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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