For twelve seasons on The CW’s longest running show Supernatural, we have watched Kansas born brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) travel the road so far in their classic 1967 Impala (lovingly called Baby) on a never-ending quest to rid the world of supernatural evil. It is a life threatening, thankless job, but such is their lot when saving people and hunting things constitutes the family business.
The family business.
When you inherit your mother’s hunting bloodline and your father’s legacy as Men of Letters, a normal life isn’t in the cards that Fate has dealt.
When Supernatural aired on the former WB network on Tuesday, September 13, 2005, the pilot episode saw Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith) pinned on the ceiling, dying in a tragic fire in the family home. This tragedy led her husband John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to train his sons like warriors in the fight against the supernatural and on an obsessive path to find the thing that killed his wife. Even though the writers created ingenious ways for Mary to reappear on the show (as a spirit in Home, as a djinn induced illusion in What Is and What Should Never Be and as a Heaven inspired vision in Dark Side of the Moon), the character that had been killed off in the Pilot episode became iconic to viewers.
So when God’s sister Amara (Emily Swallow) gave Dean the ultimate gift in the Season 11 finale Alpha and Omega, his mother returned from the dead now alive, the Winchesters finally got their much desired happily ever after…well, not exactly. Coming back into your boys lives after thirty-six years when they’re no longer children but men makes for a tenuous familial bond at best.
Samantha Smith brings intensity as Mary Winchester. Smith should be applauded for revealing these new layers of a character that existed primarily to Supernatural fans as a memory preserved by her sons. What Smith has done is highlighted Mary’s strengths and weaknesses. By humanizing her, Smith removes the character from a pedestal and makes her real.
We see Mary’s discomfort in readjusting to a world that moved on in her absence. We see Mary’s awkwardness around her sons who are strangers to her. We see Mary, unfortunately, doing the trademark Winchester way of keeping secrets.
There has been strong fan reaction to Mary’s return. Many fans have been vitriolic in their commentary, indicting Mary for her betrayal for her alliance with the nefarious British Men of Letters (BMOL). The roguish Lady Toni tortured Sam. In addition, the BMOL have been less than forthcoming with their true intentions. In some viewers’ minds, Mary’s actions are unforgivable. In her defense, Mary sees her working with the BMOL as the best way to rid the world of monsters once and for all. She still craves a normal life for her boys.
It is a testament to Samantha Smith’s incredible acting talent that she has inspired such intense emotional responses. As Supernatural nears its Season finale, it will be interesting to see what more is in store for Mary Winchester.