Having debuted on September 13, 2005, the epic journey of the Winchester brothers is coming to a close, as The CW series Supernatural enters its 15th and final season, with Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) facing a threat beyond anything they ever could have imagined – God himself. Along with the angel Castiel (Misha Collins), Sam and Dean have conquered all sorts of monsters and demons, faced off in both Heaven and Hell, and have lost countless friends and loved ones, along the way. And now that all of the souls in Hell have been released and are back on Earth, where they are free to kill again, this trio will do what they do best and defend the world.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, showrunner/writer/executive producer Andrew Dabb talked about how it feels to know that you’re making the final season of a show that’s been on for 15 seasons, how they’ll likely need a group cry when it’s all done, why he doesn’t believe in checkmark storytelling, how long they’ve known the endpoint of the series, what he’s most excited about with this season’s storytelling, exploring the legacy of the show, both Sam and Dean’s journeys, and where things are at for Cas.
Collider: How does it feel to know that you’re making the last season of Supernatural?
ANDREW DABB: I don’t know that it’s hit all of us, quite yet. We’ve known, theoretically, that it’s the end, since last spring, but we’re still right in the middle of it. I really feel, once we get toward the end, especially writing the last two or three episodes, that’s when it’s gonna hit us all, pretty hard. I go to the office, every day, and it’s the same people and we’re meeting our deadlines, but then, we [do interviews] and everybody is like, “It’s ending. How do you feel?” And I’m like, “Oh, my God, it’s ending! How do I feel?!” Someone from Warner Bros. came up to talk about the wrap party and said that they’d help us move out of the office when we were ready to move out, and we were like, “We’ve been in this office for 12 years. We’re not leaving. That’s part of the deal. We’ll just stay here.”
Do you feel like you’re going to need a group cry, once it’s all over?
DABB: Yeah. I think we need to have a professional comforter come in and just hug everybody and help us get our feelings out.
With this being the last season, are you making sure that you get to certain things and that you do specific things, before you wrap it all up?
DABB: Yes and no. I don’t think you should approach things with checkmark storytelling, with a list of the 20 things we need to do because every episode has gotta have one. I don’t think that works for us. There are certainly moments and emotional things that we wanna touch on with the characters, but we also want to let the story evolve and tell itself, and that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve known the endpoint for quite awhile, but the path has changed, multiple times, since we’ve been back, working on the show, and I’m sure it will continue to change. We’re just riding that, a little bit. We’re not going, “You know that Anti-Christ kid from Season 5? What’s up with him?” If it comes back into the story organically, we’ll happily deal with it. If not, and it’s a hanging Chad that somebody could write fan fiction about, that’ll be great.
You said that you’ve known the endpoint for quite awhile. How long is quite awhile?
DABB: Since the spring, when Jared [Padalecki] and Jensen [Ackles] came to us and were like, “This is the last season.” And then, we had to confront it ourselves and be like, “Okay, if this last season, how do we want it to end?” And I’m not even talking so much about in a plot sensibility, but what emotional feeling we want people to leave this show and 327 hours of their lives with. It’s a lot of work to watch this show. It’s a lot of work to watch all of these episodes. We wanted to make sure most people feel rewarded, by the end of it.
Have you had conversations about whether both of them would die, neither or them would die, or maybe one of them would day?
DABB: We’ve talked about every permutation of that. Who lives and who dies has been an open question with Supernatural, not just for the finale, but season by season. I think we chose an endpoint that makes sense to us, emotionally, and is an ending point to this very long and hopefully exciting journey that they’ve been on it.
Have there been other seasons when you really thought it might be the last season?
DABB: Season 4, when I first joined the show, it was my first job in television. I’d been living in L.A. for two weeks, and Eric Kripke came into the room and was like, “Okay, this is the last season of the show. Sorry to say, guys, but this is it.” And then, Season 5 felt very much the same. Since then, not really. When I took over Jeremy Carver’s job, in Season 12, I went and spoke to Jared and Jensen, and I said, “Listen, guys, what do you think?” We talked and they were like, “Maybe two or three more years.” So, the fact that we went four years, to me, is a bonus. There’s never been a point, along the way, where we were like, Okay, it’s ending. We’ve gotta pack things up.” Thankfully, because of The CW, we’ve always known, pretty early, that we were coming back, and that’s been a great gift. Since Season 4, we haven’t had to play the bite your nails game about that.
What does it feel like, knowing that you’ve made it 15 seasons, which is so very rare for a TV series?
DABB: It hasn’t happened before, and I don’t think it’s gonna happen again, certainly not with 20-plus episodes a season and the same two leads, in every single episode. I’ll never have an experience like this again. I don’t think anyone on television, given the way TV is going right now. I think that’s just the nature of this particular beast. In some ways, Supernatural marks a swan song for a very specific type of storytelling, that probably started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are certainly shows out there, like Legacies, that are supernatural, and they’ll go on for many years, but I would be hard pressed to think that they would go on, for as long as we have.
What are you excited about, with the story you’re telling, this season?
DABB: It allows us to do things, structurally, that we normally wouldn’t do. I’m very fortunate to work with a very talented group of writers, who have more good ideas than will fit in a 20-episode season, so we found a way to go, “Here’s a teaser. Here’s a little flash. Here’s a little taste of something that, in any other season, would be an episode, a four-episode thing, or a whole season of storytelling, and we’re doing it in ways that I think are really, really fun. For example, early on, we’re going to see these visions, via Chuck, of ways the story has ended, in the past, which goes back to certain points, where the show could have ended but didn’t, but what if it did? What would that have actually looked like? That’ll be really fun for us to explore.
Do you feel like that gives you an opportunity to explore the legacy of the show?
DABB: Yes. We’re exploring the legacy of the show, and also the show, as it exists, in relationship to the actors and the fans and ourselves, and everything else. We’ve gone pretty big meta with the last season, and we’re trying not to go full force into that, but it’s certainly something that’s part of the story.
What can you say about Sam and Dean’s journey this season, both together and individually?
DABB: For both Sam and Dean, they start off in the same place. They just had the rug pulled out from under then, in a way they never thought would happen. Dean looks at it like, “Has our life been a lie? Have we been manipulated, this entire time?” Sam looks at it as, “Our life has been a lie, but now we’re free.” As far as they know, God unleashed a bunch of souls from Hell and left, and went off to some alternate world. And if he’s not around, then for the first time, they control their own fate. For Dean, there’s a part of that that’s scary. And for Sam, there’s a part of that that’s very freeing, especially when he’s had his destiny controlled, for a long time.
It’s unusual that a show gets to explore Heaven and Hell, or have characters where you get to cast God and Lucifer. How much fun is it to get to play with things like that?
DABB: It’s a lot of fun, but also, to a degree, a lot of responsibility. We want to be respectful of people’s beliefs, to an extent. Ultimately, what we’ve said is that angels, demons and God are no different than you and me. They have the same petty wants and the same jealousy, and everything like, but that doesn’t necessarily make them bad people. We’ve had very bad angels, and we’ve had very good demons. That’s what we’ve tried to explore, no matter what metaphysical label you put on these characters.
You’ve talked about finding the emotional endpoint for the series. What emotions do you hope people experience, at the end of the season?
DABB: Tears. That’s the goal. Tears and high amounts of alcohol consumption. That’s what we’re going for. And hopefully, some humor, along the way.
What can you say about Cas, this season?
DABB: For Cas, like our guys getting the rug pulled out from under him, he feels the same way. He’s also lost Jack, who was willing to die to protect, at the end of last season. He’s going through a lot. Cas finds himself a little rudderless, in the early parts of the season, as he tries figure out what it means for him to be in this world. Cas has Sam and Dean, but he doesn’t have a brother who’s been there for him, from the beginning. Every angel he knew is dead. They’re all gone. And the person he formed the biggest bond with was Jack, and Jack is now also gone. That drives him a little crazy. That makes for a character who’s extremely motivated and wants to hit something, but isn’t quite sure what to hit.
What was it like to get to have the opportunity to bring Jeffrey Dean Morgan back in, to revisit that character and that relationship? Were you surprised that you were able to make that happen?
DABB: I think if we had asked Jeffrey Dean Morgan, three, four or five years ago, he probably would have been willing to come back. He’s always been really supportive of the show. He loves Jared and Jensen. In real life, they’re really good friends. But, it didn’t necessarily feel right for the story. You want a reason why. Episode 300 gave it a certain amount of weight, but it was also about where the guys were, emotionally, as grown men now vs. where they were two, three or four years ago. You have two guys who, for a big chunk of their lives, were basically in a state of arrested adolescence. It’s only in the last third of the show, or maybe a little bit more, that they’ve started to come out of that. It’s only when they can come out of that, that they can have certain honest conversations with their father that they never could have had before.
That’s what made seeing them with their mother now so interesting.
DABB: Exactly. It was a very similar thing with Mary. The version of Mary that they knew was a very idealized version of her. When we brought her back, we really wanted her to feel like a complex character that was gonna come back and be the perfect mom, who gives nothing but hugs. She’s a complicated character, and I think Samantha [Smith] did an amazing job of portraying that, on screen.
Supernatural airs on Thursday nights on The CW.