Saving People, Hunting Things: The 20 Greatest Supernatural Episodes

I love Supernatural, but you all know that. I’ve been watching the show for the past seven years or so, and I certainly have a favorite character, a favorite season, and a favorite episode. In fact, I have twenty favorite episodes. So, in honor of “LARP and the Real Girl,” which I’m sure will be a favorite for myself, I’ve completed a list of my very favorite episodes of Supernatural up to this point. Some you might agree with, others you might hate, but they are all my choices.

So, let’s begin.

20. (3.03) “Bad Day at Black Rock”

Wri. Ben Edlund; Dir. Robert Singer

19. (8.08) “Hunter Heroici”

Wri. Andrew Dabb; Dir. Paul Edwards

18. (3.13) “Ghostfacers!”

Wri. Ben Edlund; Dir. Phil Sgriccia


“Ghostfacers!” is interesting as an episode. First: it isn’t from the Winchester Boys’ perspective. That isn’t particularly rare in a show – that there are a few episodes that are made to be told without the main characters. Sometimes it’s a relief, but often it’s a burden and is painful to watch. This is because a departure from the main characters as the episode’s leads can often lose us, as the audience, without our protagonists. This episode falls into the former category, however. It’s a great episode – and it wouldn’t be on this list if it weren’t. I could watch Ed and Harry investigate ghosts even without the Winchester boys and it would still feel like a Supernatural episode because of how absolutely beautifully the episode is done. In fact the web series does still feel like SPN.

Second: it’s the first found footage episode of Supernatural. This is also not a common occurrence on SPN, but it happened once this season (8.04) and that episode sucked. Like, it really sucked. It took me two days to actually watch it because I got so very bored that I just had to stop for a few hours. “Ghostfacers!,” however is the “good” version of the Supernatural found footage episode. It begins with Ed and Harry doing a “Masterpiece Theatre” narration of basically what they, as the Ghostfacers, are doing in this episode. It also breaks the found footage mould and goes back to typical camera work and storytelling for the last five minutes or so of the episode.

As one of the first episodes to not be from Dean or Sam’s perspective, it’s a really interesting study and show veteran Ben Edlund delivered on the script. It’s funny and heartfelt in all the right ways.

17. (4.15) “Death Takes a Holiday”

Wri. Jeremy Carver; Dir. Steve Boyum

16. (4.17) “It’s a Terrible Life”

Wri. Sera Gamble; Dir. James L. Conway

15. (6.15) “The French Mistake”

Wri. Ben Edlund; Dir. Charles Beeson

The French Mistake

If I hadn’t really thought about this list for days and days, I probably would have put “The French Mistake” at the top, because that’s how much I love this episode. Don’t let it being number 15 on this list fool you – this is one of my favorite episodes. The only problem is, though, that as far as the plot of this episode goes…there isn’t really one. I love this episode, but it’s pure fan service. That’s not a bad thing, though, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a fan who loves being serviced.

“The French Mistake” is, for sure, one of the funniest episodes of the entire series, and it’s completely within the realm of the rules that Eric Kripke, himself, introduced in season four – the meta beast that is SPN. It pokes fun not only at some of the ridiculous things from the show, but the fandom rumors surrounding the actors and creators. From Jensen and Jared’s rumored non-friendship, to the boys not being friends with Misha, a lot of big (and hilariously false) fandom rumors are addressed in this episode.

It’s another gem for sure from Ben Edlund. Ultimately, this episode is nearly plotless as far as the trajectory of the season goes, but it’s fun and meta. What more could you want?

14. (4.01) “Lazarus Rising”

Wri. Eric Kripke; Dir. Kim Manners

13. (5.22) “Swan Song”

Story by Eric Gewitz/Teleplay by Eric Kripke; Dir. Steve Boyum


The Impala is the most important object in the universe. The master himself, Eric Kripke, wrote himself a swan song in this episode. It was Kripke’s last episode as showrunner and his teleplay for the episode is absolutely brilliant. Everything about seasons three through five were absolutely stunning to me – I adore them completely. The fandom will debate forever, or until someone “Word of God”s it, if Chuck Shurley was God (I think he was about 80%) or Jesus (the other 20%), but there is no doubt that Chuck is a fictional representation of Kripke. Which, honestly, is enough to make this fan believe Chuck to be God. I’m a big believer in mythology of shows and films. I think symbology is important and vital to our understanding of film and television. I digress, though.

Either way Chuck is writing the greatest story ever told, and I know it’s only 13 on my list, but it is near perfect as far as SPN episodes go. Every relationship comes together; both sets of brothers, which is the entire story arc up to this point. Like, of every season, not just season five. This is the episode we’ve been waiting for since we first got introduced to demons, as we know them now. Plus, Sam fights Lucifer inside of himself and comes out on top.

When that hole closes up and Dean is healed, the world is all at once good and bad. The world will never be put back into balance. Somehow, though, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because Metallicar is the one great object of Sam and Dean Winchester. No matter what happens to them, their lives come together at the junction of that singular, special object. They never stayed in one place after their house burned down – but they had each other and they had that ’67 Chevy Impala to call a home. And after “Swan Song”, as fan, we can finally feel free to call it home as well.

12. (1.17) “Hell House”

Wri. Trey Callaway; Dir. Chris Long

11. (3.12) “Jus in Bello”

Wri. Sera Gamble; Dir. Phil Sgriccia

10. (5.09) “The Real Ghostbusters”

Story by Nancy Weiner/Teleplay by Eric Kripke; Dir. Jim Conway

9. (7.20) “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo”

Wri. Robbie Thompson; Dir. John MacCarthy


Felicia Day. Honestly, what more could I possibly say. Another great episode that isn’t from the boys’ perspective, and it’s done amazingly. Everything about Charlie and her situation is perfection, and she was the perfect character for the episode to focus on. Considering the first part of season seven was less than spectacular, though not (imo) as bad as the beginning of season six, “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo” is a breath of fresh air into S7.

The truth is that Felicia Day got a bigger guest role than most people. She carries the episode for the most part. Not in a “she’s better than everyone else” way, but in a “Jared’s wife just had a baby and the episode is about your character” kind of way. Beyond that, though, the episode is witty – filled with geek girl hacking and references to nerd culture. And, really, Charlie is the perfect match to Dean. Because no matter how much fandom likes to claim Sam as the true and proper nerd…I’m one hundred percent serious when I say Dean is a bigger nerd than three Sammy’s put together. So, I’d say she’s practically a female Dean, really. They’re about equal parts nerdy – he just doesn’t have computer skills.

Robbie Thompson wrote a truly fantastic episode and Charlie is returning in the next episode of Supernatural, “LARP and the Real Girl.” I have a feeling I’ll be needing to make room for 8.11 in my favorite episodes list, if the promo pictures of Sam, Dean, and Charlie in Renaissance outfits are any indication.

8. (5.08) “ Changing Channels”

Wri. Jeremy Carver; Dir. Charles Beeson

7. (3.11) “Mystery Spot”

Story by Jeremy Carver & Emily McLaughlin/Teleplay by Jeremy Carver; Dir. Kim Manners

Sam shocked

Jeremy Carver is a genius. There’s a reason he came back to be co-showrunner. I would take bets that “Mystery Spot” is part of the reason he was asked back. His teleplay is fucking beautiful – top notch work. He also wrote some of the best episodes on this list. Carver is a master at Sam and Dean’s relationship, and I couldn’t thank him more, as a fan, for this episode. Which is, by its very nature, a Sam episode – but it’s a Sam episode about Dean. It’s about how Sam feels about Dean, how he feels about Dean’s deal, the responsibility he feels about Dean selling his soul, and what’s going to happen to Sam once Dean is gone.

At first the Trickster’s Mystery Spot is funny. Well, the first time it’s shocking, but then it gets funny. It’s two parts Groundhog Day and one part the worst nightmare you ever had. Loki, aka Gabriel, always brings the Winchester boys to the root of whatever the season’s message is. The root of season three? Sam and Dean are equal parts saviors for each other and, all at once, each other’s Achilles heel. No one knows this better than Gabriel, who watched Michael and Lucifer deal with the same things, and he puts them to the absolute test. Or, at least, he puts Sam to the ultimate test.

That being said, I can never hear “Heat of the Moment” without wanting to cry and laugh all at once.

6. (4.18) “The Monster at the End of This Book”

Story by Julie Siege & Nancy Weiner/Teleplay by Julie Siege; Dir. Mike Rohl

5. (5.04) “The End”

Wri. Ben Edlund; Dir. Steve Boyum


What happens when Sam says yes to the devil, the Croatoan virus returns, and a good man goes to war? Ben Edlund delves into the Supernatural universe five years after Lucifer obtains his vessel and begins his apocalypse. The catch is that Dean from 2009 (the year of this season) is sent to 2014 to see what has become of him, the world, and the brother he swore to protect – and all events are courtesy of Zachariah. Ultimately, the story of “The End” is a propaganda version of the future – a reason for Dean to say “yes” to Michael. And yet…it’s so much more than that.

“The End” is more than just an episode for Dean to see his probable future – a purely fallen angel who he isn’t friends with anymore, a brother he’ll never get back, and his return to torture to get what he needs. It’s an episode that examines the nature of Dean, and of Cas. Who they were, an angel would would wait forever for one man and a man who refused to let his brother back in – and who they might become, a human being who cannot see a hopeful future and a man blinded by revenge.

I would be lying if I said Cas wasn’t my favorite part of this episode. I love future!Cas, but he also breaks my heart. He is, in all actually, the reason this episode is as high as it currently is. There is so much amazingly powerful symbology about fallen angels from the very start of Castiel’s introduction, and Cas? He’s an angel who falls. He does not saunter vaguely downwards, or get sent to Earth in holy fire. No. Castiel is an angel with a glorious purpose, who cannot help that a human being enraptured him so much that he became willing to fall.

And look where that willingness to fall got him. No longer an angel (every string to Heaven cut), but a drug and sex addict only because it dulls the pain of the loss of God and Dean. Dean might be physically close to Cas, but Castiel lost him long ago. That idea is absolutely stunning and it’s the real reason this is number 5. I love a good “fall from grace” story, and “The End” might be the very best one from SPN history.

4. (6.20) “The Man Who Would Be King”

Wri./Dir. Ben Edlund


Apparently Castiel needs reminding to not step on a fish. That being said, this episode is one hundred percent a Castiel episode – and I fucking love it. Castiel is a fallen angel and this episode, formed from a series of flashbacks of where Cas was during this season, is the proof of what Chuck said in “Swan Song.”

The reveal of Cas working with the king of hell was big. It was huge. The fandom had suspected for a while that something of that nature was happening with Castiel, but it was still shocking. It was a great reveal because it was nonchalant. It was just part of Castiel’s life and that’s what we were seeing. “The Man Who Would Be King” is a purely Cas episode and so the reveals weren’t a big deal – which actually made them a big deal.

Overall, Castiel’s betrayl of the Winchesters was a very complicated thing, and I think this episode really showed it – his fall from grace detailed in every scene. And with the future that Cas would soon have following this episode, this was truly the last good piece of Cas for a very long while. As a character, though, not in terms of writing. I quite love the scenes with God!Cas and Leviathan!Cas. I think they really show off Misha Collins’s acting range and show that Castiel is no longer in charge of Jimmy’s body. Castiel’s story is all about the fall, and boy did he fall hard.

3. (7.17) “The Born-Again Identity”

Wri. Sera Gamble; Dir. Robert Singer


Lucifer comes back to play in my favorite Sam episode, which might be part of the appeal of the show. Like I said before, I’m not the biggest Sam fan, but I really loved Lucifer. Mark Pellegrino is one of my favorite reoccurring actors on the show (He was also fantastic in LOST and Dexter), and his Lucifer is out of the park.

I really love the idea of Sam hallucinating Lucifer after he gets out of the Pit because Mark’s Lucifer has always been so much fun – and twisted. The story about Marin is weak at best, but it’s always nice to see things back to normal even if it’s just getting rid of a ghost without a lot of story behind it.

It’s comfortable – which is when they introduce Emanuel. I hope none of the fans thought that they’d get rid of Misha Collins, because I doubt they ever will. Meg, it seems, will also never disappear. Sure, it’s not the same actress, but there have only been two women who played her, so it’s been pretty consistant. Honestly, Meg is one of those great morally ambiguous demon characters who, when they do actually show up, you never know if they’re going to be helping the Winchesters or hunting them.

When Emanuel starts to remember he’s Castiel, though, the tides turn. Cas’s repentance for season six is the taking on of the Lucifer hallucinations, although I think it’s interesting that Hallucination!Lucifer seems to know when it’s Castiel and not Sam who he going to be fucking with. Which, I think, makes this episode even more interesting.

2. (2.04) “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things”

Wri.Raelle Tucker ; Dir. Kim Manners


Never will I equally hate and love a character like I do John Winchester. John is a complicated character and, as seen through Sam and Dean’s eyes, a very carefully constructed metaphor for God. If you’ll allow me a Dean pop culture reference, I’ll explain. In Fight Club, the mechanic says, “If you’re male and you’re Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out or dies or is never at home, what do you believe about God?”

I don’t think there has been a father who fit the role quite so well. As seen though each of the boys’ belief systems, John Winchester was properly their God. Who else are young boys supposed to look up to, except their father. Not to mention the parallels to be drawn between the Sam-John-Dean triangle and the Lucifer-God-Michael triangle, which make John as God even more interesting in the entire dynamic of the future of the Winchester family (especially with Adam as well).

All that being said, “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things” is a beautiful Dean episode. It’s set soon after John sells his soul for Dean’s life and it’s one of those episodes where Dean gets confronted with how he gives everything and never gets anything back. But even when he does get something back, it comes at the ultimate price and with lasting consequences. John selling his soul was bitter sweet for Dean. He finally got the proof he always wanted that John cared for him, but it’s also tainted by both John’s immediate death and John’s call to kill Sammy if things get too out of hand – a thing Dean will never be able to do for his father.

1. (5.19) “Hammer of the Gods”

Story by David Reed/Teleplay by Andrew Dabb & Daniel Loflin; Dir. Rick Bota


In a deserted hotel in Indiana, the great gods from all the religions convine. Well, most of them anyway. Number one of my list combines all the things I absolutely love, and does it amazingly well. The thought that gods would meet to talk about Christianity’s impending apocalypse is beyond awesome – and a really great idea.

Lucifer. Have I mentioned that Mark Pellegrino is the greatest version of the ultimate fallen angel? Because he fucking is. Richard Speight, Jr. has always been a fantastic character as the Trickster, who was then Loki, who was finally Gabriel. And Gabriel’s interactions with his older brother are vital, not to mention interesting. His death is painful and the fact that he can’t figure his way out, and actually wings, is probably one of the most powerful angel deaths. His conversation with Lucifer before he dies will always be my favorite angel interaction. I think that out of all the angels, Gabriel understands Lucifer the most, no matter what he believes in or who he thought was right.

There are a lot of great moments and sequences. Not to mention some great lines and ideas overall. Including the weird, random return of Ghostfacers in the form of commercials for the web series. My favorite quote from the episode is Kali’s, though. “Westerners, I swear, the sheer arrogance. You think you’re the only ones on earth? You pillage and you butcher in your god’s name, but you’re not the only religion, and he’s not the only god. And now you think you can just rip the planet apart? You’re wrong. There are billions of us, and we were here first.” It’s fucking perfection and I really love it, even though I doubt Supernatural will ever explore non-Western religion.

There you have it. My top 20 episodes of Supernatural. It’s been real, kids.

Emily Frances Maesar

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