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.
There are a dozen moments in the Pilot that seemed inconsequential then but are incredibly meaningful now. Every other line seems iconic when I watch now, but none more than the very first time Sam and Dean called each other names. On rewatch, a muddy no-chick-flick-moments Dean called his brother “Bitch” and when Sam responded “Jerk” I actually teared up. It’s the brothers’ first I love you!
This isn’t actually one of my favorite episodes, nor does it have a moment that I enjoy rewatching again and again, but I feel like it deserves a mention because it’s still one of the scariest episodes of the show ever. Partly because I’m just superstitious enough to NEVER repeat you know what three times in the mirror even now that I’m a grown up who ostensibly knows better, and partly because the scene where she climbs out of the mirror was SO WELL DONE that I still can’t watch it without some screaming and covering of the eyes. And that’s saying something!
This episode was a turning point for a lot of people who had started watching Supernatural because it was a well-written scary little horror film of a show. ‘Home’ was the episode that made it crystal clear that this show was much more than that. The implications were there even before this episode, in the emotionally complex relationship between the brothers, but this episode showed us some young actors who were much more than pretty faces. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki brought Dean and Sam to life as human beings, willing to let themselves be vulnerable as they immersed themselves in the characters. And that made all the difference.
The scene where Dean sneaks off to make a desperate phone call to his dad asking for help was one of the first times I found myself pausing to stare at my screen and ask who was this Dean Winchester character that was so complex? All macho posturing on the outside and now tearing up as he calls his father, a frightened little boy not knowing how to protect his younger brother.
Near the end of the episode, there’s another emotional moment as Sam comes face to face with his mother Mary (Samantha Smith), of whom he has no memory. The look on Sam’s face, suffused with love and longing and awe, and Mary’s quiet “I’m sorry” were powerful, and left us all as confused as Sam as to why his mother apologized.
Shadow is not often ranked as a favorite episode, but it did have some very memorable moments. This episode is the first time that Dean lays bare his feelings to his brother about his longing for Sam to come back and them to be a family again, resulting in an intense confrontation between them. We’ve seen Dean be the protective older brother already, promising Sam that “as long as I’m around, nothing’s gonna happen to you” (which was heartbreaking to hear now, knowing how many things DO happen to Sam) but in Shadow, Dean admits to Sam how much he longs for the Winchesters to be a family again. His shattered – and then carefully shuttered – expression shows just how much it kills Dean to hear Sam say that he plans to go back to his “normal” life once they’ve found their father.
This is also the episode where we finally get the anticipated reunion (the first of several) between John Winchester and his sons. This early John is similar to the one who returns in Season 14 – teary eyed with love for his sons.
This is a pivotal episode in the series and a huge leap forward for fans’ understanding of Sam and Dean and how they came to be who they are, and what they are to each other. The flashback scenes of the brothers’ childhood gives us some shocking insight into just how much responsibility was put on Dean’s shoulders when he was achingly young. Both his love for Sammy and his entirely understandable resentment of being locked in a hotel room with a baby brother to take care of are crystal clear – and it is heartbreaking when we see Dean go against his dad’s instructions for just a few hours in order to actually be a kid, and it backfires in the most horrific way.
This may have been the episode where my lifelong love for Dean Winchester was stitched right into my heart and my soul. I sort of wanted to throw John Winchester out a window for how he shamed his oldest son, but I also understand that his rage came from projected guilt and the panic of having almost lost his youngest son – because of John’s own irresponsibility. As a psychologist, this scene shaped my understanding of Dean and Sam in indelible ways. When Dean finally killed the shrtiga and called out “You okay, little brother?” it was healing in the truest sense of the word. And Sam finally understood that too.
There are some illuminating and touching moments between the brothers in this episode, including Sam throwing Dean up against a wall (talk about an intense conversation!) and Dean’s pleading “You, me and Dad, it’s all we have – it’s all I have.” But the moment that earns this episode a place on the top twenty is actually in the Road So Far segment. This is the first time we hear Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son”, in the penultimate episode of Season One. Little did we know at the time that it would become the show’s unofficial theme song, performed live by Kansas onstage at a Supernatural panel in the gigantic Hall H at Comic Con.
The season finale of Season 1 is an episode that is all around amazing. Brilliant script, acting, direction. It moves the plot forward and also gives us more insight into the characters, especially when the Yellow Eyed Demon possesses John Winchester. Jensen Ackles shows us every second of Dean’s emotional and physical agony as the Yellow Eyed Demon taunts him about being desperate for his family’s love, and Jared Padalecki shows us Sam’s barely restrained fury at having to watch his brother being killed. And who didn’t tear up when Dean knew it wasn’t really his father because John said he was proud of him?
It’s an emotional episode but it’s also amazing television. That moment when the truck comes out of nowhere and smashes into the Impala? If you didn’t jump out of your seat and scream when you first saw it, you’re a lot more unflappable than me. And finish it off with some classic Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising as the soundtrack. Epic.
In My Time Of Dying
The Season 2 premiere is memorable for Dean walking around barefoot in a white tee shirt and scrub pants for most of the episode. Sorry, but it is.
The episode also shows us Sam’s desperation to save his brother as Dean in on death’s door. The arc of Season 1 is all about Sam and Dean finding each other again. We see their growing closeness here as Sam insists that Dean cannot go, not when they’ve just started to be brothers again. The episode also gives us a scene that could only work on Supernatural – Sam communicating with a mostly dead Dean through a Ouija board in the hospital room.
IMTOD is also memorable for John Winchester’s sacrifice of his life to save his son’s and his apology to Dean for turning him into a parentified child at a frighteningly young age.
John to Dean: You’d say, it’s okay, Dad. I should’ve been saying that to you.
It also includes Sam telling Dean, literally, to “keep fighting”, foreshadowing how immensely important that phrase would eventually become to this fandom and these actors.
Everybody Loves A Clown
There are two scenes in this episode that still gave me chills when I rewatched. The opening scene where Sam discovers his father collapsed on the floor, his coffee cup dropping and shattering, as the clock ticks down with the soundtrack and finally stops, is 60 seconds of cinematic genius.
This is also the episode when Dean, who has been repressing his anger and grief while Sam urges him to talk about it, finally loses it. You don’t see it coming, it explodes out of him as violently as the hammer shatters the window of the Impala. It’s a gorgeous, powerful, iconic scene – and it kills me still to see it. The amount of emotion, pain, rage, that Dean was holding back here – it’s palpable, the screen practically quivers with it as we watch. I remember thinking my god, who are these actors? How can they show so much emotion with so few words?
This episode is a great mystery, and sets up the ambiguity of the early seasons, as the Winchesters struggle with figuring out what’s black and white and what really isn’t.
Sam: We’re supposed to struggle with this, Dean, that’s the whole point!
Croatoan also exemplifies how much of a priority the brothers’ relationship has become, and just how important they are to each other. They truly are all each other has, and that brings a fierce determination to protect each other, along with an unwillingness to go on if the other isn’t there. We see this vividly when Sam is attacked and seemingly infected. Sam instinctively reaches up for Dean to help him, and Dean instinctively reaches down – before the other guy pushes him away and aims his gun at Sam.
Dean: You make a move on him, you’ll be dead before you hit the ground, you understand me?
This is the crux of the show in the first two seasons, and the reason I fell in love with it. What lengths will Dean go to for his brother? ANY. Dean locked himself in that room with a tearful Sam, refusing to leave him no matter what. What is now instantly recognizable as the “family theme” begins to play as Sam begs Dean to save himself – and Dean says no.
Side note: Croatoan also includes the iconic fence where Dean admits that their Dad said if he couldn’t save Sam, he’d have to kill him. On my first trip to Vancouver, we spent hours searching for that fence, traversing half of Vancouver by car and by ferry and finally finding it at about 3 am. That meant scrambling down a wooded hill without a flashlight, and eventually being confronted by a couple of police officers (who did have flashlights) struggling to understand why three grown women were so determined to find a fence.
Police officer, when understanding finally dawns: Oh. Fans.
Totally worth it.
Come back next week for Part 2!