As we are facing the last run of “Supernatural” episodes, I’ve been taking a look at vast collection gone by and reminiscing about the ones that stood out for me and brought me a lot of joy. When going through 300+ episodes, there are a lot on that list! I have found though that when pulling out the DVD sets, there is at least one special “go to” for each season. You know, the one I tend to pick first when doing a rewatch, going on nothing more than gut feel. So, in a fun exercise, I decided to share that list.
There are some seasons where picking just one was almost impossible (all pre-season seven). There were a couple (I’m looking at you seasons 9, 10 and 14) where I struggled hard to find one. But for the sake of this retrospective, I picked one for each season and stuck with it. Also, season fifteen is too new. We haven’t seen the whole package nor has any stood out as a “classic” to me, so you are only getting 14 choices here. Seven in the first part, seven in the second part.
So, without further commentary, why don't I get to it? I present my “Supernatural” go-to episodes by season, part one.
Why? This is the episode that made me fall in love with this show. I first discovered “Supernatural” at the end of season two. I saw the last five minutes of “All Hell Breaks Loose Part II” while channel flipping and my curiosity was sparked. I decided to catch up the only way that was available at the time, renting the DVD from Netflix. There were no online options yet. The problem was, they only sent you one disk at a time! So, I watched the first four episodes. I really liked. I watched the second four a week later when the next DVD was mailed. Meh, good but losing momentum. They were clearly struggling with direction. Then I got the third DVD, watched “Home” and was blown away. I watched that one over and over again. Then I cancelled the Netflix subscription and bought S1 and S2 at Best Buy. I haven't looked back since.
“Home” was a turning point. It’s where Sam’s visions truly started to manifest. It was Sam and Dean facing old ghosts, literally, by returning to their childhood home in Lawrence, Kansas. Missouri Moseley had an amazing and very special connection with the boys, who were rightly freaked out by everything that was happening. Then it all built up to the climactic scene, Mary Winchester revealing herself to her boys, giving Sam a very vague “I’m sorry.” What did that mean??? I had to find out. What absolutely reeled me in for more though was Sam’s distraught, “What’s happening to me?” to Missouri in the closing scene. To this day that tears my heart apart, especially now knowing everything Sam has been through since. But then, the final whammy, John Winchester! He was paying attention to his boys. As we learned through the series, he had a funny way of showing it.
“In My Time of Dying”
Why? First, this is the way to kick off a season! So many feels. Dean is lost as a wandering ghost, stuck in the area between life and death. Sam is lost over the fact his brother is in that predicament and there was nothing he could do about it. John knew a way to help though, and that extended the lore into exciting new territory. But it cost the Winchesters dearly. Dean was a wreck for most of season two, grieving over the loss of John. It really cost Sam, who didn’t get closure from this very moment until season 14.
The second reason I loved this episode is it excites the cinema geek in me. This is one of the best shot episodes in the series. This was a true Kim Manners masterpiece. Starting with the very first frame, it begins with the fuzzy focus of the helicopter above, a frantic and injured Sam wondering if his brother and Dad are dead or alive. Then there's the unique angles and interesting shots, really enhancing a story, giving us a full feel that this takes place within two different planes. I love the scenes where the two brothers are in the same scene yet unable to talk to one another. The Ouija board scene is classic. The omnious tone, the deep focus on the emotional moments, the building suspense in the story, it was all great. An amazing effort all the way around.
Why? I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone who’s read my stuff. This is my all time favorite episode. I could really go on and on as to why, but this episode changed everything. The dialogue and script is one of the best of the series. The direction from Kim Manners was brilliant considering they were telling a story of the same day repeating over and over again. He managed to make each day unique and it never got old. But for me, this was the very first episode of the series to dig deep into the psyche of Sam Winchester and it was jaw dropping. It started light and funny as hell, but as Sam's despair grew it turned darker. Before then he internalized a lot and we could only guess what was going on inside. This story opened up us to his desperate world and it was both frightening and heart breaking. He was truly a broken man and his brother was the only thing holding him together. After his near year long ordeal without his brother, we couldn’t imagine how he’d continue without Dean. It definitely made him very vulnerable for season four.
“When the Levee Breaks”
Why? Interesting choice, huh? Season four had so many great episodes. The best one in my opinion is “Lazarus Rising”. But when I’m looking for an episode that just blows me away with raw emotional impact, it’s this one. I think it’s the greatest contribution Sera Gamble gave this show. It's the most intense detox I've ever witnessed!
I know people don’t like it when the brothers are at odds, but the entire season was building up to this standoff. You knew something this explosive was coming between the brothers and this played out brilliantly. It was a culmination of four seasons of fears coming to fruition. Dean watched his brother become the very thing he feared he would, a monster. Sam’s hallucinations were a heart crushing look at the burdens that he had been carrying all season, and suddenly his motivations were clear too. He honestly believed he was the only one who could stop the apocalypse and he would die doing so. Trying to reconcile that in his crazed mind made for some very compelling drama, not to mention some very intense seizures! It was the Dean and Sam final confrontation though that killed me. Dean did the one thing Sam feared the most, calling him a "monster." To find at the end that his brother wouldn’t be in his corner at this pivotal moment in his life very much sealed Sam's fate for the finale. He would go it alone with Ruby. The results were disasterous.
“My Bloody Valentine”
Why? Another interesting choice, don’t you think? Season five is loaded with goodness. As much as I love “Swan Song,” that is a hard one to watch. It requires a lot of kleenexes and it still leaves me wrecked at the end. This could have easily been “Changing Channels” as well, but that one is so screwball it requires a certain mood.
I love this one because it's a Ben Edlund script at his most perfect. No writer was better at taking a pressure situation and slowly turning up the heat to 11 until everything explodes in a very messy way. There was so much happening in this one, darkly themed for Valentine's Day, aka unattached drifter Christmas. I will concede that this got pretty gross, but I’ve seen it enough where I just look away during those parts. It's a curious scenario to begin with, a valentine couple eating each other. The first theory is as whacky as it gets, a rogue cupid. Turns out it isn't, but the fact he's naked and a hugger is priceless. This must be an Edlund script.
Then the story just keeps building and building, everything spiraling slowly out of control until it hits an insane, explosive finish. How Sam, Dean and Castiel were impacted by the arrival of Famine was fascinating. Sure, it makes sense that Sam went off the rails given his demon blood affliction, but why not Dean? Even Castiel was not immune and there's something rather bizarre about watching an angel eat enough burgers to kill a mere mortal. Sam slipping into full blown demon blood power mode was shocking, especially when Dean got to see him this way for the first time. That was just enough to shake everyone’s confidence and raise doubt for the rest of the season, especially Dean. It’s what started Dean’s S5 spiral that took us all the way to the 100th episode.
This episode did have one of my absolute favorite scenes in it, a demon blood crazed Sam helping himself to a "snack", then giving a demon the TK toss before spouting with a messy face and really sinister look, “Wait your turn.” Yowza!
“The Man Who Knew Too Much”
Why? Season six was the hardest to pick from. This is the season I have multiple go to episodes. The season itself wasn’t as strong as prior seasons, but it had so many great individual episodes. “Weekend at Bobby’s,” “Clap Your Hands if You Believe,” “Unforgiven,” “Frontierland,” “The French Mistake” and “The Man Who Would Be King” are all very high on my viewing list. “Mommy Dearest” is top of the next tier. But the one I chose suits my thirst for brotherly angst.
I seem to love these Sam Winchester in peril episodes, don’t I? I just adore the way this one was written, which turned out to be Eric Kripke’s last script for the show. This is classic “show, don’t tell”. They had been telling us for a half a season that Sam had this wall in his head, but until this episode we really didn’t know what that meant. Sam just felt off and we were told he was a walking time bomb. Enter rogue Castiel who sent the wall tumbling down and man did the sparks fly. We got to see the struggle on both ends, Dean’s ordeal of watching his brother in a coma, and Sam’s internal ordeal of dealing with the fragments of his mind breaking apart. The Sam we know and love having a confrontation with soulless Sam? Just awesome. Regular Sam meeting tortured and broken in Hell Sam? What a mind bender! The only part I could have done without was the whole Castiel/Crowley/Raphael part, but I always skip over those bits while watching. In the end Sam broke out of the coma to help Dean and Bobby, but that just ended up jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire when Castiel declared himself God. Basically, the Winchester story.
“Hello, Cruel World”
Why? Remember that jumping into the fire bit?Season Seven did not have much to choose from after the riches of season six, so I found myself again gravitating toward the Edlund script. After Castiel's so called demise (oh trench coat how we honor thee), it was another busy, fast paced and very tense episode. We didn’t know much about the Leviathan then. This was their introduction and a very promising way to kick off their story. Too bad it fizzled from there. But the main highlight here was going through a full blown Sam Winchester psychotic episode, meaning they didn't drop his arc from season six. I was impressed. His conversation with Dean and Bobby at the beginning, confessing he didn't know what was real, just killed me. Not only did we see what was happening to Sam on the inside, but eventually watching Dean pull him through at his most confused gave us one of the best brotherly scenes of the series. I still get weepy thinking about it.
I would have been happy with it ending there, but it all continued into another Edlund explosive cliffhanger that burned Bobby’s house down, who was nowhere to be found, and then Sam and Dean are attacked by one very menacing Edgar the Leviathan. Sam and Dean ended up badly beaten, helpless, and in an ambulance on the way to the local hospital overtaken by Leviathan. I was screaming!
Believe in that! Believe me, okay? You gotta believe me. You gotta make it stone number one and build on it. You understand?
Then, they did nothing with the next episode short of a quick Bobby Singer jailbreak out of the hospital and the season fell apart after that. I was so mad I wrote a fan fiction to give that ending the satisfying conclusion It deserved. I still love watching this episode though, if anything to imagine what could have been.
Coming up in part 2, seasons 8-14. The choices get a lot more challenging.
Can you pick just one episode to watch for these seasons? Give it a try and let us know your choices in the comments!