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 and is about to start its fourteenth season this week.
We’re taking a look back over the past seasons, ranking our top five episodes, and now it’s the turn of season five. Once more this felt like an almost impossible task to narrow it down to just five, especially as this was the culmination of Eric Kripke’s story arc and had been intended as the finale of the show. In this season Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) face off against Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino), having been freed from his Cage by Sam, but they also find themselves targeted by both the forces of Heaven and Hell, as they are destined to be the true vessels of two Archangels, Lucifer and Michael respectively.
Rather than start with the season premiere, we’re skipping straight to the fourth episode. The two brothers have been apart since the defeat of War (Titus Welliver), in Good God, Y’all, one of the Four Horsemen. Sam is consumed with guilt about what he did that led to Lucifer’s freedom and feels he can’t continue hunting, and Dean agrees saying he can’t focus because he’s worried about what Sam might do. This episode starts with a panicked call from Sam to his older brother because he’s encountered Lucifer and learnt he’s to be his vessel. Sam wants to resume hunting with Dean so they can end the Devil together. Dean, however, believes that the two of them are better of separate, because of how they are meant to bring about the Apocalypse as Lucifer and Michael. Upset by the call, a tearful Dean hangs up on Sam and goes to bed.
When he wakes up he finds himself in a ruined version of the city he was in and the word Croatoan spray painted on walls. Dean has landed five years into the future where the world has gone to Hell, almost literally. Humanity has been ravaged by the Croatoan virus, first encountered by the Winchesters back in season two, the Angels have withdrawn back up to Heaven, leaving only one small group of humans trying to continue the fight. Dean comes face to face with the leader of this group and finds it’s a future version of himself. From himself, Dean learns that he and Sam never regrouped and eventually somewhere along the way Sam died.
This future has alternative versions of both Castiel (Misha Collins) and Chuck (Rob Benedict) providing humour in a very bleak setting, but the washed out, drug addicted and now-human version of Castiel is also heartbreaking. Everyone in this world is rapidly losing hope and looks to their Dean to hold them all together. It all comes together when both Dean’s go to finally deal with this world’s Lucifer, only for the painful truth to be realised. Sam didn’t die. He said yes. The exchange between Lucifer wearing Sam’s body and the real Dean is the right mix of tension and defiance from Dean and the smugness and certainty of his victory from Lucifer.
Lucifer: Whatever choices you make, whatever details you alter, we will always end up – here. I win. So I win.
Dean: You’re wrong.
Lucifer: See you in five years, Dean.
We learn that all of this has been a set up by Zachariah (Kurt Fuller), to show Dean why he must say yes to Michael, but all it’s done is give Dean the drive to keep fighting. The episode ends with him and Sam reuniting, recognising that they need the strength that each other gives and how sticking together will keep them human.
The eighth episode of the season is the only one real comedic one to feature in this set of five, and once again that humour is brought to us by The Trickster (Richard Speight Jr.). When the Winchesters realise that the case they’re investigating is likely to be his doing, an abusive husband with anger issues has his head pulled off by The Incredible Hulk, Sam suggests they try to reason with the powerful entity and enlist his aid against the Apocalypse. Dean is less than happy with this plan, considering the last time they encountered him he killed Dean repeatedly, he’d rather gank The Trickster permanently.
Both the brothers’ wishes are rendered null and void though when The Trickster traps them in a TV World and tells them to play their roles if they ever wish to escape. A cheesy hospital drama, an insane Japanese game show, a sitcom, a procedural cop show and Knightrider are all given The Trickster twist for Sam and Dean to endure. The Herpexia commercial, a cream to help sufferers with genital herpes, is especially hysterical.
With no end in sight to this trap, and even Castiel is prevented from rescuing them, Dean eventually works out that there is more than meets the eye to The Trickster and they are able to spring a trap. It is revealed that The Trickster is none other than the Archangel Gabriel who went AWOL around the time that Lucifer fell out with God and Michael the first time around. He was sick of seeing his family fighting back then and things haven’t changed. He wants Sam and Dean to just get it over with so that his family’s feud can finally be over. The Winchesters don’t agree and intend to prove to him that there is another way to end this and they’re going to find it.
Abandon All Hope
This midseason finale opens with the introduction of a crossroads demon closing a deal with a corrupt banker, who is incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of having to kiss the male demon to finalise things. This demon isn’t any old crossroads demon but the one in charge of all of them, Crowley (Mark Sheppard) and the one rumoured to know the location of the missing Colt gun. The brothers are able to break into the house and confront Crowley who is, surprisingly cooperative. He wants the boys to kill Lucifer because he firmly believes that if Lucifer wins demons will be next on his hit list after he’s wiped out humanity. He not only gives the Colt to the Winchesters but he also tells them where he knows Lucifer will be.
A plan is formed, and with Bobby (Jim Beaver) out of action in a wheelchair, the help comes from Ellen (Samantha Ferris) and Jo Harvelle (Alona Tal). The Harvelles have featured in episodes since the second season and it’s never been a secret that Jo harboured feelings for Dean. Dean attempts to make good on those feelings with a last-night-on-earth speech but Jo turns him down. The Winchesters, the Harvelles and Castiel head to Carthage, Missouri, where things go from bad to worse.
Castiel is incapacitated by Lucifer and the demon Meg (Rachel Miner), and the latter then sets hellhounds on the others. Jo is seriously injured after pushing Dean out of the way of an attack. The four Hunters end up trapped in a shop with no clear way out until Jo, who already knows she is dying, offers to sacrifice herself and blow up the shop with herself and the hounds inside it. Unprepared to let her daughter face this on her own, Ellen chooses to stay with Jo and we are left to witness the most painful of goodbyes to characters, so far, since John’s death in season two.
Forced to go on alone, and visibly upset by the loss of the Harvelles, the brothers push on and finally encounter Lucifer himself, who has already killed the entirety of the town so that he can bring forth Death, another of the Horsemen. Dean takes his chance and shoots the Devil point blank in the head with the Colt, but of course, things are not that easy. It turns out there are five beings in all of Creation that can’t be killed by the Colt, and Lucifer is one of them. The brothers are saved by Castiel while Lucifer is distracted performing his ritual, and the group return to Bobby’s to lick their wounds and mourn their fallen friends. The episode ends on a very stark depressing note as Bobby burns the photograph they had all taken earlier, the closest they can get to giving the Harvelles a proper hunter burial, and we are left wondering just how the rest of this season is going to pan out for the Winchesters.
Dark Side of the Moon
The sixteenth episode starts with the unexpected and we see Sam being killed by two Hunters who blame him for the starting the Apocalypse. Realising that if they leave Dean alive he’ll be hunting them down forever, the Hunters kill him as well.
When Dean ‘wakes up’, he finds himself reliving the Fourth of July, 1996 with a thirteen-year-old Sam (Colin Ford), during which the two of them set off fireworks, in spite of what their Dad would allow. Dean is convinced this is a dream until he has a flashback to the two of them being shot and he ‘wakes’ back in the Impala again. Castiel speaks to him through the radio and confirms that he and Sam are dead, but that Dean needs to follow the Axis Mundi to find his brother. The Axis Mundi is a path that leads through heaven to The Garden, where the angel Joshua (Roger Aaron Brown) resides. It’s said that Joshua talks to God, and Castiel believes that if Sam and Dean can reach The Garden they can get word to God about how Heaven isn’t fighting against, but actively encouraging the Apocalypse.
This episode gives us a glimpse of how Heaven works within the Supernatural setting, how you can relive your happiest memories and stay within them as long as you would like. This raises some questions for Dean though. His “memories” are all centred around his happiness with his family, most frequently involving Sam and his Mum, but Sam’s are shown to be when he wasn’t with his family at all: a Thanksgiving spent at a girl’s house with her family, a time spent in Flagstaff with a dog, living off of junk food when he ran away from his Dad and brother and lastly the fateful night when he told his Father he was going to college and John told him to never come back. Dean is upset telling Sam he thought that they were family, Sam maintains that they are, but Dean isn’t convinced due to his moral and confidence taking a beating the closer we get to the end of this season.
Zachariah, on learning that Sam and Dean have died, starts hunting them throughout Heaven, they’re on his turf now and it’s the perfect place to force Dean to say yes to Michael. They’re given a brief reprieve from this when Ash (Chad Lindberg) rescues them and brings them back to a recreation of Harvelle’s Roadhouse. Ash reveals to them that they’ve both been in Heaven numerous times but every time they are brought back to life they lose their memories of being there. Ash also tells them that they’re a rarity in that they share the same Heaven as soul-mates would do.
Eventually, they are dealt the final blow by Joshua himself when the Angel saves them again from Zachariah. Joshua informs them that although God is currently in an unknown location on Earth, He is well aware of that is happening with the Apocalypse but He doesn’t feel it is His problem anymore. He’s done. It hits the both of them hard, especially Dean whom Joshua reveals was putting all his last hopes on God solving all of this. Dean has lost faith in himself, in Sam and now in God.
The brothers are returned to Earth where they explain to Castiel, who is equally devastated by his Father’s abandonment, and we witness Dean throwing away the amulet Sam gave to him all those Christmases ago. It was revealed that the amulet would glow in the presence of God, but Dean no longer feels the family connection to it and believes it useless, so it is cast aside. A very bleak end to a very bleak but powerful episode.
As season finales go Swan Song deserves an article devoted solely to it, written by Eric Kripke it is the end of the journey that he set Supernatural on at the start of season one. Beautifully framed by Chuck Shurley’s (Rob Benedict) narration, starting with a history of the Impala and how it goes on to become the most important object in the whole universe, it still ranks as one of, if not the, best season finales.
Left with no other options Dean consents to Sam’s plan of how to deal with Lucifer. Armed with the four rings that belonged to the Four Horsemen the brothers have a way to open Lucifer’s Cage and Sam thinks he can get the Devil back into it, but it’ll be a one way trip for the youngest Winchester. Sam believes that once he has agreed to allow Lucifer to possess him, he’ll be able to regain control of his body and jump into the Cage himself. Dean hates the plan, even more so when Sam insists that he can never look for ways to break him out in case it frees Lucifer again, but he has to have faith in his brother’s strength. Sam insists that Dean promise once this is done that he goes to see Lisa (Cindy Sampson) again and try to live his longed-for ‘apple pie life’.
Things do not go to plan though when Sam apparently is not strong enough to overcome Lucifer’s possession. After taking control of Sam’s body, Lucifer promptly disappears leaving Dean, Cas, and Bobby with the only option of riding out the Apocalypse and seeing where things land. Dean cannot do that though and refuses to let Sam face this alone. They go to see Chuck who reveals that he does know the location where the Apocalypse is due to start, Stull Cemetary, a location just outside the boys’ hometown of Lawrence, Kansas. Dean heads there, seemingly alone, driving up to where Lucifer and Michael (Jake Abel) are facing off, Def Leppard’s Rock of Ages belting from the Impala’s stereo as he does so. Supernatural has always handled important character entrances in an epic way.
After Castiel temporarily despatches Michael with a Molotov of holy fire, using the best distraction tactics of yelling ‘ Hey, Assbutt!’, Lucifer explodes the angel, killing him instantly and then proceeds to snap Bobby’s neck, leaving Dean alone with him. Dean tries to breakthrough to Sam, telling him to find the strength to overcome Lucifer, but Lucifer responds by beating Dean bloody until he is barely conscious. With everyone else dead it looks like it’s going to be the same end for Dean, but then a flash of light glinting off of the Impala, distracting Lucifer, saves the day. We see flashes of Sam’s memories, army men wedged in the ashtray, legos put in the vents, the two boys carving their initials in the Impala ceiling, countless more follow spanning across the five seasons until Lucifer unclenches his fist and Sam is revealed to now be in control.
Sam is able to reopen the portal to the Cage, reassuring Dean that it’s going to be okay, and prepares to jump. As he starts to fall an angry Michael reappears but it is too late to stop Sam and the other Archangel falls into the Cage as well, trapping the three of them forever.
Castiel returns, believing that God has resurrected him for the second time, and he brings Bobby back to life, but everything is still too much for Dean, the loss of his brother far too painful to endure. He is a broken man, but he remembers his final promise to Sam.
Chuck, who has been writing a novel throughout the episode, is sat at his desk no longer dressed in his usual drab clothing but in a pristine white shirt. He brings his novel to a close, as we see Dean arriving on Lisa’s doorstep and being welcomed inside. Chuck types ‘The End’, and takes a drink as his voiceover states:
No doubt – endings are hard. But then again… nothing ever really ends, does it?
The next we see is the Prophet smiling and then vanishing into thin air with a golden glowing effect, hinting perhaps that there was a lot more to the man than Sam and Dean could have ever realised.
This is where the episode would no doubt have ended had the news of a renewal for a sixth season not alreay been announced. Instead, the last shot of Swan Song shows that Dean, drinking whiskey inside Lisa’s home, is being watched by someone standing outside, the streetlamp above flickering. It is Sam, but the reasons behind why he is there, and if he even really is Sam are left often as the screen turns to black.
And that’s our list, and we’re aware that a vast number of equally outstanding episodes didn’t make the final cut. So do you agree with the episodes presented here, or would you have picked a different five? Let us know in the comments.