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[lots o’ spoilers ahead]
Well. That happened.
Where to start? I have to say that this episode, like the season 12 finale, was remarkably tedious. Okay, perhaps “remarkably” is the wrong adjective for a turgid mess of cold oatmeal. Still, I was very bored and if there’s one thing Supernatural generally isn’t, it’s boring. But Dabb as a showrunner and the Nepotism Duo in charge of the Writers Room seem capable of dousing even the sparkiest sparks.
There were a few big problems here. One was a complete lack of surprises in terms of pre-existing SPNverse elements, except where the show ignored canon for no damned good reason (as in ignoring the part where Kelly, at least, ought to be in Heaven, so why is Sam saying they hope she’s in a better place?), or simply forgot about it (as in the part where two angels were blown away by a banishing spell while another one in the next room wasn’t – um … what?).
I also didn’t like the lame attempt at generating suspense by jumping around in the episode’s timeline and saving a few bucks for the super-expensive Metallica song (“Nothing Else Matters”) in the season 12 recap by recycling a fair amount of footage from previous seasons. The use of super-expensive songs in an episode generally signals an attempt to perfume stinky writing as often as it accentuates a great scene. This was true even in season one (thinking of an episode like “Hook Man,” here, which has almost back-to-back rock songs and hasn’t held up so well over time).
The angels were tedious dicks, including the bitchy Millennial one who pretended to be a drunk girl so obviously that it became clear early on she was Up To No Good. Holy crap, was she annoying. Her death wasn’t nearly painful enough. She should have seen Jack not be hurt by her blade before she died.
Also, for all her sarcasm and ridiculous anger at Dean, she turned out to be all hot air and no threat, not to mention, frustratingly vague. I guess that’s why Sam was able to kill her when he’s never been able to kill an angel in the past. Yeah, that’s snarky, but really, Show? Enough with giving easy kills to Sam to “balance” out classic kills made by Dean. It risks diminishing both brothers and that’s the best I can say about that.
Also, can the show please kill Lucifer, already? My God, am I over him and his perpetual adolescent whining. He’s how many billions of years old now? Grow up, dude.
But hey, at least we had confirmation Mary’s still alive. And kicking.
Second, let’s talk about the new characters, guest and recurring (since I guess we have to). About the only one who made any positive impression on me was the Sheriff. Okay, she’s no Jody Mills, and we’re not liable to see her ever again, but it was downright refreshing to see someone confronted with Dean blandly explaining about the Family Business at his most dissociated and disconnected, and just roll with it because they had already seen sufficient weird to perceive his spiel as reasonable.
This contrasted positively to Annoying Drunk Girl Angel (we’ll just call her ADGA for short) in that, for one thing, it was nice to see Dean lay it all out in such an IDGAF way that the world is bigger and creepier than most humans think, and the other person respond … well … appropriately for her own survival, but with ADGA, Dean didn’t even try to defend himself from her tired and lame accusations.
Now, the angel Ishim from “Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets” hated Dean, too, but his anger made sense, albeit from his own twisted perspective. It was personal, focused. It reflected his own conflict with the episode’s resident Mary Sue.
In contrast, ADGA came off as spoiled and pissy, whining about Dean being a “Becky” roommate (apparently not the Becky of seasons five-to-seven) who “broke things” and didn’t care about other people. But come on. How many fans actually care about this, especially when there’s an alternate universe next door where the angels got exactly what they wanted and it sucks out loud for everyone else? Plus, it’s a place where the angels broke everything. Foreshadowing of a possible alliance between this ‘verse and that ‘verse’s angels was a little too obvious, so please, Show, edit the angel monologues way, way down from now on. They’re boring and hypocritical.
Then there’s Jack. I was somewhat relieved to see that the actor isn’t as bad as he appeared in the promos (he came across as very, very bad in them), and he even generated a little sympathy, but there’s little for him to work with here. Jack isn’t a character. He’s a walking deus ex machina, written as inconsistently as you’d expect from a character who not only has a faulty, weak conflict, he basically has none at all.
What, precisely, does Jack want? Well, it seems he wants to find his “father” (who turns out to be Castiel, not baby daddy Lucifer, in a not-terribly-surprising twist) and he wants to survive. Or something. Oh, and he has powers that are remarkably malleable (translation: They exist to give the writers a cheap and easy out for times they’ve written themselves into a corner), except, of course, when they conveniently don’t work. They are remarkably inconsistent, even within the context of his being only a day old. I get that the angel sigil didn’t entirely work on him (because he’s half-human. Or something), but the rest? Not so much.
For example, he can understand and speak English thanks to “being” his mother in the womb (so not a reassuring or non-sexist way of phrasing it, Dabb), but though he can hear angel voices and had also bonded with Castiel, he can’t understand them. He’s impervious to an angel blade, but Tasers knock him out. He can’t control his powers because he’s a baby, yet he’s capable of expressing and understanding complex ideas.
Also, the FX for his powers were a bit pants and looked really goofy.
As a character, he just doesn’t make any sense and even more, he doesn’t really have a journey except toward going EVOL and/or dying (as opposed to Amara, who had an atypical bond with Dean from the start and a legit beef with her brother), and he’s never going to fit well into the MOTW format. Yep, no reason to get attached to this character. He won’t be around for long.
Another big problem is that the show keeps trying to bring in CW tropes, principally from the DC superhero shows, and they don’t work so well. I keep trying to remind myself that the show has always been meta, always been a commentary on what was going on in the genre. That’s what keeps it fresh. And it is on the CW, after all. The problem with going so CW, however, is that the tropes the show currently uses are so plastic, shallow and insincere that it’s hard to care about them. The show works best when it’s a bit rough around the edges and this season premiere was too flaky to evoke that.
Which leads us to the biggest problem of all – once again, as too often happened last year, the show was about everything and everyone but Sam and Dean, yet none of these subplots was compelling enough to make me care, let alone make me forget that Sam and Dean were once again being made guest stars in their own story. In the damned season premiere, no less.
This was especially bad for Sam, since the only part I actually enjoyed was Dean’s grief and rage and sense of abandonment. Perhaps “enjoyed” is not the right word, but at least I was interested, even as I wondered whether this storyline had been interrupted for too long and should have been pursued in last season’s premiere, rather than that idiotic LoL storyline that came out of left field. The angels’ jealousy of Dean (even dismissively referring to Sam as “the other one”), Dean’s half-admission that Chuck left him in charge rather than him and Sam, Dean’s anger and despair over being left with half-truths and no tools for actually running the world, all of these things are intriguing and could potentially be a big arc for Dean. But considering Dabb and Singer took a year-long break from them to pursue other storylines that were a lot dumber and more boring, I’m not hugely confident they’ll remember Dean even has this storyline longer than five episodes down the road. Enjoy it while you can, I guess.
Also frustrating is that Sam’s big plot this season appears to be babysitting Jack because Sam is convinced Jack is Good. Or potentially Good. Or something. Just like his mother Kelly, the walking, saintly, single-mom womb whom nobody watching actually liked or misses.
Never mind that just a couple of seasons ago, Sam was convinced Dean having the MoC had to be stopped at all costs (even though Dean mostly had it under control, all things considered), to the point that Sam went behind Dean’s back and got the Darkness released. Then he became convinced right off the bat that Amara had to be destroyed and did some pretty stupid things to bring that about, too. Add to that the fact that never in the history of this show has Sam ever thought anyone supernaturally gray could be Good and had that turn out well – and that the first few moments were probably the best time they had to neutralize Jack should he turn out to be a threat – and Sam’s idea that Jack is Good looks ludicrous. Even Sam had to Tase the kid at one point to keep him from attacking Dean.
In light of all this, it was rather eye-rolling that the show wanted us to believe that Dean was the irrational one and Sam was being sensible and compassionate, when everything Dean was saying was actually pretty smart – look for Jack, find out his weaknesses, protect innocents from him, call and warn Jody, pray to Chuck (something that didn’t even occur to Sam until the very end of the episode). The show tried to reinforce this take of Irrational Angry Dean by having Jack act all cherub-like – aside from the odd sinister look, that is. Again, not buying it. This is a character who is far too powerful to exist on the show as-is, who entered the world by killing his own mother, and who brainwashed both her and Castiel while still in the womb. Even if he weren’t Lucifer’s son, I’d think there would be plenty of red flags here that negate any dewy-eyed boy-band appeal in Jack.
This week totally ignored the Hell aspect of the storyline. It seems we’ll get that next week when the incompetent Nepotism Duo turn in their first script of the season (God help us all). Crowley and his death got almost completely ignored this week (though Castiel did at least get kind of a send-off and a Viking funeral). We’ll see how much coverage the ex-King of Hell gets next week. Probably not much.
You can find my live recap of the episode here.