|“||A Reaper. There's Reaper lore in pretty much every culture on Earth. It goes by 100 different names. It's possible that there's more than one of them. Reapers stop time. You can only see them when they're coming at you.||”|
Reapers are beings that serve Death. They assist in maintaining the Natural Order and used to be thought as completely neutral, aligned with neither Heaven nor Hell nor Purgatory. According to Castiel, Reapers will sometimes appear in mass gatherings in prelude to a great disaster such as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii.
Being the servants of Death, Reapers are one of the most recurring supernatural creatures in the series.
Reapers are required for death to occur. They wait until a person meets the end of his or her life (either through accident, or simply the natural end point of that person's life) and then touch the person causing them to die, they then escort their souls to Heaven or Hell. They do not however possess the power to force souls to go with them. It's unknown if they are required for death to occur to all beings or simply humans.
Reapers are completely neutral beings, not caring for deals, fate or even each other at times, all they care about is maintaining the "Natural Order" of life and death. Although sometimes uncaring, Reapers generally sympathize with their victims, but refuse to make allowances, regardless of who or why. As they can't force anyone to go with them, Reapers must convince the souls to leave with them, which they normally achieve by forewarning the fate of the souls if they refuse they will be transformed into ghosts and trapped on Earth forever.
Reapers are also impartial in other ways, and rarely interfere in any manner other than performing their duties, and although they have the power to, they do not kill people before their time. However, there is one possible account of a Reaper ignoring the Natural Order, when that one Reaper who had been bound was freed, he quickly turned on and killed the person who bound him. This is the only known occasion of any Reaper ever being the cause of a person's death. As the person in question had forced the Reaper to go against the natural order by taking those in the place of others whose times were up, this can be an exception.
Some Reapers do break these trends however, leading to rogue Reapers. Unlike normal Reapers, these Reapers ferry souls out of their afterlives and take them to a different one, for the purpose of profit, and usually work for higher beings. They also ferry living mortals and at least one still ferried souls, at least those of ghosts put to rest, but on at least one occasion took a soul to the wrong place on his boss' orders. A few rogue Reapers were sent to hunt Castiel down, though they had to use conventional methods to do so.
Despite appearing stoic at times, Reapers are apparently as capable at experiencing emotions as humans, as on many occasions Reapers have shown sorrow, annoyance, compassion and anger. They also appear to have free will, although they rarely act upon it.
It is implied Reapers have a similar opinion of Death as angels do with God. It is unknown how they came into existence. Upon Death's release, hundreds if not thousands of Reapers flocked to meet, and receive orders from him. Dozens of them also followed him around Chicago. Likewise their relationship is described by Tessa as "He calls us, we don't call him".
It seems the Reapers have no sole shape, as some of them appear as ghost-like beings, beautiful women or elder men in mortician wear or suits. Commonly though, they appear as elder men in mortician wear, often black. Despite this they do have genders, as Tessa was repeatedly referred to as female - even by Death himself - though she has stated that "Tessa" was just "one of my names."
Reapers are able to possess humans. This may be how a few are shown to be able to manifest physically for humans to see them rather than being invisible to all but ghosts.
One of the laws of the universe is that after one incarnation of Death dies, the next Reaper to die will be promoted to take Death's place. Following her death at the hands of Castiel, the Reaper Billie was promoted to take the place of the Death killed by Dean Winchester.
Reapers are first credited in John Winchester's journal. Dean and Sam Winchester first encounter a Reaper in the episode Faith, seen assisting Roy Le Grange "heal" the sick. However, only someone who is dead or near-death (or is the target of it) can see a reaper. The reaper can be controlled by black magic and was released by smashing the rosario controlling it, upon which it turned on the person who was controlling it: Roy Le Grange's wife.
A different reaper, Tessa, appears in the season 2 premiere In My Time of Dying. After Dean is left in a near-death coma following a car accident, the reaper, disguised as a young girl, eventually persuades Dean to come with her. However, John Winchester offered his soul and the Colt to restore his fallen son. Azazel, then taking the offer, possesses Tessa, allowing Dean to live.
Tessa has a second appearance in the fourth-season episode Death Takes A Holiday, along with another reaper, in which Sam and Dean try to stop the breaking of a seal, which involves two reapers being killed. Tessa also restores Dean's memory of their first meeting which Azazel had taken from him. After the threat is over, Tessa enlists Dean's help to get Cole Griffith to cross over and warns him that what the angels have planned for him is not a good thing.
Reapers make a fourth appearance in the fifth-season episode, Abandon All Hope.... dozens appear in a deserted street through Castiel's eyes. Bobby later reveals that they are in the town because Lucifer is planning a ritual to raise their "Boss", Death, one of the four horsemen. Reapers make a fifth appearance in the fifth-season episode, Two Minutes to Midnight. They appear through Crowley's eyes, standing outside of a building where Death was at an earlier time.
Tessa makes an appearance in the sixth-season episode, Appointment In Samarra, along with the Horseman Death, when Dean prematurely causes his own death through lethal injection. This marks the sixth appearance of reapers on the show. Tessa guides Dean through his day as Death, leading him to the people he needs to kill and then taking their souls to where they belong.
In Taxi Driver, it was revealed that some Reapers work around the natural order of things on their own free will, divulging secrets to different supernatural realms, even to living humans. These were called 'Rogue' Reapers. They take mortals and souls between Earth and Heaven and Hell for a price and are visible without the necessity of the human being transported to die. One, Ajay, was approached by Sam and Dean to take Sam to Hell to rescue an innocent soul as part of the second trial to close the Gates of Hell. Ajay revealed that he took Bobby's soul to Hell when his flask was burned and agreed to take Sam in exchange for a favor from the Winchesters in the future. Ajay took Sam to Purgatory where there is a backdoor to Hell, but Crowley learned of what he was up to and killed Ajay with an Angel Blade. Ajay's death resulted in Sam being trapped in Purgatory.
In I'm No Angel, two Rogue Reapers were hired by the angel Bartholomew to hunt down Castiel after he manages to ward himself against angels finding him. One follows Sam and Dean, but they notice and capture him. Dean tortures him with an Angel Blade and after learning what he knows, kills him with it. Another Reaper posed as a human April Kelly and uses her to get close to Castiel, having sex with him then capturing and torturing him with his own Angel Blade for information on Metatron. When Sam and Dean arrive to rescue him, the Reaper kills him and throws Sam and Dean around, but Dean manages to kill her with an Angel Blade while she is distracted with Sam. Castiel is then resurrected by Gadreel.
In Stairway to Heaven, Dean finds out that Tessa is aiding the angels of Castiel's faction with performing miracles in a local hospital and is friends with an angel that committed a suicide bombing. Dean tracks down Tessa and finds her with the suicide bombing sigil on her chest and captures her, disabling the sigil by damaging it. Dean interrogates Tessa who reveals that with Heaven's gates closed, Reapers are unable to ferry souls there and she grew to despair until she joined Castiel in taking down Metatron. Tessa insists that she was following Castiel's orders in performing the suicide bombing and kills herself with the First Blade when Dean pulls it out to frame him. It's later revealed that Metatron brainwashed Tessa and the suicide bombing angels to frame Castiel.
In Form and Void, Sam finds a woman singing O Death in the hospital he is in. She reveals herself to be a Reaper named Billie and tells Sam her the old Death was too nice, she states she will have him and Dean thrown into a void so that they cannot return when they die. She expresses a hope that it happens and tells Sam that he is "unclean in a biblical sense" before leaving. Sam later remembers her words and is able to find a cure for the Rabid infection in the Bible by searching for purifications.
In Red Meat, Sam apparently dies during a werewolf hunt and Dean summons Billie through committing suicide by a drug overdose, in hopes of trading places with him. The plan does not succeed, and Sam wakes up shortly after, having never really died. Dean is revived before Billie can take his soul.
In Celebrating The Life Of Asa Fox, the Reaper Billie appears to collect the victims of the Crossroad Demon Jael. She agrees to help Dean Winchester get back inside Asa's house in exchange for him owing her one. After Jael is exorcised, Billie reappears and tries to collect Mary Winchester as the one Dean owes her. However, Mary refuses to go and the rules of a Reaper keep Billie from forcibly killing her and taking Mary's soul. Bille departs, but offers that if any of the Winchesters change their minds, they can just call her.
In First Blood, the Winchesters make a deal with Billie where she temporarily kills them and later brings them back so they can escape Site 94 in exchange for a Winchester permanently dying at midnight. Mary attempts to sacrifice herself for her sons when the time comes, but Castiel kills Billie with an angel blade instead to break the deal.
In Advanced Thanatology, Dean Winchester briefly commits suicide in order to discover the location of the bodies of Doctor Avery Meadows' victims. Upon dying, Dean encounters the Reaper Jessica, but quickly dismisses her. Realizing who Dean is, Jessica alerts Billie who has been reincarnated as the new Death.
After making a deal with Dean, Billie sends Jessica to free the ghosts of Meadows' victims and send them to Heaven.
- Unnamed Reaper
- Tessa (deceased)
- Bobby's Reaper
- Ajay (deceased)
- Maurice (deceased)
- April Kelly (deceased)
- Billie (reincarnated as Death)
Powers and Abilities
As servants of the Horseman Death himself, Reapers are quite powerful and have extensive abilities.
- Super Strength - One was able to easily subdue Sam and Dean and managed to knock out an angel-possessed Sam.
- Invisibility - Reapers can become invisible to the physical universe and can only be seen if they are dealing with the deceased or if they choose to. Spiritual beings, like angels, demons and deceased humans can see them.
- Astral Perception - Reapers can see ghosts, angels and demons within the Veil.
- Teleportation - Reapers can teleport from one place to another anywhere in the universe instantly. They can travel to any afterlife realm easily. It is also possible for them to take living humans with them, although it runs counter to their role in the natural order, and is therefore offered only by rogue reapers. However even with their teleportation skills, they couldn't reach out and deliver souls to Heaven when it was closed by Metatron.
- Dimensional Access - They can access Heaven, Hell, Purgatory and the Veil. Also they can take others with them as a spirit, a soul or even alive. However, they cannot enter spiritual realms if they have been closed, such as when Metatron closed the gates of Heaven, preventing Reapers from entering and ferrying souls until his defeat.
- Resurrection - Reapers can resurrect deceased humans, though their dedication to the natural order usually prevents them to.
- Cosmic Awareness - Reapers have an incredible amount of knowledge of the universe, they know when a person is supposed to be born and die. They also understand many concepts, including the limits of power.
- Chronokinesis - Reapers are able to stop time, causing objects that measure time to permanently break.
- Astral Projection - Reapers can project their astral form.
- Super Stamina - Reapers do not grow tired, and will nag their victims incessantly, unless a supernatural event disturbs them. However they do sometimes eat for pleasure.
- Invulnerability - Reapers are highly resistant to pain and hard to kill. Higher beings, certain divine weapons and magic can be used to kill them.
- Killing Touch - Reapers can kill humans by touching them.
- Telekinesis - Reapers can move objects/beings with their minds.
- Immortality - Reapers are not subjected to hunger, disease, or age.
- Flight - In their true form, they can hover or levitate.
- Perception Altering - Reapers can perceptually alter how humans perceive them, appearing in apparently anyway they want to be perceived. They do this to spirits to hide their more frightening form, enabling the reapers to communicate more effectively with their targets.
- Disease/Death Transference - Reapers can use their powers to heal disease and injuries; however, they have to give the injury or disease to someone else.
- Memory Manipulation - Reapers can make mortals forget things and can also restore memories.
- Intangibility - In their true form or in vessels, reapers can pass through anything physical on Earth without any injury.
- Electromagnetic Interference - The appearance of a Reaper can cause lights in a room to flicker or go out. A Reaper was also able to cause a car to lose power and stop.
- Wind Manipulation - A reaper's arrival can cause sudden gusts of wind.
- Biokinesis - Reapers can manipulate human biology; one angry Reaper once infected a person with a mental condition, giving them an early death in revenge. Another was able to stop the Winchesters hearts.
- Possession - Reapers can manifest on their own or use a vessel, as shown when one did to get close to Castiel.
- Banishing - Reapers are able to banish souls into the Empty, a place from where nothing can come back.
- Soul Control - A Reaper displayed the ability to pull 200,000 souls from the Veil into a crystal as part of the Soul Bomb.
- Dream Walking - Bobby's Reaper was able to talk with Bobby in his subconscious when he was in a coma.
Despite being quite powerful beings, Reapers do possess a few weaknesses:
- Death - As their boss, Reapers were under Death's control.
- Higher-tier Demons - Higher demons can overpower and possess Reapers.
- Magic - By using magic, Reapers could be imprisoned, enslaved and killed.
- Death's Scythe - It is capable of killing Reapers.
- Reaper trap - A reaper trap will hold a Reaper, even two, in place and prevent them to escape and depowering them.
- Angel Blades - Reapers can be killed by angel blades.
- The First Blade - The First Blade is capable of killing Reapers.
Although only appearing a few times in every season (excluding so far seasons 3 and 10), reapers are the fourth most recurring supernatural creatures in the series, appearing in 16 episodes.
- Season 1
- Season 2
- Season 4
- Season 5
- Season 6
- Season 7
- Season 8
- Season 9
- Season 11
- Season 12
- Season 13
- Reapers may be based on the accounts of Men in Black, given that the show does not feature aliens and Kripke has said that in Supernatural there are no aliens but there are supernatural creatures. Given that the existence of aliens was given over to Fairies, it is entirely possible that Reapers, given their appearance as men in black suits, is based on the tales of the Men in Black - this would fit because the Men in Black are said to move superhumanly fast.
- Reapers have started out being male but as the show moved on, more female Reapers appear.
- Tessa is the only Reaper shown in her true form. Other Reapers take the form (or vessel) of humans.
- Tessa, Billie and Jessica are the only reapers to have a recurring role.
- Although the Reapers were said to desire vengeance against the Winchesters for the death of their master in Form and Void, no Reaper aside from Billie has approached the Winchesters over a year since Billie herself gave that warning. After being reincarnated as Death, Billie changed her mind about this as seen in Advanced Thanatology as she recognized that the Winchesters still had work to do.
- It is unknown where Reapers go after death.