The Meaning of Episode Titles
"Supernatural" is a TV show that uses a lot of popular culture references and fully understands itself as a postmodern text, as it draws from famous texts not only of its own genre, but also "shops" through over a hundred years' worth of popular culture products.
Apart from obvious references of the story, plots, and characters itself (see e.g. Hero's Journey), as well as references made by the characters (see Trivia of Episodes, and They like to watch), an increasing number of episode titles refer to several cultural texts, most commonly songs (of the Mullet Rock variety), as well as horror films and other classical movies (with a preference for the fifties, sixties, and seventies).
1.01 Pilot is the pilot episode. 1.02 Wendigo, 1.04 Phantom Traveler, 1.05 Bloody Mary, 1.07 Hookman, and 1.08 Bugs name the monster of the week. 1.03 Dead in the Water, 1.06 Skin, 1.11 Scarecrow, and 1.16 Shadow describe the monster of the week—the ghost of a drowned boy, someone who changes skins, an aspect of the local fertility god, demons who are visible only in silhouette. 1.09 Home, 1.10 Asylum, 1.17 Hell House, and 1.21 Salvation name the setting. 1.12 Faith names the key theme of the episode. 1.14 Nightmare, 1.19 Provenance, 1.20 Dead Man's Blood, and 1.22 Devil's Trap name elements key to the plot.
Route 666 is the sixth spur of the famous "motherline" Route 66, and the last remaining stretch of road was renamed into Route 491 in 2003. Route 666 has also been called "The Devil's Highway"(Source). It wouldn't be the Devil's Highway without a number of strange incidents.
The Benders were a family of 19th century mass murderers from Kansas(Source and Further Reading).
The title refers to a line from Shakespeare's Macbeth: "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes". More on the phrase at Wikipedia. "Something Wicked This Way Comes" is also the title of a Ray Bradbury novel in which two teenage boys encounter Mr. Dark, the owner of a mysterious carnival, who has offered secret desires to several people, only to bind them in service to the carnival. One of the chapters in the episode Something Wicked on the Season 1 DVD is called "...this way comes."
"In My Time of Dying" is a song by Dean's favorite band, Led Zeppelin, released in 1975; it is a cover of "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed" recorded by Blind Willie Johnson in the late 1920s.
"Everybody Loves a Clown" is a song by Gary Lewis & The Playboys, released in 1965.
Bloodlust! is a 1961 movie, in which a crazed hunter kidnaps people and hunts them for sports on his estate. While this sounds more like The Benders, the "crazed hunter" most certainly is Gordon Walker.
Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things is a 1972 low-budget zombie movie by Bob Clarke.
Simon Says is a game for children, in which one of the players becomes "Simon", and the other players must do as Simon says. "Simon" has to start each sentence with "Simon says...".
Simon Says is also a 2006 horror film.
No Exit is a play by French existentialist writer Jean-Paul Sartre, in which three people are locked into a room (which might be hell) together. While they wait to eventually be freed of their prison, a complex dynamic starts to develop between the three of them...
The Usual Suspects is a 1995 movie by Bryan Singer, in which a con-man, interrogated by the police, tells a convoluted story of events that lead up to a massacre and fire at the docks. Using flashbacks, he tries to explain how he and his fellow partners-in-crime were on the boat that was involved, but not everything is as it seems. The episode draws heavily from the style of the film, using flashback and narration as well, as Sam and Dean tell their story.
The title comes from a plot element, in this case the mystery of Roanoke, explained by Sam and Dean in the episode itself.
The title directly references the plot, in this case Sam Winchester being hunted by Gordon Walker. Several movies of the same name exist, but none of them holds any plot elements shown in the episode.
The title comes from a plot element, namely the dolls which Dean and Sam thought were being used for hoodoo.
The title comes from plot elements, namely the shapeshifter and the bank incident that takes place during the night.
Houses of the Holy is a 1973 Led Zeppelin album. (Incidentally, the seventh song on the album is "No Quarter"—in the same episode, Dean runs out of quarters when using the Magic Fingers.) Led Zeppelin also used the title for a 1975 song.
Born Under a Bad Sign is the title song of a 1967 Albert King album.
Tall tales are elements of American folklore, as such as they are tales about extraordinary heroes or deeds done, "larger than life". In this case, the term 'tall tale' would appear to be used more generally to mean 'fantastical story', as in the absurd stories published in the Weekly World News which inspire the demon in this episode, which do not have particular resonance with American folklore.
This is a direct reference to a plot element. The word generally refers to animals who are killed on the road by being hit with a car; this describes two of the characters to some extent.
This is a direct reference to a plot element, namely the missing hearts of werewolf victims. This could also be a reference to the love that Sam feels for Madison.
Hollywood Babylon: The Legendary Underground Classic of Hollywood's Darkest and Best Kept Secrets, is a book by Kenneth Anger, said to unveil the secrets of Hollywood in the 1920s through 1950s. There's also a song by The Misfits titled "Hollywood Babylon".
"Folsom Prison Blues" is a 1955 song by Johnny Cash.
"What Is and What Should Never Be" is a 1969 song by Led Zeppelin.
"All Hell Breaks Loose" is A) a set phrase (idiom) and B) a song by The Misfits.
"The Kids are Alright" is a 1965 song by The Who.
Bad Day at Black Rock is another film by John Sturges with Spencer Tracy.
Sin City is the name of a comic title by Frank Miller (a movie adaptation was done in 2005). "Sin City" is the part of the fictional city described in the comic which is ruled over by prostitutes and other seedy/shady characters. "Sin City" is also an AC/DC song.
This is a direct reference to a plot element. Fairy tales are sometimes referred to as bedtime stories, because they were read to children at bedtime.
The title of the episode comes from an old piece of weather lore" “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailor’s warning”. Red sky at morning is said to signal rain.
The title is a direct reference to plot elements, namely vampires, especially newly created vampires, and their diet. It is possible the new vampires would need fresh blood or could be considered themselves fresh blood, i.e. someone new or 'fresh'.
This title plays on two standard TV tropes: the Christmas episode and the Very Special episode. The Christmas episode is, rather obviously, a one-off episode of a series set around that holiday. The Very Special episode was an episode of a series that focused on an Important Issue such as cancer or addiction and was usually very earnest and serious.
There is a different title card for the episode which is preceded by a version of the old CBS Special Presentation Indent. Sleigh bells are heard and the a Christmas ornament explodes on the screen and then the episode's title appears.
Malleus Maleficarum means Hammer of the Witches in Latin, and it was the title for a fifteenth century treatise on witches. It was used to support argue the nature and reality of witchcraft and was used in the persecution and murder of women accused of witchcraft across Europe in in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
"Dream a Little Dream Of Me" is the title of a song first recorded in 1931. The song, a version by Mama Cass, is heard during the episode during Dean's dream of Lisa.
The title is a direct reference to a plot element. The episode title refers to a tourist attraction near Santa Cruz, California called the Mystery Spot that was open in 1939. Just like in the episode, it is reported be a place where the laws of physics and gravity have do not apply. There are other mystery spots but the Santa Cruz location is the original.
The title is a direct reference to a plot element. Jus in bello means "justice in war" and refers to the guidelines for "fighting well" once war has begun.
The title is a direct reference to plot elements. The title and style of the episode are a parody on the American reality television series Ghost Hunters, which has been airing since October 6th, 2004. In the show, Grant Wilson and Jason Hawes investigate paranormal activity.
"Long Distance Call" is the title of the season 2, episode 22 episode of The Twilight Zone by Rod Serling, in which a boy is able to communicate with his deceased grandmother through a toy phone. "Long Distance Call" is also a 1951 song by Muddy Waters.
"Time Is on My Side" is a song by the Rolling Stones.
The title is a direct reference to a plot element. In the Gospel of John, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
The title of this episode refers to the Judy Blume book Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.
In the Beginning is a Journey album released in 1980. It compiles the first three albums they released before Steve Perry joined the band. It is also the phrase that opens both the Book of Genesis and the Gospel of John in the King James version of the Bible.
The title is a direct reference to plot elements. The Metamorphosis is a novel by Frank Kafka about a man whoa wakes one day to find himself transformed into a giant cockroach, and the conflict this causes with his family. In this episode the character Jack Montgomery goes through a transformation into a rugaru, and Sam and Dean clash over Sam's continued struggle with the demon blood he was fed by Azazel and how it has affected him.
The title is a direct reference to a plot element. Monster movie is a slang term referring to films with a struggle between humans and monsters - like King Kong. In this episode, the protagonist is himself a monster - a shapeshifter and he is also obsessed with classic horror films and devotes himself to recreating them.
This title is a play on the virus yellow fever caused by the bite of the yellow fever mosquito and the American slang "yellow" meaning a coward. Dean is infected with ghost sickness or "yellow fever", the yellow referring to the fear induced by the supernatural infection.
The title of the episode references the 1966 Peanuts movie It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
The title is a direct reference to plot elements, namely the wishing well key to the plot and how, given that all the wishes in the episode go spectacularly wrong, it's wishful thinking to believe wishes work. It could also be a reference to a 1965 British rockband named Wishful Thinking
I Know What You Did Last Summer is a 1997 movie.
"Heaven and Hell" is the album title and title song of a 1980 Black Sabbath album.
The title is a direct reference to plot elements: it is a play on 'remains' referring to a corpse, and remains, as in what is left of a family after tragedy.
There is a show named Criss Angel Mindfreak staring Criss Angel, a magician, who performs stunts. Angel has a reputation of being a douchebag.
A term coined by the ABC for their made-for-television movie series dealing with conflicts of teenagers. See also CBS Schoolbreak Special.
This is an obviously named episode that deals with a sex demon and ends in violence. The concepts of sex and violence are thought to be contributing factors is the deterioration of morals and family values. Sam and Dean forget their family bond and have a violent confrontation because of the sex demon.
The title is also the name of the pilot episode of The Muppet Show and an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
The title of the episode may be a reference to the Jane's Addiction song "Ted, Just Admit It..." which contains the lyrics "sex and violence" and "sex is violent," or to a song by The Exploited titled "Sex And Violence"
The title comes from a 1934 Fredric March movie where Death decides to live his life as a mortal.
The title comes from the old question "How many angels do you fit on the head of a pin?"
The title is a play on the title of the 1946 movie It's a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart as a man who wonders what life would have been like if he were never born.
The title is from the Sesame Street book where Grover cautions the reader that there is a monster at the end of the book and they shouldn't go there. At the end, Grover finds out the monster is himself.
The title is a television term taken from an episode of Happy Days where Fonzie jumps a shark. It usually denotes that a show is past its prime.
The title is a direct reference to a plot element, namely the Rapture, which is a term used to describe the events surrounding the second coming of Christ where the faithful is taken back to Heaven.
"When the Levee Breaks" is a 1929 blues song, covered by Led Zeppelin in 1971.
This is the title of a 1972 experimental film by Kenneth Anger as well as an album by the Swedish heavy metal band Candlemass. It is also a play on the title of Season 4's first episode, Lazarus Rising.
The episode title "Good God, Y'All" is from the line 'War! Huh! Good God y'all' a lyric from the song "War" originally sung by Edwin Starr and covered by many including Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Bruce Springsteen.
The title of the episode refers to a 1970s children's record and TV show "Free to be... you and me". This clip from the show is particularly relevant as the kids in the clip talk about how they feel about their siblings.
Another reference - when the CW was formed in 2006, its initial promotional campaign featured the tag "free to be...".
The episode title might refer to The Doors' song "The End", which uses themes of the apocalpyse and a world gone mad ('all the children are insane'). The song also evokes the image of the devil ('the snake is long, 7 miles, (..) and he's old, and his skin is cold'), and has an oedipal part, where a son goes to murder his sister, brother and finally father, to confront his mother, who he wishes to have sex with. Furthermore, the song was used in Francis Ford Coppola's iconic war movie, Apocalypse Now.
The episode title probably refers to idols in both the religious sense and the cultural-icon sense.
The title is a lyric from Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All".
The title is a play on the title of the F.Scott Fitzgerald short story, later made into a movie starring Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, in which the protagonist ages backwards.
The title is a direct reference plot elements, namely the many TV shows featured in the episode, which include Grey's Anatomy and CSI: Miami; Grey's Anatomy and another show in the CSI franchise air Thursday nights at nine, the same time slot as Supernatural.
The title of the episode refers to a 1980s animated TV show based on the movie Ghostbusters.
"Abandon All Hope" is a reference to the final line of the inscription over the gate of Hell in Dante's Inferno - "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" - according to Canto III of Dante's Inferno.
The title is a play on the memoir by Susanna Kaysen and the movie based on same, both entitled Girl, Interrupted and depicting Kaysen's stay in a mental health facility. Misha Collins has a bit part in the movie; a more important character is played by Clea Duvall, who costarred with Jensen Ackles in Ten Inch Hero.
The title may be a pun on swap meets, also known as flea markets. Also, humans are referred to as "meatsuits" because angels are able to occupy their bodies. Sam and a teenage boy swap bodies, so the title could be a reference to that.
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is a 1982 movie. In this film, Steve Martin interacts with (now dead) stars of 40s and 50s noir movies through use of clips from their movies.
The title comes from a song by Ice T, famously covered by Jay-Z, entitled "99 Problems"; this is the ninety-ninth episode.
The point of no return is the point at which events have progressed far enough that stopping them becomes impossible, or the narrative climax. The 100th episode celebrates typically the number required for syndicating a series into royalty-producing re-runs, although Supernatural was already in syndication before the episode aired (seeTNT). It may also be a reference to the Kansas album Point of Know Return or to that album's title song.
The title is a line from Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song", referencing the hammer of Thor; the episode includes two gods from the same pantheon as Thor, Odin and Baldur, but does not include Thor himself unless he is one of the unidentified gods.
The title may reference the debut album of the group Heaven & Hell, whose members were all previously part of Black Sabbath; more likely, it is a reference to the idiomatic phrase "better the devil you know than the devil you don't".
The phrase "Swan Song" in modern jargon refers to a final work or performance, or the final part of a story. It was also the name of the record label founded by Led Zeppelin.
"Exile on Main Street" – the episode’s title – is also the name of a double LP released by the Rolling Stones in 1972. It is an album that features songs that represent the genres that Sixties rock could be deconstructed back to - like blues, gospel, soul - a return to its roots. It was also recorded over a period of change and personal upheaval for the band although during the time Jagger also married and had a child.
This episode's title, "Two and a Half Men" is a reference to the TV sitcom of the same name starring Charlie Sheen. It has probably been chosen because Sam and Dean are two adults and the baby they are taking care of counts as a fractional person; also, Sam and Dean are fully human and the baby half human. Also, this is the second episode of the season.
This title is likely based on the famous 1949 noir film The Third Man, starring Joseph Cotton. The phrase 'the third man' is used to describe an unidentified individual involved with the mysterious death of Harry Lime. At Comic Con 2010, Kripke described this Season as being very noir in style.
The title of the episode is based on the comedy "Weekend at Bernie's."
The title of the episode refers to Family Matters, a 1990s sitcom featuring the Winslow family and the nerdy Steve Urkel.
The title of the episode is also the name of a 1989 animated film.
The title of the episode is reference to a line from J.M. Barrie's "The Adventures of Peter Pan", in which Peter asked the children dreaming of the Neverland to clap their hands if they believed in fairies in order to keep Tinkerbell alive. It is also the name of a 1989 animated film.
The title of the episode is the name of a 1974 women-in-prison exploitation film directed and written by Jonathan Demme.
The title of the episode is a reference to an old story about the inevitability of death, most famously retold by W. Somerset Maughm, which was credited as the inspiration for the 1934 novel of the same name by John O'Hara.
The title "Like a Virgin" is a reference to the 1984 song by Madonna of the same name. The song was the subject of a famous dialogue in the movie "Reservoir Dogs." Madonna later gave the film's director a signed CD with the dedication "To Quentin. It's not about dick, it's about love. Madonna."
The title of the episode is the name of a 1992 Noir-Western film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. The Unforgiven is also a heavy-metal song by Metallica. The band said the horns in the intro are reversed sound from a Western movie but never confirmed which one. It is believed to be from the 1965 Spaghetti Western For a Few Dollars More staring Clint Eastwood.
The title refers to a famous sequence in Mel Brook’s movie Blazing Saddles. At the end of the movie, the action from the movie which is set in the Old West, crashes through a wall (literally breaking the Fourth Wall) onto the set of a musical on the Warner Brothers lot. The song being performed in the musical is called The French Mistake.
The term "French Mistake" purportedly refers to a straight guy having a gay sexual encounter he later regrets Source.
The episode title “And Then There Were None” is a reference to a 1939 Agatha Christie crime novel in which ten people are lured to a remote island and then stranded. Each person was involved in the deaths of other people, though they were never found out, and found guilty by whoever orchestrated their arrival on the island. Although there appears to be no one else on the island, each of them dies by a method described in the Ten Little Indians nursery rhyme until they are all dead.
The episode title “My Heart Will Go On" refers to the Celine Dion song of the same name which was the theme song for the 1997 movie Titanic. Jensen once did an ad for Titanic-related merchandise. The movie was also referenced visually in 4.10 Heaven and Hell when Dean and Anna have sex in the Impala. The image of Anna's hand streaking down the foggy car window is reminiscent of the iconic scene from Titanic when Jack and Rose are having sex.
Frontierland, the name of the episode, is also the name of one of the themed lands at Disneyland, which is a Disney version of the 19th century Old West. It features the rides Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The original title of the episode was ‘Gallows Pole’, which is a song based on an old folk song about a woman trying to buy her freedom from the executioner. Versions Dean would like are by Leadbelly and most famously by Led Zeppelin.
Mommy Dearest is the name of a tell-all autobiography by Christina Crawford, who details an abusive childhood at the hands of her mother, actress Joan Crawford. The film of the book starring Faye Dunaway has become a camp classic, particularly for the scene where Crawford rails hysterically at Christina for using wire coat hangers: "I told you - no wire hangers EVER!"
Dean references this when he says to Eve: "Beat me with a wire hanger, the answer's still no."
The Man Who Would Be King is a short story by Rudyard Kipling, made into a 1975 movie by John Houston starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine. It tells the story of two ex- officers of the British Raj who become adventurers and become hailed as deities in a remote village in the Hindu Kush. They lead successful battles against the villages enemies, but become wrapped up in their own delusions of grandeur. Eventually the villages turn against them. In the movie, the story unfolds as the surviving character relates his story to a journalist. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), the episode aired exactly one week after the royal wedding, in which Prince William (second in line to the British throne) married his long-time girlfriend.
The title of the episode, ‘Let It Bleed’’, is also the name of a 1969 Rolling Stones album. This is the fourth episode to be named after a Rolling Stones song or album. The others were 3.15 Time Is on My Side, 5.01 Sympathy for the Devil, and 6.01 Exile on Main St. The episode was originally titled ‘The Haunter of the Dark’ which is the name of a story by H.P. Lovecraft, the one that he is finishing in the teaser of the episode.
The title of the episode ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much' is the name of a 1956 Alfred Hitchcock movie, a remake of his own earlier 1934 version of the movie. It’s also famous for featuring the song Que sera sera by Doris Day who starred in the movie with James Stewart.
The title of the episode "Meet the New Boss" is a lyric from the song "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who: "Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss". The song is widely known as the theme music for the TV series CSI: Miami, which Supernatural parodied in 5.08 Changing Channels.
The title is a play on the phrase "Goodbye, cruel world" which is often referenced as a person's last words before they commit suicide.
The Girl Next Door is a term used to describe a cultural stereotype of a young woman who is good natured and fits accepted cultural norms of femininity. It is the name of many songs and movies, however the one that most closely fits this episode of Supernatural is a Japanese erotic animated movie (i.e. hentai) of the same name in which a man is haunted by the memory of a young woman who helped him when he was injured as a child. This may be a shoutout to the fact that in 7.01 Meet The New Boss, Dean is watching "Asian cartoon porn"
The title of the episode Defending Your Life is also the title of a 1991 movie starring Albert Brooks. In the movie, when people die they must defend their life in an afterlife court. If they can prove they have conquered their fears, they pass on to the next phase of existence. If not, their soul is sent back to Earth.
The episode title "Shut Up, Dr Phil" is a reference to TV personality and relationships advice guru Phil McGraw.
The episode title "Slash Fiction" is a play on three references. First it is a reference to the Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction. Slash or slasher refers to a sub-genre of horror movies.
Slash fiction is also the name of a genre of fanfiction which pairs two characters of the same gender in a sexual relationship – see Slash for more information. There are references in the episode that compare Sam and Dean to a couple - Honey Bunny and Pumpkin from Pulp Fiction, Mickey and Mallory from Natural Born Killers as well as Mr and Mr(s) Smith.
The title is a reference to the CBS series The Mentalist, about a former con man "psychic" who uses his experience to aid police.
The title refers to this episode featuring the first wedding in Supernatural.
The episode title is a play on the famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie first published in 1936.
Death's Door is a colloquial saying to refer to the point just before dying.
Adventures in Babysitting was a 1987 comedy movie.
The title shares the name of Cyndi Lauper's 1984 smash hit song.
The episode title plays off the movie 2009 movie Splice and the 90s UK girl pop band The Spice Girls. Splice was the tale of two scientists who mix human DNA with animal to create a hybrid which matures rapidly.
The title refers to the chain fast food place in the episode "Plucky Pennywhistle's Magic Menagerie", which is similar to the real life chain Chuck E. Cheese, which combines kids arcade games, entertainment and fast food. The name "Pennywhistle" may be a parody of Pennywise, the evil fanged clown in Stephen King's novel (and subsequent movie) It.
"Out with the Old" is the first part of a saying, "Out with the old, and in with the new."
The episode title "The Born-Again Identity" is a play on the 2002 spy thriller movie The Bourne Identity (which was based a novel of the same name by Robert Ludlum). In the film, the main character Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon, finds himself suffering from amnesia, and his attempts to discover who he is. Along the way he finds he has a number of skills – speaking multiple languages, proficiency in hand-to-hand combat – that give him clues to his identity.
The episode title refers to a phrase "of great importance".
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a 2011 thriller movie.
Reading is Fundamental is a nonprofit literacy organization in the United States.
There Will Be Blood is a 2007 drama movie.
The episode title is a reference to phrase originating in evolutionary theory, as an alternative description of natural selection.