Because nothing defines Hellatus more than taking on the impossible, whether it's picking the best episode, best song, best character or even trying to convince yourself that it really isn't difficult to last this period of time without a new Supernatural episode, I've decided to try my hand at a particularly impossible task; picking the one episode from each season that is "THE" pivotal episode.
No doubt this will spark discussion...at least I'm hoping it does...and I'm greatly anticipating others' thoughts on the topic. Further, it is very possible that given time, and another season, that some of these might change course, if like Cas I drank a liquor store, it's very likely all would change.
It's important to define pivotal, so here it is: 1) something vitally important, especially in determine the outcome, progress or success of something; 2) acting as a pivot (which in its noun form is a point on which something turns.)
Rules for pivotal episodes:
As I've learned from Alice, rules are necessary when embarking on such an adventure; thus, I have some rules regarding how I decided upon the pivotal episode of each season.
First off, it must add to what we know thus far, either about Sam or Dean or for the storyline as a whole.
Second, it must be built upon in future episodes and events.
Third, the episode as a whole must be strong, this is the pivotal episode, not necessarily the most powerful episode of the season but in no way can it simply have a pivotal scene while the rest of the episode is flat or uneven or even forgettable.
With all that said, here we go, Season 1's pivotal episode:
Sam having a premonition is not new in this episode nor the fact that Dean knows about it; however, Sam discovering that he's not alone, that Max similarly suffered the loss of his mother in a fire in his nursery at six months of age deepens the story as Sam, and us, learn that there are others like him.
The scene where Sam and Max talk, while Dean and Alice, Max's mother, are upstairs "safe" is powerful enough as Sam learns about the death of Max' mother, add to that the musical score which is identical to the score played in The Pilot when the demon entered baby Sam's nursery and started this journey and the scene ratchets up from powerful to stunning.
Another aspect which makes this a pivotal episode is that while Max exhibits numerous abilities Sam only has premonitions "“ that is until Dean's life is threatened. This episode lays the groundwork for future events; Sam can and ultimately does tap into his "˜other' abilities due to circumstances surrounding Dean; whether it's in No Rest For the Wicked when Sam determines his powers are needed to save Dean's life or during the four months of Dean being in hell when Sam decides that his powers are useful for exacting revenge on Lilith to On The Head of a Pin when Sam strengthens himself to the point of being able to kill demons because he deems Dean too weak to fight by his side anymore.
Nightmare as a whole is a strong episode because it delves into Sam's mystery and deepens and develops his story while similarly showing us Dean's struggle as well. First, Dean is supportive of Sam as evidenced by their middle of the night flight to Michigan and Dean's unquestioning response to Sam's urgency. Second, we see Dean determined to refute Sam that he's not a killer like Max and there's no way Sam is going to go down Max's road because he, Dean, is there; something Max did not have. Thirdly, we see Dean's fear when, despite his flippant response to Sam's new powers that they should go to Vegas, he turns back to close the hotel room door and in that private moment gives vent to his fear that perhaps this is beyond his control.
Nightmare also sets up future reveals throughout Season 2, notably in Simon Said, Hunted and All Hell Breaks Loose I and II. There are small moments that go unnoticed at first but upon layering the seasons we see the seeds planted here; in Nightmare Sam tells Dean not to "look at him that way" and Ruby plays that card well in No Rest For the Wicked as she tries to convince Sam to let her teach him how to tap his powers.
This is also the first episode that Jensen decided to have Dean"¦and he's paying the price for it five years later as Dean's eating habits are a running joke throughout, even to the point of being markers to his deteriorating mental and emotional state [My Bloody Valentine].
Sam's slippery slide of justifying the use of his powers to save people is also set in motion here as he openly ponders that his premonitions perhaps are so he can save people; we see the result of that germinating seed in Season 4 and 5 when first Sam boasts about how many people he can save by his abilities to lamenting that he can no longer save people now that he isn't using them.
And let's not forget one more fun moment, when Sam and Dean stand outside the Miller's house to "˜pay their respects' and investigate the case, Sam mutters that their guise as priests is a whole new low for them. Fast forward to the past, In The Beginning, and we see Samuel Campbell and Dean Van Halen employing the priestly garb to investigate a mysterious death.
This is just a small list of fun tidbits as well as meatier aspects to this episode but with all those points in place, Nightmare meets my criteria for pivotal episode.
Keep in mind that Season 1 has many excellent episodes that establish new things that are built upon, Faith shows us Sam's spiritual side and Dean's lack thereof and the still fabulously important scene between La Grange and Dean:
Dean: "What did you see when you looked inside my heart?"
LaGrange: "A young man with an important purpose, a job to do and it isn't finished."
This theme was picked up again in Houses of the Holy with Dean finding a bit of faith while Sam's takes a beating and again in It's The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester we see Dean patching together Sam's faith in angels when Sam's first meeting with Castiel and Uriel leaves him quite disillusioned. Season 4 overall and much of Season 5 pick up on themes of faith and heaven and purposes grander than protecting Sam but in the end Faith does not stand up as an overall pivotal episode due to much of it's unevenness and the fact that beyond the standout scene with Dean and LaGrange, much of what occurs in Faith is not followed up upon. Faith is a standalone episode with a very pivotal scene.
"Home" is another standout episode from Season 1, certainly a game changer in many ways as we learn that Mary is sorry for something regarding Sam and that John first reached out to the supernatural world within days of Mary's death and thus began his life as a hunter. Home also shows us John arriving in Lawrence in response to Dean's pleading phone message but refusing to contact his sons until, as he tells Missouri, he finds out the truth. But while the thread of something bigger going on is present in Home through Sam's vision and his revelation of them to Dean much of Home is a monster of the week, standalone episode. It is not a pivot point in the series, although it is/was a pivot point in many a viewer - and we also know the writers' - minds and hearts.
So there you have it my thoughts on Season 1's pivotal episode. Are there other episodes in Season 1 that are excellent? Of course. Again, I was seeking only to identify the episode that, in my mind, is the most pivotal episode.
So, let the discussion begin. This is a five-part article, one season per week so enjoy reading; at the end, we're that much closer to September!
Thanks for reading, Elle2
Thanks for sharing
Nightmare isn't my favorite episode from season one (though top ten material) but you make a compelling case for it's long-term implications. Shadow and, more so, Dead Man's Blood might be honorable mentions. Of course, even though the Colt DID kill Azazel, not as if his plan suddenly stopped.
Season 1 was definitely the season with everyone finding their footing but this episode really carries through into the other seasons and is powerful in ways that initially I didn't appreciate.
Bzzzzz...Bugs is great...there is the steam shower scene!!!
Nightmare grew on me, the first viewing I was more sorta meh, but after a few seasons and how it links up with Simon Said I really appreciate it. I truly enjoy Dead Man's Blood, the Colt, our first time with vampires, Dean standing up to John, Sam and John finding their footing and some understanding.. .good stuff.
Trina, I know Home is critical, or as I called it a game changer, and likely to be popular with many, I'm glad I 'convinced' you with my stated case.
We'll have some fun as we go through all the season, I've got one or perhaps two later on that are sure to generate some "What?" But I'm pretty certain my 'arguments' will be just as strong.
Thanks for the comments.
Dead Man's Blood: John decides to include his sons in the battle which leads to having Dean and Sam in the way of harm and the accident which leads to him exchanging his soul for Dean's life. And last but not least, the damn Colt.
Salvation: Sam's need for revenge overshadows everything as he lets it control him. Dean is Sam's buffer to truly going dark. Dean's belief of revenge isn't worth it if it means loosing people precious to him. All this play an important part in season 4. I'm sure it is self-explanatory.
Devil's Trap: Dean is Sam's buffer. Sam chose family over revenge. Sam didn't shoot John and Dean paid for it. We learn that Mary and Jessica's death were all an unfortunate accident. We learn that Azazel has a hard-on for Sam really badly.
Shadows: Sam still dreams of normal and thinks it is possible. Meg is something more than a bad girl. Dean wants his family together like they used to be before Sam went off to Stanford. Dean doesn't want Sam to leave even after killing Azazel because that isn't his main interest and focus. All this plays into season 2 and further on.
I could really write a detailed in-depth look into all four episodes to better explain like you did but i don't have the time at this moment.
And for Devil's Trap again: We got to see the length Dean would go to save his family. Something that played out in AHBL. Very pivotal if you ask me.
I agree that Nightmare was a pivotal episode, it became evident that there was more to the younger Winchester than met the eye, and we learned of his abilities - I was probably similarly freaked out as Dean was or Sam himself.
I think the path to that episode already began in Home, when Missouri stated that 'the boy has such strong abilities', and I kept wondering what she meant with this remark. His vision had bothered me, and at that point neither of us viewers had any idea where this might lead to.
Personally, I would love this continued further. I would love the return of Sam's visions or powers, even though they were clearly connected to the whole Azazel-Lucifer Storyline. But I loved them and I loved a powerful and strong Sam. But that's just me.
I'm curious about your other takes on this topics, I assume this was not your last instalment?
There are many excellent episodes throughout the series and each season, my effort here is to pick the ONE episode per season. Why one? Because it's Hellatus and thus we must make some things very hard.
As Randal and you, Anene, have correctly pointed out, there are many points of value in other episodes and I too place Dead Man's Blood as high on the list of game changing episodes and think that too often it is overlooked.
DMB gave us John including the boys in the fight, Sam finding some understanding of his father, Dean standing up to John and the ever important introduction of the Colt. But in picking 'the' pivotal episode I stand by Nightmare because while the Colt and John's interactions with his sons are important it is the development of the overarching theme of something sinister moving behind the scenes that Nightmare establishes that wins the day for me especially since up to know we assumed there was something going on what with Sam's visions and the knowledge in Home that there was an evil presence in the house after the fire but it's Nightmare that raises the stakes and gives us a glimpse (tiny as it is) into the future.
As for other installments, Jas, there will be one per season. I decided to look at each season and pick the one episode per season upon which not only the season but the overall series as a whole turns on. So this is the first of five, Nightmare for Season 1 and Season 2 is coming soon (like next week, Tuesday or Wednesday)
The idea is developing in my brain, especially after Anene's excellent comments, to perhaps develop an article on the faith of the brothers...in fact, I think I will. Thanks, Anene! 'Tis Hellatus and I need all the ideas for articles I can get.
It's such a creative process, and it's great how we manage to get through a hellatus like this.
Thanks so much, Elle2, can't wait to read more. Keep them coming, I just love it.
I do love the creative process as well and I especially love it when someone inspires me with a comment and Anene's really struck a chord so I'm stoked to get going. I hope to outline some notes tonight on that idea plus a few others...so much to write, so little time. At this rate Hellatus will be over and I'll still have articles in the planning stages...I can hope, right!
This is definitely a difficult task you have started for yourself. Looking thru all the titles in season one, there were so many episodes that had some little tidbit here and there to add to the mytharc. I found it hard to try and nail it down to just one. But I think your right to go with Nightmare.
Canâ€™t wait to see what you have for the remaining seasons.
This episode also holds a special meaning for me, as this was the first episode I ever saw of Supernatural. I finally had a night off and was able to watch it and of course immediately fell in love with the show.
Karen, you are right, many episodes throughout the series lend a nugget of information here and tidbit that pays off later, Faith has elements that are paid off continuously and Shadows shows that Meg is trying to trap John and Dead Man's Blood brings in the COlt while Scarecrow and Something Wicked show Dean's loyalties and Sam has an understanding of what it meant to grow up in Dean's shoes, something that is paid quite handsomely in Dark Side of the Moon and Asylum is our first real brother conflict although Skin shows some inner seething of Dean towards Sam -- interesting how so much of the brotherly conflict only comes out during possession or some other outside force. Then of course Pilot kicks the whole thing off and I could go on and on and one...and Suze, while Devil's Trap brings us not only the wonderful Bobby it also shows John wanting to kill the demon through having Sam kill him and Dean wanting to save their father and for Sam choosing loyalty to Dean and trust of Dean over John/Azazel and yes, Dean's willingness to go as far as he must to protect John and Sam...it's Nightmare (in my opinion) that througout the entire episode develops and builds and introduces us to the idea there is something bigger behind the scenes and that for the first time we realize that Sam and the Winchester family isn't alone in this, there are others out there and the evil is bigger and much more manipulative and Sam's self-doubt and Dean's beginnings of concerns take hold.
Suze, don't cringe, simply use your Hellatus wisely and set yourself up for a Season viewing...you will not be disappointed (there's no zombie gators but there is some time spent in the sewer!)
After looking at all the episodes and reading the comments I do have to agree that this seems like the pivotal episode for the year. And I find that humorous on my end, because this episode is one of my least favorite. The episode does have some good moments that I enjoy, but ever since I first saw this episode I have always had a problem with Max Miller's character. (I won't go into the whys now. FYI: I did go a little more in depth with those thoughts when you posted Reviews of each episode when they started airing on TNT.) I have since come around a little more on this episode and try to view it from a broader perspective and realize, as you pointed out, that many things are indeed set up for the rest of this mytharc in this episode. Hindsight is indeed 20/20 and I love going back and reviewing past seasons with the knowledge of what just happened. It really adds so much more depth and meaning into the lives of these characters. A good lesson to learn for dealing with our own life experiences.
Nightmare wasn't one of my favorites either, at first. Neither was Simon Said but after a few watches and then really sitting down and paying attention I realized how critical these episodes were in what they unveiled and also in part began or built upon (in my eyes, Simon Said builds upon Nightmare) Where Nightmare has Sam worried with only the highly damaged Max Miller as an example for what he might become, Simon Said shows Andy readily embracing his abilities and enjoying life frankly because of them, something Sam has never thought about or attempted. Both allow for Dean's growing fears but whereas Nightmare Dean keeps his fears tamped down pretty tight, Simon Said forces Dean's out into the open but his continued assurance that Sam is not a killer and not going to be a killer is a stable thread in both.
Glad you all enjoyed the article...uh, Suze, by trainer do you mean a running shoe? As for sewers...I do my best thinking far, far, far away from them. Hope the de-fleaing is complete and you are well on your way through Season 1.
As for part two of this series...should be up shortly!
Thanks for reading
Glad you're enjoying all the goodness at the site. We have tons of things to read and listen and watch and now play!!! (which is so cool this year) I'm currently reworking my way through S2 eps I haven't seen in a while and have gotten through almost all of S3 entirely with S1 beckoning like crazy.
Glad you're here