Oh Supernatural, even though you can be painful, frustrating, and depressing sometimes, I will never stop loving you. With the start of the fifteenth (!) and final season this week, what better time to revisit the 307 (!!) episodes of the little show that could. Sam and Dean have died more times than they can count but this time it might be for good. But before the going gets tough and the tough get going, let’s take a moment to celebrate some of the best episodes that this bonkers, beautiful show has produced over the last decade and a half.
Best Monsters of the Week
The Benders — season 1, episode 15
A bit of an odd choice to start off a list for show about supernatural beasties with an episode where humans are the killers. But what makes this episode so good is that it reminds us that it’s not just monsters wreaking havoc on the world. Sometimes humans can be just as cruel as demons and vampires.
Best line: Dean: “I’ll say it again: demons I get; people are crazy.”
Nightshifter — season 2, episode 12
A great example of the show firing on all cylinders. The monster of the week case is familiar yet quickly spirals out of control; in fact we only see the monster near the end, the rest is Sam and Dean trying to do what’s best for everyone and failing spectacularly. Also, remember when Dean was wanted by the FBI? Ah, memories.
Best line: Sam: “We’re not working for the mandroid!”
Good God, Y’all — season 5 episode 2
When the pastor of a small Colorado town asks if the chaos going on outside is the end times, my first thought was “oh you sweet summer child.” Season 5 was the first of several end times, but none of the others had Titus Welliver as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Ghosts, monsters, and demons are bad enough, but War is an altogether new class of evil.
Best line: Castiel: [bemused look] “No, [God’s] not on any flatbread.”
Hammer of the Gods — season 5, episode 19
There’s fighting a god here and there, and then there’s being kidnapped by a bunch of them so they can sell you out in exchange for surviving Lucifer’s wrath. Poor Sam and Dean are trapped in a small town hotel, The Elysian Fields, as a gaggle of gods decide their fate. Gabriel/Loki is involved (in an episode this weird, of course he is), Lucifer doesn’t do bargains (of course he doesn’t), and it all goes even worse than you expect.
Best line: Gabriel: “Sam. Dean. It’s always ‘wrong place, worst time’ with you muttonheads, huh?”
Best Character Studies
What Is and What Should Never Be — season 2, episode 20
“Why is it my job to save these people? Why do I have to be some kind of hero?” Dean asks these questions while standing over his father’s grave. He has just woken up in a djinn-created world where he and Sam and John never became hunters. This is Dean’s chance to start over, to be a normal guy who mows the lawn and dates nurses. We see how much the hunter life has taken its toll.
Best lines: Dean: “Bitch.”
Sam: “What are you calling me a bitch for?”
Dean: “You’re supposed to say jerk.”
Dean: “Never mind.”
When the Levee Breaks — season 4, episode 21
Sam is a demon blood addict, and it’s time for him to detox. While locked in Bobby’s panic room as he goes through withdrawal, he hallucinates everyone from his mother to his younger self to Alastair (the demon who tortured Dean in Hell), and even his big brother. As hard as it is to watch, it’s worse when he goes back to Ruby and nearly murders Dean.
Best line: Dean: “If you walk out that door, don’t you ever come back! ”
Dark Side of the Moon — season 5, episode 16
After being shot by two pissed off hunters, Sam and Dean end up in their respective Heavens. For Dean it’s setting off fireworks with young Sammy, and for Sam it’s his first real Thanksgiving instead of his father passing out on the couch with a bucket of fried chicken. Elsewhere angels are arguing, but in Heaven Dean gets to have one last sandwich made by his mom.
Best line: Zachariah: “Wow. Running from angels. On foot. In heaven. With out-of-the-box thinking like that, I’m surprised you guys haven’t stopped the apocalypse already.”
Lebanon — season 14, episode 13
Speaking of family reunions, Dean accidentally summons John Winchester from 2003 to 2019. Mary had been resurrected by Amara at the end of season 11, but this was the first time in series history all four were on screen together. Of course there are temporal paradox shenanigans, but for a brief, shining moment, they all get to be happy. The boys and Mary had a fraught relationships with John, and this meeting gave them the closure they so desperately needed.
Best line: John Winchester: “Then it’s all true. God, the Devil, you boys smack in the middle. Now you live in a secret bunker with an angel and Lucifer’s kid.”
Best Episodes From Non-Winchester Perspectives
Ghostfacers — season 3, episode 13
Ed Zeddmore and Harry Spangler are back and this time they’re in charge. The Ghostfacers set up shop in a haunted house to look for ghosts and wind up with more than they bargained for. Sam and Dean crash their party just in time for a dangerous ghost to start picking them off. Also: baby Ted Mullens!
Best line: Ed: “Rats are like the rats of the world.”
Weekend at Bobby’s — season 6, episode 4
Jensen Ackles’ directorial debut features Bobby in all his grumpy glory. Bobby helps the Winchesters solve a case, but mostly he battles an okami and digs up Crowley’s buried past. Bobby has always been like a gruff uncle who pops in and out as needed. But here the Winchesters are secondary characters in Bobby Singer’s story.
Best line: Bobby: “Do I look like Dr. Phil to you?”
The Man Who Would Be King — season 6, episode 20
Castiel takes center stage in this episode, which is bookended by a scene of our favorite angel praying to God in a park. Cas is having a crisis of conscious. He’s screwed up in some pretty major ways this season and is this close to losing the Winchesters for good. All he wants is to do his Father’s bidding, but Daddy isn’t answering his calls. In a show about terrible fathers, God is the worst.
Best line: Dean: “You know who spies on people, Cas? Spies!”
Baby — season 11, episode 4
Alright, so technically this isn’t really shot from the perspective of Baby, Dean’s name for the Impala, but it is shot from inside the car. Baby has been there since the beginning and will likely be there at the very end. She is the glue that holds the Winchesters together.
Best line: Chuck: “On April 21, 1967, the hundredth millionth GM vehicle rolled off the line at the plant in Janesville. Three days later, another car rolled off that same line. This 1967 Chevrolet Impala would turn out to be the most important object in pretty much the whole universe.”
Bad Day at Black Rock — season 3, episode 3
A couple of loser thieves steal a lucky rabbit’s foot from John Winchester’s old storage shed, except it’s more a curse than a boon. Whoever possesses it has a rash of good luck, but when they lose it — and they always lose it — they eventually die. Rube Goldberg-ian mayhem ensues, peaking at a particularly glorious scene where Sam tries to scrape gum off his shoe and ends up losing it down a sewer drain.
Best line: Dean: “I’m Batman!”
Changing Channels — season 5, episode 8
This and “The French Mistake” are the episodes I have rewatched the most over the years, and for good reason. I still can’t make it through the herpes commercial without giggling and Dr. Sexy, MD is sheer perfection (not to mention that it makes a strong case for Dean being bisexual…). And that credits sequence for the 90s sitcom! *chef’s kiss*
Best line: Dean: “Calm down? I’m wearing sunglasses at night! You know who does that? No-talent douchebags! I hate this game! I hate that we’re in a procedural cop show, and you want to know why? Because I hate procedural cop shows! There’s like three hundred of them on television, they’re all the freakin’ same. It’s like, ‘oh, plane crashed here’ — oh shut up!”
Fan Fiction — season 10, episode 5
This is one of the all-time great episodes. Forty-two minutes of call-backs, in-jokes, and obscure references, occasionally set to music. Every time Sam and Dean encounter fans of the Carver Edlund books is a delight. There’s a monster of the week thing going on in the background, but who cares when we have Dean wrangling with the concept of “Destiel.” And apparently Dean has seen Rent enough times that he can quote it off the cuff???
Best line: Marie: “Oh, it’s just subtext! But, then again, you know, you can’t spell subtext without s-e-x.”
Death’s Door — season 7, episode 10
During a fight with Dick Roman and the Leviathans, Bobby is mortally wounded. “Death’s Door” is a lovely tribute to an honorable character. Luckily, his absence was only temporary, as in he was later replaced by Apocalypse World Bobby Singer.
Best line: Bobby: “Well, as fate would have it, I adopted two boys and they grew up great. They grew up heroes. So you can go to hell!”
Holy Terror — season 9, episode 9
Alas poor Kevin, we knew him well. Becoming a prophet put him in the crosshairs of the war between angels, demons, and the Winchesters. His story was never going to end with puppies and rainbows, but getting his insides burned up by Gadreel possessing Sam’s body probably wasn’t on his bingo card.
Best line: Kevin: “I always trust you. And I always end up screwed.”
All Along the Watchtower — season 12, episode 23
This episode has three deaths for the price of one. Kelly Kline dies giving birth to Adam, the Nephilim sired by Lucifer, while Crowley stabs himself to death with an angel blade in an attempt to trap Lucifer in Apocalypse World. Too bad Lucifer jumps back through the rift just in time to kill Castiel with the angel blade before Mary drags him back into Apocalypse World as the rift seals for good.
Best line: Crowley: “Is this what you do when I’m not here? Type?”
Abandon All Hope — season 5, episode 10
Ellen and Jo Harvelle, a mother-daughter hunter team, were key supporting characters in the early days. Both are killed trying to protect Sam and Dean. The writers seem to think their deaths are heroic, but in reality they feel unnecessary and pointless, particularly when we realize they were fridged, as their demises are used to further motivate Sam and Dean. Thanks, I hate it.
Best line: Jo: “No. Sweetheart, if this is our last night on earth, then I’m going to spend it with a little thing I call self-respect.”
Dark Dynasty — season 10, episode 21
Charlie was one of the best guest characters in the show’s history. Killing her off was bad enough, but to do it in such an awful way was downright terrible. She dies doing something uncharacteristically stupid, and her death is further cheapened because she’s fridged. You’d think the writers would’ve learned their lesson after ten seasons, but no.
Best lines: Charlie: “Sam and Dean are like my brothers. I love them.”
Rowena: “I know. And that steadfast loyalty will be your undoing, my girl.”
Biggest Game Changers
The Monster at the End of This Book — season 4 episode 18
As far as game changers go, this episode offers 4 pretty major ones. We meet Chuck Shurley for the first time, the writer who has visions of Sam and Dean and turns them into the cult classic book series Supernatural. Turns out he’s also a prophet (or is he…?). Back when it aired, this seemed like another piece of the Michael/Lucifer vessel puzzle, but a decade on it turns out to be one of the most revealing episodes in the show’s history.
Best line: Chuck: “I write things and then they come to life. Yeah, no, I’m definitely a god. A cruel, cruel, capricious god…I toyed with your lives, your emotions for entertainment.”
Point of No Return — season 5 episode 18
This really is the point of no return for the Winchesters. They’ve spent 5 seasons trying to avoid their fates, but now it’s crunch time. No more running, no more planning. Adam turns his body over to Michael and there’s nothing Sam or Dean can do about it. A tense, dramatic episode where everyone makes rash decisions rooted in fear and anger.
Best line: Dean: “So screw destiny, right in the face. I say we take the fight to them, and do it our way.”
First Born — season 9, episode 11
The first time we meet Cain (the awesome Timothy Omundson), the introduction of the First Blade (which Dean needs to kill Abbadon), and a ton of backstory about Lucifer’s role in Abel’s murder and the Knights of Hell. Dean also gets saddled with the Mark of Cain. Dean often trades his soul for the benefit of others, but even he begins to regret this deal.
Best line: Castiel: [takes a bite of a sandwich] “It tastes like molecules.”
Don’t Call Me Shurley — season 11, episode 20
Down on earth, Sam and Dean deal with a case of killer fog while in a dive bar Chuck and Metatron work on rewrites of Chuck’s latest book. Of course Chuck isn’t really just some loser writer. This episode confirmed a long-standing fan theory that he was, in fact, God. We learn more about the archangels and their relationship with their Father, and by the end Dean holds a glowing Samulet in his hand as Chuck finally reveals himself.
Best line: Sam: “Dude, quit ironing my shirts with beer!”
Moriah – season 14, episode 20
Nothing could be a bigger game changer than the season finale right before the final season. Jack confronts Sam, Dean, and Cas and it goes poorly. Dean once again takes on the worst task to spare others and decides to kill Jack. Except that’s exactly what Chuck wants. And when has Team Free Will ever done what Heaven wants? But refusal comes at a high cost as Chuck sets off the Apocalypse and releases every monster the boys have ever killed.
Best line: Dean: “Hi. I’m Dean Winchester, and I’m looking for the Devil’s son.”
Best Reality Benders
Mystery Spot – season 3, episode 11
AKA the many deaths of Dean Winchester. Stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque time loop thanks to the wiley Trickster, Sam has to watch Dean get killed in increasingly bizarre ways until he learns an unsettling lesson
Best line: Sam: “Yesterday was Tuesday, right? But today is Tuesday too!”
The End — season 5, episode 4
Zachariah sends Dean 5 years into the future where the Croatoan virus has become a pandemic and Lucifer possesses Sam. The result? Not great, Bob. Bonus points for a stoned Cas who goes to orgies and is stoned all the time.
Best line: Dean: “Well if it isn’t the Ghost of Christmas Screw You.”
The French Mistake — season 6, episode 15
Out of all 300+ episodes, this has to be the funniest. Sam and Dean crash into a world without magic thanks to Balthazar and wind up as Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, stars of the low-rated TV show Supernatural. Basically 42 minutes of non-stop jokes. Just thinking about Dean realizing Sam married Fake Ruby has me snickering.
Best lines, all courtesy of Dean: “I feel sick. I’m gonna be sick. I feel like this whole place is bad touching me.”
“Dear Castiel, who art maybe running his ass away from heaven, we pray that you have your ears on. So breaker, breaker.”
“Look at these male modelin’ sons of bitches.”
Scoobynatural — season 13, episode 16
Yep, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The Winchesters get sucked into a television and end up in an episode of Scooby-Doo. The plot gets a little too intense for the kid-friendly cartoon characters, what with the ghost being a dead kid and the discovery that the supernatural is real, but the boys make sure to set things right.
Best line: Dean: “Sam, growing up on the road, no matter where Dad dragged us, no matter what we did, there was always a TV. And you know what was always on that TV? Scooby and the Gang. These guys, they’re our friggin’ role models, man. Except Fred. He’s a wad.”
Pilot — season 1, episode 1
Meeting Sam and Dean for the first time is one thing; rewatching it 15 years on is another. Thankfully it still holds up, even if the show is a very different beast now. The pilot is fun yet frightening, economical yet expansive. Barring the fridging of two women characters and all that toxic masculinity that stained the early seasons, it’s a nearly perfect episode.
Best line: Dean: “House rules, Sammy. Driver picks the music; shotgun shuts his cake hole.”
In My Time of Dying — season 2, episode 1
For all his faults, John Winchester really was doing his best. He loved his boys and wanted to protect other families from what they went through. Unfortunately he didn’t know how to do both at the same time, not until he makes a deal with a demon to save Dean’s life. Starting off the second season by killing off the most important figure in the boys’ lives is a bold choice.
Best line: Dean: “You always have a choice. You can either roll over and die or you can keep fighting, no matter what.”
Lazarus Rising — season 4, episode 1
This ep gives us a Dean who is resurrected after spending decades being one of Hell’s worst torturers and the arrival of Castiel. While the episode doesn’t spend much time setting up the arc for the season, it does establish the new-yet-not-improved versions of Dean and Sam and introduces Cas. It packs a whole lot in just 42 minutes.
Best line: Castiel: “I’m the one who gripped you tight and raised you from perdition.”
Devil’s Trap — season 1, episode 22
If there’s one thing Supernatural does best it’s season finales. The first season ends on a killer hook. The boys have just rescued their father from the clutches of a demon. Just as they’re making their escape in the Impala, a demon trucker smashes into them. Are they dead? Merely unconscious? Fans watching live in 2006 had to wait nearly 5 months for the answer. And! This is Bobby Singer’s first appearance!
Best line: Dean: “Killing that guy, killing Meg. I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t even flinch. For you or Dad, the things I’m willing to do or kill, it’s just…it scares me sometimes.”
No Rest for the Wicked — season 3, episode 16
Dean and Sam go up against Lilith in what they hope will be the final battle. She escapes, but not before sending Dean to Hell as per the bargain he made a while back. The very last shot is Dean, bloody and sweaty, suspended by meat hooks on chains and screaming for his brother. Whew!
Best line: Dean: “All I’m saying…Sammy, all I’m saying is that you’re my weak spot…You are. And I’m yours.”
Swan Song — season 5, episode 22
For an episode that was originally supposed to be a series finale, this does a lot of heavy lifting. The Michael/Lucifer arc ends with Sam!Lucifer and Adam!Michael tumbling into the Cage. Cas heads off to find God while Dean settles for trying to build a monster-free life with Lisa. And Chuck vanishes. It’s a hell of an ending, even if the pause is only temporary.
Best line: Chuck: “No doubt, endings are hard. But then again, nothing ever really ends, does it?”
Alex Brown is a high school librarian by day, local historian by night, author and writer by passion, and an ace/aro Black woman all the time. Keep up with her on Twitter and Insta, or follow along with her reading adventures on her blog.