Supernatural 9.01 – Are You Gonna Like It Here?
The title of the Supernatural Season premiere, “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here,” is much more interesting now that I’ve seen the episode. Who’s gonna like it where? Cas as a human on Earth? The rest of the angels now roaming the planet? Ezekiel inside Sam? Sam still alive instead of downing a few cold ones with Bobby in Heaven?
Excellent questions. And that’s a good thing to be able to say about a season premiere. The episode stirred up controversy, but even that says something about the passion and investment that fans feel in a show going into its ninth season – and also something about its complexity.
Lucky for me, the premiere helpfully coincided with the university’s fall break, so that meant that instead of teaching a lovely bunch of grad students, I got to stay home and watch a lovely bunch of hot actors on my tv screen. No offense, students, but I sort of prefer staring at the Winchesters and Castiel in his underwear.
The weeks of anticipation generally turn me into someone with very little emotional regulation ability by the time the episode actually begins, and this one was no different. In fact, it must say something about a Show when there’s MORE anticipation about its ninth season than there was about its first few seasons – the online buzz in every social media community was palpable, with cast, crew and writers all joining in. We started worldwide trending on Twitter in the morning, and it kept up throughout the rest of the day and evening off and on.
So yeah, just “The Road So Far” made me burst into tears. I loved the song choice, mostly because “Who Do You Love?” kept making me want to shout at the screen, “You, Show, I love YOU!” in a rather embarrassing fashion. The opening was technically really well done, and the new title card? AWESOME. I like the addition of Tahmoh Penikett as Ezekiel, though I’m not entirely sure if he’s going to turn out to be the ‘good soldier’ that Cas pronounced him. Of course, Cas didn’t say he was a good GUY, but a good soldier. Hmm.
Anyone who reads this blog regularly or any of our books can probably guess that I loved the emotional struggles that both brothers went through in this episode – because both of their struggles were about their newly strengthened bond. There has been repeated mention of “the promise we made each other in the church” (which always makes me want to giggle a little before it just makes me break into a wibbly smile) – the characters talk about it, Jared and Jensen and Jeremy Carver and Bob Singer have talked about it, fandom has talked about it all summer. That moment brought the brothers together in a way that felt strong and solid, and gave them (and us) great hope for the future. “The brothers chose each other,” Jared and Jensen and everyone else have been saying.
That bond between them, reinstated and re-emphasized, made the news that Sam’s death was “inevitable” absolutely crushing. To me, and to Dean. Not now, not when Dean just got Sam back! Not when the brothers are finally on the same page again, together! I was screaming protests and pleas at my television screen while Dean screamed at anyone who dared tell him Sam’s dying was inevitable. Ackles portrayed Dean’s anguish and panic so well that it amped up my own emotional distress into overdrive. It’s a wonder I don’t just collapse in the middle of this Show, I swear. I saw many Tumblr posts last night that said:
“911? Yes, I have an emergency. I just watched the Season premiere of Supernatural. Please send help.”
I know the feeling. Dean desperately praying for help had me reaching for the tissues immediately. His look of resignation and rage when Cas doesn’t (can’t) come, the way he sets his jaw when he sends out an open call for any angel, promising his IOU. Dean beat up and bloody, taking on the angels to give Ezekiel time to save Sam’s life. (And really, Dean should not look so hot being dragged down a hallway by his collar, beaten and bleeding with bow legs splayed…) There is never going to be a time when Dean fighting to protect Sam is not going to make me cry.
That the fighting part of Sam is personified by Dean in his head is no surprise. The brothers are thorns in each other’s sides, sometimes each other’s worst critics, but they are also each other’s strength. Dean is the part of Sam that wants to fight, and wants to live – because Sam knows that Dean is the one who will always fight for him. Part of that is love, and part of that is need. That kind of need is as selfish as it is selfless – Dean made the deal in Season 2 because he couldn’t live without Sam. Sam was no more able to live without Dean in “Mystery Spot,” and was willing to do just about anything to get him back.
There’s no question those weren’t all good decisions. These characters don’t make the morally right choices all the time, and if this were real life, I’d be horrified by some of them. Dean’s controversial decision this time did seem in character to me, though, which is mostly what I expect of fictional characters. I’ve heard people pleading for the life of someone they love, saying “I CAN’T lose him/her, I can’t!” when faced with impending unimaginable loss. If there’s any alternative at all, the panic and desperation of the moment are the set-up for many a bad decision. For better or worse, Dean Winchester has more alternatives than most, and damned if he won’t use every single one of them if it means saving Sammy. It’s not always right, or good, or advisable – but it IS Dean Winchester. It’s that effed up codependence that sucked me into this Show and has kept me here for nine years.
So Dean, I get why he did what he did. It will backfire on him, of course – and it should. You can’t make decisions like that without consequences. Big ones. But what about Sam? Why did he walk into that cabin, where he knew Death was waiting? (And oh hello Julian Richings, how I adore you and that character – for a second, I was even glad to see you!) I was babbling at my television screen trying to talk Sam out of giving up with almost as much zeal as the Dean in Sam’s head was. At first, it seemed like he accepted dying too easily, but then I thought about it more. Sam’s decisions, too, ended up seeming in character for me.
Considering the physical and emotional trauma that Sam has experienced over the past year, he is no doubt drained and exhausted – and Jared once again conveyed that brilliantly. Putting up a fight – against anything, let alone the pull of Death – is a lot to ask of someone in that condition. Sam clearly does not want to die, though. He fights against it, argues with the Bobby in his head, and repeatedly turns to his big brother, asking “what’s the plan?” Sam seems willing to go along with whatever plan Dean has. It’s only when Dean clearly doesn’t have a plan that Sam starts to realize that it’s hopeless. His gentle pat on the cheek as he dismisses the Dean in his head was heartbreaking. Dean’s inability to answer Sam’s question — that’s what makes Sam decide it’s time to go. He does want to fight, but he becomes convinced that it’s hopeless, and increasingly concerned that Dean will do something self destructive to save him. I don’t think Sam has ever gotten over the fact that Dean went to hell for him – to bring him back to life. He had to stand there and watch while his brother was torn apart, and he won’t – he can’t – do that again. His acceptance of dying, and his condition to Death, is all about making sure that this time, Dean will be okay. Both brothers are only concerned about the other.
We’ve seen Sam time and time again say that he’s unwilling to leave his brother out there alone if he has a choice. I think he felt he didn’t have one; Dean found a loophole for him and assumed Sam would want to take it. Assumption is, of course, a very dangerous thing.
Sam is essentially going through the stages of dying here – denial first, bargaining, eventually acceptance when there’s no other choice. Until Dean (and Ezekiel) give him one. At least that’s how Dean sees it.
Of course, this is problematic. Sam isn’t giving any kind of ‘informed consent’ here. He’s saying yes to Dean without knowing what Dean is even proposing – he’s essentially putting himself in Dean’s hands and saying ‘I trust you to save me.’
It’s unclear whether Ezekiel’s possession of Sam was more altruistic or selfish, but his argument to Dean for keeping it secret from Sam are – unfortunately – pretty compelling. If Sam kicks Ezekiel out too soon, he ends up dead, and we’re right back to why Dean did this in the first place. We’ll see how much that guilt eats at Dean, because this time, he at least struggled with the awareness that Sam should have been the one to make a real choice.
I interpreted that moment in the cabin when Dean appears to Sam and asks him to say yes as that being Dean, not Ezekiel. Ezekiel knew that only Dean could get through to Sam and sent him in, and then switched places with him when Sam said yes. That was Dean’s voice, Dean’s inflection, Dean’s mannerisms, in contrast to Ezekiel’s. And Death seemed to recognize Dean – he would have known if it was an angel, right? I’m going with that interpretation, because that was probably my favorite line of the episode. “There ain’t no me if there ain’t no you.” I need that to be Dean.
These boys live and die for each other, which is the most amazing, twisted, tangled up, codependent thing ever. And that, right there, is why I am still in love with this Show after 9 years. Is it healthy? Hell, no. Is it ‘realistic’, in the sense of something that happens every day in ‘real life’? Hell, no. If I wanted realistic, I’d go to work. The brothers’ relationship is overwhelming and over the top in every sense of the word – and so compelling, I may never find fictional characters that captivate me like this ever again.
Apparently Show is going to run parallel story lines this season, and I did enjoy the Castiel-as-human storyline, though a few things made me scratch my head. It’s not like Cas hasn’t been dealing with humans and possessing a human vessel for a long time. Surely he knows about washing clothes and eating. I assumed, since he knew he’d had his grace taken, that he knew what to expect about being human. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the comedic bits and thought Misha carried them off well. It was a bit jarring to bounce back and forth between frantic Dean trying to save Sam and then Cas stripping down in a Laundromat. I’m not gonna complain about that scene though. For obvious reasons.
Oh, and RIP trenchcoat. Misha Collins must have been doing the happy dance (in his undies) after that scene. Now there’s a visual…
I also like the fact that the story will no longer be about what Castiel, as a powerful angel, can do for the Winchesters. He’s human now, more an equal. I liked that Dean was concerned about Cas – and that Castiel’s concern wasn’t for himself, but for Sam. Already there’s a sense of equality, which is an interesting change to the dynamic between the three of them.
One of the best things about this episode wasn’t about the episode itself at all. The anticipation leading up to the premiere was fanned by the fact that so many of the cast, crew and writers were all online and tweeting and posting about it. The writers got together for a viewing party. Osric Chau was online tweeting along with fandom. Guy Bee chimed in on Twitter. By the time the West coast viewing happened, Jared and Jensen were watching together in one of their trailers, sharing Jared’s twitter account to tweet with fans and share tidbits of inside information.
The last line of the episode made me emotional all over again.
“We’ve got work to do.”
A call back to the pilot, and a line repeated throughout the series. As Jared tweeted, “One of my favorite themes of Supernatural.”
My own conclusion about Season 9? I think I’m gonna like it here.
What about you?