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'Supernatural' Season Premiere Recap

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 24th 2011 3:30PM
['Supernatural' - 'Meet the New Boss']

It's so good to have 'Supernatural' back. But it's just as delightful to have 'Supernatural' fans back. I look forward to hearing what you all have to say about the season 7 opener.

So, what if God was one of us? Except he's not really one of us, he's a mutated angel stuffed with millions of souls from purgatory plus lots of scary beasties from Ye Olden Days?

That wouldn't go so well. But it would make for a good hour of television.

'Supernatural' tends to do those opening montages really well, and this year was no exception. The sequence that recounted the Road So Far, set to the rockin' stylings of Foghat, was wonderfully edited, and then there we were, back in the blood-coated lab, with God!Cas, Bobby and the boys.

Just another day at the office, right? Before I posted this review, another fan of the show tweeted to me, "Wasn't it awesome to see Death again?" And I was like, "Yes, Death, he is so much fun!"

That's what it is to be a 'Supernatural' fan -- you get super-geeked about an apocalyptic showdown among Death, a God/Angel and two hunters (who had help from Crowley, the King of Hell, and an assist from the archangel Michael). To an outsider -- or to the poor couple whose home was the setting for this week's big scene -- all of that would seem more than a little insane. To many of us, it was a buffet of awesomeness.

The two key scenes in the show, the confrontation with Death and the ending sequence in the lab, were wonderfully written, full of excellent lines delivered perfectly, good twists and weighty consequences for all the characters. Also pickle chips! Who knew Death's fast-food jones was as fierce as Dean's. Though at least Death doesn't have a thing for Asian cartoon porn. That we know of.

In any event, the episode certainly gave us some interesting things to ponder regarding Castiel. When he began smiting, I think those actions sprang from Cas, or mostly from Cas -- I don't think, at the start, that he was being egged on by the leviathan inside him. He struck down the preacher, but didn't hear those beast voices until that deed had been done. But my take on the hour was that it showed God!Cas' own desire for vengeance gradually blending with the leviathans' taste for a bit of the old ultraviolence. To say this was a bad combination is putting it mildly.

But the part of Cas that was still the Cas we knew realized this, and asked the boys for help. I did wonder how they would get Cas to give up what was inside him, but it turned out they didn't have to. Even he began to see (and thank goodness they didn't drag this realization out) that his divine aspirations had been hopeless compromised.

So the questions for the future are: What is Cas? Where is he? Is he dead? We saw his cold, dead body on the floor, and I truly believe that he was, in that moment, dead. But soon the leviathan brought him back to life -- or rather, they came out of hiding and healed and re-animated his body. In doing so, I think they brought Cas back to life (I could be wrong about that, but why would the leviathan pretend to be a penitent Cas? It would make it that much more painful to twist the knife on the boys seconds later, but I think the fact that Cas told Dean and Bobby to run meant Castiel was really in there, and still had enough juice to warn them.)

In any event, should we take the leviathan at his/their word -- was Cas really dead? Or was he being suppressed somewhere inside that body? It's an important question, and I'll be interested to see whether they answer it next week, or keep that on the back burner.

There are a couple of big-picture questions that spring from the conclusion of the episode, one bigger than the other.

The first question: What's the big story for this season? I'm not sure I see one in the Cas story, unless the boys end up tracking his trail of mayhem around the country. I can't really judge whether that would be a good story or not at this stage, but on first glance, it feels as though that kind of story needs a bit more meat on its bones to be truly compelling.

Of course, Sam's hallucinations and recovery could be another ongoing story for the season, but I wonder about that too, though I'm not prepared to fully judge that either. As for Lucifer gaslighting Sam about his perceptions of reality -- I don't know where the show goes with that, except to show more hallucinations and more scenes of Lucifer taunting his former cage buddy.

Of course, Sam's recovery (or lack thereof) could be an interesting story for the season, but so far his situation seems mildly convenient -- he's pretty functional except for those flashes of recollection or hallucination. I wasn't especially crazy about how the Wall story played out last season (the time we were led to believe it was gone only to see it back in place the next week made me particularly irritable), and this stop-start recovery process may be similarly frustrating. We'll just have to see. If that aspect of the story takes Sam (and Dean) somewhere interesting, I'm OK with it.

The second question for the season: Would it be the end of the world for Cas to be dead? Or dead when the leviathan story plays out? I can't quite believe that, even if the leviathan were driven out, they'd leave Cas in a fit state to continue existing. I'll have to see where all this goes, but part of me was glad to see the show take the character in this direction. After three seasons, I think it's time for the show to do something really different with Cas.

Now, please, just hear me out. Nobody loves Cas more than me. Part of my problem with last season was the way the show sidelined him. And I actually became a 'Supernatural' superfan in season 4, when he arrived on the scene. I absolutely believe that the show raised its game with the arrival of Cas (and season 4 remains my favorite season), and that the character and Misha Collins have both been great for the show. Certainly in this episode he gave a wonderfully varied and yet consistent performance, and he was truly scary as the leviathan at the end.

But let's think about this rationally. Part of the reason we loved the character so much was because of the role he played on the show. Even when his arcs weren't executed perfectly, he was a friend to Sam and Dean. He helped them, saved them, cared about them -- and vice versa. There were emotional and practical bonds there.

But for characters to remain interesting, they have to be going somewhere. I think it made sense to have Cas became who he became in season 6 -- the man who was going to fight dirty in order to save something he believed in. Even if I didn't always agree with the execution of his story, it made sense within the world of the show for Cas to progress through that journey.

And if there's something we've seen time and again on 'Supernatural,' it's characters getting what they thought they wanted, but having to deal with the unexpected consequences of that. Case in point is Cas becoming God (and, by the way, I don't think he ever was God, but he sure thought he was). He got what he wanted. He defeated Raphael. And getting to be God didn't turn out to be such a great thing after all, not surprisingly.

So it makes sense that that would go south in a big way for Cas. As Dean says, these characters never catch a break. Now that Cas has paid the ultimate price for his hubris, in grand 'Supernatural' tradition, he'll keep paying, if he is really in there. Now he -- or rather the leviathan occupying him -- may just become a recurring Big Bad that will pop up from time to time, a Big Bad that the boys share a lingering emotional bond with, thanks to their history together.

Given that he's gotten to this point, does it really make sense for Cas to go back to what he was? The socially awkward angel who helped out the boys from time to time? I just think going backward with a character, or keeping a character at the forefront of a show because that character is a fan favorite, is often not a good idea.

I think back to season 6 of 'Buffy,' which had many problems, but one of them was the way it foregrounded Spike. I loved Spike, I thought James Marsters was a terrific actor, but the show made a huge mistake by making him a really big part of the story. It didn't do him or the show any favors to spend too much time on him. He was cool because of the way the show had used him in previous seasons, and what happened to him in season 6 partly de-cooled him.

The situation with Cas on 'Supernatural' is not exactly analogous, but the fact remains, I'm not one of those people who's freaking out over the fact that Misha Collins isn't a series regular any more. Now, I will be the first to shout from the rooftops and complain if season 7 turns out to be a dud and if the ongoing stories don't do anything particularly satisfying. If the show doesn't make him an interesting part of the season 7 story and his relative lack of screen time was all for naught, I'll certainly be unhappy about that.

My bigger fear is that, after trying multiples stories last season and failing to integrate and conclude several of them satisfactorily, 'Supernatural' may be going a bit light on mythology and ongoing arcs this season. I don't know yet, I'll just have to see, but I hope that's not the case. Still, I don't feel like I emerged from this season premiere knowing what the arc of the season will be. I certainly saw some possibly interesting directions, but we'll just have to see how they work out and if they'll give us the kind of emotional and thematic richness we enjoy.

But the show is trying to take Cas somewhere new, and I've always respected 'Supernatural' for not resting on its laurels. After years of praising the show for being willing to rip up the rule book, should I tell the show not to do that with Cas? I don't think that's fair.

And again, it all depends on the execution. We can't judge yet whether any of these changes will end up being worthwhile, but I can't say I am upset at 'Supernatural's' willingness to shake things up.

All righty then, what about this particular episode? I quite enjoyed the story, the writing and the way Phil Sgriccia shot it. There were any number of quotable lines, and the wide shot of all the angels Castiel had executed was terrific. And overall, the tone was pitch-perfect -- the stakes were high, but the emotional beats weren't ignored and there were those 'Supernatural' humorous touches we love so much (the Cas stained-glass window was particularly funny).

Overall, it was a good, solid start to the season, and I look forward to seeing where the road goes from here.

All right, here's a laundry list of final thoughts, observations and great lines.

• It was great to have Crowley back. I love that he never dies, just mutates with each changing regimes, and Mark Sheppard never fails to be hugely enjoyable on the show. I especially enjoyed his pre-smiting pose.

• "He was young. And sexy!"

• "Bollocks." "Then I graciously accept!"

• "You giraffe!"

• "We need to come up with a new saying for that."

• "Excuse me, you got any Grey Poupon?"

• "Because we said so, and we're the boss of you! Respectfully."

• "Really bought his own press, this one."

• "Should we kickbox now?"

• "Hi Sam. Long time no spooning."

• Good use of Cas-cam in the scene in the senator's office, and I also appreciated the way Sgriccia shot the emergence of the doorway to Purgatory from inside the hole.

• Check out my colleague Laura Prudom's season 7 preview, with intel from executive producers Sera Gamble and Robert Singer, here, and her post-season premiere interviews with Gamble and Singer are here. I interviewed Misha Collins over the summer, that story is here.

• This bullet point is addressed to the CW network: YOU ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY WITH ALL THOSE LITTLE GRAPHICS IN THE CORNER OF THE SCREEN, WHICH TOOK OVER ALMOST HALF THE SCREEN LAST NIGHT'S 'SUPERNATURAL.' STOP THAT PLEASE. IT'S INTENSELY ANNOYING. Respectfully, cut it the hell out.

• Now, I won't do this in all caps, but I need to point out that comments that are not constructive, polite, respectful and on-topic will be deleted. I know there are a ton of emotions and reactions swirling around given the fact that Misha Collins is no longer a series regular, and I'm sure people have a whole host of reactions to what has happened to Cas.

Let me be really clear about this (and I've said this before, so sorry if it's old news): If you think that 'Supernatural' or a particular character has been ruined for all time, and that's all you want to talk about, this is not the place for you. If you can't be respectful of other people's viewpoints and of their time as well (nobody wants to read long, angry rants about the show or the people who make it), please go have your 'Supernatural' conversation elsewhere.

As I've also said before, I encourage every single kind of opinion here. Really and truly. You don't have to agree with me, you don't have to like the show, you don't have to like that week's episode, and you don't have to agree with each other. But if you want to take part in the discussion here, you have to be respectful, non-repetitive and help keep the tone welcoming.

For the millionth time, I'll quote from critic Alan Sepinwall's rules for commenting: "This is an opinion blog, and a place where people can and should argue passionately for their point of view. But there's a difference between arguing with passion and arguing with hostility. If you can't find a way to express your viewpoint without insulting other commenters, or getting strident and self-righteous -- say, equating your opinion with fact, and deriding other people for not seeing the truth of your words -- then either tone down your words until they're more respectful to other people, or don't comment."

We have all built a great community of 'Supernatural' fans here. Let's keep the discussion going strong, and I hope the preceding warnings didn't weird you out. I'm just a strong believer in what I call the Lurker's Rule: The atmosphere here should be so accepting and non-screechy that even the timidest or newest commenter should feel welcome to share his or her opinion. But you've all done an awesome job of observing that every week for a few years now, and I've no doubt we'll establish that vibe again this season.

Final notes, I promise:

No SamGirl, CasGirl or DeanGirl nonsense will be tolerated on this site.

• Please, please don't mention any spoilers of any kind in comments. Speculation is fine, actual spoilers are not.

• If you see typos, please point them out (nicely, please!) in comments or via email (maureen.ryan(at)teamaol.com). I'll fix them as soon as I can. Thanks.


'Supernatural' airs 9PM ET on the CW.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.





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75 Comments

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reeper4409

Mo, I can't wait to hear what you think about Ep. 2! I think that these last two episodes were better than all of Seasons five and six combined. I really actually feel this way-there were more moments in the last 88 or so minutes that rang true and made me care about these characters than all of the clumsy pastiche of writing that I've endured for two years. I can honestly say that I was very close to walking away from this show and now I'm more invested than ever.

October 01 2011 at 4:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Julia Greer

Hi Mo, I really enjoyed your review and agree with most of it. I thought the premiere was the best since Lazarus Rising!

I LOVE what they've done with Cas. I'm one of those who thought that Cas and the angels should have been gone after season 5 when Lucifer was put back in the cage. But if season 6 served to set him up as the new Big Bad, then count me in!! Misha was fabulous. I think that Cas is still alive somewhere in his vessel and will end up sacrificing himself at the end to save the world. I also think that the Leviathans will be the major story this season.

I'm really happy with the way the show is dealing with Sam's Hell fallout but I have concerns as well. They're obviously setting up another depression story for Dean, and I'm afraid of another season 5 "crisis of faith", which lasted too long IMO, and left too little time to deal with Sam's issues. I don't want Sam's hallucinations/PTSD going on all season, but I don't want them resolved too quickly either. My fear is that once Sam gets himself under control, the story will be dropped altogether, kind of like the wall last year, until if was brought back in the finale. As you said, both boys are in bad shape and I hope the writers don't shortchange one story for the other.

All in all though, I'm really excited for season 7. I just wish SPN had a better performing lead-in. I worry a bit about the ratings.

September 27 2011 at 5:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lou Sytsma

I'm of mixed minds.  The episode itself was entertaining but maybe I've just had enough of the Pain Train these characters are constantly put through.  And Sam's mind wall crumbling seems like so last year.

September 27 2011 at 4:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
r h

Would it make sense to bring back the Cas of old?

Yes, yes it does! There's nothing I would love more than Cas being saved by his friends and him making amends and us getting a happy ending, with all four members of Team Free Will together and intact!

Because the Leviathans AREN'T Cas. And despite his temporary insanity as God!Cas, we see in this episode that the Cas of old is still in there. So why shouldn't he come back? It would be just as much a progression of his story for him to come back as it is to be lost forever. And I don't want him to be lost forever. He doesn't deserve that.

September 27 2011 at 9:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Marsha_R

Hey, Mo! Good to see you back with SPN.

I'm very happy the hellatus is over, and quite pleased with the season opener. Sera and Co. have earned my trust over the years and I'm content to wait and see where they go with the season.

Compliments to all the actors, especially Misha, for this ep.

My one comment to add to all the rest - I claim that Cas is indeed still alive. Correct me if I'm wrong, but we didn't see any wing marks on the floor, did we?

September 26 2011 at 9:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Spirale Rouge

.

I have a big question, and I am sure that I'm not the only one to think about that :

Why Sam needs walls to protect him from his memories of hell and Dean don't ? Ok, Sam spent more time in hell but being tortured for 40 years or 100 years doesn't make such a big difference. When Dean came back from hell he remembered everything, that does not mean that he was a drooling mess.

Is it a script error ?

.

September 26 2011 at 9:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Spirale Rouge's comment
Dontainique

My take on this issue is that it's not so much the being tortured. It's the being tortured in the Cage with Lucifer, the father of all demons and the evilest of evils. Dean was presumably tortured by low-level demons and Alastair (who was admittedly creepy and sadistic) but Sam has spent 150 years being tortured by the guy who taught Alastair how to torture. Also, Michael's in the cage too and was presumably also getting his jabs in at Sam as well. So, I can see Dean's and Sam's experiences being extremely different. Furthermore, I think that Dean's issues aren't only that he was tortured (though that's definitely a major part). He's really tormented by the fact that he broke in Hell and turned into the very kind of monster that he hunts. I don't think he'll ever be able to really forgive himself for that.

September 26 2011 at 10:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to Dontainique's comment
Negar Navidi

it's probably because sam wasn't in hell , he wasn't beaten and anguished by some random demon who had nothing to do with him. He was beaten and anguished by two archangel who were mad out of their minds at him for not letting the apocalypse happen and that's why I think he'd need a wall to keep the memories out.

October 01 2011 at 4:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
yim_happy

God, i hope this is my last post on the Castiel arc.

Yes, I respect SPN for taking risks & shaking things up. God knows I loved it in past seasons.

But, I really loved Castiel's "rebel against Heaven" arc in S4. It felt like we went backwards, not forward, when Cas is "just a child" in S6 - S7. All Cas' sacrifises & daring decisions were cheapened, to me anyway. My problem is, with so many rich subject to tackle, it all boils down to "Cas did wrong because he was a sullen child??"

I'm so disappointed with that. Off the top of my head, I can throw out richer themes to explore. S6 did a lot of things right, but I have a hard time forgiving it's thematic dissonance.

Free could have been a richer theme, explored more in Cas' fall. I saw thematic richness in "how do I know i chose the right path?" I don't know if it was intended, but i saw a lesson about how important friends are with free will, to help us find our path.

Plus, I saw a fantastic opportunity to explore "is it right to take such risks to avoid certain disaster?" Like, was it right to drop the atom bomb to end WW2?? Purgatory=atom bomb & Raphael'sApocolyspe=WW2. Except in Cas' case, he had no other hope for winning his war. Do you risk Apocolypse2 to avoid hurting some people?? Well, Cas took that choice all on himself.

I'm just saying they could have approached it at a different angle, and I feel less gypped. Right now, I feel like my favorite character was sacrifised for almost nothing, no rich story.

The WW2 analogy explains even more - why didn't Cas tell his friends?? Well, do you risk your secret Manhatten project, when that's your only hope to avoid anhilation?

September 26 2011 at 8:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
yim_happy

Oh, here I am again. Another problem with Cas' progression...
I'm trying, but it still feels like SPN tacked on "Cas' arrogance" as his fatal flaw. Cas didn't seem arrogant before the last few episodes of S6. Cas listened to the Winchesters like almost no other angel.

I guess, all angels have some arrogance works somewhat. But, it just doesn't ring true for me in this case with Cas.

September 26 2011 at 6:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
janeray100

Did anyone else think that it was waaayyyy too easy to bind Death?? Didn't Lucifer bind Death?? Everyone in Carthage Missouri had to die to do it, plus demon souls. I was happy to see Death, but it just looked too easy.

September 26 2011 at 5:55 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
yim_happy

I forgot to mention 1 more problem I had with Castiel's progression.

Last season, was Castiel ashamed of the Purgatory plan or not?? He hid his Purgatory plan from the Winchesters "protecting himself". As he prayed, he acknowledged he could be wrong. But when Dean tries to get Cas to consider another plan...
DEAN: It's not too late. We can fix this.
CAS: It's not broken.

Cas refused to consider another plan, despite all his faith in the brothers. Did Cas really believe the risky Purgatory plan was the only way to defeat Raphael?? Then, in the premier, why did Castiel make a big point of telling Dean "I will redeem myself in your eyes". Was that just an off key fan service line?? Cas went too far doing what he had to, but did that make everything Dean said right?? What does Cas have to make up to Dean?? Knocking down Sam's wall?? I'd have trouble remembering that after the Winchesters tried to kill me twice.

Anyway, I recognize that turning a good guy bad is tricky in the extreme. Maybe SPN didn't do such a bad job. I still really had to see that happen to my hero characters. So, it's hard not to nit pick.

Anyway, too much posting, but it was a big subject.

September 26 2011 at 5:25 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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