What legacy will Supernatural leave behind when the Winchester story ends after season 15? Premiering in 2005, Supernatural arose from the mind of Eric Kripke like the proverbial zombie from the grave, becoming an early new millennium fantasy TV hit with fans of all things peculiar and paranormal. Starring Jensen Ackles as older brother Dean, and Jared Padalecki as the fresher-faced Sam, Supernatural followed these two hunters as they sought to avenge the death of their mother and put a stop to the apocalypse. Supernatural's story unfolded into a weekly whirlwind of monsters, the arcane and sibling squabbles, and Kripke's time came to an end with Sam and Dean finally beating the devil out of Lucifer himself.

While Kripke moved on after season 5, Supernatural continued to gather pace. Misha Collins joined the cast as Castiel and became the third lead protagonist, while Supernatural's mythology quite literally expanded into the heavens. Some fans maintain that Sam and Dean lost their mojo after Kripke's departure, but a loyal fan base continued to follow the brothers and banked Supernatural ten further seasons. Unlike many shows, Supernatural was fortunate enough to end on its own terms with season 15, and would've wrapped up already were it not for the worldwide pandemic. As things stand, fans eagerly await Supernatural's final episodes.

Supernatural never enjoyed the period of all-encompassing popularity experienced by The X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer in their respective heydays, but in today's world of quickfire cancellations and target demographics, 15 seasons don't just happen by accident. Supernatural's longevity and enduring popularity are hugely impressive achievements by any measure and the TV schedule won't look the same without the Winchesters' next misadventure to look forward to. But as the years pass and new fantasy series begin to emerge, what influence will Supernatural have on the future generation?

Supernatural's Winchesters Prove The Importance Of Character

It seems so simple - good characters make good TV. However, this deceptively obvious truth is so often overlooked. Compared to yesteryear, TV producers have free reign to do more or less as they please, with Hollywood-level special effects, increasingly bigger budgets, and the flexibility of streaming all cracking open the door of possibility for the small screen. Meanwhile, A-list actors are increasingly being enticed away from film by the lure of a lucrative limited series. As the stature of television in the entertainment industry grows, it's often easy to overlook the basics.

Sam and Dean Winchester are, without question, the heart and soul of Supernatural. Castiel has been a worthy and welcome addition to the cast, but everything comes back to those two brothers. Ackles and Padalecki are perfectly cast and have developed a fascinating, natural chemistry that was evident from the very first episode. Despite shouldering 15 seasons' worth of horror mythology, Supernatural has rarely sacrificed the interpersonal family drama and the bond between Sam and Dean in favor of pure spectacle, high-concept or meaningless monstrous fun. Perhaps the real testament to Sam and Dean's strength as characters is how their dynamic has repeatedly navigated Supernatural through troubled waters. Make no mistake, Supernatural has aired some woeful episodes, and the series struggled to find its feet in seasons 6 and 7 after Kripke's departure. Where lesser shows would've been faced with a disgruntled, ax-wielding studio exec, Supernatural was able to endure the terrible CGI bugs, the leviathans, and the misguided character deaths simply because viewers would happily tune in just to watch Sam and Dean.

This point has been rammed home in no uncertain terms by the collective failure of Supernatural's various spin-off attempts. Even after Supernatural itself became an established presence on TV, the backdoor pilot for Bloodlines (a series based on monster mafia in the city) ended up being the worst-rated effort in Supernatural's long history. Wayward Sisters was received with more warmth from fans, but still couldn't earn a place on The CW's schedule, proving definitively that Sam and Dean Winchester are Supernatural.

Within the sci-fi and fantasy genres, it's easy for a long-running series to forsake character focus in lieu of developing mythology, especially shows that employ a large ensemble cast. Lost is a perfect example of how difficult that balance can be, with season 3 onward putting less emphasis on character and more towards building mystery. When Supernatural is all said and done, the Winchesters themselves will be what fans remember most vividly in 10 or 20 years time, rather than any specific story or episode, reminding the TV shows of tomorrow that a handful of main characters with a compelling, ever-evolving dynamic and keen on-screen chemistry is the secret to a long and successful run.

Supernatural's Monster Lore Can Change The Rules

Sam and Dean might be used to giving "the talk" to unsuspecting victims, but contrary to popular belief, monsters don't actually exist. Despite being entirely make believe, depictions of paranormal entities in TV and film tend to share many traits in common. The cultural "rules" for these monsters develop throughout history, with each era adding fresh elements to what came before. The quintessential modern vampire, for example, takes the foundation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, while adding characteristics from more recent fiction, such as An Interview With A Vampire and the Hammer horror movies.

Supernatural has spent 15 years exploring the worlds of the vampires, werewolves, angels and demons, mixing biblical lore with pop culture. During that time, Supernatural has crafted a clear vision in terms of how each species looks and behaves, introducing their cultures, moral alignments, strengths and weaknesses. Angels are uptight, emotionless servants, demons are scheming, gaseous business-types with black eyes, Lucifer is a wise-cracking joker with daddy issues, and vamps are animalistic, tribal creatures with retractable teeth and an Alpha as their leader. Some of these ideas horror fans would've seen before, other elements are more unique to Supernatural, but just as famous depictions of monsters throughout history have added to the accepted template, Supernatural's reinventions could influence the vampires, demons and spirits of the future.

Lucifer is one of Supernatural's biggest success stories. Mark Pellegrino's performance is unnervingly casual, distinctly human and, at times, surprisingly whimsical - what The Joker might've been with superpowers and a successful stand-up comedy career. Pellegrino's vision of Lucifer in Supernatural could redefine the character for subsequent generations, with influence arguably already showing in the likes of Lucifer, which also dabbles in a more sympathetic version of Hell's overlord. When Supernatural comes to an end, it wouldn't be surprising if this type of Lucifer became more commonplace in media, maybe alongside absentee Gods who don't care, and angels that act like dicks.

Other Supernatural-isms might also be adopted into wider fantasy horror lore. For instance, Sam and Dean Winchester have used the power of salt to protect them from translucent foes more than any other ghost busters in recent memory. While this practice isn't exclusive to Supernatural, fans certainly haven't been able to look at dinner condiments in the same way since. When Supernatural is no longer around, features such as the "salt rule" could become far more prevalent within the genre.

Supernatural Took Risks But Owned Its Missteps

The very nature of fantasy TV allows for some out of the box thinking. Buffy The Vampire Slayer's musical episode, The X-Files' "First Person Shooter" and literally all of Twin Peaks spring to mind. But while pretty much every TV series has that one episode where the writers were clearly taking something, Supernatural boasts a rich back catalog of mind-boggling Winchester adventures and moments. The most memorable example is the meta episode where "Sam and Dean" become the actors "Jensen and Jared" on an in-universe TV series called "Supernatural" but there's also the demonic Snooki cameo, the Wizard of Oz episode, "what if" universes, killer teddy bears and Dean Winchester talking to a dog. There was even an animated crossover with Scooby-Doo in 2018.

Throughout its fifteen seasons, Supernatural has ventured into realms that any other series would fear to tread, and some of these risks have paid off resoundingly. Both "Changing Channels" and "Scoobynatural" can count themselves among the Winchesters' finest escapades. Naturally, not all of these outlandish episodes have been embraced by the fandom - most viewers were sour on the awkward celebrity cameos, and the Oz episode proved particularly divisive. Nevertheless, Supernatural's creative boldness is something the series will be remembered for, and successors will hopefully follow suit.

Perhaps Supernatural's low points are easier to swallow because the series is so good at knowingly acknowledging its mistakes with a wry smile, refusing to take itself too seriously. So many fantasy and horror TV shows are guilty of an unshakable, stony-faced, dour tone but Supernatural is happy to rib itself, parodying its own tropes and referencing things fans reacted badly to in past seasons. This attitude has not only separated Supernatural from the pack, but also allowed the writers to get away with far more than they might've with a less light-hearted approach, and through this sense of levity, Supernatural leaves a lasting impression.

Supernatural season 15 is currently on hiatus.