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10 Years Later: Supernatural's Best Episodes, Decided by Season

Posted by Arni Bergsson on

In the fall of 2005, The WB was preparing to enter its final year in existence with a lineup that included new comedies Twins, Misconceptions, and Modern Men, and the hour-long series Just Legal, Pepper Dennis, Related, and Bedford Diaries. Bringing up the rear was a little horror-drama starring two young, good-looking WB alums called Supernatural. Ten years later, the rest of The WB's 2005 line-up barely registers as a blip on the timeline of TV history. None of the shows that premiered that year alongside the Winchesters made the jump to The CW when UPN merged with The WB the following year, and the shows that did make the jump, like Gilmore GirlsEverwoodSmallville, and even One Tree Hill, have long since wrapped up their runs. But sure as Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On" is still one of the greatest songs ever written, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles are still saving people and hunting things every week on The CW. 

In honor of Supernatural 10th anniversary today, Sunday, September 13, 2015, we're celebrating this monumental achievement by pooling our resources and selecting the best episode from each of the show's 10 seasons. And in no way did we choose these episodes by getting drunk and blindly throwing darts at a wall or arm wrestling between rounds of karaoke. Nope, the following episodes were very carefully chosen via super scientific means so secret and scientific that we can't even tell you about them. So without further ado, here are the 10 best episodes of Supernatural by season.

 

SEASON 1: "Faith" 

Not only did "Faith" deliver a young Julie Benz as the episode's damsel in distress, but it went after the topics of death, religion, and, yep, faith while telling a sinister story about a tent preacher who could "heal" the sick through the power of God. Well, sort of. The power actually came from a Reaper, one of Supernatural's scariest monsters, who sapped the life out of someone else to heal the sick. "Faith" also gave us one ofSupernatural's best music-driven sequences, a woodland chase perfectly on-the-nose set to "Don't Fear the Reaper." If we had doubts about Supernatural as a viable series going into "Faith," we were staunch believers after. —Tim Surette

Honorable mention: "The Benders"

SEASON 2: "What Is and What Never Should Be"

When Dean was captured by a Djinn, his mind was thrown into an elaborate fantasy world where Sam was the golden boy with his Stanford scholarship and fiancée, not-dead-Jess, Dean was a womanizing mechanic and—here's the big one—Mary Winchester was alive and well and looking swell, having never roasted on the ceiling of darling Sammy's nursery. The trade-off for this perfect world—other than, you know, dying all trussed up in one of Supernatural's standard warehouse sets—was that John Winchester was still dead, Dean was kind of the family screw up (this was before Dean actuallybecame the family screw up) and having grown up with normal, healthy social lives, Sam and Dean avoided the psychotic, irrational, and erotic codependency that had already come to define their relationship—and we can't have that, now can we? 

In the end, Dean figured out that his happy little stab at normalcy was never meant to be (the first of so so so many similar lessons over the years) and returned to bleak reality. After 10 seasons, "the apple pie life" has been built up to mythic, unattainable heights for Dean and Sam and they've all but written their chances for civilian life off; but in Season 2, the full extent of Winchester misery had yet to be revealed. This is an episode that could have never worked in later seasons, when the Winchesters are made aware of exactly why they were thrust into their miserable, violent, and lonely lives. As an early Supernatural classic, however, "What Is and What Never Should Be" already knew these characters so well that their fundamental traits were already set. Isn't it sadly indicative of where Dean was headed that even in his "perfect world," he's the underachieving brother with the implied drinking problem? —MaryAnn Sleasman

 

SEASON 3: "Mystery Spot"

The race between Sam and Dean to see who can die more often is a blowout thanks to Dean's many expirations in this hilarious and touching series classic. The Trickster threw Sam for a loop in "Mystery Spot" by having him repeatedly relive a Tuesday in which Dean died... and died and died and died in varying morbidly comic ways. Slipping in the shower, getting crushed by a piano, asphyxiation by tube meat, and my favorite, "Do these tacos taste funny to you?" Deaths aside, "Mystery Spot" showed us a life that we never ever want to see, and that's one where one of the Winchester brothers doesn't make it. Sam was horrified by the idea, and he definitely wasn't the only one. — Tim

Honorable mention: "A Very Supernatural Christmas"

 

SEASON 4: "Yellow Fever"


By the time "Yellow Fever" rolled around in Season 4, Supernatural was a well-oiled machine, having figured out that it could feature a stand-alone story that was all together funny, scary, and dramatic, while still having an emotional impact on the brothers and the viewers. "Yellow Fever" blended the show's signature humor with the more serious lingering issues of Dean's time in hell between Seasons 3 and 4, and the mixture of the laughter and the darkness is what launched this episode into the realm of all-time series greats. In it, Dean was infected with "ghost sickness," an illness that heightened the anxiety of its victims before evolving into total terror, at which point the victim's heart would give out. It will never not be hysterically funny to see Dean, a man who's hunted monsters and demons without hesitation his entire life, screaming at the top of his lungs because he's afraid of a cat, but the underlying issues of the sickness—it affected people who'd used fear as a weapon to intimidate others (they were dicks, as Sam so expertly put it)—is the kind of deeper commentary on the brothers and their lives as hunters that the show has done so well over the years. It's no secret that Dean was and is kind of a dick in his regular life, but it was actually what he did while he was in hell that made it so much worse.— Kaitlin

Honorable mentions: "The Monster At the End of This Book" and "After School Special"

 

SEASON 5: "Changing Channels"

All we have to say about this amazing hour is: "Town to town, two-lane roads. Family biz, two hunting bros. Living the lie, just to get by. As long as we're movin' forward, there's nothing we can't do! Together we'll face the day, you and I won't run away. When demons come out to play, together we'll face the day!" 

Okay, we'll say a bit more: "Changing Channels" was another insta-classic that saw the return of the Trickster when he forced Sam and Dean into different TV genres, including a Japanese game show, a ridiculous sitcom, and a hospital drama known as Dr. Sexy M.D. It was everything we ever wanted and more. — Tim

Honorable mentions: "Swan Song"

 

SEASON 6: "The French Mistake"

It's not a coincidence that many of the episodes on this list are some of the funniest, wildest, and most ridiculously creative episodes Supernatural has ever done, and "The French Mistake" was all of that rolled into one. A true fan favorite, this episode completely destroyed the fourth wall rather than just poke fun at being meta (lookin' at you Carver Edlund, the Supernatural books, the Supernatural convention, etc.) and saw Sam and Dean transported to an alternate reality where magic and the supernatural didn't exist and they were just actors named Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles who co-starred on a TV show called Supernatural. Mischa Collins, who was most definitely NOT Castiel, tweeted a lot before he was killed, Sam and Dean were horrible actors ("We need to get all three of that crap"), and Sam made fun of Jensen for having starred on Days of Our Lives. Very few shows could have pulled off an idea this crazy without making it feel like a stunt, but Supernatural's dedication to finding new ways to go above and beyond meant it was exactly the type of crazy adventure fans had come to expect from the show.

Honorable mention: "The Man Who Knew Too Much"

 

SEASON 7: "Death's Door" 


Supernatural has made death about as routine as a flu shot and slightly less painful. In the middle of a mucky, sucky storyline about the laughably CGI'd Leviathan, our beloved Bobby Singer took a bullet to the head and lived long enough to make it to the hospital and initiate Supernatural's angst protocol. Up until the series revived Bobby as Dean Winchester's fairy ghost-father (UGH) and then as their conveniently placed heavenly 007, "Death's Door" stood as the finest death Supernatural ever squandered. I still stand by the opinion that if they didn't want to remove Bobby from the equation, then the writers shouldn't have killed him off, but all of the awful post-death bullshit aside, "Death's Door" is still a love letter to Sam and Dean's curmudgeonly father figure. 

As Sam and Dean loitered at rock bottom in the waiting room, Bobby's reaper took him on a magical mystery tour through the best and worst memories of his life: trapped in an abusive home life, a pre-teen Bobby shot his father to save his mother from a beating; on the other end of the spectrum, we got confirmation of what we had long suspected—that Bobby Singer was a better father to Dean and Sam than John ever was and pretty much every good memory in his life revolved around doing mundane non-hunter stuff with "his boys." I'm fine, I'm just gonna binge drink kool-aide until a diabetic coma lets me forget this final scene for a little while. — MaryAnn

Honorable mention: "Plucky Pennywhistle's Magical Menagerie" 

 

SEASON 8: "As Time Goes By"

Supernatural introduced Sam and Dean's maternal family early on in its run when Dean was transported back in time and discovered that the family business was actually a Campbell thing and not a Winchester thing. The Winchester lineage remained a mystery until Season 8, when "As Time Goes By" introduced the boys to their paternal grandfather, Henry Winchester, who had traveled through time to escape Abaddon. The episode revealed the Winchesters were legacies in a society known as the Men of Letters, men and women who worked with Hunters (many of whom they believed to be below them) largely through the use of magic and research and chronicling history. They didn't like to get their hands too dirty, basically. Henry's appearance—and death—in the present day explained why John thought his father had run out on him as a child, while the Men of Letters mythology opened up new doors and sparked a creative resurgence for the series, which had been wandering aimlessly without a bigger, grander destination in my mind for quite some time. The Men of Letters headquarters also gave Sam and Dean their first real home and a place to call their own, which is pretty damn emotional when you think about it. Shut up, you're the one crying. — Kaitlin

 

SEASON 9: "Bad Boys" 

You know how Sam is so selfish for going to Stanford and abandoning the family and only thinking about what he wanted and anything else he's been fed over the years to turn him into the suicidal emotional mess he is today? Turns out, once upon a time, Dean got shuffled off to a juvie home for wayward boys and it was totally one of the best experiences of his life. He had a steady girlfriend and a mentor who taught him that it was okay to think about himself sometimes. Looking out for Sammy's fine, but there's nothing wrong with looking out for Dean either. We all know that Dean ultimately turned his back on these lessons (hello, Mr. Martyr!) but knowing the exact circumstances of Dean returning to John and Sam when he had an out he was seriously considering taking casts the resentment about Sam's "abandonment" and Dean's insane standards of conduct for himself and others in a completely different light. Dean rejected his chance to get out of the hunting life because he just loved his family so much (or couldn't overcome the indoctrination, but whatever) and years later, when Sam practically gnawed his own moose-leg off to go to Stanford—after an adolescence full of repeated attempts to run away—it's no wonder Stanford is still betrayal numero uno on Dean's list. — MaryAnn

 

SEASON 10: "Fan Fiction"

A straight-up love letter to the show's longtime fans, Supernatural's 200th episode featured a musical adaptation of the Supernatural books about Sam and Dean's lives by some of their biggest fans: high school girls. What could have been an offensive mess—the show's treatment of fangirls hasn't always landed with grace, despite good intentions—was actually a sweet tribute to all the people who've tuned in to watch the man angst, bromance, classic rock songs, and on the road shenanigans of Sam and Dean over the years. Featuring songs like "A Single Man Tear," "The Road So Far," and the most beautiful version of "Carry On Wayward Son" the world has ever heard outside of TV.com's weekly karaoke night, it was a celebration of everything Supernatural. Chuck's reappearance and the stronger than ever implication that he was actually God was just the icing on the delicious, emotional cake. — Kaitlin

Do you agree? What episodes would you have chosen? And what are your favorite Supernatural moments from the last 10 years?


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