With its "dreamy Hardy Boys chase ghosts" premise, you might think The CW's Supernatural is just fodder for pubescent girls. I assumed as much myself for years; it wasn't until I watched the long-running series that I realized it is among the best-written shows in television history. Name another show with more than 200 episodes that's filled with action, horror, comedy, and pathos, and that confronts the nature of family, good and evil, God, and even humanity's place in the universe. That may sound like hyperbole, but fans know I'm actually selling Supernatural short.
To break it down further, I ranked all 241 of Supernatural's episodes from worst to best (with three two-part episodes counting as one). Picking the top 20 was easy, and selecting the bottom ~20 wasn't too hard either -- but ranking everything in between was nearly impossible, because the overall bar for quality on the show is just so high. There's no point quibbling over what's ranked 35th vs. 83rd, but if you enjoyed that stupid episode with the Ghost Ship or the one with Felicia Day going to Oz, we probably won't agree on much.
238. "Bitten" (Season 8, Episode 4)
Like a CW reboot of The Blair Witch Project, one of the worst episodes of Supernatural combines found video footage, werewolves, and a love triangle -- and barely features the show's protagonists, Sam and Dean Winchester. Nothing about this episode feels like Supernatural. It's the sort of thing you'd expect if your knowledge of the show was limited to the posters they sell in Hot Topic.
237. "Red Sky at Morning" (Season 3, Episode 6)
An episode about a haunted ghost ship or something. English superthief Bela (The Walking Dead's Lauren Cohan) and some GILF jokes don't help. Later on in the series, this episode gets mocked, and rightly so.
236. "Bloodlines" (Season 9, Episode 20)
The spinoff that never was, for which the nation is grateful. Ever wonder what would happen if different monster families lived in Chicago and battled each other like the mafia? No? That must have been what all the focus groups said too, and that's why this un-Supernatural-esque TV show shoehorned into the existing Supernatural universe never made it.
235. "Slumber Party" (Season 9, Episode 4)
Felicia Day is Charlie Bradbury in an episode that is far worse than the mixed results of her other appearances. Turns out Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz is real, and she's the daughter of Men of Letters, the Evil-fighting organization Sam and Dean's paternal grandfather belonged to. Anyway, Oz is real, and hacker-turned-hunter Charlie has been there. The Wicked Witch must be defeated! The only way to make this train wreck any more pandering would be to have Felicia Day use adorkable sex magic with Katniss to defeat Voldemort.
234. "Man's Best Friend with Benefits" (Season 8, Episode 15)
A cop who becomes a real-life magician! And has a real-life magician's helper! Who is a dog/real-life, super-hot girlfriend! An episode so bad, you'll wonder how I ranked "Bloodlines" lower. I wonder that too, actually.
233. "Defending Your Life" (Season 7, Episode 4)
Most of the jokes in Supernatural land, and while the Jewish humor (there are vague implications that the boys are part Jewish) tends to be muted, this weak episode about the Egyptian god Osiris holds the distinction of containing Supernatural's hackiest joke. After getting caught stealing a shofar from a synagogue, a nebbish rabbi asks Sam, "I guess you're not here for Bar Mitzvah lessons?"
232. "LARP and the Real Girl" (Season 8, Episode 11)
Felicia Day is back as Charlie Bradbury, the character for Comic-Con nerds, in an episode crafted just for Comic-Con nerds. Sam and Dean get in on some live-action role play, and Felicia gets to kiss a girl! It's as naughty as it is wacky, and not at all up to usual Supernatural standards.
231. "Paper Moon" (Season 10, Episode 4)
After trying to take a vacation, Sam and Dean hunt a werewolf. Lo and behold, it's Werewolf Barbie from "Bitten." A minor improvement from the original.
230. "Phantom Traveler" (Season 1, Episode 4)
This Final Destination ripoff is short on scares and purpose. It's truly one of the worst episodes of Season 1.
229. "Plucky Pennywhistle's Magical Menagerie" (Season 7, Episode 14)
An angry employee at a kids' pizza chain has the power to make dreams come true. Also, Sam's afraid of clowns, which is supposed to be funny.
228. "Remember the Titans" (Season 8, Episode 16)
Hey, who remembers Greek mythology? Supernatural does, unfortunately, in this episode with Zeus, Prometheus, and nothing that feels like it belongs in the Supernatural universe.
227. "Heartache" (Season 8, Episode 3)
The boys track a killer who steals body parts. Turns out it's multiple murderers, all snatching body parts from an ageless Mayan athlete. I don't remember hating this episode when I first saw it, but after writing that sentence, damn.
226. "Hook Man" (Season 1, Episode 7)
I know what you did last summer, and it was pad out Season 1 with a script for a murderous man with a hook.
225. "Bugs" (Season 1, Episode 8)
Some newly constructed houses have some incredibly pissed-off bugs. Supernatural itself mocks this episode in the "Monster at the End of This Book" episode as the worst, but maybe they forgot that Felicia Day-in-Oz one.
224. "Route 666" (Season 1, Episode 13)
Racist, murderous trucks are the worst -- nearly as bad as some of the acting in this minor episode.
223. "The Usual Suspects" (Season 2, Episode 7)
Linda Blair guest-stars as a tough cop with limited acting range. A bad episode about a bad cop.
222. "Heart" (Season 2, Episode 17)
The werewolf episodes are some of the worst in Supernatural's run. This is a werewolf episode.
221. "Unforgiven" (Season 6, Episode 13)
Sam returns to a town he'd hunted once before, back when he didn't have a soul. This time, he does it right, killing an Arachne (think a spider man, but not Spider-Man).
220. "Fresh Blood" (Season 3, Episode 7)
There's a vampire building a nest by dosing young women at nightclubs in this after-school special monster story. Monster hunter Gordon gets turned into a vampire, and Sam cuts his head off with piano wire. So, not exactly like an after-school special.
219. "Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!" (Season 7, Episode 8)
The introduction of nerdy hunter Garth. Under a demon's spell, Sam is tricked into marrying Becky, the ultimate in grating fangirls.
218. "The Slice Girls" (Season 7, Episode 13)
Dean has a one-night stand with an Amazon and produces a fast-growing offspring, who Sam kills when Dean can't.
217. "Sharp Teeth" (Season 9, Episode 12)
Turns out the boys' old friend Garth has gone werewolf, with a lovely werewolf bride from a werewolf community.
216. "Fallen Idols" (Season 5, Episode 5)
Paris Hilton guest-stars. That's not a really good thing in this monster-of-the-week episode set in a wax museum. It has some good laughs, though, especially from a squirrely Gandhi who kicks the crap out of Sam.
The Good Ones
215. "Shut Up, Dr. Phil" (Season 7, Episode 5)
A witch seeks revenge on her cheating husband's friends and lovers, but it turns out the husband's got powers, too. Only a middling episode, despite Jensen Ackles' comedy chops.
214. "Love Hurts" (Season 11, Episode 13)
Sam and Dean are dealing with a qareen. That's, um, I dunno, Fatal Attraction monster? Some spiteful literal heart-ripping-out action on Valentine's Day.
213. "All Dogs Go to Heaven" (Season 6, Episode 8)
A skinwalker is posing as family dog. At least it's not one of those crappy ones you carry in a purse.
212. "Born Under a Bad Sign" (Season 2, Episode 14)
Scared he's committed unspeakable evil under the effects of demon blood, Sam and Dean track clues to figure out what happened to Sam in the week he's been away. But it's not demon blood in Sam, it's a demon (Meg Masters). Bobby Singer, hunter and surrogate father to the boys, drives her out.
211. "Sin City" (Season 3, Episode 4)
Sam and Dean investigate a once-sleepy town that has become a den of evil. Dean and a demon get to spend some quality time trapped in a basement. A mysterious woman with the demon-killing blade turns out to be a demon herself, and promises to help get Dean out of his sold-soul contract.
210. "Hibbing 911" (Season 10, Episode 8)
Sheriff Jody Mills, a plucky, small-time law-enforcement agent with a tragic past, is back, and on a retreat. This one features very efficient vampires and a comic relief sidekick.
209. "Torn and Frayed" (Season 8, Episode 10)
Angel Castiel is being manipulated and used by Heaven. He and the boys try to rescue an angel from Crowley, the King of Hell. Sam also spends time with his girlfriend, and no one cares.
208. "Ghostfacers" (Season 3, Episode 13)
The Ghostfacers, nerdy hack hunters, return in a POV episode. Not bad, but as some patrons of their website might say in the comments, "Not your best."
207. "Blood Brother" (Season 8, Episode 5)
Dean helps his former Purgatory companion Benny kill the vampire who made him, and then Sam gets dragged back into hunting after wanting to retire. Anyway, if you like creole bear daddy vampires, there's a bunch of Benny here.
206. "Asylum" (Season 1, Episode 10)
A standard but effective insane-asylum ghost story.
205. "Party On, Garth" (Season 7, Episode 18)
With the help of Garth, an incredibly nerdy but talented hunter, the boys battle a Shojo, a warrior who can only be seen and fought when drunk.
204. "The Girl Next Door" (Season 7, Episode 3)
Sam finds his old high-school crush has grown up to be a monster, and he can't bring himself to kill her, so Dean does it. A minor episode notable only for setting up a recurring rift between the brothers.
203. "Ask Jeeves" (Season 10, Episode 6)
A Supernatural take on a Clue-style murder-mystery.
202. "Southern Comfort" (Season 8, Episode 6)
Garth is the new Bobby in an episode about a vengeful spirit that goes all the way back to the Civil War.
201. "The Things We Left Behind" (Season 10, Episode 9)
Castiel tracks down the troubled teen daughter of his vessel. Dean goes Mark-of-Cain aggro to help out.
200. "The Hunter Games" (Season 10, Episode 10)
Castiel seeks help from the angel Metatron, God's scribe, on how to lift the Mark of Cain from Dean.
199. "There's No Place Like Home" (Season 10, Episode 11)
Felicia Day, aka Charlie Bradbury, is back from Oz, and still the least interesting character Supernatural has ever seen. But at least in this episode her good and dark sides have been split, and at least the evil one doesn't milk the whole adorable-nerdling thing.
198. "The Bad Seed" (Season 11, Episode 3)
Crowley tutors the Darkness, aka Amara, in the ways of evil, but she's proving increasingly difficult, being a teenager after a few days of life on earth. Meanwhile, the boys capture Crowley's mother, the witch Rowena, and get her to lift the curse off Castiel.
197. "A Little Slice of Kevin" (Season 8, Episode 7)
Castiel mysteriously escapes from Purgatory and tells Dean he did not abandon him like Dean remembers. Instead, Castiel chose to stay in Purgatory as penance. Meanwhile, the prophet Kevin Tran and his mom both seek help from a witch.
196. "Thin Lizzie" (Season 11, Episode 5)
A series of murders at Lizzie Borden's old house make the boys think they're chasing her ghost. They're not; Amara's just swallowing more people's souls, leaving murderers in her wake.
195. "Two and a Half Men" (Season 6, Episode 2)
Shapeshifter, baby! Tensions in the family of hunting Campbells. Dean tries to balance being a family man with hunting.
194. "Plush" (Season 11, Episode 7)
Evil costumes possess their wearers. Supernatural usually steals from the best, but this time, it appears they've borrowed a page from Halloween III. Given that, not a bad episode.
193. "The Purge" (Season 9, Episode 13)
Sam and Dean investigate a health spa where the fat is literally sucked from patrons' bodies.
192. "Something Wicked" (Season 1, Episode 18)
A shtriga preys upon the life forces of children. Sam and Dean mess the shtriga up to save the day.
191. "Pac-Man Fever" (Season 8, Episode 20)
Dean is concerned the second trial to shut the Gates of Hell has taken a toll on Sam. Or maybe the producers were concerned about ratings, because Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day) is back and stinking up the joint, this time in an episode where she can be a badass wearing an ammo vest and Dean can look handsome in officer's clothing. It's more like a fan fiction episode Becky would write, except for the part about Charlie's mom, which is touching.
190. "Provenance" (Season 1, Episode 19)
An evil painting comes to life, murdering its owners. Like many of the first season's episodes, this is just a solid modern-day update to a classic ghost story.
189. "Bloodlust" (Season 2, Episode 3)
Sam and Dean meet up with slightly unhinged hunter Gordon, who's working a vampire case. But these vampires seem to have consciences.
188. "Let It Bleed" (Season 6, Episode 21)
Crowley kidnaps Dean's girlfriend Lisa and her son Ben. Bobby's old girlfriend Ellie is apparently from Purgatory, 900 years old, and HP Lovecraft's murderer. It's a needlessly silly Season 6 subplot, but still makes for a strong episode because, at Dean's request, Castiel wipes any memory of Dean from Ben and Lisa forever.
187. "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things" (Season 2, Episode 4)
A gifted college TA learns how to raise his professor's daughter and his crush from the dead. No surprise, it doesn't go so well.
186. "Into the Mystic" (Season 11, Episode 11)
Banshees are messing things up for folks at a retirement home, and Dean is close to scoring some GILF action. The boys take out the banshee with the help of a deaf woman immune to the monster's powers.
185. "Live Free or Twihard" (Season 6, Episode 5)
For reasons revealed later, Sam lets Dean get bitten by a vampire. Also surprising: there's a cure that works.
184. "Time After Time" (Season 7, Episode 12)
Dean gets sent back in time by Chronos and hangs with Eliot Ness, who's apparently a hunter in his own right. This episode is best for people who enjoy masturbating to a fedora-wearing Jensen Ackles.
183. "The Vessel" (Season 11, Episode 14)
Dean goes back to 1943 to get a remnant of the Ark of the Covenant in the hope that it has enough mojo to kill the Darkness. It doesn't.
182. "Family Matters" (Season 6, Episode 7)
Distrustful of Sam and the other Campbells, Dean goes on a hunt and discovers that his grandfather is torturing and interrogating Alphas (the first monsters of their kind) rather than killing them. Castiel confirms that Sam came back from Hell without a soul.
181. "Out with the Old" (Season 7, Episode 16)
The Leviathan procure a realtor company and an antique shop as part of a plan to cure cancer. Like that sentence, the episode seems incomplete.
180. "Beyond the Mat" (Season 11, Episode 15)
For everyone waiting for Supernatural to finally explore the world of professional wrestling, this episode is for you. OK. Cool. You six stand over there. Still, a solid crossroads demon episode.
179. "Red Meat" (Season 11, Episode 17)
A werewolf episode with a zombie cabin feel. Not bad at all, but there has never been a great werewolf episode of Supernatural.
178. "#thinman" (Season 9, Episode 15)
The Ghostfacers are back, this time taking on Slenderman, or Thinman, as he's called in this episode about a couple of psychopaths killing in the name of the urban legend. The Ghostfacers fight in a way that provides insight into Sam and Dean's troubles.
177. "You Can't Handle the Truth" (Season 6, Episode 6)
The Goddess of Truth is really causing problems for people. Sam can lie to her for some reason, and after the Goddess is killed, Sam admits he let Dean be turned into a vampire in the previous episode because he hasn't been the same since he was raised from Hell. Dean beats the crap out of Sam.
176. "It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester" (Season 4, Episode 7)
Samhain is a bad Halloween dude posing as a cool high-school art teacher. His rising is also another broken seal leading to the Apocalypse.
175. "Wishful Thinking" (Season 4, Episode 8)
A magic coin turns a wishing well into a wish-granting machine, and it's instantly abused by a nerd. Plus, it has this classic line, from a giant suicidal teddy bear: "Tea parties?! Is that all there is?"
174. "The Mentalists" (Season 7, Episode 7)
The boys visit the false psychic capital of America and battle a vengeful spirit.
173. "Heaven and Hell" (Season 4, Episode 10)
This episode has a sex scene in it that feels written especially to keep "Mrs. Dean Winchester" scrawled on the notebooks of junior-high-school girls everywhere. Sam, Dean, and Ruby try to keep Anna safe from angels and demons. Alastair tortures Ruby until she promises to show him where Anna is. The angels and demons fight in a showdown, and Anna steals her grace from Uriel and flees.
172. "Paint It Black" (Season 10, Episode 16)
An intricate tale of church possessions with a spirit tethered to a painting.
171. "Faith" (Season 1, Episode 12)
Someone who seems to be a faith healer is really just a man whose wife has tricked a reaper. A hint of things to come in later seasons.
170. "Inside Man" (Season 10, Episode 17)
Sam and Castiel try to break Metatron out of Heaven for more information on how to relieve Dean of the Mark of Cain. Heavenly Bobby pitches in, too, which is always nice, but ultimately, Metatron has no answers and they steal his grace. Crowley asks Rowena how to remove Dean's Mark. Like Season 8, Season 10 stalls when the stakes aren't raised high enough.
169. "Swap Meat" (Season 5, Episode 12)
It's a Freaky Friday episode, and Sam gets to be funny when a teenager body-swaps with him. Turns out he's one of a group of nerds playing with black magic. It doesn't go well.
168. "Baby" (Season 11, Episode 4)
Who doesn't love a good Nachzehrer story? Oh, that's a sort of vampire ghoul that's hard to kill. It's hard to explain, but don't worry, the boys kill it. And Sam finally has cheap dirty sex with a character who isn't a demon. Huzzah.
167. "Everybody Loves a Clown" (Season 2, Episode 2)
We meet Ellen and Jo, a mother and daughter who run a bar for hunters, featuring white-trash genius Ash. Then they hunt a killer clown, Rakshasa.
166. "I'm No Angel" (Season 9, Episode 3)
Sam and Dean try to save a powerless Castiel from vengeful angels who hold him responsible for their ejection from Heaven. Meanwhile, demons and angels start possessing humans at an increasing rate. And as a special gift to fanfic writers everywhere, Castiel gets laid. Plus, his line to Sam and Dean: "I see how difficult life can be and how well you two have led it. I think you'll be great teachers. Are there any more burritos?"
165. "Bloody Mary" (Season 1, Episode 5)
A Supernatural take on the old urban legend provides some good thrills and a solid ending.
The Very Good Ones
164. "Dead in the Water" (Season 1, Episode 3)
The ghost of a murdered boy seeks revenge through a town's water supply. But the real thrill is seeing the dude from "Hardcastle & McCormick" and "I Married Dora" get another acting gig as a sheriff with a secret… well, not really, but the murdered boy is scary.
163. "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (Season 11, Episode 9)
Amara, now fully grown, decides to get God's attention with some more slaying. She tells Dean that God, her brother, locked her away because he was jealous. Meanwhile, Sam believes God is telling him to seek out help from Lucifer in defeating the Darkness. No surprise, that doesn't work out too well, and Sam's back in the cage with Lucifer by the end of the episode.
162. "In My Time of Dying" (Season 2, Episode 1)
Dean, near death after the truck accident, meets his reaper. Meanwhile, in order to save Dean's life, John Winchester gives "Yellow Eyes" (the demon who murdered the boys' mother) the Colt that can kill any demon, and his soul.
161. "Halt & Catch Fire" (Season 10, Episode 13)
A spirit seeks revenge through electronic devices and, unlike Apple, chooses a method other than forcing people to buy wireless earbuds.
160. "What's Up, Tiger Mommy?" (Season 8, Episode 2)
The boys are joined by prophet Kevin Tran's mom, one badass tiger mother who auctions her soul to save Kevin and the demon tablet at an evil auction. Crowley warns Kevin to get away from the Winchesters because they have a habit of using people up and watching them die bloody -- a concept familiar to Doctor Who fans.
159. "Citizen Fang" (Season 8, Episode 9)
An old hunter bud screws things up for vampire Benny when he was doing his best to stay straight and not feed. Bummer.
158. "How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters" (Season 7, Episode 9)
A trip to investigate the Jersey Devil introduces the boys to some very disturbing hamburgers, later revealed to be part of the Leviathan's master plan to keep humanity fat and docile for the feeding. Bobby gets shot.
157. "Like a Virgin" (Season 6, Episode 12)
Someone's kidnapping virgins. Dragons, who else? Duh. One virgin is sacrificed and returns as Eve, the mother of all of Purgatory's monsters. Actually not a bad episode.
156. "Mannequin 3: The Reckoning" (Season 6, Episode 14)
A cross between Carrie and Mannequin, this episode has some good thrills and laughs, not least from the way a conspirator to murder gets offed by his own real doll.
155. "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" (Season 5, Episode 15)
We meet Sheriff Jody Mills, an important recurring character and the mother of a dead son who comes back to life and eats her husband. Reanimation never ends well in Supernatural.
154. "Shadow" (Season 1, Episode 16)
Demon Meg Masters is back and working for ol' Yellow Eyes, tracking the boys. Sam and Dean learn their father is still alive, and they reunite to defeat a shadow demon.
153. "Dead Man's Blood" (Season 1, Episode 20)
Mostly a vampire story, but weightier for two important reasons: John Winchester returns, and we learn that Sam Colt once made a gun so powerful it could kill anything -- even Yellow Eyes.
152. "Exile on Main St." (Season 6, Episode 1)
Dean is trying to adjust to life without Sam and hunting when he begins having visions. Turns out there's a djin (a sort of delusion-causing monster) on the loose -- but there's good news: Sam and Grandpa Campbell are both somehow back from the dead to help. In fact, it turns out the whole extended Campbell family has been hunting together for the last year.
151. "Alpha and Omega" (Season 11, Episode 23)
With God dying (more about that higher on the list), Sam and Dean go to a haunted sanitarium to collect enough souls for Rowena to create a bomb inside Dean. It doesn't come to that, however. God and Amara reconcile, heal, and depart. It's a bit of a letdown for a season finale, but after you have God as a main character, there's nowhere to go but down for a while to rebuild.
150. "Rock and a Hard Place" (Season 9, Episode 8)
A bunch of church virgins are being killed, but Dean recognizes one from his porn collection. A fairly minor episode about a Vesta collecting virgins, but there's something oddly sweet about how Dean and the porn star, two incredibly sexually active characters, relate to one another. Also, it's fairly terrifying when the Vesta tells Sam he's "all duct tape and safety pins inside," when he has no idea that only an angel has been keeping him alive all season. Plus, Dean's classic line: "The scene with the tacos made me want to join a mariachi band just to be near you."
149. "Adventures in Babysitting" (Season 7, Episode 11)
Dean tries to help a young girl whose hunter father has gone missing.
148. "Repo Man" (Season 7, Episode 15)
A former possession victim rescued by Sam and Dean misses his Demon and starts killing again.
147. "Simon Said" (Season 2, Episode 5)
Andy has the power to manipulate anyone he wants to with his mind, and much like Sam, he might owe his powers to Yellow Eyes. Also, he has an evil twin who's kind of a dick.
146. "Hunted" (Season 2, Episode 10)
Dean tells Sam that their father had advised him to kill Sam if he ever turned evil from sucking down Yellow Eyes' blood as an infant. The boys track down other children of the Yellow Eyes' army. Complicating matters, unhinged hunter Gordon is back, and hunting demon progeny. Ava, another child like Sam, goes missing. Some solid setup for the Season 2 finale.
145. "Houses of the Holy" (Season 2, Episode 13)
The ghost of a priest who lost his way inspires those who believe they've seen an angel to murder.
144. "Jump the Shark" (Season 4, Episode 19)
Seems Sam and Dean have a half-brother named Adam. Well, they did. Ghouls ate him.
143. "Clap Your Hands If You Believe..." (Season 6, Episode 9)
Seems like it's aliens, but it's fairies. That's another great thing about Supernatural: every stupid monster myth is real in their universe, but aliens are for tinfoil-hat-wearing morons.
142. "Criss Angel Is a Douchebag" (Season 4, Episode 1)
The best thing about this episode is how gratuitous the title is. Barry Bostwick guest-stars in an episode about a magic deck of cards and an aging magician. Plus, the classic Henry Winchester line: "I never knew my son as a man, but having met you two, I know I would have been proud of him."
141. "Folsom Prison Blues" (Season 2, Episode 19)
Sam goes undercover in a prison to track a ghost. Claustrophobic and suspenseful!
140. "The Kids Are Alright" (Season 3, Episode 2)
Dean visits an old girlfriend and finds a boy who might be his son. Then he and the boy kick some changeling ass.
139. "Wendigo" (Season 1, Episode 2)
A solid early monster-of-the-week episode in which the boys take down a mythical creature preying on campers.
138. "Bad Day at Black Rock" (Season 3, Episode 3)
A lucky rabbit's foot left in their dad's old storage locker sends Sam and Dean on a hunt and an encounter with master thief Bela -- a largely crappy character.
137. "Bedtime Stories" (Season 3, Episode 5)
The thoughts of a girl in a coma are causing fairy-tale deaths in the surrounding area. The boys work the case, and when Sam tries to get Dean out of his deal with the devil, he learns a more powerful demon now holds the contract.
136. "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Season 6, Episode 22)
Before returning Sam's Hell-tormented soul to his body, Death constructs a wall in Sam's mind to keep him from all that nastiness. That works well (for a few episodes) until the wall comes down. Sam gets amnesia and the help of a super-hot bartender. Meanwhile, Castiel kills Balthazar and double-crosses Crowley to defeat Rafael and become the new God. Not the strongest season finale, but it succeeds in shaking off the considerable baggage of Seasons 3 through 5 (the diversion of the Apocalypse) and sets the series up for a very strong Season 7.
135. "Dream a Little Dream of Me" (Season 3, Episode 10)
Sam and Dean rescue Bobby from the nightmare he's trapped in. Just like Dream Warriors, or Inception... actually, I'm thinking Dreamscape, mostly because the bad guy looks just like that movie's bad guy, David Patrick Kelly.
134. "Long-Distance Call" (Season 3, Episode 14)
Another example of Supernatural stealing overtly from the best. This episode bears the same title and plot as the Twilight Zone episode where the deceased contact the living on the phone. Then it takes a sharp turn. It seems a crocotta, a beast that can impersonate voices, has been luring people to their death.
133. "Freaks and Geeks" (Season 8, Episode 18)
Jenny from the "Adventures in Babysitting" episode is back, and being raised by a man who has a family of teen hunters.
132. "Taxi Driver" (Season 8, Episode 19)
A rogue reaper taxi driver takes Sam to Hell (via Purgatory) to perform the second of three trials needed to seal the doors of Hell. When Crowley murders Sam's driver, Dean recruits his vampire buddy Benny to rescue his little brother. Bobby's soul comes back too, and is sent to Heaven.
131. "Time Is on My Side" (Season 3, Episode 15)
Scary and creepy. A sadistic surgeon has learned the secret to immortality and scares the crap out of viewers who get squeamish watching people get their eyeballs scooped out.
130. "Are You There, God? It's Me, Dean Winchester" (Season 4, Episode 2)
The ghosts of everyone the boys have failed to save are back, and Castiel tells Dean that this is the first of 66 seals that, once broken, will unleash Lucifer from Hell. So begins possibly the best arc in the life of the series. Also, we find out that Castiel raised Dean from Hell. In Season 4, stronger writing makes monsters of the week take a backseat to a more cohesive story line, and the show is all the better for it.
129. "In the Beginning" (Season 4, Episode 3)
Supernatural goes Back to the Future as Dean time-travels and meets his dad in a diner. He helps Dad buy the Impala that will become the family car. He meets Mom, too, who is apparently a super-sexy, monster-hunting kung-fu lady. Her dad is basically Agent Skinner from The X-Files. Dean finds the Colt in 1973 and hunts the demon that will ultimately kill his parents.
128. "Metamorphosis" (Season 4, Episode 4)
Classic Rugaru story! (A Rugaru is a cannibal monster with the hunger.) Actually, I guess I'm not sure if this is a classic story, but it sure is gross and entertaining. Also, with Ruby's help, Sam works on his chosen-one/badass exorcism powers.
127. "Monster Movie" (Season 4, Episode 5)
A very funny episode about a shapeshifter with a soft spot for classic horror films.
126. "Family Remains" (Season 4, Episode 11)
Ever get the feeling that a secret child is living in the walls of your house and murdering stuff? You probably will after you watch this episode.
125. "Death Takes a Holiday" (Season 4, Episode 15)
Demon Alistair is kidnapping reapers, and no one's dying.
124. "Sympathy for the Devil" (Season 5, Episode 1)
Lucifer finds a vessel (and fortunately, he's a really good actor). Meanwhile, Zachariah explains that Dean is to be the vessel for Archangel Michael. Meg Masters is back, and apparently, there was a memo that when lady demons come back, they have to go from blonde to brunette the second time around, because Meg 2.0 has dark hair like Ruby 2.0 did. Her clan possess Bobby, who breaks free just briefly enough to stab himself instead of Dean, who paralyzes himself in the process. And so begins Season 5, arguably the best season of Supernatural.
123. "Good God, Y'All" (Season 5, Episode 2)
A town is overrun by demons, and Sam is having trouble trusting Dean after his Season 4 shenanigans. It soon becomes clear that what the boys are up against is War, a horseman of the apocalypse. Sam and Dean cut the ring off his finger and save the day. Castiel tells Dean the amulet Sam gave him as a boy will actually burn hot in the presence of God. Castiel takes the Amulet in an attempt to locate God.
122. "I Believe the Children Are Our Future" (Season 5, Episode 6)
When a series of fatal practical jokes break out in a town, Sam and Dean find Jesse -- an Antichrist, or demon/human offspring. Sam tells Jesse to choose his human side. We get this classic Sam line: "I have to believe someone could make the right choice, even if I couldn't."
121. "The Curious Case of Dean Winchester" (Season 5, Episode 7)
Dean helps Bobby with a bad bet, and becomes an old man as a consequence. An excellent episode, which once again features an actor doing a great job of portraying Dean of a different age: the late Chad Everett. Classic line from Chuck: "It's not jumping the shark if you never come back down."
120. "Sam, Interrupted" (Season 5, Episode 11)
Sam and Dean check into an institution where a wraith is tormenting and eating patients.
119. "Skin" (Season 1, Episode 6)
The first Supernatural episode with the important recurring shapeshifter character is gross and fun.
118. "99 Problems" (Season 5, Episode 17)
Outnumbered by demons, Sam and Dean are rescued by a town very good at kicking Hell-spawn ass. But it turns out the daughter of their reverend leader is actually the Whore of Babylon, and that's not just a figurative diss.
117. "The Devil You Know" (Season 5, Episode 20)
Crowley is back, and he agrees to lead the boys to the demon/big pharma CEO who's working with Pestilence and Death. Then he strikes a deal with Bobby for his soul in exchange for Death's location.
116. "The Third Man" (Season 6, Episode 3)
Someone has been stealing God's weapons, and super-gross plagues are a-poppin'. Turns out an angel named Balthazar has been auctioning them off.
115. "Weekend at Bobby's" (Season 6, Episode 4)
Seems Crowley doesn't intend to give Bobby back his soul. Bobby discovers demons can be killed if their original bones are burned, and he finds Crowley's. Soul returned.
114. "Trial and Error" (Season 8, Episode 14)
Kevin Tran deciphers the tablet to tell the boys that one person must face three challenges to shut the Gates of Hell. Sam and Dean also do battle with some hellhounds, but the most memorable thing about this episode is the joy Dean gets from setting up his room at the Men of Letters headquarters with the design skills of a 14-year-old boy. As he explains to Sam, "I've never had my own room ever, I'm making this awesome."
113. "Caged Heat" (Season 6, Episode 10)
Crowley, the King of Hell, is looking for Purgatory. Sam and Dean team up with demon Meg to track Crowley and get his help in returning Sam's soul. Also, Dean learns Grandpa's working for Crowley in exchange for the return of Mary.
112. "...And Then There Were None" (Season 6, Episode 16)
Sam and Dean catch up with the grandpa-hunter. Rufus and Bobby join the mix as the boys try to kill a "Khan worm" cooked up by Eve that controls humans, driving them to murder. Rufus dies, and we learn that this badass black hunter was Bobby's hunting mentor.
111. "Frontierland" (Season 6, Episode 18)
Dean goes back in time to the Old West to get some phoenix ashes to kill Eve. Some Back to the Future III action.
110. "The Man Who Would Be King" (Season 6, Episode 20)
In an episode rich with noir narration, Castiel explains how the war in Heaven is to prevent Raphael from returning the Apocalypse, leading to a partnership with Crowley. As Castiel says: "Freedom is a length of rope. God wants you to hang yourself with it."
109. "Hello, Cruel World" (Season 7, Episode 2)
The Leviathan escape into the public water supply and begin their operations in a hospital impersonating doctors and eating patients. Lucifer torments Sam into a nearly total delusional state.
108. "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (Season 4, Episode 9)
Anna can hear angels, and the boys want to wait until Castiel and Uriel show up to demand her death. We also meet Alastair, the demon who tortured Dean in Hell. A wonderful Truman Capote/William F. Buckley-esque nightmare of a villain.
107. "Survival of the Fittest" (Season 7, Episode 23)
The final showdown with the Leviathan. Crowley negotiates a deal with Dick Roman. Bobby possesses a cleaning lady to help the boys before realizing he's becoming a vengeful spirit and requesting the boys burn his flask, the last thing tethering him to the real world. Sam, Dean, and Castiel kill Roman with the heavenly weapon. The weapon, however, sends Dean and Castiel to Purgatory, leaving Sam alone. It's a serviceable end to a decent season, but not much better than the Season 6 finale. After saving the world from the Apocalypse, it's hard to end with as big a bang.
106. "Free to Be You and Me" (Season 5, Episode 3)
Dean tries to lead a hunting-free life, and Castiel teams up with Dean to interrogate Raphael and find God. Sam gets a visit from Lucifer, who tells him that one day he's meant to be Lucifer's true vessel.
105. "Hell House" (Season 1, Episode 17)
The first episode of the Ghostfacers follows two buddies who chase ghosts poorly in the internet age, as their website helps to turn an urban myth to life. All that adds up to an X-Files-meets-Lone Gunmen vibe.
104. "Goodbye Stranger" (Season 8, Episode 17)
Castiel is under unconscious orders from Heaven to murder Dean and take the angel tablet. Meg Masters admits she's in love with Castiel before she is murdered by Crowley. Head angel Naomi and Crowley talk deals. A very strong episode that sets up the politics of the Heaven and Hell story lines to follow.
103. "Sacrifice" (Season 8, Episode 23)
In order to stop Crowley from killing everyone they've saved, and to complete the third trial to shut the gates of Hell forever, the boys kidnap Crowley with a pair of demonic handcuffs from the Men of Letters. Naomi warns Dean that Sam will die if he performs the final trial that cures a demon. Metatron double-crosses Castiel and steals his Grace. Sam abandons the trials, and thousands of angels fall from Heaven. It's a decent season finale, but "Sacrifice" lacks punch because, unlike other seasons where the fate of the world hung in the balance, shutting the gates of Hell always seemed more like a want instead of a need. Despite these low-ish stakes, the episode (and the season) does a lot of heavy lifting to set up some of Supernatural's best moments in later seasons.
102. "Devil May Care" (Season 9, Episode 2)
Abaddon, the Knight of Hell, returns to unseat Crowley as the new King of Hell.
101. "Heaven Can't Wait" (Season 9, Episode 6)
Abaddon taunts an imprisoned Crowley with her efforts to take over Hell. Dean rescues Castiel from babysitting a murderous angel. Crowley tells Sam and Dean there's no way to reverse Metatron's spell and return the angels to heaven. Also, it seems Crowley's near-curing in Season 8 has left him with an addiction for human blood. Castiel, to Abaddon: "You think you can control Hell with chaos alone?"
100. "Mommy Dearest" (Season 6, Episode 19)
Eve, the mother of all, starts making vampire/wraith hybrids as part of her plan to destroy the world and get revenge on Crowley, the King of Hell, who we find out is still alive after all, and working with Castiel. Also, Dean names the hybrids "Jefferson Starships, because they're horrible and hard to kill."
99. "The Things They Carried" (Season 10, Episode 15)
The Khan Worms are back, and they've gotten into some of Cole's old army buddies. Sam and Dean help out, even getting one of the buggers out of Cole.
98. "Don't You Forget About Me" (Season 11, Episode 12)
The return of Sheriff Jody Mills and her two adopted daughters: Alex, former vampire-enabler, and Claire, daughter of Castiel's vessel. The girls pull through under a vampire attack, and the best thing about the episode is that it never led to a terrible spinoff series.
97. "Captives" (Season 9, Episode 14)
Following a clue from Kevin's ghost, the boys rescue Mrs. Tran from a storage facility, where Crowley's been keeping her alive as leverage.
96. "Slash Fiction" (Season 7, Episode 6)
Two Leviathan impersonate Sam and Dean and go on a very public killing spree, forcing the boys to go off the grid with an IT expert. Bobby figures out an ordinary house cleaner is a weapon against the Leviathan. It's also the introduction of the head Leviathan character, Dick Roman, who looks and acts like American Psycho's Patrick Bateman.
95. "Blade Runners" (Season 9, Episode 16)
Crowley's humanity grows with his intensifying addiction to human blood, so the boys put him in detox and recruit the help of a surviving Man of Letters to find the first blade. Unfortunately, he's a huge dick who collects people. Snooki cameos as Snooki (but also a Demon, so that's good for a laugh), and she's better than Paris Hilton.
94. "There Will Be Blood" (Season 7, Episode 22)
Sam and Dean help the Alpha vampire to defeat the Leviathan by taking his blood for a special weapon. Meanwhile, the Leviathan plan to keep America fat and docile, for feeding is in full effect.
93. "Alex Annie Alexis Ann" (Season 9, Episode 19)
We meet a girl who's been human bait for her vampire family nearly her whole life. Sheriff Jody Mills comes to the rescue, helping to kill the family and take care of the girl.
92. "Black" (Season 10, Episode 1)
Sam tries to find Dean, newly demonized by the Mark of Cain, while Dean and Crowley hit the road as a couple of buds. Meanwhile, a very angry stranger wants revenge on Dean.
91. "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" (Season 9, Episode 1)
With Sam in a coma from nearly completing the third trial to shut the Gates of Hell, Dean sends out a prayer to every fallen angel for help. Ezekiel possesses Sam's near-dead body to save him while Castiel deals with being human.
90. "What Is and What Should Never Be" (Season 2, Episode 20)
While hunting a djin, Sam and Dean experience an alternate reality where Dean has his act together.
89. "Soul Survivor" (Season 10, Episode 3)
Sam and Castiel cure a demonized Dean. Castiel has help from Crowley, who offers some stolen grace.
88. "Girls, Girls, Girls" (Season 10, Episode 7)
Crowley's mother, a witch named Rowena, is back, and raising a new coven. Cole catches up with Dean and finds him cured. Just as the Crowley character injected life into the series, so does Rowena.
87. "Book of the Damned" (Season 10, Episode 18)
Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day) returns for one of her better episodes. She's found the Book of the Dead, which might hold the answer to removing the Mark of Cain from Dean. Don't get me wrong: she still says annoying things, like "Let's get our Alan Turing on and decrypt this bitch," but the story's strong. Meanwhile, Castiel reclaims his grace after a road trip with Metatron, who procures the demon tablet.
86. "Dark Dynasty" (Season 10, Episode 21)
We find that the Styne family, who are highly interested in the Book of the Dead, are actually the mythical Frankenstein family. That sounds stupid, but it's a solid episode, even though Charlie is still an awful, pandering character who says things like, "I'm not a witch. I'm a nerd, and I've studied at all the great centers of nerdom." Well, I guess if I were fortunate enough to be a writer on one of the greatest shows of all time, exploring issues of life and death, heaven and hell, and fate and free will, I might also throw in some crap like that for ratings and to keep my job going. Or maybe they just wanted the audience to feel better about her being murdered by the Frankenstein brothers at the end of the episode. It's hard to say.
85. "Brother's Keeper" (Season 10, Episode 23)
The Mark of Cain has taken over, and Dean is now a full-blown badass and gets another hunter killed. Realizing he must be stopped, Dean summons Death to kill him, but Death tells Dean the Mark of Cain is the lock and key to keep the Darkness from earth. Dean then murders Death with his own scythe in a scene that never fully worked for me, but then again, I just got slightly aroused typing a sentence as cool as "Dean murders death with his own scythe," so I can forgive the indulgence. Rowena removes the Mark with powerful magic and the Darkness envelops the earth, setting up the 11th season.
84. "As Time Goes By" (Season 8, Episode 12)
Sam and Dean meet their grandfather, Henry Winchester, who was a "Man of Letters," the academic counterbalance to the Campbell/hunter side of the family. This one also has the first appearance of the demon Abaddon, who is basically Sharon Stone meets Ginger from Gilligan's Island, but really evil.
83. "Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire" (Season 11, Episode 1)
The darkness has a name, and it is Amara. She comes to Dean explaining that they are united by the Mark of Cain. Meanwhile everyone else touched by the Darkness becomes infected, including Sam and a little baby... also named Amara.
82. "The Devil in the Details" (Season 11, Episode 10)
A literal cage match involving Sam, Dean, Castiel, and Lucifer. When it's all over, we learn that Castiel has accepted being Lucifer's vessel, believing that only he can stop the darkness.
81. "Safe House" (Season 11, Episode 16)
Sam and Dean hunt a soul-eater that Rufus and Bobby hunted years before. A tense and scary episode.
80. "All in the Family" (Season 11, Episode 21)
Sam, Dean, Amara, God, Lucifer: everyone's in the mix. God is planning to offer himself to the Darkness, but there's still no guarantee that it will save the world from her wrath.
79. "It's a Terrible Life" (Season 4, Episode 17)
Dean and Sam work in the same office building, but they're not themselves. It's an alternate reality cooked up by angel Zachariah to remind the boys who they really are.
78. "Salvation" and "Devil's Trap" (Season 1, Episodes 21 and 22)
The two-part finale of Season 1 finds demon Meg Masters killing people in an attempt to get the Winchesters to give up the Colt capable of killing any demon. The concept of a demon's trap is introduced, and used to send the demon in Meg Masters back to Hell. The boys find out their dad has been possessed by Yellow Eyes himself, but John is unable to shoot and kill their father. It's a solid ending to the first season, but nothing compared to the finales to come.
77. "Jus in Bello" (Season 3, Episode 12)
Sam and Dean finally make buddies with FBI Agent Henriksen, as he realizes that demons are real and evil and the Winchester boys are good. Then Lilith the demon shows up and kills everyone.
76. "When the Levee Breaks" and "Lucifer Rising" (Season 4, Episodes 21 and 22)
The Season 4 finale starts with nearly all the seals to freeing Lucifer being broken and Sam in serious demon-blood withdrawal. Dean decides to kill Lilith because the amount of demon blood Sam would need to consume would make him inhuman. Sam and Dean fight and separate.
Sam is off with Ruby, juicing up for a showdown with Lilith, and Dean is with the angels. Zachariah tells Dean that the highest order of angels actually wants the Apocalypse to happen so they can defeat Hell once and for all. Castiel changes sides and helps Dean escape from the angels to prevent Sam from killing Lilith, which we now know is the final seal. And after Sam kills Lilith, Ruby lets Sam know, too. Turns out you can't trust a sexy demon who encourages you to drink demon blood after all. Dean arrives and kills Ruby with Sam's help. Lucifer rises.
The Great Ones
75. "Home" (Season 1, Episode 9)
The boys return to their old home, where a single mom is dealing with disturbances. When evil seems to have an upper hand, the ghost of Mary Winchester returns to save her sons. The first of many times Supernatural will make you cry.
74. "Bad Boys" (Season 9, Episode 7)
A case brings Dean back to a farm for wayward boys where he spent time as a troubled teen. You will wonder how a vampire show with so many gay jokes and dick jokes has so much humanity.
73. "No Exit" (Season 2, Episode 6)
Jo defies Ellen's orders and goes hunting for the ghost of America's first serial killer. Jo also learns Sam Winchester once got her dad killed on a hunt.
72. "The Chitters" (Season 11, Episode 19)
Sam and Dean team up with a gay hunting couple to hunt monsters known as chitters. Yes, there are gay hunters, and sometimes they fall in love. Free your mind. Unlike the gay hunting couple, however, chitters only come out once every 27 years.
71. "Of Grave Importance" (Season 7, Episode 19)
The boys start to realize Bobby is making contact from the other side, and meet up with him in a haunted house.
70. "The Benders" (Season 1, Episode 15)
John Shiban of The X-Files wrote this one, about a bunch of hillbillies hunting man for sport, and it shows. While the voice of Supernatural would become clearer in later episodes, there's no denying how solid and scary this one is.
69. "Hell's Angel" (Season 11, Episode 18)
Lucifer's in Heaven with Castiel's body, and Rowena's back from the dead. Lucifer fails to kill Amara, even with the power of the Horn of Joshua. Then Amara continues to beat the bejesus out of Lucifer in hopes of summoning God.
68. "We Need to Talk About Kevin" (Season 8, Episode 1)
One year after destroying the Leviathan, Dean emerges from Purgatory carrying the soul of his new BFF, Cajun vampire Benny. Meanwhile, Crowley now has the services of prophet Kevin Tran, because there is another heavenly tablet about demons to translate. Kevin knows how to close the Gates of Hell forever, ridding the world of demons. Another big change about the start of Season 8? Jared Padalecki's hair is prettier than ever!
67. "The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo" (Season 7, Episode 20)
Enter Felicia Day in her first and best episode as lesbian hacker and sci-fi geek extraordinaire Charlie Bradbury. The character is as pandering to Comic-Con kids as the casting of Felicia Day itself. She'll come back several times in largely weak episodes, but in this solid outing, Charlie helps the boys hack into Leviathan head honcho Dick Roman's master plans. (Also, apologies to my niece and every other teenage girl who hates me right now for tooling on Felicia Day.)
66. "Reading Is Fundamental" (Season 7, Episode 21)
Castiel wakes up from his delusions, and teenage academic superstar Kevin Chan becomes a prophet and a key to defeating the Leviathan. He delivers this classic line: "I'm not prepared to factor the supernatural into my worldview."
65. "Malleus Maleficarum" (Season 3, Episode 9)
A super-gross, super-scary episode about a coven of witches in suburbia.
64. "The End" (Season 5, Episode 4)
Zachariah takes Dean five years into the future to show him the results of not helping the angels. They suck. Misha Collins is hilarious as a ruined New Age Castiel who digs orgies. Seeing Lucifer in Sam's vessel is not nearly as fun. Back in the right year, Sam and Dean team up again.
63. "Our Little World" (Season 11, Episode 6)
Sam and Dean continue their efforts to destroy Amara as Crowley increasingly loses his control over her. Meanwhile, Metatron, now earthbound and human, is scraping a living together as a gonzo video journalist. He tells Castiel that God had to suffer to make the world, and he had to sacrifice his only sibling to do it: the Darkness. That's right, God has a sister. And the only thing weirder than that is that this information sounds normal in the hands of Supernatural's writers.
62. "The Rapture" (Season 4, Episode 20)
We meet Jimmy Novak, Castiel's vessel when he's called to Heaven. When demons stab Jimmy, Castiel returns to Jimmy's daughter. With his dying breath, Jimmy begs Castiel to take him instead, and I cry. Also, Sam is now a full-blown demon-blood junkie.
61. "Sex and Violence" (Season 4, Episode 14)
Sirens are making horny men do terrible things, like murder their wives. It's heartening to know that the Siren seduces Dean not by being a sexy mistress but a devoted younger brother. Soon the boys are both under the siren's spell, and fighting to their death. Bobby saves the day, killing the Siren before Dean kills Sam.
60. "After School Special" (Season 4, Episode 13)
Sam and Dean get jobs at their old high school, and we flash back to Dean being a popular bad boy and Sam being a bullied nerd. All the episodes with younger versions of the boys work, and all of them raise the stakes in current-day episodes.
59. "Yellow Fever" (Season 4, Episode 6)
A very funny and scary episode about a fear-based virus. A dimwitted man is wrongly lynched, leading to a haunting. Alternate title: "Of Mice and Candymen."
58. "No Rest for the Wicked" (Season 3, Episode 16)
Dean has 30 hours to live before hellhounds claim his soul and drag him to Hell. Ruby tries to train Sam to use his demon-given talent to take on Lilith and save Dean's soul, but he resists. Instead, with Bobby's help, the boys try to take out Lilith, who has imprisoned a family the old-fashioned way. That doesn't work so well. Dean dies and goes to Hell.
57. "Mystery Spot" (Season 3, Episode 11)
Supernatural goes Groundhog Day, and who can be behind it besides the Trickster? Well, I guess several people could be behind it, but the Trickster is, and it's a tough day to repeat because Dean dies.
56. "Nightmare" (Season 1, Episode 14)
Sam and Dean find an abused young man with special powers that are similar to but more advanced than Sam's. Seems there's something in that demon blood that Yellow Eyes fed to babies 20 years earlier.
55. "Angel Heart" (Season 10, Episode 20)
Claire, the troubled teen daughter of Castiel's vessel, is searching for her missing mother, who is being held captive by a class of angels that feed off souls. With the help of Castiel, Sam, and Dean, she rescues her mother -- just before she gets killed. Claire's life sucks, but at least she's taken in by Sheriff Jody Mills. A moving bummer of an episode.
54. "About a Boy" (Season 10, Episode 12)
The Hansel and Gretel witch turns Dean into a boy, and guess what? The episode somehow doesn't suck. In fact, it's fun as hell.
53. "Reichenbach" (Season 10, Episode 2)
A man named Cole wants to kill Dean for murdering his dad, not realizing that Dean murdered his demonized father. Dean and Crowley end their bromance. Sam captures Dean and gives the First Blade to Crowley.
52. "The Real Ghostbusters" (Season 5, Episode 9)
Another great meta episode. Sam and Dean go to a Supernatural convention, where LARPing turns real and the boys take two fanboys on a hunt. Fangirl Becky tells Sam that the Colt is now with a demon named Crowley.
51. "Holy Terror" (Season 9, Episode 9)
Turns out that angel hiding in Sam is not Ezekiel but Gadreel, the disgrace of Heaven. And now Metatron wants to be the new God. Castiel steals another angel's grace to get his mojo back. Gadreel takes over Sam completely and kills Kevin Tran at Metatron's request. Stakes raised impressively.
50. "A Very Supernatural Christmas" (Season 3, Episode 8)
A fun Christmas special about evil Christmas wreaths and the pagan gods who sell them. Sam and Dean save the day, impaling the bad guys with Christmas tree branches. But the flashback to Sam and Dean in a crappy hotel room as kids swapping presents does something most Christmas specials fail to do: it generates actual pathos. Not only that, but Sam gives his big brother a necklace with a pendant that becomes incredibly important in future episodes.
49. "King of the Damned" (Season 9, Episode 21)
The battles for heaven and hell rage on, with Castiel trying to get Gadreel to change sides and Dean using the First Blade to murder Abaddon in fantastic Jedi-esque fashion.
48. "The Magnificent Seven" (Season 3, Episode 1)
Hundreds of demons are out of the gate and working overtime on possessions. When a gang of them (the seven deadly sins) kill a fellow hunter, they go after the boys next, who are lucky to survive with a little help from a mysterious woman with a demon-killing blade.
47. "The Werther Project" (Season 10, Episode 19)
A lethal protective box designed by Cuthbert Sinclair, exiled Man of Letters, holds the codex that can decipher the Book of the Dead. Sam deals with Rowena to lift the Mark of Cain from Dean.
46. "Clip Show" (Season 8, Episode 22)
An old home movie gives Sam and Dean insight into how to cure demons -- their third and final trial for closing the Gates of Hell. A resurrected Abaddon is incredibly pissed, and reveals she personally murdered the entire Men of Letters. Meanwhile, Metatron tells Castiel he must murder an angel/human hybrid as the first test of locking the militant angels in heaven until order is restored. Crowley begins killing everyone that Sam and Dean have ever saved.
45. "The Prisoner" (Season 10, Episode 22)
Dean plots revenge on the Styne family for murdering Charlie. Sam gets Charlie's decoding notes, but Rowena won't work the Book of the Dead until Sam murders Crowley. Dean slaughters the Styne and nearly murders Castiel for trying to save him from the Mark of Cain.
44. "Roadkill" (Season 2, Episode 16)
A haunted highway with a bit of a twist ending. A top-notch ghost story.
43. "Tall Tales" (Season 2, Episode 15)
The first episode with the Trickster (later revealed to be archangel Gabriel). Like all Trickster episodes, it's a lot of fun, with this one featuring a string of weird happenings at a local campus.
42. "Dog Dean Afternoon" (Season 9, Episode 5)
Dean undergoes a spell to talk to dogs when one canine is a witness to a supernatural crime. A just-for-laughs episodes that delivers. Jensen Ackles goes big, and Jared Padalecki, who typically excels in being pouty, is a very effective straight man.
41. "Nightshifter" (Season 2, Episode 12)
Shapeshifter robbers make for a tense and exciting episode. Perhaps most impressive, the show somehow makes Styx cool, using "Renegade" to great effect as Sam and Dean escape an impossible situation in SWAT uniforms.
40. "Crossroad Blues" (Season 2, Episode 8)
We learn of the important and recurring concept of crossroads demons who give 10 years of wishes in exchange for souls. Sam and Dean get the news that their father traded his soul for Dean's life.
39. "Mother's Little Helper" (Season 9, Episode 17)
Mostly a flashback episode to a mission by the Men of Letters members Henry Winchester and Josie (the woman later possessed by Abaddon), who battle some demonically possessed nuns. We see Josie give herself over willingly to possession to save Henry Winchester from that fate. (As she puts it, "I could be more useful to you. People underestimate a woman.") Meanwhile, Crowley and Dean both suffer from their respective addictions: the need for human blood and the desire to use the first blade.
38. "Form and Void" (Season 11, Episode 2)
Castiel's in bad shape, besieged by both Rowena's spell and some torturing angels. Baby Amara has swallowed the souls of her adoptive caretakers. Later, we see Amara grown to the age of a little girl, and Crowley picks her up in a van ("Want some candy, little girl?") with a kidnapped family waiting for her consumption.
37. "Croatoan" (Season 2, Episode 9)
The boys discover a town with a demonic virus that makes killers out of its people. Something about Sam's blood (hint: demon juice) keeps him from getting infected.
36. "Just My Imagination" (Season 11, Episode 8)
Imaginary friends are real, and Sam had one named Sully. He returns for help when it seems someone is killing imaginary friends. A very touching and funny episode.
35. "First Born" (Season 9, Episode 11)
Crowley teams up with Dean to find Cain, the owner of the first blade, which is the only weapon capable of killing Abaddon. Meanwhile, Castiel and Sam team up to track Gadreel. Cain transfers his mark to Dean, giving him the power to use the blade.
34. "Point of No Return" (Season 5, Episode 18)
Unable to get Dean to say yes to becoming Michael's vessel, the angels decide to use his half-brother, Adam. But it turns out Zachariah's just using Adam as bait to lure Dean. Zachariah tortures Adam and Sam until Dean consents to Michael, but on the condition that Michael first smite Zachariah. Zachariah gets so mad, he doesn't notice Dean has an angel blade. Bye, Zachariah. But don't get too happy: they can't save Adam, and Bobby's pretty suicidal too.
33. "Hammer of the Gods" (Season 5, Episode 19)
A bunch of Pagan gods are gathering to prevent the Judeo-Christian Apocalypse, and Archangel Gabriel is back, this time to face his brother Lucifer one-on-one. It ends badly for Gabe, but at least he passes on some important instructions to Dean in a porno called Casa Erotica. Specifically, that if the boys gather all Four Horseman of the Apocalypse rings, they can put Lucifer back in his cage.
The How-Are-They-Not-in-the-Top-10 Ones
32. "The Song Remains the Same" (Season 5, Episode 13)
Anna goes back to 1978, à la Terminator, to kill John and Mary so Sam won't be born. Ultimately, in order to save his wife, John Winchester allows Michael to possess him so he can destroy Anna and a young Uriel. Michael explains that Sam and Dean are not ordinary men and their family line goes back to Cain and Abel. Each time Supernatural jumps the shark or repeats itself, a funny thing happens: it gets better. It's almost like chaos theory, where it increasingly makes sense that miraculous things are more likely to happen to the same two guys.
31. "The Born-Again Identity" (Season 7, Episode 17)
When Sam is being kept awake and driven insane by Lucifer, Dean goes looking for a healer who turns out to be Castiel -- alive and unaware of his angelic past. Castiel takes all of Sam's suffering, getting institutionalized and cared for by his Demon almost-lover, Meg Masters.
30. "The Great Escapist" (Season 8, Episode 21)
The introduction of the great Metatron character, angel and God's editor for the Bible. Metatron is played by Curtis Armstrong, Booger from Revenge of the Nerds, and he is wonderful as an angel with a soft spot for writers. Another piece of the puzzle leading up to some of the most memorable Season 11 episodes.
29. "Pilot" (Season 1, Episode 1)
Maybe the best opening 10 minutes of any show. The story unfolds: a mother of two small boys is murdered by a demon, and her husband dedicates his life to battling evil while raising his sons in the family business of saving people and hunting things. When Dad goes missing, the boys, now fully grown, go out on their own.
28. "Scarecrow" (Season 1, Episode 11)
One of the best stand-alone monster-of-the-week episodes, breathing new life into a classic murderous scarecrow story.
27. "We Happy Few" (Season 11, Episode 22)
Lucifer, demons, and witches work together to destroy the Darkness -- first witches, then demons, then Lucifer. Amara admits she is defeated and asks for death, but when she realizes she is to be returned to the cage, she burns Lucifer out of Castiel's body and nearly fatally wounds God.
26. "Hollywood Babylon" (Season 2, Episode 18)
Almost every Supernatural episode played strictly for laughs works, and this is no exception. A great episode about deaths during the shooting of a movie that appears to be a moronic version of Evil Dead 2. Gary Cole is in full D-bag mode as a studio exec.
25. "Abandon All Hope... " (Season 5, Episode 10)
Enter Crowley, crossroads demon turned King of Hell and one of the show's best characters. Sam and Dean recover the Colt and use it to shoot Lucifer after he kills a whole town to summon Death. Turns out the gun won't work on him. Harsh tokes. Even worse, Ellen and Jo martyr themselves to save everyone else from blowing themselves up with a ton of hellhounds. Even worse, by Season 5, I can't go two episodes without crying at Supernatural.
24. "Hunteri Heroici" (Season 8, Episode 8)
A man with Alzheimer's and special powers is unwittingly causing cartoonish deaths and being exploited by hospital staff. Also, Sam flashes back to a girlfriend none of us care about at all -- thankfully, not for very long.
23. "My Heart Will Go On" (Season 6, Episode 17)
Angel Balthazar un-sinks the Titanic, causing an alternate reality and numerous souls for Castiel's war in Heaven. The boys also find out Fate is super pissed-off at them. Plus Balthazar's classic line: "You have me confused with the other angel. The one in the dirty trenchcoat who's in love with you."
22. "Meet the New Boss" (Season 7, Episode 1)
After a disappointing Season 6 close, Season 7 started with a bang. Fresh with the power of millions of souls, Castiel assumes the role of God, righting the wrongs of the world like an unhinged holy avenger. Sam and Dean team up with Crowley to bind Death to stop all the killing. Like every episode with Death and his classy, fast-food-loving face in it, it's fantastic. It also introduces the Leviathan, and Sam starts to be tormented by memories of Hell. A dense and wonderful episode.
21. "Lazarus Rising" (Season 4, Episode 1)
Dean is mysteriously back from Hell. So's the demon Ruby, in a new vessel. Enter Misha Collins as Castiel. You'll wonder how the first three seasons could have been so good without him.
20. "Stairway to Heaven" (Season 9, Episode 22)
Metatron, again played perfectly by Curtis Armstrong, tries to gather more angels to his cause while Dean, Sam, and Castiel try to find out why angels are suicide-bombing in Castiel's name. Dean gets really dark, feeling the mark of Cain.
19. "The Executioner's Song" (Season 10, Episode 14)
Cain returns to earth to murder every one of his murderous descendants, removing the stain he's left on the world. Ultimately, Cain wants to murder Dean to save him from a doomed fate, but Dean manages to cut off Cain's hand before murdering him with the First Blade and giving it to Castiel.
18. "Road Trip" (Season 9, Episode 10)
When Gadreel goes on a Metatron-ordered killing spree in Sam's body, Dean, Castiel, and Crowley team up to evict him from Sam's body. Ultimately, that means Dean willingly allows Crowley to possess his brother. Sam, Dean, Crowley, and Castiel all working together for the first time as some sort of biblical task force is incredibly fun.
17. "My Bloody Valentine" (Season 5, Episode 14)
People are eating each other to death. Not because of a rogue cupid, but another Horseman of the Apocalypse: Famine. Sam kills two demons sent to murder and drinks their blood to take on Famine, who encourages him to swallow the souls of his minion. When he refuses, Hunger swallows them instead, and Sam rips them from Famine's body, destroying him. Then Sam goes into detox.
16. "Appointment in Samarra" (Season 6, Episode 11)
Dean induces Death so he can speak to him and ask him to return Sam's soul. Death agrees on the condition that Dean acts as Death for one full day. Every Death episode is a great.
15. "Everybody Hates Hitler" (Season 8, Episode 13)
The boys inherit the key to the Men of Letters Headquarters in what amounts to the only permanent home they've ever known outside of Sam's Impala. Hal Linden guest-stars as a necromancer/rabbi still in battle with the Nazis who has left his very secular grandson a Golem he doesn't know how to use. Nazis make great bad guys in everything except George Clooney's Monuments Men, and Supernatural certainly makes the most of them here.
14. "The Monster at the End of This Book" (Season 4, Episode 18)
Sam and Dean discover their lives have already been laid out in a series of crappy pulp books written by Carver "Chuck" Edlund. A deceptively important episode.
13. "Meta Fiction" (Season 9, Episode 18)
As with any show that has maintained such a high level of quality for over 200 episodes, writing is king. Perhaps more than any other show, viewers can feel the Supernatural team's enthusiasm for storytelling, and Metatron, God's scribe/editor, is the character through which they get to express all those feelings. Here Metatron assembles an army of devout angel followers to accept him as their new God, and Castiel gathers a flock of angels to defeat him. We learn, however, that these developments are dependent on Metatron's plan. He's telling the story, and we even see him typing it -- regenerating Gabriel to push Castiel towards rebellion. How perfectly metafictional is this episode? Well, I couldn't help noticing that Gabriel's dialogue seems a bit off and over the top, even for him. Then again, Metatron is a bit of a hack writer. That's some high-level meta stuff for a show that started off being about dreamy Hardy Boys chasing ghosts. Though, as Metatron put it: "That was God's problem, y'know. He published the first draft."
12. "Changing Channels" (Season 5, Episode 8)
One of the funniest episodes of Supernatural. The Trickster traps the boys in TV shows, mostly to give a lot of shit to Grey's Anatomy -- hello, "Dr. Sexy, M.D."
11. "Death's Door" (Season 7, Episode 10)
Bobby tries to find his way back to life in the afterworld. We learn more about the personal demons that kept him from wanting children, and he confronts his abusive father in an emotionally staggering moment.
The Top 10
10. "The French Mistake" (Season 6, Episode 15)
Sam and Dean get thrown into an alternate reality where they are Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, actors who play Sam and Dean. That might sound all meta and clever-clever, and it is. But it's hilarious. Everyone is taken to task for being a precious Hollywood actor, and perhaps the best part is Misha Collins playing himself as a self-absorbed, cowardly, Twitter-obsessed weasel.
9. "Playthings" (Season 2, Episode 11)
In Season 9, Metatron says writers should steal from the best, and that's exactly what happens in this episode that borrows from The Shining, The Sixth Sense, and a handful of classic ghost stories to create the best Supernatural one-off monster-of-the-week episode. A haunted hotel, some creepy girls, evil spirits: scares, surprises, and pathos.
8. "Dark Side of the Moon" (Season 5, Episode 16)
Hunters angry that Sam and Dean started the Apocalypse murder the boys, sending them to Heaven. The boys are running from Zachariah when Ash from the roadhouse appears to help them out. Zachariah finds the boys anyway, and is about to get holy on their ass when Joshua, God's gardener, rescues the boys and explains that God will not help them with the Apocalypse. Castiel has been using the necklace that Sam gave to Dean one Christmas to track God, but when Castiel hears the news, he calls the necklace worthless and throws it away.
7. "Do You Believe in Miracles?" (Season 9, Episode 23)
Metatron wins over all of Castiel's angel followers, and Dean is now severely addicted to killing, thanks to the mark of Cain. Gadreel changes sides and helps Castiel and Sam go after Metatron. Metatron goes down to earth, pretending to be a simple man and miracle worker. Castiel tricks Metatron into broadcasting his sins on angel radio. A dying Dean says to Sam, "I'm proud of us." It's incredibly powerful, not just because Dean has been a surrogate father to Sam but because he's finally giving himself some credit too. A perfect episode, and a sneak peek into some Season 11 episodes.
6. "Fan Fiction" (Season 10, Episode 5)
A Rushmore-esque student at an all-girls school puts on a fan fiction musical of Supernatural. It's one of the funniest metafictional episodes, a perfect parody of both bad musicals and Supernatural.
5. "Two Minutes to Midnight" (Season 5, Episode 21)
Pestilence (Matt Frewer) is doing some nasty, nasty stuff. Castiel, nearly devoid of grace from a recent battle, appears to help Sam and Dean, who are coughing blood in Pestilence's presence. Castiel begins coughing too, and in the moment of being underestimated, he jumps to his feet and cuts off Pestilence's ring. Later, Crowley gives Dean a blade that can allegedly kill Death, and gives Bobby even more on his deal that he asked for: he returns Bobby's ability to walk. It cannot be understated what a masterful job the Supernatural writers do to keep a character like Crowley (the King of Hell) from being either too sympathetic or too loathsome. We also meet Death, who looks and acts like a Basil Rathbone/Lionel Barrymore hybrid, but craves junk food. He tells Dean he'll give him his ring willingly because Lucifer has bound him unwillingly with a spell. The only condition is that Dean let Sam jump into hell with Lucifer.
4. "All Hell Breaks Loose (Part 1 and 2)" (Season 2, Episodes 21 and 22)
In this fantastic two-part season finale, John finds himself abducted by Yellow Eyes, and in a game of survival of the fittest against all of the demons' other talented children in a ghost town. At the end of Part 1, Sam is murdered by another demon spawn in the first of what will be many deaths for the Winchester boys. Samuel Colt, the man who designed a gun that can kill any demon, also created a giant devil's trap containing a locked Devil's Gate, for which the gun is the literal key. Jake, the demon spawn, opens the gate, and hundreds of demons escape. Yellow Eyes is about to kill Sam, but the spirit of Sam Winchester escapes from Hell, wrestling Yellow Eyes to the ground and giving Dean just enough time to shoot with the Colt. Then Sam Winchester disappears. The first truly grand-scale episode of many to follow.
3. "On the Head of a Pin" (Season 4, Episode 16)
Castiel and Uriel capture Alastair and ask Dean to torture him for information on the angels being murdered. Dean must confront his guilt over all the souls he tormented in Hell while torturing Hell's greatest sadist. Then Uriel turns out to be the one killing angels, and Anna saves Castiel before Uriel kills him too. Dean learns that, as the one who broke the first seal to start the Apocalypse, only he can avert it. And for maybe the only time in the entire series, Dean does not believe he's up to the challenge. It's packed with humor, high stakes, and action.
2. "Don't Call Me Shurley" (Season 11, Episode 20)
In an earlier episode, Chuck Shurley, pen name Carver Edlund, says, "it's not really jumping the shark if you never come back down," and Supernatural takes those words to heart here. That's because Chuck, the hack writer who's been scripting the Supernatural books, is revealed to be God. That's right: we get to meet God, and even better, learn we've already known Him.
Although the background involves an entire town dying from a deadly fog released by Amara, much of the episode takes place in a bar while God types and talks with Metatron, his former scribe and editor, about two things: books, and God's place in the universe. It turns out God is working on his autobiography, but Metatron feels the work is safe and lacking in details. Even more troubling, God seems resigned to let Amara destroy the world.
Meanwhile, Sam has become infected by the dark fog, dying in Dean's arms. Back at the bar, Chuck hands a new draft to Metatron and goes onstage to play a folk song. Just as Sam appears to die, a light shines in his pocket. It's the amulet Sam gave to Dean when they were kids, the one Castiel believed burned in the presence of God before he lost faith. The fog lifts, Sam is cured, the town is saved. God has returned. This is truly my favorite episode of Supernatural, and I'm only placing it second so there's not a riot.
1. "Swan Song" (Season 5, Episode 22)
Rankings are tough, but most would still agree that that this is the finest season finale and the finest episode of Supernatural. Like most great fantasy fiction, the show is best when the stakes are high, and you can't get much higher stakes than averting the Apocalypse.
Sam consents to being Lucifer's vessel in the hope that Lucifer can be trapped. Then he and Archangel Michael (in the vessel of Adam) get ready for a showdown. Dean shows up in the Impala, rocking some Def Leppard. Michael goes to destroy Dean for interfering when Castiel smokes him with a Molotov cocktail of Holy Oil, and Lucifer, angered by the act, disintegrates Castiel with a snap of his fingers. Then he kills Bobby. Lucifer begins to mercilessly beat Dean to death on the hood of the Impala. After catching a glimpse of an army figure in the car ashtray lodged there since childhood, Sam gets the strength to fight Lucifer and take control over his body. Sam throws the Four Horsemen's rings on the ground, and a pit to hell opens. Michael reappears to prevent Sam from taking Lucifer back to hell and the two struggle, both getting pulled down. The Apocalypse is averted. Sam is trapped in Hell with Lucifer.
Despite this episode featuring a battle between heaven and hell, the consequences of life and death, and the power of brotherly love, it's somehow fitting that the most famous line from the script is Castiel's: "Hey, assbutt!"
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.