It's the beginning of the end for Supernatural.
The show, the last remaining series from The WB era, will sign off after 15 seasons sometime next year. The decision to end the series wasn't an easy one for anyone involved, and it only came after a long conversation with stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, who've carried the show on their backs for longer than some high school students have even been alive.
"Jared, Jensen, Peter Roth of Warner Bros., and myself had a very, very long sad, heartbreaking discussion, and we all came to understand what the guys want to do. They wanted to go out still relevant. They wanted to go be with their families. They wanted to go see what else was in the world," CW boss Mark Pedowitz said of the conversation. "I [have] said this many times, when they were ready to stop, we would stop."
Well, it's 2019 and the boys want to stop. So to celebrate the upcoming final season, which premieres Thursday, Oct. 10 on The CW, Padalecki and Ackles, along with co-stars Misha Collins and Alexander Calvert, joined executive producers Robert Singer, Andrew Dabb, Eugenie Ross-Leming, and Brad Buckner on stage at the Television Critics Association summer press tour to preview the final chapter of the Winchesters' long, long journey, which has lasted far longer than series creator Eric Kripke's original five-year vision ever intended, something Ackles actually pointed out during the panel.
"We've gone way beyond that. The world has lasted much longer than it was originally intended to. I am very thankful that it's kept us all together and gainfully employed for 15 years," he said. "We've been able to tell this story, and it's a story that we're all very excited about and very passionate about. I love these characters -- I wouldn't be sitting here if I didn't."
The show's unique ability to keep chugging along year after year isn't something anyone is taking for granted though, especially because the series was on the cancellation bubble for the first few years it was on the air. "[Jensen] and I had conversations for many years. ... We're two actors who are in a really interesting situation, where at first we were just begging for an audition. Now, they're literally saying to you, 'Hey, we're done when you're done,'" said Padalecki. "So he and I had several conversations for many, many years about the show ending because for a long time we thought the show might end and how do we make peace with it?"
Both actors stressed separately that there were no concerns about the show unspooling as it aged and simply said that they want to go out while the show is on top."You don't want to be the last person at the party, even if it's the best party on the planet," explained Padalecki. "You don't want to be the guy walking around like, 'Where did everyone go?' The show is going so strong. It's going so well right now. The story is strong. ... We're such a well-oiled machine. We've got to be almost poetic, and I feel like it's what Supernatural is all about, to almost say goodbye too soon."
"It hasn't grown old. That's not why we're entering into the final season," added Ackles. "I certainly don't want it to ever grow old, which might be why we want it to do before it does get [to that point]. It's a very special thing to me. I want it to end in a way that does justice to what we've built for the past 14-and-a-half years. I think right now the game plan that we have is going to do just that."
So, what exactly is that game plan? It feels like the only way for the show to possibly, truly end is with Sam and Dean dead and buried, this time for good. But considering they (and a number of other beloved characters) have escaped death's grip so many times now that there is a running joke on set that no one ever stays dead on Supernatural, how can that possibly be the end of the series? Dabb said the difference is that this time they're actually looking at Season 15 as a "true ending," even teasing that the machinations and everything the boys have used over the years to survive at all costs will finally go away. "They're going to be facing life or death -- they face it a lot, but this time it's for real," he said.
"The way the ending has emerged ... it's very organic," added Ross-Leming. "It sort of led us to this place. ... It's been a really organic, correct path that has got us to where we're going."
Although no one would reveal which familiar faces might join Sam and Dean on their final path, Dabb did say that some characters who many fans are expecting to see will probably come back for a farewell tour, but he's also hoping that there will also be some people who maybe fans aren't expecting. However, it sounds like another appearance from Papa Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is likely off the table after his return in the show's emotional 300th episode.
"I think he had a fairly wonderful exit from the universe during his last appearance, and I think it'd be hard to top that episode in terms of family continuity and emotion," explained Ross-Leming.
It might not be what some fans want to hear, but as Ackles noted, they're not going to be able to please everybody. But he is proud of what they've accomplished and what they're working toward this season.
"I feel like for the majority of the fans and the people that have been with us through this journey, it's certainly going to feel right and it's going to feel good," he said of the show's ending. "It should put a lot of people in a position of feeling great about the journey they took with us and the Winchester brothers. That's certainly how I feel about it, and we're really excited to tell that story."
Ackles also added that while they are approaching the Season 15 finale as a "true ending," that still doesn't mean Sam and Dean won't find their way back on our screens at some point down the line. "This is a long journey that I don't think is ever going to be over," he said. "I think we're just going to go away for a while. How long I don't know."
"I'm not ever ready to close doors or burn bridges. I think that's foolish," he added. "Am I saying that there's something in the works? No. Am I saying that I'd be open to the conversation about doing something in the future? What's the harm in that?"
Supernatural Season 15 premieres Thursday, Oct. 10 at 8/7c on The CW.
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