Whether you consider it dark-fantasy or science-fiction there is no denying that the CW Show, Supernatural, has become a force to be reckoned with. It survived the Writers Strike back in 2007/08, fought against cancellation on more than one occasion and then, as of its eleventh season, managed to stay around to become the longest running show of its type. With all of that in mind, and its incredibly vocal and loyal fan base, it’s not that surprising that the show is about to start its fourteenth season this coming October.
In the lead up to the new season, which will see the show reaching the milestone of 300 episodes, I shall be taking a look at five of the past seasons and five standout episodes from each, starting of with the very beginning, Season One.
The premise for the first season is very simple in comparison to those that follow. The action is centred on the two Winchester brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and his older brother Dean (Jensen Ackles), the two of them are Hunters, the kind that fight and kill monsters such as Wendigos, Vengeful Ghosts, Werewolves and Vampires rather than shoot deer. Their Dad, John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), has gone missing and the two of them are trying to find him, following clues left in his journal. Most of the first season’s episodes are what are known as MotW’s, Monster of the Week, where the plot is solved by the end credits, but it introduces us to lots of features and concepts that run throughout the entire show. A beautiful muscle car (the ‘67 Chevy Impala known as Baby), pop culture references, rock music, fake I.D’s using rockstar and actor names, and plaid shirts as far as the eye can see.
First up on the list of my top five is where it all began in the Pilot episode, sometimes referred to as The Woman In White after the featured monster the boys’ hunt. The episode opens with a flashback to 1983 depicting the Winchester family in happier times, the two boys, their father, and mother, Mary (Samantha Smith). Mary wakes in the night thinking she hears six month old Sammy crying only to encounter a strange figure in the nursery. The next thing we hear is her screaming which rouses John from his slumber. Mary’s fate becomes the catalyst for the path the lives of the Winchester men find themselves on, she is discovered bloodied and affixed to the ceiling by an unseen force and then bursts into flames, which quickly consume their house.
John is unable to save his wife but then vows to avenge her, dragging his two sons into learning all about the supernatural and cementing them as Hunters, and so it goes until young Sam has enough of it all and heads to Stanford University to study law. When the flashback ends we find Sam has settled into his new life and looks to be on the track to becoming a lawyer when Dean, estranged for the past two years, ruins everything by breaking into his home and uttering the words that are responsible for hooking the vast majority of the show’s fandom, “Dad’s on a hunting trip. And he hasn’t been home in a few days.”
While the rest of the episode is fairly formulaic, with the boys picking up the last case their Dad was working on, but it establishes the brothers compelling relationship with Dean looking out for Sammy, and Sam desperately trying to not to be dragged back into the life he wanted to leave. It brings us the “Bitch, Jerk.” exchange that has been reused to great effect in a few other episodes, often at pivotal moments, and also gives us, “Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole.” We also see Sam’s attempt to go back to his life ruined when his girlfriend, Jessica (Adrianne Palicki), meets exactly the same fate as his mother did all those years ago. It hooks you in wanting to know what’s going to happen next as they continue to look for their Dad.
The ninth episode of the season introduces us to the fact that there’s more to Sam than meets the eye, in that he wakes up having had a nightmarish premonition that something bad is happening back in the Winchester’s old home, where their mother died. Sam also confesses to have dreamt Jessica’s death, exactly how it happened, for days before it happened. Dean freaks out at this news mostly because he swore to himself he’d never go back home, “First you tell me that you’ve got the Shining? And then you tell me that I’ve gotta go back home?” But off to Lawrence, Kansas they go because even if it is not going to help them find their Dad it might reveal more information on what killed their Mum and Jessica.
When they get to Kansas they discover that the new family living in the house are being plagued by a poltergeist that has manifested as a figure on fire. In a rare showing of vulnerability Dean makes a call to his Dad’s number and leaves him an emotional message begging for John’s help. It is yet another call that goes unanswered.
The episode also has a number of guest stars that are worth mentioning. First off is the introduction of a local psychic named Missouri Moseley (Loretta Devine), who they learnt helped John after their Mum’s death. Despite only being in the one episode Missouri became a fan favourite and she was meant to be set for more appearances, however when scheduling became an issue and the actress couldn’t reprise her role we got another fan favourite instead, more on who that was a little later. Missouri would return at last in Season Thirteen.
There is also the return of Samantha Smith playing Mary Winchester again, saving Sam and Dean from the poltergeist in the house. Samantha has made several returns to the show, as versions of Mary but also as Eve in the Seventh Season. As Mary deals with the poltergeist she makes an apology to Sam, who doesn’t understand why, but this becomes very clear later on when we learn how much Mary’s backstory has shaped the lives of all the Winchesters.
The final guest star is revealed in the final scene of the episode when we see Missouri commenting on Sam’s surprisingly strong abilities which makes her wonder why he couldn’t sense his Father. The camera pans to John, who it turns out has been in town the whole time. Missouri is cross that he didn’t see his sons and understandably so given Dean’s heartfelt phone call earlier on. John says how desperate he is to see them both, but he can’t until he learns the truth.
Next up is Faith, and this introduces us more to the mythology of the show in the form of Reapers. Reapers aren’t expanded upon until later seasons, they carry out work on behalf of Death, one of the Four Horsemen, but this one is being controlled by the wife of a Faith Healer to make her husband look good. The cold open sees the Winchesters fighting against a monster and as he gets in the killing blow Dean gets electrocuted. Sam rushes him to hospital where the doctor’s diagnosis isn’t great, Dean’s heart has been damaged and he’s given a couple of months to live. We see their roles reversed again with Sam trying to do all he can to find a cure for his brother, including trying to phone their still absent father who still doesn’t answer.
Sam takes Dean to see Roy LaGrange (Kevin McNulty), a blind faith healer who woke up from a coma with the ability and no longer having terminal cancer. When Dean is healed by LaGrange he sees the Reaper standing behind the healer and it quickly becomes apparent that for everyone he heals, the Reaper is killing someone else, a life for a life. The brothers are able to stop LaGrange’s wife from misusing the trapped Reaper, but there is a great cost, not only does it take her life but LaGrange can no longer heal, meaning Layla (Buffy alum Julie Benz) who is suffering from an incurable brain tumour will also die. This episode shows that sometimes “Saving People and Hunting Things” isn’t so clear cut and that sometimes doing the right thing has consequences. It also shows Dean feeling guilty about him surviving when someone else has to die, something the eldest Winchester goes through a lot in seasons to come.
‘The Benders’ is an interesting episode because it doesn’t feature anything supernatural in it. The monsters in it are the Bender Family, your stereotypical hillbilly murderers who kidnap people so they can hunt them. The tension in the episode is ramped up high when Sam gets taken by the family at the very start of the episode and we see Dean go into his crazy big brother mode desperate to find out what happened to Sam.
Sam’s realisation that his captors are just humans reminds us that there’s already plenty of evil in the world before we even get to the creatures the Winchesters have to deal with. The feelings of dread continue to build throughout this episode, as both brothers end up in equal amounts of peril without the other one to back them up, but they prove again that they are a force to be reckoned with.
Following on directly from the episode before, Salvation, Devil’s Trap kicks off the action with the boys learning that their father is in the clutches of the demon Meg (Recurring guest star Nicki Aycox) who has been a thorn the Winchester’s efforts at several points in the season, and is working directly for the Yellow-Eyed Demon that killed their Mum. With the real Colt, the magical demon-killing gun created by Colt himself, in their hands the boys set off to rescue their father. Knowing they need help they go to Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver), a crotchety old Hunter who is a firm family friend to Sam and Dean, John less so much due to a falling out. The three men are able to trap Meg within a Devil’s Trap and exorcise her but they are able to piece together clues as to where she had their father hidden. Bobby Singer was the character created to replace Missouri Moseley, and as a result Jim Beaver appears as Bobby in every season of Supernatural.
They rescue the badly beaten John, only for Sam to also get attacked by a demon on the way out and Dean has to sacrifice one of the few remaining bullets in the Colt to save him. The three men, reunited again, hide away to recover and plan their next move only John isn’t what he seems. A rare show of praise for his son’s actions make Dean realise that John is possessed by the demon they want to kill. Jeffrey Dean Morgan channels his dark-side when the demon sees he can’t bluff his way out of the situation and he launches a psychic attack on Dean causing him to start bleeding internally. Sam manages to get a hold of the Colt and is faced with the decision of having to kill his Father to save his brother, and there’s only two bullets left in the gun. Knowing he can’t do it, despite the real John having broken through some of the demon’s control to beg his to kill him, Sam elects to shoot John in the leg, forcing the demon from his body.
The show ends with Sam having got John and Dean into the Impala, the latter gravely injured and unconscious, while John is disappointed Sam didn’t finish the demon once and for all. As Sam drives the Impala away, heading toward a hospital, they are slammed into by a large rig forcing the car off of the road and rendering all three of them unconscious. We are left wondering the fates of the men as the driver of the truck gets out, his eyes black revealing him to be a demon.