A Supernatural Starter Guide

Dean Sam impala pixlr

Tuesday, November 11th marks the 200th episode of Supernatural. The episode, titled “Fan Fiction,” is a huge milestone for any show, but particularly one on that is broadcast on a network that some parts of the country don’t even have access to. Supernatural has always had a strong following, and since its syndication through Netflix it has become even more beloved. The length of time Supernatural has been on the air and the dedication of its fans is a result of great writing, strong characters, and skillful acting. The manner in which the show responds to their fan base only reinforces the connection. Supernatural works so well because of the bond the two brothers have with each other. The show builds off of that through horror, humor, and self-referential nods to the fans. For those who have recently started watching Supernatural or have now decided they want to see what all the fuss is about, 200 episodes over 10 seasons can be daunting. As a viewer, you can dig right in and plow through each season, or you can use this Supernatural starter guide to watch a collection of episodes based on the themes that make the show great: brotherly love, scary monsters, heaven and hell, and witty metafiction. The lists in this Supernatural starter guide are ordered chronologically, not in order of preference. The episodes chosen provide strong representations of the given theme.

Meet the Winchesters

Supernatural is an exceptional show because it is grounded in the complicated relationship between the Winchester brothers. The audience cares about the Winchesters as individual characters, but more importantly, as brothers. They sometimes fight against each other, but always ultimately fight for each other. One of the reasons that fans are so engaged by Sam and Dean is because of their acting—it is very believable that they are brothers who care deeply about each other. The contribution of the actors on Supernatural, particularly Jensen Ackles, who plays Dean, is often underrated. On the writers’ part, they have enriched the viewer’s understanding of the connection between Sam and Dean by showing the impact of their upbringing as hunters and the loss of their family.

John Winchester with Dean and Sam

John Winchester with Dean and Sam

Supernatural provides a complex view of how the Winchester brothers relate to each other, allowing for their often different and frequently changing perspectives on family, hunting, good and evil, god, and death. It works because the writers are very skilled and know the characters well. The following episodes have the traditional Supernatural elements of hunting and dealing with good and evil, but they provide an enriched understanding of how Sam and Dean relate to each other and of how their past experiences have shaped them.

[For a more detailed description of the list below, go to our Supernatural Episode Guide: Meet the Winchesters]

  1. “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)
  2. “Shadow” (Season 1, episode 16)
  3. “Something Wicked” (Season 1, Episode 18)
  4. “In My Time of Dying” (Season 2, Episode 1)
  5. “What is and Shall Never Be” (Season 2, Episode 20)
  6. “A Very Supernatural Christmas” (Season 3, Episode 8)
  7. “No Rest for the Wicked” (Season 3, Episode 16)
  8. “Afterschool Special” (Season 4, Episode 13)
  9. “When the Levee Breaks” (Season 4, Episode 21)
  10. “Dark Side of the Moon” (Season 5, Episode 16)
  11. “Bad Boys” (Season 9, Episode 7)
  12. “We Need to Talk about Kevin” (Season 8, Episode 1)
  13. “Sacrifice” (Season 8, Episode 23)
  14. “Do You Believe in Miracles?” (Season 9, Episode 23)
  15. Soul Survivor” (Season 10, Episode 3)

Monsters (creatures, spirits, gods, and humans)

Supernatural is ultimately a show about the brothers hunting scary monsters. Plots that involve hunting monster-like creatures tend to be straightforward stand-alone episodes that have some kind of resolution by the end of the show, known as Monster of the Week (MotW) episodes. The early seasons had a lot of more of the terrestrial creatures, such as shapeshifters, werewolves, and vampires, as well as more vengeful spirits, than later seasons. In the later seasons, angels and demons tend to be more frequent antagonists.

Hammer of the Gods

Hammer of the Gods

The monsters in Supernatural often draw upon standard creature lore, though traditions are sometimes disregarded. In some cases the writers incorporate new conventions, such as blood of a dead man acting like a poison for vampires. Monsters provide suspense, as well as allowing for a variety of locations and storylines. This keeps Supernatural interesting and scary! The following episodes provide a variety of spooky monster episodes, most of which are in the Monster of the Week format.

  1. “Bloody Mary” (Season 1, Episode 5)
  2. “Hook Man” (Season 1, Episode 7)
  3. “The Benders” (Season 1, Episode 15)
  4. “No Exit” (Season 2, Episode 6)
  5. “Nightshifter” (Season 2, Episode 12)
  6. “Roadkill” (Season 2, Episode 16)
  7. “Heart” (Season 2, Episode 17)
  8. “The Kids are Alright” (Season 3, Episode 2)
  9. “Monster Movie” (Season 4, Episode 5)
  10. “Family Remains” (Season 4, Episode 11)
  11. “Jump the Shark” (Season 4, Episode 19)
  12. “Hammer of the Gods” (Season 5, Episode 19)
  13. “Clap Your Hands if You Believe…” (Season 6, Episode 9)
  14. “The Girl Next Door” (Season 7, Episode 3)
  15. “Party on, Garth” (Season 7, Episode 18)

Angels and Demons

Demons have been a significant part of Supernatural since the very first episode. Demons are often used as part of a season or multi-season story arc, such as the yellow-eyed demon being a key component to Seasons 1 and 2. They are generally terrifying villains—though some, particularly the King of Hell, Crowley, have come to been seen to sometimes collaborate with the Winchesters when it serves their purpose. During the first few seasons of Supernatural the viewer’s familiarity with demon lore grew along with Sam and Dean’s knowledge.

Castiel in Lazarus Rising

Castiel in Lazarus Rising

Though the audience is sometimes surprised with new types of demons or demon practices, the conventions were fairly well-established by the third season or so. Angels were not part of the Supernatural world until Season four. Though show creator Eric Kripke had always intended to bring angels into the Supernatural world, as he had five seasons of story planned out from early on, their entrance produced new mysteries and intrigue. The presence of morally complex angels brought additional energy and excitement to Supernatural. The presence of angels, some of which were good soldiers while others were fallen outcasts, culminated in an outstanding Season Five finale. Demons and Angels continue to have a significant role on Supernatural with many later story arcs focusing on either demons, angels, or both. Below is a list of significant episodes that connect to angel or demon story arcs.

  1. “Devil’s Trap” (Season 1, Episode 22)
  2. “Born Under a Bad Sign” (Season 2, Episode 14)
  3. “Jus in Bello” (Season 3, Episode 12)
  4. “Lazarus Rising” (Season 4, Episode 1)
  5. “The End” (Season 5, Episode 4)
  6. “Abandon all Hope” (Season 5, Episode 10)
  7. “Point of No Return” (Season 5, Episode 18)
  8. “Ten Minutes to Midnight” (Season 5, Episode 21)
  9. “Swan Song” (Season 5, Episode 22)
  10. “Weekend at Bobby’s” (Season 6, Episode 4)
  11. “Meet the New Boss” (Season 7, Episode 1)
  12. “Holy Terror” (Season 9, Episode 9)
  13. “First Born” (Season 9, Episode 11)
  14. Black” (Season 10, Episode 1)
  15. Reichenbach” (Season 10, Episode 2)


Supernatural is also well-known for its self-referential style and humorous dialogue. The show was fairly serious until the “Hell House” episode in Season One. During this episode Supernatural made fun of itself by including two paranormal investigators as a comical parallel for the ghost hunting efforts of Sam and Dean. This approach proved very popular among fans, critics, and the show staff. Now Supernatural is known as one of the most self-referential shows on television.

Dean and Sam in Changing Channels

Dean and Sam in Changing Channels

The writers take metafiction for the television medium to a new level. These episodes are fantastically funny to watch and really acknowledge the important role that fans play in the Supernatural world. The meta episodes have certainly been some of our favorites. They are often even more enjoyable on the second or third viewing, when more of the self-references can be noticed. These episodes are funny, clever, and tend to be well integrated into the overall show narrative. Many of the following episodes reflect a meta-narrative, or are just freakin’ hilarious.

  1. “Hell House” (Season 1, Episode 17)
  2. “Hollywood Babylon” (Season 2, Episode 18)
  3. “Bad Day at Black Rock” (Season 3, Episode 3)
  4. “Mystery Spot” (Season 3, Episode 11)
  5. “Ghostfacers” (Season 3, Episode 13)
  6. “Yellow Fever “(Season 4, Episode 6)
  7. “It’s a Terrible Lie” (Season 4, Episode 17)
  8. “The Monster at the End of This Book” (Season 4, Episode 17)
  9. “Changing Channels” (Season 5, Episode 8)
  10. “The Real Ghostbusters” (Season 5, Episode 9)
  11. “Swap Meat” (Season 5, Episode 12)
  12. “Caged Heat” (Season 6, Episode 10)
  13. “The French Mistake” (Season 6, Episode 15)
  14. “Reading is Fundamental” (Season 7, Episode 21)
  15. “LARP and the Real Girl” (Season 8, Episode 11)

Get Started!

Don’t be afraid to dive into new episodes of Supernatural. Though the show is known for large-scale story arcs, including one that spans the first five seasons, there’s no need to go back and watch old shows first. However, if you do decide to watch old episodes this starter guide can help you wade through the huge and impressive Supernatural library. The 200th episode is likely to show the viewer how Supernatural incorporates all of the themes listed above into each show. Some shows may use more of one particular approach than another, but what makes Supernatural so engaging is that it is able to successfully incorporate aspects of family, fright, good and evil, and humor into each show. If you haven’t already jumped on the Supernatural bandwagon, don’t miss this outstanding television series.

Carry on

Carry on

5 thoughts on “A Supernatural Starter Guide

  1. Pingback: Supernatural Episode Guide: Meet the Winchesters | The Supernatural Fox Sisters

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