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The warrior women of Supernatural

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Sep 25, 2020, 1:00 PM EDT

"Saving people. Hunting things. The family business." Move on, wayward sons. It’s time for the wayward daughters.

While the final season of Supernatural looms, I began my yearly rewatch. My relationship to Supernatural is simple — I love the Winchesters. I love their angel BFF Castiel. Hell, sometimes I even love the villains, like when the King of Hell, Crowley, became addicted to human emotions and had his own fall of disgrace by sheer virtue of teaming up with Sam and Dean.

But this isn’t about the boys. It’s about the warrior women of Supernatural. As I said, I love this show. But its treatment of female characters has always been questionable. Whether it’s the oversexualized torture of Ruby, the legitimately confusing reason for Charlie’s death, or the WTF-ery of Mary Winchester’s character arc — these characters deserve more. They deserve to be celebrated, no matter what side of good and evil they’re on.

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Ellen and Jo

Ellen Harvelle

The Harvelles were a refreshing introduction to Season 2. In “Everybody Loves a Clown,” they’re established as an occult resource that the Winchester boys are going to need for the rest of the season. Ellen (Samantha Ferris) runs a roadhouse that caters to rogue hunters. She’s savvy, clever, and more than willing to call out the boys (especially Dean) on their BS. She’s one of the first mother figures that Sam and Dean get, but her tough love comes with a long history of having been wronged by Daddy Winchester (John), and that legacy continues when the Winchesters lead to her and her daughter's death.

Dean and Jo

Jo Harvelle 

Like mother like daughter. Jo Harvelle (Alona Tal) is the hunter girl next door. In Season 2, Episode 6, “No Exit,” we get to know her character's backstory. Her father died on a hunt, and surrounded by mostly men at the Roadhouse, she’s itching to prove that she can cut it. At school she's a "freak with a knife collection" but out there hunting things, she has a purpose. Though she’s clearly attracted to the hottest Winchester (fight me), she doesn’t let herself go down that road. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if she’d survived the curse of the girls attracted to Dean Winchester. Would she have helped lead the Wayward Sisters? Would Dean have found a good love-hunter life balance? We’ll never know.

Tamara

Tamara

One of the few Black women on the show (and not to be confused with the other young Black woman named Tamara in Season 9), Tamara, played by Caroline Chikezie, from Season 3 is a hunter on the job with her husband. She has extensive occult knowledge, and she and Isaac are an adorable bickering couple who display their demon-repelling weapons. Naturally, stable couples don’t survive Supernatural. But Tamara dies, and she goes her own way. In my personal canon, she's thriving.

Lauren Cohan

Bela Talbot

This might be controversial, but I loved Lauren Cohan’s depiction of the high-price smuggler and occult thief, Bela Talbot. She’s resourceful, dangerous, and she looks out for herself because she’s the only person that she can trust. When her (unnecessarily) dark past is discovered and misinterpreted by Dean, she doesn’t correct him. Like every Winchester, she made a crossroads deal, but she would rather go out on her own terms. Crowley and Lucifer were evil incarnate, and yet they managed to become part of the crew. Her appearance is in Season 3, which is the only season with 16 episodes. Perhaps with a bit more time, she would have been afforded a better end.

Kim Rhodes

Jody Mills

I’ve been scared for Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) since she became a recurring character. Girlfriends and mothers don’t last long on the show, but Jody is a favorite of mine and she is hanging on strong. Like the boys, she’s lost her loved ones and gets into the hunter's life because she wants to make the world safer. There's a darkness there, though she allows herself to soften for the people she fosters. When we meet her in Season 5's "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" she’s just a mother who has gotten the impossible — her dead son back. Of course, he ends up being a zombie along with her whole town. From then, she’s a favorite, leading her pack of wayward girls who keep saving the world.

Donna Hanscum 

Donna Hanscum 

The ever-cheerful sheriff from Stillwater, Minnesota who kills demons and takes names. Before Donna Hanscum (Briana Buckmaster) was all that and more, she was trying to get fit at a weight loss spa. Worse than a demon is an ex who fat shames you, right? After her first appearance in Season 9's "The Purge," Donna returns for more supernatural action, teaming up with another sheriff, Jody Mills. The two are foils to each other — light and dark, brooding and comedic relief. They become an unstoppable team. The thing about Donna is that she's afraid. She sees the supernatural and she is smart enough to want to fear. But she's also ready to do the right thing. Though she's only mentioned in Season 15, I'm hoping we get a cameo. Protect Donna Hanscum at all costs.

Billie (Lisa Berry) in Supernatural

Billie 

I truly admire Billie’s (Lisa Berry) tenacity when it comes to trying to reap the Winchesters. She knows more than anyone that they’ve been cheating death time and time again. Her entrance in Season 11's “Form and Void” is iconic. Dressed in leather and signing the spiritual “O’Death” right before she threatens Sam about throwing him out into the Empty. She's still around, still waiting to drag the Winchesters to the other side. I stan the queen of Death.

Eileen Leahy (Shoshanna Stern) in Supernatural

Eileen Leahy 

Eileen's entrance in Supernatural is delightful, and not just because she's a deaf character who kicks ass, but because she gets the DROP on Sam Winchester. Eileen (Shoshanna Stern) is a legacy — the kid of a member of the Men of Letters and she's spent her whole life hunting the thing that killed her parents. She also prefers to work alone, but she teams up with Sam and Dean to save the day. Despite her temporary demise, I always thought there was a seed of a spark between her and Sam when he asks her to "just hang out" and she says "you can call but I won't answer." Seeing her back for Season 15 was a joy, but I was holding my breath out of fear that she'd go the way of so many women who fall in love with a Winchester. The rest of Season 15 is set to air on October 8. I'm just foolishly romantic because I'm hoping for their HEA.

Felicia Day as Charlie Bradbury in Supernatural

Charlie Bradbury

The nerd who saved the world. Charlie’s death is one of the most illogical in the run of the fifteen seasons, right up there with the sacrifice of the Harvelles. Felicia Day’s character brought an incredible light and humor to the doom and gloom that tends to follow the Winchester brothers. Her return in Season 8's best episode, “LARP and the Real Girl” made me hope for more cameos. Though Charlie “lives” in a new incarnation of the show in later seasons, it’s not the same without her nerdy zest, her ability to out-horn-dog Dean Winchester, or her moral compass.

Samantha Smith as Mary Winchester in Supernatural

Mary Winchester 

Mother Winchester and her two boys are the first characters we meet in the pilot. Mary (Samantha Smith) appears in her white gown (which is subsequently given to any mom in the show about to die in Season 2??). It is the last days of normalcy for the Winchesters when Azazel, the Yellow-Eyed Demon, murders her. But before all of this, she is Mary Campbell, a girl from a long line of hunters. It’s the '70s. She’s in love and about to be engaged to the sweetest Marine, John Winchester. It’s these kinds of details in the meta-narrative that I find to resonate the most.

Mary is the first Winchester to make a terrible deal, and we discover that all of it — her husband's obsession, the future of her children, started with her. We see her death before we get to know her, and when we finally do, her choices are all the more tragic. Mary shaped the future of her family, irrevocably setting her sons on the very path she wanted to escape. Mary deserved better. Mary still deserves better, and after everything, I can’t believe that this is how her story ends. Mary Winchester's support group sign up here.

Cindy Sampson as Lisa Braeden on Supernatural

Lisa Braeden

Honorable mention:

Lisa Braeden (Cindy Sampson), who is a warrior on her own despite being a normal, human woman. She was there to put Dean back together during his worst.

Carry on, wayward sisters.