Hey, everyone, Julia here (your trusty Supernatural reviewer/hate watcher/helpless fan.) Super excited to be back for season 8!
In case you had forgotten, or didn’t spend the summer worrying about the Winchester boys with the rest of us, last season ended with Dean and Castiel sent to purgatory and Sam alone in the world. The episode opens with “Man in the Wilderness,” playing over the cold open, and despite my personal feelings on Styx, the song is very Dean and reminds me of what drew me tot he show in the first place–classic rock and demons. The moment is lost, though, when I couldn’t help but think of Yogi Bear as Dean ran through the woods stealing backpacks. In any case he resurrects a vampire friend and meets Sam at their cabin. I could tell I was supposed to be shocked about Dean’s choice in purgatory partner, but honestly it’s not unprecedented enough to do anything but make me glad Dean can actually make a friend. Besides, Dean’s “demons bad, people good” hard line has been tested so often his fidelity to it at his point seems silly. In the cabin, we are treated to some of the worst dialogue the show has ever seen (including “Dude, your frickin’ alive.”)
I’d also like to register my unsurprise that Sam chose a dog and a life over hunting. When presented with the option, when has he ever chosen differently? Leaving Kevin in the lurch was a pretty crappy thing to do, but Dean and Sam have been having this fight since the pilot. Dean should know where Sam stands by now. It’s frustrating to be left with the idea that despite Dean’s ever growing angst monster, these characters have not really developed at all. As Dean and Sam argue about Sam’s apathy, we see Dean flash back to his time in the Instagram forest of purgatory. He fights his way through the demons and eventually teams up with his vampire friend to get out. When Sam asks about Castiel, Dean dodges the question with a vague “I saw enough” and we aren’t shown anymore about it. Sam has flashbacks of his own, showing a thrilling tale of hitting a dog with the Impala and never cutting his hair.
Back in the present, Sam uses some probably totally legit software to hear a clearly spoken word in the background noise of a message left by Kevin. They track him down, and he relates the story of how he used his word-of-god-translating-and-being-a-badass skills to except Crowley and hole up in an abandoned church. (Seriously, we need to talk about how Kevin is awesome.) Kevin also tells them about a hellgate (not located in Sunnydale, oddly enough) and that the word contains a way to shut down the gate and remove demons from the earth forever. Crowley shows up with Kevin’s demony ex, but fails to capture him and the boys all escape. The episode end with Dean getting a call from his purgatory friend, and you can see how worried he is about the complications of a demon buddy in his life. Dean obviously never went tot camp, so I guess he never learned that you don’t keep your camp friends after summer is over.
Overall this episode felt a little messy. While I didn’t outright dislike it, it was bland and awkwardly plotted. It’s hard for me to care too much about Dean’s angst about purgatory because it feels a lot like Dean’s angst about hell or his role in the apocalypse or anything else in his life. The thing about a show like Supernatural is that incredibly traumatic things are going happen to the characters. It’s unavoidable. There is a choice on the part of the storyteller to let the trauma affect the character or not. The choice made with Dean is clear. We can see all the things that have happened weight him down. The question is, what sort of catharsis can Dean (or us as an audience) get after eight years of just grinding him into the ground with no relief? Despite my complaints about the show, I care about the characters and don’t see a way for him to get better. Maybe that’s not the story they are trying to tell, but I can’t help but feel a little weary of the abuse Dean has suffered over the years. In spite of my reservations, I see potential for interesting story lines with Crowley, Kevin, Dean’s friend and whatever happened to Castiel. I look forward to seeing where it goes.