Warning: This article contains spoilers for season 15 of Supernatural.
From the first time we see her, there was no doubt that the witch Rowena MacLeod would be a formidable foe for the Winchester brothers. Rowena sat reading in a high-end hotel and a tilt of the camera reveals the witch has killed and staked both the bellhop and room service waiter to the ceiling. Without uttering a word the tone for Rowena’s character was set. Wicked, dangerous, deadly.
She begins her journey on Supernatural as a villain in the truest sense of the word. As her backstory is unveiled and fans saw each new facet of her complex personality, we saw her become so much more than that. She’s powerful, sure, but she’s also bold, daring, cunning, and brave.
Ruth Connell’s portrayal drew us in and left us wanting more Rowena scenes every week. As the Winchesters face her, again and again, we watched Rowena slowly shift from a villain to an ally. We discovered her motivations, her strengths, and her weaknesses. Knowing her power-hungry beginnings made her final, self-sacrificial ending last week all the more poignant. Though she started out a villain, we know she certainly died a hero.
We are celebrating Rowena’s amazing character with her 10 best moments on the show!
Season 13, Episode 19: “Funeralia”
After gaining her full power back, Rowena goes on a killing spree, taking out people with horrible pasts. She’s also killing reapers all in an attempt to get Death’s attention so that she can have Crowley resurrected. It’s an interesting look at the way Rowena really feels about her child that we always thought she hated. This entire episode is filled with powerful moments that show Rowena’s pain. From the moment when she realizes that Sam had tried to shoot her to the moment where she tortures Sam before Death appears, it shows moments of a very broken being who is in pain. It all culminates to a final breakdown where Rowena attacks Billie when she refuses to bring Crowley back. It was a moment that was emotional and hard to watch, but it was also a moment that definitely brought the character of Rowena more depth and humanity.
Season 13, Episode 12: “Various & Sundry Villains”
The first episode that Rowena comes back after being burned to a crisp by Lucifer in season 12 finds her in search of the Black Grimoire, which two other witch sisters are also after. She teams up with Sam and Dean to get the book back and while doing so, bonds with Sam over their pasts with Lucifer since he knows exactly what she’s going through. This moment showed something we rarely see: Rowena being so vulnerable. She’s an all-powerful witch who experienced something traumatic and heartbreaking. She acts like she’s fine but behind it all, she’s just as broken as you’d expect. She admits to Sam that she can still see Lucifer, still feel him torturing her, and Sam tells her that he still sees his face, too, his real face under whatever vessel even after all these years. She admits that she’s scared and asks him how he deals with it. Sam explains that he doesn’t, he pushes it down and he doesn’t talk about it. He adds that the feeling of fear and helplessness is never going to go away. It’s a moment that shows more depth to a character that everyone knows and thinks is fearless. It’s one of the only times she shows her vulnerability, opening up about what happened to her because she knows only one other person that has been through what she has been through and uses that to try to somehow get past this traumatic event.
Season 12, Episode 11: “Regarding Dean”
This episode finds Rowena scheming in a game of poker when she’s interrupted by the Winchester boys who reach out to her for help in restoring Dean’s memory. They think Dean has been hexed and they need the help of a witch before Dean loses his memory entirely. The most engaging scenes are those between Rowena and Dean. The relationship between Rowena and the Winchesters has been complicated and they’re never sure if they can really trust her. In this episode, we get to see Rowena’s soft spot for the Winchesters when she genuinely tries to distract and comfort Dean as his memory continues to slip away. She also takes advantage of his failing memory by teasing and flirting with classic Rowena snark, funny one-liners, and a soft ‘boop’ to Dean’s nose. Near the end of the episode, Dean has all but forgotten who he is, yet Rowena strategically leads him to a home of fellow witches where Sam is held captive. She nearly loses her life at the hand of another witch, but Dean arrives just in time with the help of her amusing and helpful reminders she left on sticky notes. In the end, Rowena saves the day with a spell that restores Dean’s memory. This is a classic Rowena episode because it showcases the wit, humor, and layered personality that fans have grown to love.
Season 13, Episode 21: “Beat the Devil” (Episode 22: “Exodus” cont.)
One of my favorite moments shows Rowena’s strength. After her entire ordeal with Lucifer, Rowena has to face him once more. Not only is she tasked to open the AU, but she is tasked to keep Lucifer captive on her own. He torments her, annoys her, and yet she stays brave. Then he breaks free. Rowena is backed into a corner, but instead of letting him win, she uses her magic to shove him away. Unfortunately, this means the portal will begin to close without Lucifer’s grace. Despite this, she manages to show her strength once again as she uses her magic to keep the portal open. She is tired, and losing strength physically, but her willpower keeps her going so that her friends are not stranded. Thanks to Rowena, everyone made it through safely and Lucifer is left stranded. Her path may have been wayward, but Rowena continually proved herself a hero. Even if sometimes it was met with an eye roll, Rowena was always there to help the hunters with her magic, her strength, and her sass!
Season 11, Episode 10: “The Devil in the Details”
This episode wasn’t heavy with Rowena moments, but the moments she has are integral to the growth of her character. When the Darkness appears, there is only one archangel that can fight her and he is stuck in the cage in hell. The only person who can get Lucifer out is Rowena. Crowley and Rowena have a plan to free Lucifer, but it requires Team Free Will to enter the cage. As they are all in the cage, Rowena is working a spell to get them out along with Lucifer, so he can stop the Darkness. Once TFW is out, Lucifer has secretly inhabited Castiel and stays behind to chat with Crowley and Rowena about what should happen next. Casifer (Lucifer in Castiel’s body) tricks Rowena into thinking he wants her to stay and help him, but then he snaps her neck leaving our favorite witch dead (for now). This is a wonderful Rowena episode because it shows her trying to help the Winchesters and Castiel, one of the first times she does this during the series, and yet she still gets killed in the end because of her selfishness. It also shows Rowena’s subtle vulnerabilities, which is masterfully acted by Ruth Connell.
Season 14, Episode 7 – “Unhuman Nature”
Jack is dying. Cas has tried everything he knows – they’ve even gone the highly unusual route (for the Winchesters) of going to a regular human hospital, all to no avail. Enter our favorite, incredibly powerful witch. She is quick to fly to the boys’ side when she believes it to be Dean that is in danger. Finding out that her patient is actually the son of Lucifer, and what that may mean, she starts to bolt right back out the door. But, again played with uncanny brilliance by Ruth Connell, Rowena gets to know Jack and her defences start to falter. He is not his father, and she is able to see that, to see Jack as his own person. She has more reasons than almost anyone to completely refuse to have anything to do with any person, place, or thing related to the being that killed her twice, yet she shows her growth in being able to make that distinction. Also, her genuine affection for the Winchesters is on full display when she drops everything to aid the ‘ill’ Dean. Rowena never really had a family and this episode shows, in subtle ways, that she has adopted the Winchesters (all of them) as a surrogate. Her heartbreak is palpable when she has to tell Sam, Dean, and Cas that there is nothing more she can do, that Jack is going to die. Kudos to Ruthie for taking us on that journey with her!
Season 15, Episode 3- “The Rupture”
Sam, Dean, and Cas discover that the town nearest to the rupture between Earth and Hell is threatened by all of the ghosts escaping. Rowena try’s a spell at the beginning of the episode that unfortunately doesn’t work. The boys and the gang are joined by Ketch and they work together to come up with another plan. Rowena ultimately comes up with a plan, but this plan requires her to pay the ultimate price and fulfills Billie’s prophecy. This is one of my favorite Rowena moments because she shows how much she has really grown as a person. She’s thinking of everyone else and putting their needs ahead of hers. She has really come a long way since the very first time we met her.
Season 10, Episode 23 – “Brother’s Keeper”
One of my favorite moments is a little unusual as it’s before Rowena turned ‘good’. Rowena is forced by Sam and Castiel to perform a spell that will remove the mark from Dean’s arm, but the spell requires great sacrifice on her part. Rowena must kill something that she loves. At first, she says she doesn’t love anything, but Cas searches her mind and discovers a boy from 300 years earlier that she loved. Cas takes this information to Crowley who retrieves all the ingredients including Oskar. This is one of the first times we see real emotion from Rowena. She’s visibly upset and shaken by the fact that she is forced to kill Oskar to complete the spell. It’s one of our first glimpses into the other side of Rowena and the way Ruth played it was spectacular. Rowena is upset but still determined to complete the spell to win her freedom and the Codex. It was a real turning point for character development and a pivotal moment for fans to learn a little more about her.
Season 12, Episode 3 – “The Foundry”
After Lucifer snapped Rowena’s neck in season 11 episode 14 “The Vessel” and her fail safe spell to bring her back activates, Rowena’s personality shifts. She seems to long for a normal life, without any supernatural influence around her. This is also the first moment when the viewer sees a little bit of fear from Rowena, but she puts on a brave face once Lucifer captures her in season 12 episode 3 “The Rapture.” In this episode, you see Rowena stand up to Lucifer for the first time since he killed her. She plays it coy by telling him her spell will stop his rockstar vessel from decaying. However, it does the opposite. She actually accelerates the decaying process. She reveals her plan to Lucifer’s face before sending him away to the bottom of the ocean. In this moment, the strength Rowena shows is inspiring. She stands up for herself against the one who killed her, and even though she afraid she persevered. This moment truly shows how strong Rowena is, even when she isn’t feeling it herself at that moment.
Season 14, Episode 14 – “Ouroboros”
Another favorite Rowena moment is when she agrees to be Michael’s vessel (Apocalypse world Michael) when he gives her the ultimatum to submit or he will kill everyone she cares about. Rowena has come such a long way in her journey and it shows. An earlier Rowena would not have agreed and probably told Michael to go ahead and kill whoever, she’d say she didn’t really care about anyone. However, the mere threat from Michael is enough to make her agree in order to spare the lives of those she loves. She’s had an amazing story arc and character growth throughout her time on the show, and moments like this highlight how far she has come.