Willie Burnley ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Have you felt yourself craving fiendish creepers, righteously angry angels, diabolical demons, and man-eating monsters? Well, the sacrifices you have made to that hidden altar must have pleased somebody, because on October 3rd Supernatural came back for its eighth season. And “the road thus far” for the two demon-hunting brothers Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) has been rocky to say the least.
The last time we saw Sam and Dean they were still reeling over the re-loss of Bobby (Jim Beaver), the only person alive that they would consider family, and were mounting a suicide mission against the human-hungry Leviathans. Along with Castiel (Misha Collins), their psyche scarred angelic friend, the brothers infiltrated the Leviathan headquarters in order to kill Dick Roman (James Patrick Stuart), the man-eater in charge. In what has become a classic Winchester move, the two almost die a number of times and yet triumph over the odds when Dean stabs Dick in the neck with an ancient, blood-soaked bone. However, in the aftermath of their apparent victory comes a dimension-shattering explosion that lands both Castiel and Dean in the eternal battling pit of soulless monsters that is Purgatory. This leaves behind Sam who, by the end of the episode, is tricked by the clever and condescending King of Hell, Crowley (Mark Sheppard), and is helpless when the demon kidnaps Kevin Tran (Osric Chau), God’s new prophet.
One year and a new title card later, we come to season eight. The premiere was amazing, seamlessly throwing us back into the storyline and lacking just enough insight to keep us intrigued for later episodes. The pacing of the episode was also excellent, with just a few minor snags, but more on that later.
The episode starts with Dean escaping Purgatory, bloodied and wild, through some sort of human-only portal and pointing his gun at two startled campers. Normally, I would just call this Dean being Dean but, as we learn throughout the episode, the Dean we know might not be all there. As if to illustrate the point that things have changed, Dean resurrects a vampire named Benny who caught a ride through the portal via Dean’s arm. He then proceeds to give him a hug that is usually only reserved for family.
Not too long after this, the older Winchester and the younger meet-up for an emotional reunion (one that begins with a dousing of holy water, blood-testing, and shifter-testing on Dean’s part). However, the family reunion is cut short by the tragedy and tension that is so characteristic of these two men when Dean says that he “saw enough” to know Castiel didn’t make it inside Purgatory and when Sam admits that he neither looked for his brother nor has continued hunting.
Obviously Dean isn’t too pleased to hear that his brother just decided to not make sure he was dead before giving up on him, although Sam counters that it is what they had said they would do for each other. And about the hunting? Like most things in Supernatural, it has to do with the death of a girl. More than that, though, Sam tries to explain that everyone he cared about in the world, everyone he had hunted with or for, was dead. In his own words:
“I had no one, no one. And for the first time in my life, I was completely alone.”
But what is more immediately concerning is what, or who, Sam forgot about during his year-long vacation (does the name “Kevin Tran” mean anything to you?). It turns out that the new prophet of the Lord had escaped Crowley’s grips and for at least half a year had been reaching out for Sam’s help via voicemail messages to a phone that Sam had just turned off.
So, the two set out to find Kevin. In the interim, the viewer gets a second-hand look at Dean’s time in Purgatory in flashbacks filled with savage fighting. We also get the sense that Dean’s time there has changed him in some deeper way than he is letting on because, despite being in a land that blurs the line between life and death so much, the older Winchester calls the place “pure.” The adjustment coming back from that combat zone, however, is not easy. This is where Jensen Ackles shines, portraying the perpetual soldier that is Dean Winchester even though, now, he seems to move with the same jumpiness as a young veteran back from ‘Nam. In contrast, Jared Padalecki gets stuck acting out flashbacks about hitting a dog with the Impala and the inadvertent love interest veterinarian that comes out of it. It’d almost be funny how out-of-place the sequences were if they didn’t slow down the episode so much.
Eventually, though, the two do find Kevin in a place marked with demon snares and booby-trapped buckets of holy water. With a new haircut, attitude, and attire, Tran seems to have transformed himself from a socially awkward, Princeton student to a remarkably more self-confident demon destroyer. Osric Chau definitely gets some points for his range and realistic portrayal of the character.
Kevin tells the two brothers that not only did he learn how to defend against demons from a tablet Crowley got his hands on (a tablet that is literally the Word of God), but he also learned a way to close the Gates of Hell forever. This would effectively make it impossible for demons to come back, pretty much ending the seemingly eternal war of good vs. evil that the hunters like Sam, Dean, and Bobby have been fighting. Dean, fresh out of the demon fighting in Purgatory, jumps at the idea. However, Sam, who has been riding the free will wagon for about a year, is less enthusiastic to throw himself back in the ring, causing further tension between the two brothers.
About this time, Crowley shows up to collect one prophet of God and uses Kevin’s ex-girlfriend as a hostage. Now, there’s a good and bad side to what happens next. On the bright side, Kevin puts his Ivy League education to use by spilling a bucket of holy water on Crowley and escaping with the Winchesters in Dean’s Impala. On the bad side, Kevin sees Crowley snap his ex-girlfriend’s neck as they drive past. Ouch.
The episode ends with Dean giving a tough love speech to Kevin and then sneaking off to call Benny the Vampire Slayer as if they were secret lovers.
The episode was an awesome way to get back into the Supernatural spirit. The episode was both specific enough to give us what we needed and vague enough to leave us wanting more. We know that there will be more Purgatory flashbacks, which will ultimately have to explain Benny’s significance to Dean and what really happened to Castiel (because “I saw enough” doesn’t cut it, Dean). For better or worse, this also means that Sam’s dead love interest will be making more cameos as he strolls down memory lane. We also know the new mission: to keep Kevin safe so that they can close the Gates of Hell and cut demons off from the world forever.
What we do not know is how fully the year has changed our two protagonists. Sam seems more unsure in his purpose than he has been in a long time and Dean could very well go on a murderous rampage at almost any time. Given the time he has spent in constant combat, Dean might also want to seek a companion with more of a taste for mayhem than Sam can muster. All this adds up to an interesting season that could very well tie up the show altogether. To see how it goes, tune in on Wednesdays at 9/8c on the CW.