Lately, there's been a rumor going around that the long-running CW leviathan Supernatural will close up shop following its 14th season.
For those of you who have somehow missed this supergiant, Supernatural is about a team of brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who travel the continental U.S. in a 1967 Impala and fight monsters. Supernatural's premier aired over a decade ago on Sept. 13, 2005 and has since run for 12 full seasons—or 264 episodes—with a thirteenth slated to air this October. It is now the longest-running American fantasy series and has gone through a veritable parade of show runners once its creator, Eric Kripke, left the show at the end of season five. The fifth season also concluded the series' main story line...and boy, does it show.
Let me tell you about seasonal rot.
Seasonal rot is when a television show exceeds its welcome (and its plot ideas) and begins the slow but steady decline into bad writing. Many long-running, or even not so long-running, shows encounter this as they outgrow their original premise: American Horror Story's fourth season was critically panned after its universally praised premier season. Doctor Who has seen a substantial dip in quality since Steven Moffat took over as show runner at the start of season six, a topic for which I could write an entirely new article. And Supernatural, now closing in on its twelfth anniversary, has not had an overarching plot for over half of its running time.
What I personally dislike the most about Supernatural is that, to have such a long-running show, the show runners must always return to the status quo in the end without changing anything substantial about their characters. The Winchester brothers can die at the end of every season and still return bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the start of the next one, sans a few souls. (Here's a chart that outlines their deaths through season seven. Spoilers, obviously). The stakes each season always have to be pushed higher, but to push those stakes requires more additions to an already-convoluted mythos that haven't had the room to be developed outside of a single season.
Seasonal rot is different for every show. Supernatural's longevity is its downfall; it drags itself over the same well-trodden ground it always has so that each season feels like the previous season with the serial numbers filed off. Characters and even whole story lines feel recycled from the days when the story was fresh and new in a vain attempt to recapture those days for its audience.
In my opinion, though the preceding seasons had their flaws, season five ended on a deep, poignant note that closed the series in a satisfying way. If you still enjoy the show, great! But for me, Supernatural had no more story to tell the day Eric Kripke stepped down as show runner. The rest is just a long and bloated epilogue to a story that the producers just won't put to rest.