It hasn’t been too long since Supernatural ended back in the fall of 2020, but even now fans are still reeling from that controversial final hour. After spending fifteen seasons and 327 episodes with brothers Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) as they hunted everything that goes bump in the night, “Carry On” aired on November 19, 2020, marking the last time we saw the Winchesters on screen together.
But did you know that Dean’s arrival into Heaven wasn’t meant to be a solo act? No, Sam wasn’t going to die with him, but Dean’s stroll through paradise was meant to include a number of former cast members from Supernatural episodes past, all of whom would greet him in the afterlife.
For a show that takes death so lightly (even killing the Horseman in the tenth season), it’s not surprising that Dean’s triumphant entry into the afterlife was meant to include such fanfare. After all, plenty of characters have come back from the dead over the years, some of whom had been dead since the series began (looking at you, Mama Winchester), so seeing them all in eternity just makes sense. But before we discuss where Supernatural was supposed to go, let’s take a quick detour to remember where it went.
‘Supernatural’s Finale Didn’t Do Sam and Dean Justice
After Dean dies early on in the series finale of Supernatural, he makes his way to eternity only to appear alongside a rebuilt Harvelle’s Roadhouse (which burnt down in the Season 2 finale), a version of his trademark Impala, and the original Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver), who we hadn’t laid eyes on in a number of years. Overwhelmed, Dean takes a drive along Heaven’s highway while Sam lives out the rest of a long life on Earth. The brothers reunite in Heaven at the very end of the road, ending the series with a heartfelt farewell to fans everywhere. While reviews were generally positive for the long-running show’s final hour, not all fans responded in kind. To date, “Carry On” ranks as one of the lowest-rated episodes of Supernatural holding a 6.9/10 on IMDb, with many longtime fans distraught with the manner in which Dean died, how tacky “Old Sam’s” makeup looked, or how the episode ignored other key characters such as Castiel (Misha Collins) or Eileen (Shoshannah Stern).
In many ways, “Carry On” felt more like how the show’s earlier years might’ve ended (complete with a vampire antagonist from the first season), rather than honoring the Winchesters’ personal journeys over 15 seasons. Sam getting out of hunting and Dean dying in the field (by getting skewered on a piece of rebar, no less) feels awfully like Season 1, and doesn’t exactly do justice to the men Sam and Dean had become. By the final season, Sam had made peace with the hunting life, and after the brothers defeated Chuck (Rob Benedict), they were given the chance to write their own story. Yeah, one could argue that Sam does just that in the finale, but Dean never gets the chance. Maybe we would’ve felt better about it had his death amounted to something bigger in the end, and maybe if Dean’s arrival in paradise actually ushered in his own happiness, fan frustration would’ve ceased entirely. As it turns out, that was the original plan.
‘Supernatural’ Was Originally Meant to End With A Larger Reunion Full of Cast Members From The Show’s Past
According to co-showrunner Andrew Dabb (who headed up the show’s final four years), Supernatural was supposed to go out with a much bigger bang. “Dean was always going to end up in Heaven, and we were always going to see Sam’s life in fast-forward,” Dabb revealed online, explaining that the basic premise of the series finale remained the same. “But those final moments were supposed to take place somewhere else.” Apparently, when he entered the afterlife, [Dean] was going to be greeted inside the heavenly Harvelle’s Roadhouse by “all the people the boys had met along the way,” which would’ve included quite a few more characters than just Bobby Singer. Even the rock band Kansas –known for Supernatural’s official unofficial theme song “Carry On Wayward Son,” which acts as the namesake to the finale episode– was supposed to appear, rocking their hearts out in the Roadhouse.
“When [co-showrunner Robert Singer] and I sat down to talk about Season 15, and our inevitable end, we came up with something that felt like a fitting version of Sam and Dean’s Heaven,” Dabb elaborated. This makes even more sense when you consider that Dabb, who had been with the show since the fourth season, penned Supernatural’s first look at Heaven via Season 5’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” Dabb went on to say, “I have to admit that I sometimes think about our original idea —all of Sam and Dean’s family and friends, and one of the greatest rock bands ever on a masterpiece of a set, and I miss it … even though it never really existed.” No doubt, it’s hard to conclude a series that’s been on the air for fifteen seasons, especially since it started as a horror show and transitioned to a multiversal sci-fi fantasy by the end. Nonetheless, that original finale sounds like it would’ve delivered everything fans could’ve asked for.
The Return of Old ‘Supernatural’ Cast Members Would’ve Likely Made “Carry On” A Fan-Favorite
While we don’t know exactly who from Supernatural’s extensive history might’ve shown up for the intended finale, there are a few characters who we can only assume would’ve made an appearance. Aside from Bobby, Castiel, and Jack (Alexander Calvert), Dabb previously set up John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Mary Winchester’s (Samantha Smith) heavenly reunion after the 300th episode “Lebanon” the season prior. Since their likenesses appeared in the aired finale anyway (a Winchester family photo is seen on Sam’s wall), there’s no doubt they would’ve made it on screen so long as the actors were available. Of course, Bobby also mentions Rufus Turner (Steven Williams), who was killed off back in Season 6, and we couldn’t forget the namesakes of the Roadhouse itself, Jo (Alona Tal) and Ellen Harvelle (Samantha Ferris) who would’ve probably appeared with their former mullet-sporting techie, Ash (Chad Lindberg).
There would likely have been more, of course. Fans would be delighted to see fan favorites who have died throughout the show’s massive run, possibly including Jessica Moore (Adrianne Palicki), Kevin Tran (Osric Chau), Pamela Barnes (Traci Dinwiddie), and the original Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day), reuniting with Sam and Dean for one last Supernatural shindig. And topping it all off with Kansas (not to be confused with the brother’s most visited state) playing “Carry On Wayward Son”? Talk about a dream come true. Had the show been able to pull an ending like that off, it likely would’ve gone down as one of the most memorable hours in television, able to do what so many series finale clip-shows have failed to throughout the years. Unfortunately, it was completely out of the showrunners’ hands, as if Chuck himself had regained his power and messed with Sam and Dean’s happy ending one final time.
Given The Circumstances of the COVID-19 Pandemic, ‘Supernatural’ Ended The Best Way It Could
“COVID hit and we all went on break and I was like, okay well I assume [the finale is] going to change,” actor Jensen Ackles told Entertainment Weekly about a month before “Carry On” aired. Andrew Dabb echoed those sentiments, explaining that they were forced to rewrite much of “Inherit the Earth” and “Carry On” after discovering their new COVID guidelines. “It changed some things, it did. Particularly in episode 20, there were things planned that just aren’t feasible anymore.” There’s no denying that the pandemic hit the entertainment industry pretty hard. Every show that aired in 2020 had its own limitations, and, unfortunately, Supernatural may have gotten the brunt of it.
However, despite how it all played out, the series still concluded as best it could given the circumstances. “Inherit the Earth” was tastefully shot in a way where our heroes battled Chuck from a distance in a completely unpopulated world, which didn’t feel like a stretch considering the villain’s endgame. As the Winchesters drove off victorious, the penultimate episode ends with a clip show, calling to mind characters like Crowley (Mark Sheppard), Ruby (Katie Cassidy), and even Bella (Lauren Cohan) –a nice nod to what might’ve been without feeling terribly tacky. Even “Carry On” managed to tug on those same heartstrings in the end, most notably during Dean’s tearful goodbye to Sam as the younger Winchester was forced to watch his brother die for the final time.