happens when you try to bargain with a ruthless God named Chuck after he wipes out humanity Thanos style? He laughs in your face when you attempt to wave a white flag. "Inherit the Earth" essentially serves as the season 15 finale, leaving one final episode to wrap up the series. Despite Dean and Sam bargaining to fulfill Chuck's perverted Cain and Abel fratricide fantasy to save humanity (and Cas), God has once again become bored with His story. 

After grieving Cas and humanity with the worst bender of Dean's life, Chuck lets Dean save a dog in a brief moment of redemption until the godless God flicks Miracle away with a smirk. Can someone gank this dude already?

Dean is ready to give up when Jack (Lucifer's son by birth and a Winchester by choice) feels the archangel Michael. Despite years of abandoning their surprise brother Adam in Hell after Michael possessed him, Sam asks (as a bit of an afterthought) what happened to their half-brother. Michael says, "Gone. Exterminated by my father." Both Winchesters don't seem to care all that much when Dean obligatorily responds with, "Poor bastard never caught a break." It's kind of hard to catch a break when your brothers let you rot in Hell for a decade, though. Just sayin'.

Daddy's little angels

Lucifer has decimated the world, toyed with humanity, and jumpstarted the apocalypse, but impersonating a very dead Castiel to get into the bunker is his most blasphemous crime. Satan may have thrown the biggest temper tantrum in the history of the universe when he rebelled, but all he ever wanted was daddy's love. And that goes for Michael, too. Unlike Dean and Sam, Michael and Luci fulfill daddy's perverse plan when Michael kills Lucifer. But the Winchesters, having had their fair share of daddy issues, use Michael's inevitable betrayal to draw Chuck out. Ever the forgiving Lord depicted in the Bible, Chuck smites his "favorite" son for having ever sided with the Winchesters, even briefly.

Chuck's deepest flaw is underestimating human resilience — especially when it comes to the Winchesters. We've watched Dean get ripped apart by Hellhounds and Sam stabbed in the back, yet the never-ending crunch of God breaking Dean and Sam's bones while they refuse to give up is one of the most vindicating and hard-to-watch scenes in the show. After Jack absorbs Chuck's power, rendering him mortal, Chuck says, "After everything I've done to you — to die at the hands of Sam Winchester, of Dean Winchester — the ultimate killer. It's kind of glorious." But they don't give him what he wants. Instead, they leave him pitiful, wailing on the ground like the coward he is.

The most loving man on Earth

Cas tells Dean that the hunter changed him during his death scene, but the angel changed Dean, too. After a lifetime of self-hatred and blaming himself for everything that's gone wrong in the universe, Castiel's admission that Dean is "the most selfless, loving human being I will ever know" finally convinces Dean that he's more than "the ultimate killer." Dean finds self-love when he declares, "that's not who I am," as Chuck goads him into vengeance. The hunter knows without a shadow of a doubt that Cas was telling the truth because the Empty wouldn't have claimed him in a moment of true happiness if he weren't.

While Dean isn't able to tell Cas he loves him back, whether he feels it romantically or not, he honors Cas' memory by finally loving himself. Castiel truly believes that everything Dean does is for love, and Dean is hell-bent on proving him right. The hunter finally acknowledges his self-worth and leaves Chuck to his powered down, pathetic existence. He's not a threat anymore — just a hollow relic of former glory. Both brothers choose justice over revenge, finally moving past the motive that's driven their actions for 15 years. Talk about character growth.

Castiel actor Misha Collins told a Creation Entertainment panel that it was the ending he'd always imagined for Cas. "It felt like it was a little risky and a little brave for the show to do, and I was happy to be a part of that and [to] be able to have [Castiel] express love like that." He also noted that he thinks Castiel's wings are rainbow-colored. Fans can do with that what they will.

Jack and Castiel Winchester

People who seek power never use it well: It was true for Chuck, and it would have been true for Billie (Death) if Cas hadn't orchestrated her death through his sacrifice. But Jack has only ever wanted to do good and make his surrogate dads proud. And despite Castiel's earlier assurances that Jack doesn't need to live for anyone else, he accomplishes both.

But as it turns out, when you basically become God, it's time to leave the nest — spread those angel wings and learn to fly. After Jack fixes the destruction Chuck brought to the world, he says goodbye to the boys, letting them know he'll "be in every drop of falling rain, every spec of dust that the wind blows, and in the sand, in the rocks, and in the sea." When did this kid get so poetic? Yet the most crucial aspect of his speech is his restoration of free will. Jack promises not to insert himself in the story, and Dean appears to stop himself from asking about bringing Cas back before Jack declares that he's always as close as their hearts.

Castiel and Jack may not be Winchesters by name, but they earned a place at the table — Dean and Sam having carved the pseudo-Winchesters' names alongside their own. Thanks to Jack and Cas, they're finally free to write their own stories, honoring everyone they lost along the way.

Hunters don't get happy endings

As Kripke notes in the retrospective, the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker vibe of Dean and Sam in this "backroads Americana story" is what makes the show work. The series starts with two brothers, and it has to end on that relationship. The Winchesters spend 15 years fighting for freedom, so what do they do when they get it? Sam pies Dean, and Robert Singer laughs in the background of the scene.

"Carry On," the final episode, opens on the appropriately named song "Ordinary Life." After years of self-doubt and doubting Sam, Dean says, "I'm good with who I am. I'm good with who you are. Because our lives? They're ours." Dean and Sam aren't the protagonists in some screwed-up cosmic story anymore. On their final hunt, they pose as Agents Eric Kripke and Bobby Singer, taking down a nest of vampires and saving two young brothers. Here, they set up a new generation of hunters — because Dean could never live an apple pie life, and Sam wouldn't stop hunting until he did. But Dean and Sam Winchester are regular hunters now — and regular hunters die regular, gruesome deaths.

Dean narrowly misses getting whacked into a rebar. The camera pans on it for a second, foreshadowing what's to come. And lo and behold, when a vamp shoves Dean into a rebar, he fulfills the destiny of going down swingin'. Not usually a man of many words, Dean has a string of poetry in death, telling Sam all the things he's held back since they were kids. Mirroring Jack's goodbye, he tells Sam that he can always find him in his heart. Dean then references Jared Padalecki's mental health charity campaign, telling his brother to "Always keep fighting." He makes Sam promise to break the curse of demon deals and resurrection, asking for permission to go. Dean lets go with a tear, clasping Sam's hand. His brother finally says, "It's okay, you can go now." (Spoiler alert: The fandom is not okay.)

Breaking the Winchester curse

Sam doesn't make a demon deal or ask Jack to bring his brother back. Instead, he gives Dean a hunter's funeral to the song "Brothers in Arms" by Dire Straits. Subtly referencing Dean's "Bon Jovi rocks on occasion" line from season 3, a mourning Sam finds Dean's cell ringing — and a sheriff asking "Agent Bon Jovi" to help with a werewolf case. He honors Dean Winchester by living the normal life Dean never could — naming his only son after his fallen brother. After generations of family heartache, Sam Winchester breaks the Winchester cycle of absent fathers and demon deals.

Sam gets out of hunting and raises a son, whose "Dean" overalls have officially broken the fandom. While the beginning of "Carry On" marks the end of Dean's Earthly life, Sam gets to rewrite every mistake both sides of their family have been making for generations — and he does it in a house of photos honoring his fallen family. Padalecki explained in a Creation Entertainment panel, "Sam tried to live his life the way Dean would've wanted him to live his life... if Dean were to come back to life 20 years later and Sam was still hunting, I think Dean would have been pissed off."

While we can't be sure if Dean II has taken up hunting, an elderly Sam looks surprised to see the matching pentagram tattoo he's sporting when Sam is on his deathbed. Then again, a Dean Winchester can never be without his Baby (the Impala) or hunting. Either way, Sam accepts it, letting go when his son clasps his hand just like Sam did for Dean. Still wearing his brother's old watch, Sam dies peacefully when Dean II says the same words he said to his brother all those years ago: "It's okay. You can go now."

The Heaven the Winchesters deserve

A Heaven where souls live out their golden oldies on repeat for the rest of eternity would never be good enough for the Winchesters, who sacrificed everything to save the world. So while Jack promised not to intervene in human affairs, he fixes up Heaven before Dean makes it to the pearly gates. Dean gets the life with his family in Heaven that he never got on Earth — everyone happy and together, all within reach of a pint at Harvelle's Roadhouse. Giving Dean closure that his parents are more than a Cupid experiment gone wrong, John and Mary Winchester finally spend their afterlife together. 

With a knowing look, Bobby tells Dean that Cas helped — earning him a relieved smile and laugh that his angel is out of the Empty. Yet while Dean's free to make new memories, Old Heaven's nostalgia factor seeps in through taste, smell, and just being. Though Dean admits his first beer with John was crap, that's what beer in Heaven tastes like to Dean, suggesting that Dean is finally ready to move past the issues he has with his father and just be — together.

Dean decides to go on a drive, waiting for Sam to come home before he reunites with anyone else. Kansas' "Carry on Wayward Son" plays as Dean starts driving Baby's "Pilot" iteration, fit with OG license plate KAZ 2Y5. On Earth, Sam can feel the Heavenly connection to Dean when he grips the wheel of the real Impala. But time in Heaven is different. In the song's breadth for Dean — and a lifetime for Sam — they meet again on a bridge in Heaven. The boys wear clothes that almost match their "Pilot" wardrobe as the lyric "Now my life's no longer empty. Surely Heaven waits for you" chimes in the background during Neoni's "Carry on Wayward Son" cover. Dean's last words to Sam are the first words he says to his brother in the series: "Heya, Sammy." Sam responds with his first word to Dean: his name.

The ending that almost was

While it wrapped everything up in a tragic yet beautiful and cyclical way, Supernatural's onscreen sendoff wasn't the original plan. Collins noted in a Creation Entertainment panel, "In the original iteration of the ending, Cas hadn't gone to rebuild Heaven. There was a different conclusion for him." While Collins didn't give specifics, he elaborated that Dean and Sam's Heaven was supposed to be populated by their loved ones from the past, but COVID-19 prevented it from happening, and "a new version had to emerge." 

Yet in a way, the Winchesters already got their reunion scene in the show's 300th episode, "Lebanon." And the unlikely photo from that family dinner remains on Sam's mantle for the rest of his days. In the retrospective, Samantha Smith explained, "I just remember thinking, "That [scene] is perfect. This moment of happiness, of having the family all together. Even if it's for one dinner, we had never all four of us been in a scene together, yet it felt like we had been together the entire show."

According to Padalecki, the script changes "kind of worked out like a happy accident because the show started out [with] Sam and Dean. That was the show. [...] And for it to end like that full-circle was pretty magical storytelling."

Don't you cry no more

During his Creation Entertainment panel, Padalecki revealed that he orchestrated many throwback lines and nuances that make "Carry On" an artfully crafted episode. Andrew Dabb and Bob Singer's allowance for Padalecki and Ackles to go where the scene took them shines through every moment of the finale.

Some fans have criticized the ending, and both actors mentioned that they were hesitant about it initially — yet Ackles and Padalecki had over a year to process, and learn to love it. In time, fans might just see the beauty of the cyclical nature of the series finale. According to EW, Kripke gave the ending his blessing. With a laugh, he added that "fans would have hated [his] ending." However, it might not be the end of the series in its entirety. During his panel, Ackles revealed that a Supernatural spinoff would be his dream project to produce during his WB deal. Additionally, Padalecki joked about a reunion in the future, so maybe there's hope yet.

Regardless, as Chuck notes, nothing ever really ends, does it? Supernatural lives on in the hearts of everyone the show's touched. Whether it's through the actors' charity organizations like Collins' Random Acts, Padalecki's mental health campaign "Always Keep Fighting," or the bonds of found family, Supernatural isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But for fans who really want to envision their own ending for the Winchesters, Collins noted in the retrospective, "Even when the story is written, you can write your own ending."