From Route 666 to The Apocalypse: Ranking the episodes of Supernatural, Episodes 49-26

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 and generally drawn-out nature of this list, everyone. I promise that I’m not doing this to pull in more pageviews or something, I’ve just been that busy over the past few weeks. We are getting close, and I do hope to have this finished by the end of the week. If you’ve grown frustrated with me, I don’t totally blame you, but I hope you stick around for the final few entries. Here we go.

49. “I Believe the Children Are Our Future” (S5)Supernatural always has some issues when it pulls little kids into its demonic, demented storytelling, but this one basically works, give or take a few sappy scenes. The idea of the antichrist is intriguing and I guess the fact that I was left wanting more from that thread and this episode means it’s a good one. I have a friend who is convinced that the antichrist kid is going to come back somehow and be this supremely integral part of the series in season seven, which is another indicator of the impact of this fairly standalone effort.

48. “Two Minutes to Midnight” (S5): This is a weird episode. It’s very disjointed, which is a product of the somewhat rushed final stretch of episodes in season five. There was so much going and so many different threads that needed to be addressed that the series couldn’t quite handle them all. Season five would have benefited from 24 episodes. The Pestilence scenes are good, but rushed. But Dean’s conversation with Death and Death’s introduction altogether is one of the best things the series has ever done. For that alone, “Two Minutes to Midnight” makes it way just inside the top 50.

47. “Crossroad Blues” (S2): If it were an individual, standalone episode of the series, “Crossroad Blues” would still be considered a pretty damn good effort. But when considering how important the crossroad demons and their deals became to the series’ overall mythology, “Blues” shoots further up the list, at least in my opinion. This episode smartly explores the rules and logic behind the crossroads deals and introduces the possibility of a Winchester brother making the stupid decision of trying to use said deals to save someone close to them. This is a sharp, entertaining episode of the series.

46. “Hammer of the Gods” (S5): Spoiler alert: The Supernatural writing staff is pretty smart. Even when episodes aren’t executed to the fullest extent as they probably could be, they almost always come with compelling and novel ideas that seem obvious after the fact. OF COURSE the gods of all the world’s other religions would be annoyed and pissed off at how Lucifer, God, angels and the Winchesters are messing up their world, which they have been on for much longer. Honestly, the concept for this episode could have sustained at least three episodes, but as it stands, it’s still a fun, surprisingly action-packed effort with some great Lucifer action. I recall it being fairly divisive among critics and fans, but I’m not really sure why. I love it.

45. “My Heart Will Go On” (S6): When I heard that Supernatural was doing an episode built around the conceit that the Titanic never sank and doing this episode late in the already middling season six, I sighed very, very loudly. Well, I have no problem swallowing a whole lot of crow, because “My Heart Will Go On” turned out to be one of the stronger episodes of season six’s second half. The first half of the episode nicely activates the wonky premise by playing it fairly straight with the resurrection of Jo and once Castiel gets involved, business picks up fairly dramatically. Fate is a big talking point for the series and I enjoyed how Castiel tried to justify his relatively nefarious actions with a pep talk for the boys about freedom from destiny — without mentioning his more problematic plans for the war in heaven and the like. This is another episode that looks better in retrospect after we saw how Castiel reacted in the final few episodes of the season.

44. “The Rapture” (S4): Though Castiel is a well-liked character and fairly heroic, I always liked that the writers included “The Rapture” into season four’s story because it serves as a nice reminder of the kinds of things all angels are/were willing to do to serve heaven and their god. And of course, the flashback into the life of Cas’ vessel Jimmy further exemplifies that the Supernatural writers want to paint the bleakest, most depressing story around. The devoted Jimmy is repaid by having his body taken over by a fighting archangel who has very little respect for his needs or health, furthering the series’ ideology that all authority figures such and aren’t worth our time.

43. “Hollywood Babylon” (S2), 42. “Ghostfacers” (S3), 41. “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” (S6), 40. “Wishful Thinking” (S4) and 39. “Monster Movie” (S4)I imagine that Ben Edlund is most Supernatural fans’ favorite writer and when he’s truly at his best when he dips into the goofy, the odd and the offbeat like he does in all five of these episodes. “Babylon” and “Ghostfacers” are a bit more straightforward than the weirdness that is “Clap Your Hands” and “Wishful Thinking,” but both episodes include a sizable helping of meta and intertextual references, something the series really kicked into high gear once Edlund joined the staff. “Babylon” includes a number of great in-jokes about Vancouver, horror movies, McG, etc. and “Ghostfacers” has a ball with the shifted perspective. Meanwhile, “Clap Your Hands” and “Wishful Thinking” are just flat-out wonky, in the best of ways. From Dean’s frantic reaction to the fairies in the former to the suicidal stuffed bear in the latter, it’s almost indescribable how Edlund manages the tonal differences of his specific brand within the typical constructs of Supernatural. Tremendous stuff. And then we have “Monster Movie,” an episode that matches Edlund’s offbeat charms with its aesthetic shake-up in a glowing homage to black and white films from years past. “Movie” is, like many Edlund episodes, hilarious and tonally wild in the best of ways, but somehow actually makes a shapeshifter turning into classic Universal monsters believable and sympathetic. I tried to split these episodes up, but it didn’t seem right. They all deserve to go together as one large celebration of all things Edlund.

38. “Live Free or Twihard” (S6): This is a really busy, but productive episode. Everything in this episode works, from the overt jabs at Twilight and its fandom to Sam’s decision to let Dean get “turned” to the new details about Alphas. The one problem is that there is so much going on that it feels overstuffed and tonally awkward in spots, but Supernatural is always walking that tightrope. I forgot how much I liked this episode until I refreshed my memory on it with some cursory research.

37. “Heaven and Hell” and 36. “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (both S4): This two-part mid-season finale of the season four is very good at tracing out the differences between Sam and Dean and how they hope to approach the issues in front of them. Sometimes the contrasts are too obvious — Sam has sex with a demon, Dean has sex with an angel! — but they’re purposeful nonetheless. Although I wasn’t too worried after my viewing of the season’s earlier episodes, these two officially confirmed that Supernatural had no problem integrating angels into their mythology and in fact, the series was better for it. I actually kind of miss Uriel and Alastair now that I think about it.

35. “Pilot” (S1): It’s always hard to truly evaluate a series’ pilot so many years later. There’s no question that the Supernatural pilot is a really great introduction to the series’ themes, characters, narrative and structure. It’s an enjoyable episode, for sure. But at the same time, there are so many episodes that are arguably much better, if only because they have years of experience and development to rely on. Some series change drastically after the pilot, but Supernatural has stayed relatively consistent in its approach to storytelling, which I think makes this episode more important and therefore worthy of this fairly high-ranking.

34. “Dark Side of The Moon” (S5)Supernatural‘s ability to subvert its budgetary issues and restraints is one of its greatest strengths. Because the production has very little money and could actually not develop a mystical, heavenly-looking heaven, they were forced to come up with a replacement and frankly, the replacement idea is much better than I ever would have imagined. Having heaven be an insular, suffocating place where everyone gets their own little corner to do whatever they want and live how they want to live over and over is pretty damn intelligent. Moreover, it fits perfectly into the series’ overall thematic concerns, painting a dark, bleak picture of what is supposed to be the greatest thing ever (if you believe in that sort of thing).

33. “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (S6): Like the season it concludes, “Man Who Knew Too Much” is not without issues, but is full of interesting ideas and powerful individual moments. The exploration of Sam’s psyche was severely mishandled once the wall went up in his head and was still kind of expedited here, but I enjoyed the disorienting feeling that the dreamy, Inception-y sequences gave off. And no matter what this episode’s issues are, the final ten minutes really make up for it all, and almost make up for the season’s big problems as well. Castiel’s double-crossing of Crowley is both fist-pumpingly awesome and troubling and his final monologue to Sam and Dean is just plain chilling. A great cliffhanger doesn’t fix a season’s worth of pacing and arcing problems, but it goes a long way in making me excited for the following season.

32. “When The Levee Breaks” (S4): I think the series did an OK job of exploring Sam’s side of the whole demon blood argument throughout season four, but it “Levee” was a much-needed effort because it finally gave the audience some alone time with Sam and his addiction. Implicitly or not, Dean had been given so many great, heroic moments in season four and Sam deserved the more sympathetic portrayal he was given here. Sam never drank demon blood because he wanted power or control, he did it for all kinds of right reasons. Unfortunately, the addiction got the best of him, leading to some misguided decisions. Nevertheless, we needed to see his internal thought process, so good on this episode. Plus, epic brother fight!

31. “Home” (S1): I don’t know about you, but watching “Home” was the first time I realized that Supernatural could be something more than a solid waste of an hour. Even though this is still a fairly simple case of the week episode, the backdrop of the brothers’ first trip back to Lawrence in a long time makes for a much more dramatic and intense affair. This episode does a solid job of furthering the series’ still-light mythology without overdoing it and features a nice little twist with the reveal of John’s presence. One of the first season’s few “great” episodes.

30. “Devil’s Trap” (S1): The season one finale isn’t without issues — the whole act with Sam and Dean trying to break into the building where the demons are keeping “John” is a bit slow and plodding — but is still very well-executed and fitting for the 21 episodes that preceded it. What I like about this finale is that it doesn’t try to bite off more than it can chew. By the end of this episode, Supernatural has gone to substantial lengths to answer its big questions from the pilot — Where is their father? Who/Where is the Yellow Eyed Demon? What is going to happen to this family unit — and provided one heck of a cliffhanger as well. It’s a much more intimate finale when compared to later ones, but it still works nevertheless.

29. “The Point of No Return” (S5): Sometimes series go a little overboard with their 100th episodes, letting external production celebrations impact the internal narratives. “The Point of No Return” is not one of these episodes. Even though the episode ends with a character beat anyone could have guessed after the season five premiere — Dean deciding not to be Michael’s vessel — the series did a solid job of convincing us otherwise in the middle of the season. This episode has everything you could want from a “great”Supernatural offering: Mythology development, questions of fate, destiny and free will and brotherly angst/love.

28. “The Third Man” (S6): I think part of the reason fans were so frustrated with season six’s handling of the post-apocalypse HEAVEN INSANITY because this episode did such a marvelous job of setting the table for what could have — and should have — been a really intriguing concept. Ben Edlund’s sharp script wipes away the problems of the season’s first two episodes and does a nice job of introducing the character of Balthazar and weapons of heaven. I think this episode will become even more respected over time since it plants the seeds for Castiel’s darker path very early.

27. “Faith” (S1): My favorite season one episode and it’s not even close. Like so many fantastic Supernatural episodes, this one features a solid standalone case, but also addresses larger questions about life, death, choice and well, faith. The series took a bit to explicitly concern itself with heaven, angels and god, but episodes like this set the table for those bigger payoffs down the line. I adore the series’ portrayal of the reapers and the musical cues in this episode are pretty lovely as well.

26. “Dead Man’s Blood” (S1): I’ve previously expressed my adoration for the series’ use of vampires, so you probably can guess that I really like the introduction to them in this late-season one episode. But this episode succeeds on much more than just vampires. This is the first full-episode interaction Sam and Dean have with John, which is angst-ridden and wrenching in its own right, but this is also the episode that introduces one of the series’ biggest weapons, The Colt. “Blood” works on the procedural level, as a culmination of 19 episodes of story and a catalyst for the season’s thrilling endgame. I’m not sure how fans “rate” this episode, but I’ve always found it to be somewhat underrated, based on its general quality and its importance to the series’ mythology.

Well, thoughts?

Season breakdowns:

S1: 22
S2: 13
S3: 11
S4: 16
S5: 17
S6: 19

Advertisements

One thought on “From Route 666 to The Apocalypse: Ranking the episodes of Supernatural, Episodes 49-26

  1. We are complete opposites. The Third Man is the second worst episode in the entire series in my opinion. Only Bugs is worse. It’s by far the worst that season 6 offered to me. Home also makes my top 15 worst episodes as does I Believe the Children are the Future. Devil’s Trap and Faith rank much higher on my list while the Ben Edlund episodes are split. Wishful Thinking and Monster Movie were sheer genius. Ghostfacers and Clap Your Hands not so much. But probably where we’re going to most disagree is in the final segment. I have a feeling that The Man Who Would Be King is going to be in your top 3 and I can only think of a handful of episodes that was as boring as that one was.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s