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
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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:
 
NIGHTMARE:

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