A new season of Supernatural has begun! Here we are in the eighth season, the third year after the show’s originally intended fifth season end. The past two years have been a little shaky, so let’s see how this year, equipped with shiny new show-runner Jeremy Carver, will do. This first episode starts off with the usual recap of the previous season, this time set to “Locomotive Breath” by Jethro Tull. Once they stop rocking out and get to the actual episode, the first thing we see is that Dean has returned to earth. Again. That means he has now escaped hell, heaven, and purgatory. Does he get some sort of prize for that? It’s also a year after the last season left off, just like the year-long time jump at the beginning of season six when Sam returned from hell. This time, though, the brothers’ roles are reversed. Will that make for interesting plot fodder and character development built around their contrasting personalities and experience, or will they just rehash the same old storyline with nothing new? I can’t quite tell from this episode alone, but I liked it enough that I’m staying cautiously optimistic.
Next, we get introduced to a creature from the bowels of purgatory; a dark, dangerous beast with the most diabolical name imaginable: Benny. Benny (Ty Olsson) is a Vampire, and as we learn later, he helped Dean find his way out of purgatory in exchange for a ride back to earth. He also called Dean “brother,” which says a lot about how close they must have gotten while fighting for their lives. Dean doesn’t let people get that close very easily. There’s also bound to be some future tension between this “brother” and Dean’s real one. Their interactions with one another seem friendly but with an underlying tension that is typical when you team up with the very being that you used to hunt down and brutally murder. I can’t wait to see how their relationship worked down in purgatory and how it’s going to evolve now that they’re back on earth.
Notably, there’s no sign from Cas and, as Dean tells Sam later, apparently he didn’t make it. Something happened down there in purgatory that Dean doesn’t want to talk about. Can we trust what Dean says? Later, Dean tells Sam there was something “pure” about purgatory and Benny tells Dean the same thing, reminiscing about how Dean seemed to have enjoyed that “purity.” I’m getting the feeling that Dean went a little crazy down there himself, so who knows what happened to Cas. Is Cas really gone for good? Or will he pop back up again just like every other time he’s died? I love Cas and want him back on the show, but only if they have a good story for him. If they don’t know what to do with him then, I hate to say it, I would prefer it if they just give him a good ending and be done with it already.
We also get a new title banner this episode. Each season’s banner represents the main theme of the season, and this time we get the symbols from the tablet containing the word of god introduced last year. We’ve been told by the producers that there will be a quest this year, with the boys searching for something important. Will it be more tablets? Or something that the tablets describe? We’ll have to wait and see.
As for Sam, the other half of the Winchester duo, we first see him in this episode as he leaves behind a woman (who we later find out is named Amelia) and a dog to go get jumped by Dean and covered in fluids. Uh, that’s really what happened. They meet at their cabin hideout where Dean performs the usual demon/leviathan/shape shifter test by splashing Sam with holy water and borax, and then cutting his arm. Dean does the same to himself and, now that they’re both sure each other is real, they hug. Then it’s time for them to reconnect and explain what the hell has been going on for the past year, and it looks like the brothers are off to a great start: Dean lies about how he came back from purgatory while Sam lies about when he left his girlfriend. Clearly they haven’t learned a thing from previous seasons, where keeping things from each other has led to nothing but heartbreak and apocalypses.
Dean then gets upset about Sam giving up hunting without looking for Dean, which is odd since Dean did the exact same thing when Sam went to hell. For once, Sam actually paid attention to the “go and have a normal life” request that they make to each other every time one of them dies or gets trapped in another realm of existence. I understand that Dean gets angry because that means he thinks that Sam actually gave up on him–Sam, the baby brother Dean has given everything, even an occasional soul, for. If Dean hadn’t done the exact same thing two seasons ago, I might feel a little more sympathy for him. But I have to admit that it is different from what happened last time. Before his showdown with Lucifer, Sam specifically told Dean to go live a normal life once they stopped the apocalypse, while Dean just suddenly disappeared without any trace when Dick Roman died in an explosion of black goo. And yet, Sam had thought that Dean was dead, how was he supposed to look for him? Sam finally took his chance at a normal life and Dean feels abandoned, not unlike when Sam went off to college and left Dean behind the first time, so it looks like it’s business as usual in the Winchester family.
As the brothers get back on the road to hunt down Kevin Tran (Osric Chau), who had left a series of messages on Sam’s phone months ago, we get treated to some flashbacks. I have mixed feelings about the flashbacks. I both like them and feel a little afraid that I’m going to get annoyed with these things, so I hope they don’t overdo it as the season goes along. Sure, we get to see really cool stuff, but there’s only so many times a character can look wistfully off into the distance before flashing back to the gray-filtered past before I start rolling my eyes. However, it does create an interesting mood with the brothers having their own separate flashbacks, highlighting their isolation from each other over the year Dean has been gone and the remaining disconnection that still exists between them after their reunion.
And now for the return of Kevin Tran: Advanced Placement. Kevin is back and has leveled up from a high school nerd worrying about SAT scores to a total badass who destroys demons and tricks the king of hell. Through another tablet containing the word of god, (and where exactly are they finding these?), he’s discovered a way to close the gates of hell forever and is ready to help make it happen. I love Kevin and hope he doesn’t get sacrificed later on like every single person that the Winchesters have ever known. My one problem with his storyline, though, is that his girlfriend gets killed off as an obvious attempt at giving him a personal motive to close the gates of hell. I saw her death coming just as much as I could see that she was a demon (a demon that then killed her roommate–making that two females killed brutally in this episode–to make a long distance call to hell). Supernatural has a horrible habit of killing women for no good reason and that is one of my biggest problems with the show. It’s a problematic theme that I’ve come to live with, but every time a female character gets fridged, especially just to further the plot or the development of a male character, I feel like throwing things at the screen. This time was no different. Their brief interaction together consisted solely of Kevin informing her that she is both possessed by a demon and attending her safety school. Essentially, she was only there to die and it was completely unnecessary. Kevin’s been kidnapped by Leviathans, forced to do things against his will by the word of god, and lost out on the future he had worked hard for. He didn’t need any more reason to want to rid the earth of evil creatures.
The episode ended suddenly for me. We get the brothers back together, we get a hint at what happened when they were apart, we get introduced to what will probably be the season’s main plot line of finding a way to close the gates of hell, and then it kind of ends. There’s one more ominous interaction with Benny over the phone, where he and Dean make their relationship sound like some sort of illicit prison affair, and then the episode fades to black. As a standalone, this episode doesn’t work that well but that’s because it’s obviously the setup for the rest of the season, and it feels like it’s building up to something big. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.
While I was watching the episode it was a lot of fun, action-packed and fast-paced, but afterwards when I looked back I realized that the plot was a bit thin because so much of what happened is only the introduction of what’s going to occur in the rest of the season. In terms of character, we get introduced to two new people, Benny and Amelia, who will obviously have an impact later on, but we don’t learn much about them because, again, this is just the setup for what’s to come. We also get reintroduced to Sam, Dean, and Kevin Tran, seeing how they’ve changed over the past year, but with only hints as to how those changes happened. This episode is just the beginning of the story, introducing new characters, new story lines, new relationships, and right now it has a lot of potential. I liked this episode a lot more than I thought I would, and it made me eager to see how the rest of this season plays out, so it I guess it did its job by getting me hooked for what’s next. I’ve been disappointed with the past couple of seasons, but this episode has given me new hope. Let’s see how long that lasts. Next week, we have “What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?” where Kevin’s mom joins the action and we get our first glimpse of Cas in purgatory. This should be interesting…