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- "You have an inflated sense of your importance. To a thing like me, a thing like you, well... Think how you'd feel if a bacterium sat at your table and started to get snarky. This is one little planet, in one tiny solar system, in a galaxy that's barely out of its diapers. I'm old, Dean. Very old. So I invite you to contemplate how insignificant I find you."
- ―Death to Dean on how powerful and large the former is compared to the world.[src]
Death - also known as the Grim Reaper, the Pale Rider, the Angel of Death or the Big Daddy Reaper - was the conscious embodiment of death itself, and one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. He was an immensely powerful and ancient primordial entity, said to be as old as God. Death was also the 'boss' of the reapers in their role in the natural order.
Death was a being of immense, nigh-omnipotent and -omniscient age and power, described as being vastly stronger than even the other horsemen, and incalculably powerful. Death's power and age was such that he described the Milky Way galaxy itself as being an infant compared to him. Almost all other beings, including even archangels like Lucifer, are very small compared to Death and were far exceeded by his power; the only known entity in the universe large and powerful enough to have matched Death is God, and even so, Death claimed he was capable of killing God. (Two Minutes to Midnight, Meet the New Boss) Only the Darkness is known to be older than Death. (Brother's Keeper) However, even Death was not unlimited.
Death apparently had a true form, but the only known time he manifested in it was upon his immediate release by Lucifer for the Apocalypse. Virtually nothing of Death's true form was seen, but it seemed to be at least around twice the size of a grown man and capable of low growling vocalisations, at least part of it seemed black in colour, and it appeared to be able to levitate. (Abandon All Hope...) Whenever Death appeared to converse or interact with humans on Earth (be it physically or on the astral plane), he manifested in the form of a very slender man in a dark business suit.
Due to his immense and nigh-omnipotent power, Death was capable of practically almost anything; he was even the only one known to be powerful enough to freely enter and exit Lucifer's cage and transport others out with him while leaving the cage's integrity intact. (Appointment in Samarra) As the horseman who managed and embodies death and end, Death had control over life and death, at least on humans. He could kill humans near or around him with almost no apparent effort, (Two Minutes to Midnight) and he could also raise the dead and restore them to their living selves (even after their bodies had been cremated); (Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid) however, Death rarely if ever resurrected the dead, due to his strict adherence to his rules and the natural order. Death could also kill angels - even when said angels had been massively mutated and empowered by absorbing 30-40 million souls and all the Leviathans - and he claimed he was even capable of killing God. (Two Minutes to Midnight, Meet the New Boss)
Though not omnipresent, Death could instantly teleport himself anywhere in the universe, and he could not be in any way physically damaged. Death could also manipulate the celestial cosmology to make a lunar eclipse happen at a specific time under scientifically-inexplicable circumstances. (Meet the New Boss) Among Death's smaller and lesser abilities were that he could manipulate the Earth's weather and climate to create massive and extremely destructive storm systems, (Two Minutes to Midnight) and he could put up mental walls in humans' minds to protect them from mentally-damaging memories. (Appointment in Samarra)
Despite his incalculably massive power, even Death possessed limits and weaknesses. There was a binding spell which could force Death to fulfil and comply with the caster's demands, and/or force him to go to where the caster wanted when the caster wanted. (Two Minutes to Midnight, Meet the New Boss) It is also known that though Death was almost impossible to ever destroy, (Appointment in Samarra) his own scythe could, and did, kill him. (Brother's Keeper)
- "And through the fire stood before me a pale horse. And he that sat atop him carried a scythe; and I saw since he had risen, they too shall rise, and from him and through him."
- ―The apocalyptic rising of the dead by Death recorded in the Book of Revelations.[src]
According to the prophecy of the Apocalypse written in the Book of Revelations, Death would be risen from his mystical prison and brought into the earthly world, at a place that had experienced immense bloodshed in the past. (Abandon All Hope...) It also recorded that after Death rose, the dead would rise from the grave with him. (Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid)
Death claimed he was approximately as old as God, and speculated he could be older, though neither of them could remember which one of them came first anymore. (Two Minutes to Midnight) Death apparently witnessed God's first beasts, the Leviathans, and commented that he'd personally found the creatures entertaining before God locked them away in Purgatory. (Meet the New Boss) Death also knew of God's and his archangels' victorious war to beat the Darkness back, and knew the true origin of the Mark of Cain in this respect. (Brother's Keeper) Though Death claimed to be as old as God and apparently older than the archangels, this claim's validity seems to have been called into question by the Darkness's revelation that she didn't know him. (Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire)
After God created humans on the Earth, Death served as the natural order's undertaker and embodiment of human death and end; serving as the father and 'boss' of the reapers, to whom he was something of a chief executive. (Appointment in Samarra) For reasons unknown, Death was usually kept sealed in a mystical coffin 600 feet beneath the Earth, although God and/or the Host of Heaven would apparently temporarily release Death for use when planning a massive biblical catastrophe. According to Bobby Singer, the last time before the 21st century that Heaven released Death was at the time of the biblical Great Flood. (Abandon All Hope...)
In late 2009 - early 2010, during the Apocalypse, Lucifer and his demons invaded and took over Carthage, Missouri, where they began performing the ritual to raise Death from his prison beneath the Earth, so that Lucifer could use Death as an apocalyptic weapon in exterminating humankind along with the other three horsemen. As William Jasper's farm in Carthage was the site of the Battle of Hellhole, when Lucifer sacrificed his demons and the Carthage townsfolk there, the ritual was successfully completed, thus freeing Death from his prison and raising him to Earth. (Abandon All Hope...) Lucifer subsequently used a binding spell to bring Death under his control, allowing Lucifer to send the enslaved Death to where he wanted when he wanted; for Lucifer to have him use his power to decimate and destroy humankind with disasters and massive storms. (Two Minutes to Midnight)
Some time after raising and enslaving Death, Lucifer sent him to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to eliminate Bobby Singer (because of his role in Sam Winchester's refusal to say yes to Lucifer as his true vessel). To this end, Death brought Sioux Falls' deceased townsfolk back from the dead (but set them all to turn rabid after a matter of days and launch an assassination attempt against Bobby). Among the dead whom Death raised was Bobby's late wife Karen, whom to whom Death left a message for Bobby explaining why he'd raised the dead. Bobby and most of the Sioux Falls townsfolk ultimately survived and fought off the zombie incursion after the risen dead turned. (Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid)
Later again, Lucifer sent Death to Chicago, to trigger a supermassive storm that would destroy the city and set off a chain of more natural disasters causing the deaths of three million people. However, Death was uninterested in Lucifer's genocide against humanity, and frustrated by how Lucifer had enslaved him and was using him as such a simple weapon in comparison to Death's full power; although the binding spell prevented Death from going to the Winchesters, he was able to wait in Chicago for Dean to arrive to stop him destroying the city. Death talked with Dean in a local pizzeria over food (also claiming his scythe back from Dean); Death was aware that Sam and Dean intended to reseal Lucifer in the cage using all the Four Horsemen's rings, and so he willingly loaned his ring to Dean so that Lucifer's reimprisonment would free Death from his control. Death then made Dean vow to him to allow Sam to sacrifice himself to stop Lucifer and not to let his love for his brother get in the way, also agreeing to spare Chicago because he was impressed by the local pizza, and gave Dean the instructions on how to use the horsemen's rings to open the cage. (Two Minutes to Midnight)
The Winchesters ultimately succeeded in sending Lucifer back into the cage and derailing the Apocalypse, also trapping Michael in the cage with Sam, Lucifer and Adam Milligan. (Swan Song) This apparently did indeed free Death from Lucifer's control. Death continued to walk free in the universe from his prison, but apparently did not interfere in its affairs due to his neutrality and his devotion to the natural order. (Appointment in Samarra)
Wager to restore Sam's soulEdit
A year and a half after the Apocalypse was derailed, Dean, through a near-death experience and Tessa, contacted Death to ask him to return Sam's missing soul from Lucifer's cage. Death was willing to make a wager with Dean for this, in which Dean would wear Death's ring and take Death's place reaping the dying for 24 hours; Death would rescue Sam's soul and restore it to Sam, if Dean could handle being Death for the 24 hours without taking off the ring. Dean ultimately lost the wager when he took the ring off before the day was up.Death returned to take his ring back and talk with Dean over food about being Death - when Dean showed that he'd learned a lesson about the natural order and the consequences of disrupting it, this was good enough for Death, so he held up his end of the wager despite Dean's failure. Death also gave Dean advice to continue looking into the power of the soul, giving a cryptic warning about the hunt for Purgatory's monster souls. Death then went to Hell to retrieve Sam's soul from the cage, before returning with it to the Singer Auto Salvage Yard and reuniting Sam with his soul. Death also put up a wall in Sam's mind to protect him from the ravaging effects of his soul's damaging memories of its time in Hell. (Appointment in Samarra)
Sam, Dean and Bobby eventually went to Death for help in saving the world again, using a ritual to summon Death and bind him to obey them. Death was highly impatient and unimpressed with them, particularly Dean, for going to him about their problems yet again and for binding him. The Winchesters wanted Death to kill Castiel, who had imbibed himself with Purgatory's power and was trying to become the new God, but Cass then arrived. Cass was unable to kill the Winchesters because Death was under their control, and Cass and Death then argued about what Castiel had done and his lack of regard for the dangers (such as the risk that he would eventually explode and release the Leviathans back onto the world); Death took a very quick dislike to and disdain for Castiel and his arrogance and self-righteousness. (Meet the New Boss)
Before Death could carry out Dean's order that he kill the empowered Castiel, Cass freed Death from the binding spell and then left. Though remaining disappointed and angered at Dean for going to him yet again and for failing to heed his earlier warning about the danger of Purgatory's power, Death didn't turn on the Winchesters. Out of dislike and annoyance towards Castiel's arrogance, Death agreed to make another lunar eclipse so that the Winchesters could reopen the door to Purgatory and have a chance to send back the monster souls and Leviathans Cass had absorbed. Death then left, warning the Winchesters as he walked out to never try to bind him again.
True to his agreement, Death caused another eclipse to occur at 3:59 on Sunday morning so that the door to Purgatory could be reopened. The Winchesters succeeded in sending the monster souls back to Purgatory, but some of the Leviathan manage to hold on inside Cass and escaped onto the world. (Meet the New Boss)
Just after the Fall in late 2013, when Sam was comatose and dying from the damaging effects the Trials of God had caused to him, Death apparently appeared in Sam's mind as his reaper; Death explained he'd developed a respect for Sam for all that he had done, and so he had come to reap Sam himself rather than send a reaper. Sam and Death talked about dying, and Sam initially agreed to come with Death. However, before Sam could leave with Death, Dean arrived in Sam's mind through Gadreel to try and talk Sam into choosing to live. Death stayed out of the argument, which ended with Sam agreeing to live and in the process unintentionally allowing Gadreel to possess him. (I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here)
Death is almost completely detached from the universe and its affairs due to his ancient age and immense high power; possessing vague interest in or regard for even very powerful and dangerous beings and events such as Lucifer and the Apocalypse. Death saw the affairs of the Earth and even the Milky Way galaxy itself as very small for him, and he described Lucifer as a petulant, childish brat in comparison to him. However, Death does nevertheless possess a respect for and adheres to the natural order. Though Death can appear indifferent, cold and even callous because of his lack of interest for the affairs of the world, it appears that he is not being heartless, but rather is more above the small affairs and struggles of the world and feels that they should be taken care of by lower beings like humans and angels without bothering him. Death has at times lent small help to the Winchesters in saving the world, although he claimed his participation to be purely on a whim and out of personal annoyance and tediousness.
When dealing with others, Death has a civil and calm but also highly chilling manner which commands fear and respect, and he apparently prefers to civilly talk things over. He has also displayed an appreciation for human food, particularly junk food such as cheap pizza and bacon dogs, and so it is sometimes used as an offering of sorts to try and appease him. In regards to the Winchesters, Death did not have any true hatred for them, but did regard them as an affront to the natural order for how many times they'd defied it and themselves returned from the dead; in this respect, Death seemed to find Sam and Dean and what would come out of their resurrections interesting. Though Death initially seemed to have little other regard for the brothers as important - and even displayed frustration and annoyance towards Dean's actions and personality - by the time of the Fall, Death seemed to have developed a great respect for Sam for everything Sam had done and achieved.
Throughout history, many societies have conceived and possessed the concept of Death being a sentient entity as well as a natural occurrence. The most well-known concept of Death as an entity is the Grim Reaper (also known from the Bible and Talmudic lore as the Angel of Death or Devil of Death), which is depicted as a skeletal figure with a scythe and a hooded black cloak. Some lore and tales indicate the Grim Reaper is actually what causes death to occur, while others hold that it has no influence or control over a victim's death and merely acts as a psychopomp to guide the victim's soul to the afterlife.
Death is also described in Revelation, 6:7-8, as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. According to Revelation, Death is the last one of the horsemen to be released, riding out when the fourth of the seven seals is opened by Jesus Christ. Death is also described as riding a green or pale horse, and as not carrying any object like the other three horsemen but as having the abode of the dead follow behind him as he rides out (although some illustrations do commonly depict the horseman representing Death as carrying a scythe). Revelation states that Death, alongside Lucifer and his minions, will ultimately be cast into the Lake of Fire by God, granting humanity true immortality.
- Abandon All Hope...
- Two Minutes to Midnight
- Appointment in Samarra
- Meet the New Boss
- I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here
- Brother's Keeper
- Julian Richings who portrayed Death on Supernatural has also portrayed the Grim Reaper in the short film Dave Vs. Death. Richings also portrayed Charon (ferryman of the River Styx, who plays a similar role to the Grim Reaper in transporting the dead to their resting place) in the 2010 film adaption, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.
- Death is virtually the only supernatural entity Sam and Dean have ever met in all their years who actually evokes genuine fearful respect from Dean.
- It was initially unknown whether, when Death appeared in Sam's mind in I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here, it was the real Death or just another symbolic mental projection like Dean and Bobby. Julian Richings himself noted that Death seemed slightly out of character. Death confirmed in Brother's Keeper that it really had been him.