Hitting 15 seasons is a landmark for any show. For a dark fantasy thriller that easily veers into over the top camp, it’s epic. In its 11th season, the CW’s Supernatural became the longest-running live-action fantasy series in the U.S. Fans of this beloved series are all-in for anything the creators throw at us, whether it is a dark twisty spiral into hell or, well, creepy clowns and cartoon characters. This fall, Supernatural will kick off its 15th—and final—season, so we’ve put together a guide of a few of the things to love about the show, and highlighted a couple of great episodes. There may be a few spoilers if you’re a complete newbie to the series, but I’ll try to be vague.
What We Love about Supernatural
The Winchester boys are obviously the center of the action. Tall, bookish Sam (Jared Padalecki) and fierce and goofy Dean (Jensen Ackles), the brothers are the supernatural monster hunters who travel throughout the country ridding small towns of evil. They are a fierce fighting duo, a combination of brains, brawn, and fearlessness. Their relationship with one another is one of the reasons we love them. As brothers they bicker, nag, and fight each other, but at the end of the day would—and have—literally die for one another.
The Impala is Dean’s precious car, his Baby, and the brothers’ most dependable asset, handed down from their father. The black, 1967 Chevrolet Impala has become one of the most iconic symbols of the series. Complete with a trunk full of weapons and spare license plates, she makes the endless treks across the country, and in season 11, she finally got her due with “Baby,” the most-watched episode of the season, which took place entirely from the car’s perspective. Not in a sentient way, but in that, every scene of the episode was shot entirely within the car as the boys travel, converse about a case, sleep, eat, engage in fights, to the show’s classic rock soundtrack.
Castiel & Crowley, the literal angel, and the demon of the boys’ lives are probably two of the most-loved characters. It’s hard to believe that these two characters didn’t join the show until the fourth and fifth seasons respectively. Angel Castiel (Misha Collins) came along as the series was starting to go deeper into the heaven and hell mythos beyond just demons and monsters; up to his arrival, the presence of the heavenly bodies was noticeably absent for the first couple of seasons. He came in impressive and all-powerful, and over the years has become a truly beloved member of the team and the third man in their fight to save the world.
Crowley (Mark Sheppard) is the “villain” you love, a crossroads demon who makes deals with desperate people in exchange for their souls. The eventual Prince of Hell, he often reluctantly finds himself in tenuous partnerships with the Winchesters in his desire to keep Hell out of the hands of the angels—and Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino). His sarcasm and banter make every scene he’s in irresistible, and his quippy nicknames for the Winchesters have entered the Supernatural lexicon, primarily “Squirrel and Moose,” aka Rocky (Dean) and Bullwinkle (Sam).
Monsters abound in Supernatural, and while many seasons have overarching storylines—sometimes stretching beyond single seasons as the mythology grows—the majority of the episodes have a case-of-the-week setup. Something creepy and weird happens in a middle-of-nowhere town, the Winchesters find it in the news, and they roll in to uncover the paranormal evil. These episodes can be brilliant singular stories, or sometimes a little ridiculous and camp like an old horror movie, but that’s just one more thing to love.
FBI alias: When the Winchester boys investigate a case, they are more often than not going into small-town police departments and morgues asking questions. Along with their basic black suits they always have an alias on hand. Given Dean’s love of classic rock, Sam’s general nerdiness, and their overall pop culture vibes, sometimes the names are quite clever or just plain ridiculous—and usually the members of famous rock bands. A few favorite examples:
- Agent Stills, Crosby, and Nash
- Agents Ford and Hamill (Star Wars stars)
- H. Roark and Wynand (The Fountainhead)
- Agents Stark and Banner (duh)
- Mr. Campbell and Mr. Raimi (Evil Dead director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell)
Death..? [Some spoilers]
Okay, death itself isn’t good, but the fluidity the show gives to death makes it an interesting premise. Given the stakes of the series and the fact we know after 14 seasons the Winchesters are still around, they have died more times than I can count and come back. However, each time they still make it shocking and painful. And it’s not just the boys. Since the series can’t (permanently) kill off its heroes—at least not for one more season—the audience is asked to invest in friends, family, and fellow hunters who end up with relatively short life spans. But as with the Winchesters, parallel universes, flashbacks, and the works of the spirit realm lead to the surprising return of many beloved characters. You can never completely give up hope, even if a departure leaves you with a little something in your eyes.
John and Mary Winchester, as played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Samantha Smith, are Sam and Dean’s parents, and they play no small role in their story. From passing on the “family business,”, to learning the truth of their mother’s supernatural death, the parental figures have shaped the Winchester boys’ and their mission through and through. And [spoiler/see above] they definitely play a few killer arcs on the series themselves over the years.
Fierce fighting females, finally. I will be the first to say that this show hasn’t always been the best in its feminist perspective. Especially in the first few seasons, it was and at times still is a macho show. But somewhere along the line, the writers wised up, and there have been some seriously kick-ass women. A few top icons include Charlie, a computer genius I.T. tech who turns hunter (played by nerd favorite Felicia Day); and Rowena MacLeod (Ruth Connell), a powerful and immortal witch who comes into play in surprising ways over the series. Jody Mills, a sheriff in Sioux Falls, has a massive arc over the show, appearing as a major guest star almost every season. Eventually taking in Clare Novack and Alex Jones, the trio had a focused episode, “Wayward Sisters,” in season 13, an attempt at a back-door pilot for a female hunter spin-off that sadly did not come about.
Meta episodes (more below). Perhaps one of the best things about Supernatural is the longer it was on, it both took itself a lot more serious in terms of darker storylines, but also a lot less serious in general. Thus the introduction of meta episodes, which hilariously take the boys sometimes fully out of the regular day to day and drop them into an episode that commented on the running themes and gags of the show, reputation, and fan following.
The 9 Best Episodes of Supernatural
“Lazarus Rising,” season 4, episode 1
This episode is powerful in many ways, but the most impactful is the arrival of Castiel. The introduction of angels had to be awe-inspiring and terrifying, as they go on to be creatures of immense and often deadly strength. When heaven gets involved, things get scary. In his first appearance, Castiel is incredible to behold, with his deep, powerful voice and forceful presence. While he would become a tried-and-true member of the team, and develop into someone loveable and awkward, this entrance was one for the books.
“The Monster At The End Of This Book,” season 4, episode 18
One of the most delightful introductions is Chuck, a seemingly cowardly writer and Prophet of God. The boys track him down after realizing there is a super popular book series, “Supernatural,” which chronicles their lives a little too accurately. It turns out Chuck is having visions from God and is able to give the boys a few heads up of the dangers to come. This episode starts to set up the meta-commentary on the show’s real-world fan following that will continue over the seasons.
The Real Ghostbusters, season 5, episode 9
…such as in this episode, where Sam and Dean find themselves in the middle of a “Supernatural” fan convention full of want-to-be Sams and Deans role-playing a haunted adventure that is about to get a little too real. This is a sit-back-and-enjoy episode, full of wackiness.
“Abandon All Hope…,” season 5, episode 10
Original series creator Eric Kripke only envisioned the show as three-to-five seasons and would depart at the end of season 5. The main story arcs he set up as showrunner were winding down, and the season finale would feel like a possible finale for the show. This midway through an episode of what has been considered one of the strongest seasons of the show is a major turning point, building up that finale. It is also one in which a crushing number of regulars are killed off and lines the heroes up for a near impossible task. Also, it is the introduction of Crowley, King of the Crossroads Demons, which is reason enough it is special.
“The French Mistake,” season 6, episode 15
Sam and Dean find themselves trapped inside an alternate reality where they are believed to be actors (fictional versions of the real actors, Padalecki and Ackles), on the set of a show about their lives. Wackiness ensues when Castiel is just a high-strung actor, monsters are just people in makeup, and walls—and weapons—are fake.
“The Man Who Would Be King,” season 6, episode 20
Changing the angle or narrative (such as with “Baby”) is always a great way to shake up a show, and this episode spins things around to focus on Castiel. Entirely from his perspective, we see the little ways he impacts major moments from behind the scenes in what are sometimes tragic and painful choices.
“Fan Fiction,” season 10, episode 5
The 200th episode of the series is dedicated to the fans, as Sam and Dean find themselves in an all-girls high school where students are producing a play based on the previously mentioned “Supernatural” books. With a heartfelt storyline—and a little interference from Calliope, the goddess of poetry—the episode is one for diehard fans ready for a good laugh. Did I mention the play was a musical?
“Don’t Call Me Shurley,” season 11, episode 20
It might be unfair to write this one up if we’re avoiding BIG spoilers. Just to say, it’s a doozy, and one in which we finally meet God himself, the big man upstairs, the one and only… not going to tell you. But it is completely unexpected and delightful, and once again falls into the meta discussions on the show. It also sets up the big power struggle to come over the next season.
“Scoobynatural,” season 13, episode 16
Pretty much what the title sounds like, as our heroes three get sucked into a possessed television and enter a living, breathing cartoon. As they join the “Scooby gang” on an adventure, we are once again reminded of the solidity of the humor of Supernatural when the writers lean into it.
How to watch Supernatural without cable
Hooked yet? If you are ready to binge through 14 seasons this summer—or just go back and rewatch your own favorites, it’s easy to get the series.
- $8.99 – limited to 1 screen at a time, and no HD availability
- $12.99 – up to 2 screens streaming at the same time, basic HD availability
- $15.99 – up to 4 screens streaming at the same time, basic and Ultra HD availability
The latest five episodes can be viewed on CWtv.com, with the end of season 14 currently available until the new season starts. CW can be watched online or via the CW app on most streaming and mobile devices. More details on the CW app are covered in our guide to watching The CW online.
Carry on, my wayward sons.
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