A Shipper’s Guide to Supernatural Season 8
If you aren’t a Supernatural fan, or you’re behind on Supernatural, or you would like to watch it at some point in time and remain unspoiled until then…I’d advise staying away from Tumblr for the near future. The show just returned from hiatus with episode 8.17, “Goodbye Stranger.” In the aftermath of a new Supernatural episode, the fandom comes out in droves to squee, complain, argue, hate on each other, and give group fandom hugs. All at the same time. And last night’s episode? It was a doozy.
Season 8 has been the most talked-about season of the show since season 5. The new showrunner has revived the show from its floundering (and somewhat disappointing) last two seasons—not only has the show moved out of the Friday night death slot for this season, it’s also been renewed for season 9. What was once “the little show that could” is now winning People’s Choice Awards (if you care about that sort of thing), while the fans take over the internet by force whether you want to see them or not. Even if you don’t follow Supernatural blogs, my guess is you could pick the two Winchester boys out of a lineup.
I’m sure you must be asking, “But Lady Lumos, if the show is doing so well, what are the fans arguing about?” Sometimes it’s a simple matter of not being able to please everyone—if there’s a Dean-centric episode, the Sam fans will not be happy, and vice versa. I personally love both boys equally, but that seems to be a rare trait in this particular fandom.
But the biggest problem within the Supernatural fandom is far too easy to pinpoint: Ship Wars. If you’re not sure what a ship is, I feel bad for you. Take a moment to consult Urban Dictionary and get back to me. I’ll wait.
There are two main ships in Supernatural, and while I may personally prefer one over the other, I’ll take no side here. I will simply point out the simple fact that both are pretty messed up, if you think about it. And the probability of either of them becoming canon on the show is a resounding zero. But that won’t stop either side from shipping so fiercely that I’ve never really seen the likes of it anywhere else. These shippers are Serious with a capital S. If you delve into either ship tag on Tumblr (which I wouldn’t recommend doing at work, or when there are sane people in the room), you’ll find equal amounts porn, thoughtful meta, and hate from the other shippers. Why can’t we all just get along?
I can’t answer that question for the Supernatural fandom. But I can give the rest of you some reasons why people love these ships so much. Follow me into the rabbit hole, if you dare.
Exhibit A: Wincest.
Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Winchester-incest. Incest shipping is not exactly uncommon in fandoms (you don’t really want to know what goes on in the Harry Potter fandom, do you?), but I’ve never seen one shipped by quite so many fans at once. This ship is, of course, between Sam and Dean Winchester. The brothers. The show itself has even gone so far as to make the characters aware that people ship them together (they’ve done a few fun episodes that break the fourth wall), to which Dean proclaimed “They do realize we’re brothers, right?” Sam got it right when he answered “It doesn’t seem to matter.”
It certainly doesn’t to these shippers. The fact that they’re brothers makes it “forbidden love,” or something. Over the 8 seasons of the show, these two boys have been attached at the hip for almost every episode. Occasionally they’ll have a big dramatic fight and one of them will storm off, they’ll separate for an episode or two, but they always come back. The chemistry between the actors, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, is genuine, and the sibling banter is always entertaining. This season they argued over who was the funniest Stooge.
In every season, the Winchester brothers do stupid things for each other. These two are willing to die, and worse, for each other. And actually, they have multiple times (they just don’t stay dead). In this season alone, they’ve had just as many heated arguments as declarations of brotherly love. Just watch episode 8.14 “Trial and Error,” during which each brother gives a heartfelt speech about why the other one needs to live.
The undeniable love between the brothers is touching, yes. Whether you tip that over into something sexual is totally up to you, but you would not be alone. About half the fandom is convinced they’re soul mates and are having an incestuous love affair. And the other half? Keep reading.
Exhibit B: Destiel.
The profound bond between Dean and Castiel, man and angel. If you’re taking notes, yes this ship is also gay, and that is called a “slash ship.” I wouldn’t recommend looking too much into it if that’s not your thing, I’d hate to scar you with all the Kirk/Spock you’re going to find.
Anyway, Castiel made his appearance in the season 4 premiere, and has been a recurring character, guest star, regular, and special guest star through the rest of the seasons. He tends to disappear for a string of episodes at a time, only to come back in the most dramatic fashion possible, like in last night’s episode. He is an angel of the Lord, he has awesome powers, and he rebelled against Heaven a few seasons back for one Dean Winchester. The two have had a rocky relationship which consists of everything from Cas kicking Dean’s ass a few times to Dean taking Cas to a brothel. Other characters have commented on the relationship between the two. Surrogate father-figure to the Winchesters, Bobby Singer, has said that Cas is the best friend Dean’s ever had. Others, like the demon Meg, have referred to Cas as Dean’s boyfriend. Dean has no comment on either.
Maybe it’s the way they stare at each other, but it’s obvious that the two are close. This season, Dean tore up Purgatory, torturing and killing countless monsters looking for the angel and insisting on bringing him home. Before the hiatus, the last episode, 8.16 “Remember the Titans,” ended with Dean’s heartfelt prayer to Cas, who had been absent for so long the fans were starting to think he had been killed off yet again (he doesn’t seem to want to stay dead, either).
So, the question I have to pose for you is this. Which is worse, familial shipping, or celestial shipping? On the one hand…incest. On the other…do angels even have sex? All I know is, the ship wars will continue probably long after the show finally ends (I’m thinking it will last 10 seasons, since most demon deals are for 10 years and someone obviously sold their soul for this show). Even though neither ship will never actually happen on network tv, there is no way to stop the flow of fanart, fanfic, and bickering. It is an endless, vicious cycle.
As for season 8 goes, I’d like to see a wrench thrown in both ships, just to see what the fans would do. Maybe Sam will end up with Amelia, the girl he shacked up with instead of looking for Dean.
Maybe Dean will end up with Benny, the vampire who helped him escape Purgatory.
We haven’t seen either character since episodes 8.9, “Citizen Fang” and 8.10, “Torn and Frayed,” which ended with the brothers cutting ties with both the girl, and the vampire. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of either, though what might happen there is anyone’s guess.
Most likely though, neither brother will get to settle down and be happy with anyone, because this show likes to make them (and us) suffer. They are more likely to go out in a blaze of glory (possibly while Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory,” plays from the radio of their Impala…I do like a show that likes 80’s rock). In the meantime, the ship wars will continue long into the night.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
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