From Route 666 to The Apocalypse: Ranking the episodes of Supernatural, Episodes 99-85

Throughout its six years on the air, Supernatural has had a substantial amount of good-to-great episodes, which made this list difficult to compile. However, like any long-running series, Supernatural has aired its fair share of missteps, problem children and downright horrible episodes. These things happen. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing all the series’ episodes, albeit briefly, in list form. From #126 all the way to #1. Remember, this list was made with my personal biases, tastes and thoughts in mind. I like to think about television more critically than the quote-unquote “general viewer,” but when it comes to something like Supernatural, I’m also a massive fan. I like certain characters, plotlines and seasons more than others, and I’m certain my list will reflect that. If you disagree, feel free to tell me why, but I’m certainly not presenting this list with some sort of scientific formula. This is how I see the series and these episodes, that’s all.

You can find all the entries in this list right here

Sorry for the delay folks, it’s been a hectic week or so for me. No more seven-episode entries, I promise. Anyway, let’s get to it, we’re inside the top 100 today. As with the last batch of episodes, I really like all of these. Doing this list has taught me one thing: I really, really love Supernatural. Only the episodes in the very bottom of the list really tick me off with their stupidity or misguided quality. Thus, it was tremendously difficult to make this list from about this point forward. Just know that there is very little distance between episodes in the high ’90s and those in the low ’80s, or even further on in the list. These are the things that happen when you take on something like this.

99. “Let It Bleed” (S6): It was nice of the series to try to keep the Lisa/Ben thread going all season, as it was an initially compelling wrinkle to Dean’s character and the whole world of the series. Unfortunately, by the time “Mannequin 3: The Reckoning” graced us with its presence, there was very little reason to give a damn about Lisa and Ben because the series no longer appeared to give a damn about them. Or at least the series didn’t respect them. That continued in this very problematic effort that had one of the series’ worst cop-out endings of all time. Dean begging Castiel to wipe Lisa and Ben’s mind of everything Dean is horribly selfish and actually kind of awful on his part. You cannot just take away someone’s life like that and wiping away their memories doesn’t even stop them from being hunted by the people who want to get to Dean. So now, they’re less informed and in the same amount of danger. That’s smart. Everything else about this episode was fine, though.

98. “The Kids Are Alright” (S3): Speaking of Ben and Lisa, here’s their first appearance on the series. Creepy kids are always, always a good storytelling device to use and I thought “Alright” did a solid job of playing up the fear parents have that their children might not turn out how they hope. Plus, it’s nice to remember a time when Dean’s relationships with Lisa and Ben were much less complicated, and therefore a lot more fun and playful.

97. “No Exit” (S2): I enjoyed Jo’s presence on the series, I really did. And this episode had a number of solid scares, which is always a positive for any Supernatural effort. However, at times, this episode got too wrapped up in “protecting Jo” and painting her as this scared little girl, both in the minds of Dean and Ellen. I understand that was the whole point of the episode, but it always bothered me how the other characters treated her when she appeared to be generally capable of hunting on her own.

96. “Criss Angel Is a Douche Bag” (S4): This is a really fun episode with some truly game guest stars. I like the integration of stage magic and real magic and the story of these three guys is fairly heartbreaking. Plus, the series’ sarcastic takedown of Criss Angel and his kind of “magic” is as fun and enjoyable as it sounds. The end of the episode tries a little too hard to make this a case that’s relevant to Sam and Dean’s current circumstances, but that only takes away slightly from the solid proceedings.

95. “99 Problems” (S5): Just as the writers gave episode 99 a title with the number 99 in it, I strongly considered having this episode come in at number 99 on the list. But alas, I’m not a total slave to gimmicks! Anyway, there is a lot to like about this episode. Taking time to show the brothers and us at home how “normal,” non-hunters were reacting to the Apocalypse is a smart hook for a story and honestly, I wished that there was a little more of that here. The twist that the young girl was actually the Whore of Babylon was well-done as well. Now if only we could have stopped Dean from calling her such horrible things, OVER AND OVER. Sometimes, this series is not subtle.

94. “Hookman” (S1): Ah, “Hookman.” This is still one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. By the time the series made it to this one (episode seven in the order), production team and the boys had worked some of the kinks in the formula, resulting in a rock-solid case about one of the biggest myths in popular culture. I think the narrative of this episode develops at a really satisfying pace and there aren’t any ridiculous or inane twists that keep the brothers from figuring out what the heck is going on. Just a solid episode all around.

93. “Like A Virgin” (S6): I’ve already bemoaned about this most recent season’s handling of Sam once he got his soul back, but this episode isn’t the biggest perpetrator of that crime. It introduces the way-too-convenient “wall” conceit and then quickly throws the brothers out on a case, but Sam’s reaction to being “Sam” again are well-played by Jared Padelecki, even if I preferred the steely RoboSam from prior episodes. The whole dragons thing was kind of odd, but mostly entertaining, especially Dean’s journey to get the sword. Heck, this one also introduced the Mother, making it a fairly jam-packed and thus sort of rushed episode. I still like it, though.

92. “Hell House” (S1): The introduction of everybody’s favorite wannabe ghost hunters, The Ghostfacers! Well, at this point Harry and Ed were still working on their web site, Hell Hounds Lair, but nevertheless. It’s nice to remember that the series’ sense of humor and proclivity for some complicated meta-humor was introduced fairly early on in the run. This isn’t as good as Harry and Ed’s second appearance on the series, but it is still a fun little episode that I never regret enjoying as much as I do.

91. “Something Wicked” (S1): I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this episode until I re-watched the tail end of season one a few weeks ago as part of my quick research for this list. There’s a real emotional arc to this episode that isn’t seen in most of season one’s standalone jobs. This is of course true because this isn’t really like all the brothers’ standalone jobs. Dean’s grief over screwing up all those years prior adds an additional layer of intrigue and heart to this episode. The scene where Dean tells Sam the truth about the previous shtriga attacks is lovely and sort of a nice precursor to the 4,302 heart-to-hearts they’ll have in coming years.

90. “Long-Distance Call” (S3): Because of the WGA Strike, Dean’s journey to hell was noticeably rushed and problematic, but this episode did a solid job of giving the audience an inside look to Dean’s psyche as he started to realize he had no options but to face the consequences he brought on himself. “Call” nicely plays on Dean’s desire to have one more moment with his father and features a fine brother wrap-up at the end of the episode as well. Plus, I think the Crocotta’s plan was kind of genius.

89. “Roadkill” (S2): This is an episode that didn’t really have any business being as good as it is, but dammit if I don’t love it. The Sixth Sense-y turn that reveals Tricia Helfer’s character is actually a grieving ghost who cannot let go is emotionally satisfying and actually sort of heartbreaking. Helfer’s performance is layered and complex and I always enjoy it when the series toys with its own conventions as it does here by having one of the ghosts not be evil at all. Another really strong standalone episode from the glorious second season.

88. “You Can’t Handle The Truth” (S6) and 87. “The Curious Case of Dean Winchester” (S5): After the wonderful success of season four’s “Yellow Fever” that saw something weird and ultimately comical happen to Dean, the series’ production team apparently decided that they wanted to do an episode like that every season. But as with so many things in this world, the first time was so clearly the best and the follow-up iterations presented some diminishing returns. “Curious Case” is a really funny episode in spots, but never really hooked me like “Yellow Fever” did the previous season. “You Can’t Handle The Truth” features the great conversation between Dean and Sam at the end of the episode, but the build-up to it with Dean learning the truth about random people seemed a bit obvious and not as fun as could be. Neither of these episodes is bad at all, but perhaps it is time for the series to retire the “Zany things happen to Dean” storyline conceit in season seven. They won’t, but they should consider it.

86. “The Real Ghostbusters” (S5): The series’ treatment of its fans through the fans of the Supernatural book series is, most certainly, funny. However, by the time this episode ended and there was some quasi-commentary about the sexual orientation of fans, I think I was ready for the series to stop commenting on its fandom. Apart from that, “Ghostbusters” is a truly fun episode that does feature a number of in-jokes and gags that make me smile every single time. Dean and Sam forced to partner up with “Dean and Sam” is simply wonderful. This is a nice showcase for Rob Benedict’s Chuck, who really should have more to do while he was on the series.

85. “Sex and Violence” (S4): With Sam and Dean’s issues bubbling under the surface, this was the perfect time to throw a siren into the mix. I love that some of the tension between the two of them had nothing to do with the siren at all, but once it gets in the mix, the boys’ fight is raw and emotional. The fact that they don’t even really talk about their issues by the episode’s end totally proves how fractured Sam and Dean’s relationship at this point. Thank goodness for Bobby Singer, though right? The misdirect of the siren’s identity was well-masked throughout the episode thanks to a fun performance by True Blood‘s Jim Parrack.

Well, that’s it for today. Thoughts?

Season breakdowns:

S1: 12
S2: 4
S3: 6
S4: 5
S5: 5
S6: 8

One thought on “From Route 666 to The Apocalypse: Ranking the episodes of Supernatural, Episodes 99-85

  1. I disagree with a lot of what you say in here but this: “precursor to the 4,302 heart-to-hearts they’ll have in coming years” made me laugh. We sure have fallen away from the “no chick flick moments” haven’t we.

    Like

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