When Supernatural made it debut in 2005 on The WB, the show was riding a wave of teen-centric, genre-oriented series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Roswell and Charmed. A show starring two pretty boy actors, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, with monsters seemed like a slam dunk. And it was, but it became so much more than that.
Fourteen years and over 300 episodes later, Supernatural is the longest-running genre show ever on American broadcast television. Pretty impressive for a series that’s often been overlooked and dismissed in favor of splashier shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Westworld. While Supernatural doesn’t have the cultural dominance of those series, what is does have is a passionate fanbase that knows, even after all this time, the show has managed to maintain its quality. So it’s no surprise those fans were left stunned and saddened when it was announced that Supernatural’s upcoming fifteenth season would be its last.
With Season 14 wrapping up soon and the show’s upcoming fifteenth season swan song on the horizon, we decided to take a look at what the critics had to say about all fourteen seasons of Supernatural. Normally we average the percentage on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes for these lists, but there weren't enough critical reviews on Metacritic outside of Season 1 to generate a score. As such, we're sticking with the scores the seasons earned on Rotten Tomatoes. As you’ll see, fans aren’t the only ones who are enthusiastic about Supernatural.
SEASON 1 & 8 (TIE) - ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 67%
Seasons 1 and 8 are the ones that got the least critical love at 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. Season 1 kicks off the adventures of demon hunters Sam and Dean Winchester, established Supernatural’s universe and introduced the Winchester’s mission of “saving people, hunting things,” as the brothers also searched for their missing father. While the season started to establish the show’s overarching mythology, it focused more on monster-of-the-week episodes.
Many critics saw the potential in the series. For example, Emily Ashby at Common Sense Media wrote, “So many true-to-life issues surface in this series that astute viewers will see it's much more than a pretty-boy drama.” On the other hand, several critics called the show out for being bland and uninspired. The Boston Globe’s Matthew Gilbert summed up this perspective by claiming that Supernatural is “…a horror rehash that never quite takes flight.”
In contrast to Season 1's relatively low critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, the audience score for Supernatural's freshman season sits at 89%.
In contrast to Season 1, Season 8 is a lot farther in the series' production. That season sees Dean return from Purgatory after a year only to discover Sam wasn’t looking for him while he was gone. The season incorporated a myriad of flashbacks of both Dean’s time away and Sam’s relationship with Amelia. The season also included Dean’s vampire friend Benny, Kevin Tran translating the demon tablet, and the introduction of Metatron. This was also the season where Jeremy Carver took the reins as showrunner.
Many critics contrasted Season 8 to the prior season and considered whether the show was in decline or still vital after so many years. Joe Julians of Digital Spy felt the series improved with the change of showrunners, writing, “It felt like Supernatural had been given a new lease of life under the command of Jeremy Carver and everything felt fresher as a result.” On the other hand, New York Times' critic Mark Hale remarked, “…the show has been flat-footed and dull, with no snap in the writing and no life in the story.”
The Rotten Tomatoes audience score for Season 8 currently sits at 83%
SEASON 7 - ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 80%
Supernatural’s seventh season received the third lowest critical score, although an 80% is certainly nothing to sneeze at. The season revolved around the invasion of Earth by the Leviathans. It's also noteworthy for introducing Felicia Day’s computer hacker Charlie and for the extremely sad death of Sam and Dean’s surrogate father, Bobby. The season ends with Dean and angel Castiel being sucked into Purgatory.
The Rotten Tomatoes percentage for Season 7 is based on only five mostly positive critic’s reviews. The series was coming off a stellar Season 6, so many of the critics were very optimistic about Season 7 and had come to appreciate the show's main characters. TV Fanatic’s Sean McKenna observed of Sam and Dean, “The two have grown and progressed through countless big events, but they still manage to hold onto their trademark characteristics.”
The Rotten Tomatoes audience score for Supernatural Season 8 is tied with the critics at 80%. In terms of audiences scores, Season 8 ranks as the weakest of the series.
SEASONS 3 & 10 (TIE) - ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 83%
Seasons 3 and 10 of Supernatural are tied at 83%. The Big Bad lurking in the shadows of Season 3 is Lilith, the first demon, who also happens to hold the contract for Dean’s soul. The season consists of the Winchesters tracking Lilith and attempting to get Dean out of his contract. Ultimately the boys aren’t successful and Dean ends the season in Hell.
The third season was cut to 16 episodes from 22 due to the 2008 Writers' Strike. Despite that, most critics gave it positive reviews, with William Thomas of Empire Magazine declaring it, “The most enjoyable season yet.”
In Season 10, Dean briefly became a demon. Even after Sam and Castiel cure him of that affliction, he spends most of the season dealing with the influence of the Mark of Cain and trying to discover how to remove it.
Given its decade long run, many critics were surprised to discover that the series continued to deliver. Mark Dawidziak of The Cleveland Plain Dealer commented, “The really scary thing about Supernatural is…. It not only remains creatively fresh, it continues to attract new viewers.”
Viewers were happy with both seasons. On Rotten Tomatoes, Season 3 has an audience score of 96%, while Season 10’s audience score is 92%.
NEXT PAGE: Supernatural Hits Its Stride