I stopped watching Supernatural years ago. Maybe it was during Season 11, but it’s hard to remember because this show has been on for so long. However, it’s a testament to just how good it was (and likely still is to many) that it accumulated such a passionate fanbase and managed to evade cancellation on more than one occasion. Now that Supernatural is finally barreling towards its (delayed) series finale, I wanted to look back on “Mystery Spot,” the meme-worthy Season 3 episode that made me fall in love with the show.
My journey with Supernatural wasn’t a linear one. It all started in college, when a friend who was already a major fan of the show introduced me to Dean and Sam Winchester (played by Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, respectively). Saving people and hunting things was their job, but beyond Supernatural being good enough for my friend to let me borrow her DVDs of the first two seasons, I wasn’t fully sold on the premise and was unsure if I’d like it. Long story short, I ended up watching “Mystery Spot” before most other episodes of the show because it happened to be on TV one night and I was fully hooked.
The episode, which finds Sam stuck in a Groundhog Day-style time loop that resets after Dean dies, was a brilliant mixture of comedy, angst, and poignancy. By that point in the season, Dean had already made a deal with the crossroads demon to save Sam’s life in exchange for his soul and had sworn to his brother that he was okay with that decision. But, it was clear that he wasn’t. Dean bottled in his feelings instead of addressing them like Sam did, and the episode was the first time he admitted that he didn’t want to die out loud. Cue the tears!
While “Mystery Spot” was a breakthrough for Dean, it was really about Sam’s inability to let his brother go that delivered the emotional gut punch of the hour. How could he let his brother go to hell knowing that he’d sacrificed himself for Sam to live? How could Sam move on, even while understanding that it might be healthy to do so? Accepting death is something neither brother was ever good at and their inability to do so haunts them to this day.
I know what you’re thinking: how did an episode making light of Dean’s death get me to become invested in the show? On the surface, “Mystery Spot” is your typical time loop story, but of course it’s always what can be done with that trope that’s important. In one episode, Supernatural gave me everything I was looking for in a show: great mythology, deep character relationships, humor, the Trickster’s meta “I really hate continuity errors,” and stakes. It was funny without losing sight of its meaningful purpose and also introduced me to “Heat of the Moment” by Asia, which I can no longer listen to without thinking of this episode. Damn you, Eric Kripke!
Jeremy Carver (who has since moved on to showrun the amazing Doom Patrol) got creative with all the ways Dean could die — slipping in the shower, dog attack, choking on a sausage, a piano falling on him, the list goes on and on — while exploring the emotional impact of death and the repercussions that the Winchesters’ obsession with saving one another could have on their psyche and journeys. The episode went to a very dark place, but not dark enough that it didn’t end with a sliver of hope and a renewed sense of urgency.
There would be more episodes similar to this one in Supernatural’s long history, ones that explored family dynamics and deeper themes of fear and sacrifice, guilt, faith and fortitude, all with a large dose of pop culture references. However, “Mystery Spot” is the one that convinced me that Supernatural was more than a show about monster hunting. It could dig deep and bring to the surface some powerful and heart-wrenching storylines without taking itself too seriously, and that will always be its legacy to me.
Header Image Source: Sergei Bachlakov/The CW