This summer is the last time that Supernatural fans will have a hiatus before the new season, popularly referred to in the fandom as a “Hellatus.” Because this is the last one, it’s more than a little difficult for fans to weather, so some of us have joined together to do a rewatch of the ENTIRE series this summer! That’s over 300 episodes of television, for those of you who aren’t aware. Ambitious? Definitely. A bad idea? Probably. But we’re doing it anyway. Fandom has pushed me to do quite a few things that probably weren’t the best ideas, but you know what? I don’t think I regret any of them.
So, in order of their appearance, here are twenty of my favorite moments from those first three seasons. They’re moments that made me cry, moments that made me laugh, and moments that set the Winchesters on this incredible journey that has lasted fifteen years and taken so many of us with them on the wild ride.
Born Under A Bad Sign
This episode is a master class in acting. Jared Padalecki gets to show off his substantial acting chops, portraying possessed Sam so vividly that he seemed like an entirely different person. As Meg!Sam, he’s dangerous, terrifying, and at the same time compelling and overtly sexual in a way that Sam Winchester is not. The entire scene with a bound Jo is so fraught with tension it’s palpable. Disturbingly, he remains hot and dangerous when he looms over a wounded Dean and tortures him. The scene is shockingly, uncomfortably intimate, both physically and emotionally. Jensen Ackles makes you feel every second of agony, and you can feel Dean’s terror, but also his desperation to save his brother and the fierce love that’s always there. It’s what I was hoping for more of from Demon!Dean and Michael!Dean in later seasons, Sam and Dean going up against each other in intense confrontations like this one.
Unfortunately we didn’t get a whole lot of that, but in BUABS, we got plenty.
Bonus points for the ad libbed punch Dean throws at Sam once he knows his brother is safe and no longer possessed, and Sam’s what-the-hell-was-that-for face in response.
The brilliant thing about this episode is it’s all about the brothers’ relationship – living in each other’s pockets, their differences grating, sibling rivalry and love and loyalty all clanging around together, played out in endless motel rooms. The bar scene told from first Dean’s perspective and then from Sam’s, in which we see exaggerated versions of exactly what irks them most about each other, is hilarious. Sam sees Dean as a semi-irresponsible happy-go-lucky jerk who drinks too much and sleeps around too much, and Dean sees Sam as a prissy semi-over-responsible buzzkill and cockblocker who’s had enough of his brother’s blah blah blah blah.
And who can forget the slow dancing alien story with Dean’s “Yikes” or the brothers wrestling like squabbling two year olds and falling off the bed?
After all that squabbling, however, we still get one of those Brother Moments (BM) across the roof of the Impala as Sam and Dean reassure each other that despite their differences, they’re still brothers.
Sam: Hey Dean, I’m…
Dean: Hey. Me too.
Bobby: You guys are breakin’ my heart.
It was a perfect ending to a thoroughly enjoyable episode.
Heart is an excellent episode all around, gifting us with a rare glimpse of Sam Winchester connecting with a woman, showing both his little boy charm and later some very much not little boy lovemaking. Other than the sex scene, which is fairly explicit for this show (why no, I’m not complaining…), the scene that makes this episode memorable is the last one, in which a tearful Sam acquiesces to werewolf Madison’s wish and kills her.
The last five minutes of ‘Heart’ are a masterpiece, Sam brokenhearted having to kill Madison, and Dean devastated by seeing his brother so brokenhearted. And us, feeling for all three of them. It was brutal to show us Sam having to kill Madison through Dean’s eyes, because we know how much it kills Dean to see Sam suffer. And the final nail in the fandom’s coffin? Using ‘Silent Lucidity’ as Sam sobs and goes to kill Madison and Dean lets one single perfect tear slide down his cheek at not being able to save his brother from the pain.
This was the first of the ‘meta’ episodes of Supernatural. When I watched it the first time, I was amazed that they really “went there”, poking fun at the network and the studio while giving a shout out to their own cast and crew and fans. In Season 2, the studio and the network didn’t really understand the show – hence the producer who wants to “lighten things up” despite this being “a horror movie”. Apparently that was a real note they got, believe it or not! There were already enough passionate fans to understand many of the in-jokes scattered throughout the episode. Dean demonstrates his ability to fit in just about everywhere, and some of his other talents too, as even the show-within-a-show’s star gets it on with Dean and joins the chorus of “You’re one hell of a PA!”
Maybe this can be the last frame of Season 15?? Sam and Dean walking into the sunset… and right out of the set… So brilliant!
What Is And What Should Never Be
This was another innovative episode, sending Dean into an Alternate Universe created by a djinn to keep him lost in his own fantasy while the Djinn drains his life. What makes the episode so memorable is Dean’s reaction to seeing his mother alive again; he literally cannot take his eyes off her. Can you imagine, after losing her as a four year old, what it would be like to have her again? The way Dean looks up at his mom, like he becomes that adoring four year old again, and the way he leans into her touch, craving it so badly. It’s all those little things that make you FEEL what Dean feels.
We gain a lot of insight into the magnitude of Dean’s loss and trauma, and the depth of his commitment to being a hunter and to his brother (who he wasn’t close to in the fantasy world), as he gives up the fantasy to go back to reality.
Sam: So in that world, we didn’t really…
Sam: Well I’m glad we do.
And so are we, Sam.
AHBL 1 & 2
The season finale of Season 2 was a two parter. A two parter that pretty much devastated the fandom. At the end of the first part, Dean finally finds Sam, overcome with relief – which quickly turns to horror as Jake stabs Sam from behind. Dean runs to him, sliding to his knees to hold him as Sam collapses, instinctively trying to comfort him, telling him it’ll be okay. It’s almost immediately apparent, however, that’s not the case. I remember being absolutely gobsmacked as Sam’s life slipped away and we saw every second of Dean’s agony as his brother died in his arms. I’d never seen anything like it on television. Ever.
Later, when Dean sits beside his brother’s dead body and confesses to Sam how guilty he is over his failure to keep Sam safe, most of us were sobbing as hard as he was.
Dean: I had one job, and I screwed it up. I blew it.
Jensen Ackles has said he had a tough time doing that scene, and asked for only a few takes. His tears were real, as he let himself imagine just how devastated Dean would be if he lost Sam.
The end of AHBL 2 has the triumphant moment when Dean finally shoots the Yellow Eyed Demon, the culmination of two entire seasons – and a brilliant piece of cinematography.
Bad Day At Black Rock
This episode is one of the funniest of the series, largely because it gave Jared and Jensen an opportunity to show off their considerable comedic talents. Written by the wonderfully quirky Ben Edlund, we get both a few sentimental insights into the Winchesters’ past as they find Sam’s soccer trophy and Dean’s first sawed off (homemade in sixth grade) shotgun in their Dad’s storage locker, and a multitude of slapstick moments that make me laugh out loud every time I watch. Cursed Sam falling over everything and taking the lamp down with him was priceless.
Dean: You okay?
Sam: (from behind the couch) Yeah, I’m good.
Sam trying to obey Dean’s instructions to sit in the chair and not move as the room catches on fire had me nearly crying I was laughing so hard.
And of course we can’t forget Sam’s plaintive “I lost my shoe” and Dean’s triumphant “I’m Batman.”
This episode and The French Mistake are my go-to episodes when I just need a good laugh.
A Very Supernatural Christmas
Who would ever have thought we’d have an actual Christmas episode with a show like Supernatural? It’s surprisingly heartwarming (while also being heartbreaking) thanks to the flashback scenes and the acting talents of all four actors playing Sam and Dean. The flashback gives us a deeper understanding of just how difficult life was for Sam and Dean as children, their father leaving them alone in a hotel room once again – for Christmas no less – Dean trying so damn hard to make a Christmas for his brother, to make it okay when it really isn’t. The episode is brilliant for showing us – not telling us – exactly why the Winchesters are bonded in ways that go beyond what most siblings experience. When Sam realizes that Dean is actually parenting him, not John, and gifts him with the amulet, I don’t think there was a dry eye in fandom.
The fade out is brilliantly filmed so the boys are framed through the motel window, snow falling outside, Christmas lights reflecting off the Impala. And inside it’s warm, a rare moment of true happiness for Sam and Dean, surprising each other with gas station gifts. Neither can stop smiling.
Neither can I.
The other brilliant episode of Season 3 is the iconic Mystery Spot, when Sam has to endure Dean dying every single day, in a myriad of innovative horrific (and sometimes hilarious) ways. There are countless quotable lines, but underneath the camp and humor there’s the heartbreaking glimpse of who Sam becomes when his brother really does die. An emotionless, driven, regimented hunter, determined to get his brother back no matter what. It’s like a preview of soulless Sam, and that’s terrifying. Sam’s gradual descent into almost-madness is difficult to watch, because it comes off as so believable. This episode shows us more clearly than any words just how much Sam and Dean “keep each other human”.
No Rest For The Wicked
Season 3 came to a close with Dean being chewed up by hell hounds and strung up in hell, after the show strung us along until the eleventh hour believing that OF COURSE Sam would find a way to save his brother. Sam’s tearful “What am I supposed to do?” and Dean’s attempt at a smile through his own tears as the hellhounds come for him tore me apart.
Dean: Keep fighting. Take care of my wheels. Remember what dad taught you…what I taught you.
The last scene of Sam sobbing over Dean’s eviscerated body is agonizing, Padalecki doing the same brilliant job at conveying Sam’s loss as Ackles did at the end of Season 2 when Sam died in his arms. Again, they were real tears, and that made all the difference.
It takes guts to send one of your main characters to Hell, but Supernatural had already proven itself to be fearless. And that’s where they left us, for a very long and difficult Hellatus. As we go through the last one now, I’m already grieving that we won’t have this particular brand of torture ever again. So I’m going to enjoy every last minute of it! Stay tuned for a recap of the next three seasons as the SPN Summer Rewatch continues. You can follow along on Twitter at #SPNSummerRewatch!