I tried. I even forced myself to watch “Red Sky At Morning” again, hoping to find someway to do a review that didn’t sound like an insensitive berating of what is clearly the one off episode of the season that every show is allowed. Even Eric Kripke himself admitted that this was not a good one, so for me to give a detailed criticism of something that is already known to be bad would be the equivalent of doing a restaurant review on McDonalds. Pointless.
My mind instead got distracted by a nagging question during a mood of reflection (really, it was an intentional diversion from another boring day at work), just how bad was this episode? Did it compare with the truly stinky from the other seasons? When I look at this episode in that light, turns out, it wasn’t the worst. It was the best of the worst. So, I present the top five worst episodes ever of Supernatural, from bad to just plain awful.
5 - “Red Sky At Morning”, Season three.
Why is this one so bad? Bela. Need I say more? Any episode that gives her just as much screen time as the Winchesters screams a network ploy that once again proves The CW has no clue who’s actually watching this show. The ghost ship story was ludicrous, and considering the culprits of the murders were only shown briefly in the final confrontation, we didn’t get into what was happening. Not that it mattered, because they sucked and their little fight was way too anticlimactic.
Sure, there’s the often used device of the invisible villain, whose lack of presence is supposed to be scarier (re: Keyser Soze), but a ghost ship? People see a ghost clipper ship and then start drowning where there’s no water? Yeah, I’m quaking. Oh, and these people just happened to have killed a family member. How many people in Massachusetts see a ghost ship and happened to fit that criteria? Apparently more than we’d ever believe.
The premise of Sam being stuck with a horny elderly woman while Bela and Dean have their fun scheming to steal the hand (????) might have been acceptable on paper, but this failed in so many ways. I take that back, it doesn’t even look good on paper. What Sam experienced was more uncomfortable than funny, and Bela and Dean had no chemistry. This actually is a repeating theme in most of these bad episodes, “Sam or Dean” and “no chemistry with female hookup”. They can’t do better than each other, so why try? (slashers, keep your minds clean).
Redeemable moment: The first scene in the Impala, and the last one. The fights between the brothers continue, and what is said adds to the drama that has been building with these scenes ever since “Bad Day At Black Rock”. I especially loved the first scene, where Dean confronts Sam about killing the Crossroads Demon. “She was a smartass.” Yes she was, and that’s one of the few good lines of this entire script. The other; when Bela says, “When this is over, we should have angry sex.” Dean’s reply, “Don’t objectify me.” As much as I loathe Bela, that was funny.
The big winner though was the brothers in tuxes. That alone bumped this episode to the top (or bottom, I’m not sure which) of the list.
4 – “No Exit”, Season two.
Why is this one so bad? For one, there was hardly any Sam in it. I read somewhere that was because Jared Padalecki was having surgery done to repair the broken wrist he sustained in filming “Bloodlust” (yes, it was broken without a cast in “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things”, but he actually broke it before that). Let’s see, no Sam, so ooh, ooh, just replace him with Jo Harvelle! After all, her and Dean have great chemistry, and are so hot together. Um, considering Jo didn’t make an appearance in the series again after “Born Under A Bad Sign”, I think we all saw the flaw in that logic.
To fault the lengthy screen time of Jo though wouldn’t be fair, since that wasn’t what sunk this episode. Kim Manners was even the director, so we know whatever went wrong didn’t come from there either. He did the best with the crap he was given. The true culprit was a sluggish story with weak dialogue, especially between Jo and Dean, and the fact that I was more scared by Ellen Harvelle in the end than the so called ghost serial killer. The parallel of Jo being bait like what happened with her father and Daddy Winchester years ago harped on an arc that was never compelling to begin with. That story only ended up being satisfying in “Born Under A Bad Sign”, and only because evil!Sam recounting the truth was too damn hot.
Redeemable moment: The frosty and uncomfortable scene in the Impala on the ride back to the roadhouse. Dean and Ellen are in the front seat, and Dean is scared. Dean goes to turn on the radio to break the mood, and on comes Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice”. That’s perfect comedic timing! Too bad it was the only entertaining part of the episode.
3 – “Hookman”, Season one
Why is this one so bad? This is one of those urban legends that I’m sure looked great on paper, and I read how much Kripke loved this legend. The trouble was, Hookman was never scary. The directing was terrible as there was nothing done to build the tension, suspense, or drama. The episode was choppy and didn’t flow well. The scenes were reminiscent of some really bad slasher films. Too bad, because the writing wasn’t half bad on this one.
Aside from the poor directing, the acting sunk this one too. The actress playing Lori wasn’t very good, and she and Sam had zero chemistry. The fact that Sam would take interest in a girl like this so quickly after losing Jessica wasn’t believable to me, and I don’t think Jared was sold on the idea either. He seemed uncomfortable most of the episode. As much as I adore Jared, he was still trying to find his footing with the character of Sam in these early episodes and hadn’t quite found it by this one. He struggled quite a bit with the scenes that didn’t involve Dean. The other actors, including Lori’s dad and roommate, well, I was rooting for Hookman against them.
Redeemable moment: Dean. This was one of his better episodes, but that wasn’t surprising since from the word go Jensen found his place in this series. Dean was loose, funny, bad ass, and he should have tried for Lori instead. Wouldn’t it have been great, him coming back to Sam later, bragging about nailing the preacher’s daughter? Isn’t there a Lynrd Sknyrd song about that? This episode also introduced rock salt as a weapon against demons, which has proven to be very useful, and a great bit of folklore that has defined this show.
2 – “Route 666” - Season one
Why is this one so bad? Two words. Racist truck. Does anything more need to be said?
Actually, almost the entire episode was a hot mess. The story sucked, the characters sucked, the heavy handed themes on racism were contrived (and sucked), and Dean was paired with an ex-girlfriend that was annoying, whiny, and a really bad actress. She and Dean should have never shared the same planet, let alone a bed. While many fans girls I’m sure squealed when they heard Jensen was getting a sex scene, the end result was two of the most uncomfortable minutes I’ve ever seen on film. It was like two hens pecking at each other. We’re still waiting for redemption, for Dean deserves a steamy love scene with a hot female character like what Sam had in “Heart”. I say bring back Lisa, and let the sparks fly!
Also, since when is Cape Girardeau, Missouri a sea side town? Those weren’t riverboats at that marina.
In my opinion, this was the worst written episode of the entire series. How this really bad episode got stuck in between season one classics “Faith” and “Nightmare” is beyond me. Another thing beyond me, this episode is actually the highest rated one in Supernatural history. I heard it was because the State of the Union was on and The WB was the only station showing original programming. Watching this must have definitely been pure desperation.
Redeemable moment: This final chase scene, where Dean in the Impala is being chased by the ghost truck (that still sounds so wrong). That scene was actually interesting. Sam calls him on the phone, only to get “I’m in the middle of nowhere with a killer truck on my ass!” I need to work that line into regular conversation at work, just to throw people off. Sam guides Dean to an area and has him stop. The Impala and truck showdown, the truck charges, and then disappears into thin air just before it makes contact. Cool! What was even better was when Dean asked Sam what had happened. Dean: What if you were wrong? Sam: Huh. Honestly, that thought hadn’t occurred to me. Dean slams the phone in disgust, muttering how he’s gonna kill Sam. Bwah!
There was another classic quote in here, and it’s actually from Sam. “I miss conversations that didn’t start with ‘this killer truck’.” You and me both pal.
1 – “Bugs” - Season one
Why is this one so bad? Actually, it’s a virtual toss-up between this and “Route 666”. Each day I keep changing the order, but I ruled this as number one because the other’s redeemable moment was much longer.
This was an episode that was loaded with great intentions. I even understood the mentality, go for something in the spirit of The Birds, but use bugs instead.
Unfortunately, everything went wrong, and this one goes down as one of the sorriest episodes I’ve ever seen in television. Where do I begin? For one, the bugs looked fake. That’s because they were. After filming, they discovered the bugs didn’t show up on film and had to CGI them.
If that was the only problem, I would have excused it. After all, working with the bugs ended up making some great interview stories. The pacing of the story was way off, and that’s assuming there was pacing. The climactic bug showdown was pretty short considering they were supposed to be pulling an all-nighter. They didn’t do any sort of editing that showed breaks in the action, so six or seven hours was literately five minutes. The scene with the wise old Indian and his terrible story of tragedy against his people felt like it was chucked in there at the last minute, and didn’t add much to the story. They could have found out about the burial ground at the library.
Sadly, the acting again failed to deliver. The teenage bug kid wasn’t great casting, but what was even worse was the terrible parallel between that boy’s estrangement with his father and Sam’s. Their situations weren’t remotely in the same league, let alone the same ballpark. It was an awful way to force some backstory on us about Sam and John’s fight. Again, as with “Hookman”, Jared didn’t sell it. I didn’t believe his anger or pain toward Daddy Winchester, and I didn’t believe that he related to this kid, or honestly cared. My only comfort was that Jared’s acting began to improve immediately after this episode in “Home” and continued to steadily get better until he reached Jensen’s level with “Born Under A Bad Sign”.
Redeemable moment: Dean in the steam shower. That’s pretty much it, and it was way too short.
Honorable Mention – aka bad, but not bad enough – “Playthings”, season two
This one had many great elements. Gay jokes, creepy dolls, hoodoo curses, poking grandma with a stick, Sam all wet in a pool and my absolute favorite, drunk Sam. Also, the story was pretty good. Still, something didn’t sit quite right with me about this one. I thought it was my mood, but in two more re-watches I still didn’t like it.
I didn’t like the mother, for she didn’t connect with either of the boys. I didn’t care if the guests got killed. Dean’s conversation with the old man seemed forced, actually Dean’s interest in this entire job seemed forced. This episode featured easily the worst motel room of the series. A wedding dress on the wall in the stately hotel room? They would actually give that room to a pair of hot looking men? Uh, no. The little girl Maggie wasn’t creepy enough, and I didn’t realize how much so until seeing Katie in “The Kids Are Alright”. Sam was whiny the entire episode, especially with the whole “you promised you’d kill me” thing (although no one has ever looked sexier praying to the porcelain God). I think in the end though, I don’t like dolls.
So, did anyone notice anything common about these episodes? First, let me list the writers. Rachel Nave, Bill Coakley, John Shiban, Eugenie Ross-Leming, Brad Buckner, Matt Witten, and Laurence Andries. With the exception of John Shiban, none of these writers went onto to great Supernatural writing success. Second, as mentioned before, bad hookups for Sam and Dean. Female characters have always been a problem, but they REALLY become a problem in weak episodes.
Three of the episodes featured directors that never came back to the show, and with good reason. Also, the top three episodes on this list were from early season one, in which even Kim Manners admitted it took them half a season to find their groove. Luckily those of you watching the show from the beginning were patient and rewarded with the great second half of that season.
Considering these were also the five episodes Eric Kripke listed as his least favorite, I’m sure I’m not going to get a lot of argument about this list. Is there another one that should have been here? The only other one I can think of that fans might not have liked is “Ghostfacers”, but that was a loved it or hated it one, and I’m in the “loved it” category. If anyone has another episode they want to share, or want to present their list, opinions are welcome! I’m just one crackpot reviewer.
Next week, “Fresh Blood”, aka “when season three found its groove.” Expect something gushing and long.