One episode was provided prior to broadcast.
When Supernatural was still in its earliest of seasons, a neighbor of mine said his general disinterest in the series came because “there are only so many ways you can say ‘boo.'” Of course, we’ve come a long way from the monster of the week formula inspired by various urban legends and such, with the horror series relying more so on the rich mythology it’s created in the time since.
Make no mistake, those who’ve followed in the footsteps of creator Eric Kripke – Sera Gamble, Jeremy Carver and now, Andrew Dabb and Robert Singer – figured out more ways to say “boo,” though I fear the current creative team is running in short supply. Or, at least, that’s the impression I’ve been given by season 14’s premiere.
Don’t get me wrong, Dabb and Singer can till boast some great accomplishments, such as opening up the multiverse that’d been hinted at by “The French Mistake” years before, as well as putting together the epic crossover that was “Scoobynatural,” which stands as one of the show’s crowning achievements.
In a nutshell, season 14 opens with Apocalypse World’s Michael continuing to take up residence within the body of Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles), who’s now come over to what we’ll call “Earth-1” in order to conquer and rule. This, obviously, sends brother Sam (Jared Padalecki) and angelic best friend Castiel (Misha Collins) on a quest to track down the absconding archangel and get Dean back to being the bacon cheeseburger loving guy we’ve come to know.
If there’s a breath of fresh air to be savored in the meanwhile, it’s Ackles being able to experiment by playing another character, something I think he’s doing rather well. Though he’s putting his own stamp on Michael, I appreciate how he hasn’t deviated from the groundwork laid by Christian Keyes, thereby maintaining the mannerisms and vocal cadence already established. This wasn’t something we experienced with Lucifer, who’d also been portrayed by a handful of actors.
Still, this is a veritable double-edged sword because viewers aren’t going to want to see Sam and Dean separated for long, as they’re the core of the show. My gut tells me that Michael will find a new vessel before long, or perhaps even give way to a greater evil. We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.
If the second option just described pans out, it’ll probably have something to do with the void left in Hell now that it lacks a king. With Crowley, Lucifer and Asmodeus all dead, every demon possessing a sense of grandeur no doubt has designs on the throne, and we see that arrive in the form of Kip (yep) in the first episode.
As Sam aptly put, he’s no Crowley, so I’m glad he’s not sticking around. That aside, getting past these angel and demon power struggles is a problem the producers need to address because it got stale after season 9. There’s a reason this series will soon hit the 300 episode milestone, and I’m sure it can go for 400 if some folks don’t keep on going back to the same well.
If there’s to be a silver lining in all of this, it’s that we could see some good old fashioned monsters be prominently featured over the course of the 19 entries to follow (don’t forget, season 14 will have an episode count of 20). I’m not going to spoil everything in that regard, but Sam and the survivors from Apocalypse World are running diligent operations in hunting down all manner of grotesquerie.
By now, you’re probably thinking I’m being very harsh on “Stranger in a Strange Land,” and I kind of am. As someone who’s been on the bandwagon since the pilot episode first aired back in fall of 2005, I’ve seen the ups and downs encountered by this series. And while not every premiere will have an impact similar to that of strong openers such as “Lazarus Rising” or “Meet The New Boss,” they shouldn’t feel like an average episode that’d otherwise be airing in February.
Gripes aside, I made the decision long ago to stick with this show until the very end, and the latest installment does have its moments hinting this season’s best is yet to come. The Winchesters may be separated, sure, but we at least get a dose of the heartwarming stuff by way of the newly established dynamic shared between Jack (Alexander Calvert) and Apocalypse World’s Bobby (Jim Beaver), as the the latter takes the former under his wing now that he has to deal with being mortal.
Before I get out of here, I’d just like to say that if I end up reviewing Supernatural season 14 on Blu-ray next summer, fingers remain firmly crossed in hope of it reading drastically different from what I wrote today. The producers have 19 more chances to dazzle us in ways like never before – and, by that, I don’t mean, “hey, we did Demon Dean and Angel Sam a few years back, so now let’s do Angel Dean.” Granted, we’ve already started down that road, but there’s nothing saying what’s to come has to be a total rehash.
Even if you're with Supernatural until the end just as I am, you may find yourself wondering what's "new" about its latest season.