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The Very Best of Supernatural

Supernatural was just renewed for a fifteenth season. Which is insane. Even more disturbing is the fact that I've been reviewing this show for fourteen years, and it just... won't... end. Looking back over my earliest reviews, it's funny that I kept fretting about cancellation. Who knew? (Note from only a couple of months later: yes, it was just announced that fifteen will be the end.)

The 300th episode will air this Thursday, February 7, 2019. In observance of this major event, six Agents of Doux compiled lists of their favorite Supernatural episodes, and I tallied our choices and made a final top ten. Okay, eleven, because there was a tie in there, but it was really hard to bring it down to eleven, let me tell you. Our list of honorable mentions went from here and out the door.

So here they are. Please note that if you haven't seen all or most of the series, there will inevitably be spoilers. (Title links go to our review.)

11. "A Very Supernatural Christmas" (season 3, episode 8)

Christmas arrives smack dab in the middle of Dean’s last year on Earth, or so we believed at the time. Sam, knowing he will soon be left to carry on after his brother’s death, has no desire to celebrate which is at odds with Dean’s intention to collect as many happy memories as he can before the end.

This marks Supernatural’s first holiday episode with a marriage of gruesomeness, absurdity, and bittersweetness we'd already grown to love – from a blood-soaked Santa dragging a father up the chimney in front of his son, to bridge-playing pagan gods threatening Dean with the swear jar while preparing him and Sam for ritual sacrifice, all ending with the brother’s exchanging heartfelt gifts from a neighborhood Gas Mart as Baby looks on. The pièce de résistance – learning Dean’s amulet was a Christmas gift from a young Sam in unsaid acknowledgment that Dean was often more of a parent to Sam than John was. And no, I’m still not over Dean throwing it away. – Shari

10. "In the Beginning" (season 4, episode 3)

A remarkably funny but ultimately tragic tribute to Back to the Future, Dean is sent back in time by Castiel and interacts with his young parents. He discovers that his mother and grandparents were hunters, and that Mary essentially sold as-yet-unborn Sam's future to the Yellow-Eyed Demon in exchange for John's life.

"In the Beginning" is a perfect example of the attention the Supernatural writers pay to continuity and series mythology, since it explained Mary's actions in the pilot episode on the night that she died. Plus it features, in my opinion, one of the most touching moments in the entire series. It's when young Mary tells Dean, not knowing that he is her son, "You know the worst thing I can think of? The very worst thing? It's for my children to be raised into this, like I was." It choked me up when it first aired. It still does. – Billie Doux

9. "Baby" (season 11, episode 4)

The longevity of this series has allowed the writers to experiment and take chances, which often gives us exceptional episodes. This is one of them.

The Impala is home for the Winchesters, a legacy from their father. That car is not just in nearly every episode; it's also the setting of many of the most important brother scenes in the series. "Baby" gave us an entire episode from the car's point of view. I'm going to crib from my initial review: "This episode was such a love letter to the fans. It was the world of the Winchesters, but not what we usually see on the show. It was what happens in between and around what we usually see." The camera angles, the head in the cooler, the windshield wipers, the valet parking, Castiel on the cell phone, the brothers singing "Night Moves" together, it was different from all the others but a practically perfect episode. – Billie Doux

8. "Fan Fiction" (season 10, episode 5)

Supernatural's 100th episode ("Point of No Return") was good, but arc-plot heavy. Coming in the middle of a very serious storyline, it's dramatic and moves the plot along. But its 200th, "Fan Fiction," is a complete contrast and a sheer joy from start to finish. An episode centred around a girls' school putting on a musical they wrote themselves, based on the first five years of Supernatural, sounds like a terrible idea. And yet, writer Robbie Thompson makes it work. The episode also features great performances from the young actresses, but it's the numerous call backs in jokes and the way the episode revisits old favourites with a twist that make it one of the show's most re-watchable episodes. – Juliette

7. "Swan Song" (season 5, episode 22)

Endings are hard, as Chuck would say. You have to balance expectation with payoff, death and survival and a resolution that feels satisfying. For Supernatural, this was supposed to be it, the show's literal swan song, as planned out by Kripke. It was sad and painful. If this had been the ending, it would’ve left us with Dean trying to live on after losing his brother to spend eternity with the Devil in hell, and that’s pretty brutal. Of course, framing the story around Baby, and making the car one of the most important things in the universe, was perfect. The only reason we didn’t end with Sam in the box is because of season renewal, leaving us with more questions than answers. Including what happened to Chuck. – Samantha M. Quinn

6. Dark Side of the Moon (season 5, episode 16)

This episode has always been a huge favorite of mine. The opening scene where Dean and younger Sam set off fireworks to "Knock Knock Knocking on Heaven's Door" was so gorgeous that it gave me goosebumps.

How many shows would dare to send their two main characters to Heaven? And show that Heaven as somewhat creepy? What I found poignant was that the brothers' choice of happy memories mostly don't include each other. I've often thought that a perfect end to the series would be the two of them in a Heaven that finally included each other, with everything that ever divided them fully resolved. – Billie Doux

5. "Wishful Thinking" (season 4, episode 8)

Absolutely one of their best comical episodes, from the "deep woods Duchovny" line to the suicidal teddy bear. Although, of course, what makes funny Supernatural episodes work is that there is always an element of underlying seriousness or tragedy. Here, it was the acknowledgement that using magic to make someone love you is evil. This was also the episode where Dean told Sam the truth about his experiences in Hell. – Billie Doux

4. "Don't Call Me Shurley" (season 11, episode 20)

Supernatural has a warm heart and it's often hilarious, but it's not often happy. Usually, the joy of watching Supernatural comes at least partly from knowing that whatever's going on in your own life, Sam and Dean surely have it worse. But "Don't Call Me Shurley" is different. The ending of "Don't Call Me Shurley" is miraculous – and we mean that literally. The rest of the episode is a delight anyway, offering a witty back and forth between God and His Voice – and finally confirming what "Swan Song" had only suggested. But that ending, when, temporarily at least, we get a real miracle and a moment of salvation, is what makes this episode really special – eleven years of storytelling reaching a thrilling moment of clarity. – Juliette

3. "The Monster at the End of This Book" (season 4, episode 18)

Oh, how I love this one. "Monster" is the introduction to the meta episodes where the Winchesters discover that they are main characters in a series of novels called "Supernatural," written by hack writer Chuck Shurley. As I said in my write-up of "Baby," it's taking radical chances with the narrative while continuing to stick closely to the show's mythology that makes Supernatural special.

And wow, this episode is special. Clever and funny and full of geeky in-jokes (especially the boys' disgusted discovery of the existence of Winchester slash), there is also that foundation of tragedy that makes it all work. The brothers cannot escape their fate. It's in the Winchester Gospels. – Billie Doux

2. "Changing Channels" (season 5, episode 8)

Take a beloved character, mix in playful jabs at some of the most popular TV shows while both expanding the narrative and laying the fate of the world on the interpersonal relationship of our favorite brothers. No wonder it’s one of the show’s creator, Eric Kripke’s favorite episodes. We discover the Trickster we’ve grown to know and love is none other than the Archangel Gabriel, little brother to Michael and Lucifer. Now that the Winchesters have given Michael and Luci the Earth on which to wage their civil war, Gabriel is eager to see it end no matter the cost.

This doesn’t mean he can’t have fun doing it. Between the sitcom Supernatural’s opening credits, Dean fangirling over Dr. Sexy, Sam and the literal nutcracker, and the meta nod to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal of a ghost on certain Seattle based medical show that shall remain nameless, we are treated to a host of laugh out loud moments. My personal favorite was Sam’s less than ecstatic performance in a genital herpes commercial. – Shari


1. "Mystery Spot" (season 3, episode 11)

There’s something both twisted and poignant about watching Dean die again and again. Funny in a macabre way, for sure but also a touch tragic because in the Supernatural verse, those deaths were real. Well, real in that each was recorded, and each time he went to heaven briefly. No wonder Death finds Dean fascinating and frustrating.

Of course, it was really Sam’s episode, dealing with the pain of watching his brother die again and again, and the numbness that came with it was palpable. To this day, in season fourteen this episode has been referenced. Pretty good impact for a generally comedic episode. – Samantha M. Quinn

Conclusion (by Billie Doux)

Putting this list together made me want to rewatch the entire series, although with so many seasons, that's turned into a major commitment. You know, we could probably put together lists of our top ten best comic episodes, the ten most tragic, ten scariest, ten best angel episodes, ten best ghost episodes, and so on because with so many seasons, there's so much to choose from.

It's interesting that the Groundhog Day episode "Mystery Spot" turned out to be our number one, simply because most of us put it on our list. Is it yours? Is your favorite even on this list? Post it in the comments!
Billie Doux has been reviewing Supernatural for so long that Dean and Sam Winchester feel like old friends. Courageous, adventurous, gorgeous old friends.


HerDrakness said...

...I could do to ten seasons, maybe, but cutting it down to ten episodes is diabolically hard! Here's my top twenty instead:

What Is and What Should Never Be
A Very Supernatural Christmas
Mystery Spot
Jus in Bello
In The Beginning
Monster Movie
Wishful Thinking
Monster at the End of This Book
Changing Channels
The Song Remains The Same
Dark Side of the Moon
Weekend at Bobby's
The French Mistake
The Man Who Would Be King
Bad Boys
Fan Fiction

carolej126 said...

I'm still in love with the early years, and the two eps that I'll watch and rewatch are Faith and Home.

sunbunny said...

YES HerDrakness, Jus in Bello. It's my favorite episode and I'm still sad it didn't make Billie's top 10. I want to rewatch now. Is that crazy? It feels crazy. I haven't watched the show in years. Someone stop me, please.

Billie Doux said...

sunbunny, you should catch the 300th episode this Thursday. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is guest starring and it looks like it will be epic.

I did mention that we had a large number of not-enough-votes and honorable-mentions. I should have added them to the bottom of the article. They are:

Lazarus Rising
Devils Trap
Bad Day at Black Rock
What Is and What Should Never Be
It's a Terrible Life
The End
The French Mistake
Jus in Bello
The Benders
On the Head of a Pin
The Born-Again Identity
My Bloody Valentine
In My Time of Dying
Abandon All Hope
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
Hell House
All Hell Breaks Loose (both parts)
Monster Movie

televisionandotherrantings said...

Honestly shocked The French Mistake didn't make the final list but good choices regardless.

Recently Alana King posted a vid giving favourite episodes for each season of the show (minus 14 cause it ain't done yet). Here's the list I made for myself. It's actually pretty hard to narrow down favourites from each season, either because there are multiple or some episodes don't stand out as hard as others. Either way he's a not necessarily definitive selection:

Some of these are more definitive then others:
Season 1: Scarecrow
Season 2: All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1/2
Season 3: Mystery Spot
Season 4: The Monster at the End of This Book or Lucifer Rising
Season 5: Free to be You and Me or Changing Channels or The Real Ghostbusters
Season 6: The French Mistake
Season 7: Death's Door
Season 8: Hunteri Heroici
Season 9: Road Trip
Season 10: Fan Fiction
Season 11: Don't Call Me Shurley
Season 12: Regarding Dean or Who We Are/All Along the Watchtower
Season 13: Scoobynatural

But yeah there are just a bunch of other great episodes in the series to choose from. Here's to the 300th

Heather1 said...

Emotional, personal list. After the first three, the placings are arbitrary:

1. Fan Fiction (Perfection)
2. Lazarus Rising (Castiel!)
3. Mystery Spot (Sam Winchester cries during sex!)
4. The Monster at the End of This Book (Chuck!)
5. Changing Channels (Doctor Sexy)
6. Dark Side of the Moon (Knockin' on Heaven's Door)
7. The French Mistake (Hola Mishamigos)
8. Ghostfacers (Love at first geek)
9. Time After Time (You're a hunter)
10.Nihilism (I'm the cage)

Anonymous said...

I am a bit compulsive when it comes to making lists, but making a list of the 10 best episodes of SPN is impossible for me, although I do love the 11 episodes selected in the article. For now, I will only say that I have seen the 14 seasons always reading the reviews on this site, I doubt that the experience would be so satisfactory without it. Thanks Billie for the great experience! Love, Cecile

Billie Doux said...

Cecile, you're so welcome! And what great lists, everyone. My mistake was clearly trying to do ten. Thirty would have been about right.

Leah said...

Wait, no one likes Bugs?

(Kidding, kidding)

I only started watching Supernatural just over two years ago, but I think I marathoned it within four months. (And then a couple times since). And good lord, it is difficult to choose favourite episodes. You hit all of the ones that I loved too, so that helps. :)

Here are other favourites of mine:
Season 1: Faith; Salvation/Devil's Trap
Season 2: Tall Tales; What Is and What Should Never Be
Season 3: Bad Day at Black Rock; Jus in Bello; Ghostfacers
Season 4: Lazarus Rising; I Know What You Did Last Summer/Heaven and Hell; It's a Terrible Life
Season 5: Good God, Y'all; The End; Swan Song
Season 6: Clap Your Hands If You Believe...; Appointment in Samarra; The French Mistake
Season 7: Plucky Pennywhistle's Magical Menagerie; The Girl with the D&D Tattoo
Season 8: As Time Goes By; Pac-Man Fever
Season 9: Dog Dean Afternoon; Bad Boys
Season 10: Soul Survivor; About a Boy
Season 11: The Devil in the Details; Into the Mystic
Season 12: Regarding Dean; Who We Are
Season 13: The Scorpion and the Frog; Scoobynatural; Beat the Devil

Yeah, that's a lot. :) So far, I've really enjoyed season 14 too, looking forward to the rest of it!

Lisa said...

Love this! I have actually recently started re-watching the series again, which as you mentioned, is definitely a commitment now. There is no way for me to even pick my favorite episodes because there is just too many. But I have to tell you, no matter how long its been since my last re-watch, I always follow along and re-read your reviews when I watch the episodes again. Just as is watching Supernatural its become a tradition for me.

An Honest Fangirl said...

I have no idea how to bring this down to just 10 episodes. So then I was going to just pick my favorite episode from each season, and even that was impossible. So this might be a long list.

Season 1: The Benders; Bloody Mary; Provenance
Season 2: Heart; Croatoan; Nightshifter; Born Under a Bad Sign; Tall Tales; All Hell Breaks Loose 1/2 (so many great episodes in Season Two!)
Season 3: Mystery Spot; Ghostfacers
Season 4: On the Head of a Pin; It's a Terrible Life
Season 5: Changing Channels; Hammer of the Gods; Abandon All Hope; Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
Season 6: The Man Who Would Be King; Mommy Dearest; Caged Heat
Season 7: Slash Fiction; The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragon Tattoo; Death's Door
Season 8: LARP and the Real Girl
Season 9: #THINMAN; Do You Believe in Miracles?
Season 10: Fan Fiction; Halt & Catch Fire; Brother's Keeper
Season 11: Baby
Season 12: Who We Are; All Along the Watchtower
Season 13: Scoobynatural

magritte said...

I'll have a stab at them, season by season:

Season 1: Home, Devil's Trap
Season 2: Croatoan, Born Under a Bad Sign, Tall Tales, All Hell Breaks Loose
Season 3: A Very Supernatural Christmas
Season 4: In the Beginning, Metamophosis, I Know Waht You Did Last Summer, The Monster at the End of this Book
Season 5: Changing Channesl, Hammer of the Gods, Two Minutes to Midnight, Swan Song
Season 6: Weekend at Bobby's, The French Mistake
Season 7: The Girl With the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo
Season 8: What's Up Tiger Mommy
Seaon 9 I think i'm Going to Like it Here, King of the Damned
Season 10 Fan Fiction, Hibbing 911, Brother's Keepr
Season 11: Baby, O Brother Where Art Thou?
Season 12: Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox
Season 13: The Bad Place

Unknown said...

I love that Robbie Thompson had several on your list. You can't go wrong with any of those choices and what makes them unique is that even a viewer that had never seen Supernatural (gasp!) would enjoy and understand these episodes.