At over 260 episodes and counting, Supernatural
is an institution on The CW. There have been so many episodes that fans have seen Sam and Dean do almost anything that is remotely related to their mission of saving people and hunting things. While each season of Supernatural
has a contained story, the best and most inventive episodes have been the standalone "monster of the week" installments. There are so many to choose from but we've narrowed it down to seven of the very best.
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7. "Yellow Fever" - Season 4, Episode 6
More often than not a monster of the week episode is going to be just plain fun. Standalone installments earn their nickname of filler episodes for the very reason as they don't connect to the main mythology of the series or season. They just give fans more time with the characters they love. "Yellow Fever" is the quintessential example of a funny Supernatural episode. It's memorable and hilarious as Dean is afflicted with a disease that makes him scared of everything. "Yellow Fever" is not without its serious moments but it is mostly a fun and disposable romp of watching brave and stoic Dean literally be scared of his own shadow.
6. "LARP and the Real Girl" - Season 8, Episode 11
This another great funny episode of Supernatural. Sam and Dean team up with the wonderful and beloved Charlie (the second time ever) to fully submerge themselves in the world of Live Action Role Playing. There aren't many interesting twists and turns when it comes to the actual monster of the week. It's about as straightforward a monster murder mystery as you can find on Supernatural. The highlight though is Sam, and especially Dean, getting way too into the LARPing lifestyle. "LARP and the Real Girl" occurred in a very heavy season where a fun diversion was desperately needed but it still stands on his own as a enjoyable hour of Sam and Dean saving the world one person at a time.
5. "Changing Channels" - Season 5, Episode 8
"Changing Channels" might blur the line a little between monster of the week and mythology episode. Though it is very much a contained story it is the installment where it is revealed that The Trickster isn't just some magical scoundrel but the angel Gabriel. In "Changing Channels" Gabriel becomes a very big part of Sam and Dean's then-ongoing war with Lucifer. Despite that reveal, which happens near the end, "Changing Channels" is a terrific meta episode that only a show like Supernatural could create. It's weird, fun, inventive and uses its leads to great effect as they get stuck having to reenact various popular TV archetypes.
4. "The French Mistake" - Season 6, Episode 15
"The French Mistake" might be viewed as some as just a variation on "Changing Channels" but that does both episodes a disservice. "The French Mistake" might be the better meta episode of Supernatural but both are some of the best monster of the week episodes of the series. In "The French Mistake" the Winchesters are transported to "alternate reality" where they are no longer Sam and Dean but actors named Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki filming a show called Supernatural. It's a wild episode that has no business being as wonderful as it is and it manages to both spoof and lovingly honor the series and its devoted fandom.
3. "What Is and What Should Never Be" - Season 2, Episode 20
This is the point in the list where the standalone episodes are going to turn from being fun romps to emotionally heartbreaking tragedies. "What is and What Should Never Be" occurred early in the series run but it manages to have resonance throughout the show and almost transcends a regular Supernatural episode. Dean is trapped by a djinn and lives out a dream domestic existence where his parents never died, he never became a hunter and there a no monsters to kill. To break out of the spell Dean must give up this perfect life. Dean's process in coming to grips with reality is a heartbreaking exploration of grief and sacrifice. It might be a standalone episode but it gets to heart of who Dean Winchester is as a character.
2. "Baby" - Season 11, Episode 4
This episode is less about what is happening and more about how it happens. "Baby" doesn't break new ground when it comes to the monsters or the way Sam and Dean fight them. There are some fun headless vampire shenanigans but it is a pretty standard Supernatural plot. The thing that makes "Baby" so special is it takes place exclusively inside Dean and Sam's beloved Impala. The episode is one beautiful exploration of this one constant in Sam and Dean's crazy lives. "Baby" is proof that the car makes the show just as much as the two brothers.
1. "Mystery Spot" - Season 3, Episode 11
"Baby" is a wonderful tribute to the Impala but "Mystery Spot" is an episode that perfectly honors the love between Sam and Dean. "Mystery Spot" is a near-flawless standalone episode. It begins with a wacky and ridiculous premise as Dean and Sam are stuck in the same day, which resets every time Dean dies often (in very anticlimactic ways). Slowly the episode begins to morph into a very tragic story as Sam is forced to watch his brother die over and over again. Sam can do nothing to stop it and just has to suffer. It is the perfect demonstration of the bond between Sam and Dean, which is essential to the entire story of Supernatural. "Mystery Spot" is heartwarming, heartbreaking and hilarious all in the same hour.
So what do you make of this list? Did we miss any of your favorite standalone Supernatural episodes? Do you agree with these rankings? What would you change? What would you add?
(Images courtesy of The CW)