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!
#10 “No Rest for the Wicked”
Original Air Date: May 15, 2008
Written By: Eric Kripke
Summary: As Dean’s contract finally comes due, Sam teams up with Ruby (Katie Cassidy) in a last-ditch effort to save his brother’s life. The trio manages to track down evil demon leader Lilith, but things go horribly awry when Lilith takes possession of Ruby’s body. As Sam looks on, Dean is brutally killed by Hell Hounds. In the last shot of the episode, Dean wakes up and discovers that he’s chained up in the depths of Hell.
Why It’s On The List: Dean dies. After an entire season of build-up, “No Rest for the Wicked” easily could have been an anticlimactic finale. My worst fear was that series creator Eric Kripke would come up with some last minute miracle to save Dean’s life. Though Ruby alludes to the fact that Sam (Jared Padalecki) could easily destroy Lilith with his mental powers, no such thing happens in the episode. Sam is forced to look on helplessly while his brother is ripped to shreds. It’s certainly not the happiest hour of Supernatural ever, but it’s undeniably moving and powerful. The ending is also a complete jaw-dropper, which is essential for a great season-ender.
The shocking plot twists are great, but it’s the little moments that truly make an episode worthy of inclusion on our all-time top 10 list, and “No Rest for the Wicked” has some great ones. The most memorable tidbit has to be Sam and Dean singing along to Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” in the Impala. It’s a moment that manages to be both hilarious and emotional at the same time, and of course the song choice is spot-on. Any episode that finds Dean (Jensen Ackles) choosing hard rock over a touchy-feely conversation is one that deserves praise.
Ruby’s reference to Sam’s powers is also a great addition, and one that I’m sure will play out in season 4. The character wasn’t extremely popular with the fans, but I liked the alliance she built up with the boys and the dynamic she brought to the series. As sad as I was to see her taken over by Lilith, it was yet another chilling demonstration of how powerful the new demon leader is. Watching the little girl snap her grandpa’s neck just for kicks was creepy enough, but seeing her take over Ruby’s body was truly frightening. It’s one of the many disturbing moments in “No Rest for the Wicked” that helps to make it so unforgettable. By the end of the episode, it’s obvious that the Winchesters have never faced any demon as powerful as adorable little Lilith.
With three seasons and 60 episodes to choose from, it was unbelievably tough to finalize our top 10 list. “No Rest for the Wicked” makes it on for its perfect blend of interesting mythology and gut-wrenching emotional moments. Add in a few dashes of humor and the sort of horrific imagery that Supernatural does best, and you have an episode that’s an undeniable classic.
Come back tomorrow to find out which episode made it to number nine on our all-time top 10 list. We’ll be revealing one episode per day Monday through Friday, and will unveil what we consider to be the best Supernatural episode ever on September 12. Did your favorite make the cut? You’ll have to wait and see.
Original Air Date: September 13, 2005
Written By: Eric Kripke
Summary: In an opening flashback, we see the night Mary Winchester was killed by the Yellow-Eyed Demon 22 years earlier. In the present, Sam is preparing to interview with a prestigious law school and is settled down with his girlfriend, Jessica. His life is turned completely upside down when his brother, Dean, walks back into his life after a two-year absence. Dean needs Sam’s help tracking down their father, who’s disappeared with little explanation, but Sam is reluctant to get involved in the family demon-hunting business.
Why It’s On The List: The pilot is the most important episode of any television series. A successful first episode should introduce all the characters in a memorable fashion, set up the universe that the show takes place in, and give viewers some idea of what will be happening week to week. It also has to be compelling enough to draw people back for the second episode, otherwise, the series is doomed. The pilot of Supernatural does all of these things wonderfully. It explains the mythology, fills us in on the backgrounds of the two main characters, let’s us see the dynamic between the Winchester brothers, and creates an ongoing mystery while also introducing the monster of the week structure. It’s about as good as a pilot can get.
The reason the pilot isn’t higher on this all-time top 10 list is because, like all great shows, I believe Supernatural has topped its first episode numerous times over the years. It’d be rather depressing if Eric Kripke and his crew of writers had never achieved anything greater than the pilot after three seasons and 59 more episodes. The pilot is great, but there are better Supernatural episodes out there.
Just as I wrote yesterday when discussing “No Rest for the Wicked,” it’s the little moments that make an episode worthy of being considered one of the all-time best. Many of my favorite moments in the Supernatural pilot come courtesy of the great rapport between Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. I love the crazy kung-fu fight they have when Dean first sneaks into the house, followed by Dean pointing his Smurfs-loving gaze at Sam’s girlfriend. I love the moment when Sam mocks Dean’s cassette collection, only to be told to shut his cake hole as AC/DC’s “Back in Black” blares on the soundtrack. I love the shout-out to The X-Files, and the introduction of John Winchester’s journal. And, of course, I love the following exchange:
Sam: Hey Dean. . .what I said earlier, about mom and dad, I’m sorry. . .
Dean: No chick flick moments.
Sam: Alright. . .jerk.
It’s quick exchanges like the one above that make Supernatural the show we all know and love. That realistic banter between the brothers is the saving grace of every single episode. Even if the Winchesters are facing down a somewhat lame monster of the week, such as this episode’s Woman in White, the playful banter always makes up for it.
I’ve tuned into countless pilots that left me feeling completely cold and failed to instill me with a desire to return for more episodes. Even shows as great as Veronica Mars and The Wire had pilots that made me cringe. Supernatural avoids that pitfall with a first episode that’s actually equal to the best the show has to offer. That’s a rarity on television, and that’s why the Supernatural pilot is worthy of all the praise the fans have heaped upon it.
#8 “Bad Day at Black Rock”
Original Air Date: October 18, 2007
Written By: Ben Edlund
Summary: Sam and Dean discover that a mysterious rabbit’s foot has been stolen from their father’s storage facility outside of Buffalo. The cursed object brings great luck to whoever possesses it, but that luck turns bad the instant the owner loses the foot. The Winchesters think it’s their lucky day once Sam gets the rabbit’s foot back from some thieves, but after Bela (Lauren Cohan) steals it, Dean realizes he’ll have to track her down before his brother meets a grisly end.
Why It’s On The List: Episodes nine and ten on our list prove that Supernatural knows how to pull off tragedy. Both “No Rest for the Wicked” and the pilot ends with horrible deaths that leave Sam Winchester emotionally destroyed. As powerful as these episodes are, the thing that makes Supernatural such an amazing show is its ability to jump from genre to genre. Depending on the episode or specific scene, the series can be classified as a straight-up horror show, a touching character drama, a depressing tragedy, or a laugh-out-loud comedy. “Bad Day at Black Rock” is a perfect example of the latter. It’s Supernatural at its comedic best.
Jensen Ackles gets a chance to shine in many of our top 10 episodes, but while he’s great here it’s really Jared Padalecki who steals the show. In fact, this episode may contain Padalecki’s best performance to date. Whether he’s falling over a lamp, spilling coffee on himself, pouting over a lost shoe, defiantly scratching his nose, or catching his arm on fire, Jared is simply brilliant. Sam usually has to be the somewhat mopey, responsible character, so seeing him completely out of control and uncoordinated is a real treat.
As great as Padalecki is, Ben Edlund’s wonderful script gives the other characters awesome moments as well. Dean’s “I’m Batman” declaration after he expertly dispatches Gordon’s minions is hilarious, as are his attempts to win bundles of cash through scratch-off tickets. Gordon gets a few chilling moments while he’s stuck behind bars that help to set up his eventual face-off with the Winchesters. Even Bela, who most fans would grow to loathe, makes an effective, funny entrance into the series. The way she nonchalantly shoots Sam in the shoulder at the end of the episode is not only amusing, but it also says a lot about her character.
There are two other fantastic moments in “Bad Day at Black Rock” that I have to mention. The first comes at the beginning of the episode when Sam and Dean go to their father’s storage facility and find some items that John had kept from their childhoods. Sam finds his old soccer trophy, and Dean finds his first sawed-off shotgun. It’s a short scene, but it’s undeniably sweet and touching. The other moment that I love, simply for the how’d-they-get-this-past-the-network-censors factor, is when one of the thieves slips and lands neck first on a giant barbecue fork. It’s quite possibly one of the nastiest deaths ever featured on Supernatural, and that’s including the entirety of “Mystery Spot.”
There may be some Supernatural fans who protest the inclusion of “Bad Day at Black Rock” on our all-time top 10 list, either for the Bela factor or the fact that it’s a light, comedic episode. I think it’s worthy of inclusion for being a perfectly structured hour of hilarious television that gives each character a chance to shine. Supernatural is a great drama series that knows how to blindside us with tragic twists, but it can also be pretty damn funny at times. “Bad Day at Black Rock” proves it.
#7 “Mystery Spot”
Original Air Date: February 14, 2008
Written By: Jeremy Carver
Summary: Sam wakes up one Tuesday morning to the strains of Asia’s “Heat of the Moment,” and soon discovers that it’s the worst day of his life. After Dean dies from a shotgun blast to the chest, Sam finds himself reliving the same day over again. He tries to save Dean, but after his brother dies yet again he realizes that he’s stuck in a time loop with no end in sight.
Why It’s On The List: Organizing this top 10 list has been a bit hellish for me, mainly because I think every episode on it deserves to be at number one. I originally had a different episode in mind for the number seven slot, but after rewatching it I decided it was definitely top-five material. That means that “Mystery Spot,” which I could easily watch for a hundred Tuesdays in a row, had to be bumped down. It pains me to push one of my all-time favorites to number seven, but Supernatural simply has an abundance of amazing episodes. Just wait until you find out which ones I couldn’t fit into the top 10 at all.
I love the time loop episodes of both The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I knew “Mystery Spot” would be a favorite of mine before I even saw it. The thing I like most about it, aside from its mixture of hilarity and darkness, is the way it allows us to see the little moments of the brothers’ daily routine. Dean brushing his teeth and ordering a pig in a poke for breakfast doesn’t sound like it’d make for thrilling television, but thanks to the comedic brilliance of Jensen Ackles these average moments are a highlight of the episode. The time loop concept has been done numerous times, but Supernatural‘s take on it is classic thanks to these recurring bits.
Some of the great things we see over and over again include Dean’s hilarious “Heat of the Moment” lip-syncing, a dropped hot sauce bottle, a not-so-friendly dog, Dean’s impressive gargling abilities, and, of course, Dean’s death. Dean kicks the bucket in ways that are both horrific (hit by a speeding car) and hilarious (“Do these tacos taste funny to you?”), and his montage of deaths in the middle of the episode is one of my favorite Supernatural bits of all time. I love the way Kripke and the gang manage to make the deaths creative, grisly and completely unexpected every time.
The episode barrels along with lots of laughs for a good 25 minutes, but what makes “Mystery Spot” special is its surprising shift in tone toward the end. After the Trickster is outed and Sam wakes up to a beautiful Wednesday morning (while “Back in Time” by Huey Lewis and the News fittingly plays on the radio), Dean dies yet again. This death, which feels real and permanent to Sam, causes him to descend into darkness to the point where he eventually murders Trickster Bobby in cold blood. Jared Padalecki always kicks ass when he gets to play Dark Sam, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint here.
In my write up of “Bad Day at Black Rock” I mentioned that Supernatural‘s greatness lies in its ability to switch from humor to horror to tragedy with ease. “Mystery Spot” manages to mix all three of these things into one brilliant episode. A lot of the humor and horror comes from Dean’s many demises, but the tragedy is really piled on in the final scene, as we watch Sam come to the realization that his brother may not be with him for much longer. Any fan of the Winchesters has to get a little misty-eyed when Sam gives his brother a hug and tells him that he’s had far too many Tuesdays. Dean will never understand what Sam went through, but the younger Winchester will have to live with the memories forever.
Everything that I mentioned above makes “Mystery Spot” a classic, but it could have made it on the list for this exchange alone:
Dean (on getting hit by the car): Did it look cool, like in the movies?
Sam: You peed yourself.
Dean: Of course, I peed myself. Man gets hit by a car, you think he has full control over his bladder? Come on!
#6 “Born Under a Bad Sign”
Original Air Date: February 8, 2007
Written By: Cathryn Humphris
Summary: After Sam wakes up covered in someone else’s blood with no recollection of what happened, it’s up to Dean to get to the bottom of the mystery. The situation gets even more complicated when the boys find a demon hunter who’s been brutally murdered, along with a videotape that shows Sam as the killer.
Why It’s On The List: The brilliant thing about “Born Under a Bad Sign” is how it ends up in such a different place than where it begins. The opening of the episode, which finds a bloody Sam waking up with some sort of amnesia, is one of my favorite teasers in Supernatural history. It’s a Memento-style setup that could have gone in any number of predictable directions, but writer Cathryn Humphris adds a bevy of unexpected twists and turns. The first half of the episode finds Sammy feeling distressed and horrified over his actions, which is what we’d expect from him, but things really get exciting when we discover that Sam isn’t exactly his usual self.
Evil Sam is first revealed in the middle of the episode in a scene that I think is one of Supernatural‘s best. After Sam believes he’s beginning to turn toward his demonic destiny, he hands Dean a gun and begs for his brother to kill him. It’s an extremely emotional moment, not only because Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles totally sell it, but because we know that John warned Dean that such a day might come. It’s hard not to get emotional when Dean, who’s always been the one to follow all of his father’s orders, can’t bring himself to hurt his little brother. The scene then takes a completely unexpected turn when Sam pistol-whips Dean and knocks him out cold. It’s a jarring transition from a touching brotherly moment to a what-the-hell shocker, but it’s handled beautifully.
The episode really kicks into high gear once Evil Sam is revealed. Jared Padalecki is astonishingly good at being very, very bad. Watching Sam torment Jo, mock Dean, and attempt to murder Bobby is genuinely frightening. These scenes are effective not only because Jared delivers each of his lines with a devilish glee, but because we care so damn much about the character of Sam. Watching him do horrible things to the people he loves most is nearly unbearable.
As always, it’s the little moments that make the episode a classic. I can think of few things in the world more awesome than Bobby spiking Sam’s beer with holy water, and then telling him, “Don’t try to con a con man.” It’s also great to see Dean admitting that Justin Timberlake is quite the triple threat, though that’s not nearly as funny as the punch he delivers to Sam’s face after the Meg Demon is vanquished. I also like the final moment the boys share with Bobby. He obviously knows that Sam is responsible for the demon hunter’s murder, and though he seems unsettled by it he’s still willing to keep the secret. It’s a heartfelt moment that shows just how close Bobby is to the Winchester boys.
“Born Under a Bad Sign” is special for so many reasons. It’s dark, it’s frightening, it has some great brotherly moments, and it allows Jared Padalecki to let loose and take his character in a completely new direction. It’s also essential for giving us an idea of what Sam could become if he ever turns completely evil. Not only would he be violent, cruel and misogynistic, but he’d also listen to a lot of Bon Jovi. How scary is that?
Come back next week as we countdown the top 5 Supernatural episodes of all time!
#5 “A Very Supernatural Christmas”
Original Air Date: December 13, 2007
Written By: Jeremy Carver
Summary: In a special Christmas-themed episode, Sam and Dean investigate a rash of killings that may be the work of Santa’s evil brother. Meanwhile, flashbacks to the boys’ youth fill us in on how Dean got his necklace and why Sam doesn’t like to celebrate Christmas.
Why It’s On The List: There are few television shows aside from Friday Night Lights that can make me misty-eyed, but “A Very Supernatural Christmas” leaves me incredibly moved every time I watch it. It’s really the last five minutes of the episode that slaughter my emotions and get the tear ducts to open up. In the final flashback to 1991, Dean tells Sam that their dad stopped by and dropped some presents off, but Dean soon admits that he stole the presents from a neighbor in an attempt to give Sammy a normal Christmas. After Sam gives Dean the necklace that he still wears 16 years later, we cut to the boys in the present day swapping gifts again. Dean (Jensen Ackles) gives Sam some skin mags and shaving cream, Sam gives Dean motor oil and a candy bar, and I weep like a baby as Sam fails to tell Dean that he loves him. It’s one of my favorite brotherly bonding moments in the entire series, and for that alone this episode deserves to be in the top 10.
The touching bonding moments appeal to my emotional side, but the monster of the week Jeremy Carver cooked up for this episode appeals to my demented side. I love it when Supernatural gets dark and grisly, and “A Very Supernatural Christmas” is so twisted that it probably would have given me nightmares for life had I watched it as a child. The idea of an Evil Santa is a clever one that actually has a place in real mythology, and though the episode ultimately doesn’t go that route, the Pagan Gods it introduces are equally creepy. With their Ozzie and Harriet demeanor and their penchant for ripping out teeth and fingernails, the peppy duo of ancient gods responsible for the murders are quite cringe-inducing.
In addition to the emotional ending and the nasty villains, there are plenty of other moments that make “A Very Supernatural Christmas” special. I like that Dean doesn’t have any knowledge of Dick Van Dyke’s performance in Mary Poppins, not only because it makes for a funny throwaway line, but because it underscores the fact that Dean didn’t have a normal childhood. I love it when the boys break into the trailer of the Evil Santa, find him with a bong and some booze, then bust out into “Silent Night” before he can call the cops. It cracks me up to see Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean posing as a wreath-loving couple to get more information about the creepy Pagan decorations, and I also laugh every time Dean curses using the word “fudge.” For such a dark episode, it has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments that help ease the tension.
While the highlight of the flashbacks is the revelation of how Dean got his necklace, every scene featuring the younger Winchesters is golden. Ridge Canipe makes for a fantastic little Dean, and I especially like the scene where he tells Sammy that monsters are real and Santa Claus doesn’t exist. It feels like that moment changed the course of Sam’s life, and it’s rather poignant that John Winchester wasn’t there to see it.
Holiday-themed episodes aren’t easy to pull off for most TV shows. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files came up with some classics, and I’d easily rank “A Very Supernatural Christmas” among them. It’s not just a great Christmas episode, but a great installment of Supernatural all around. Jeremy Carver and the gang truly pulled off the impossible. They created a holiday-themed episode that’s one of the show’s best, and they also made me cry in the process. Talk about a Christmas miracle.
Original Air Date: November 15, 2005
Written By: Eric Kripke
Summary: Sam has a vision that the new owners of the Winchesters’ childhood home are in great danger. The boys travel back to Lawrence, Kansas for the first time in years, hoping to get some answers about the mysterious force that killed their mother. Upon arrival, they team up with a sassy psychic to face the evil that haunts their old house.
Why It’s On The List: I truly love the first few episodes of Supernatural, with the exception of “Dead in the Water,” which I find mind-numbingly dull for reasons beyond my comprehension. If we ever make a list of the 10 worst Supernatural episodes, that one is going on top for me. That aside, the episodes that kick off the first season are wonderfully creepy and very entertaining. They do a great job at establishing the universe and tone for the series, but I have to admit that I wasn’t a lifelong Supernatural addict until “Home” aired on November 15 of 2005. It’s the episode that really tipped me off to all the greatness to come, and I’ve been insane about the show ever since.
I actually remember the exact moment I knew I was hooked. It wasn’t a brotherly bonding scene, or the appearance of John Winchester, or Dean getting choked up when he calls his dad for help. As wonderful as those moments are, the scene that hooked me is the one where an unlucky plumber gets his hand chewed up inside a garbage disposal. I’ve been a huge horror fan for my entire life, and I’ve seen numerous scenes where someone sticks their hand inside a disposal only to pull it out at the last possible minute. Such a scene is often used to build false tension, and I expected the same boring trope when the situation played out on Supernatural. However, Kripke and company actually had the guts to turn the disposal on, and the results were a grisly delight. It’s possible that finding joy in such a thing makes me a disturbed individual, but I love it when a show has the smarts to defy my expectations and turn an old cliché on its head.
Of course, a simple garbage disposal trick wouldn’t be enough for this episode to make the top 10, so it’s a good thing it has a lot more going for it. “Home” feels like the episode that truly kick-started the Supernatural mythology. We have Sam explaining his visions to Dean (Jensen Ackles), appearances by John and Mary Winchester, and a trip back to the location where the entire series started. We also have the introduction of Missouri Moseley, played by the awesome Loretta Devine, who is a character I truly love. I long for her to come back and pull her Zelda Rubinstein shtick yet again, but I’m not sure such a thing will ever happen.
The episode has horror and a good dose of mythology, but it’s the emotion at its core that truly makes it a classic. It’s impossible to forget Dean’s impassioned message to his missing father, and John’s obvious pain at the end about his inability to contact his sons. You’re not sure if you want to slap John Winchester or hug him, and that’s partially due to Jeffrey Dean Morgan‘s great performance. He only makes a minor appearance here, but it’s still unforgettable. I also love the appearance of Mary Winchester, who proves her love for her sons by kicking the ass of a malevolent poltergeist. Her simple “I’m sorry” to Sam (Jared Padalecki) speaks volumes.
I’m betting that every Supernatural fan could point out the exact moment they knew they were hooked on the series. I’d actually like to hear your own personal garbage disposal epiphanies below. Whatever your reason for loving the show, there’s no denying that “Home” has everything that a Supernatural addict could ask for. Well, everything except gratuitous nudity, of course. That’s what “Hell House” is for.
#3 “What Is and What Should Never Be”
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:
Sam: What are you calling me a bitch for?
Dean: You’re supposed to say “jerk.”
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.
#2 “In My Time of Dying”
Original Air Date: September 28, 2006
Written By: Eric Kripke
Summary: In the second season premiere, Dean wakes up in the hospital after the car crash and discovers that he’s left his comatose body. As Dean struggles to inform his family that he’s wandering around as a spirit, Sam (Jared Padalecki) does everything he can to help his brother. In the end, John makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his son’s life.
Why It’s On The List: I nearly drove myself crazy trying to decide whether I should put this episode or “Devil’s Trap” in the number two spot. I hemmed, I hawed, I changed my mind about a hundred times, and finally, I decided to rewatch both episodes and go with my gut. My gut pointed me toward “In My Time of Dying.” I love “Devil’s Trap” and think that it’s an action-packed, thrilling capper to Supernatural‘s first season, and it also ends with a jump-off-your-couch-and-scream-at-the-TV cliffhanger. However, “In My Time of Dying” is more emotionally powerful and features the final living appearance of John Winchester. It had to make the list in the end.
Believe it or not, John Winchester is a rather divisive character. I find him completely fascinating, but I have some friends who watch Supernatural who never warmed up to him or understood his motivations for keeping important information from his children. Even if you’re not a huge fan of Poppa Winchester, I think it’s impossible not to be moved by the final ten minutes of this episode. John certainly did a lot of things to piss his sons off over the years, but his willingness to sacrifice his soul to the Yellow-Eyed Demon in exchange for Dean’s life proves that he truly loved his boys. John’s final speech to Dean, where he finally tells his son that he’s proud of him, is one hell of a tear-jerker, and both Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jensen Ackles knock that scene out of the park.
In addition to John’s sacrifice, there are plenty of other moments that make “In My Time of Dying” a classic. Dean’s attempt to bargain his way out of death is extremely moving, especially when he insists that his family needs him in order to win the war against the demons. It’s rare that we see Dean legitimately frightened of anything, and the chance to see Jensen get teary-eyed is always welcome. I also love Sam’s attempt to contact Dean through a “Mystical Talking Board” — because Ouija is a trademark and all — and Dean’s line about feeling like he’s at a slumber party. Of course, even that great line can’t compare to Dean exclaiming, “I full-on Swayze-d that mother” after he shatters a glass.
I love the episodes of Supernatural that are action-packed, creepy, hilarious, and horrifying, but overall I watch the show for the emotion. I watch for the brotherly bonding and the complicated inner demons the Winchesters wrestle with on a weekly basis. “In My Time of Dying” may not have a ton of action or an oozing monster of the week, but it has some of the most touching moments we’ve ever seen between the Winchesters. If that doesn’t bring a tear to the eye, then surely the sight of the crushed-up Impala is enough to make anyone openly weep.
#1 “All Hell Breaks Loose”
Part 1 Original Air Date: May 10, 2007
Part 2 Original Air Date: May 17, 2007
Part 1 Written By: Sera Gamble
Part 2 Written By: Eric Kripke
Summary: In the second season finale, Sam wakes up in a ghost town with others who have special abilities, only to discover that the Yellow-Eyed Demon expects them to fight to the death. After Sam is killed by Jake, Dean makes a pact with the Crossroads Demon to resurrect him. The brothers then team up with Bobby and Ellen to stop Jake from opening a portal to Hell.
Why It’s On The List: We’ve finally reached the end of our Supernatural all-time top 10 list, and yes, I’m totally cheating with this last entry. “All Hell Breaks Loose” consists of two different episodes from two different writers that aired on two different nights. Shoving them both into the number one slot is technically against the rules, but since I invented the rules I’m allowed to bend them as I please. Even if they are separate episodes, I find the two halves of “All Hell Breaks Loose” to be inexorably linked together. This is the only two-parter in Supernatural history, and in my opinion, it contains everything that makes the show one of the best things on television.
The thing I like about “All Hell Breaks Loose” is the way it closes the door on the first two seasons of Supernatural and paves the way for the future. There are a lot of big changes to the show’s universe in these two episodes. A few of the big events include the Yellow-Eyed Demon being vanquished, the special kids being killed off, John Winchester clawing his way out of Hell, and the Roadhouse burning to the ground with Ash inside. Of course, it also leaves us with some very important questions, including how Mary knew Azazel, what will come of Dean’s deal, and what it means that Sam has demon blood inside him. The season 2 finale takes Supernatural in a new direction, but it also leaves us with a few questions about what happened on the fateful night Mary died.
In my write-up of “In My Time of Dying,” I mentioned that I chose it over “Devil’s Trap” because the former was more emotional and the latter was more like an action movie. “All Hell Breaks Loose” is a great mixture of both, and it even has a good dose of horror to boot. The entire setup of Sam waking up in a ghost town where people are getting picked off one by one would work in any horror movie, and the emotion kicks in the instant Sam is stabbed in the back by Jake. As Sam slowly dies in Dean’s arms while Dean promises him everything will be okay, it’s impossible not to feel punched in the gut. Sure, you know the show isn’t going to kill Sam off, but Jensen Ackles makes Dean’s grief seem entirely real.
The action-packed portion of “All Hell Breaks Loose” is the second half, which kicks off with a recap set to “Carry On My Wayward Son” and doesn’t let up from there. The final confrontation with Azazel in the graveyard is stunning, and it’s easily one of the biggest set-pieces Supernatural has ever done. We get to see hundreds of demons escaping Hell, a silent Ghost John helping out the boys, Sam turning to the dark side by killing Jake, and Dean putting a Colt bullet right in ol’ yellow eyes. “That was for our mom, you son of a bitch,” he spits out afterward. It’s a cheer-worthy moment that was a long time coming, though I’ll forever miss Fredric Lehne’s awesome performance as Azazel.
“All Hell Breaks Loose” also contains a nice balance between fantastic Sam moments and great Dean moments, which means that fans of both Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles have plenty to enjoy. The first part of the finale is almost entirely devoted to Sam, and it’s a treat to watch him step into a leadership role in the ghost town. Part two is Dean’s chance to shine, and perhaps his best scene is the speech he gives to Dead Sam about how he feels he’s failed him as a brother. “I had one job, and I screwed it up,” Dean tells him. The character’s self-loathing really comes into play in part two, and Jensen completely sells it.
It’s easy to heap praise on Jensen and Jared, but let’s not forget how wonderful Jim Beaver is in these episodes. The look on his face when he sees that Sam has come back to life is perfect, but his emotional chastising of Dean in the junkyard is even better. Bobby makes a good point about the Winchesters always rushing to sacrifice themselves, and it’s tempting to root for him to give Dean a good slap.
The best part about counting down these episodes has been reading all the comments from the Supernatural fans. No one has agreed with everything I’ve put on this list. Some people think the episodes should be rearranged, others think the list is missing some of the show’s greatest installments, and some people think there are unworthy episodes on here. The fact that this list is so debatable is a testament to how many great Supernatural episodes there are. In the end, this all-time top 10 list is just my opinion, and I urge you to comment below with your own top 10 lists.
This marks the end of our countdown of the 10 greatest Supernatural episodes of all time, and I’m already afraid the list will seem dated within a week. You see, I’ve been lucky enough to screen this Thursday’s season 4 premiere, “Lazarus Rising,” in advance. I’ll write more about my reaction to the episode on Monday, but trust me, it’s worthy of a spot on this list.
– Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of the CW)