Some major spoilers for all of Supernatural ahead.
Supernatural is one of my favourite shows, but I wouldn’t have even considered watching it (It wasn’t on my radar. I knew nothing about it.) if it weren’t for an enthusiastic friend who quite simply wouldn’t shut up about it. But, eventually, I decided to start the journey through the saga of the Winchester brothers and it may be one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Seasons one to five
It’s known in the TV world that the first season of a show usually isn’t a strong point – take Parks and Rec, Friends or Breaking Bad as examples. There are exceptions to this – Twin Peaks, Community – and Supernatural is one of them.
Don’t get me wrong – overall, the season doesn’t feel as large-scale as what was to come but, as an introduction to the world of the show and the characters, it’s almost pitch-perfect. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are the heart of the show as Sam and Dean and right off the bat, their chemistry is unbelievable (and to think Jared nearly wasn’t a part of the show!) as they drive around the backstreets taking down some of the most iconic mythological creatures. For example, Bloody Mary, The Hook Man, even a killer vehicle in the vein of Christine). This approach to the show was very X-Files but it was darker and creepier than that show, and the use of real-world myths and legends really added extra horror. Plus, there’s the eerie grey-tone cinematography to add to that, something that unfortunately vanished after season two.
The early years of Supernatural are almost unanimously known as being the show’s peak, first focusing on the boys search for their missing father and hunt for the demonic entity that killed their mother. Then, branching off into an epic angel vs. demon apocalypse which threatens the very existence of mankind.
While the show maintained its ‘Monster of the Week’ episodic format for most of its first three seasons, come season four – sorry for this – ‘all hell breaks loose’ and a swarm of new characters, like fan-favourite Castiel, who eventually becomes like a brother to the Winchester’s, and the love-to-hate ‘Crowley’ are introduced. All while Sam and Dean discover they are both vehicles for powerful archangel’s, Lucifer and Michael.
In these early years, we got episodes such as Faith, Tall Tales, Bad Day At Black Rock, Mystery Spot, Yellow Fever, Wishful Thinking and Changing Channels. Some of the most unique, thoughtful and funniest episodes in modern TV.
After the climatic Swan Song which ends season five and thus the show’s first story arc, things get slightly de-railed for a while. That’s not to say that the following four seasons are without merit, but they lacked the strong storylines of, at this point retired, showrunner Eric Kripke. Season six struggled to create an interesting new plot, with a highly convoluted purgatory plotline ruling the season. However, we also get some of the greatest stand-alone episodes in the show’s history; Weekend At Bobby’s, Live Free or Twi-Hard, Clap Your Hands If You Believe, Appointment In Samarra, The French Mistake, My Heart Will Go On, Frontierland and The Man Who Would Be King. The French Mistake is deemed by many as the single best of the bunch, with its fascinating meta-commentary and smart writing. This season also gave us Soulless Sam and we want to speak to whoever thought this was a fun idea. It wasn’t.
The infamous seventh season
Things quickly go further downhill with the almost unwatchable season seven. This is where my own watching-speed of the show slowed. Before, I was watching a season a week, at this point potentially one episode a week. After the doors of purgatory are broken open, a promising new villain, The Leviathan, come to earth. Things get daft very quickly. The Leviathan leader, Dick Roman, seems to pretty much exist only to give the showrunners an excuse to see how many dick jokes they can come up with and the Leviathan are dumb, rather than scary. Their weakness is – hilariously – Borax and the social comments they try to deliver are sloppy and misguided. At least this whole mess gave us the amazing Charlie Bradbury (played by Felicia Day) and the fun episode ‘Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie’. Apart from that, it’s an almost total write-off. And don’t start me on the death of Bobby Singer.
Seasons eight and nine
Fortunately, things start to get ever-so-slightly better in the eighth season – in a reversal of season six. Rather than the Monster of The Week episodes taking the medal for the best of the season, it’s actually the plot that drives season eight. It’s the tightest plot since season five and feels like the show is heading in an exciting new direction. Crowley becomes a more prominent antagonist and we’re introduced to The Bunker, which acts as the base from now until the show’s end. The Bunker belongs to the Men Of Letters, a secret society that researched the supernatural, and who become a key part of the show’s lore. The main plot involves the Winchester’s having to conduct three ‘Trials of God’ in order to shut the Gates of Hell. Some may argue some of these challenges were too easy, however, I found each of them tense and enjoyable and much better than the season’s first ten episodes which contain numerous painful flashbacks with Sam, a dog, and a woman. That’s basically all I remember. Forgettable, cringy filler.
Unfortunately, the show fails to deliver on this whole ‘sealing the Gates of Hell’ stuff and the trials end up all for nothing as Dean realizes Sam will die if he goes through with them and prevents him from completing them; then angels start raining from the sky.
Season nine was rough. It doesn’t feel like a follow-up to the prior season and doesn’t feature many, standout episodes. Okay, Dog Dean Afternoon rules, but I think I’m alone with that opinion. First Born, which sets up the Mark of Cain storyline for the tenth season, is simply fantastic though. Apart from that, we have episodes like Rock and A Hard Place and The Purge, they’re better than season eight’s but the MOTW entries just don’t deliver much in either of the seasons. Bloodlines doesn’t exist to me.
I love Supernatural even at its messiest, but undeniably some of these middle segments are tough watches. But, it’s worth powering through because things get really good again.
Season ten to twelve
Season ten sees Dean desperate to rid himself of the cursed biblical Mark of Cain before it corrupts him forever. This season is notable for many reasons, but two especially come to mind.
The 200th episode, ‘Fan Fiction, which marks the return of Chuck Shirley and a new twist on the show’s MOTW episode format and everyone’s favourite witch, Rowena. Despite some wasted potential (demon Dean for instance, an intriguing sub-plot which lasts all but three episodes), I view season ten as the show’s return to form.
The Mark of Cain plot is tense and suspenseful and the final leg of the season nails this ever-building tension. It leads on a dark, twisted season 11 where the brothers and Castiel must fight against their biggest threat yet, God’s Sister, Amara (a.k.a The Darkness).
It’s in or around season eleven that the show begins its final arc. Amara is an increasing threat and most significantly, we find out Chuck has in fact been the big man (God) himself the whole damn time. How’s that for a plot twist?
This season also gave us ‘Baby’, an episode set entirely from the perspective of Dean’s impala which is just an awesome episode idea and executed to perfection with the return of fan-favourite villain Lucifer.
Season 11 ends with the introduction of the British Men Of Letters and the resurrection of Mary Winchester. Unfortunately, season 12 had some more issues. The British Men Of Letters are a goofy, unthreatening antagonist and a much more interesting plot about Lucifer’s child is sidelined, despite becoming the literal driving force of the show in much of seasons 13-15. We also lose Crowley, and although his sacrifice is a perfect end to his character arc, the show was noticeably void of something when actor, Mark Sheppard, left.
Seasons thirteen to fifteen
Season 13 leaves us in the aftermath of the birth of Lucifer’s son, Crowley’s sacrifice and the disappearance of Lucifer and Mary Winchester into a strange new ‘Apocalypse World’; an alternate dimension where the apocalypse wasn’t prevented as the Winchester Brothers don’t exist.
The season is based primarily on a ‘rescue mission’ to save Mary Winchester and Lucifer from this dimension andthe following season is my favourite of the show’s later years. While divisive, I found the introduction of Jack a welcome addition and he freshened up the shows dynamic while furthering its familial themes. Furthermore, the latest attempt (at the time) to create a spin-off ‘Wayward Sisters’ is way better than Bloodlines and gives the often underrepresented female characters of the show a chance to shine while giving us some dimension-hopping fun.
There’s also ‘Scoobynatural’, which if you hadn’t guessed, is a crossover episode with Scooby Doo!. As someone who was Scooby obsessed as a kid (and it’s probably the reason I love horror now), I’d always sort of seen Supernatural as like an adult version of that show and this episode just proved my point. The boys fit right into Scooby’s world and it’s a rare crossover that feels natural and genuinely well-crafted.
Aside from those highlights, there’s also another western-style episode; Tombstone, which was great considering we hadn’t gotten an episode like that since Season 6’s Frontierland and then there’s the tense The Scorpion and the Frog – a heist episode!
Season 13’s finale sees Dean possessed by Apocalypse World Michael after the Brother’s attempt to save the inhabitants of the Universe from him by bringing them into their reality. While the potential of an Evil Dean isn’t recognized (yet again) in Season 14 and arguably this season doesn’t feel as high stakes as the one’s bookending it (Michael is defeated about halfway through), there are so many fantastic individual episodes.
‘Mint Condition’ is the closest the show’s come to a genuine Halloween special since the Halloween special back in season four. It was just awesome to see this show’s spin on the ‘Slasher’ genre. Lebanon, the show’s 300th episode, sees the short return of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as John Winchester as he is brought back for one day due to an error with an occult object; it’s one of the most emotional, most rewarding episodes.
The season finale is also the best since Swan Song as we find out the main antagonist this whole time has been the man himself, God who has been playing the Winchesters like puppets on a TV show their whole lives. This set us up for an epic final season, but can it follow through on this exciting premise?
Yes and no. The fifteenth and final season of Supernatural divided opinions.
Some loved it, some felt it was a kick in the face to those who remained dedicated throughout the entire run. I can see where both sides are coming from.
Even those who liked the season think the first episodes are just alright, but honestly, I really liked them. Prophet Kevin Tran returns and Rowena finally gets completion to her redemption arc and to a long-brewing plot point; it’s also the boy’s trying to rescue a small-town full of murderous ghosts, pretty cool, right? Once the season gets rolling there’s a ton of fan service, but sometimes it feels like the writers didn’t know what fans actually liked in the show.
It was really fun to see Lilith, Amara, Ruby and Meg return but I can’t imagine many folk were enthused to see the return of Becky or Eileen; Eileen, a mundane side character from a few seasons ago, who most have probably forgotten by now. Chuck is a threatening villain; he’s ending realities, he’s messing with everyone, yet, he’s barely given enough screen time, which is annoying because episodes like Golden Time and Drag Me Away (From You) are the unnecessary filler we don’t need in a final season; especially since one of them is one of the last five episodes of the entire show.
All being said, The Heroes’ Journey is a great concept episode where the boys are deprived of their ‘heroes luck’ by God and find themselves having to fight like, gulp, normal people. This leads to The Gamblers where they compete in games of pool in which the prize is luck and we also finally get an explanation for the existence of gods from religions other than Christianity in the show. It’s a simple, but smart two-parter.
Last Holiday stood out to me too; Sam and Dean discover there’s a wood nymph living in the bunker who is less innocent than their first impression would suggest. This is just a delightful MOTW episode with an ‘Evil Mary Poppins’ to boot and the frustrating revelation that the Bunker has had untapped potential this entire time, Sam and Dean, you idjits.
All this leads up to the final two-part finale which fortunately does not miss the mark; Inherit the Earth, the penultimate episode, is more of the ‘season finale’. God is taken down and Jack takes over in his place and Sam and Dean can finally go about their lives as they please without Chuck’s control. One minor thing I’ll say, Lucifer shouldn’t have returned. He was defeated. The show’s insistence to keep bringing back dead characters was one of its biggest flaws, and this minor reappearance confirms it.
All things must come to an end and so to did Supernatural with Carry On. This is potentially the most love-or-hate episode of the entire show but I thought it did a good job of being a series, rather than a season finale. We got our pay-off for the main plot of the show’s last arc in the episode prior, but we couldn’t just leave it there when we’ve been on a journey with these characters for 15 years. Instead, we get an emotional conclusion. Dean dies in action and Sam gets to live his life into old age, with a family. This was built upon for the whole show, yet, it isn’t any less poignant. Dean gets to Heaven where he sits with Bobby and gets to drive around in his beloved Impala ‘Baby’ before Sam arrives in Heaven at the episode’s end to join him as a rendition of Carry On My Wayward Son plays.
And just like that, the Winchester Saga ended.
Supernatural took me around seven months to finish. It’s, by far, the longest binge I’ve dedicated myself to. Was it worth it? Absolutely. There are bumps along the way but in the end, you can’t help but fall in love with these characters and their adventures. It’s scary, hilarious, emotional; about everything you’d want from TV and I’ll be revisiting it again and again (okay, maybe only individual episodes because I want my social life back).
Image Credits: Warner Bro’s Television / CW