What's so great about 8x18?
Josephine, Krissy, and Aidan I'd watch their spin-off. They're a little younger than "age groups I find interesting to watch/read," but they've also been forced into a gawky maturity, and I love the way their behaviors oscillate between wildly competent, jaded adults, and willingly shepherded young teens. They've all got their little Babysitter's Club archetypes going on (Krissy is "The Leader," Josephine is "The Intellectual," and Adain the "horny bro," but their individual characters enough in this episode that it's easy enough to see how blurred those types would become, if you spent more time with them. I've never been interested in next!gen hunter stuff, but like S7 awakening me to the beauties of Meg/Cas, I now see the appeal. J/K/A encounters with Claire Novak! Or even Kevin!
Hunter Sociology Random hunters are my bulletproof kink. They just add so much dimension to this world that Sam and Dean occupy, but in no way are quintessential of. There are popular strains--the remnants families destroyed by monster attacks go on to hunt for justice--but Victor does it different. J/K/A do it different than both him and the Winchesters. And Sam and Dean are clearly impressed by the setup, almost disbelieving of its efficacy but clearly hoping to be convinced by it.
Negotiating Authority Of course, no one ended up convinced by anything and Victor was actually a mild-mannered psychopath, but as far as the hunting world goes, assuming your comrades are anywhere near sane is probably a mistake. But the negotiations of various authorities in this episode made me carouse in joy. You have the vulnerable J/K/A misled and manipulated by Victor, and the Winchesters taking a more critical eye. And the Winchesters in general playing harder and faster ("we paid more"). But what SPN is so often brilliant at is offering agency and authority to parties not the Winchesters (without making Sam and Dean look incredibly lame, though they've gone that route, too, XD). And I love this episode for Dean in particular, because as any Samgirl in the world has probably noticed, decentralizing leadership is something Dean uh, struggles with. Particularly as S8 is arranged, 8x18 is pivotal in priming Dean for what comes to the fore in 8x20, and plays out through 8x23 (to a greater or lesser degree of success... As I mentioned in a previous Top 10, Sam and Dean also try to reconnect with each other in S8 and completely overshoot that; in this renegotiation of agency/authority, they are similarly inaccurate. BUT THEY TRIED. And by that I think I mostly mean Dean sorta failed, but hey, failure is a natural part of eventually succeeding??).
Negotiating "Home" And in this negotiation of authority, you have this idea of whom you can trust, where you're safe. Like Victor, and the home he made for J/K/A. Under false pretenses and with the assistance of a conniving, murderous and very evil stratagem. So yeah, that sucks big time for J/K/A. But if you get past this superficial "well, that guy was nutso" impression, what Victor really had was a game plan for the future--a future with hunters off the outskirts, with the upper hand, and with a happiness and security heretofore unknown in this entire demographic. This was the mission statement of the Men of Letters, and also isn't too far from Sam and Dean's own object of sealing the gates of Heaven and Hell. But rather than aggrandize Victor (because okay, he did premeditate murder and orphan multiple children), I think it's worthwhile to think about the Winchesters in terms of Victor/Victor's home. They've got this vision of some better world, which sounds great. They've got the Batcave, which is seemingly the answer to all their needs.
But are they? Is that it, is that where these things begin and end, or do we need to double back and complicate our original perceptions? Hint: The answer is yes. Allow me to introduce SPN, which answers all of your rosy, soft glow dreams by tying them to chairs and then setting them on fire.
* I will admit to being entirely in favor of very viciously complicating the Batcave, because I hate it and I wish it would burn down. :D
** For further reading: pocochina has a really interesting commentary on negotiating authorities/authoritative voices, and also the Batcave's intervention into mythologies surrounding the concept of 'home.'
*** Miss a day? Past SPN S8 Top 10s