From Route 666 to The Apocalypse: Ranking the episodes of Supernatural, Episodes 73-59

 

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

I’m trying to keep my promise folks, so I’m back with yet another entry in the list. We will finally be crossing the halfway mark in this entry, so that’s nice, right? ANYWAY.

73. “The Devil You Know” (S5): When the mythology becomes so sprawling, its bound to open up some story avenues that re-write or re-contextualize the series’ prior events. This is the primary thrust of “The Devil You Know” and more than a year later, I’m still sort of conflicted on how this offering handles its retconning. While I’m sort of opposed to Sam learning that one of his best college friends shoved him back towards the life that Azazel wanted for him because it removes some of Sam’s agency, it was a retcon that A.) made sense and B.) was well-played by Jared Padalecki. Sam’s heartbroken, somewhat rage-filled reaction to learning this information was so good that I couldn’t complain too much. There is some good Crowley stuff in this episode as well.

72. “The Magnificent Seven” (S3): The season three premiere has one of the best premises the series had done to that point (and perhaps ever) in the seven deadly sins demons. The sins are used to solid effect, but are certainly not given enough screentime in an episode that has to introduce Ruby and further clarify Dean’s ticking-clock of a deal. You could make an argument that the seven deadly sins could anchor an entire half-season or at least a two-part episode, which only makes “The Magnificent Seven” moderately disappointing. This is a solid premiere episode as far as the table-setting goes, I’ve just always wished that the writers didn’t blow the sins premise here.

71. “Caged Heat” and 70. “Family Matters” (both S6): The first half of season six was built almost entirely on mystery and the unknown, which is something the series hadn’t done in a long time and therefore had some problems with. However, these two episodes did a fine job of unraveling some of those mysteries while still furthering more of them. Even though “Caged Heat” and “Family Matters” aired a few episodes apart, they go together very well, with the brothers begrudgingly agreeing to work with Crowley in the latter and getting rid of him (or so they think) in the former. I like “Family” better because it, well, focuses on the Winchester-Campbell family. I still think Samuel was mis-handled, but this is definitely Mitch Pileggi’s finest work in S6. “Caged Heat” has a fun mid-season finale vibe even though it wasn’t officially so and it’s always nice with the whole gang gets together for a little blood-drenched throwdown.

69. “Asylum” and 68. “Skin” (both S1): The first season one episode in a very long time! I’m personally interested in the aftereffects of longstanding and consistent terrible things on a location, so I was always going to be a sucker for “Asylum.” This is a relatively scary, moody and propulsive episode with a nice cliffhanger-y ending. “Skin” is similarly potent in its procedural storytelling, as the shape-shifter conceit creates all sorts of openings for gimmicks and twists. Backing Dean into a corner where he officially “dies” in episode seven of your series is kind of ballsy and I always loved that. I don’t have a lot to say about them, but I really do love these efforts.

67. “After School Special” (S4): I have always loved this episode’s journey back to the brothers’ time a random high school. Not only are the present-day proceedings enjoyable (most notably Dean’s stint as a dodgeball- and headband-loving substitute gym teacher), but the flashbacks are especially powerful. This episode aired right when it started to become clear that Sam wasn’t going to go back on the straight and narrow, which only made the time spent on his short time at this school more heartbreaking. “Special” mines territory the series had already hammered home previously (Sam didn’t want this life, Dean was unable to get close to anyone not named Winchester), but does such a fine job of it that it doesn’t even matter. It helps that the actors portraying younger Sam and Dean are pretty wonderful.

66. “Death Takes a Holiday” (S4): Having Sam and Dean work a case on an astral plane and becoming spirits is fairly dumb, but in the best of ways. “Death” pulls it off because of its other somewhat wacky gimmick premise in that no one in this Wyoming town is dying and features the welcome return of Tessa the Reaper. This was the point in season four where every episode started one way and turned out to be something else entirely (usually related to the seals, Lilith, the coming Apocalypse or whatever) and this is a strong representation of that kind of storytelling. Alastair is one of the series’ best villains and I enjoyed Dean’s difficulties with dueling lies from Sam and Castiel. Really good stuff.

65. “Folsom Prison Blues” (S2): Great premise, fun and sufficiently scary episode. This was a particularly tricky job for the brothers thanks to their issues with Henrikson and I’m glad the episode didn’t shy away from those complications. The little touches with the history between Deacon and John Winchester were also well-done. This is just a fine episode of Supernatural that’s representative of its great procedural strengths.

64. “Nightmare” (S1): Ah, special children. The initial introduction to Sam’s possible abilities and the growing reality that there are more people out there like him is one of the finest season one episodes and a surprisingly heavy mythology info-dump. This one tells us that there are more special kids out there, that they had similar backgrounds (dead mothers, same power manifestation timelines, etc.) and still manages to provide a substantial amount of brother angst — just like all the series’ classic episodes.

63. “Houses of The Holy” (S2): Back in season two when the series’ hadn’t even come close to introducing Castiel, the Apocalypse and all that later-season jazz, “Houses of the Holy” hinted at it how Supernatural could handle those kinds of stories. This episode raises all sorts of obvious, but previously unmentioned questions and topics about faith, angels and the possibility of God in the Winchester brothers’ world. It’s also surprisingly moving and respectful in ways I didn’t really expect.

62. “…And Then There Were None” (S6): It’s a testament to how good Supernatural is that an episode like this one that I’m ultimately so frustrated with still makes it this high up on the list. “…And Then There Were None” features really great performances from Jim Beaver and Steven Williams and a number of tense and heartbreaking scenes. Saying goodbye to Rufus and Samuel (again) was difficult, learning more about the Mother of All was useful and trapping everyone in a room was awesome. BUT I just don’t understand this series’ treatment of its supporting characters. Samuel was poorly misused throughout season six and Rufus was never around enough, making their deaths a bit cheaper than they should have been. I know that Sam, Dean and Bobby are the heart of the series, but that doesn’t mean the writers have to kill everyone else who isn’t named Castiel (and I”m not sure his number isn’t up soon anyway). This was good, but too matter-of-fact when it could have been great. 

61. “Heart” (S2): The strength of Supernatural‘s second season is how the stories always feel intimate and often gut-wrenching, but not as debilitating and depressing like they are in the latest three seasons. “Heart” is a great example of this. It is a tremendously sad episode with lots of emotions flying around, but it is not jet-black in its portrayal of Madison the werewolf’s death. She’s a killer and needs to be “put down,” but the time she spends with Sam is important and uplifting for both of them. I really love the transition the series made in seasons four, five and six, but I don’t think that the series could have pulled off an episode like this in those years.

60. “Shadow” and 59. “Salvation” (both S1): For obvious reasons, the series kept Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s John Winchester out of sight for much of season one, but when he did appear, he made one heck of an impression. “Shadow” feels like the catalyst for the first season’s end-game, with John’s first concrete time with his sons, the additional information about Meg, etc. while “Salvation” focuses on the showdown between John and Meg over the Colt. These episodes do a wonderful job of trapping Sam and Dean in the middle of this growing war when they’re not entirely sure of their father’s motivations (at least Sam isn’t) and completely in the dark about who Meg is and what she wants. There are multiple episodes in between, but these two feel pair-up together very well.

There you have it. Thoughts?

Season breakdowns:

S1: 17
S2: 10
S3: 8
S4: 9
S5: 9
S6: 13

 

One thought on “From Route 666 to The Apocalypse: Ranking the episodes of Supernatural, Episodes 73-59

  1. I thought magnificent Seven was the weakest of all season premieres in that it felt like a basic MotW story. It would not be as high for me and I really thought After School Special was filler. Didn’t help that I like Ridge Canipe as Dean a whole lot better than Brock Kelly, but that might be partly the writing. I would also put Caged Heat, Family Matter, Asylum, and Skin much, much higher. I enjoyed Folsom Prison Blues perhaps a bit more too.

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