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Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles are clearly actors whose creative careers have been shaped by what they’ve been doing at The CW for the past 15 years. SYFY WIRE was there this week when the cast gathered for an all-Supernatural panel for the Television Critics Association, and the guys even joked (and yes, it was a joke) they may just get so stir crazy from living without Sam and Dean Winchester that they might have to bring the show back.
“I don’t think these guys look in the past very often. It’s a long journey that I don’t think will ever going to be over. I think we’ll go away for awhile,” said Ackles, with Padalecki jumping in for the punchline: “And then we’ll come back for 15 more seasons!”
Even if that sounds too good to be true for Supernatural fans (and it should), it’s clear the cast has bonded over the long-running series. And saying goodbye — while making sense in terms of ending the story their way — is going to be hard for everyone.
“I was hoping this job would go for another ten seasons,” admitted Alexander Calvert, who plays a very much distressed Jack as Season 15 ramps up. “I am new to the show, and have been carrying that with me and the character. Me, and Jack, will be observing these guys go through their emotions as we head to the end of the show.”
Does all this angst over parting ways mean Supernatural will ever really stay gone? Ackles (Dean Winchester) is never saying never. “I’m not ever ready to close doors or burn bridges,” he said. “Am I saying something is in the works? No. Am I open to conversations down the line? Sure.”
One way Supernatural could live on, at least in theory, is with some kind of spinoff series. And though that’s been tried before with the short-lived Wayward Sisters, it’s an idea that the creators still view as worth considering — if the timing’s right.
“I hesitate to maybe accept the idea the spinoffs didn’t work. They were great. But I imagine they didn’t work for the network at the time. There was something humbling that the show keeps going…I hope we see more from the Supernatural universe. I always loved scenes I wasn’t in, because it fleshed out the universe. It would be an interesting spin-off to see with these guys,” said Padalecki (Sam Winchester), gesturing to Calvert and co-star Misha Collins (Castiel), with Ackles quick to chime in to agree: A spinoff that features Castiel and the angels is definitely the way to go.
One of the luxuries of getting season after season of renewals has been the ability to treat the series as a well-paced story — one that’ll get a proper ending, thanks to the creative team’s ability to see the finish line from so great a distance.
“For me, it’s wonderful to continue this 327-hour movie,” said Padalecki. “One of the blessings is that we’ve known we’re carrying on, so we haven’t had to create a false ending at the end of every season so we’ve been able to carry the story on.”
“This year feels different because this is the end,” added Collins. “Knowing that every day, we have a lot of ‘lasts’ in front of us — it feels poignant and meaningful.”
Back when the series was still (relatively) new, scripting an ending was less of a sure thing — and Ackles said the ending the guys had in mind a decade ago is likely to be pretty close to the one we’ll actually be getting when Supernatural returns for its final season this fall.
“[Series creator] Erik Kripke said he had a five-year plan, so getting picked up and by season three, it felt like we would get to that season five,” Ackles explained. “Erik stuck to his guns and then exited, but left the world open to keep going. I don’t think this world would still work with that ending. We continually tell this story and we’re still passionate about it. I love these characters, but I don’t want it to grow old — which is why we want to end it before it hits that point.”
Season 14 left things dangling in just about as cataclysmic a fashion as any show about angels, demons, and a God who may not be rooting for humanity can get. That means raised stakes all around as we turn the corner toward the last few episodes, and Ackles acknowledged that — even as some characters face a certain and permanent death — it’ll be hard to make every fan equally happy with the finish.
“Right now the game plan we have won’t please everyone — you can’t — but, for the majority of fans, this will feel right and great abut the journey they took with the Winchester brothers,” he said.
Still, Supernatural is a show that’s used to season-ending cliffhangers designed to set up continuity as fans theorize about how the next season will pick things up. But that’s a completely separate creative challenge from the one the team is facing with the show's final season.
“I never thought the series would end,” confessed executive producer Eugenie Ross-Leming. “The way the ending has emerged…this sounds ‘booga-booga’ — but it led us to this place. There’s certainly been conversation and arguments, but it’s been very organic.” Intriguingly, she added that the breadcrumbs for the finale may already have been laid — going all the way back to the earliest episodes. “We have a year to develop, so every episode is a piece of the ending — and every episode carries a piece of the finale with it,” she said.
“Every season has been a cliffhanger,” added fellow executive producer Robert Singer, “and we would figure it out the following season. We’ve never done an ending before, so this was a different thing.”
Whether we ever see another small-screen flicker from the Supernatural franchise or not, fifteen seasons feels like the right balance between proving the show has staying power — and not overstaying its welcome, Padalecki said.
“There were no concerns about the stories or if he writers could carry on for 60 more years. Jensen and I had conversations over many years about it ending. You don’t want to be the last person at the party, even if it’s the best party in the world. We’re such a well-oiled machine, we thought it might be poetic to say goodbye too soon.”
While the cast managed to get through this year’s TCA panel without the tears and emotional choke-ups that highlighted their visit with fans at last month’s San Diego Comic-Con, make no mistake: Supernatural has been the core shared experience of Ackles’ and Padalecki’s adult lives. Even if they’re going out on top, saying goodbye to characters so entrenched in their creative identities is super-tough. “We’ve been crying ever since” deciding Season 15 would be the last, said Padalecki.
At least the door's always open, and maybe even wider than we've been thinking. Mark Pedowitz, president of The CW Network, came back out at the end of the session to tell the guys that they'll always have a home at The CW — and, to prove the point — that he expects a pitch for a Castiel-themed spinoff show any day now.
Supernatural returns to The CW for its 15th and final season on Oct. 10.