Some Halloween viewing recommendations
For Halloween, I usually put out a list of movies, but I’m repeating myself and decided to do a little something different this year. I was going to recommend a Hannibal TV series viewing party, where you’d just watch all the episodes. I don’t know if they’re all available legally online, but you can get the DVDs that are out and watch those. I recommend every single episode, because even the ones that don’t cohere completely are a visual feast for the eyes. The cinematography is top notch. And I’m completely in the tank for the new Ash Vs The Evil Dead series, sight unseen.
But there is another series that has been on the air for coming on eleven seasons (no, really, that’s a fucking ridiculous amount of time), Supernatural. It’s been on way too long – I think they should have wrapped it up after season 8 – and has some issues, but there’s some good to be found here, especially in the earlier seasons (also known as the Ben Edlund was on the writing staff years). So I thought I’d pick and choose some episodes if you’d like to watch some, and get an idea of how good the series could be, when it tried. It’s not Hannibal, but very little is.
Now I’ve decided to list some of my favorite episodes, but I’ve singled out the funny ones. Yes, Supernatural does have funny episodes, and while the series in general has a good sense of humor (most horror should), these are outliers. Meaning, if you want to watch something that’s more funny than supernatural in any respect, go to those. If you’d rather not watch comedies on Halloween, then you can leave them out. (But you should watch them. They are genuinely funny.)
Because of that, the list is in seasons order. To be totally honest, you could probably run the table (watch all or nearly all) of the episodes in season two, four, and five. Those were great seasons. And despite some clunky exposition, feel free to watch the pilot, if you really want to start at the beginning.
Season 1, Episode 15 – The Benders – Now this feels very X-Files-ish, but that’s probably why I like it. The investigation into a missing man gets Sam taken by a mysterious thing that turns out not to be monsters but some twisted humans. A female cop character helps Dean, and doesn’t die!
Season 2, Episode 1 – In My Time Of Dying – Easily one of the best Supernatural episodes of all time. Dean’s dying in the hospital, Sam and Dad are arguing, and the yellow eyed demon is still lurking. It’s a hell of a set up for the series best non-Castiel containing season. (Just to let you know, I’m totally team Cass.)
Episode 9 – Croatoan – Supernatural ‘s take on Outbreak, combined with zombies. A demon virus suddenly crops up, taking over a small town and making the residents kill or infect each other. While this is a problem that seemingly resolves itself (kind of), it will come back, and is a pretty neat idea.
Season 2, Episode 12 – Nightshifter – This is basically the Supernatural take on Dog Day Afternoon, but I like it. Possibly for that reason. Sam and Dean get stuck in a bank where one of the people is a murderous shapeshifter … but which one? A slightly crazy but almost right guy taking the bank hostage doesn’t help.
Season 2, Episode 14 – Born Under A Bad Sign – Sam goes missing for a while, and when he resurfaces, he has no memory of his time away. Not only that, but all signs point to him murdering a fellow hunter. Why? It has something to do with a demon from his past.
Season 2, Episode 15 – Tall Tales – Bizarre occurrences at a college point to a powerful entity known as The Trickster, a wildly popular character who’s only appeared in five or six episodes over the entire run of the series. Not quite a comedy episode, but it has many comedic moments. Go ahead and put it in the comedy category.
Season 2, Episodes 21 & 22 – All Hell Breaks Loose, Parts 1 & 2 – I’m just counting these as one, because it’s hard to separate the two. The yellow eyed demon abducts Sam, and his other “children”, and seems to want them to fight each other until one’s left. Meanwhile, Bobby has figured out something big is happening, even if he isn’t sure what at first, and Dean is consumed with finding Sam. Eventually the crossroad demons come back into the plot, and the yellow eyed demon makes his big move. I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say he fails, but not completely.
Season 3, Episode 3 – Bad Day At Black Rock –This is one of their somewhat comedic episodes, about a cursed rabbit’s foot causing epically good luck, before causing grisly bad luck (there is one wonderfully gruesome kill involving a barbecue fork). Still, count it as comedy.
Season 3, Episode 10 – Dream A Little Dream Of Me – The Supernatural version of Freddy Krueger, this has a killer who stalks dreams with the help of a rare dream root, and attacks Bobby, making it personal. I have to admit I’m not sure why I like this episode so much, since I could predict the story turns, but I imagine it’s because I like Bobby so damn much. You can never have too much Bobby.
Season 3, Episode 11 – Mystery Spot – Another semi-comic episode, this is Supernatural’s Groundhog Day, as the investigation of a missing man becomes an endless Tuesday for Sam, who gets to watch Dean die over and over again for unknown reasons. This episode brings back The Trickster. Go ahead and mark this one comedy.
Season 3, Episode 12 – Jus In Bello – Now this is Supernatural’s Assault on Precinct Thirteen, as the boys are arrested by an old nemesis, and jailed as a bunch of demons decide to wage a full frontal assault on them now that they’re vulnerable. This takes care of the running “wanted” plot, and introduces a new big bad, Lilith, who will haunt the boys even more in season 4.
Season 3, Episode 13 – Ghostfacers! – Another semi-comedic episode, which brings back the wannabe ghost hunters the boys first encountered in season one, shooting a pilot for a potential reality series in a notoriously haunted house the boys have decided to get to the bottom of. It’s amusing watching Dean try to deal with these doofuses (he has no patience for them), but also, the ghost at the center of this story is one of the creepier ones they’ve ever featured. For that reason, you can move this out of the comedy realm.
Episode 3, Episode 15 – Time Is On My Side – The story of an immortal, Frankenstein like Doctor who lives off other people’s body parts, there are some genuine scares in this episode, and the end for the bad guy is truly horrifying. If you have a fear of involuntary surgery or being buried alive, and can’t stand depictions of it, do not watch.
Season 4, Episode 1 – Lazarus Rising – And here comes Castiel, perhaps one of the best characters to come from this series. Dean returns from the grave, totally baffled as to why he’s back, and wants to know what dragged him back. The answer is not what he was expecting.
Season 4, Episode 5 – Monster Movie – This is a fun homage to old black and white horror films. Almost a comedy episode, but not quite. Not on that list.
Season 4, Episode 6 – Yellow Fever – This is another half-comedy episode, where a ghost sickness plagues a town, and Dean catches it. It’s up to Sam and Bobby to cure it before he dies. You could flip a coin on this one.
(I have to recommend episode 8, Wishful Thinking, to the comedy fans. It’s not one of my favorite episodes, but the suicidal teddy bear in this episode is pretty much the best thing that has ever existed.)
Season 4, Episode 15, Death Takes A Holiday – Deaths have stopped happening in a small town. The boys investigate why, and find a horrible plan in the works.
Season 4, Episode 16 – On The Head Of A Pin – Oh, this is a grim episode. Dean unleashes his inner torturer to question his former Hell tormentor, all in an effort to find out who’s murdering angels. Along the way, he finds out exactly why he was saved from Hell. It isn’t pretty.
Season 4, Episode 17 – It’s A Terrible Life – Not a comedy episode, but another almost. Dean and Sam are suddenly not related, and working in the same sterile office building. A building with a rash of very strange suicides. Hmm …
Season 4, Episode 18 -The Monster At The End Of This Book – A semi-comedy episode that introduces Chuck, a pulp writer who seems to have written about Sam and Dean without their knowledge. Although this one is half funny and half serious, go ahead and put it in comedy. Chuck is great.
Season 4, Episode 20 -The Rapture – Who is Castiel’s poor bastard vessel? We meet him here, and this story also opens up some uncomfortable questions about consent, and how angels might be a very different kind of monster. But a monster all the same.
Season 4, Episodes 21 & 22 – When The Levee Breaks & Lucifer Rising – Doing another twofer here, as both episodes are essentially telling one story, as Sam tries to detox from the demon blood, but Lilith is still out there, planning something big. She is not the only planning something big, as Dean discovers to his horror.
Season 5, Episode 1 – Sympathy For The Devil – How did Sam and Dean survive their last mishap? Even they don’t know. And the disaster that happened in the previous season has repercussions that they’re all paying for.
Season 5, Episode 2 – Good God Y’All – A town is beset by demons. Or is it? Brings back Ellen and Jo from season two, and Rufus from season 3. All great characters.
Season 5, Episode 4 – The End – Dean finds himself in the near future, where Croatoan (remember that from season 2?) has decimated the human populace, and something worse has happened to Sam. Can he stop this future from happening? It takes all season to answer this question.
Season 5, Episode 8 – Changing Channels – Possibly the best Supernatural episode to ever exist. The Trickster (again, from season 2 – funny how many echoes there are from that season to this season) seems to be creating havoc, and Sam and Dean go after him, only to be caught in a trap best described as TV hell. It’s great. Definitely comedy.
Season 5, Episode 9 – The Real Ghostbusters – A semi-comedy episode that gets super meta, as it takes place at a fan convention for Chuck’s Supernatural book series. But something genuinely spooky is going on. Funny moments, but not really a comedy.
Season 5, Episode 11 – Sam, Interrupted – The boys go undercover at a mental hospital where there have been suspicious suicides, and they find out that maybe they need all the therapy in the world. Viewers could have told them this.
Season 5, Episode 14 – My Bloody Valentine – Semi-comedic episode (the Cupid is great), but way too horrific to be lumped into the comedy episodes. People are dying in bizarre ways, and the boys investigate. They may not be ready to take on the culprit behind it all.
Season 5, Episode 18 – Point of No Return – Dean’s on the verge of giving up, but Cass and Sam and Bobby aren’t going to let him. As it is, heaven may be giving up on Dean.
Season 5, Episode 20 – The Devil You Know – Crowley (another great character) agrees to help the boys find one of the Four Horsemen, Pestilence, so they can get his ring. But, as usual, there are all sorts of complications.
Season 5, Episode 21- Two Minutes To Midnight – Bobby does the unthinkable to get Death’s location, and Dean meets him with some help from Crowley. Death’s another great character who recurs a few times.
Season 5, Episode 22 – Swan Song – What was supposed to be the real end of the series? The final battle is on, as Dean, Cass, Bobby, and Sam attempt to stop the Apocalypse. Spoiler alert: they kind of succeed.
Season 6, Episode 4 – Weekend At Bobby’s – Bobby deals with some shit while the boys are doing their thing. Bobby’s great. Semi-comedy episode, although lots of serious stuff takes place. (And one particularly gruesome kill.) Flip a coin.
Season 6, Episode 9 – Clap Your Hands If You Believe – Supernatural’s deliberate X-Files parody, the boys investigate alien abductions, only to find a weirder explanation for the disappearances. A comedy episode.
Season 6, Episode 10 – Caged Heat – Dean, Sam, and Cass reluctantly join forces to find out what Crowley’s up to. Some funny moments in this epsidoe, and some very grim ones too.
Season 6, Episode 15- The French Mistake – A very good, meta comedy episode, where Sam and Dean are thrown into a universe where they’re actors on a TV show called Supernatural. And they don’t like it one damn bit.
Season 6, Episode 20 -The Man Who Would Be King – Cass takes center stage in this episode, where he explains the war in Heaven, and what terrible bargain he’s made, while the boys begin to suspect that Cass is up to something.
Season 6, Episode 22 – The Man Who Knew Too Much – The war in Heaven comes to a close, and Cass does something terrible. Actually, two terrible things.
Season 7, Episode 1 – Meet The New Boss – Cass is totally off the deep end, and enjoying his new power, while Sam struggles with Hell memories.
Season 7, Episode 2 – Hello, Cruel World – Cass discovers that the souls he’s absorbed from Purgatory are not all under his control, and realizes too late that he must shed this madness. He accidentally unleashes a new horror on the world.
Season 7, Episode 6 -Slash Fiction – Two Leviathans take on Sam and Dean’s identities and go on a very visible, garish killing spree, forcing them to go underground as they pursue them. And Bobby accidentally finds something that hurts the nigh indestructible Leviathans. Introduces Frank, a short lived character who’s essentially the missing Lone Gunman. (This is a good thing.)
Season 7, Episode 9 – How To Win Friends and Influence Monsters – Sam, Dean, and Bobby go after what they think is the Jersey Devil, but uncover a massive Leviathan conspiracy. At a great price.
Season 7, Episode 10 – Death’s Door – Bobby gets a flashback episode. And that’s all I’m saying about this one.
Season 7, Episode 14 – Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie – A comedy episode, although if you’re afraid of clowns, this is a full on horror episode. Weird killings seem to be centered around a grating kid’s restaurant. Worth it if only for the killer unicorn.
Season 7, Episode 17 – The Born Again Identity – Sam’s Hell memories are killing him, and a desperate Dean looks for a healer. Who turns out to be someone very familiar. This episode has a few problems, but I actually love how Sam’s breakdown is portrayed here. If we didn’t know the Lucifer he saw was real, it’s an excellent portrayal of someone who’s mind has turned against them. (Substitute whatever mental illness you think is applicable here.)
Season 7, Episode 20 – The Girl With The Dungeons and Dragon Tattoo – This episode introduces Charlie, another great character, a hacker nerd who finds herself working for the big bad Leviathan boss, although she doesn’t know that’s what he is at first. And when she finds out, oh no …
Season 7, Episode 21- Reading Is Fundamental – Cass is out of his catatonic state, but he’s crazy. (And crazy Cass is great, although not much use in a fight.) And the boys suddenly have a new prophet to deal with, newbie Kevin. (Another great character.)
Season 7, Episode 23 – Survival of the Fittest – It’s the final battle against the Leviathans as Sam, Dean, Meg, and Cass work to kill Leviathan leader Dick Roman, and suffer some shocks. Truth be told, I could watch the opening scene between Crowley and Roman all day. The actors spark off each other like crazy.
While season eight was probably the last truly decent Supernatural season, I realized I don’t have a lot of episodes to recommend. So I’ll just name the ones I think you should give a look, if you want. 802, What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?; 807, A Little Slice of Kevin; 808, Hunter Heroici (semi-comedic episode); 811, LARP and the Real Girl (comedy episode); 813, Everybody Hates Hitler; 817, Goodbye Stranger; 820, Pac-Man Fever; Episode 821, The Great Escapist.
Bonus: Drinking Game!
Here is a Supernatural drinking game you can play while watching my recommendations, or any episodes really.
Take a drink when:
*Cleaned up version of curse word or general curse word happens (Yes, all the Dick Roman jokes in season seven count, so have lots of booze standing by for that season. Also a spare kidney, if you can swing it.) (Also, yes, Bobby’s “Balls!” count.)
*Castiel shows up
*Dean and Cas share a lingering look/touch
*Crowley shows up (until season 9, then remove from the board)
*A woman dies
*A minority of some kind dies
*Sam or Dean get bloodied (only their own blood counts)
*Cas saves their ass
*They save Cas’s ass
*Crowley saves Dean’s or Cas’s ass
*Crowley calls Sam “Moose”
*An actor you recognize shows up in a very minor role
*Pop culture reference
*The actors put more weight into their roles than is actually written (I’m looking at Jensen, Jim, Misha, and Mark specifically)
*Someone makes a bad joke
*Someone makes a joke that is genuinely funny
*Decent kill scene/special effect
*Quite blatant homoerotic subtext
*Dean gets despondent
*Sam shows his bitchface
*Cas kills something
*Sam gets weirdly hostile (Soulless Sam doesn’t count)
*Secondary character kills something
*Someone tells Cas or Dean they are broken/dysfunctional/empty somehow
*Sam, Dean, or Cas deliberately cut themselves
*Someone is thrown into/through glass
Drink two shots if
*Sam or Dean get kissed
*Sam or Dean or Cas die (again)
*Sam, Dean, or Cas return from the dead (again)
*Dean or Sam is in the hospital
*Single manly man tear
*Crowley and Cas have a scene together
*Gabriel (the Trickster) shows up
*Pamela shows up
*Death shows up
*Sam, Dean, or Cas is tied up/bound in some way
*Bobby joins the boys on a hunt
*Crowley remembers he’s a badass and kills someone
*Crowley calls Dean “Squirrel”
*Obvious wink (figurative or literal) to the audience
*Sam or Dean remembers they can exorcise demons
*Dean does something weirdly hot with a gun (disarms someone/ejects a clip/shoots through something … you’ll know it when you see it)
*Castiel briefly becomes Sasstiel (pissy looks count)
*Crowley’s storyline isn’t boring or a waste of the actor
*Dean makes a nerdy reference
*Sam eats something
*The Colt is used
*Cas shows his wings
*Dean seemingly checks out or flirts with a guy
*Cas, Dean, or Sam appear shirtless
*Holy water is thrown at Dean
*Someone other than Dean drives the Impala
Drink everything if
*A writer remembers either Sam or Dean probably have a serious case of PTSD
*Cas and Dean finally admit they love each other and get it over with