Any fan of Supernatural knows the show is synonymous with death. I mean, come on, the pilot episode opens with the fiery demise of Mary Winchester and closes with the equally traumatic slaughter of Sam’s love Jessica, effectively letting us know that no one is safe.
With such a premise, it’d be easy to assume that fans are desensitized to character fatalities by now, but this isn’t the case. The show’s characters continue to work their way into our hearts, destroying our souls when they leave. These are the Supernatural character deaths that still haunt us like vengeful spirits.
Sam Winchester (the First Time)
Oh, sweet Sammy. It was easy to love the younger Winchester brother from the start. He was the sensitive counterpart to Dean’s brazen masculinity, hitting us with his soulful gazes and gentle compassion. This made it disgustingly sad when in the Season 2 episode “All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1,” he was unexpectedly stabbed and killed by fellow victim of the Yellow-Eyed Demon, Jake Talley.
We watched, heartbroken, as Sam crumpled to the ground, stricken and pained after being ruthlessly betrayed. As Dean clutched his dying brother, knowing he had failed in his life’s mission to protect him, a part of us died too. Though Sam came back to life in the next episode, this remains one of the single saddest moments in the show’s history. He was never the same after returning to the living, death having unleashed new darkness within him and crushed the last of his idealistic innocence.
Dean Winchester (When He Was Dragged to Hell)
I’m gonna be honest — Season 3 is a real downer. It follows the boys over the course of one year as they try to grapple with Dean’s decision to sell his soul in exchange for Sam’s life. The season ends with the bloody, undignified death of the oldest Winchester. It was singularly gruesome to watch strong and steady Dean get torn apart by monstrous hellhounds we couldn’t even see, all while Sam stood by powerless to stop it.
Dean has always been the heart of the show. So, it was especially crushing to watch the light in his eyes fade to nothing, knowing that the fate awaiting him in Hell was worse than anything we could imagine. The ironic conclusion (Winchester patriarch John had sacrificed his own soul to save Dean at the end of Season 1) left two Winchesters in Hell and one to grapple with his guilt — and us feeling like our heroes were truly defeated this time.
Bobby Singer was, more than anything, a constant for the boys. From the first season, he was always there to help Sam and Dean, eventually transitioning from a knowledgeable old family friend to a full father figure. So, when Bobby was shot in the head by lead Leviathan Dick Roman, it felt like losing a family member. Even worse, the long-serving hunter became what he had spent his life fighting against after refusing to cross over, afraid his boys couldn’t get on without him.
We assumed Bobby would always be around to call Sam and Dean “Idjits” and share his salty bits of wisdom. His absence left the brothers truly alone for the first time, forcing them to grow into autonomous heroes without the benefit of a mentor’s guidance. Bobby’s death changed the tone of the whole show, marking the end of the old guard of rough, blue-collar hunters at the narrative’s roots.
Charlie Bradbury (the Second Time)
Charlie captured our hearts as soon as she danced her way into Richard Roman Enterprises to the tune of “Walking on Sunshine” in Season 7’s “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo.” She beautifully represented one of the demographics at the core of the show’s fanbase: spunky, young, intelligent girls confident in their geekiness. We watched joyfully as she formed a sisterly bond with the Winchesters, and she came into her own as a true heroine.
Her death was an unnecessarily cruel tool to cause strife between Sam and Dean. After destroying her notes on the Book of the Damned, she was brutally murdered by Eldon Frankenstein, who wanted to steal the book back for his family of sorcerers. Dean naturally blamed Sam, because Charlie would never have been involved if it weren’t for Sam’s request. Thus, the brave, complex female character was reduced to a bloody victim in a cheap motel bathtub — nothing short of an injustice.
Ellen and Jo Harvelle
Ellen and Jo Harvelle were some of the first powerful, heroic female characters to appear regularly on the show. Ellen was the tough but kind mother figure we all needed, and Jo was an energetic young hunter who seemed to have a long future ahead of her. Their lives were tragically cut short in the Season 5 episode “Abandon All Hope,” in which the mother and daughter pair traveled with Sam, Dean, and Cas to an abandoned town hoping to kill Lucifer with the Colt.
Not only did Ellen have to watch her daughter suffer from mortal wounds inflicted by hellhounds, but she chose to sacrifice herself alongside Jo in a fiery explosion to buy the brothers some time. In a twist of vicious irony, the Colt barely gave the Devil pause, so the Harvelles’ deaths essentially meant nothing. The name of their final episode is quite fitting, as this is by far one of Supernatural’s bleakest installments.
The end of this last character was less tragic than it was irritating. No other show handled the personification of Death in a more artful way than Supernatural, and the acting talents of Julian Richings always shined in the role.
Supernatural’s showrunners made a colossal mistake when they had Dean kill Death in Season 10’s finale. Should Dean have gone through with Death’s deal, murdering Sam so he could forever shoulder the burden of the Mark of Cain? No. But killing the Pale Horseman was not the way, as it turned him into just another plot device gone wrong.
Here’s hoping that our favorite characters survive the show’s next season, which premieres on October 11 on the CW.