The CW’s flagship genre series Supernatural has been going on for well over a decade now. Having just started its 14th season, the show is the longest-running genre show in the history of TV in North America. This season will see it reach its 300th episode; an absolutely absurd number for a scripted drama. As time has passed, the show has changed considerably. The early seasons were very much an excuse for the writers to create miniature horror movies, and the later seasons have evolved into a seemingly endless saga of gods, demons, and every entity in between.
No character is as emblematic of the show’s changes as Sam Winchester. One half of the Winchester brothers, Sam has gone being the show’s true POV character to watching his brother Dean fill that role. Sam went from a rising law student to a weathered hunter who doesn’t share his brother’s love of violence. As played by Jared Padalecki, Sam has a more complicated relationship with the world of Supernatural, and perhaps because of that, his storylines have a few problems.
This list is about the things we have to ignore to enjoy Sam as a character on the show. Whether they’re standard plot holes or inconsistencies in his characterization, all of these entries are facets of Sam Winchester that just don’t add up in light of the bigger picture. None of these make Sam a bad character, but they might make it a little harder to watch the show uncritically.
Here are 20 Things Wrong With Sam Winchester We All Choose To Ignore.
20 He’d be happier if he wasn’t a hunter
Throughout 14 seasons of Supernatural, Sam has made it clear plenty of times that on some level he resents getting forced into the life of a hunter. Dean seems to love it, but Sam wishes he could get away and lead a normal life. This isn’t exactly specific to Supernatural as pretty much every superhero seems to feel similarly about their own lives, but it still makes us feel a little guilty watching him.
At this point it’s well established that Sam would be happier if he never became a hunter. He would have gone to law school and lived a normal life– something that’s actually been shown in alternate realities. Sam wants to get off the endless rollercoaster that is Supernatural, and Dean still gets uncomfortable whenever he brings that up.
19 He keeps getting resurrected
This is a common problem for pretty much every major character on Supernatural, especially the core trio of Sam, Dean, and Castiel. These three boys have been through Hell (literally, multiple times) during the series’ run, and that has meant that they’ve each bitten the bullet multiple times.
Sam’s count rests somewhere around seven. It’s hard to be exact because it’s hard to tell which events count as him actually perishing (for instance, does his soul simply passing through Hell count in and of itself?) but Sam has gotten resurrected every time, without fail. Whether by an angel or some other force, Sam has perished and been brought back so many times that fans have to wonder if the stakes of the show could ever be real.
18 The “Special Children”
The early storylines of Supernatural revolved around the show’s first big villain: the demon with yellow eyes. He was soon revealed as Azazel, a Prince of Hell, and he had a plan to release Lucifer into the real world. This plan involved “Special Children” whom he had force-fed his blood.
Sam was one of these children, as Azazel’s blood was responsible for his ability to gain demonic powers. While this plan seemed sinister at the time, Azazel’s endgame never had much logic to it. He planned for the Special Children to somehow be generals in Lucifer’s war against God, but Lucifer never followed through on this idea. Which isn’t surprising, given the fallen archangel’s derisive view of humanity. Why would Azazel think this was a good plan?
17 When he didn’t sacrifice himself for Dean
Much of the plot of Supernatural revolves around the Winchester brothers protecting and saving one another. This may sound simple, but when you add in the fact that they have both been repeatedly bumped off and resurrected, and each has traded his soul for the other, it begins to look more like an endless carousel where they’re always chasing each other.
Except, that is, for the one time Sam didn’t save Dean. He didn’t even look for his brother when Dean was trapped in Purgatory between the seventh and eighth seasons, and Dean was (somewhat justifiably) upset about this. Sam explained that it’s what he thought Dean would have wanted, since it’s what he would want if the roles were reversed. He eventually apologizes, but he can’t undo his decision.
16 His relationship with Ruby
One of the main criticisms of Supernatural throughout its run has been that it skews way too heavily towards male characters. To address this issue, producers brought two female characters to the main cast in the third season: Bela Talbot and Ruby, the demon. The latter of these ended up having a relationship with Sam, which anyone with eyes could tell was a bad idea.
Ruby was ultimately revealed to be manipulating Sam into aiding the rise of Lucifer. The show would continue experimenting with sympathetic demon characters, but Ruby’s abrupt betrayal left fans wondering why Sam ever trusted her in the first place. Sam is supposedly a smart guy, but he never suspected anything?
15 He ended Dean’s daughter
The lengths some shows will go to generate conflict is something to see. In the seventh season of Supernatural, Dean had an unexpected child after a one-night stand with an Amazon warrior. This child, Emma, was born and grew to maturity in a matter of days and immediately tried to off her father to complete her initiation.
Sam ended up putting Emma down when Dean hesitated, and the show moved on like nothing happened. Even if you can get past the absurdly contrived nature of the Amazons (they clearly only grow to maturity in days because they wanted Emma to attack Dean immediately), Sam literally bumped off his own niece. You would think that might cause a little discomfort in future episodes, but you’d be wrong.
14 Drinking demon blood
Imagine for a moment that you have never seen a single episode of Supernatural. You don’t know anything about the monsters, demons, and brothers on the show. Even then, even in that state of complete innocence, you can probably still tell that drinking demon blood is a bad idea.
Yet Sam Winchester, an experienced hunter of demons, somehow missed that memo. He drinks demon blood for pretty much a whole season, with prodding from Ruby, to give himself power over demons. Obviously, it doesn’t go well, as Ruby was manipulating him from the beginning– something pretty much every fan could predict. Sam, who was going to get a law degree from Stanford, somehow didn’t see that coming.
13 His demonic powers
Once he’s been drinking demon blood (which, again, great idea), Sam has access to a weirdly wide range of demonic powers. These included but were not limited to: super strength, telekinesis, precognition, immunity to demon attacks, and the ability to exorcise and destroy demons.
Basically, after he drank some infernal plasma, Sam had whatever ability he needed to defeat whatever demon was in front of him. He became a walking deus ex machina, like a demonic superhero. This was all contingent on him drinking the blood, though, and once he stopped he no longer had any of these abilities. Was he ever really a Special Child?
12 His mom sacrificed him
One of the most ironclad parts of the backstory of the Winchester brothers is that their mother passed away when they were young. This explains much of their psychology and motivations for their actions. When she was resurrected, it turned out that Mary was a hunter who had made a deal with Azazel, the demon with yellow eyes.
She did this to save her husband John from Azazel, trading Sam’s life (allowing him to become a Special Child) for John’s. This was an intriguing twist in the later seasons of the show, but we have to wonder about Mary Winchester’s thought process. Who would think that this deal would turn out well for anyone involved? John ended up losing his life to Azazel years later anyway.
11 He started the apocalypse
We can’t deny it: Sam Winchester is partially responsible for the rise of Lucifer. He shares this culpability with his brother Dean and a troop of demons loyal to their creator, but it was Sam who broke the final seal and freed Lucifer once and for all.
Dean may have broken the first of the seals holding Lucifer’s cage together, but he knew enough to not break the last one. The final seal was Lilith, the first demon and the main antagonist of the fourth season, and Sam was manipulated into destroying her by Ruby. Remember, Sam is supposedly the smart Winchester, but he wasn’t smart enough to not start the apocalypse.
10 His time at college
This entry is fairly simple: Sam’s time at college doesn’t make sense. Sam is studying for a law degree in the pilot episode of Supernatural, and he’s looking at law schools while he’s enrolled at Stanford. This would all make sense if Sam was in his senior year at Stanford, but according to the show, he isn’t.
Later episodes would reference the fact that Sam was only in college for two years before he joined Dean in becoming a hunter. As anyone with the slightest experience with undergrad will tell you, this makes no sense, as you don’t apply to law school before your senior (typically fourth) year. This is a bit of head-scratcher, as it’s really a basic bit of continuity.
9 His long, flowing hair
Supernatural is a CW TV show, so maybe it’s expected that its stars will look as attractive as possible. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still a plot hole: Sam’s hair is literally always perfect, even after he’s been on a road trip for days. He is never shown to have any hygiene or grooming routine, and but it would have to be brief when he’s just sleeping in a car with his brother.
Jared Padalecki’s flowing locks are impressive, but to enjoy them, fans have to ignore this inconvenient truth. Dean’s hair is short enough that we can suspend our disbelief that it always is styled well, but Sam’s hair would take a lot of work to keep it looking like that.
8 He’s the only Winchester who hasn’t made a deal with a demon
Here’s another strange way that Sam is the odd man out in his family: everyone in it has made a successful deal with a demon but him. This fits with Sam’s image as the goody-two-shoes of the family, but it’s honestly strange that his whole family except him have made deals wit the devil when Sam is his perfect vessel.
Both of Sam’s parents made deals with Azazel, the yellow-eyed demon that fed Sam his blood. Dean made a deal with a crossroads demon. These were by and large to try and save their own family, a time-honored Winchester tradition. Sam himself has done this a few times, but has somehow avoided needing to make a deal with a demon. If everyone else in the family needed to at some point, why didn’t Sam?
7 He was stronger than Lucifer
Perhaps the biggest climax of any season of Supernatural was the fifth season finale, when Sam and Dean struggled to avoid their destiny as the vessels of Lucifer and Michael, two archangels. The culminating moment came when Sam overpowered Lucifer’s control of his body long enough to send Lucifer, Michael, Sam, and Adam into Lucifer’s cage.
This made for a great moment to end the season (and possibly the series), but as the lore around the archangels continued to be fleshed out in later years, it eventually became clear that it made no sense. Lucifer is one of the most powerful entities in the universe, and no other human has come close to resisting him the way Sam did. While it would have been fine if the show had ended soon after, it stands as convenient break in the show’s worldbuilding.
6 Dean is a better hunter
There have already been plenty of debates about this subject that bring up Sam’s greater technological aptitude or intelligence, but we’re going to boil this down to the simplest of criteria: results. Dean Winchester has destroyed more monsters than Sam, and he has destroyed more powerful entities than Sam.
Dean almost always gets to strike the final blow against the major antagonists of the show, usually while Sam has been knocked out. With the Mark of Cain and all the other crazy things that turned him into a fighting machine, Dean spent several seasons as one of the most powerful beings in the entire universe. Sam, meanwhile, is a pretty average hunter when he isn’t powered up by demon blood. Make whatever arguments you want, but when you look at the scoreboard, the better hunter is clear.
5 He recovered from the Cage way too fast
A problem that all long-running television series face is that characters facing the same issues for multiple seasons gets boring eventually, so they always have to find a way to get past their personal demons. That makes sense for most characters, but most characters don’t have to deal with the trauma of being tormented by the devil for years.
Sam was trapped in the Cage in Hell with two archangels for an unspecified amount of time, during which time they hurt him relentlessly. This basically broke Sam in half, but his struggles after only lasted for a season or two. In the more modern seasons, Sam isn’t even bothered by his memories of Lucifer himself tormenting him.
4 Soulless Sam
When Sam first came back from Lucifer’s Cage, it was immediately apparent that something was very wrong with him. It was eventually revealed that Sam did not have his soul– only his mind and body had made it out of Hell. This led to a quest where Dean tried to find Sam’s soul, whatever the cost.
The problem here was that body and soul separation hadn’t really been a thing on Supernatural before this, and no other character has separated from their soul the way Sam did. It worked on a narrative level, but it led to the writers breaking some of their own rules for the world. Plus, the idea that a human could exist as a mind without its soul wasn’t one that they ever really explored again.
3 He doesn’t have any friends of his own
You know how some couples have friends, but when they break up it becomes clear that they were only friends with one person in the couple? That’s kind of what it’s like for Sam and Dean Winchester. Most of the Winchesters’ friends perish, and the ones they do have (like Castiel) are always closer to Dean than Sam.
The show implies that Sam had a social life in college before becoming a hunter, but Sam obviously hasn’t talked to any of those friends in years at this point. This leaves Sam in an awkward position, as he’s the one between the two brothers most likely to leave the hunting world behind. How is he going to live a normal life when he seems to have zero friends?
2 He likes ’80s hair metal
The Vince Vincente experiment was mostly a failure. The best known aspect of this was Rick Springfield’s performance as Lucifer, which just didn’t have the resonance of Mark Pellegrino’s turn. A forgotten aspect was that it made it canon that Sam Winchester liked Vince Vincente’s genre of music, ’80s hair metal.
The vast majority of Supernatural is built on more of a classic rock aesthetic, usually demonstrated by Sam’s brother Dean. Thus, Sam doesn’t just have the problem of having surprising taste in music, he’s also the odd man out on the show. The show bases most of its look and atmosphere in the ’70s so Sam made the wrong choice.
1 He was supposed to be the main character
If you can remember all the way back to the beginning of the show, you’ll remember that Sam was portrayed as the main character of the show. He got the lion’s share of character arcs and dialogue, not to mention becoming a demonic wunderkind who could see the future.
Slowly, the focus of the series shifted over to Dean Winchester, who seemed to embody more of what the show was about. All of a sudden he was getting more choices and chances to shine. Nobody would argue that in the later seasons, Dean is the central protagonist of Supernatural, but in the beginning, it was supposed to be Sam.
What other problems with Sam do fans overlook in Supernatural? Let us know in the comments!