How long did Sam spend at Stanford?
One of the most frequently debated potential canon discrepancies. Here are the facts:
- In 1.03 Dead in the Water, Dean tells Sam that he spent "every day for two years with Dad, while you were going to pep rallies."
- In 1.07 Hookman, Dean says "So this is how you spent four good years of your life, huh?" when they are researching in the library.
- In the 1.01 Pilot, Sam is about to be interviewed for Law School, which could work on the assumption that he's just about to finish a bachelor degree (4 years).
- Eric Kripke acknowledged during a panel at the 2006 William S. Paley Television Festival that they made a mistake in the script - initially Sam was meant to be 20, then they aged him up to 22, but neglected to change Dean's line from "two years" to "four years". Therefore, it may have been the creators' intention that Sam has been at college for four years.
- The original promo dates Mary's death to September 13, 1985, consistent with Sam being twenty and having been at Stanford for two years but out of step with everything else in the series.
(Regardless of intentions, however, there is a school of thought that disallows such retconning external to the text itself. That is to say, once the episode has been aired, whatever has occurred in it becomes part of the canon, no matter how much the production crew say "we didn't mean it that way" - it's essentially out of their hands.)
With this line of reasoning, it's possible to read this particular issue as not contradictory at all - Sam has spent four years at college, but it has been only two years since he's had contact with Dean.
- Another suggestion is that it was not two or four but three years. This theory is based on the suggestion that if four years had passed since Sam left for Stanford, he would have already graduated and been in law school by the time of the Pilot (which he is not). With this line of reasoning, Sam could not logically have been away for four years.
- This theory also takes into account the timeline of the Pilot - set at Halloween, Sam would only have been two months into his fourth year of college. This would mean that he has been at Stanford for three years and two months.
Dean's Police Records
- In his "Benders" record, Dean is listed as being 6' 4", the same height as in Sam's police record, though Dean is clearly several inches shorter than his brother.
- In his "Crossroad Blues" record, Dean's height is correct (6' 1"), but his eye color is listed as brown (whereas in the "Benders" record it was correctly described as green).
You can read a transcript of Jo's Journal on her character page. You can see the different versions of the journal there.
Tie-ins: Origins, Website & TV
- The Journal says that after Mary's death, John stays with Mike & Kate Guenther. However, in Origins 1, John and the boys are staying with Mary's best friend, Julie.
- In The Journal, John meets Missouri when he decides to visit psychics. In Origins, Missouri comes to John - seeks him out in a bar where he's hustling pool.
The pre-series section on the Timeline page deals with these inconsistencies by documenting all canon (contradictory or not) and colour-coding them according to their source, to reduce confusion.
The Origin of the Impala Controversy
In the teaser for the Pilot, John, Sam and Dean are clearly seen huddled together on the hood of the Impala as their house burns. In the Origins comics, Peter Johnson had John acquiring the Impala after Mary's death. Following a Q&A session with Cynthia Boris on Jack Myer's MediaVillage site, Peter Johnson returned with the following response (Source):
- I've given a huge amount of thought to the Impala issue and have arrived at a conclusion.
- As you may know from previous posts, I felt early on that there would be creative and character-driven value to seeing John get the Impala during his journey in the aftermath of Mary's death. It was a decision, and Kripke and I talked about it. However, I'm in violent agreement with many of your comments that the car is the third character in the show, and that it represents a sanctuary for this family following the death of Mary. I like it as the constant that remains after her death - as Mousitsa (Anna) puts it: 'baby' was there to support her three men after the fire.
- These comments have made profound impact, and I agree wholeheartedly with the thematics they represent for the SN universe - for both TV and comics. So, despite the fact that #1 and #2 have both been published, I am going to propose making adjustments to revert to John already having the Impala from the get-go when the issues are collected into the trade paperback. I would like to restore this notion to the comics.
- I believe in my heart and gut that it would be the correct version, not just to match the shot of John and the boys of the hood of the Impala in the pilot teaser, but much more importantly, for what the car represents in the continuity of the family -- before and after Mary's death. I'll be talking to DC about this on Monday.
In December 2007, Peter Johnson confirmed that the history of the Impala would be changed to the canon established in the Pilot, with the release of the trade paperback of Origins in April 2008.Source
The Missing Year Between Seasons 5 and 6
The first five seasons of the show take place in the current time. For example, Season 1 aired from 2005 to 2006, and the events covered in that season span 2005-2006. This remains consistent through Season 5, which concludes around May 2010. This is confirmed by a calendar seen on the wall in 5.21 Two Minutes to Midnight. Then, as stated in 6.01 Exile on Main St., a time jump of "about a year" occurs between Season 5 and Season 6. The title card at the beginning of the season premiere reads "ONE YEAR AGO" before the events of 5.22 Swan Song are recapped, and then "NOW" before Dean is shown in bed with Lisa. Then, in 6.12 Like a Virgin, Dean tells a newly awakened Sam that he's been gone for about a year and a half. That would mean that the date halfway through Season 6 should be sometime around November 2011.
Despite the clear chronology, the calendar year that Dean spent with Lisa and Ben between Seasons 5 and 6 is "missing." Set designers, prop handlers, and writers continued the premise that the show takes place in the current time, instead of a year in the future. If a year were to pass between the end of Season 5 and the beginning of Season 6, then one would expect the events in Season 6 to span from about May 2011 to mid-2012, with the midway point (established in 6.12) being sometime around November 2011. Despite this, it appears that Season 6 spans May 2010 to mid-2011 and that Season 7 spans 2011 to 2012. Details follow:
- In 6.05 Live Free or Twihard, six girls have gone missing in the last seven days. According to their missing person alerts, Linda Ford was last seen on Saturday, October 8, 2010, and Julie Cole was last seen on Friday, October 15, 2010. The day that Sam and Dean arrive in Limestone to investigate the disappearances, a seventh victim, Kristen, is reported. This corresponds with when the episode aired, on October 22, 2010.
- In 6.06 You Can't Handle the Truth, Jane Peterson's calendar, which she uses to note her weekly music lessons at Harry's House of Horns, shows the current date as sometime in October 2010, which corresponds with when the episode aired, on October 29, 2010.
- In 6.09 Clap Your Hands If You Believe..., Dean researches UFO sightings online. One of the websites he visits has posts dating October 2, 2010, October 8, 2010, and October 12, 2010.
- In 6.13 Unforgiven, the missing person alert for Sheriff Roy Dobbs, who went missing a year ago, reads that he was last seen on November 4, 2009. A missing person poster that includes Nicole Handler, the woman who's roommate Dean questions, lists her date of disappearance as November 20, 2010.
- In 6.14 Mannequin 3: The Reckoning, a calendar is visible on the wall of the Salzman & Sons Apparel factory. From the "12" at the top, it is evident that the month is December, and the dates on the calendar correspond with the days as they fell in 2010. The red "25," signifying Christmas day, is on a Saturday. (Christmas day falls on a Sunday in 2011.)
- In 6.15 The French Mistake, one of the credit cards Dean tries to use to order a saint's bone has an expiration date of 09/11 (September 2011). The credit card doesn't work, and Dean comes to the conclusion that it is maxed out, not that it is expired.
- In 6.17 My Heart Will Go On, each entry in Atropos' book includes a date. Atropos kills Anne Witting and then crosses out her name, beside which is the date May 10, 2011. Other dates on the page range from February to October 2011, and, strangely enough, the name associated with October 17, 2011 is already crossed out.
- In 6.18 Frontierland, which aired on April 22, 2011, Sam tells Samuel Colt: "My name is Sam Winchester. I'm a hunter from the year 2011."
- In 6.18 Frontierland, the opening scene in Sunrise, Wyoming occurs on March 5, 1861. When the scene changes to the present time, the superimposed text reads "48 Hours Earlier (And 150 Years Later)." That would make the present date sometime around March 5, 2011.
- In 6.22 The Man Who Knew Too Much, Eleanor Visyak tells Bobby that the ritual to open a door to Purgatory has to be performed on the night of the lunar eclipse, which is "tomorrow." A total lunar eclipse took place on June 15, 2011. Another total lunar eclipse occurred in 2011, on December 10, 2011. After 2011, the next central total lunar eclipse won't take place until July 27, 2018. Source This may suggest that the episode takes place in June 2011.
The recent missing person alerts in 6.05 Live Free or Twihard.
Calendar on the wall in 6.14 Mannequin 3: The Reckoning.
Years travelled between in 6.18 Frontierland.
- In 7.03 The Girl Next Door, the credit card customer David Righton calls to report an unauthorized charge on May 27, 2011 (to Mistress Magda), and the tags on the Impala clearly expire on 11-11.
There is one definite error in the timeline: in the first episode of Season 7, 7.01 Meet the New Boss, Senator Walker's campaign office has a whiteboard that says, "Election day is only 26 days away!" Because the US Senate elections only take place every 2 years, the episode would need to be set in October 2010 or 2012.
The Missing Year Between Seasons 7 and 8
As was the case in 2010, it seems that set designers, prop handlers, and writers have ignored the year that passed after Season 7 and have continued the premise that the show takes place in the current time. For example, in 8.07 A Little Slice of Kevin, the missing persons reports all have dates in November 2012, which corresponds with when the episode aired, on November 14, 2012. In 8.11 LARP and the Real Girl, the first victim dies on January 23rd 2013 (also the date the episode aired), and in 8.12 As Time Goes By the license plate tag on the Impala is shown to be for 2013.
John Winchester's Father
In 8.12 As Time Goes By John Winchester's father Henry Winchester travels to 2013. Sam and Dean say that they know John Winchester grew up without a father. When Henry is killed by the demon Abaddon it confirms that Henry didn't abandon his son by choice.
However in 4.03 In the Beginning, in 1973 a guy at a diner says to a young John Winchester - "say hello to your old man for me", implying the presence of a paternal figure. Of course it is possible that John's mother (who was never mentioned) remarried and this refers to a step-father, or that she was already absent or dead when Henry disappeared and John ended up adopted or in foster care. John later also states that he is a "mechanic from a family of mechanics", but never specifically said his father was a mechanic. While it seems that Henry and his father were not mechanics, other family members may have been, including his mother which is plausible given the number of women that entered the profession during World War 2.
In 8.17 Goodbye Stranger, Crowley says to Naomi "If you remember our time in Mesopotamia the way I do, you know I'm a lover, not a fighter.", implying that they spent time together in ancient Mesopotamia. However in the events of 6.04 Weekend at Bobby's, based on information from a demon, Rufus discovers Crowley to be "17th century Scottish tailor named Fergus MacLeod from Canisbay" and it was supposedly the ghost of his son who leads Bobby and the Winchesters to locate his burial site and bones in Scotland.
- In 8.21 The Great Escapist the following exchange occurs, as Sam's resonance with the Tablets cause him to remember long ago events:
- Sam: Hey, you remember when Dad took us to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on that pack mule ride and your mule kept farting, just letting go like gale force?
- Dean: Dude, you were like four years old. I barely remember that.
However in 2.09 Croatoan Dean had said "Yeah, you know, all this driving back and forth across country, you know I've never been to the Grand Canyon?
- In 2.12 Nightshifter Dean says, "You remember the old werewolf stories? Pretty much came from these guys" in reference to shapeshifters, implying that he did not believe that werewolves existed. But in 2.17 Heart he makes reference to having hunted a werewolf "when [they] were kids," so he must have been aware of the existence of werewolves. This could, however, mean that Dean was implying the old werewolf stories of shedding skin, which the shapeshifters are known to do, while Supernatural's version of the werewolf do not.
- In 1.01 Pilot Dean claims he was his own gig, "some voodoo thing down in New Orleans" sometime in early October (in correlation with John leaving "3 weeks" before Dean showed up in Palo Alto on October 31st). Because the Pilot episode was written, cast and filmed in early 2005, and was first aired on September 13 2005, the writers and producers could not have known that on August 28 2005, Hurricane Katrina would hit New Orleans, causing extensive damage to the city, or that on September 24 2005, Hurricane Rita would reflood the Lower Ninth Ward, once again postponing clean-up and repopulation efforts. This would have made it unlikely that Dean would have been there for "some voodoo thing" in early October. He could have been, but it's doubtful. Conversations between Sam/Jared and Ruby/Genevieve in 6.15 The French Mistake suggest Hurricane Katrina may not have happened during Supernatural's universe as the "real" world is placed within an alternate universe. Alternate theories: Dean was helping with Katrina cleanup and for whatever reason didn't want to say so flat out. Or there was indeed a "voodoo thing" happening on or around Hurricane Katrina. Not that much less implausible than, you know, voodoo.
- In 6.04 Weekend at Bobby's it is revealed that a demon or a spirit can be destroyed by burning its earthly remains. However, John Winchester's spirit is shown escaping from Hell in episode 2.22 All Hell Breaks Loose: Part Two despite his remains being burnt at the beginning of 2.02 Everybody Loves a Clown. One possible explanation for this discrepancy is that burning a demon or spirit's remains only destroys it if it is on Earth (in the case of a demon, possessing a human on Earth).