From Route 666 to The Apocalypse: Ranking the episodes of Supernatural, Episodes 116-107

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. I know the Supernatural fan community is large, proud and loud, so I hope there is some quality discussion about what made each of these episodes good, bad or “Route 666,” so yeah, tell your friends!

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.

I’m fairly busy this week, so I’m going to keep this entry similarly short as the last one. Today, we’re talking the next 10 episodes on the list, or #116 through #107.

116. “Provenance” (S1): The fact that this is one of the few episodes I cannot remember a single thing from probably tells you all you need to know about my feelings on it. Even after reading about it on SuperWiki, I had trouble recalling much of “Provenance” outside of Sam kissing the week’s victim. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m fairly sure that I am not. Forgettable.

115. “Exile on Main St.” (S6): I hate this episode so much and honestly, if the list were made three months ago, it probably would have been lower. I understand that the season premiere of season six had a lot of work to do in getting out from under five seasons of mythology, setting up new mythology, explaining Sam’s presence and going over Dean’s past year, but I still think the episode mishandled the transition in most ways. There is simply too much going on in this episode for it to all come together with any sense of relevance. Moreover, there’s an aura of purposeful mystery and aloof-ness that doesn’t really suit the series and although I know it was all intentional, it didn’t really work. In the middle of the season, I was hoping that later episodes would make this one look a bit better, but that didn’t really happen considering the ways in which Supernatural handled Dean’s relationship with Lisa/Ben and Sam’s soul problems. Season six has its problems, but it improved drastically after this one.

114. “Two and a Half Men” (S6): Well, not immediately, though. The second episode of the season isn’t quite the disaster that the premiere is, but its attempts to build up a new mythology are similarly stymied thanks to some weird tonal clashing and the general use of a baby shape-shifter. The baby jokes are fairly rote and although the episode tries to thematically connect it all back to Dean’s relationship with his quasi-family, it never really works in the way that it wants to. By the end of “Exile on Main St.,” I hoped that Lisa and Ben were sticking around. By the end of this episode, I was already ready for them to leave. The need to focus on Dean getting his groove back is a pertinent one, but this episode could have used more Sam, especially in hindsight.

113. “Swap Meat” (S5): Body-swapping can be funny and in a few instances in this episode, it is. But for the most part, “Swap Meat” feels like a filler episode that didn’t develop the concept past the original pitch in the writer’s room. I like the idea of tying the gimmick to the bounty on Dean’s head, but the execution of that thread isn’t especially interesting or compelling here. Like most of the episodes at this point in the list, “Swap Meat” is not “bad,” it just doesn’t have much to hang its hat on either.

112. “Phantom Traveler” (S1): I really hate to keep picking on season one because many of its early episodes are effective in what they are, but small bits of horror/mystery/thriller storytelling don’t hold up against the series’ later storytelling concerns. Take “Phantom Traveler” for instance. It’s far from a terrible episode and putting the boys on the plane is a fun conceit. This episode does feel a bit Final Destinaton-y because of the location, but outside of that, it’s a fine fourth episode that I can’t really complain much about. It has to go somewhere, though.

111. “Everybody Loves a Clown” (S2): This episode is very good in one half and sort of awful in the other, which made it difficult to place within the larger context of the list. The introduction of Ash, Jo, Ellen and The Roadhouse is a solid expansion of the brothers’ world, something that is very welcome in the aftermath of their father’s death. I still miss all of them. But the case of the week, involving the clown? Ugh, no thank you. This might have something to do with my general aversion to clowns, but hey, this is my list, you know?

110. “Sin City” (S3): This is an episode I really enjoy for about 75 percent of the way. Opening the Devil’s Gate provided the series a number of different new storytelling opportunities and an entire “ran” by demons is one of the better ones. I liked how the case narrative progressed in the early stages of the episode and I especially enjoyed the bits about how the humans in the town more or less reacted on natural instinct after only a few nudges from demons. That’s all well and good. But once Dean gets trapped in the basement with the demon, the momentum stalls dramatically and the episode becomes didactic and dry. What the demon tells Dean is interesting, but the way it is delivered doesn’t quite work for me.

109. “Dead in the Water” (S1): For whatever reason, I can remember this episode more vividly than many of season one’s offerings. The work of this vengeful spirit is appropriately creepy — maybe because I cannot swim, but that’s neither here nor there — and the case has a sufficient amount of twists and turns to be entertaining.

108. “Red Sky at Morning” (S3): I know that people really, really hated Bella, but I’m not necessarily in that camp. I think the character was a worthy addition to the series and showed us a somewhat interesting corner of the Winchester Brothers’ world. Along with that, I remember that there was an odd amount of vitriol for this episode, mostly because of Bella’s prominence within it. I’ve always sort of liked the concept behind this episode, but find myself agreeing with the Bella haters here because it seems like the episode goes too far to try to make the character sympathetic. She worked as an antagonistic foil, but I could never feel sorry for Bella. I’m glad the series find the right path with her later in the season, but this is a generally fine episode with that obvious misstep.

107. “Unforgiven” (S6): Sam dealing with getting his soul back should have been a much bigger deal than the series made it out to be. The one episode that really dives into that aftermath will full force is “Unforgiven,” and it’s mostly a mess. The flashback device is helpful at first and then mostly tedious by the second half of the episode because it is used only to remind us of stupidly obvious things we already know like RoboSam didn’t believe in family! OMG! I liked that Sam had caused the episode’s whole mess to begin with, but I didn’t need to be hit on the head with how, why and what it means for him to be “different” now. A major wasted opportunity in a season full of wasted opportunities.

There you have it, folks. What do you think?

Season breakdowns:

S1: 7
S2: 2
S3: 3
S4: 2
S5: 2
S6: 4

Previous entries: 

126-117

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3 thoughts on “From Route 666 to The Apocalypse: Ranking the episodes of Supernatural, Episodes 116-107

  1. I like ‘Provenance’ more than you do, but otherwise pretty spot on. I think ‘Red Sky at Morning ‘ could have been better. The beginning of ‘Exile’ is great, not necessarily the rest of the ep. ‘Sin City’ and ‘Swap Meat’ both bore me to death.

  2. Wow! we have vastly different opinions here compared to the first one. I agree with Swap Meat most definitely and also with Unforgiven. Unforgiven and Mannequin 3 were equally dudes in my opinion. Both filler material. Red Sky at Morning was just blah. However everything else I strongly disagree with. Provenance is in my top 20 episodes. I loved almost everything about it. Dead in the Water turned my from a casual Supernatural viewer to appointment TV. Casey is one of the best demons in the show and she was only in one episode, Sin City. I also enjoyed Exile and Phantom Traveler although not as much as the ones above.

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