Supernatural is a story built around two brothers and is constantly on the move so it can be hard to build up other characters who mean something to the show. However, this is something that Supernatural excels at. Characters who only make a handful of appearances are still cared about enough that their departure is still something fans mourn a decade later. It speaks volumes about the writing and the show that even though characters like Rufus, Ellen, and Jo, who were only in a handful of episodes, evoke such emotion with their passings and any returns they make.
A show that features demise in a very literal way means each departure, whether the character is alive, brought back, or gone for good, always means something. One example is Castiel who has come and gone, but each time it brings his relationship with the boys closer and furthers his own story.
In a show this big, with this much tragedy, the list could go into the hundreds, but it’s been reduced down to the top thirty. A few honorable mentions include Lady Toni Bevelle, Eve, Alistair, Pamela Barns, Bela Talbot, Chuck and Amara, Amelia, Hannah, Uriel, Mick Davis, and Gadreel.
Some of these characters deserved more screen time, some didn’t have an on-screen demise and others needed to go to get the story moving, whether they were beloved or disliked. Of course, in Supernatural, “demise isn’t always goodbye.”
Let’s take a look at 15 Character Departure That Hurt The Show (and 15 That Saved It).
30 HURT: ‘ASH’
Ash was a character we only saw for one season, reappearing once since, but he was a fantastic addition and deserved an on-screen demise. A stereotype-subverting mullet-having roadie expelled from M.I.T. for fighting. He’s “business up front, party in the back.” This genius used string theory to move around in Heaven, something no human has done without help. He is powerful in a very human way, enough to defy the laws of the afterlife. Although his real name is Miles, his nickname gives him an ironic ending as he went to his grave in demon-lit flames.
29 SAVED: AZAZEL
Azazel or “Yellow Eyes” was the first Prince of the Underworld and the King of the Underworld, keeping the throne warm for Lucifer. He was religiously fanatical in his love for his ‘father’ and dedicated his time to bringing him back. He burned Mary and drove John into hunting, dragging his children with him. The Winchesters knew none of his backstory and went in almost blind to the gravity of the enemy. But after twenty-four years it was time for him to go, moving up the story and removing the object of vengeance that fueled hunting for both John and Sam.
28 HURT: ELLEN AND JO HARVELLE
Ellen and Jo Harvelle were the first recurring female characters. Their downfall moved the story along but hurt like heck. They were only in a handful of episodes before their demise yet the audience still cared deeply when they passed.
Their demise moved up the plot and was necessary at the end of the original five-season arc. The end of the world scenario without any significant eliminations would not have made sense and so the mother-daughter combo met their end with a literal bang. They have come back on occasion since their saddening end and will always be welcome back.
27 SAVED: JOHN WINCHESTER
In the first season both Sam and Dean fit into certain stereotypes, created as a reflection of their father. One brother naturally like him, trying to be someone else, the other, trying to copy him, but inside was more like his mother. His death accelerated the plot and meant the boys had to step out of their father’s shadow. Sam began to accept the parts of himself that were like John, and Dean stepped out from his persona, becoming a more well-rounded version of himself. It would still be fantastic to have him back for a while and fans got a little closure in the 300th episode.
26 HURT: Horseman Of Demise
One of the most powerful characters ever to grace Supernatural is the Horseman of Demise. As a neutral party, he often assisted the brothers and had a sort of friendship with Dean, even showing up to personally reap Sam at the beginning of season nine. He was essential to stopping the Apocalypse and putting the souls back in Purgatory, let alone saving Sam’s soul from the cage. His demise was necessary to pave the way for the Darkness verses God showdown in season eleven, and has been replaced with the beautiful Billie, but this fast-food loving cosmic entity will be sorely missed.
25 SAVED: LUCIFER
Lucifer is one of the longest-standing villains in Supernatural and has gone through various incarnations. After being trapped in the cage, he returned as hallucinations, then possessing Cas, then a rock star, the President, and finally back to his first vessel, Nick. After five seasons it was time for the demon to go or make a change. After seasons eleven and thirteen teased a redemption arc, it never came to pass. In the end, Dean, powered by the alternate version of Michael, managed to destroy Lucifer: an act that cost him dearly. Although, with Nick still around, Lucifer may make a return, his end was still fitting with Dean ending his brother’s enemy, just as Sam ended Alistair.
24 HURT: EILEEN LEAGHY
One of the hunters who actually got the drop on the Winchesters and a Men of Letters legacy, Eileen is an Irish-American who was taken in and trained by a hunter after her parents were eliminated and her hearing stolen by a banshee. She was taken out by the British Men of Letters after accidentally ending one of their members. Eileen was a romantic interest for Sam and just goes to show that you don’t need to hear to be an amazing hunter and have an attitude to match.
23 SAVED: CROWLEY
One of the most beloved characters of Supernatural and one of the few characters of the main cast, his demise was a tragedy. Whilst it is a sad truth that the audience will never hear Crowley’s wit ever again, his end was a necessary one. With Crowley as King of the Underworld and his strange friendship with Team Free Will, he had no choice but to side, for a last time, with the Winchesters. He gave his life to trap Lucifer in the Apocalypse World, perishing a hero. Whilst it was time to move on and give the show a fresh start, his and his mother’s origin story, is one of the most interesting stories that remain untold.
22 HURT: CAIN
Although Cain featured in only two episodes he made a huge impression on the characters and fandom. He gave Dean the Mark of Cain, which began his downward spiral in demondom. A man, much like Dean, who sacrificed himself for his brother’s soul. The showdown with Dean was the last time we see the First Blade and was one of the tipping points in season ten. He was possibly the most powerful demon in history and his powers were never displayed in full, especially now it is known that the power comes from the Darkness, who is “mightier than God.”
21 SAVED: DEAN WINCHESTER
No one, in all of Supernatural, has perished has much as Dean. His first demise had John sell his soul, and his second (selling his soul to the Underworld), in particular, moved up the level of the story and caused the introduction of Castiel and angels. Every time Dean has effectively ‘passed’, such as Purgatory and his transformation into a demon, it has led to a huge storyline and tends to be a game-changer in the series. Dean has also developed a personal relationship with both incarnations of Demise as a result.
20 HURT: GABRIEL
First, he’s a college janitor, revealed to be the trickster God Loki. It isn’t until season five that we discover Loki was actually Gabriel, one of the four archangels. A fan-favorite, he passed at his brother’s hands in season five, leaving the boys the solution to stopping the Apocalypse. Through the fandom’s sheer force of will, he was brought back in season thirteen, revealed to have been a prisoner of the last Prince of the Underworld, Asmodeus. Weakened and finally ready to step-up as an arch-angel again he travels to the alternate universe and sacrifices himself, deceased, once again, at the hands of a version of his brother… or is he?
19 SAVED: SAM WINCHESTER
You’re not a Winchester until you’ve perished at least once. Sam wasn’t the first Winchester to pass, or the last, but his demise was pivotal. He perished in his brother’s arms by another one of Azazel’s psychic kids and was then brought back when Dean sold his soul, forcing himself to the Underworld. This led to Sam’s darker nature coming out and was the first domino in the events that led to the angels and the first Apocalypse. He’s ‘perished’ a few times since then and this usually means Dean is going to do something self-sacrificing to bring him back.
18 HURT: BALTHAZAR
Few angels are loved on Supernatural. Castiel and Gabriel will always be adored, Lucifer even has a strange following for his misunderstood storyline and hope for redemption. And there’s Balthazar. He was only part of Supernatural for a season, but boy, did he make an impression: an old member of Cas’ garrison, thief of Heaven’s weaponry, lover of drink and hater of the Titanic. He was tragically dispatched by Castiel when he was caught spying for the Winchesters. Not many an angel had the swagger of this feathered friend. Unfortunately, this heart will not go on.
17 SAVED: ADAM MILLIGAN
The third child of John Winchester, he grew up without knowing his brothers and only met his father a handful of times. He was eaten by ghouls, resurrected, ended up being possessed by Michael as a substitute for Dean, and was pulled into the Cage with Michael, Lucifer and Sam. Whilst Sam was saved and even Lucifer sprung free, Adam still remains locked in the cage, forgotten. The core of the show is the two brothers, and though this has extended to include several other characters, Adam likely would not have had a place in the plot. Still, it would be fantastic to have him re-visit for an episode when the boys finally save him.
16 HURT: ABBADON
Abbadon was one of Supernatural’s most delicious villains to date. This immortal demonic redhead was Hell’s first Queen and it doesn’t make sense that her demise happened so quickly, given how experienced and powerful she was. This Knight was more indestructible than a Prince of the Underworld, fearlessly went up against her maker, Cain, and single-handedly wiped out the American Men of Letters. Keeping her around would have given time for Dean to grow into his powers, as Cain was a lot more powerful than Dean. She was far more formidable than she was portrayed to be in her final battle. Long live the Queen.
15 SAVED: RAPHAEL
What happens when you stop the prizefight and remove the kings who were meant to end the world? Well, Dean went to live a normal life and Cas was forced to fend off Apocalypse Take Two. Raphael, an arch-angel and traditionalist, wanted to re-start the Grand Plan, forcing Castiel to begin a Civil War in Dean’s name. His demise opened up the Faction War and other heavenly conflicts that followed and meant that the Apocalypse could only be started again if the other archangels broke loose.
14 HURT: KELLY KLINE
Kelly was just an innocent woman in a relationship with the President of the United States until he was possessed by the Lord of Darkness himself. Lucifer ended up with her and together they made a son, Jack. Kelly may not have the combat skills of a hunter but she bravely went up against The Dark Lord, dodged angels, demons, and hunters, and gave birth to the child she loved knowing it would mean her demise. Whilst it may have been necessary to develop the relationship with his three dads, it probably could still have happened with Kelly, who could have been a great addition to the team.
13 SAVED: SAMUEL CAMPBELL
First seen in a Dean’s first-time travel, Samuel Campbell was the maternal Grandfather of the Winchesters. He was brought back by Crowley and worked for him with the promise of Mary being resurrected. The final straw was when he turned on his grandsons, leaving them to perish. After this, it was time for Samuel to get his just desserts. He was possessed by a sub-species of Kahn worm, a type of parasitic monster cooked up by Eve (the mother of all monsters) and he was shot by Sam who was named after him.
12 HURT: RUFUS TURNER
Rufus Turner first appeared in season three, revealed to be the retired ex-hunting partner to Bobby. He didn’t feature in many episodes but was beloved for his unapologetic attitude and charm. He and Bobby are a reflection of an older Sam and Dean, only his grudge against Bobby continued to his grave. It is hinted at that Bobby made the wrong call on a hunt that cost the life of a woman that Rufus loved, ending their partnership. He was not seen enough and had a truly tragic demise, slain by a monster-possessed Bobby.
11 SAVED: RUBY
The demon on Sam’s shoulder after Azazel and Meg, Ruby had the biggest influence on Sam’s dark side. It would have been interesting to see if her loyalties could be tested in season five, but it was time for her to go once her true nature was revealed. There are so many questions still left unanswered: Why she sold her soul to a demon for power? How she fell in with Lilith and when? And how did she get her hands on a demon-slaying blade from the crusades? All these still remain a mystery so, whilst it was time for her go at the end of season four, in Supernatural, there’s always the chance to bring her back.
10 HURT: MEG MASTERS
Next to Crowley, Meg Masters was the longest standing demon in Supernatural. A ‘daughter’ to Azazel, she was on Lucifer’s side in the Apocalypse. When it was averted and Crowley took the throne, her allegiances changed. Much like Crowley, despite slaying many people that were family friends of the Winchesters, you end up loving her and her wit. She developed romantic feelings for Castiel and has always helped Sam, even when an enemy, and has respected Dean since their first encounter. She redeemed her actions by sacrificing herself for the boys and Cas. Unfortunately, the actor had to leave for medical reasons, but this demoness will always be missed.
9 SAVED: LISA AND BEN BRAEDAN
Lisa and Ben were an idealized life for Dean: a little family unit and an apple-pie life. It was nice to see the other side of Dean and to give him a strong female presence in his life, but in the end, it wasn’t something that was going to work. Dean wasn’t completely himself in that life and they would never be safe as long as he was with them and not hunters themselves. It says a lot about the relationship that Lisa was willing to let him be a hunter and be with him, but in the end, she did what she thought was best for her son, saving him from having Dean’s fate by turning away from the man she loved.
8 HURT: BENNY LAFITTE
Benny was a vampire (and ex-“vampirate”) Dean met in Purgatory who saved his life and helped Dean fight his way out of the underworld-adjacent battleground. Dean was raised by John to be black and white in his monster dealings, but Benny provided another perspective for him, proving not all monsters are evil at heart. He never betrayed Dean and could have been a serious asset. Ironically, it was Sam would put the wedge between the two friends and Benny gave his life to save the blood brother of his brother-in-arms.
7 SAVED: GORDON WALKER
Gordon was introduced in season two, a decent hunter with intense tendencies. This was the first time in the series that the monster of the week was the good guy and the hunter was the villain. He ended his own sister when she turned into a vampire and spent most of his time on the show hunting Sam, believing he was the Antichrist. Oddly enough he wasn’t exactly wrong about Sam who was revealed to be Lucifer’s vessel. He met a fitting end, being turned into a vampire and then having his head removed from his shoulders.
6 HURT: KEVIN TRAN
“We need to talk about Kevin.” He was a member of the honorary Winchester family, like a younger brother to the boys. Kevin sacrificed everything, including his mother, as a prophet to help the boys close the Gates of The Underworld. Instead, he perished in Sam’s place, slain by Gadreel, who was possessing Sam to save his life. This was the demise of an innocent that Dean loved and was damaging enough to begin the events that led to Dean gaining the Mark of Cain.
We meet version two of Kevin in an alternate universe who, without the Winchesters, has gone mad under Michael’s tyranny. He also perishes, ending his own life in a planned strike.
5 SAVED: DICK ROMAN
Aside from the first two seasons Supernatural rarely has a single clear ‘big bad,’ it tends to be more complicated than that. One of the few cases this occurred was in season seven with the introduction of the Leviathan and their leader Richard ‘Dick’ Roman. The season was famous for its innuendo and the hard-to-hate villain who wanted to turn humanity into his personal food farm. His demise led to the portal that dragged Dean and Cas into Purgatory. This completely brought Dean back into hunting with renewed vigor, introduced his vampire friend Benny and solidified the friendship of Dean and Cas.
4 HURT: BOBBY SINGER
Bobby Singer was one of the homes that the boys frequented in their youth when John was hunting, especially Sam who remained in the dark about hunting until he was eight, after Dean had already been in the field. When John passed, he stepped up to be a second father for the boys and was essential to stopping the Apocalypse. He was a beloved cornerstone for dozens of hunters. Just like John’s demise, Bobby’s end forced the boys to grow up once again and stand on their own. Although we see him again and have met another version of him, his gruff nature and sage advice will never be replaced.
3 SAVED: METATRON
There is no villain Supernatural fans love to dislike more than Metatron. He started as a pencil pusher and then was invited to be the Scribe of God, taking down the story of creation. After “God left the building” Metatron was forced into hiding to protect his father’s knowledge. It wasn’t until Dean and Sam came crashing in that he realized all threats to his life were gone. Channeling the power of the angel tablet he performed a spell that cast all angels but him from Heaven. He also ended Dean, causing his demonification. A great villain, but after four seasons it was time for him to make an exit and make way for new characters.
2 HURT: CHARLIE BRADBURY
Charlie Bradbury, originally Celeste Middleton, is a hacker turned hunter and a little sister to the Winchesters. She was also one of the few recurring gay characters on Supernatural and even fought the final battle in the land of Oz with Dorothy. She was a huge nerd, idolized Hermione, and was Dean’s favorite wingman. She was someone the boys wanted to protect and she understood Dean’s geeky references. It only makes sense that the cycle of the Mark of Cain began with Kevin and ended with Charlie. We meet the second version of Charlie who is a new friend with her own story, but will never replace the first.
1 SAVED: ZACHARIAH
Zachariah was a powerful angel that worked for Michael and was Castiel’s superior in the earlier seasons, before Cas rebelled and became a seraph. To move the plot he had to go and it was extremely satisfying to have Dean end his life with an angel blade. This was Dean’s true defiance to the script laid out before him and was a game changer for the Supernatural world. Dean became the first human on the show (likely in all history) to defeat an angel.