Okay, let’s talk about “Black”.
Months (give or take) later Sam is just as determined, even though he is clearly dejected. He is excited over the possible lead of the murder in the gas station, and when he sees Dean “porn-guy” on the camera – but you almost don’t know whether to be excited for him or sad for him as the realization dawns on him about Dean’s black eyes. One thing that is very clear throughout the episode (and yes, this may be repetitive, forgive me) is the sheer single-minded determination that consumes Sam. Never before have we seen Sam quite this directed at one mission and although it’s a case of Dean missing and it is demon-related; it is almost refreshing to have this specific, non-universe-threatened mission as the focus. Calling back to season one we have a missing family member (or one to track down anyways) and it isn’t about a global/universal crisis – it’s familial to start with, and supernatural to finish. After several years (enjoyable, to be sure) of universe-spanning drama, this is a welcome fresh-breathe kicking off the tenth season: refocusing on the boys.
Sam’s tracking of Crowley after luckily (or maybe planned by the King himself?) stumbling across the cell phone and realizing that Dean is not dead and possessed but in fact still himself, with a bit more spice stirred in and a little less white-hat, was a great moment. Again it emphasizes Sam’s quiet but all-consuming rage and perhaps now that he has this information – that Dean is still himself (mostly), he has some hope to drive him even more. After all, we know that Winchesters on revenge/suicide missions are the absolute most dangerous.
The one scene I have a bit of issue with is Sam and our newcomer on the roadside. I kept waiting for Sam to draw his weapon or to have anticipated that this was a bad guy because everything in his manner: his walk, his talk, his Cheshire cat grin – it all said “please don’t trust me, I’m the bad guy.” Particularly given that he’d approached Sam moments after his car crapped out on the side of a dark road – and he himself commented that it was a quiet place where few people come by. Sam even points out the guy looks like a poster child for army recruitment i.e. flashing neon sign on his head saying “I’M DANGEROUS.” Yeah, Sam was a bit slow here for me but he’s running on little sleep and corn flakes so I guess I can give him a break.
Finally, Sam is tied to a chair and taunted that he’s going to be bait, more or less, for Dean. Sam tries to warn the guy off, saying Dean is a “monster” but Military Guy won’t listen. He just chuckles in that know-it-all way baddies do and comments on knowing Dean way back when. I admit, I’m curious about this storyline. How does he know Dean? He’s not a hunter really – he said “let’s go with that” when Sam said he was, so who the heck is he and what’s his thing for Dean about? I’m hooked.
Dean – Living Free and Hard
The Dean we knew is still present and operating – just with far fewer inhibitions these days. And you know what? I kind of like him. Hats off to Jensen for keeping the Dean we love still present while loosening him up just enough. Dean always has that dangerous edge, he’s also always had contained wildness, if you will, that we get glimpses of but never to any full extent. Add a dash of demon and all those points are radically sharpened and shined.
Dean certainly has fewer control issues that he did before – which is to say if he wants to beat someone to a pulp – he will. Here he does it for a girl he kind of likes and doesn’t think should be treated that way by her ex-boyfriend. He will sing Karaoke, bad or not, to his heart’s content and drink as he pleases too. Dean also tells the girl outright not to get attached because he’s just passing through – but it looks like he was the one who was a bit attached. So the question becomes: is Dean’s new side warring with his old side, or is he trying to become someone new because he thinks that’s what he is now?
This is my other favourite scene in the episode: Jensen is calm, cool and collected. He delivers this with such smooth, matter-of-fact clarity that it is downright unsettling. In fact, it totally unbalances Military Guy, who we see glance at Sam and then lean against a doorway probably thinking “Huh. That did not go as planned. What the hell do I do with sasquatch now?” Dean comes across as could-care-less, but the expression on his face is icy rage – he is definitely going to get Sam one way or another and make that guy sorry – it is exceptional parallel to Sam’s own calm madness in the episode opening when looking for Dean.
Poor Cas. This guy never gets an easy storyline these days. When we open on Cas, he’s lying in bed looking pretty ill (and having spent three of my vacation days in a sick bed recently, I can relate heavily) and having a chat with Sam. The writers work in something about Cas and Sam and the broken arm. I’d be curious to know how that took place – honestly, if we get to see some of the missing time in flashbacks, that would be okay. I know some people can take issue with the flashback but if it keeps Demon Dean around throughout the season and gives us some misadventures of Sam and Castiel, I’m intrigued.
Hannah starts out nice enough, especially her concern for Castiel, but as we go further along in the episode, the audience and Castiel begin to see the extent of her one-way thinking that brokers no debate. It’s absolute, despite the fact that all Daniel wants to do is fish and be left alone, he must return. These angels don’t seem to learn much, generally, they are pretty all-or-nothing. Cas is injured saving Hannah from being killed after she starts the fighting in what was on track to being a simple discussion.
I couldn’t complete this review without a mention of Crowley – our resident trouble maker and Dean’s new best friend. As he always does, Mark Sheppard plays Crowley with the perfect mix of charm and manipulative slyness – a smirk here, a flourish there and Crowley has you under his thumb. But maybe not quite completely in Dean’s case.