Supernatural has come a long way in the past twelve years - and the hit fantasy series shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, after a few seasons that seemed to drift off course, season 12 of the series is re-gaining fans as the show returns to its roots and Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester get back to the kind of adventures that had us falling in love with Supernatural in the first place. Among the many ways that the series is coming full circle is the return of a key character who died right in the beginning - Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith), who was killed off in the pilot episode.
Now Mary Winchester, Sam and Dean's mom, is back - and it looks like she's sticking around this time. Her return was certainly a shock for long-term fans of the show, but it's been a fantastic change for the series so far. We're hoping that Mary manages to get some of that Winchester luck that kept her sons (mostly) alive for twelve seasons, because there is a whole lot that this hunting family matriarch brings to Supernatural.
Who Is Mary Winchester?
Mary Winchester is, in many ways, the woman that started the Winchester family business. In the pilot, she appeared as a helpless woman, murdered by a yellow-eyed demon on the ceiling above her son's crib. This brutal end to her first appearance meant that Mary didn't reappear for quite some time, other than in memories, flashbacks, and the occasional photo. Her violent death also inspired her husband John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to begin hunting, and to train his sons as hunters as well.
It wasn't until season 4 that we learned that Mary knew a thing or two about hunting herself. In 'In The Beginning', Dean went back in time and ended up meeting the younger versions of his parents - and finding out that Mary herself came from a family of hunters. We also learned that her death was even more tragic that it initially appeared. The demon that killed her also appeared in this episode - murdering her parents and her fiancé (as he was proposing to her). He then cut a deal with her: In return for John's resurrection, she gave the demon permission to enter her house in ten years - the night that she would die.
In between the deal that Mary made and her actual death, both Sam and Dean traveled to the past to see her again, where she revealed her history as a hunter to her husband. After her death, she has also appeared as a ghost in the home where she died in the episode 'Home'. Here, she sacrificed herself to protect her sons, who were working a poltergeist case in the house. Finally, she returned in the season eleven finale - her resurrection a reward to Dean for his help in allowing God and the Darkness to reconcile.
Mary And Her Boys
One of the biggest impacts that Mary Winchester has is on her sons. Although Sam was too young to remember her when she died, Dean has memories of his mother, and her loss broke his heart. The return of Mary adds a totally new dynamic to a show that has always been character driven, with the heart of the show lying in the boys' relationships to their father, their fellow hunters, and of course, each other. Now that Mary is back, her history and love for Sam and Dean creates scenes and conflicts that keep delivering emotional gut punches week after week.
This is especially important at a point in the show where most of the key relationships have already been very thoroughly explored. The powerful love that Sam and Dean have for each other has saved the world (literally). Their relationships with Crowley (Mark Sheppard) and Castiel (Misha Collins) have inspired screeds of fan fiction, and have gone to hell (and heaven) and back. Before Mary's return, most of the important people in Sam and Dean's lives had been killed off, and Mary's resurrection allows us to play with a new character dynamic without having to spend time setting up a whole new relationship.
Bringing Balance To The Series
One of the big issues with Supernatural (that has been brought up by fans many, many times) is that all the main characters are men. Sam and Dean, obviously, but also their father, Crowley, Castiel, Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver), Benny (Ty Olsson) most of the villains, God, plenty of the highest-level angels, and the majority of the other hunters have been male. That's not to say that there are no female characters at all, of course. We've heartily enjoyed women like Charlie (Felicia Day), Rowena (Ruth Connell), Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes), Meg (Rachel Miner) and fellow hunters Ellen (Samantha Ferris) and Jo (Alona Tal), but none of them have had the same level of importance as the men in the show.
Mary, however, is an accomplished hunter as well as someone that Sam and Dean look up to. She's a core part of the Winchester family, and as such, she has appeared in most of the season twelve episodes so far. Rather than a character who is a satellite to Sam and Dean, her position as a Winchester herself elevates her, giving the show a chance to showcase the kind of powerful female hero that it is currently missing. We love seeing the show add another main female character who isn't a love interest, as well. Although Supernatural doesn't always have as many female characters as we would like, there's no denying that the one they do have are much more than simply pretty romantic partners, and that's something that we want to see more of (in every show).
Mary And The Men Of Letters
In addition to everything that Mary adds to the relationship dynamic and the gender balance of the show, she's doing all kind of fascinating things for the plot. Sam and Dean's allegiances have been formed for a long time now, and they have history with pretty much every demon, angel, and supernatural being in the united states. Mary, meanwhile, has connections with the hunter network, but is otherwise something of a blank slate. This lets her make some really interesting decisions that challenge Sam and Dean to think about things in a completely new way.
At the moment, she is one of the only hunters willing to work with the British Men of Letters, which keeps this intriguing organization in play... but still at odds with Sam and Dean. This is an ideal scenario for storytelling, and we can't wait to see what new connections Mary makes, and what other history she might have with other hunters and demons. All that we have seen of her hunter background so far is a few episodes in the past, and there are so many possibilities there that can make the return of older characters fresh.
The Future Of Mary Winchester
We don't know how long Mary is going to be a part of Supernatural (this time around), but we're hoping that she stays the course. It certainly seems as though she's going to be a major part of the show for some time - not only does she have serious history with Sam and Dean, but she's already had the chance to head back to the afterlife and turned it down. Despite her initial difficulty with the modern world, Mary is now back on form (with a great new haircut), and she doesn't seem interested in leaving. She's also one of the best hunters that we've seen on the show, so the chances of her getting ganked by a demon are slim at best.
What this means is that after eleven years, Supernatural may have finally found the female lead that this fantastic show deserves. We're hoping that Mary sticks around for years to come - and maybe even makes it to the final episode (whenever that may be).