When Billie first appeared in season 11 of Supernatural, fans had no idea just how important she would become to the show throughout the next four seasons. She began her journey on the show as a reaper who adhered to the belief that what dies stays dead, an adage that is very much at odds with the Winchester way. Sam and Dean have died and returned more times than we can count, but Billie’s character is quickly set apart from others with her insistence that once they die it will be final. Of course this poses a serious issue when Billie becomes Death herself. Billie sees to it that the Winchesters and the ones they love can no longer avoid the permanence of death. Billie may have been in only 13 episodes over the last four years, but she lends an ominous intensity to every moment she is on screen. Let’s take a look back at Billie’s journey on Supernatural.
Billie first appears in season 11, episode two, “Form and Void”. Her unique and haunting entrance simultaneously distinguishes Billie as more than ‘just another reaper,’ pays homage to the fantastic entrance of Death in season five, and foreshadows Billie’s future story arch. Sam is infected and dying at an abandoned hospital when he hears singing of all things. Hunting down the source he finds Billie kneeling next to a recently dead man, singing “Oh, Death”, sung by Jen Titus created specifically for Supernatural.
Won’t you spare me over another year?
But what is this that I can’t see
With ice cold hands taking hold on me?
When God is done and the devil takes hold
Who will have mercy on your soul?
It was a spine chilling entrance. Billie greeted Sam and then explained the new world order for him. While Death found Sam and Dean’s constant resurrections funny, Billie assured Sam that those days are over. She also threatened him with the knowledge that whoever reaps them following their next death will not take them to Heaven or Hell, they’ll “make a mistake and toss [them] out into the Empty, and nothing comes back from that.” Fans are no stranger to seeing Sam and Dean threatened by various beings, but her demeanor sets her apart. By the end of what is really a fairly short scene, there is an uneasy feeling that things really are changing because Billie is not playing the Winchester resurrection game. Billie does give Sam a very subtle hint at how to cure himself before leaving, which made her all the more intriguing.
Billie makes her second appearance just eight episodes later when she meets Dean one-on-one and helps him get to Hell while Sam is talking with Lucifer in the cage. Before opening the portal for Dean, Billie gives him a box to deliver to Crowley with whom she is now working. Later in the episode, Amara zaps Castiel to the same portal location where Billie calmly greets him with a “hey.” It’s two small moments that keep her fresh in the fan’s minds for her next big appearance.
This time so many things happen so quickly that it warrants a pause to really take in the meaning of what’s to come for Billie and the Winchesters. When Sam is shot on a hunt and presumed dead, Dean is forced to leave him behind to save two innocents. With them safe Dean, believing Sam is dead, overdoses on hospital drugs to talk with Billie. She is less than impressed with Dean’s actions. He attempts to bargain his life for Sam’s to which she simply answers, “No.” Billie is a rare constant in that she is steadfast in making sure Sam and Dean no longer bend the rules. Even when Dean bluffs that Sam can save everything in existence, she holds to her answer. Already, her calm demeanor and devotion to keeping the natural order made fans hold their breath every time she was on screen.
Her stoic devotion makes her season 11 finale appearance all the more powerful. With Chuck dying after an attack from Amara, Sam, Dean, Cas, Rowena, Chuck, and Crowley plan to kill Amara to keep the cosmic balance. When their plan to make a bomb out of human souls falls short, Billie arrives to lend her services to their fight. This is a curious deviation from her unwillingness to get her hands dirty; but after all, “if you want souls, call a reaper.” She raids the Veil and collects a couple hundred thousand to complete the bomb. Billie’s willingness to help kill Amara highlights that she is willing to bend the rules, at least sometimes.
Billie is only present in two episodes of season 12, but both carry maximum impact. The boys run into Mary, recently resurrected from the dead, at the wake for fellow hunter Asa Fox. When a demon starts killing hunters, Billie shows up to reap the soul of the first hunter and makes sure to tell Dean goodbye on her way out. Dean, who is locked outside, bargains with her for entry to the house. She taunts him a little, but ultimately agrees to help in return for owing her a favor. She makes good on collecting that debt at the end of the episode. Mary’s resurrection is against the natural order and so Billie demands Mary’s life. Billie is clever in that she knew Dean and Sam would say no. Instead of forcing their hand, she talks to Mary. Billie lays out all of Mary’s doubts, telling her she looks miserable, reminding her how she knows she is out of place in this world and how much she hates it. It’s a cruel thing to highlight in front of Sam and Dean, but Mary doesn’t deny a single word. Billie offers her a “one-way ticket upstairs, away from all of this,” and for a moment it truly seems to work. However, Mary refuses and its evident that Billie is irritated, but she refuses to kill Mary herself so she’s stuck waiting for Mary to die. She leaves, but with the ominous air that the Winchesters will be seeing her again soon. This feels like the moment she starts to take on a more dangerous presence as a character. Before, she simply wanted to make sure that Sam and Dean stayed dead when they die, but now she actively wants a Winchester death.
It’s that very thing that pulls her back into their story. Sam and Dean are arrested for the attempted assassination of the President, and held by the secret service at an undisclosed location. Both knew they stood no chance of escaping, so Dean calls Billie and they agree that both Sam and Dean can die and come back one more time, at least until midnight.
We made a pact, bound in blood. Break that, there’s consequences. Like on a cosmic scale.
Their pact means that Dean and Sam must uphold their end of the bargain, the death of a Winchester, at all costs. When Billie arrives at midnight to claim a Winchester soul, it’s Mary that steps up and offers to be the Winchester that dies. But just before she pulls the trigger, Castiel shockingly kills Billie. And so fans breathe a sigh of relief that for now, the Winchesters are safe. They think that’s the end of Billie. Oh how wrong they were.
Billie doesn’t reappear until season 13, episode five which was aptly named “Advanced Thanatology”, thanatology being the scientific study of death. When Dean kills himself to speak with a few ghosts, Billie returns as Death. Fans learn that the rules of this reality are that the first reaper that dies after an incarnation of Death takes on the job. It’s a fantastic little twist to the overall story of Death and also gave fans a healthy dose of fear. They know the character is a staunch believer in the finality of death and the Billie brings an ominous weight to the show as Death. With her new promotion also came new powers and a deeper understanding of the big picture. Billie takes Dean to her reading room where she demands he tell her how he is slipping between worlds.
Death seems to have a blind spot when it comes to Jack, or possibly Nephilims in general. He bargains the information in exchange for the Meadow house souls freedom and Billie agrees. She also has deeper insight into Dean with her new powers, and highlights how he has changed. He isn’t the man who just expects to beat death anymore and he doesn’t even want to go back. Dean doesn’t deny any of her statements and so she explains the reading room with its books chronicling all the possible ways a person might die. She shows him the shelves with his books, informing him that her eyes have been opened to the importance of the Winchesters. She won’t tell him why they are important just that, “You have work to do. That’s all you need to know.” It’s ominous and worrisome and even though it seems Dean wants to die, she forces him to keep living.
Billie only makes one other appearance in season 13, when Rowena goes on a reaper killing spree to gain an audience with Death. Her efforts don’t work, but Billie does appear to her as she is about to kill Sam. Billie calmly explains that she doesn’t do blackmail, so Rowena can kill Sam but it’s going to have severe consequences. Rowena relents and breaks down. Billie seemed to know Rowena couldn’t kill Sam, and gives Rowena some sage wisdom.
“Sometimes life is unfair, sometimes we lose things, and sometimes we make mistakes. Some of these things can never be fixed no matter how powerful you become. Some things just are, and everyone has to live with that.”
In season 14, Billie finally breaks her no inference rule twice in episode 10. First, when Dean is possessed by Michael and Team Free Will 2.0 is about to be overrun by his monsters. Just before the monsters break down the door, they are all transported to the bunker. Later in the episode Billie visits Dean which confirms she broke her own rules though she calls it a calculated risk. She also tells Dean that every book in her reading room detailing his deaths have been rewritten to just one ending, all except one. She took another calculated risk and gave him the book with the alternate ending, the one that tells him how to save the world from Michael. She doesn’t force his hand, she simply provides the information. Dean’s actions are still his own. This moment makes it clear that Death is willing to step in when absolutely necessary.
And that moment is arrives again in the season 14 finale. Jack suspended lying and it made the world erupt into chaos which precipitated the return of God and the end of, well, everything. God ends the story and kills Jack, but Billie steps in and wakes him in the Empty. Fans watched and waited to learn what Billie had planned for Jack and after God breaks Sam’s spirit in season 15, Billie tells Jack in the empty, “it’s time.”
With Jack’s return the team learns that Billie has instructed him not to use his powers and is only giving him instructions on a need to know basis which doesn’t sit well with Sam, Dean, and Castiel. Two episodes later, Jack breaks her rules and uses his powers to save Kaia. The reaper assigned to watch Jack is even roped into their plans, and it works, at first. After they save Kaia, Billie arrives at the bunker making a shocking entrance by killing the reaper. She informs them that God is killing all the worlds he has created, effectively wiping the slate clean. Billie also reveals that in Death’s library every single living thing has a book including God. When God continued making worlds beyond their’s, he had to build himself into the fabric of the world to make sure it could continue living while he was absent; a perfect balance of harmony. According to Billie, this is his one weakness, and not even God knows because no one can read their own book without Death’s permission. Not even God.
I told you, Dean. You and your brother have work to do. This is your destiny. You are the messengers of God’s destruction.
Billie returns again in the following episode, “Destiny’s Child,” to explain that the appearance of an alternate reality Sam and Dean who were running from the end of their own world. It mean God is nearly finished destroying all the other worlds and will soon return to finish Sam and Dean’s reality. She tells Jack that step two of his quest is to find the Occultum, which means “hidden” in Latin. She doesn’t know where to find the object, only that it has been lost for centuries and is extremely powerful. It’s not much to go on but Billie reiterates that if God finds out what they are doing before Jack completes his tasks, there will be no way to save their world.
“Destiny’s Child” is the last episode fans saw before the pandemic shut down the production of Supernatural. There is no doubt that Death will play a big role in the final seven episodes as she and Team Free Will continue their fight against God. What is the next step for Jack? How will he actually kill God and what role will the Winchesters play in those final moments? Billie holds the answers to all these questions so we can expect to see her at least a few more times before the final scene of Supernatural‘s incredible 15 year run.