Back in ‘Black’ – Supernatural Season 10!
There was so much anticipation leading up to the start of Season 10 (10!), that it’s almost hard to believe I didn’t feel let down by the premiere this week. The night before, the CW did something it’s never done for SPN – ran an hour long special ‘retrospective’, looking back over the past nine years of Supernatural. The special was an emotional and heartfelt tribute, not just to the Show, but to the fans who have kept the Show on the air for ten seasons. Seeing Eric Kripke back in the SPN Family was enough to make me reach for the tissues – add to that Rob Benedict’s narration, the voice of Chuck himself, and I needed multiple boxes. Before the airing, fandom made sure that writer and S6 and 7 showrunner Sera Gamble wasn’t left out, tweeting about favorite Sera-penned episodes and her lasting contribution to the Show with the hashtag #thankyousera. (We may have let her know that was happening after the fact, and she may have said thank you.) Throughout the special, the cast talked about what they owe to the fandom, with clear appreciation and respect. Mark Sheppard commented that he wasn’t so sure about people who aren’t passionate about something (which is pretty much the plot of Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls) and fanworks even appeared in the special itself. So we went into Tuesday night already at a fever pitch of excitement and full of love for Show.
And guess what? It didn’t disappoint. Season 10 started out with a ‘Road So Far’ that had a ton of momentum, with Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” moving things along quickly. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I love how the lyrics could be seen as an encouragement to fandom to take the source material and run with it.
“You’re the right kind of sinner, to release my inner fantasies…”
Demon!Dean? Um, yeah.
The theme is repeated in Dean’s choice of karaoke song, “Imaginary lover.” Having Dean Winchester sing about, as Jensen so suavely put it, “self pleasuring”, is an invitation to fantasy if I ever heard one.
Also, big kudos to @christopherspn for that amazing title card. Every year we all wait to see what the new season’s will be, and the Show never lets us down. I think this is one of my favorites.
The episode itself was a win in my book, though not entirely. The first flashback scene would have been much better if I hadn’t seen the promo – I’d had too much time to see it and realize she was talking about Sam and not Dean, so the pull-back reveal didn’t pack the emotional punch it should have. I’m trying to stay away from promos from now on. That scene was filmed and edited to include an element of surprise that was ruined by the too-long promos. Of course, this will require some self control on my part. We’ll see how it goes.
Reaching For The Tissues
The best parts were the ones that evoked an emotional reaction, which is so much of what I watch this Show for. The most poignant scenes were of Sam. When he walked into Dean’s darkened bedroom, frozen in silhouette in the doorway for a moment, my heart was in my throat. It was a scene that evoked loss so perfectly – the way we don’t want to change anything about the places that were theirs, the way we want to linger and touch whatever they last touched. I found myself tearing up as I watched Sam slowly walk across the room and pick up Dean’s note – the last thing Dean touched, the last message he had for his little brother. How many times had he done that? Every night? Multiple times a day? After all that time, the note was still there, carefully folded as Dean had left it. That scene broke me. Kudos Jared, for making me feel every ounce of Sam’s pain.
The other times that Jared did a stellar job of conveying Sam’s emotions were both phone calls (and both attempts at manipulation) – by Crowley and by mysterious new ‘hunter’ Cole. Sam’s face when Crowley torments him, telling him that he and Dean are now together, that Dean completes him. The rage all mixed up with the hurt – considering the depth of Sam’s grief, how agonizing must it have been to have Crowley twist the knife like that? Sam has lost a piece of himself, is incomplete, as we all are when we lose someone so important. And Crowley is rubbing salt in the wound. Everything that Sam has lost, Crowley is insisting that he now has.
The fact that it turned out that Sam was manipulating Crowley emotionally to keep him talking was a brilliant reveal. The fact that Crowley was in fact manipulating Sam to manipulate him because he wanted Sam to track them down was doubly brilliant! I love you when you’re smart, Show.
The actual taunting conversation between Sam and Crowley was priceless.
This tweet coming across my dash made me laugh out loud in the middle of it:
“You can’t stand the fact that he’s mine.” — Crowley during the weirdest phone call between ex wife and new lover ever #Supernatural
Dean and Crowley’s weirdly out-of-place exchange of “Jerk” “Bitch” was meant to sting. But it also made it clear that Dean is missing the camaraderie with his brother, and to some extent trying to recreate that with Crowley. It also made it quite clear that the relationships are not the same – at all. Despite the whole doing things with triplets thing. (Dean has a thing for sleeping with siblings, doesn’t he? Twins, triplets…hmmm).
The phone call that Cole makes to Dean was the other emotional highlight for me, for both Sam-related and Dean-related reasons. Sam’s reaction to Cole making the call said so much about his complicated feelings about his brother right now – he looked horrified that Cole was calling Dean and Dean was answering, as he refused to say anything. And yet, the entire time Cole held up the phone, there was such a look of longing on Sam’s face. Like, my brother who I’ve been missing so horribly is on the other end of that phone, and I want so badly to be able to talk to him — imagine someone you’ve lost, and cried over for months, and longed for, and now someone has them on a phone line right in front of you. But with a big horrible catch. Poor Sam – my heart broke for him in that moment. When Cole finally punches Sam to get an audible response, it breaks Sam’s resolve to be silent, and he calls out for his brother like we’ve heard him do so many times in the past nine seasons.
“Dean!” he yells, and you can hear the desperation in his voice. There’s so much pain there, and so much longing – how many times in the previous months has Sam wished he could call for his brother and have him come running one more time? What would Sam give for an answer from his brother? That scream of his brother’s name hit me hard, an echo of Sam’s scream of rage and agony in 9.23, which was an echo of Dean’s scream in 2.21 as Sam died in his arms.
Sam Winchester Is Back
Sam had my favorite lines of the night, specifically every single time he said the words “I’m going to save my brother.”
“I will save my brother or die trying” felt like the Sam Winchester I know and love was finally back. It was positively healing – for me. I’ve been bothered by the first part of Season 8 for a long time, maybe more than I realized. I still have trouble integrating the whole Sam-hit-a-dog-and-went-off-to-live-in-a-dreamworld-with-Amelia thing with the rest of canon and with who Sam is as a character.
I have to give Crowley credit for finding a way to skewer Sam right off. “Moose, took you long enough. Your brother and I were beginning to wonder if you’d hit another dog,” was perfect, and pure Crowley – go for his emotional weak spot. But it was also, to me, an acknowledgement that sometimes the Show I adore makes miscalculations, and I think that arc was one of them. I’m reading Jeremy Carver’s insertion of that line as an admission that yeah, sometimes we don’t get it right, but hey, we keep on trying.
I can’t help but think about the parallels between Sam’s current situation and Dean’s at the start of Season 9. Dean’s note said “Sammy, let me go,” which is what Sam asked of Dean in Season 9. And what Dean couldn’t do. Sam can’t do that now. Dean’s desperation and his willingness to do anything to save his brother ended up driving a wedge between them that lasted virtually the entire season, and tore most of fandom apart emotionally just as it did the characters. Sam’s now where Dean was, and he’s acting like I always thought Sam would – he’s willing to do whatever it takes to save his brother. Has it occurred to him yet that he now knows what Dean felt like, when he made that terrible desperate decision?
I always thought that Sam would have known a bit anyway. Mystery Spot Sam was as desperate and willing to do whatever it took as Gadreel-inviting Dean in Season 9. But the parallel is clearer now. Not justifying – in either case – the whole doing whatever thing, including something that someone else didn’t agree to. And human Sam being saved through possession by an angel is not the same as demon Dean being saved from being a demon. But Sam may be putting himself in Dean’s shoes more than he has in the past.
After going through a painful Season 9 when it was up for grabs whether the Winchesters were in fact still brothers, hearing both of them refer to “my brother” repeatedly was healing in itself.
Are You Still In There, Dean Winchester?
The other fabulous part of that phone call with Cole needs kudos to Jensen. Demon!Dean (I refuse to call him Deanmon because seriously, it hurts my ears every time someone says it. Also I can’t help but hear it like Bob Marley. Even Jensen’s tweets hurt my ears.) Anyway, Demon!Dean before that point had been equal parts amusing and acting like a jackass, but he hadn’t been horrifying. Or terrifying. I admit I spent much of the episode looking for signs of Dean’s lingering humanity, even after hearing Jensen tell me to my face that there’s not much of that left. I don’t think I can believe that, and I don’t think Sam – or Crowley – can either. There were moments when he just seemed like early seasons carefree sort-of-a-jerk-sometimes Dean, drinking and singing and playing foosball and jumping into bed with whoever caught his fancy. He didn’t seem so much demonic as disinhibited, like someone disconnected his frontal lobe functioning or he’d been smoking a lot of something other than cigarettes.
There were moments when he did seem to care – about Anne Marie, and about Sam. But that last scene of Dean driving, staring straight ahead and speaking with a chilling lack of emotion, was horrifying. I still want to read caring there, because he seemed pretty sincere when he informed Cole in no uncertain terms that if he killed Sam, Dean would absolutely positively kill him. But I’m not sure – and that, to me, is the most horrifying thing of all. I have always been sure of Sam and Dean. Even when Sam was soulless, I read some caring underneath. Even when Sam was addicted to demon blood and half demonic himself. I still read caring now, but it is as buried and twisted as I’ve ever seen it. And that is truly terrifying.
A part of me wants to interpret Dean’s “If my brother knows one thing, he knows I’m a man of my word” as a traditional Winchester coded message, something Sam will understand even if Cole doesn’t. Or to believe that Dean only told Cole he wasn’t coming for Sam to give himself the element of surprise when he does. But perhaps that’s wishful thinking, me desperately wanting to see Sam and Dean be Sam and Dean again. I know we’ll get there, but I fear we have to go through some more horror first. As much as Sam has wanted Dean to let him be independent and acknowledge him as a grown up, it was chilling to hear Dean say that he wasn’t going to untangle Sam from his own web. I hated hearing it, but it was a perfect way to portray the demonic in Dean.
Yay For Passion? Or Maybe Not
Other things I liked for the most part: Anne Marie. Though I wasn’t the only one who thought she looked a lot like Mary Winchester. That one moment when drunken Dean is waking up bleary and blurry-eyed, it almost looked like he was confused about who was coming over with some water and some of that caretaking that Dean is always missing (and always denying he wants). I won’t do any psychoanalytic pondering on why Anne Marie is the one disinhibited Dean takes to bed, but Emily Fonda does remind me of both Samantha Smith and Amy Gumenick. Casting agent preference, perhaps?
Anyway, I thought Emily did a great job and I liked the character. She teases Dean about taking too long (which nobody who has ever actually seen Jensen Ackles believed she would complain about for a micro second) and isn’t shy about letting him know that she enjoyed every minute of it. At first we think that she’s taken in by Dean’s display of machismo and “protecting her honor”, which would have been a disappointment, but it turns out she sees through it easily enough and realizes that it wasn’t about her at all, it was about him. She also turns him down when, defenses dulled by drink, Dean invites her to ‘go somewhere’ with him – rightly pointing out that a) they are somewhere, implying that running somewhere else never changed anything for anyone, and b) they barely know each other. She’s not romanticizing their sexual relationship or falling for his altruistic white knight façade. Good for you, Anne Marie. She says that she’s seen good guys and she’s seen bad guys, and knows what kind he is. The line that Ackles delivers (perfectly) next is the most cutting of the episode – “The kind of guy who sleeps with every skank in every dive he passes through? You really do know how to read people ‘cause that sure does sound like me.”
Ouch. That stung right through the television screen. That was the first time the extent of how much Dean has changed came through loud and clear. At the same time, Ackles flinched as he delivered the line, which seemed to be as much about Dean’s internalized self-loathing as his view of Anne Marie. He lashed out in anger in a way that was horribly cruel when he felt rejected, which made Dean at that moment a very unlikable character indeed. Her reaction made it even more painful to watch, and perhaps negated a bit of the message that I wanted to take from their previous scene.
Show has a bit of a tangled history when it comes to messages about female sexuality (actually perhaps it’s even broader than that, but that’s for another meta…) – suffice it to say, Anne Marie’s near-acceptance of Dean’s characterization of her made my stomach bottom out. Urgh. I thought she might turn around and say, “And what does that make you?” Pretty sure even Demon!Dean would say he’s right there with her, because the comment was as much a condemnation of himself as her. Instead she acknowledged that she’s so messed up that she’s going to think she deserved that. If that was intended as a biting comment on internalized misogyny, then okay, because it’s a serious issue. Was it, Show?
My twitter dash gave me this:
“Ah, excellent! A character to celebrate internalized misogyny. I wanted this!!”
Let’s hope it was more pointed social commentary, less celebration. At any rate, Anne Marie was a memorable character and fleshed out enough to leave an impression. And I do think we saw some moments of caring from Dean – he seemed to retain actual Dean’s generosity in bed and his invitation to come away with him seemed genuine enough at the moment. The look he gave her when she approached the bed with the glass of water and aspirin was the most telling – Jensen played it with some real emotion, in a moment of obvious vulnerability. Here too, doesn’t Dean look like a little boy, raising his eyes to someone he cares about?
The other times I think (hope?) I saw some evidence of caring was when Crowley casually mentioned that he’d spoken to Sam. Dean spins around immediately, more interest on his face than we’ve seen up until then. He seems to be trying hard to feign disinterest, but it’s not entirely working. When Sam calls at the end of the episode (well, it’s Cole, but Dean thinks it’s Sam), he picks up the phone and tells Sam : “I left you an open tab at the bar, knock yourself out.”. That’s not exactly warm and fuzzy, but it’s civil and, for a demon, almost friendly. Or that could just be me wanting it to be that way.
Open Robes and Fish Metaphors
The angel arc was confusing to me, as the subtitle suggests. I’m still having a hard time integrating the two vastly different story lines. Every time they cut back and forth between them, I lost the momentum of the one I’d been invested in. I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s jarring.
The first angel arc scene opens with Cas laid out on his bed in what looks like a very seedy motel room indeed. It’s a really nice scene though, complete with slowly rotating overhead fan that Show is fond of, and Misha sprawled out in an opened robe with one leg enticingly out of the covers.
Not sure why he’s sleeping in a robe, which seems very uncomfortable, but apparently poor Cas is pretty out of it. He’s coughing like he has a terminal disease, which is pretty accurate, and still trying to soldier on anyway.
Hannah (Erica Carroll) shows up, Cas answers the door in his open robe and Hannah ogles his junk (totally understandable) which it takes Cas an implausibly long time to understand.
She says some rogue angels have killed the angel tasked with forcing them back to Heaven and she needs his help, and for some reason I’m not entirely clear on, Cas says okay. The entire time, he doesn’t seem at all invested in this goal – it’s almost like he’s just going along with Hannah.
I had the odd feeling that Cas and Hannah were mirroring Dean and Sam at times – driving along in a big classic car (not as cool as the Impala at all, but…), stopping to have a conversation across her hood, arguing about taking the turns too fast/slow/what was that about? Castiel said “Hannah” as often as Dean says “Sammy”, which also struck me. I’m not sure what the relationship is supposed to be between them, other than they clearly respect each other as “soldiers” and for the part each played in defeating Metatron.
I liked Hannah last season, but she didn’t come across as favorably in this episode. I was just starting to like fish-metaphor-guy-angel (Daniel?) when Hannah instigated a fight and he ended up dead. His question that now that the angels have fallen, why couldn’t he and Adina exercise the free will they’ve learned from humans, made sense. I think that Cas thought so too, but his loyalty to Hannah made him defend her and kill Daniel instead. Now they’re both wounded, Cas’ grace is failing, and I’m not sure what Hannah’s game plan is. What’s worse, I don’t much care. I care about Cas, and found myself yelling at him as they’re driving and he’s talking about the good that can come from the chaos that is humanity, urging him to stick with what he’s learned and not be swayed by angelic propaganda. I feel like Cas has struggled with this before, though. Go with your gut, Cas!
My favorite Cas scene was his telephone conversation with Sam, in which they both haltingly tried to convey that they cared about the other, and Cas finally blurted out the obvious: “I miss him.” Kudos to Misha for investing those few words with so much emotion.
Mysteries: Cole and Crowley
The other new character was Cole, who was introduced with a montage that made me think he was a cross between a “good family man” and John Winchester, driven and revenge-fueled. Also, he has a fax machine, which implies that he’s so driven he’s gotten stuck in the 90’s. Travis Aaron Wade did a great job with the character, who came off as both menacing and fascinating. He can pull off humor and then turn it into chilling behavior on a dime, which fits in well with our Show. What’s his story? What did Dean do to him or his family that set him on this path to revenge and turned him into a self-professed monster?
As much as I enjoyed Cole, the way in which he overpowers Sam both intellectually and physically really rankled. Sam had just been allowed to be Smart!Sam, my favorite flavor of Sammy, and I’d been reveling in that very happily. Then his car inexplicably dies on a deserted stretch of road in the dark and a guy appears instantly and offers to help, and Sam just shrugs and says oh yeah thanks and then lets himself be slugged unconconscious? Seriously?
I’ll have to put it down to the fact that Sam is sleep deprived, distracted with worry, and only has the use of one arm (thanks to Jared’s insistence on wrestling with Osric Chau at a con over the summer – read the whole story in our interview with Osric here — https://fangasmthebook.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/osric-chau-on-his-emotional-last-scene-as-kevin-and-the-perils-of-wrestling-with-jared/ ). I love that they had to worm it into the storyline. Boys.
I just had a long discussion with my daughter about the premiere, and was (pleasantly) surprised to find out we agreed on just about everything. Is the moon blue? (Oh wait, that’s blood red, isn’t it?) The one thing we weren’t entirely in agreement about was Crowley. I think he has some genuine affection for ‘Squirrel’ – and for Moose – although he’s primarily motivated by his own selfish aspirations. Emily thinks there’s no affection for anyone but Crowley in Crowley, and that even his caring about his son was a result of the human blood he was addicted to at the time. Who’s to say that’s all out of his system though? Or that he wasn’t changed permanently by that experience? Hmmm. I guess we’ll see.
What we do agree on is that Crowley is the undisputed master of manipulation. All that warning Dean that “you have to feed the mark, keep it sated” as the reason Crowley’s been chumming the waters with demons for Dean to kill? Nope. I don’t believe it. It seems more likely that Crowley’s been making sure Dean uses the blade on a regular basis, so he stays as demonic as possible. After all, when Cain threw the blade away for the love of his wife, he was a lot less demonic over time. Crowley wants Dean as demonic as possible. Has Dean figured this out yet?
I enjoyed the karaoke scenes, though I kept getting distracted thinking that Demon!Dean with his longer hair and different wardrobe looks more like Jensen than Dean. I half expected Rob Benedict and Louden Swain to be playing backup at the bar! Kudos to Jensen for managing to sing so poorly when we all know he can sing for real. I loved the foosball scene too, because it was ridiculous and unexpected and Crowley actually was getting into it. It was a nice way to show the odd camaraderie that has developed between the two of them, at least from Crowley’s side. I’m not sure Dean is feeling anything akin to affection for Crowley at all. Maybe he just doesn’t want to be alone – as Sam has rightly pointed out, Dean can’t stand to be alone. He needs to be away from Sam right now, so Crowley has stepped in as a sort of replacement brother figure. By the end of the episode, however, Crowley has manipulated Dean once too often – he drives off, alone.
More of My Favorite Things
The sheriff guy’s comment that “We don’t know if this guy’s a hero or a psychopath.” I feel like that weirdly sums up the first arc of Season 10. And that the same thing has probably been said about the Winchesters before.
Jensen’s ability to make Demon!Dean seem like Dean and yet set apart from Dean, with all those subtle changes he made to the character. Not just the hair (I actually prefer regular Dean’s hair, and I never thought I’d say that since I’m always complaining that they cut it too short – but I miss those iconic spikes!), but the way Dean moves, the way he carries himself, his expressions. The deadness in his eyes, the coldness in his smile. He keeps insisting he’s having the time of his life, but I don’t quite believe him. The fact that he needs to keep escaping with sex and alcohol seems to suggest that I’m right.
Mark Sheppard’s continuing amazingness as Crowley. How can I love a character who’s the King of Hell so damn much? Nobody does snarky and witty like Sheppard.
I’ve already raved about Jared’s ability to portray Sam’s loss and grief – but his rage and determination came through just as loud and clear. Misha gave us some clear glimpses of Castiel’s grief too, in his quietly understated conversation with Sam. I love Cas best when he’s allowing his humanity to shine through; his voice even softened when he talked to Sam.
Fandom LOVED Gas ‘N Sip clerk guy. I mean, LOVED him. He was refreshingly real, responding to Dean killing a guy ten feet in front of him with a totally understandable “code brown” moment, and refusing to be intimidated by Sam’s questioning. Then he calmly hands over the cell phone he’s retrieved. Hah! Also, the fact that he insisted on calling Dean “Porn Guy” was priceless. Not only did it cause Sam to make wonderfully uncomfortable faces, but it just seems… relevant. To me, anyway. Let’s go back to that inner fantasy theme we’ve got going, shall we?
Staying up for a rewatch during the West Coast airing was worth being a little tired at work the next day, as Jensen did his first live tweet. His attempts to bust Misha Collins with “close ur robe…seriously. Family show. Come on!” were mitigated by him using a hashtag instead of an @, much to fandom’s fond amusement. Meanwhile, he probably got about ten million tweets reminding him to hashtag #supernatural. Robbie Thompson has taught us well.
My favorite Jensen tweet was a kudos to Mark Sheppard. “And here I thought only Dean and Sam had angsty bromance arguments.” Jensen tweeting about angsty bromance arguments kinda makes my day. I did have to put my hands over my ears every time he tweeted about #Deanmon though. Ouch.
Where Do We Go From Here?
This first episode set up some of the themes for the season, it seems. Cas and Hannah are struggling over the relative merits of free will versus obedience, but their disagreement really comes down to an examination of humanity. All the story arcs are considering what it means to be human, and in contrast, what it means to be a “monster” (a favorite theme of Carver’s considering the title of his last show). Dean has called Sam a monster in the past and in this episode Sam refers to Dean as a monster (perhaps in part to dissuade Cole from going after him). Cole also refers to himself as a monster, and the demon Dar in the opening scene implies that Sam has become one in his quest to find his brother. Dean himself is a mix of nearly heroic (most of his violence has been targeted to someone who was a ‘bad guy’ or a demon) and monstrous. It’s part of the hero’s journey, after all, to descend to the depths of darkness and then crawl your way back out, to understand the darkness in yourself so you can live with that shadow side instead of splitting it off in denial and having it keep rearing its ugly head. I’m intrigued. Who will Sam and Dean be when they come out on the other side? Will they find Cas more human than angel?
The episode ended on that chilling expression on Demon!Dean’s face.
Then there was the preview. The one we got was about ten seconds long, and the dialogue was Dean growling, “What I’m gonna do to you, Sammy, you have no idea…” No context, just that. I literally dropped my phone. Not because it was ominous, but because it sounded like a random clip from something that was definitely not a sci fi genre show on the CW. I know we’ve been calling Dean “Porn guy”, but come on!
The extended promo is a bit less innuendo filled, but even more intriguing. I won’t give it away, but let’s just say that when even a mainstream site like TV.com is conjecturing about the horrifying and yet awesome possibilities of Dean being a demon and Sam being a recovering demon blood addict, you have a fandom that is on pins and needles for next week.
And that is just as it should be. As Jensen Ackles keeps tweeting, to the immense glee of literally everyone, “Let’s get it on!”
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