We’re obsessed, yes? We clear our schedules for Thursday night (or celebrate when outside events clear them for us). We check in here as often as real life permits and the withdrawal pains of Hellatus demand. We’ve got the DVDs and the downloads, and rewatch obsessively, sometimes in chronological order to get the benefit of the story arc as it was meant to be seen, sometimes picking out our favourites for some comfort watching. But what about the episodes we skip over, the ones where the DVD is not getting worn out, the ones not bookmarked in the favourites file? The orphan episodes that we don’t rewatch, and which don’t get much attention in articles here. Let’s try to work out why, and maybe even give one or two of them the love and attention they deserve.
Of course, the trouble with this article is that in order to write about the episodes I don’t rewatch, I’ve going to have to rewatch them. I’ll think about that one later – I’m sure Jas will have an explanation if I ever make it onto her couch.
Let me clarify that this isn’t necessarily about the “worst” episodes. Although they’re not at the top of my rewatch list, I’ll happily look at Bugs again, or Red Sky at Morning, the two that Chuck would have liked to re-write and which often seem to come up as the most problematic or least favourite episodes. In fact I think Chuck was wrong on Bugs: it is a decent episode until it gets to the showdown in the attic, and has some good development of the brotherly relationship. (It also has Dean in the steam shower. I appreciate the idea of Dean in a steam shower almost as much as Dean must have appreciated being in it, after all those motel rooms with tacky decoration and no doubt worse than tacky plumbing.) And Chuck must have written Red Sky at Morning and then forgotten that his fangirl publisher edited it out of the final lineup: it isn’t one of the titles in the row of Supernatural books that are shown in The Monster at the End of This Book.
I’m also going to qualify the judgments in this article by making the point that Supernatural is a work in progress. That means that there are things about it which can’t properly be judged until Supernatural has finished, at least until the planned end of Season 5, and we can understand the completed story arc. The ongoing nature of the five year enterprise that is Supernatural can have significant effects. One previous example of an episode where later developments have resulted in some significant revisionism is Croatoan, which had its payoff three years later in The End. Another is Mystery Spot, which has been at the top of a lot of people’s lists of best episodes since it was broadcast, but which only started to climb mine after the payoff of Changing Channels, two seasons later. This potential for a future payoff makes it difficult to judge some of the things which have come up in the most recent episodes: for instance, we don’t yet know what the outcome will be for the storyline on Dean’s amulet which was started in Good God Y’All. (I haven’t a clue what’s coming on the amulet, but I’m firmly expecting it to end up as an entirely satisfactory resolution of the plot point. In Kripke We Trust.) So when judging episodes, I’m prepared to admit that something may come along in the future to change that judgment. Make me look silly, even. For your sake, gentle reader (be gentle, please) it’s a risk I’m prepared to take.
Trying to work out why I don’t rewatch something has proved surprisingly tricky. My starting point has been the second ever comment I made on this site, which was a list of my favourite comfort episodes: Faith (Dean is saved from death), In my Time of Dying (Dean is – oh, yes, a theme emerges), What Is and What Should Never Be (Dean’s dream), The Kids Are Alright (another dream of Dean’s) and The Monster At the End of This Book (Sam doesn’t sleep with Lilith). So it’s clear I like happy endings, or at least the hope of a happy ending, or even just the deferral of an unhappy ending. And Dean. And Sam. (Possibly Dean a little more than Sam, but definitely both Dean and Sam.) (I seem to like parentheses too, but I’ll work on that. Not intending to work on the Dean and Sam thing, no way.)
So, finally (no more digressions, I promise) here are the ones I don’t rewatch, and my guesses as to why.
I love Season 1. I’ve especially loved rewatching it now that so many of the themes which first came up in Season 1 have been picked up and built on in later seasons. There’s nothing I skip if rewatching the whole season. When watching Devil’s Trap, though, I do follow it by immediately watching In My Time of Dying, thus subverting Kripke’s evil tendency towards end of season cliffhangers.
No Exit might have been on this list at one time, but after Jo’s final exit in Abandon All Hope, how could I possibly not want to go back and watch this one, to understand where Jo ended up by watching how she started out? Croatoan too showed what happened in one small town, when in the future Zachariah shows to Dean in The End, there would have been thousands of towns in which the story of Croatoan was repeated.
All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1 is an episode I do rewatch, but only when I can immediately follow it with Part 2, as Dean grieving over Sam’s dead body is not an image I want to be left with. How on earth did those of you who watched the original broadcast manage to cope for a whole week with that image in your minds? All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1 is my reason to be cheerful that I only found Supernatural in Season 4.
Season 3 is definitely the season I rewatch least, and the one which I mention least in articles. Issues with the overall story arc in Season 3 can be attributed to the effects of the writer’s strike and having to wrap everything up in a total of just 16 episodes rather than the planned 22. But what about the individual episodes in Season 3?
One of the Season 3 episodes I’ve watched least is probably Bedtime Stories, and I’m not alone because the episode title gets only 28 mentions on The Winchester Family Business. Rewatching, it’s not a bad episode but there are maybe a couple of reasons why I found it missable. One is that the episode doesn’t set up the victims to be people I care much about, and another is that there isn’t much satisfaction in the vanquishing of the monster, the spirit of a little girl poisoned by her stepmother and acting out the fairy tales read to her by her father. Nor do Sam and Dean seem to be stretched by the episode: the tight time line set up at the start disappears when it’s shown that the monster is not a werewolf, and Dean’s fight with the big bad wolf is intercut with quiet and still scenes set in the hospital, undermining its effect. There’s also a big plot point left hanging at the end: whatever happened to the poor big bad wolf, who unknowingly committed four murders under the control and direction of a spirit? And the poisoning and murdering old woman in the house in the woods, too. Two things to like about the episode are that Dean and Sam seem to be looking particularly pretty, and Sam sneaking out at night to summon the cross-roads demon is an interesting forerunner to Season 4, when he’s sneaking out at night to see Ruby. So overall, I’ve put Bedtime Stories back on the “rewatch in sequence list” but watching it is never going to be a particularly special treat.