The Road So Far: “Black” Review

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK, IDJIT!

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK, IDJIT!

Supernatural is back with a bang… well, more of a whimper. Even though I haven’t been Supernatural’s biggest fan in the last few seasons, I still thought the premiere would be exciting, somewhere under all the misogyny and white characters. But the premiere ended up raising more questions than it answered, and not in a plotty way, either. Spoilers after the jump!

After a rousing montage set to Heartbreaker by Pat Benatar, the episode opens on Sam torturing a female demon for information on the whereabouts of Dean and Crowley. She doesn’t know, and after a lot of screaming and blood, we jump four weeks forward. Sam calls Cas and attempts to tell him about a case of possible demon possession, but Cas is coughing really badly and Sam decides to deal with this one on his own. So he goes off to find the guy, Drew Neely, only to discover that Neely has been killed by none other than Dean Winchester. He manages to track down where the murder took place and figures out how to call Crowley, who tells him that the only demon running around in Dean’s skin is himself. But before Sam can track down where Crowley and Dean are, he’s kidnapped by Cole, a hunter of unspecified allegiances.

supernatural dean karaokeDean, meanwhile, is doing exactly what we saw him doing in the trailer: karaoke, drinking, sleeping around, beating people up, etc. He even deigns to play foosball with Crowley (and loses). Crowley tells him that it’s ridiculous that he’s hiding in the bar, and tells him that Sam has called him and no doubt tracked their location. While Dean is driving away, he gets a call from Sam’s kidnapper, who of course tells him that he has to come to where Sam is in order to get his brother back alive. Surprisingly, though, Dean tells him to fuck off. However, proving that even Deanmon can’t leave the Winchesters’ predilection for brotherly affection behind, Dean tells Cole that if he kills Sam, no power in the ‘verse would stop him from getting revenge.

As we saw at the beginning, Cas tells Sam that he can be useful, but again, as another Winchester ignores him, he answers the call of the angels instead. Hannah (remember her from last season?) tells Cas that the angels are governing themselves now, but there are some angels who refuse to come back. She asks Cas to track down two of these angels with her. Cas agrees, but through the course of things, Cas ends up killing one of said angels instead of protecting them like he wanted to.

All in all, the premiere was a little underwhelming. It didn’t spend too much time recapping the previous seasons and it introduced a couple new characters in the vaguest of sketches: there’s the hot blonde that Dean is sleeping with at the bar, the hunter that kidnapped Sam, and the angel that escaped Cas and Hannah. But it also didn’t have what Supernatural is usually pretty good at: a coherent conflict. Normally we know exactly what Supernatural wants to do—solve the case of the week, find a thing that will help in the overarching plot, et cetera. But this episode lacked that. Sam wants to find Dean, and doesn’t manage to. Cas wants to help Hannah recover these two angels, but kills one of them and lets the other escape. No one is sure what Dean wants, least of all Dean, and I’m not sure what Crowley even wants to do with Dean, other than let him kill Abaddon supporters. As much as Dean might think it’s fun, I don’t think Crowley really would have been okay with sitting around in a dive bar for six months.

supernatural castiel hannahAs usual, Supernatural had a significant lack of people of color, but it seems that this season at least, they’re trying to bring in more female characters (though who knows how long they’ll survive). We have Ann Marie, Dean’s new girl, who was described over the summer as a “tough but sympathetic roadhouse cocktail waitress”, Hannah, who I’m really glad survived the last season, and possibly more to come. The problem is, both these characters were only there to support a male character’s plot arc. Hannah reminds Castiel that his borrowed grace won’t last him long, and that he needs to “refresh” his grace, but Cas decides to suffer nobly and not kill another angel to take their grace. Later, although he only wants to talk to the rogue angels, not re-capture them, he ends up killing one of them to defend Hannah.

Ann Marie seemed to exist only as some sort of misogynistic barometer of how bad Dean had gone, yet she was also used as an excuse for some of his worse actions. Dean calls her a skank and shows a blatant disregard for her schedule, but also beats up her (probably now ex) boyfriend for grabbing Ann Marie and shoving her against a wall. In the former case, we’re meant to believe that since Dean is now a demon, of course he would treat women badly, but in the latter case, he’s violent towards the boyfriend because he’s protecting “his” girl, not because he’s now a demon. He’s misogynistic because he’s a demon, but he’s violent because he needs to act like a man. What bullshit. (This also disregards the fact that Dean Winchester would have done both of these things before he was a demon, except possibly with more self-loathing. So this new “evil” Dean, sad as it is to say, didn’t differentiate itself enough from our previous incarnation of Dean.)

Speaking of Deanmon, let’s discuss. Crowley tells Dean that he sicced the Abaddon supporters on him so that Dean could fight them to keep from turning into a “full” demon, but given the prevalence of Deanmon in the advertising materials and this quote, Dean is almost certainly a demon now. The question is, does Dean know he’s a demon? I said in my review of the previous season that Deanmon could have, and should have, been done so much better. Dean’s actions are cast as right and just, because he’s the only one who could possibly control the First Blade, but he’s also shown doubting himself, proving that he hasn’t gone power-hungry like Sam or Cas did. If Dean is truly a demon but isn’t aware of it, that just makes the writers’ mistake even worse. Because Dean isn’t aware he’s a demon, he doesn’t know that he’s gone down the wrong path. In his mind, he’s only hiding from his brother because he wants a break. He beats up Ann Marie’s boyfriend because he thinks it’s right to do so. And now that Sam has been kidnapped, Dean is again cast in the role of the infallible older brother who has to save the little brother from his own mistakes. Deanmon could have been a great way to say that Dean, too, can be wrong. But it doesn’t seem like we’ll ever get that.

dean demonThere were some good things about this episode. Even though the lines he got were beyond terrible, Jared Padalecki did a fantastic job with them, especially in his phone scene with Crowley. I could really buy his desperation, his need to get his brother back from what he sees as Crowley’s clutches. Since we already saw him torturing a woman at the start of the episode, it’ll be interesting to see how Sam continues. At the end of the season, who will be the more demonic: Dean, the actual demon, or Sam? If the Supernatural writers do it well, this could be a very meaty plotline. I’m also very much enjoying the new friendship between Dean and Crowley, although, as with anything Supernatural touches, I’m not taking bets on when it eventually turns into queerbaiting.

What were your thoughts on the premiere? Do you have any particular hopes for the season? If so, let me know in the comments!


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