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Supernatural Alum Jensen Ackles Recalls His Initial Reaction After Learning The Plot Of The Polarizing Series Finale

Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester in Supernatural
(Image credit: The CW)

It’s been over a year since The CW’s longest-running series, Supernatural, concluded after 15 seasons. While the majority of the show’s 327-episode run was mostly well received by fans, the same can't be said for the series finale. Plenty of longtime viewers had mixed feelings on how things ended for the Winchester brothers and, now, co-lead Jensen Ackles has recalled his own reaction to learning what was planned for the series' final installment.

Jensen Ackles, who portrayed Dean Winchester on the WB and CW drama, was recently a guest on Smallville vet Michael Rosenbaum’s podcast, Inside of You. During their chat, talk eventually turned to Supernatural and how divided the show's fanbase was after the series finale aired. As many probably remember, the final episode featured the death of Dean, who was accidentally nailed in the back. The actor reflected on the moment and co-star Jared Padalecki first found out about the ending, and it turns out Ackles wasn't really feeling it:

I don’t think there’s a wrong opinion about it, I honestly don’t. I think that the people that have problems with it are validated, and I think the people that enjoyed it are validated. I was in both camps, I spent time in both camps. And this is no secret, the very first time we had ever heard what was going to happen at the end of the season, Jared [Padalecki] and I flew out to L.A. and we went to the writers’ room before the season started, and we all sat down and they essentially pitched us how they wanted to wrap up the show, which was the first time in Supernatural history that that had ever happened.

It can be hard for a show to stick the landing with its finale, especially when said program has been on the air for 15 years. Though Jensen Ackles explained that he didn't deal with the pitch well, it's still good that he doesn’t see any right or wrong opinion on how to feel about the finale. Nevertheless, as he continued to explain, the story really ate at him after he heard it:

My initial reaction was, ‘I don’t like it.’ … I was trying to be respectful, so I said, ‘OK…’ I didn’t give them an overwhelming response. I was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna sleep on it.’ Because this is a big thing, I don’t want to mess this up. So I slept on it, and about a week went by, and I went to my wife, and I was like, ‘I’m really bumpin’ on this.’ … And she was like, ‘Is it because Dean dies?’ And I’m like, ‘Maybe? Maybe I’m just too close to that character, and I just don’t want to see him go.’ And for some reason, I always thought that if someone was going to go, it was going to be Sam, as kind of the martyr, and Dean would then be left to kind of stumble through the rest of his life, mourning his brother and his lost family and it would maybe be a sad existence, but that’s just how it happened. Or we would both go. … It just didn’t sit well with me.

Interestingly, a lot of fans (and apparently one of the co-leads) thought that if a Winchester was to die in the end, it would be Sam, or as the star said, it would be both of them. Dean's death turned out to be one of the most shocking of that TV season, as not many people thought Sam would live out the rest of his life normally and with a family. Jensen Ackles later revealed that it was his wife, actress Danneel Ackles, and Supernatural creator Eric Kripke, who ultimately helped him gain clarity within the situation, and it seems to have done the trick:

So my wife in all her infinite wisdom said, ‘You should talk to somebody outside of [the writers’ room] that understands the world.’ And that was Eric Kripke, who created the world, who created the characters, who had been gone since Season 5. So he’d been gone for 10 years, but he still knew the show and kept tabs on it. So I called him, and he had not heard what they were planning and so I told him. And he did the same thing I did. He was like, ‘Let me sleep on this, let me just kind of get some clarity on it, and I’ll phone you tomorrow.’ I said, ‘Great.’ He ended up sending me this incredibly well-written email explaining to me why he thought this was a great ending. And it just put things in perspective for me and from then on, I was on board.

I'm a Supernatural fan, and I can say that I’m among the many who, to this day, still have mixed feelings about that last episode. While watching the finale for the first time, I didn’t even cry over Dean's death, mostly due to the sheer shock of how ordinary it was nature. Many fans feel that Episode 19 of the season was the "true" finale, since it ended with the brothers riding off into the sunset while a montage played. By that point, they'd also said goodbye to fan-favorite angel, Castiel.

It’s possible that if not for COVID, the finale could have been different, since the cast and crew would've been able to do more. All in all, I don't think it’s the greatest finale but don't find it to be the worst, either. I mean, if Jensen Ackles and creator Eric Kripke can deal with it, maybe it's worth taking another look at? Meanwhile, those who aren't pleased can still take comfort in their fan fiction. 

At present, Jensen Ackles is working on a spinoff series, which initially drew a surprising reaction from Jared Padalecki, though the two have since cleared the air. They'll soon be reuniting for an episode of Walker, but let's hope that somehow we seem them back on screen again as the Winchester bros. And if that happens, maybe it could rectify what some people feel was a lackluster finale.

Passionate writer. Obsessed with anything and everything entertainment, specifically movies and television. Can get easily attached to fictional characters.