This review is based on the first episode.
I’m not sure that many of us who have been faithfully watching Supernatural since the pilot aired way back in 2005 thought it would make it to twelve seasons. It takes strong ratings, a great cast and crew, cult followers, and maybe even a little luck to make it this far. Those factors have not only allowed this series to endure, but to thrive.
Although Supernatural will forever remain a horror show at its core, an important quality that it’s never lost is that it’s the story of two brothers – Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester – who will literally move Heaven and Earth for one another. Furthermore, the basics are still prevalent: “Saving people, hunting things, the family business” – and it feels more like the family business than it has in years.
This is no doubt due to the freshly resurrected Mary Winchester, played by Samantha Smith. Her almost instant rapport with Dean was indeed heartwarming and her tireless pursuit of the missing Sam shows that hunters never truly leave the life, even if you’ve been dead for 33 years. I’m just wondering how big of a role Smith will play this season seeing as how she’s not part of the principal cast. Then again, that doesn’t necessarily mean much when it comes to this series. Case in point: The ever present Ruth Connell and Mark A. Sheppard, the latter of whom wasn’t granted series regular status for years.
That aside, another dimension is added to the show this season when we become more acquainted with an international chapter of the Men of Letters, represented by the mysterious Toni (Elizabeth Blackmore), who happens to be the one holding Sam captive in a basement (I’m waiting for her to tell him to put the lotion in the basket). I understand that she and the higher ups in her organization see the Winchesters as reckless, but these folks come across as more vile and ruthless than any monster or demon we’ve encountered in some time. It makes me wonder if the producers are playing on the old horror trope that humans are the most dangerous villains of all.
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As the series’ lore expands ever so subtly, I’d also like to point out that this episode falls into the category of those that are more heavily focused on the overall mythology as opposed to the monster of the week, which is understandable because this was a premiere. As such, there aren’t many real scares, but that’s alright, as the creative minds are simply laying the foundation for the 22 episodes to follow.
On that note, I’m glad that they didn’t fall into the trapping of tying up all of the previous season finale’s problems right off the bat or shoehorn too much into the premiere. We’re left to believe that Lucifer will play a huge part in what’s to come and they’ve only hinted at him. Yes, he’s showing up as soon as the second episode, but the buildup generously adds to the mystique.
Furthermore, we aren’t totally made aware of what the overall threat of this season is as of yet – something this series tends to make clear in the first few episodes – and one would normally suspect Lucifer, but it’s intimated that he and Crowley (Sheppard) will engage in a long awaited power struggle for control of Hell. The Men of Letters will obviously also be a key factor this year, although I sense things will be a bit smaller and more personal moving forward, which makes sense after season 11 went so grandiose involving God and his sister.
Thanks to the witty writing of new co-showrunner Andrew Dabb and the brilliant cinematography of stalwart director Phil Sgriccia, “Keep Calm and Carry On” made for a rather triumphant return. As a longtime fan, I’ll say with confidence that this was a stronger premiere than what has been offered in quite some time. I’m well aware that they all can’t be “Lazarus Rising,” which also happened to be one of the strongest episodes of the entire series, but I’ve been admittedly underwhelmed by certain premieres, including last season’s that basically gave us the Croatoan virus by any other name.
Perhaps it’s Dabb and Robert Singer that will provide a boon to this seemingly endless tale. Like a band hiring new guitarists, a creative renaissance could be afoot. And, judging from the opening credits, there seems to be some fresh blood in the writers’ room. As long as they’ve done their homework and are nurtured by veterans, the show should be in good hands. Sometimes long running series have a noticeable problem where writers haven’t studied past seasons very well, leaving you with contradictions left and right, as is the case with The Simpsons.
All in all, Supernatural is thankfully still Supernatural. The groundwork laid here is fundamentally solid and gives the impression that season 12 will make a lasting impact from start to finish. Whenever they finally decide to call it quits, there’s no doubt in my mind they’ll go out with the biggest bang a rock salt firing shotgun can deliver.
Those who have traveled on "the road so far" will undoubtedly want to continue the journey, for Supernatural season 12 has no shortage of heart, intrigue, or emotional resonance and isn't afraid to be genuinely disturbing.