As I was looking for a way to pass the quarantine summer doldrums, I saw Entertainment Weekly’s list of what it considered to be the 75 most ‘essential’ episodes of Supernatural, leading up to Season 15. Since any excuse for a rewatch is a good excuse, I figured I’d not only invite my Supernatural "Team Free Will North Carolina" (TFWNC) Facebook group to join me, but I’d also recap my thoughts on which episodes Entertainment Weekly (EW) chose, which ones they skipped, and what was left out. Music plays such a big role in Supernatural, so I also noted which iconic songs were included and which were missed in the skipped episodes. Reporting on all that turned into quite the project, and The WFB was kind enough to let me share it here! (My snarky opinions are my own and don’t reflect those of The WFB.)
So come on the journey with me! Start with season 1, then follow the links until you catch up with us in season 11!
Season 11 (Show runner: Andrew Dabb )
Snarky Opinion—Two big pet peeves of mine are canon inconsistency when canon is inconvenient, and ‘forced errors’—characters who make obviously dumb choices so the writers can maneuver them to the desired outcome without bothering to make sense.
"Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire"
Dean freed Amara (aka The Darkness) and now she is a stalker chick. Everyone seems to have a ‘profound bond’ to Dean. Sam wakes up in the car alone after their dramatic almost-escape following the events in the Mexican restaurant. Sam eventually finds Dean in a meadow, weirded out from his initial meeting with Amara.
Cas is recovering from Rowena’s spell, which she cast on him and Crowley to be able to escape. Sam and Dean find a dead road crew, a young sheriff, and a man with a baby. People are being turned ‘rabid’ by poisoned air, which Sam believes is linked to Amara. Meanwhile, angels found Cas and are torturing him. Sam stays behind while Dean and the sheriff get the baby to safety, but he is infected by the disease and doesn’t tell Dean.
Dean realizes that the baby bears the Mark of Cain, just like grown-up Amara did in his vision.
An entire episode told from the Impala’s point of view, or with events happening inside the Impala.
One of the all-time fan-favorites since it has a great Monster of the Week (MOTW) plot with the were-pires (nachzeherers), a biting severed head in the green cooler, and plenty of bro moments.
Innovative, funny, scary and silly, it checks off all the boxes.
"Don’t Call Me Shurley"
Metatron is dumpster diving until he is transported to Chuck’s bar.
He meets ‘Carver Edlund’ and is insulting the author’s work before Chuck reveals himself to be God. Meanwhile, in the Bunker, Dean is ironing shirts using beer. He and Sam go on a case where all the victims had black lines under their skin—killed by the Darkness and Amara’s deadly fog. Chuck and Metatron trade barbs and Chuck talks about how he is locked Amara away because she destroyed what he built.
The Chuck we see in this episode definitely sets the scene for Evil!Chuck in S14-15, because he’s completely narcissistic and doesn’t really care about humanity except as entertainment.
Meanwhile, fog rolls into town, killing everyone, and Sam expects to die. Dean refuses to leave him and shouts into the void for Amara to stop.
She does, and the people who had died come back to life. Chuck reveals himself as God to Sam and Dean.
"All in the Family"
Chuck reveals himself as God, Cassifer is on the loose, Kevin is in the Veil and goes to Heaven. Sam is excited, Dean is pissed.
Amara shows up to Dean in the fog again. Chuck is a real dirt bag. Donatello freaks out. Dean and Sam meet with Metatron in a bar. They try to rescue Casifer.
Metatron sacrifices himself—it’s his redemption arc.
We find out Sam can drive like Dean.
The non-con vibes with Amara/Dean gave me the creeps, and I never really bought Amara as a bobbysoxer for Dean’s awesome awesomeness. The essentials list has skipped most of the Metatron, Amara and Cassifer arcs, so the last few episodes aren’t really going to make much sense to anyone who hasn’t already seen the full season.
"We Happy Few"
For being warded, everyone seems to traipse in and out of the bunker pretty easily—God, Amara, Lucifer, Crowley, etc. Chuck and Cassifer have a bitch fest, which Dean terms the ‘worst episode of Full House ever’. Crowley is dealing with a coup in Hell, Rowena is still trying to build a coven. Dean tries to facilitate the God/Lucifer dialogue with ‘how about using 'I feel' statements’?
Chuck tells them that destroying Amara will destroy reality, and that it’s too hard to rebuild the archangels (wait, doesn’t Asmodeus, a lowly Prince of Hell do that with Gabriel a few seasons hence?) Amara roughs up Donatello.
Amara in a black dress isn’t exactly scary. Sam volunteers to take the MOC so they can lock up Amara,
but in the end they dispel Lucifer, Amara keeps the MOC, Chuck is dying and so is the sun.
"Alpha and Omega"
The sun dying looks more like a pink filter or bad smog—not real scary. We meet Lady Toni who arrives from England to kill the Winchesters. Rowena and Chuck hang out. Dean gives Cas a pep talk, and Sam rallies the troops. Cas suggests a soul bomb (this pops up a lot, in S7 and S15). They go to Waverly Hills Sanitarium to collect souls. Billie shows up as the new Death and raids the Veil for souls.
Dean volunteers to be the suicide bomber because Amara will let him be close, and Sam is devastated.
Big bro talk/hug at the cemetery. Chuck sends Dean to the garden where Amara is talking about family with an elderly woman. Sam, Cas, Rowena and Crowley go to a bar to wait for whatever happens. Cas and Amara argue, she sees the bomb. She and Chuck argue, then reach agreement.
She heals Chuck and removes the soul bomb from Dean, says she will give Dean ‘what he needs most’. Sam sees the sun get stronger and grieves, thinking Dean is dead. He and Cas get to the Bunker.
Lady Toni is there, she banishes Cas, and shoots Sam. Dean finds Mary wandering around, still wearing the patented dead-mother-not-sexy-nightgown-of-doom.
Episodes Excluded from the 'Essential' List
"Form and Void"—Sam tries to cure the rabid virus while Dean and Deputy Jenna deal with a rapidly growing baby Amara who is also gaining abilities. Meanwhile, angels are torturing Cas for information on Metatron. Sam uses holy oil to stop the virus, and Crowley takes Amara with him back to Hell.
"The Bad Seed"—Rowena tries to form the Mega Coven, Sam and Dean try to find Metatron, Cas is dealing with the after-effects of Rowena’s spell, and Crowley is attempting to mold young Amara.
"Thin Lizzie"—Monster of the Week (MOTW) about the Lizzie Borden house, fake ghosts and real ghosts. Amara is stealing souls. A solid MOTW although not a big season arc addition.
"Our Little World"—Amara is on her own, trying to figure things out. Cas and Metatron duke it out, Crowley can’t control Amara.
"Plush"—The haunting of mascot-type costumes leads to murders, haunted by a man who was wrongfully killed. Sam is getting visions about the Cage he fears might be coming from God.
"Just My Imagination"—Sam’s childhood invisible friend, Sully, shows up when other Zanna are being murdered. Sam thinks God might be telling him to go to the Cage.
"Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?"—Amara is smiting people to get Chuck’s attention. Sam enlists help from Rowena to find out if God is telling him to talk to Lucifer. They bring Sam to the Cage, Lucifer admits he tricked them, and pulls Sam inside.
"The Devil in the Details"—Dean and Cas find a way to compel Rowena to get them in and out of the Cage to save Sam. Lucifer tries to kill Dean and then Cas. Cas agrees to be Lucifer’s vessel to fight against Amara. Lucifer kills Rowena.
"Into The Mystic"—A banshee is killing people at a retirement home. Sam and Dean meet Eileen, who is also hunting the creature. An old woman gives Dean advice about life.
"Don’t You Forget About Me"—a vampire from Alex’s past shows up at her school, and Claire’s solo hunts get her into danger. The girls are learning to live with Jody.
"Love Hurts"—MOTW about a woman who tried to cast a curse on her cheating husband and summoned a qareen shapeshifter.
"The Vessel"—Dean goes back in time to a WWII sub to retrieve a Hand of Glory from Delphine, a Woman of Letters. The Nazis attack the sub, Lucifer reveals to Sam that he’s been possessing Cas, and tries to kill Sam. Delphine shows Dean how to use the Hand of Glory to get back to his own time. When he returns, the Hand has no more power. Sam banishes Lucifer, but they have to figure out how to free Cas.
"Beyond the Mat"—Dean and Sam go to a wrestling match where the wrestlers are dying with strange symbols marked on their bodies. Meanwhile in Hell, Crowley and Lucifer struggle for control, and Amara is still on the loose. One of the wrestlers made a demon deal. Sam and Dean ponder how to free Cas.
"Safe House"—Clever MOTW where Sam and Dean revisit a case that Bobby and Rufus had handled years before, with a Soul Eater and its nest that exists outside of time.
"Red Meat"—Excellent MOTW and brother bonding episode. Sam gets shot by a werewolf, and Dean thinks he’s dead. Dean leaves Sam’s body to rescue a young couple and promises to come back. It turns out that the boyfriend was bitten and nearly suffocated an injured Sam in order to get Dean to leave before the other werewolves arrived. Dean overdoses to beg Billie to bring Sam back and take him instead, only to find out that Sam isn’t actually dead. Sam Effing Winchester wakes up, hikes out of the woods, drives to the hospital, shoots the werewolf and saves Dean all the while bleeding from a gunshot.
"Hell’s Angel"—Dean, Sam, Crowley and Rowena try to expel Lucifer from Cas’s body. Amara is still trying to get Chuck’s attention. She saves Sam and Dean from Lucifer, then disappears with the fallen archangel, and tortures him to see if Chuck will notice.
"The Chitters"—Another good MOTW, as Sam and Dean hunt a monster that rises every 27 years and kidnaps humans. They meet Jesse and Cesar, other hunters who are after the creature because it killed Jesse’s brother. When they destroy the monster, Jesse and Cesar reveal that they are a couple and plan to retire from hunting. Sam wonders if they’d be able to help with Amara, but Dean says to let them enjoy their retirement.
Key Songs that Were Included:
"Out of the Darkness"—"Run through the Jungle" by Creedence Clearwater Revival, "It’s Not Unusual" by Tom Jones
"Baby"—"Night Moves" by Bob Segar
"Don’t Call Me Shurley"—"Good Vibrations" by Brian Wilson, "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones, "Don’t Answer the Door" by B.B. King, "Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)" sung by Rob Benedict
"All in the Family"—nothing special
"We Happy Few"—nothing special
"Alpha and Omega"—"Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying" by Gerry and the Pacemakers, "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas
Key Songs that Were Excluded:
"Form and Void"—"Oh, Death" sung by Lisa Berry
"The Bad Seed"—"The Big One" by Louden Swain (significant because of the band)
"Thin Lizzie"—nothing special
"Our Little World"—"Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon" by Urge Overkill
"Just My Imagination"—no music
"Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?"—nothing special
"The Devil in the Details"—"Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel" by Taveres
"Into The Mystic"—"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by The Shirelles, "Prison Grove" by Warren Zevon
"Love Hurts"—nothing special
"The Vessel"—nothing special
"Beyond the Mat"—nothing special
"Safe House"—"Midnight Rider" by The Allman Brothers Band
"Red Meat"—nothing special
"Hell’s Angel"—no music
"The Chitters"—nothing special
See the full music listing for season 11.
I love to search Archive of our Own (AO3) for fan fictions by seasons and read them along with rewatching the episodes—plenty of fill-in, fix-it, and extra adventures!
So....what are your thoughts on the episodes that EW chose? Do you agree or disagree that they were the most ‘essential’ from the season to convey the plot? What would you have done differently? What important things in the episodes got left out? Join the discussion below, then keep going with season 12!
Written by Gail Z. Marin
Formatted and Illustrated by Nightsky
A version of this recap was originally posted in Supernatural TFWNC Facebook group. Article contents have been edited for clarity and to better fit with The WFB.
Original Concept: Entertainment Weekly's Supernatural Binge Guide
Read through "The Top 100 Favorite Supernatural Episodes", as ranked by The WFB and several other Supernatural fan sites, for a different overall view of Supernatural as series!
Want to read more about the ‘essential’ episodes? The WFB’s Episode Guide links to our recaps, reviews and discussions of each episode!