It’s been said a million times by this point, but nonetheless, the fact that this is season ten still blows my mind. Six years ago when I watched my first live episode, who could have imagined we’d still be doing this all this time later – and enjoying it so thoroughly?
Okay, let’s talk about "Black".
Okay, let’s talk about "Black".
As season premieres go, this was pretty good. It picked up the story from last season (demon-Dean) pretty well and laid out some good pathways to follow. We touched on all our primary characters, with excellent looks at just where they are and what they’ve been up to since we saw them many, many months ago. The writing was tight; filming, sets, mood setting and acting – as is typical for Supernatural – were all exceptional, as always.
Sam – Brother on a Mission
We open on Sam torturing a demon chick for information about where Dean has gone and demanding she call Crowley, or someone who can get in touch with Crowley. The demon insists that nobody will respond; that they can’t get in touch with Crowley. This is after she cruelly taunted Sam about becoming a demon (this won’t really click for him until later). Sam is focused to the point of near madness – he is enraged yet controlled and channeling everything into finding Dean. Jared is superb in this scene; Sam is almost maniacal yet eerily focused. Every emotion is conveyed through nuance with almost no dialogue (one of my favourite moments in the episode). Don’t mess with a pissed off Winchester looking for their brother.
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.
Apparently Crowley wanted to experience the “brothers-on-a-road-trip” life for a bit, and Dean is his new BFF. They have girls together, karaoke together, do the “bitch/jerk” thing after having had sex in the wrong bed (I’m not sure how I feel about that phrase being corrupted to be honest, but it was nice to hear it again. Sigh.). Yes, Crowley and Dean are having a whale of a time on the road. Or so it seems.
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?
Dean left Sam behind, he went with Crowley – willingly for all intents and purposes it would seem – and he insisted Sam let him go. Was that because he doesn’t want his brother to see what he is now or what he’s afraid he’ll become under the Mark? There was a reference that if the Mark isn’t sated by demon kills, then Dean will lose control – that it a flashback worth exploring.
Ultimately, Dean cruelly tells the girl off, whether because he’s actually cruel or to make a sharp break with her after she’s seen through him too much is a hard guess at this point, but I’m inclined to the latter. Dean heads out to meet Crowley (or I assume that’s where he’s heading) when Military Guy calls and threatens Sam in exchange for meeting Dean, whose response is…unexpected:
“There’s no trade. There’s no meet up. There’s no nothing. Except the 100% guarantee somewhere down the road, I will find you and I will kill you….I told him to let me go, so whatever jam he’s in now, that is his problem... He knows me and he knows damn sure that if I am one thing, I am a man of my word."
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.
Castiel – Rough and Tumble
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.
Anyways, Misha as always plays the befuddled Cas well. Here he plays a sick, struggling and concerned Castiel just as strongly. Cas and Sam discuss missing Dean before Sam insists he doesn’t need Cas, it’s probably not a lead. Later we have Castiel dragged into another Heavenly drama by Hannah, an incredibly single-minded angel of the belief that all angels must return to Heaven. Period. No exception. Or be executed.
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.
Castiel tries to explain that though the human world seems insane, it – and human things like dreams, love, hopes, etc. – can be a good thing. Not all bad comes from chaos. It’s unclear what exactly Castiel’s role is at this point; perhaps teaching the other angels what he’s learned after so long on earth. Maybe he can function as a peacebroker between the Heaven bound-angels and those still on earth. One way or another, Castiel must address the grace he’s losing or die.
While it’s nice to see Cas with his own storyline, it must intersect with the boys shortly. The chaos to produce good things – a metaphor for Dean’s new “loose” behaviour leading to something necessary in the future? Only time will tell.
Crowley – Devil in Charge
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.
Crowley of course wanted this to happen to Dean, wanted Dean as his right-hand man – maybe as much for the power as for the friendship part of it. Crowley is as slick as he’s ever been in this episode – my favourite moment being when he reveals to Dean that, oh by the way, Moose called, he’ll be here in the morning. It was his last trump card to get Dean to leave the rustic bar where he’d dug in deep. Crowley knows that Dean doesn’t want to see Sam, for whatever reason – but how many times can he use that card? He set it up so Sam could find them easily enough. The question now is how will he control the dynamite with Sam’s kidnapping thrown into the mix. And of course – the ever-asked questioned with Crowley: what is his endgame?
This was a good opening episode. It may not have had the flash-bang of previous openings, but sometimes that’s okay. If this is the tone we’re going for this season, it’s dark, it’s got some edge and it’s got a new world of mysteries. We’ve maintained the Supernatural elements in the boys, the demonic edge and extra characters but at the same time there isn’t such a weighty tone that some of the past seasons have had. Season ten looks to be a pretty good mix of fun, ass-kicking and Winchesters – all of which I fully approve of and gleefully anticipate.