From Route 666 to The Apocalypse: Ranking the episodes of Supernatural, Episodes 58-50

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

No need for small talk today folks. Moving into the upper echelons of the list.

58. “Good God Y’All” (S5): Fun episode here and one that sets up some of the structural guideposts for season five in regards to the Horsemen. I had really high hopes for the series’ interpretation of the Horseman after this episode and although the writers didn’t really pull there in the latter half of S5, there’s no denying how awesome War is — especially in the hands of Titus Welliver. “Good God” has a relatively compelling premise and covers the touchiness between Sam and Dean post-Lucifer rising without getting too melodramatic or mopey. The returns of Ellen, Jo and Rufus are very welcome as well.

57. “Sympathy For The Devil” (S5): This one lacks the intensity of the season four premiere and the emotional impact of the season two premiere, but still manages to set the table fairly well for the season to come. I understand the series’ budget limitations and generally think the production team has done a glorious job using those limitations to Supernatural‘s benefit, but this feels like an episode that could have used a larger budget. Lucifer rising, the Apocalypse officially kicks off and most of the episode is centered around the brothers searching for storage facilities? It feels a little too small, especially after the climax of season four and especially for a season premiere. Watching Bobby lose his legs is heartbreaking while the possibility of God and learning that Dean is actually Michael’s sword were nice swerves, though. I also enjoyed Lucifer’s manipulation of his pre-Sam meat suit, featuring great work from Mark Pellegrino.

56. “Yellow Fever” (S4): One of the most purely fun episodes in Supernatural‘s run. A few entries ago I talked about the problematic nature of subsequent episodes trying to recapture the glory of “Yellow Fever,” but those moderate failures don’t damage the quality of the this one. Though he’s very good at being the bad-ass older brother, Jensen Ackles is a seriously funny performer and “Fever” is basically an excuse to let him flex those comedic muscles. I like how Dean’s ailment escalates substantially over the episode, leading to an even more frantic and unhinged performance from Ackles. And then, after all that fun, the episode ends with a nice little scene with Lilith and Dean discussing his time in hell. It’s the kind of tonal transition that this series does so freaking well. Of course, I can’tnot mention the closing coda with Jensen doing the “Eye of the Tiger” bit because it is awesome as well.

55. “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (S3) and 54. “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” (S5): Both of these episodes focus on Bobby’s relationship with his wife, only in slightly different ways. Season three’s “Dream” presents a much more malicious Karen Singer, but that’s more of a construct of what’s happening inside Bobby’s mind than anything else. I prefer “Dead Men” because it shows us how broken down and dejected Bobby has become at that point in the series. He’s lost the ability to walk, the Apocalypse is near and there’s really no hope, so why not decide to just hang out with his raised-from-the-dead wife? The brothers are so dysfunctional that episodes focusing on Bobby are always a breath of fresh air. His love for his wife is really moving in both episodes, even though he’s forced to escape her in the former and “kill” her in the latter.

53. “Appointment in Samarra” (S6): Like so many of season six’s episodes, “Appointment” generally works well, but has way too many interesting things going on for its own good, leading to a problematic, yet very entertaining episode of the series. Dean taking over for Death is a wonderful idea and works for most of the episode until Dean’s annoying stubbornness gets in the way. I understand that’s the whole point of the story, but Dean knew the stakes going in and he seemed too glib about the consequences. Elsewhere, RoboSam’s attempts to kill Bobby were similarly compelling, but didn’t receive enough time on the screen. It played out mostly like a scary horror movie, but I would have liked to see more. Throw in a few great scenes from Death and the wonderful cliffhanger with him putting Sam’s soul back and the wall up, this is just a jam-packed midseason finale. Probably a little bit too jam-packed.

52. “It’s a Terrible Life” (S4): What makes Supernatural so good is that it can easily take typical, overdone television crutches, conceits, tropes, narratives, etc. and somehow make them feel completely compelling and far from recycled, rehashed or cheap. Of course, “It’s a Terrible Life” is your basic alternate timeline/quasi-It’s a Wonderful Life tale about what would happen if Sam and Dean weren’t brothers and didn’t hunt. But the way Ackles and Padalecki commit to their new personas allows the episode to rise above most copycats of the Wonderful Life story format. Watching the two brothers rediscover their rhythms and skills all over again is a surprisingly satisfying experience that is capped off by an intense, manipulative speech by Zachariah. That’s the most important thing, really: This episode has a purpose. The story is built around a gimmick, but there is purposeful use of that gimmick.

51. “Nightshifter” (S2): This is one of my favorite episodes and because of that, it probably moved around the list more than any other. It features a fairly simple bank heist plot with a nice shapeshifter twist, but I really like the way the tension of the bank heist and the shifter balances nicely with the humor that comes along with Ron. The laser eyes, Mandroids and Terminator references still get me every time. This episode is also notable for the first appearance of Agent Henriksen, one of the series’ best characters, despite his typical motivations. I’ve always loved looking at Sam and Dean as these criminal masterminds because it puts an obvious, real-world spin on how their actions have to look to everyone who is not in on the joke. And we can’t forget the “Renegade”/”We are so screwed.” ending, which is one of the best random endings to any Supernatural episode.

50. “Time Is On My Side” (S3)

The rushed nature of the conclusion to the Dean’s deal story was unavoidable, but I think Supernatural handled nearly as well as can be in such a short time-frame. What is really interesting about this episode is how it subtly reflects the sea change in thought process between Sam and Dean, a shift that plays a massive role in the following season. After they track down Doc Benton, Sam is emphatically for figuring out the twisted, dark science that could keep Dean alive like a Frankenstein-ian figure, no matter the cost. Dean, meanwhile, what’s nothing to do with that kind of jacked up crap. Sam is willing to do whatever it takes to save the day, no matter how much closer to the dark side he gets, but Dean is more resigned to the facts. I’ve always loved that about “Time Is On My Side,” which is relatively creepy in its own right and gets addition high marks for taking care of Bella in fairly grim and unapologetic fashion. I might not have hated her like most, but that was still a very satisfying way to remove her from the equation.

Thoughts?

Season breakdowns:

S1: 17
S2: 11
S3: 10
S4: 11
S5: 12
S6: 14

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2 thoughts on “From Route 666 to The Apocalypse: Ranking the episodes of Supernatural, Episodes 58-50

  1. In my opinion, Time is on My Side sucks and took away from Dean’s final days. Ghostfacers did too but that’s for a later day. Yellow Fever would be lower and Nightshifter would be much higher.

  2. HI….
    This is a great work. This kind of ranking is very hard to do. It not only takes time but also need more critical reviews of the series.Only a person with intellectual thought can do it. Thanks for sharing.

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