After 327 episodes, 15 seasons, two networks, and one pandemic, the longest-running sci-fi/fantasy series in America came to an end in November 2020. "Supernatural" premiered in September of 2005 on what was then known as The WB. Creator Eric Kripke originally pitched the show as a horror series angled around a reporter, but that quickly changed to two brothers "cruising the country, chasing down these urban legends." The idea morphed into a spooky yet touching family drama with a heavy dose of humor. Due in large part to perfect casting and the infectious chemistry between its two leads, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, who play brothers Dean and Sam Winchester, respectively, the show quickly spun out richly woven mythology that saw the brothers, along with a motley crew of friends and foes, square off against, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, witches, angels, demons, Lucifer, and even God himself.
"Supernatural" has seen its share of changes, most notably in several different showrunners after Kripke passed the mantle after Season 5, and The WB's transformation into The CW. But through it all, the heart of the show remained: the brotherly bond between Sam and Dean, and later the angel Castiel (Misha Collins), who joined the show in Season 4. For 15 years, the Winchesters made us laugh, cry, and even scream in terror, but they rarely left us bored. Despite some low moments, a divisive series finale, and the constantly evolving style of Padalecki's hair, "Supernatural" remained remarkably consistent over the years thanks to whip-smart writing and a refusal to take itself too seriously. With the Winchester brothers finally at peace and a prequel series on the way, let's take a moment to look in the rearview mirror and rank each season from worst to best.
Season 12 takes some big swings while attempting to tie up storylines dating all the way back to the pilot episode. Mark Pellegrino returns as Lucifer, bouncing back and forth between vessels in search of one that won't disintegrate with his fiery presence. He finds a temporary home in the body of an aging rock star, Vince Vincente, played by guest star Rick Springfield, before hopping into none other than the President of the United States. While disguised as the Commander in Chief, Lucifer impregnates an aid with a half-human half-angel baby known as a Nephilim, or Jack, whose birth will cause cosmic ripples throughout Heaven and Hell. But what sounds good on paper winds up feeling pretty dull. Jack was a fan favorite for some (but not all) viewers, and his birth caused the deaths of fan favorites Castiel and Crowley, the latter for keeps.
This season also sees the return of Mary Winchester, Sam and Dean's mother whose death is the catalyst for much of the show's early run. Her resurrection is a gift to Dean from the previous season's Big Bad, Amara, and though the reunion is initially joyful, nothing on "Supernatural" is ever quite so simple. Mary's return is complicated by her alliance with the British Men of Letters, a less interesting version of a plot we'd seen in previous seasons. The surprising homecoming quickly ends up feeling more like an overwrought slog. Season 12 officially broke The CW's record for its longest-running show — and to be fair, it is better than any 12th season has a right to be — but it ultimately serves as a dull transition between more interesting stories.
The seventh season of "Supernatural," and the second in Sera Gamble's term as showrunner, has an exciting premise that somehow manages to feel like an icky drag. The Leviathans, also known as The Old Ones, are an ancient race of monstrous creatures freed from Purgatory and determined to subjugate the human race. Led by Dick Roman, they hatch a plan to use poisoned food to control humans but end up turning some unfortunate diners into mindless cannibals. Constantly transforming (or exploding) into inky black goo, their faces open into gaping, toothy mouths with which they use to fulfill their primary motivation: eating. On the bright side, these messy monsters lead to the introduction of spunky hacker Charlie Bradbury, who helps the Winchesters infiltrate their headquarters.
These disgusting beasts also cause the demise of one of the show's most beloved characters. Bobby Singer dies a prolonged death after being shot by the smarmy Roman. Adding insult to injury, we're forced to say goodbye again when Bobby becomes a vengeful spirit after rejecting Heaven to stay and help the Winchester brothers. In order to release him, Sam and Dean burn the haunted flask linking his spirit to this world, setting up yet another tearful goodbye. Castiel is also gone for long stretches of time, just when we were beginning to see him as a core cast member. Combine this with his bizarre turn as the new God and antagonist, and you've got a recipe for a rotten season.
Despite boasting one of the show's strongest season finales in which the Winchester brothers are threatened by a vengeful army of corpses sent by God himself, Season 14 revisits way too many of the show's prior plotlines to feel original and fun. Dean is once again possessed by the archangel Michael, but this time it's the Apocalypse World version of the archangel, a distinction that just feels silly. Though this does present Jensen Ackles with the rare opportunity to play a different character, it feels like a tired plot contrivance intended to keep the show going. On the plus side, the overall slow season does lay the groundwork for one of the show's most inspired choices, aka turning God into the main villain of the series as a whole.
The season's saving grace is the long-awaited return of John Winchester in the 300th episode "Lebanon." It must be said that achieving that staggering number of entries is an enormous feat in and of itself. Played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, John's reunion with Mary is incredibly sweet and his return allows Sam and Dean a bit of overdue catharsis. But this joy is short-lived as a soulless Jack accidentally kills Mary late in the season, essentially dissolving Team Free Will. Season 14 begins the lead-up to the show's epic conclusion, but the action along the way leaves much to be desired.
The highly anticipated conclusion of the longest-running show in CW history finally premiered in November of 2020 after the pandemic shut down production just two episodes shy of filming the series finale. While this put a halt on momentum and caused a few changes to the final episode, Jensen Ackles told Cinema Blend that the pause may have actually worked in the cast and crew's favor, giving everyone involved a chance to rest and reflect. After 14 seasons of battling every creature imaginable, Sam and Dean end up squaring off against God himself, a momentous final chapter perfectly befitting a show that's never been afraid to push creative boundaries. It's a bold choice, but turning Chuck into a villain did make us slightly nostalgic for the sweet author cowed by his girlfriend Becky and promising not to write any more "Supernatural" books.
The final season saw additional controversy by acknowledging the long-time fan theory known as Destiel. In "Despair," Castiel finally reveals unrequited romantic feelings for Dean only to die minutes later, an egregious example of the "bury your gays" trope. Many fans were outraged and criticism exploded online. Also controversial was the divisive finale. Many fans loved the episode that sees Dean's tragic death (with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles destroying fans with excellent and emotional performances), Sam resuming a normal life in his brother's memory, and the boys reunited decades later in Heaven, starting where the story began: with the brothers. But just as many hated it and lamented Castiel's absence. Though filled with poignant moments, COVID protocols kept other cast members from participating, leading to an episode that feels arguably empty. The abundance of controversies bumps this entry down at least one place in the rankings.
The best of the show's later run, Season 13 sees final showrunners Robert Singer and Andrew Dabb stretching their creative wings and daring to find out how long the ride can last. The addition of Jack Kline breathes fresh blood into a show that's been holding strong with a now core cast of three. However, the teenage Nephilim caused frustrating havoc in the lives of the Winchesters, and his nearly instantaneous growth from infant to teenager screams of plot manipulation. The season's best episode is "Scoobynatural," an animated crossover episode in which Sam, Dean, and Castiel find themselves transported to an episode of the beloved cartoon where comically large sandwiches abound. What could have been a major "Jump the Shark" moment manages to work thanks to smart writing and a deft understanding of the "Supernatural" fandom. Widely considered to be one of the show's overall best episodes, this episode single-handedly bumps Season 13 up a bit higher on this list.
The downside of Season 13 is that it often winds up reminding us of what might have been. Fan favorites Charlie, Kevin, and Bobby all return in the Apocalypse World as alternate versions of their former selves, but this only serves to remind us of their untimely deaths in the first place. Combined with the back-door pilot for the failed spin-off, "Wayward Sisters," this is a solid season that unfortunately reminds us of many things we'll never get to see.
This season bridges the gap between two of the show's most memorable season finales, but what lies between is a bit of a mixed bag. Picking up immediately after the jaw-dropping final moment of Season 8 in which all the angels in Heaven fall to earth, Season 9 begins with a drawn-out mission to save Sam. Without his knowledge, he's healed through possession by the angel Ezekiel, which of course turns out to have larger problems of its own. This season features memorable moments like the return of fan-favorite Charlie who does her share of sleuthing and even gets to take a prolonged trip to the Land of Oz. But this is nothing compared to the joy in watching a now human and grace-less Castiel delighted to work in a gas station.
However, Season 9 also weathers some lows like the devastating death of Kevin Tran, an egregious cameo by Snooki, and "Bloodlines," the backdoor pilot for the show's first failed spin-off. The introduction of the Mark of Cain, an ancient symbol used to lock away The Darkness, is a thrilling concept that doesn't really pick up steam until Season 10. While it's fun to watch Sam and Dean team up with snarky demon Crowley, the brothers are separated for much of the season, depriving audiences of their sparkling banter. The season finale manages to top its predecessor with the resurrection and birth of Demon Dean. All in all, Season 9 is a rocky road on the way to the show's back half.
The first of the Robert Singer/Jeremy Carver era of showrunners, Season 8 is another uneven journey. The first episode finds Sam retired from hunting and attempting to live a normal life after seemingly losing his family, while Dean escapes Purgatory with the help of the lackluster Benny, a vampire he meets while trapped in the otherworldly realm between Heaven and Hell. On the plus side, Season 8 vastly expands the angel-centered mythology that will come to dominate the show's later seasons. Still, Sam and Dean spend much of its runtime at odds with each other which is never fun to watch.
The season's back half features an intriguing arc in which the brothers try to complete three trials intended to close the Gates of Hell, but inadvertently end up causing all angels to fall from Heaven. This includes Castiel who loses his grace, rendering the deadpan angel fully human. Charlie returns as a Renaissance Fair queen in "LARP and the Real Girl," a fun episode that concludes with a face paint sporting Dean delivering the iconic "Braveheart" speech. Sam and Dean reunite with their grandfather Henry Winchester and the Men of Letters, a secretive order of hunters dating back hundreds of years. Technically members due to their paternal lineage, the boys gain a home base in the order's abandoned bunker, equipped with an extensive library brimming with information about supernatural events and occurrences. Helping them sift through this mountain of knowledge is Kevin Tran, a high school prophet tasked with translating the demon tablet. Season 8 has some highs and lows, ultimately providing a mixed bag of episodes.
The season that started it all is a remarkably solid beginning to such a long-running series. Though it took a while for "Supernatural" to flesh out its larger mythology, the key ingredients — urban legends, humor, and the brotherly bond between its two leads — were present from the beginning. 22 years after the tragic death of Mary Winchester, older son Dean tracks down younger brother Sam to enlist his help in locating their father John who's gone missing on a hunting trip. Sam, preparing for a career in law, is less than thrilled to be thrust back into the family monster-hunting business. When his girlfriend Jessica is murdered by the same Yellow-Eyed Demon that killed his mother, though, Sam agrees to join Dean to track down the mysterious entity responsible for the destruction of their family.
Watching these early episodes nearly two decades later, the time it takes for Sam to embrace his destiny as a hunter feels a bit prolonged. Fortunately, we get some truly spooky monsters of the week along the way, not to mention Sam's burgeoning psychic visions that tease a larger supernatural world. Standout creatures include Bloody Mary, the Hook Man, a vengeful water spirit, a cursed painting, and a Scarecrow haunting the grounds of a deadly apple orchard. Series creator Eric Kripke's urban legend concept is fun, but the bond that forms between the Winchester brothers provides the emotional hook that would carry the show for another 14 years.
The first season in the post-Eric Kripke era had big shoes to fill. Taking over showrunner duties from the original creator after the incredible Season 5 finale, Sera Gamble wasted no time putting her stamp on the narrative with Alpha Monsters and the introduction of Purgatory. It's a refreshing alternative to the by now familiar stomping grounds of Heaven and Hell. The season picks up a year after the prevented apocalypse with Dean, believing Sam to be dead, trying to live a normal life with his girlfriend Lisa and her son Ben. But this domestic bliss, the closest thing to a normal life the hunter will ever get, is interrupted by a soulless Sam freed from Hell. Now working with the boy's maternal grandfather Samuel, it's the younger brother's turn to pull Dean back into a life he's seemingly made peace with leaving behind.
This season sees the return of the Horseman Death and a memorable pair-up between Castiel and Crowley, now King of Hell, set against the backdrop of a civil war in Heaven. In addition to a fun trip back to the Wild West, Season 6 features the directorial debut of star Jensen Ackles in the fan-favorite episode "Weekend at Bobby's." The creativity really soars to new heights with "The French Mistake," widely considered one of the best episodes in all 15 seasons. Sam and Dean are sent to an alternate reality where they star in a show called "Supernatural" as actors named Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. The scene where they hilariously try to act (much to the chagrin of a constantly tweeting Misha Collins), is worth at least a boost or two on this list.
Featuring one of the best arcs of the show's later seasons, Season 11 is all about The Darkness. The primordial being released with the Mark of Cain in Season 10 turns out to be God's sister Amara, whose long ago imprisonment allowed God to create the Earth. Now free thanks to Rowena's spell, she's determined to make her brother pay for locking her away. The ethereal siblings spend most of the season in an epic battle over the fate of humanity as Amara seeks to make her brother watch while she destroys everything he's created. Though ostensibly the hero, Amara is incredibly sympathetic as a woman who just wants the same chance to live that her brother has. It's an arc that also lays the groundwork for what is arguably the show's biggest risk: the villainous God we see in Season 15.
After 10 years, "Don't Call Me Shurley" finally confirms the long-standing fan theory that Chuck Shurley is in fact God. He and Metatron sit in a Heavenly diner writing an episode of "Supernatural" as Sam and Dean live out the action on Earth below. The episode concludes as Chuck reveals his true identity to the brothers in an emotional rendition of "Fare Thee Well." However, it's another creative episode that is the season's most memorable, as "Baby" became an instant fan favorite. The episode is told entirely from the perspective of Dean's beloved Impala and sees the brothers doing what they love best, riding America's back roads while hunting monsters and turning the classic rock up.
Season 3 marks the moment when Eric Kripke and the crew really began swinging for the creative fences. While many shows were hamstrung by the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike, "Supernatural" made the most of its shortened season with a thrilling plotline that sees the boys battle Lilith, Lucifer's first demon, along with hundreds more now released from Hell. After Dean sells his soul in exchange for Sam's life, he enlists the help of another demon, Ruby, to get out of his deal with the Crossroad Demon before the terms of his agreement send him to Hell as well. This season also features the more divisive Bela, a con artist trying to get out of her own crossroad deal who proves to be a thorn in the side of both the Winchesters and the audience.
Fan favorite episodes abound in Season 3, including "Ghostfacers," a surprisingly emotional send-up of paranormal reality TV featuring a pre-"Schitt's Creek" Dustin Milligan. But the season's highlight is the time-loop episode "Mystery Spot," in which Sam watches Dean die over and over again, each time waking up to Asia's "Heat of the Moment" playing on the alarm radio to signal another repetition of this devastating cycle. The introduction of Dean's ex-girlfriend Lisa and her curiously Dean-like son Ben further raises the stakes for the Winchester's dangerous lifestyle, and watching the season's shocking climax feels like a gut punch. Kripke is having a blast pushing the show's creative limits and he succeeds with flying colors.
Season 10 retreads much of the ground we've seen in prior seasons, but does so with such flair that it warrants higher placement on this list than any other from the later era. Following the jaw-dropping Season 9 cliffhanger in which Dean is resurrected with the tell-tale black eyes of a demon, Season 10 begins with a fun string of episodes that follow Dean and Crowley indulging in the debauchery of the wicked. Though never exactly angelic, it's a treat to see Jensen Ackles play a devious variation of the character we've watched for nine years. This bad boy arc subtly shifts throughout the season as Dean bears the Mark of Cain causing him to experience insatiable rage and bloodlust. Though Season 10 sees the egregious death of Charlie (we're still not over it) it does give us the powerful and delightfully snarky witch Rowena and the now teenage daughter of Castiel's vessel, Claire, played by burgeoning scream queen Kathryn Newton.
This season also boasts the truly fantastic 200th episode, an amazing achievement in its own right. "Fan Fiction" sees Sam and Dean battle a thespian monster at an all-girls high school mounting a staged musical production of the "Supernatural" saga. It's a delightfully touching episode that honors the show's diverse fandom while poking fun at itself with songs like "A Single Man Tear" and Castiel's lament "I'll Just Wait Here." We dare you to watch the girls on stage in their "Supernatural" costumes singing the show's unofficial theme song "Carry on Wayward Son" without shedding tears of your own.
The sophomore season of "Supernatural" sees the show beginning to find its footing and planting the seeds of the vast mythology it would go on to expand in the coming years. Deftly transitioning from a simple monster of the week format to longer, more emotional arcs, Season 2 follows the boys on the hunt for Azazel, the Yellow-Eyed Demon who killed their mother Mary. In order to save Sam, Dean must make a deal with the Crossroad Demon, his soul for Sam's life, starting the one-year clock before he is sent to Hell. Beginning with the heartbreaking death of John Winchester and concluding with the death of Sam himself, it's a tearjerker of a season back when the deaths of beloved characters still felt permanent.
When describing the season's momentum, Jared Padalecki told Variety, "Unlike season one where we were figuring out what this show was about, who these characters were, season two we hit the ground running." The many stellar one-off episodes feature murderous clowns, movie stars, and H.H. Holmes himself. Two standouts are "Nightshifter," in which the boys become entangled with a shapeshifting bank robber, and "Heart," a gut-wrenching episode in which Sam must make an impossible choice after falling for a sympathetic werewolf. Both outings up the emotional ante with two of the show's best needle drops. Following a strong first season, this is the one where "Supernatural" begins to cement its identity and launch into the cultural juggernaut it would become.
Season 4 sees Eric Kripke's creative juices really flowing with some of the show's most inspired episodes. Confirming that God is real in the "Supernatural" world, this season revolves around angels and an epic battle between Heaven and Hell. After dying in the final moments of Season 3, Dean is resurrected from Hell by Castiel, a trench coat-wearing angel who would go on to become a surrogate brother to the Winchesters. The overarching story involves preventing Lilith from freeing Lucifer from his cage in Hell, but it also introduces themes and characters who would leave an indelible mark on the show as a whole. In addition to Castiel, this season also marks the debut of Chuck, a prophet of the Lord who writes a fictionalized version of the Winchester's life called "Supernatural" under the name of Carver Edlund. Firmly entering meta territory, this opens up a whole new world for the show and allows it to lovingly lampoon itself in creative ways.
Adding to the fun is one of the show's funniest episodes, "Yellow Fever," in which Dean is infected with a mysterious disease that causes him to become increasingly terrified by innocuous things like tiny dogs and stairs. Jensen Ackles stretches his comedic wings throughout, but the highlight is an extended outtake in which he lip syncs to "Eye of the Tiger" on the roof of the Impala. Jared Padalecki and other members of the cast and crew can be heard laughing in the background, signaling to the audience that we are all now part of the "Supernatural" family.
This fantastic season marks the culmination of series creator Eric Kripke's original plan for the show. While many argue that "Supernatural" could have ended with the fifth season finale "Swan Song," Kripke told Entertainment Weekly audiences likely wouldn't have liked the darker ending he had in mind. Attempting to stop the apocalypse, Sam and Dean must also reckon with their joint destiny to serve as vessels for archangels Lucifer and Michael, respectively. Kripke always intended for the ultimate battle to come down to "evil Sam versus good Dean" and the moment Jared Padalecki dons the devilish white suit is simply thrilling despite its darker implications. Describing the episode, Jensen Ackles told Variety, "To look at the five seasons, to step back and look at that all as one story... it was a massively grand finale and it was like Game Seven of the World Series..."
This season also marks the first time the brothers visit Heaven with a beautifully simple scene in which the brothers share sparklers in the moonlight. Another touching episode, "The Real Ghostbusters" sees Dean and Sam connect with fans of their story by visiting a "Supernatural" convention. The season is universally beloved and contains the show's two highest-rated episodes. The first is the nearly perfect "Changing Channels," a hilarious anthology-style episode in which Sam and Dean become trapped in various TV show tropes. The second is the aforementioned "Swan Song," which concludes with Sam throwing himself into Hell to protect his brother and the rest of the world. "Supernatural" would go on to explore these themes of brotherly love and self-sacrifice for 10 more years, but it would never again soar as high as it does in this season.
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