Tonight, Supernatural will begin its 12th season, a rare accomplishment for a TV show, especially these days. In honor of this achievement, I’m revisiting one great episode from each of the first 11 seasons, plus one “bonus” episode. After some thought, I decided the best “bonus” episode would be the pilot.
In 1983, something pins Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith) to the ceiling of her infant son’s bedroom and sets the house on fire, sending her husband, John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), fleeing for safety with his two boys.
Twenty-two years later, Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) receives a surprise visit at college from his brother, Dean (Jensen Ackles), who tells him their father hasn’t returned home from a hunting trip.
John Winchester raised his boys to hunt monsters, but Sam quit to go to college. Now, he’s drawn back in, one last time, as he and Dean follow their father’s trail and find themselves investigating a Woman in White (Sarah Shahi), a ghost who targets unfaithful men.
After defeating her, Sam returns home, expecting to pick up his life, only to find his girlfriend, Jessica (Adrianne Palicki), dead on the ceiling, just like his mother. He sets out with Dean to find answers.
Season one: “Scarecrow.”
Sam and Dean split up when Sam refuses to follow his father’s orders to investigate the annual disappearances of couples near a small town. He’s determined to go to California to join John in his hunt for the demon who killed both Mary Winchester and Jessica.
While Dean hunts a Norse Vanir accepting sacrifices from the townspeople, Sam meets a young woman named Meg (Nicki Aycox), whose story about her home life reminds him of his own.
When Dean doesn’t answer repeated phone calls, Sam ignores Meg’s suggestions that he write him off and continue to California. Instead, he goes after Dean.
Later in the season, we learn that Meg’s a demon. The boys would later exorcise her, but she’d return in a new “meat suit.” They’d also encounter the vengeful ghost of the woman the demon possessed.
Season two: “Roadkill.”
Sam and Dean try to help a woman named Molly McNamara (Tricia Helfer) escape from the ghost of a farmer named Jonah Greeley (Winston Rekert), who’d died 15 years earlier.
“Every year, Greeley finds someone to punish for what happened to him,” Sam tells her. “Tonight, that person is you.”
When Molly asks why her, Sam tells her some spirits only see what they want.
She’s also concerned about her missing husband, David, and confused why her car has disappeared.
A little more than half an hour into the episode, the twist comes: Molly is also a ghost. Every year for the past 15 years, she and Greeley have been replaying the night she accidentally hit him and crashed her car.
Sam and Dean bring Molly to see David with his new wife so she can move on.
Season 3: “Mystery Spot.”
Dean is killed during an investigation of the Broward County Mystery Spot, only for Sam to wake up to find the day starting over again.
Sam relives the day hundreds of times as Dean is hit by a car; killed by a falling desk; chokes on his food; slips in the shower; gets food poisoning; is electrocuted; attacked by a dog, etc.
Behind it all is The Trickster (Richard Speight, Jr.), a creature they thought they’d killed the previous season. He reveals that he’s teaching Sam a lesson: he can’t save Dean.
At the end of season two, Sam was killed and Dean sold his soul to bring him back. He only got one year, so they’re aware of the ticking clock, even as Sam struggles to find a way to get Dean out of his contract.
Season 4: “Lazarus Rising.”
Four months after Dean’s soul was dragged to Hell, he digs his way out of a grave surrounded by flattened trees. He also discovers the imprint of a hand burned into his shoulder.
Both Bobby (Jim Beaver) and Sam initially don’t believe it’s really Dean, but he proves his identity. The three wonder how Dean is back, his ripped-to-shreds body intact.
An entity named Castiel (Misha Collins) is responsible. Dean and Bobby summon Castiel, who turns out to be an angel. He dragged Dean out of Hell, “because God commanded it.”
Meanwhile, Sam hunts demons in the company of a woman (Genevieve Cortese) he initially pretended had been a one-night stand. It turns out she’s the demon Ruby, who’d allied herself with the boys in the third season, in a new meat suit.
Cortese would later marry Jared Padalecki.
With the introduction of angels, season four opened Supernatural up to new story ideas, especially given that angels weren’t much better than demons in most respects. Castiel would go on to become a major part of the series.
Season five: “Changing Channels.”
One of the great things about Supernatural is that the writers, producers and actors aren’t afraid to experiment and play with form. “Changing Channels” begins like an 80s sitcom. There’s even an 80s-style opening credits.
When a violent man’s widow says he was killed by the Incredible Hulk, the brothers figure the Trickster is involved. Dean wants to kill him, but Sam thinks he might be a useful ally in stopping the coming apocalypse.
Their investigations take them to an abandoned warehouse, where they suddenly find themselves having to live out lives as characters in various TV shows, including a hospital soap, the aforementioned sitcom; a procedural cop show and Knight Rider, with Sam as KITT.
The Trickster tells them if they survive “the game” (of being characters in different TV shows) for the next 24 hours, he’ll agree to talk about Sam’s idea.
He also wants them to play their roles as Michael’s and Lucifer’s vessels.
When even Castiel can’t help them, the boys realize the Trickster is an angel. He admits he’s the archangel Gabriel. He’d run away because he couldn’t stand to see his family fighting.
Dean tells Gabriel he’s too afraid to stand up to his family, leading Gabriel to come off the sidelines later in the season.
Season six: “The French Mistake.”
After Sam and Dean stopped the apocalypse, a civil war broke out in Heaven. To protect them from Raphael (Lanette Ware), the angel Balthazar (Sebastian Roche) sends them to another universe on Castiel’s instructions. There, Sam and Dean Winchester are just characters in a TV show, played by actors named Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.
The brothers are surprised at what they learn about these actors who look like them. As I’ve said before, Dean’s reaction at seeing a clip of Jensen Ackles in a soap opera is worth the price of admission; and when he discovers that Jared Padalecki married Genevieve Cortese, he says to Sam, “You married fake Ruby?”
They think everything’s all right when they run into Castiel, only to find that he’s only an actor named Misha Collins.
“Misha? Jensen?” Dean asks at one point. “What’s with the names around here?”
Season seven: “Defending Your Life.”
Sam and Dean discover that people killed by ghosts are being judged by the Egyptian god Osiris (Faran Tahir). What’s more, he’s got Dean on his docket. And the star witness against Dean for the deaths he’s caused over the years? The ghost of Jo Harvelle (Alona Tal), a fellow hunter. Osiris reveals that he summoned Jo because Dean feels responsible for her death (in season five).
Osiris finds Dean guilty in his heart and forces Jo to kill him. In order to stop her, Sam has to find a way to kill Osiris.
Season eight: “Goodbye, Stranger.”
Castiel has been programmed by an angel named Naomi (Amanda Tapping) and tells the brothers he’s been killing demons in his search for the other half of the demon tablet that provides instructions on how to close the gates of Hell forever (Sam had begun to undertake a series of trials to do that). He says Crowley (Mark Sheppard), the self-proclaimed King of Hell, has sent demons out to find Lucifer’s crypts.
It turns out he’s lying; he’s really looking for an angel tablet, a fact revealed by the demon Meg (Rachel Miner), who’d been Crowley’s prisoner. Meg, who’d resurfaced in a new meat suit in season five, had long been at odds with Crowley and offers to help Sam and Dean, even after Crowley tells her their plans. She even sacrifices herself so they can escape him.
Season nine: “Slumber Party.”
The boys seek help from their ally Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day) in bringing the ancient computer equipment in the Men of Letters bunker up to date. They inadvertently release two beings preserved in suspended animation since 1935— Dorothy (Tiio Horn) and the Wicked Witch (Maya Massar).
Yes, in the Supernatural universe, Oz is real; L Frank Baum was a Man of Letters; his daughter, Dorothy, was accidentally trapped in Oz and Baum’s books were actually instructions on how to fight the evil there, a fact Charlie discovers.
After destroying the witch, Charlie, who’s looking for a quest, sets off with Dorothy to save Oz.
Earlier, Dorothy told Charlie she never wore the slippers. “Seems kind of tacky wearing a dead woman’s shoes.”
Bit of a goof with the shoes. They should have been silver , not ruby, since A) Dorothy’s adventures inspired the books, which had silver slippers; and B) she disappeared four years before the movie was made.
Season ten: “Fan Fiction.”
In season four, Sam and Dean discover a series of novels about their adventures, written by a man named Chuck Shurley (Rob Benedict), whom Castiel says is a prophet. He also tells them the books will one day be known as the Winchester Gospels.
In season eleven, viewers would learn that Chuck is actually God, which had been implied in season five.
“Fan Fiction”, Supernatural’s 200th episode, finds Sam and Dean investigating a disappearance and discovering that the case is connected to a high school musical inspired by the Supernatural books.
“There is no singing in Supernatural,” Dean says, adding that any singing would be classic rock.
The brothers discover that Calliope (Hannah Levien) is responsible for the disappearances. Sam says Calliope protects an author until his or her vision is realized and then kills her or him.
To draw out and kill Calliope, Dean realizes the show must go on.
When Sam ask Marie (Katie Sarife), the writer-director, why Chuck isn’t among the characters in the cast, Marie says she “kind of hates the meta stories.”
“Me, too,” Sam and Dean reply.
“Why this story?” Sam asks Calliope. “Why Supernatural?”
“Supernatural has everything,” she says. “Life, death, resurrection, redemption. But above all, family.”
Season eleven: “Just My Imagination.”
Sam is surprised to discover his childhood imaginary friend, Sully (Nate Torrence), is real and needs his help. Sully is a Zanna, a creature who guides and helps children. He comes to Sam because someone or something is killing his fellow Zanna.
When the boys and Sully learn the very human reason for the attacks, Sully is willing to sacrifice himself, but Dean tells the killer revenge won’t make her feel better. He points out the Zanna are Sesame Street Mother Theresas, not monsters.
“But when I wasn’t there for my little brother, Sully was,” he says “…You know there is not a monstrous bone in his body.”
Season 12 brings Supernatural back to the beginning in some ways, as God’s sister, Amara (Emily Swallow), left Dean with a parting gift. She brought back Mary Winchester. This season, Mary will be hunting with her sons.
Copyright 2016 Patrick Keating.