Canon Discrepancies

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How Long Did Sam Spend at Stanford?

One of the most frequently debated potential canon discrepancies. Here are the facts:

  • 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).
  • In 1.01 Pilot, Dean says that he hasn't spoken to Sam in "nearly two years."
  • 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 Hook Man, Dean says "So this is how you spent four good years of your life, huh?" when they are researching in the library.
  • 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.

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.

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.

There is also the possibility that Sam's first two years in college were as a high school student participating in a dual-enrollment program. This would mean that Sam earned college credits in his final two years of high school and was, in fact, a senior in college by the time of the Pilot.

Dean's Police Records

Both of the police records for Dean we have seen onscreen (in 1.15 The Benders and 2.08 Crossroad Blues) have been inaccurate:

  • 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).

Hunter's Blog

The Hunter's Blog on the official website appeared before season two started airing, and the content on it changed as time went on. Currently, Jo's blog is the only one accessible.

You can read a transcript of Jo's Journal on her character page. You can see the different versions of the journal there.

In Jo's Journal she refers to Ash as "Miles." This was Ash's name in earlier scripts for 2.02 Everybody Loves a Clown.

Tie-ins: Origins, Website & TV

There are some inconsistencies between the information given in Origins, The Journal, the Hunter's Blog and the episodes themselves. For example:

  • The Journal says that after Mary's death, John stays with Mike & Kate Guenther. However, in Supernatural: 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 color-coding them according to their source, to reduce confusion.

The Origin of the Impala Controversy

In the teaser for 1.01 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 Supernatural: Origins in April 2008 (Source).

It was in 4.03 In the Beginning and later 5.22 Swan Song that the provenance of the Impala was clearly established.

Lilith's Plan

Lilith's plan for season three and most of season four seem to contradict her end plan to free Lucifer. In season three it is her intent to kill Sam Winchester, going so far as to put out hits, as well as personally attempting to kill him, and is horrified when he survives. In season four she decides to make a deal with Sam, to stop breaking the seals, because she fears for her life. But she had to have known she was the final seal when she began her plan with Ruby to train Sam in honing his demon powers.

The Missing Year Between Seasons 5 & 6 and 7 & 8.

The first five seasons of the show take place in the current time. For example, season one aired from 2005 to 2006, and the events covered in that season span 2005-2006. This remains consistent through season five, 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 five and season six. 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 six should be sometime around November 2011.

The writers/crew at Supernatural decided to continue their tradition of dating things for the estimated release time of the episode, ignoring the fact that, because Dean lived with Lisa for a whole year between the end of Season 5 and the beginning of Season 6, Season 6 should start in 2011, not 2010.

According to 1st AD Kevin Parks:

They decided to do "soap opera time", because they didn't want to have to push the year forward for the rest of the show's run. So, just like in soap operas when people's kids are toddlers and then suddenly teenagers, so too can Sam and Dean spend a year apart while no time has actually passed in reality. (source)

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 left or died after 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 II.

Castiel and Angel Banishing Sigils

When Castiel uses an Angel Banishing Sigil in 4.22 Lucifer Rising to banish Zachariah, for some reason he is not also sent away. There is no explanation for this. Possible reasons he was not were, because he used his own blood or perhaps, because he was the one to use the sigil. However, this is debunked in 5.18 Point of No Return, when he carves the sigil into himself and uses it to banish five Angels as well as himself. So far in canon, the time in Lucifer Rising is the only time Castiel was not banished by the sigil.


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." That line implies that they spent time together in ancient Mesopotamia. And 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. However that area of the Middle East was known as Mesopotamia by the west up until the 1920 Iraqi Revolt, at which point it became known as the Kingdom of Iraq.

The truth is the line was just an honest mistake. According to Robbie Thompson, the writer of the episode, the line was either going to reference "Mesopotamia" or "Belize," and decided to go with Mesopotamia because he thought it "sounded funny," only later realizing the mistake.

Grand Canyon

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?

Writer Ben Edlund said of the issue "Also -- sorry about Grand Canyon gaff in last episode I wrote -- that dropped ball of canon was mine to carry" source

Jimmy Novak

In 10.09 The Things We Left Behind Castiel reveals to Claire Novak that her father Jimmy was destroyed when he was killed by an archangel. However, in 5.14 My Bloody Valentine Castiel specifically mentions Jimmy's taste for red meat has been touched by Famine, later in the episode Famine tells Dean that "hunger doesn't just come from the body, it also comes from the soul," which would conclude that Jimmy's soul was brought back with his body. It is possible that Castiel means when he was obliterated by Lucifer in 5.22 Swan Song and not when he was purportedly killed in 4.22 Lucifer Rising. Knowing what we know now about Chuck Shurley, it is possible he never allowed Castiel to die then and lied to Sam and Dean.

Camp Chitiqua

In 12.02 Mamma Mia Mary finds a photo in John's Journal, which is the same one of the hunters at Camp Chitaqua from 5.04 The End. It's appearance here is curious given that Camp Chitaqua and the photo existed in a reality constructed by Zachariah. The photo does not exist in the "real world", although it is possible that Dean was able to bring it back from the alternate reality with him. The most likely answer probably ties to the production not being able to use any likeness of Jeffery Dean Morgan, as they have photoshopped him out photos. And simply used the Camp Chitqua photo as a picture of random hunters, given that it is filmed out of focus.

Comparison of the Camp Chitaqua picture in 12.02 Mamma Mia (left) and 5.04 The End (right).


  • Sam's driver's license (as seen on the Official Site) lists SEX: F
  • 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 re-flood the Lower Ninth Ward, once again postponing clean-up and re-population 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 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," and we know Sam wrote a story about them at school as told in 4.13 After School Special, 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.
  • When Sam and Dean first encounter a zombie in 2.04 Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things, the only way for them to stop Angela Mason was if they staked her inside of her coffin, that method also proved to be the only way to stop zombies risen by Samhain in 4.07 It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester. However in 5.15 Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid when they encounter the zombie Clay Thompson, Sam and Dean appear to be prepared to drop him with a head shot, despite knowing it would not work.
  • In 2.04 Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things John Winchester's dog tags list his blood type as AB. However, in 10.03 Soul Survivor when Sam steals blood to purify Dean with, Sam tells him, "For what it’s worth, I got your blood type." Sam never says Dean's blood type, however the blood bags are labeled as type O, which is a universal blood type. While rare, it is genetically possible for someone of AB blood type to have a child who is (phenotypically) type O. One way is that if both mother and father are carriers for the recessive Bombay blood group, then the child's blood type will appear to be type O (which is what matters for receiving a blood transfusion), regardless of what ABO blood type they are.
  • Azazel's original plan stated to Sam in 2.21 All Hell Breaks Loose: Part One makes mention of other generations of Special Children, making it appear that he had other intentions for them rather than becoming the vessel for Lucifer. As evidenced by Azazel's attempt to feed demon blood to the infant Rose Holt in 1.21 Salvation.
  • In 4.04 Metamorphosis, Dean appeared to not know what a rugaru was, but in 9.07 Bad Boys it transpires that he knew that John was on a rugaru hunt in 1995.
  • In 4.15 Death Takes a Holiday Alastair tells Sam and Dean he got his scythe from "an old friend" that was "jonesin' for the Apocalypse." But in season five, Death has been locked away and needed to be raised by Lucifer, and thus couldn't have given Alastair the scythe. And upon Death's meeting with Dean Winchester, his demeanor about the Apocalypse is fairly ambivalent, and the only reason he causing death and destruction is because he is bound to Lucifer's will; also making it obvious that he would never give a weapon so powerful to a demon like Alastair.
  • In 6.04 Weekend at Bobby's it is revealed that a demon 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). It is also plausible that John was never a demon, considering it is said that he did not break the first seal while in hell, and thus he did not start the Apocalypse. It was Dean who ended up being the righteous man to start it.
  • In 8.22 Clip Show, Abaddon says that she learned about Josie Sands from Father Max Thompson, and decided to use her to infiltrate the Men of Letters. In 9.17 Mother's Little Helper her initial encounter with Josie appears to be unplanned. Though Abaddon is aware of the Men of Letters, inferring that the episode takes place after her encounter with Father Max Thompson. This is supported by the fact that Henry and Josie indicate they are close to initiation.
  • In 9.04 Slumber Party, Charlie goes to Heaven after being killed by the Wicked Witch of the West. However, it is revealed in 9.14 Captives that Metatron's spell not only closed off Heaven to angels but also to spirits as well. Thus, Charlie should have been stuck in the Veil like Kevin was rather than going to Heaven and experiencing a memory of a specific Christmas.