As I was looking for a way to pass the quarantine 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 13!
Season 13 (Show runners: Andrew Dabb and Robert Singer )
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.
"Lost and Found"
Dean is grieving Cas’s death, Sam meets Jack. Naked Jack goes out for fast food and gets arrested.
Jack earns his ‘Nougat’ nickname.
Angels try to take Jack. Sam argues that Jack isn’t evil. Jack mourns Kelly. Sam, Dean and Jack give Cas a pyre.
Dean is sure Mary is dead, but really Lucifer and Mary are in the AU.
"The Big Empty"
The boys investigate a murder, but Dean is not in a good headspace. Sam knows how to handle him. Jack has been watching Clone Wars but tells Sam, “I kinda hate Anakin.” Sam tells him “that’s probably for the best.” Jack overhears Dean—thinks Sam is using him. Sam tells Jack that he cares about him even if he can’t save Mary.
Sam has really good hair. Jack calls out to Cas, wakes him in the Empty.
People are being killed by their ‘dead’ relatives—turns out they had the same therapist. Sam and Dean go to therapy, but role play turns real.
The therapist is a shifter who changes into the person’s dead relative to let them say goodbye. Jake asks the therapist to let him meet ‘Kelly’.
Cas wakes the Entity up and annoys the crap out of it.
The therapist’s ex-boyfriend, also a shifter, has been killing her clients. Jack saves Sam’s life. Dean and Jack come to an understanding back at the Bunker. Dean tells Sam he needs him to keep the faith for both of them. Cas wakes up in a field.
Two kids go ghost hunting at an old mental hospital, and one steals a plague doctor mask. Something chases them and one boy is killed by a masked doctor with a drill. The other boy stops talking. Sam talks Dean into working the case, lets him have his favorite alias, and gives him a beer with breakfast to try to cheer him up over the loss of Mary and Cas. Sam even suggests going to a strip club. Dean goes out alone for ‘bullets, bacon and booze’ and Sam finds him passed out on the floor in the morning. The surviving boy draws a picture of a man with the plague mask. Dean bonds with him. They find out about the trip to the mental hospital and discover that the crazy doctor experimented on patients. Dean chooses to kill himself and wants Sam to wake him up after he asks Billy for help.
They find out that the doctor possessed the boy, brought him to the hospital and killed him.
Billie freezes time and tells Dean she’s the new Death and shows him the books on how he dies. She tells him that he and Sam have work to do. Dean wakes up, and doesn’t tell Sam the whole truth about what he saw. Dean says he just needs a win.
Cas calls from a payphone.
An amazing crossover that managed to be respectful to the legacy of both shows and do justice to both series, retaining the appropriate flavor of each. Sam and Dean get sucked into a cartoon episode of ScoobyDoo (the original series’ first episode).
Dean says that no matter where they were as kids, Scooby was on TV.
He is so excited to meet the gang and offer to help solve a mystery with them.
Baby is also pulled into the cartoon, and Cas shows up later.
The case is different from the episode Dean remembers because the deaths are real and gruesome.
It turns out a boy’s ghost is being forced to haunt people in order to help a greedy real estate developer.
He gets them out of the cartoon after Sam and Dean have reassured the Scooby Gang,
and they turn the tables on the bad developer, burning the boy’s pocket knife to set the ghost free and reporting the developer to the IRS. Great script, great special effects, and awesome animation.
One of the best episodes ever.
Click "Next" to See the other Essential Episodes, Which Eps didn't make the List, Season 13 Music & More!
Gabriel confronts Fenrir in a dark alley and kills him. Gabriel is low on grace and shows up in Sam and Dean’s motel room, wondering if they have any of his grace left. Meanwhile, in AU world, Jack and Mary talk about winning battles and gathering survivors,
and they find the prophet Kevin. Michael plans to invade the regular world.
In our world, Gabriel tells the story of where he went after the events in Hammer of the Gods, and the Norse gods sold Gabriel to Asmodeus. He wants revenge. Dean tells him that revenge is a waste of time, but Sam wants to help Gabriel as a substitute for his own need for revenge against Lucifer.
They confront Sleipnir—Dean runs off to kill Loki, but the showdown is between Gabriel and Loki, who argue over family issues. Gabriel kills Loki. In AU world, Kevin detonates a bomb and Jack saves Mary under his wings, but everyone else dies and Jack blames himself.
Back here, Gabriel agrees to help Sam and Dean fight AU Michael. In the Bunker, Sam calls Dean on his recklessness, and Dean says he fears that Sam will die in another showdown between AU Michael and Lucifer. Sam delivers his ‘we’ll do that together, too’ speech.
"Beat the Devil"
Sam dreams about Mary. Gabriel gives them grace to open the Rift but it shorts out.
They need Lucifer’s grace. Sam, Dean and Cas interrupt a makeout session between Gabriel and Rowena. Gabriel roofies Lucifer in a bar and brings him to the bunker.
Rowena is in charge of keeping the Rift open and watching Lucifer. In the AU, Gabriel and Cas talk about heaven’s problems.
Dean says Sam seems lighter, happier. Sam says he thinks they’re close to a win. They find two refugees who are survivors of a vampire attack. Since time is limited due to the Rift, Sam pushes to take the more dangerous route through the tunnel to get to Mary and Jack. Back in the Bunker, Lucifer breaks his bonds and attacks Rowena. She throws him off and he tumbles through the Rift. Rowena chooses to stay to help. Sam, Dean, Cas, Gabriel and the two refugees go into the tunnel. The vampires overwhelm them. (Snarky opinion—Cas and Gabe were useless in that fight. Did they even throw punches? The civilians were too stupid to live.) Sam gets his throat torn out and dies as Dean watches, held back by other vamps. Sam gets dragged off.
Cas goes after him but returns and stops Dean from following. (I thought that was out of character for Dean to leave, although perhaps similar to when he tried to save the civilians in "Red Meat", intending to return.) Dean shuts down, but gets them to the camp, and can’t answer when Mary asks where Sam is. Sam wakes up from being dead and realizes Lucifer brought him back as a bargaining chip to win Jack’s favor.
Back at the camp, Dean says he’s going back for Sam’s body (head canon—this is a suicide run) just as Sam arrives at the camp, covered in blood but alive. Lucifer appears a moment later, and forces Sam to acknowledge that he brought Sam back. Sam looks so guilty.
Dean tells Sam he doesn’t care about Lucifer’s involvement as long as Sam is back. Big bro hug.
"Let the Good Times Roll"
A werewolf hunt with Jack along goes well. Mary and AU Bobby talk about staying here with the refugees.
Jack has nightmares about the people he couldn’t save. Dean consoles him and tells him that he’s family. Maggie gets killed and Jack wants revenge.
He’s angry at himself. Lucifer shows up and tries to talk him into going away, just the two of them. He offers to take him to the stars, even build him a Wookie.
Lucifer raises Maggie to ingratiate himself with Jack. Turns out Lucifer killed her. AU Michael finds Sam, Dean and Cas—Dean traps him in holy oil, but later the Bunker’s wardings fail and Michael shows up. (Snarky opinion—crappy ‘invincible’ wardings!) Sam prays to Jack to help since Michael is winning. Jack disables AU Michael. He tells them that he made a deal—Lucifer got Jack and Michael got the world. Lucifer arrives (gotta love those wardings) and steals Jack’s grace,
then disappears with both Jack and Sam.
He intends to make one of them kill the other, and Sam offers to allow Jack to kill him. Dean is desperate, but AU Michael is too weak to fight Lucifer.
Dean offers him his ‘Michael sword’—his perfect vessel. Michael and Lucifer battle, and Sam tosses Dean the archangel blade that lets him kill Lucifer.
They have a moment of triumph at having stopped Lucifer when Michael reneges on his deal and takes over Dean,
Episodes Excluded from the 'Essential' List
We skip pretty much all of the rift drama and the Asmodeus arc, which makes the final episodes lack a lot of meaning.
"The Rising Son"—Asmodeus makes his appearance, Mary is with Lucifer in the AU, Donatello helps Sam and Dean reckon with Jack’s powers. Sam is convinced Jack can be good. Dean isn’t so sure. (Loose end—after mentioning the Shedim in this episode, the creepy monsters are never seen again. I wanted to find out more.)
"Patience"—Missouri Mosley asks the boys to protect her family from a wraith. Missouri is killed, and the wraith comes after her son and granddaughter. The granddaughter has Missouri’s talent, but her father doesn’t want her to use it. They destroy the wraith, and Jody gives the girl her card in case she wants to learn more about hunting. Meanwhile, Sam is at the Bunker with Jack trying to help him with his abilities. Jack is afraid he’s evil because that’s what Dean believes. Sam confronts Dean about how he’s treating Jack. Dean blames Jack for Cas’s death. Jack wakes up Cas in the Empty. (Snarky opinion—I hated getting Missouri back just to see her die. She was a character I would have loved to have more involved throughout the series the way she turns up in fan fiction!)
"Tombstone"—Monster of the Week (MOTW) with ghouls in a Western town. Cas returns, Jack struggles with unintended consequences, and Dean starts to warm up to Jack. Jack is upset and disappears.
"War of the Worlds"—Everyone’s looking for Jack. AU Michael uses Lucifer’s grace to open a rift. Lucifer manages to follow him through it, but his powers are gone. Asmodeus wants to find Jack. Sam and Dean look for a witch killer, who turns out to be Ketch. The angels want Jack to repopulate heaven. Asmodeus captures both Cas and Lucifer. Ketch is working for Asmodeus.
"Scorpion and the Frog"—Sam and Dean negotiate with a demon to get a Nephilim tracking spell, and are double-crossed into stealing a box of bones from an immortal. A decent MOTW and we get to see the boys navigate a boobytrapped hallway Indiana Jones-style.
"The Bad Place"—Jack goes looking for dreamwalkers to help find Mary and the AU world. He accidentally kills one, but gets a lead on another—Kaia. Jody alerts Sam and Dean to the first dreamwalker’s death, and they come looking. Dean pulls a gun on Kaia and says they are going to get Mary back no matter what it takes. She agrees to open up a ‘doorway’. Angels are tracking her. She sends Sam and Dean through, but they land in ‘the Bad Place’ instead of AU World, and something kills the angels.
"Wayward Sisters"—The possible pilot for a spin-off that didn’t. Jody, Donna, Claire, Patience, Alex and Kaia look for Sam and Dean, outrunning werewolves and demons. Dark Kaia slips through a rift. (Snarky opinion—Much as I love Donna and Jody, I was never sold on a bunch of teenage girls saving the world. I know others were really hoping the spin-off worked, and I’m sorry they were disappointed.)
"Breakdown"—Sam and Dean help Donna track her missing niece and stumble into an online trafficking scheme that sells body parts for monsters to eat. The ring leader intends to auction off Sam part by part. Dean arrives in the nick of time. They save Donna’s niece, but Donna loses her boyfriend after he finds out about hunting. Sam is convinced things will end badly.
"Various and Sundry Villains"—Rowena is trying to steal a grimoire with a spell to protect her from Lucifer. Two witch sisters want the book to raise their dead mother. Sam and Rowena bond talking about their trauma at Lucifer’s hands. They defeat the witch sisters, kill the resurrected mother, and Sam keeps the book, but lets Rowena keep the page with her spell. Meanwhile in Hell, Lucifer and Cas break out and then stab each other. (Snarky opinion—I really loved that Sam and Rowena finally had a chance to address their Lucifer trauma and that the reality of their PTSD was acknowledged.)
"Devil’s Bargain"—Cas is still hunting for Lucifer. Lucifer finds a rogue angel named ‘Sister Jo’ who is scamming as a faith healer. He takes some of her grace, but enlists her as an ally. She lies to Sam and Dean about helping them find Lucifer, and betrays them. Donatello is trying to find a way to open a rift. Ketch is working with Asmodeus, who reveals that archangel grace is needed to open a rift and he has Gabriel held captive. (Great to see Danneel in her guest role as Sister Jo!)
"Good Intentions"—A rather convoluted episode with Michael trying to get Jack to open a rift in AU world, Gog and Magog, Donatello and the tablet, and Sam gets another concussion.
"A Most Holy Man"—A heist episode with a relics trafficker, a priest searching for a stolen relic, and the need for blood from a ‘most holy man’.
"The Thing"—Sam and Dean unwittingly free a chthonic god from the MOL Rhode Island chapter house (how come we never saw more of the MOL houses?). Dean almost becomes the vessel for a tentacle creature, Sam rescues him, Ketch frees Gabriel from Asmodeus, and Dean goes through the rift with Ketch.
"Bring ‘em Back Alive"—Dean and Ketch are in the AU looking for Jack and Mary. They rescue AU Charlie, who agrees to stay behind with Ketch and look for the others while Dean goes back. In Heaven, Lucifer annoys Sister Jo and isn’t good at being God. In the Bunker, Cas and Sam try to heal Gabriel. Then Asmodeus shows up and tries to recapture Gabriel, who manages to power up and smite Asmodeus before vanishing.
"Funeralia"—Rowena is killing reapers, Cas is dealing with a mess in Heaven, and eventually Rowena agrees to help them stop Lucifer.
"Exodus"—They rescue Ketch and AU Charlie. Sam and Dean talk the refugees into coming back through the rift to our world. Sam keeps Lucifer from coming back with them. Lucifer allies with Michael. (This was a pretty important episode to skip!)
Key Songs that Were Included:
"Lost and Found"—"Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica
"The Big Empty"—no music
"Advanced Thanatology"—"It’s Never Too Late" by Steppenwolf
"Scoobynatural"—"Scooby-Doo Where Are You?" by Larry Marks
"Unfinished Business"—no music
"Beat the Devil"—"Cat’s in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin
"Let the Good Times Roll"—"Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas
Key Songs that Were Excluded:
"The Rising Son"—nothing notable
"Patience"—"Rip This Joint" by The Rolling Stones
"Tombstone"—"Space Cowboy" by Steve Miller Band
"War of the Worlds"—nothing notable
"Scorpion and the Frog" and "The Bad Place"—no music
"Wayward Sisters"—"I am the Fire" by Halestorm
"Various and Sundry Villains", "Devil’s Bargain" and "Good Intentions"—no music
"A Most Holy Man", "The Thing", "Bring ‘em Back Alive" and "Funeralia"—nothing notable
Check out the full season 13 music list.
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 14!
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
13.23 gifs by faramaiofnerdwoodforest
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!