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Why Supernatural Fans Are So Divided Over Mary Winchester

There would be no "Supernatural" without the matriarch of the Winchester clan, Mary (Samantha Smith). Though she pretty definitively dies in the first scene of the series, the repercussions of this event reverberate for the rest of the show. With the loss of his wife, notably controversial parent John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) indoctrinates his young children into an endless battle against monsters. A battle that only concludes with Dean's (Jensen Ackles) final death at the end of "Supernatural."

Mary is faultless in the eyes of Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean as they always put the mother they never knew up on a pedestal. She is introduced as only a plot device with no characterization of her own. However, the boys — and the show — get a second chance to see a new side of Mary after Amara (Emily Swallow) resurrects her rather inexplicably. Though Sam and Dean are ecstatic to have their mother back, that does not go for everyone. Mary's return was rather divisive and many fans continue to argue about the merits of her character.

Some found Mary's return disrespectful

Throughout his entire life, Dean Winchester probably had one major wish. After essentially being the sole caregiver for his infant brother Sam and enduring his father's neglect and abuse, Dean only wanted to have his mother back. Amara grants him his wish because he was able to give her what she always wanted. But when Mary returns in Season 12 of "Supernatural," some fans posting on Reddit say they quickly became disillusioned with her storyline.

"Did anybody else continuously think that Mary Winchester was the WORST? (After she came back to life)," commented u/soy-uh. "Selfish actions, abandoning her sons, getting into trouble... just all around my least favorite character." Mary's arrival at first seems like a literal sign from heaven. But it just goes to show that no good deed goes unpunished. Mary does not bond with Sam or Dean in their adulthood and instead goes off on her own to hunt. As if the boys did not have enough abandonment issues, this just adds to the pile, as one Redditor put it.

"I did not like that they brought her back at all," agreed u/Glum-Cantaloupe4108. "All she was good for was retraumatizing the boys." Mary goes on to betray Sam and Dean by leaving them, this time of her own free will. She forms an arguably stronger connection with Jack (Alexander Calvert) after bonding together in a parallel world. But as hard as it is to see the Winchester brothers suffer, some fans had an alternative perspective.

Others celebrate the characterization of a complex mother

Mary makes mistakes after she is resurrected, but that is by design. From the start of "Supernatural," Mary is painted as this flawless creature who only exists to push Sam and Dean toward their hunting destiny. This is just one way that "Supernatural" went too far and failed women on the show. Bringing Mary back is a way to rectify that. No longer is she just a vessel for Sam and Dean or a plot device — she is finally given characterization befitting a Winchester.

"Season 12 was all about deconstructing the myth of Mary Winchester," pointed out Redditor u/M086. "Even going back to 'Dark Side of the Moon' from Season 5, Dean tells Sam in his Heaven memory that John and Mary's marriage only became perfect after she died." This idea is explored in depth when Mary returns. It turns out that she is just as flawed as all the other Winchesters, who no one would accuse of being perfect. From John's treatment of his sons to Dean's self-deprecation, no one in the family comes out unscathed. Many fans realized the purpose of the storyline, even if she doesn't adhere to the typical mother stereotype.

"I definitely didn't like her but I warmed up to her because I realised that she was of course always seen as this perfect person and it shows that not everyone is perfect specially [mothers] who look like queens in their sons eyes," noted u/xosdr.

Mary's complexity was on purpose

Coming back from the dead is not the easiest for anyone. Not only does Mary have to readjust to life after death, but she is also displaced over 30 years after the time that she knows. Perhaps the worst thing for Mary is everything that she has missed. Her death caused a chain reaction that turned John into a different person and pushed their sons into being soldiers. She is lost in a time that she was never supposed to exist in, which is something that Samantha Smith understood about the character.

"She wasn't just this sort of perfect mother character that they all expected. So I think that was a big adjustment for the boys. They had this canonized version of their mom and she just wasn't that person," Smith told IGN in a retrospective of the character. She went on to say, "And I think that, if anything, it expanded their understanding of what unconditional love of family really is, because in true Winchester fashion, she didn't do what they wanted her to do or what they thought she should do, she did what she thought was right and they had to love her anyway."

Smith brought a real sense of empathy to the character which made her layered and complex. It wasn't the picture of her that her sons remembered, but it was more important. It made her a real person, for better or for worse.