By the first commercial break, we’d had a trans-portal arrival, graveside bloodletting, a toothy “hitchhiker” for Dean, Sam leaving a mysterious woman, Sam being watched by a stranger in the shadows, an awkward Winchester reunion and a Purgatory flashback complete with two beheadings. And we had not even begun to talk about Kevin! Could the rest of the episode keep up this pace??
Yes. Yes, it could.
From the moment Sam and Dean reunite, we can tell that they are, once again, at opposite ends of the spectrum. They seem similar to the two guys we met in the first episode of the series – Dean, a tightly wound hunter always on the ready and Sam, the reluctant warrior, conflicted about the path he wants versus the path seemingly chosen for him. But these two are no longer the young brothers who felt they could take on the world, but rather war-torn men who have faced death and seen loved ones die (including each other) too many times to count and carry those losses with them. Dean has been on the defensive for a year now and can’t seem to slow down even though he is out of Purgatory and back with his brother. Sam stoically returns to the hunting fold — especially when he realizes that his dropping out of the life left prophet, Kevin Tran, in the lurch – but he is clearly mourning the loss of something (or someone) he has left behind in order to take his place hunting beside his brother again.
But then we DO talk about Kevin (and it’s not pretty) and when we finally get to see Kevin, we find out that he has become quite the survivalist. He cleverly escaped Crowley and his demon minions and has evaded them for the past several months. But as the Winchesters find him, so does Crowley and even though they escape, Kevin suffers a heartbreaking loss. Kevin has now joined the ranks of the many damaged by evil in the Supernatural world.
During a stop at a gas station, as our new trio plan their next move, Dean steals off to make a phone call (or rather return a phone call). He is touching base with his toothy “hitchhiker” from Purgatory, Benny – someone he has neglected to mention to Sam and seems determined to keep it that way. Benny, in a cemetery (his perhaps?) complete with a funeral in the background, talks about how things have changed since he was last in this realm 50 years ago (“so many choices”). Though Dean seems sympathetic, he reiterates that it is best they stay away from each other until they re-adjust to being back topside. Benny, in his slow southern drawl, leaves Dean with one more thought – “I think you had it right, bud…Purgatory was pure. I’m kinda wishing I had appreciated it more – like you.”
Honestly, the end of the episode took me by surprise. Not because of some cliffhanger – the whole episode left me wanting for more of each storyline touched upon, so essentially the whole episode was a cliffhanger. No, it’s because I couldn’t believe an hour had passed. The whole episode moved and it was still on the move, much like our reluctant heroes, when it ended.
In a nutshell, here are the five things I loved most about the season 8 premiere of Supernatural.
- Winchesters Reunited. No matter what these brothers go through, I always love seeing them together rather than apart. It doesn’t mean there can’t be other people in their lives, but I prefer a united front with the boys rather than splintered. And yes, they have their secrets from each other, but they are together again and those pesky secrets always find their way out.
- Change / Growth. We’ve seen it happen before. A major life change, time passes and we’re promised change or growth in characters, but we just don’t see it. But this time, there are subtle (and some not so subtle) changes in all of our good guys and baddies. Dean and Sam’s changes are subtle and mentioned above. Kevin has gone from being a wide-eyed, timid teen to a crafty survivalist who is focused on his mission and more self-aware than ever before. And Crowley has also changed under the tension of the past year. Yes, he still has his snark, but there is an edge to him that is much more threatening (as evidenced by his deliberate but extemporaneous dispatching of Kevin’s girlfriend, Channing). Is the mask slipping or has the battle for his title as King of Hell taken its toll? Time will tell.
- Flashbacks. Normally I am not a big fan of flashbacks. They are often not done well and tend to chop up the continuity of the story. But in this episode, they are used wisely and sparingly. Hopefully, they will continue to be. Not only do they enhance the story with key plot points when needed (how did Dean meet Benny? How did Sam meet the mystery woman? How did Kevin escape from Crowley?) but they are visually telling as well. Dean’s purgatory is void of vibrant colors; it is de-saturated to the point that you can feel the coldness at the heart of it though it is not because of the weather. Sam’s flashbacks present more vibrant primary colors, still dark in hue but the softer, over-saturated lighting are ever so slightly dreamlike around the edges. Kevin’s flashbacks fall somewhere in the middle, more like present time, but much bleaker in tone and color. Makes me wonder what Crowley or Castiel flashbacks would look like. Here’s hoping we get to find out.
- Benny. This vampire with the wicked Southern drawl made quite a first impression – on Dean in Purgatory and on the audience as he appeared graveside right after oozing out of Dean’s arm. There are definite indications that he and Dean (who he refers to as “brother”) have developed a tight bond, but how much that will translate to this world remains to be seen. Is this Gordon 2.0? I’m hoping there are more shades of gray to the story than that.
- Castiel. OK, so he wasn’t in the episode, but he was mentioned. But, it is what was NOT said about Castiel that is the most compelling. There is a story to be told about what exactly happened to Castiel in Purgatory and I have a feeling it’s a doozy. I, for one, can’t wait.
Needless to say, I am looking forward to the next episode. In Supernatural 8.02, “What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?”, Mrs. Tran joins Sam and Dean on the road. Kevin (guest star Osric Chau) talks Sam and Dean into checking in on his mother (guest star Lauren Tom). When they arrive, they see that Crowley (guest star Mark Sheppard) has surrounded her with demons so they rescue her and take her along on their quest to find the tablet. However, they soon discover Kevin wasn’t kidding when he said his mother was a strong-willed woman after she tries to take on Crowley. John Showalter directed the episode written by Andrew Dabb & Daniel Loflin.
Supernatural airs Wednesdays at 9PM est/ 8PM cst on The CW.
And if you haven’t already done so, check out our interviews with the cast and writers of Supernatural from San Diego Comic Con this year.