Top 10 'Supernatural' Episodes of All Time: #3 "What Is and What Should Never Be"
Top 10 'Supernatural' Episodes of All Time: #3 "What Is and What Should Never Be"
Every weekday through September 12 BuddyTV is counting down the 10 best Supernatural episodes of all time.  Come back every day as we unveil the list, and see if your favorite episode made the cut!

Original Air Date: 
May 3, 2007

Written By:  Raelle Tucker

Summary:  After being attacked by a Djinn, Dean wakes up in a world where his greatest wish has come true: His mother is alive.  While Dean adjusts to Mary's presence, he also learns that he works in a garage, has a hot girlfriend, and doesn't get along with Sam (Jared Padalecki).  When he discovers that Sam is engaged to Jessica and has a fulfilling life attending law school, Dean struggles to decide if he wants to go back to reality.

Why It's On The List:  "What Is and What Should Never Be" is easily one of the most emotional Supernatural episodes of all time.  I may shed a tear or two while watching the end of "A Very Supernatural Christmas," but even that doesn't get to me nearly as much as Dean's struggle in this installment.  The question at the heart of the episode is simple: If you had the chance to live in a world where you and your family were perfectly happy, would you give it up?  This is something Dean has to wrestle with while facing his fantasy life, and he finally finds his answer when he visits his father's grave.  That's when Jensen Ackles gets the chance to knock this fantastic little monologue out of the park:

"I know what you'd say. . .'Go hunt the Djinn.  It put you here, it could put you back.  Your happiness for all those peoples' lives?  No contest.'  Right?  But why?  Why is it my job to save these people?  Why do I have to be some kind of hero?  What about us, huh?  What, Mom's not supposed to live her life?  Sammy's not supposed to get married?  Why do we have to sacrifice everything, Dad?"

It's in that moment that Dean realizes he's destined to be a hero, whether he likes it or not.  The earlier scene where he discovers that all the supernatural incidents he's prevented in reality have led to numerous deaths in the Djinn world is also brilliant.  It not only references past episodes that only longtime Supernatural fans would remember, but it's also a clever twist that gives Dean the determination he needs to wake up.  Are the lives of the random people the boys saved throughout the first two seasons more important than the lives of the Winchesters themselves?  Most people would say no, but the fact that Dean has the selflessness to see the bigger picture is what makes him a hero.

The episode is filled with great moments like the ones mentioned above.  Simply seeing Mary and Jessica back on screen is amazing, and wouldn't have had nearly as much impact had this episode aired earlier in the show's run.  We needed time to truly miss those characters before we could be moved by their return.  Dean's reaction the first time he sees his mother is extremely powerful, as is the scene near the end where his family tries to convince him that the Djinn world is better than reality.  I also love seeing how distant the Winchester brothers are in this alternate universe.  Without their mother dying and their father disappearing, they simply never had a reason to bond.  The awkwardness between the brothers leads to the following dialogue exchange, which not only echoes a scene from the pilot, but is simply one of the funniest moments in Supernatural history:

Dean: Bitch.
Sam:  What are you calling me a bitch for?
Dean: You're supposed to say "jerk."
Sam:  What?
Dean: Never mind.

This episode is also notable for being the one installment of the series directed by creator Eric Kripke, at least within the first three seasons.  Not only does Kripke callback to the pilot with the exchange above, but he also re-stages the brotherly brawl from the first episode.  It's little throwbacks like this that truly make "What Is and What Should Never Be" unforgettable.

I'll reveal right now that the final two episodes in our top 10 list are heavily steeped in Supernatural's mythology.  They're impossible to appreciate without a deep knowledge of the show.  "What Is and What Should Never Be" is different.  It's more of a standalone installment that can be appreciated by anyone with a passing knowledge of the series.  It can be embraced by anyone who enjoys clever writing, great acting, or a shirtless Jensen Ackles.  As a standalone episode, it's the best that Supernatural has ever pulled off.

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- Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of the CW)

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