Supernatural returned for its eighth season last night with new showrunner Jeremy Carver as the story of Dean and Sam Winchester continues. With the virtually flawless first five seasons, the last two have had their fair share of ups and downs with no clear goal. When we last left off, Dean and Castiel were trapped in Purgatory while Sam was left alone as Crowley retook the reigns of main baddie. So where do they find themselves now? Ironically, a place they could have been at the beginning of last season.
The show starts with what Supernatural does best, an awesome recap filled with flash, flair, and a strange sense of musicality. Afterwards, we see the innocent bystanders who in every episode discover or happen upon the monster that will set the tone for the episode. In this case, it’s Dean of course, and a very panicky one on that. He travels for some time and winds up digging in a specified spot revealing a grave with human bones. Through some weird spell, Dean manages to revive a vampire by the name of Benny. The two bid each other farewell and the new title sequence appears.
This was a promising set-up. The whole sequence leading up to the title was simple with a somber undertone, a nice change of direction on Carver’s part. With Supernatural, we usually end up getting a very campy approach to each episode, but this one felt more mature, more personal, and more painful. With just about a minute of screentime, the character of Benny not only improved Dean’s character, but also left a lingering sense of charisma this show frequently exhibits with its supporting characters – Castiel, Lucifer, Gabriel, etc. Chances are, this Benny character will remain pivotal to the show.
Next we see Sam leave a room with Amelia still asleep - a new love interest of his. He returns to the safehouse and finds Dean alive and kicking. The two do their usual checks and embrace – nothing unfamiliar to longtime fans of this show. The soap opera kicks in and the two argue, pity, and question each others’ motives since Dean was sent to Purgatory. Sam has apparently stopped hunting completely, missing the desperate calls for help from the prophet Kevin who they decide to search for. They head to where they think Kevin is, speak with his girlfriend, and do more research as they continue the soap opera in their hotel room, complete with flashbacks galore.
Time after time after time we see this scenario where one brother is actually alive and time after time after time, the reaction and the ensuing drama feels disconnected and a bit forced. I guess the brothers are so used to it by now seeing as how there is always a lukewarm reception. The whole bickering about not looking for Dean and Sam moving on was plain annoying. I’m not sure if I was annoyed by the concept or by the writing. Either way, it wasn’t handled with the utmost care.
By far the most interesting part of the episode came down to Dean’s flashbacks. The wild sense of Purgatory coupled with Benny’s promise of freedom showed an unbelievable amount of potential. Even the strange sword had a character of its own. When Benny mentioned that the only way out required a human portal, a feeling of the old Supernatural came rushing back. The mythology with the series has always stressed the importance of being a human, especially those that find themselves in situations such as Dean and Sam’s. As far as I can tell, most of the mythology will go back to the wonder years of demons and Hell.
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Sam on the other hand is slightly off. I’m not sure where this show is going with Sam’s character, but I can honestly say I don’t like it so far. His flashbacks are not nearly as important or even as remotely interesting as Dean’s and the whole dog fiasco seemed ridiculous. Then then vet comes in and I’m wondering when I switched the channel and started watching a romantic drama. Sam in general seems extremely disconnected from the Supernatural world, which I can only hope serves a greater purpose than just an attempt to flesh out a character that doesn’t quite need it. I don’t really care how he got his dog.
Moving on with the story, the brothers ultimately find Kevin, who in a flashback of his own, kicked some demon ass and found a way to seal the gates of Hell for good. More bickering happens with Sam and Dean, which results in Sam convincing Kevin to help them seal Hell in order for him to have the normal life he left behind when he took the reigns of a prophet. Crowley and company come back with Kevin’s girlfriend and through some twists and turns, Dean, Sam, and Kevin end up escaping.
Personally, I find the guy who plays Kevin almost unbearable. I’m convinced it’s his acting skills, which can be improved – hopefully – but for the most part, I only see an identity crisis. From what I understand, Kevin is supposed to be somewhat fragile and confused as evident of his conversation with Sam. However, when he talks about sealing the gates of Hell, a disjointed snarkiness comes from him almost as if he became possessed by a demon. I know he’s revealing the overall plot for this season, but this boasting is very uncharacteristic. It would have worked better had he revealed it in an almost terrified way – you know, because he’s terrified. If he was indeed confident, he would have already tried to seal Hell, but instead he sits in an abandoned church doing who knows what. In fact, I hope he was already working on the seal. To top it off, Crowley kills Kevin’s girlfriend. So what. I don’t think anyone cared. Another attempt at giving Kevin too many personalities.
The final scene showed the charming Benny calling Dean. The two share a conversation about staying on their own paths while revealing very subtle hints that they do have a brotherly bond. Great way to end the premiere. Benny will be an interesting character to follow even if he ultimately ends up not having anything to do with sealing the gates of Hell. As others moan and groan, I feel it was smart to make him a vampire and not say, a shapeshifter. Before the sparkles, vampires were known to be more human than any other monster and a seductive one on that. Vampires have something an audience can latch onto, meaning Dean has something to latch onto as well. I can only hope they keep Benny around.
Overall, this episode felt unevenly paced with almost too much going on. I understand that this show went through a major turn in direction, but it should still feel like a continuation of season 7. Instead, we’re back at square one as if season 7 didn’t exist. That may be a good thing in the long run as this episode was made to be a set-up and solely a set-up, but there is much to be desired. They need to fix the whole Sam charade, kick Kevin a few times, and give us as much Purgatory as humanly possible. I know you can do it Supernatural. Carry on!Previous