In light of Supernatural‘s traumatic season 9 finale, which [spoiler alert] saw the death — and demon-izing — of Dean Winchester, EW staffers Sandra Gonzalez and Samantha Highfill ranked the Winchester brothers’ top 10 deaths.
Yes, the boys have died a lot.
10. SAM STRUCK BY LIGHTNING (season 4, episode 8)
Sandra: I honestly didn’t remember this as a “death” until you brought it up, and I think it’s because it was played for laughs.
Sam: I know. I forgot about it until I googled deaths. I don’t even remember how he “came back to life.” Clearly it didn’t impact me.
Sandra: But it was another notch on Sam’s death belt. So notable!
Sam: He did manage to get electrocuted without it messing up his hair, so definitely notable.
9. DEAN GOES TO PURGATORY (season 7, episode 23)
Sandra: When I looked at our (very scientific) list as a whole, I was surprised Dean’s trip to Purgatory was ranked so low. But when I thought about the scene, it was pretty uneventful. The look on Sam’s face was panicked, but because he didn’t know the whole situation — specifically, that his brother poofed right into Purgatory — the scene lost impact.
Sam: I originally had it as higher on my original list, but then I thought back to that episode, and I remember barely even feeling like it was a death. It was so sudden. I had no time to have an emotional reaction.
Sandra: I’m sure people are going to say it was more of a teleportation, but the dude was in Purgatory. You technically have to die to get there. It’s very exclusive that way.
Sam: Exactly. It’s not like Purgatory is a place you go to figure your life out and then you come back.
8. SAM STABBED BY ANNA, RESURRECTED BY MICHAEL (season 5, episode 13)
Sam: I knew this one wasn’t going to stick, but him getting stabbed did catch me off guard. And watching Dean panic for even a second always gets me. So it’s forgettable, but it made an impact, albeit brief.
Sandra: And they brought it home with the sad music. It’s hard to make deaths impactful on a show like this because you know characters usually come back in some way — unless their name is John Winchester. (#BringBackJeffreyDeanMorgan) But the surprise + sad music = win.
Sam: And this was the scene that also gave us the Michael-in-John’s-body twist, which for some reason really impacted me. Bravo, guys!
7. DEAN AND SAM KILLED BY HUNTERS (season 5, episode 16)
Sandra: I vividly remember watching “Dark Side of the Moon” for the first time. The brutality of the deaths here really freaked me out.
Sam: Yes! And for a split second, I genuinely did panic. It was like, after all the monsters you’ve fought and defeated, THIS is how you’re going to die?! I didn’t fully believe it, but part of me thought it would be very realistic. And as you pointed out … did it have to be a buck shot? So violent.
Sandra: Guns are so real. It reminds me of the conversation I had with Arrow producer Marc Guggenheim about [spoiler alert] killing Moira. They had a debate about gun vs. sword, and decided that a gun was too violent. I agree.
Sam: Yes, 100 percent! Almost anything else feels less violent because it’s less believable and accessible. Also, final thought: They shot Sam and Dean from basically less than a foot away and with a freakin’ shotgun. At least back up or something. You’ll still kill them.
6. EVERY TIME DEAN DIED IN “MYSTERY SPOT” (season 3, episode 11)
Sandra: Now, we’ve reached the point in our countdown where I had my first beef with you, Highfill. Because I initially placed “Mystery Spot” at No. 5.
Sam: This is true, but here’s why I felt it lacked impact: I will say that the first time Dean got shot, I panicked. Because as we just discussed, it felt very REAL. But after that, as soon as we knew Sam was stuck in this loop, I more or less stopped worrying.
Sandra: True. Also, how odd that a series of deaths has become one of the show’s funniest moments?
Sam: YES. That was the other thing — it was a very comical episode.
Sandra: I will say to your point about the loop that there is that last death in the episode where Dean is shot by the mugger. That one stuck. For a while, at least. And seeing Sam turn into Robo-Sam was pretty scary and very sad.
Sam: I will totally agree to that — the mugger is what got me because I was scared it would stick! I’m pretty sure I screamed at the TV. I thought the mugger was first — was it last? I’m stuck in a loop!
Sandra: It was last.
Sam: You’re right! OK, yes, that one did get me. The rest I was able to brush off, but to this day, I’m still horrified the mighty Winchester brothers will be taken out by some mugger with a handgun.
5. DEAN KILLED BY LUCIFER IN SAM’S BODY…IN THE FUTURE (season 5, episode 4)
Sandra: So tell me why you liked this one so much that it deserved to be above “Mystery Spot.”
Sam: Honestly, I tear up just thinking about it. First, it was a great acting moment for both Jensen [Ackles] and Jared [Padalecki], and watching Dean watch as his brother — even though it was Lucifer — break his neck? It gives me chills. The way it was done with Sam’s foot just twisting Dean’s neck like it was nothing? Sheesh.
Sandra: The crunch sound effect was BRUTAL, and big yes to your point about the acting.
Sam: And Lucifer’s speech about how this moment was inevitable — you could tell it really crushed Dean, which really crushed me.
4. SAM STABBED BY JAKE (season 2, episode 21)
Sandra: Speaking of crushing Dean — our No. 4 still gives me anxiety to this day. When Dean puts his hand on Sam’s back and sees all the blood and tells him that it’s “not even that bad,” I want to cry. I do cry. No shame.
Sam: That moment when Dean sees the guy sneaking up behind him … I can’t. And then Dean RUNNING to catch him?!
Sandra: DAMN YOU, ALDIS HODGE.
Sam: I felt like I went through so many real stages of grief in that moment. First, I convinced myself that the blade wasn’t big enough to kill Sam. Then I was mad at Sam for not being more alert. Then I was just sobbing.
Sandra: Dear TV: Please stop making Sam experience real grief.
Sam: HONESTLY. Imagine me showing up at a therapist’s office. “What’s the problem, Ms. Highfill?” “So Sam Winchester got stabbed.” “Someone you know?” “Yeah, he’s one of my favorite TV characters.” “Get out.”
3. DEAN STABBED BY METATRON (season 9, episode 23)
Sandra: Last night’s big moment deserves a place near the top of this list. I broke this down in detail in the recap, but I can’t handle the line “I’m proud of us.” It’s too good.
Sam: Too much. Just TOO MUCH. From the start of the episode, I thought Dean would “die” because he’d stop killing and the mark would kill him. But no! The moment he got stabbed, I did this weird gasping thing where I didn’t fully open my mouth, so it sounded strange but got the point across. It was like I refused to believe. And then “I’m proud of us.” Were they trying to kill us?!
Sandra: Maybe. I hope I don’t turn into a demon.
Sam: Eye check!
1./2. DEAN GOES TO HELL/SAM GOES TO HELL (season 3, episode 16/season 5, episode 22)
Sandra: At No. 1 and 2 — we have lots of Hell.
Sam: Well, it’s the worst.
Sandra: In our individual lists, we had the same two moments in the top spots, but our order was reversed. So we declared it a tie, and I’m in strong favor of that because I can’t watch either moment without getting my stomach in knots. On one hand, Sam going to Hell is very much still a fresh wound for me — even though it was four seasons ago. But that season 3 moment just destroyed me the first time I saw it.
Sam: Totally agree. Well, Dean’s death in season 3 had such a buildup because I was dreading it all year hoping they’d find a way to get around it. Also, talk about violent. Those Hell Hounds are NOT nice pets. For me, the season 5 finale was the hardest I cried, mostly because watching Lucifer/Sam beat the crap out of Dean was DEVASTATING. And then when Sam came back and was all “I’ve got him, Dean.” I couldn’t even look at Dean’s messed-up face…good thing my vision was blurry from tears.
Sandra: I remember watching that episode at the office after hours and a janitor walked in on me SOBBING. Then I had to explain to him that it was about a TV show — I’ve never been more embarrassed.
Sam: At least you didn’t explain it as, “He’s in Hell!” But I also get the season 3 finale impact because at that point, we didn’t know if there was a way back from Hell. But watching Dean take a beating and telling Sammy he wasn’t going to leave him … GOD.
Sandra: So I’m happy to call this a stalemate. But I think we can both agree — Supernatural may kill their main characters more than any other show on TV, but as our No. 3 proves, they’re still so good at it.
Sam: There could be 25 seasons, and I’d still cry. When those enormous men tear up, I’m a goner.
BONUS: BEST CLOSE CALLS
+ Sam in season 8 finale: Best tear-filled brother speech ever.
+ Dean in season 2 premiere after car crash: Thanks, John!