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Supernatural is one of the defining series of The CW and seemed for a long time like the show that would just keep on showing. Now, however, the show is poised to enter its fifteenth and final season, and The CW will have to enter a whole new era. Interestingly, Misha Collins, who plays the angel Castiel on Supernatural, recently revealed that he doesn't think Supernatural would have gotten on the air in the current era.
Speaking to CinemaBlend and other press at San Diego Comic-Con, Misha Collins said this:
It's an interesting show especially at this moment. By the way, I don't think this show would have gotten on the air today. Because at this moment, having a show with only men as series regulars is anathema to our thinking about how representation should be conducted in television. And rightly so. But it is an interesting opportunity for us to explore masculinity from a different perspective than it is looked in television, and I think it's a really fascinating laboratory to be able to play around with. It might not happen again. I really don't know when there's going to be a major television show that is with all these manly men.
Supernatural is known for many things after nearly a decade and a half on the air already, but the longevity of major female characters is not one of them. In fact, they have a tendency to be killed off, although to be fair, mostly of the major Supernatural characters have been killed off at least once. Misha Collins even once revealed the best of Castiel's many deaths to CinemaBlend!
The show is just fundamentally the story of Sam and Dean Winchester, and it happens that the most profound bonds they've formed over the years have been with other men. Or at least celestial beings occupying male vessels, as is the case with Castiel, who has occupied female bodies as well. Fans just know him best in the original form of Jimmy Novak, played by Misha Collins.
If Supernatural premiered today, there would almost certainly be a greater presence of female characters from the beginning. That's not to say that one of the Winchester siblings would be Samantha or Deanna rather than Sam or Dean, but the most important women of Season 1 were Jess and Mary Winchester, both of whom were very dead.
The focus on brotherhood and masculinity that came to define Supernatural might have been absent if Supernatural premiered in 2019 rather than 2005. Misha Collins went on to discuss how Supernatural found itself as well as early attempts to incorporate female characters on a more regular basis, saying this:
I think this show discovered that about itself early on. I probably am speaking out of school, but I don't care, because what are they gonna do, fire me? [laughs] There was a mandate from the network in Season 3 to add two female series regulars to the show, and those characters while they were portrayed by excellent actresses who have gone on to great careers, the characters didn't feel like they fit. It was like, well, this isn't actually what the show is really about. It's about brotherhood in both the literal and broader sense of the term. And that's why my character worked, and that's even why Mark Sheppard's character worked, and why Alex [Calvert]'s character worked.
Misha Collins may not have joined Supernatural until Season 4 as the angel more or less on Dean's shoulder, but he dropped some interesting information about Season 3. Fans will undoubtedly remember that Season 3 featured two female characters in relatively prominent roles: Katie Cassidy's Ruby and Lauren Cohan's Bela Talbot.
As Misha Collins noted, both Katie Cassidy and Lauren Cohan went on to successful careers, tackling long-running roles on other series, with Cassidy playing various versions of Laurel Lance from the very beginning of Arrow (also on The CW and ending this year with a new suit for Cassidy) and Cohan becoming a key part of The Walking Dead ensemble starting in Season 2 and running through Season 9.
Interestingly, Lauren Cohan has expressed interest in returning to Supernatural for the final season, and may return to The Walking Dead following Whiskey Cavalier's cancellation. Hey, if Jeffrey Dean Morgan could return to Supernatural while maintaining a presence on The Walking Dead, why not Lauren Cohan? Supernatural has brought back characters from wilder fates than what happened to Bela.
That said, we should probably rule out Katie Cassidy returning to Supernatural before the end, unless via flashback. Her version of Ruby was destroyed and replaced in Season 4 by Genevieve Cortese, who later married Supernatural co-leading man Jared Padalecki.
According to Misha Collins, neither Ruby 1.0 nor Bela really "fit" into Supernatural as the story of the Winchester brothers, whereas characters like Cas and Crowley and Jack did work. Mark Sheppard probably isn't coming back, but I'd be surprised if Castiel doesn't make it to the very end, and likely Jack as well despite his recent death. Collins elaborated:
There are these characters that come in that are also part of this fraternity, and we get to explore brotherhood without it being about, typically I think in a show like that, you would expect to have a lot of romantic foil female characters, or something that like it's about those relationships between them and women, and I think the show was trying to find its footing in the beginning. Trying to figure how, like, how do we integrate that aspect because that's a part of a television show that we need to have, because that's what always happens. And in the end, I think we ended up just doing a show that's really about fraternity, about brotherhood, and that's kind of interesting...
Misha Collins certainly has a point about the early years trying to work in some romance for the Winchester brothers from time to time, and it was the death of Jess that actually propelled Sam to start saving people and hunting things in the family business again.
Fortunately for womankind in the Supernatural universe, considering what often happens to the women who cross paths with the Winchester brothers, Supernatural shifted its focus almost entirely on family rather than romance, although there are plenty of viewers hanging on to hopes for a Dean/Castiel romance. They do have a more profound bond, after all!
Although the attempt to launch a Wayward Sisters spinoff did increase the prominence of some of the women of Supernatural, the core group is still Sam, Dean, Castiel, and Jack. Misha Collins credits the network and studio for allowing Supernatural to go with the formula that works:
I have opinions about it. They're not very well-informed, but they're opinions and I think it's interesting and I like that the show has allowed itself and the network and the studio have allowed the show to kind of break the mold and just do that instead of trying to conform to how television normally deals with gender exploration.
Supernatural has indeed been breaking the mold for a long time, and we can only hope that the series goes out with a bang. Jared Padalecki promises a "version of peace" for the Winchesters by the end of the series finale, and Jensen Ackles revealed that he had a lot of trouble with the ending until he chatted with an old friend about it.