Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Supernatural Top 40

SUMMARY: To celebrate Supernatural's upcoming 200th episode, Entertainment Weekly this week published its definitive ranking of the show's best episodes. Any list is subjective so I will only question the use of the word "definitive".
I agreed with many of their choices and disagreed with others, in some cases strenuously. But, rather than nitpick, I decided to compile my own definitive/subjective Top 40 SPN list. With many thanks to cast and crew for 10 years of great entertainment, here it is:


40. Slash Fiction (Season 7): When I think SPN Leviathans, I think squandered potential; ‘bibbing’ turned them from scary creatures to Scooby-Doo villains. But in this episode, a riff on Pulp Fiction, they’re still (and very effectively) scary. And for those of us who can’t get enough Sam and Dean, it pits heroic S & D vs evil Leviathan doppelganger S & D. Yum.

39. The Great Escapist (Season 8): This one rates a mention because of the lovely conversation between the brothers as they walk down the hotel hallway where Sam admits he’s always felt “unclean” and expresses hope that the trials will cleanse him of the taint of demon blood. Dean’s worry and Sam’s hopefulness combine for a classic Winchester moment. I also love that the brothers are astounded that Metatron doesn’t know who they are (“What kind of angel are you? We’re the freaking Winchesters.”), and Cas’s ability to hide from the angels hunting him by moving from one Biggerson’s to another because they're all so alike. Yes, there was also that little canon gaffe about the Grand Canyon but Ben Edlund apologized publicly for it so, in my book, we’re all good.


38. Monster Movie (Season 4): When I first saw this episode, storywise, I was a little thrown off by its placement in the season. It came right on the heels of all the emotional sturm und drang of Metamorphosis (when Dean first discovers Sam can exorcise demons with his mind), but here they are all buddy-buddy, talking about getting laid, Raiders and Porky’s 2. Huh? But if you ignore that speed bump and watch the episode in isolation, Monster Movie is a lot of fun and beautifully shot in black and white. Major props to director Bob Singer for all the ways he pays homage to classic horror films, and who can forget Todd Stashwick as the pizza-loving Dracula/shapeshifter. Oh yeah, and Dean in leiderhosen.

37. Ghostfacers (Season 3): A fairly standard MOTW episode but it makes the list thanks to the way it was shot - with hand-held cameras a la gonzo, reality TV. And I still laugh at Sam and Dean’s bleeped out swearing. J&J must’ve loved using the ‘big boy’ swear words.


36. Do You Believe in Miracles? (Season 9): After a season filled with tension between the brothers, Sam’s anger (and indeed, Sam himself) is shattered when Dean is killed by Metatron. Dean’s death and Sam’s breakdown in the aftermath make this finale. As a bonus we also get the redemption of Gadreel, Cas finally shutting down (and shutting up) Metatron, and more machinations from Crowley that lead to that "eye-opening" cliffhanger.

35. Time After Time (Season 7): Dean gets to play G-man with Elliott Ness while Sam bonds with Sheriff Jody Mills. The boys spend most of the episode apart but I don't mind because they're working the case together, even when separated by decades. Logic says getting Dean back is hopeless but Sam refuses to give up and ultimately defies the odds by bringing Dean back to the future. Jensen looks fantastic in Untouchables garb and I love the burgeoning friendship between Sam and the sheriff; it’s one I hope they continue to explore and expand upon going forward.

34. First Born (Season 9): Director John Badham makes a pretty badass debut with SPN, as does Timothy Omundson as Cain. Crowley is up to no good as usual, and Sam and Cas do some rare on-screen bonding. Thumbs up on both counts. There’s also a pretty kick-ass fight scene as Dean tries to prove to Cain he’s worthy of the mark. Of course he is, but all the time we’re watching, there’s a knot in the pit of our stomach that we can’t blame on bad tacos. This can’t end well for Dean!


33. Dark Side of the Moon (Season 5): The opening of this episode is one of the most disturbing the show has ever done, as two hunters kill Sam and Dean with shotgun blasts to the chest at close range. Sam is killed first, right in front of Dean and the transition from shock to grief to fury, almost simultaneously, on Jensen’s face is really something. The hunters are not too bright but they’re right about one thing: you never want a pissed-off Dean Winchester gunning for you. The scene in Heaven of Dean setting off fireworks with a young Sam is one of my overall favourites; it’s a beautiful moment of innocence in the screwed-up world of the Winchesters. To up the creep factor, we get Zachariah pawing at Mary, whom he calls a MILF. Ick. For that alone he earns the angel blade through the neck Dean will later give him. This episode would have ranked way higher had Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin better written Sam’s memories. Dean’s were uniformly great but the plot needed Dean to be mad at Sam so his got short shrift to make that happen; that’s cheating in my book and cheapened the result.

32. Skin (Season 1): SPN’s take on werewolves and vampires has been fairly pedestrian but it has come up with some pretty cool twists on shapeshifter lore–and it all started with Skin. Dean Winchester–torturing and killing? Say it ain’t so. Well, it ain’t-it's a shifter wearing his face. Before all is said and done, we get the series’ first big knock’em down, drag'em out fight between the brothers (OK, technically, it’s Shifter!Dean vs Sam) and then a big fight between Dean and his doppelganger to save Sam, ending with Dean snatching back the amulet which the shifter had taken. If you need just cause, there it is. And in an example of what would quickly become the show’s classic dark humour, the episode ends with Dean officially dead and wishing he'd been to his own funeral.

31. Death’s Door (Season 7): A beautiful tribute to the boys’ surrogate father but you know, Bobby died :-(–hence the reason it’s this far down on the list. But how can you not love Bobby’s final memory of the brothers bickering over licorice on family movie night?


30. Hello Cruel World (Season 7): This features a great performance from Jared as hallucinations of Lucifer almost send Sam over the edge. Dean is right there to pull him back, of course, and act as his ‘Stone Number One’ creating some wonderful brother moments. The scene in Bobby’s living room, when Sam admits he’s having trouble telling what’s real and what isn’t, is alone worth the price of admission. The Leviathans are still scary here, too. They appear to have killed Bobby after burning down his house, which has Dean threatening to shove his “Beautiful Mind brother into the car and drive us both off the pier.” Oy! Now we have two broken Winchesters. Bonus: Dean serves Sam breakfast in bed. OK, it’s a bottle of water and a protein bar after an injured Sam sleeps on Bobby’s couch, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

29. I Know What You Did Last Summer (Season 4): The brothers have said more than once that they keep each other human. We had to wait until almost halfway through Season 4 to see just how hard Dean’s death and sojourn in Hell hit Sam, but it was a knockout punch and well worth the wait.

28. Home (Season 1): The boys go home to Lawrence, Kansas. Sam (and Dean) continue to wrestle with his burgeoning psychic abilities, Dean has a heartbreaking, one-sided phone conversation with his Dad and the spirit of the boys’ mom offers an apology that has us and Sam all going “What?” And if you weren’t mad at John after Dean’s phone call, you certainly were in the final scene when he refuses to see his boys. At least we have Missouri to rip him a new one for us.


27. Bad Day at Black Rock (Season 3): Black humour from Ben Edlund–what’s not to like? There’s a nicely gory death (roasting fork through the neck), Sam cursed with bad luck (which leads to some great slapstick and the classic “I lost my shoe” scene) and an exasperated Dean. I loved the reveal of John’s storage locker–especially that it holds Sam’s lone soccer trophy and Dean’s first sawed-off shotgun. Bela makes a great foil for the boys in this episode but, as Kripke later admitted, having her shoot Sam at the end was a mistake; it made her irredeemable.

26. The Song Remains the Same(Season 5): Dean met his parents as young people back in In the Beginning (4.03), but this episode marks the first time the brothers travel back in time together. Sam’s reaction when he first meets Mary somehow manages to be both hysterical and heartbreaking. (“You’re so beautiful!”). And how sadly heroic is it that both brothers are more than OK with never being born if it keeps their parents safe? Mary is her usual kick-ass self and John, when pushed, shows us glimpses of the hunter he will one day become. The “awkward family road trip” is awesome, as is the exchange between Sam and John which allows Sam to tell his Dad things he never got to express in their own time. And then there’s the long-overdue meeting between Dean and the archangel Michael, who does his best to convince Dean he will ultimately say yes. Sorry Mike: my money will always be on Team Free Will.


25. Nightshifter (Season 2): One of the best cold opens (helicopters, searchlights, Dean robbing a bank!?!) SPN has ever done and, arguably, the best ending of a non-finale in the series as the brothers, dressed in SWAT uniforms, escape the bank to the tune of Styx’s “Renegade.” What’s in between ain’t half bad either! I work with a man who likes to say "Okey Dokey". Every time he does, I hear Dean Winchester's voice saying, "I like him-he says 'Okey Dokey'."

24. Pilot (Season 1): To celebrate a show that has now made 200+ episodes you can’t ignore where it all started, and the pilot had so many memorable moments–the horrific scene of Mary burning on the ceiling, mirrored at the end of the episode by Jessica’s death; Dean breaking in to Sam’s apartment and their subsequent tussle (“That was so easy, it’s embarrassing.”); Dean flirting with Jess (“I love the Smurfs”); the boys impersonating law enforcement for the first time (and getting busted for it); our introduction to Dean’s love of classic rock (Sam: Dude–they’re cassette tapes. Dean: Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole); and, of course, Dean’s protective instincts for his brother (on full display when Sam crashes the Impala into the house to take home the Lady in White, and when he rescues Sam from the burning apartment.) At the end of it all, the Winchesters “have work to do”–and they’ve been working ever since.

23. Sacrifice (Season 8): Jared went all in for this one and it showed. Sam is coming apart at the seams as he tries to humanize Crowley to close the Gates of Hell for good. Only Dean can get him to stop when, knowing completion of the third trial will kill Sam, he promises they will find another way–together. The onscreen chemistry between these two actors is something else and really elevates the whole final scene. Props also go to Mark Sheppard for Crowley’s HBO-inspired speech and the special effects crew for the angels falling from Heaven scene.


22. No Rest For the Wicked (Season 3): Supernatural has never been afraid to take risks, and killing Dean and sending him to Hell was a risk that paid off big time. We got Sam watching helplessly as his brother is torn apart by hellhounds, and then shattered by grief. We then get that iconic image of Dean strung up in Hell, calling out to his brother, all of which sets up the brilliant Lazarus Rising.

21. When the Levee Breaks (Season 4): While The End is a showcase for Jensen, Levee serves the same function for Jared. It's fascinating to watch Sam go through the various stages of demon blood detox. I also love the contrast between the weakened-but-almost-clean Sam who attacks Bobby after escaping the panic room, and the freshly-amped-up Sam who battles Dean in the hotel room. While Ruby will later say “Dumbo didn’t need the feather to fly”, those two scenes tell a different story. The climactic fight between the brothers is emotionally gut-wrenching but incredibly choreographed (the fist smashing into the mirror!) and entertaining as hell to watch. And to kick it all off, we get a single, perfect man-tear from Dean.

20. The End (Season 5): I’m a fan of Orphan Black and in awe of the scenes where Tatania Maslany plays multiple and distinct characters, interacting with each other. I have the same kind of awe for Jensen in this episode; Present!Dean and Future!Dean are realistically distinct, a true credit to the man playing them. From a technical standpoint, the scenes are also exceedingly well done–one Dean passing a glass of whiskey to another is seamless. It takes a lot of know-how to create that kind of invisibility. Storywise, it rocks, too. We get Lucifer!Sam (I still shudder when I hear the “crack” as Lucifer steps on Future!Dean’s neck) Hippie Cas and Quartermaster Chuck (“Stock up on toilet paper”), all in a dystopian, post-Croatoan future. Thanks to The Watchmen set, it has a big screen look on a small screen budget.


19. Jus in Bello (Season 3): I love the fact that this episode begins with the boys getting busted. Yeah, yeah–Bela turns them in, but I’m giving the collar to Henriksen. Sue me. Then we get the boys threatened with supermax, demons attacking en masse, an exorcism piped over the intercom and Lilith, dressed as a creepy little girl, filleting the survivors after Henriksen allows the brothers to escape. It’s an awesome, action-packed hour of SPN.

18. Point of No Return (Season 5): In a list written to celebrate the 200th episode of Supernatural, it’s only fitting to include the 100th episode. Never has a wink carried as much emotional impact as Dean’s subtle signal to Sam in the Beautiful Room when it looks like the elder Winchester is about to say yes to Michael. But he isn’t, thanks to the faith shown in him by Sam, proving yet again that the brothers are always strongest as a team. It is awesome to see Cas lose it and beat the crap out of Dean when he thinks he’s about to say yes (“Don’t piss off the nerd angels”) and never has a dick angel deserved his fate more than Zachariah. I just feel sorry for Adam.


17. Abandon All Hope (Season 5): Hellhounds, Meg, the brothers’ first confrontation with Lucifer and, of course, the heroic sacrifice of Ellen and Jo. Sniff. You know things aren’t going to end well when they take that group photo at Bobby’s. Lucifer’s summoning spell for Death is about as creepy as it gets without ever being graphic. Once again, the Colt doesn’t work and we break with Sam when he swears he’ll never say yes to Lucifer. You know, as much as I enjoy the smart ass Hallucifer who torments Sam in Season 6, my favourite version, hands-down, is the creeptastic devil Mark Pellegrino plays here. *shudders*

16. The French Mistake (Season 6): The most meta kind of madness the show has ever done, and it make me laugh every time I watch it. They poke fun at everything from the actors’ trailers (“That’s fake me–this must be fake mine.”) to “Jared’s” home (“Nice modest digs, Jay-Z.”) to the Vancouver crew’s love of hockey, then wrap it all up with a nifty myth arc thread. Damn, I love this show.


15. The Monster at the End of This Book (Season 4): You have to love a show that can laugh at itself and SPN has always been able to do that. This episode is a classic mix of comedy and drama–the books written about the brothers, Chuck apologizing for Bugs, the brothers in a laundromat–all leading up to Sam’s confrontation with Lilith. My favourite scene though is the conversation between Sam and Chuck when Sam wants to know if Chuck knows about the demon blood. There’s a massive size difference between Jared and Rob Benedict, but when Sam sinks into the chair, he seems to shrink with shame. It’s a wonderfully sad moment in a fantastic episode.

14. All Hell Breaks Loose Pt. 2 (Season 2): The opening scenes rank among Jensen’s best work as Dean Winchester. He breaks over the loss of his brother and we break with him–and then he sells his soul. We all know this can’t end well, Dean best of all, but the reunion scene after Sam “wakes” still elicits a smile-through-the-tears response; we understand even if we don’t agree. Yellow Eyes is taken down, Dad is freed from Hell, Sam learns of his brother’s big sacrifice and Dean learns something about his little brother, too. (Dean: It’s my job to protect you. Sam: What do you think my job is?)


13. Devil’s Trap (Season 1): The crash that fuelled one of the longest summers on record for SPN fans can still make me jump. Perfectly, it comes out of nowhere. Kim Manners said in an interview once that it was one of the sequences he was most proud of as a filmmaker–and so he should be. This episode cemented my devotion to the show and as I tried to find out everything I could that summer (especially whether or not SPN had been renewed for Season 2), I discovered fan sites, fan fic and LJ. It's been a wild ride ever since. :-)

12. Faith (Season 1): The year the show began I was in the process of moving. While I remember reading a blurb about SPN in a fall TV preview, and thinking that sounds like a fun show, Faith (1.12) was actually the first episode I was able to watch. It certainly won me over because I’ve been a regular viewer ever since. I was expecting brain candy, but got so much more–the incredible relationship between the brothers, the lengths they’re willing to go to protect each other, the themes at play beneath the horror movie make up…. That’s why I’m still here, not the pretty faces (although I can certainly appreciate those!). I’d seen Jensen in Dark Angel and knew he had acting chops but was unfamiliar with Jared. He won me over in the scene where Sam leaves a message for Dad to let him know that Dean is dying; for a big man, he does vulnerability so well. Kripke has also said that this episode showed him just what the show was capable of so in many ways, we have Faith to thank for much of what comes later.

11. Born Under a Bad Sign (Season 2): Jared gets to play dark Sam for the first time, and he’s wonderful. His laugh when he's possessed by Meg and tied up in the Devil’s Trap at Bobby house is just so deliciously evil. And Dean’s desperation to find a missing Sam, and then his growing horror as they discover what "Sam" may have done is classic big brother is all his protective glory. The cat and mouse hunt on the docks is great TV and the cold smile on Sam’s face after he shoots Dean can still give me shivers.


10. Everybody Hates Hitler (Season 8): A golem, Nazi necromancers, a Jewish counterpart to the Men of Letters (The Judah Initiative) AND the introduction of the MoL bunker–all in one episode. It's an entertaining as hell MOTW story with a healthy dose of mytharc expansion thrown in to spice up the whole hour. Ah, Ben Edlund–I miss you!

9. Swan Song (Season 5): The finale of the Kripke era. I know fans are split on this episode but for me, there is far more to like than not–the history of the Impala, Chuck’s commentary on the brothers and learning what they do in their off time. Best of all, there is Dean choosing to stand by Sam even though it goes against every protective fibre of his being. I’m guessing that if the show ended here, it would have been a Sam/Lucifer vs. Dean/Michael knock-down-drag-em-out fight, ending with both falling into the pit. Some, I’m sure, wish that was what happened, but I’m grateful that five years later, we’re still getting fresh adventures with the Winchester brothers so I’ll appreciate it simply for what it is.


8. A Very Supernatural Christmas (Season 3): In the midst of the season where Dean has a year left after selling his soul to save Sam, we get foreshadowing from the boys’ childhood of the ‘things don’t always work out like you planned’ theme. Dean first steals some gifts to give Sam the normal Christmas their father has forgotten, not knowing they’re ‘chick presents’. Then Sam finds his father’s journal, opening the door to the hunting world that Dean has worked so hard to keep hidden from his little brother, wanting him to be a ‘normal kid’ for as long as possible. In the present, it’s Dean’s last Christmas so he wants to celebrate–but Sam doesn’t, because it’s Dean’s last Christmas. Ultimately, Sam capitulates, paying forward what Dean had done so often for him. And it’s perfect; it’s not about the tree decorated with car air-fresheners or the presents bought at the Gas’n’Sip–it’s about the brothers hanging out, watching football and drinking (heavily spiked) eggnog, hanging on to a tiny bit of normalcy as life spirals out of control around them. Oh, and just to keep things from veering too far into chick flick territory, there are pagan gods who eat people and the brothers carolling a very bad rendition of “Silent Night” to a Bad Santa with a bong.

7. On the Head of a Pin (Season 4): Dean learns he broke the first seal by turning torturer in Hell–and we break with him. Sorry, Alistair; no one tortures Dean Winchester better than Dean Winchester. The scenes between Chris Hayerdahl and Jensen as Dean tortures and Alistair torments are fabulous; watching Dean shatter is heartbreaking. It’s shocking to see Sam’s eyes briefly turn black but oh-so-satisfying when he turns bad ass on Alistair. And we finally get the “I knew it” moment we’ve been waiting for with Ruby when she gives that tiny smile as Sam gives in to his demon blood addiction. I never trusted Ruby–not when she was blonde and looked like Katie Cassidy and not when she was played by Jared’s lovely wife, but still, knowing she’s up to no-good means we can happily go on loving to hate her and waiting for her to get her just desserts. Oh, and who needs eloquence when you have angry, protective Sam demanding that Castiel heal a comatose Dean: “Get in there. Miracle. Now!”


6. All Hell Breaks Loose Pt. 1 (Season 2): Yes, the brothers have died numerous times over the course of the series and it’s a testament to our emotional investment that each death packs a dramatic punch. But Sam’s death here, and Dean’s visceral grief, rip my heart in two, no matter how many times I watch it. It’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching scene and one that encapsulates the brothers’ relationship (and willingness to sacrifice for each other) perfectly.

5. What is and What Should Never Be (Season 3): The djinn’s alternate reality gives Dean the home life he’s always wanted but it’s a perfect example of being careful what you wish for: mom is still alive but Dean’s not close to Sam; Dean’s got a great girl, but dad’s dead, as are most of the people he and Sam saved as hunters. The flashes of reality breaking through Dean’s catatonia are brilliantly done, as is Dean’s continuing struggle with self worth and his place in the world. And kudos to the make up dept; I’m still wowed each time the djinn appears on screen; the conception of this MOTW is incredible. Still, at heart it’s a Winchester story, and those are always the best.


4. Changing Channels (Season 5): When SPN is on its game, few other TV shows can touch it for out-of-the-box creativity. Changing Channels is a perfect example. It’s LOL funny (the Japanese game show, the Knight Rider-inspired Sampala, J&J’s riff on David Caruso) but with a serious undercurrent (the trickster’s whole destiny vs. free will lesson). And, of course, the Trickster is revealed to be the archangel Gabriel. It was definitely Sweeps Week for SPN fans with this episode.

3. In My Time of Dying (Season 2): Putting the hero in a life-threatening coma is a pretty standard plot device, but having his spirit wander the hospital (with a reaper in tow, no less) as he fights to get back to his meatsuit is a classic SPN twist. Sam refuses to give up on Dean (“We were just starting to be brothers again”), even figuring out a way to communicate with his comatose brother through a Ouija board (oops, make that a ‘Mystical Talking Board’), making for many memorable bro-mos. The prickly relationship between Sam and Big Daddy Winchester is front and centre, but thanks to JP and JDM, the love is still visible through the layers of stubbornness. And thank you Kim Manners for one of the show’s iconic shots: the slo-mo dropped coffee cup as Sam discovers his father’s body after John trades his soul for Dean’s life. Sniff.


2. Mystery Spot (Season 3): It takes some pretty clever writing to make the death(s) of a hero both gut-wrenching and funny as hell–not to mention all in the same episode. But that’s what Mystery Spot delivers. And never was the boys’ belief that “we keep each other human” more evident than when grief-fuelled revenge over Dean’s Wednesday death turns ‘Sammy’ into ‘RoboSam’. And when a bro-hug can make you cry and smile at the same time, the show is doing something right. Oh, and that whole simul-speak scene (“You think you’re being funny but you’re being really, really childish…”) is one of the series’ funniest. Thank you, Jeremy Carver.

1. Lazarus Rising (Season 4): The opening sequence showing Dean literally crawling out of Hell is one of the most effective the show has ever done, and for the first ten minutes or so there’s next to no dialogue (other than Dean’s raspy cries for help from within his grave – and how creepy were those?), making it stronger still. Add in the introduction of Sam’s demon blood-fuelled powers and the impressive arrival of Cas (only Death made a better first impression) and you’ve got a packed premiere that launches an overall stellar season.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 9th, 2014 04:44 am (UTC)
What a great line-up! I'd never be able to sort out my top bunch, but you did admirably. Pretty sure I agree with most of them...
Nov. 9th, 2014 06:21 pm (UTC)
It was a challenge, but a fun one. We really have a wealth of riches to pick from. Thank you!
Nov. 9th, 2014 02:02 pm (UTC)
I gave up trying to limit myself to a top 10 about 7 years ago! Good idea to go for 40!
Nov. 9th, 2014 06:28 pm (UTC)
At one point, I thought I might have to do a Top 50. :-)

These episodes will always be among my favourites, but I reserve the right to shuffle the deck! *g*

Nov. 9th, 2014 02:27 pm (UTC)
Brilliant choices!
Nov. 9th, 2014 06:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks! It's a brilliant show with lots of yummy episodes to choose from.
Nov. 9th, 2014 03:00 pm (UTC)
The other day I did a meme where you had to list your fav episode and I couldn't do it. So I'm really impressed that you put together your top 40 list!

It was so great reading through them and thinking, 'I totally forgot about that one!' and 'hell yes, that was awesome'. Great stuff, thank you so much for sharing. :)
Nov. 9th, 2014 06:32 pm (UTC)
Picking one favourite episode? Impossible! If I redid this list next week, chances are there would be a different episode sitting in the top spot.

You should give a Top 40 list a go; it makes for a fun road trip down memory lane with the Winchesters! Cheers.
Nov. 10th, 2014 09:17 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed every word of this, Gaelic, celebrating and loving this show right along with you!
Nov. 11th, 2014 10:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks! May we continue sharing the ride in the Impala for many years to come!
Nov. 12th, 2014 11:44 am (UTC)
Yes, and may I get your name right. SO sorry. I am in the part of the semester that is hell, plus my mom's been in the hospital though now home with home health folks. Translation: no sleep, crazed, and ditzy. SCULLS, yes, of COURSE, SCULLS. And this was a totally awesome post of yours. :)

Now we gotta squee about the 200th Ep!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )



Latest Month

October 2016