I didn’t give a review of the first episode because I just wasn’t feeling it. Since I knew it was a two parter, I felt like not enough had been given to me emotionally to properly review only the first part. There were some things I just couldn’t get past, although I’m glad my SPN friends enjoyed it.
Now,with the addition of the second half, I feel like I can properly review the whole thing, and I’m very satisfied with Andrew Dabb’s and Singer’s efforts in leading off this season. I feel very hopeful for the rest of the season with this premiere, and hope they keep up the good work. I really liked Carver. He ran nice, tight, coherent seasons, and I appreciated that. I enjoyed these two episodes together. Individually, they are, obviously, incomplete, for me.
Now to get the bad stuff out of the way first : I would like it if the writers wouldn’t fall back on the show’s tropes quite so much. Sam getting damseled, and both the brothers, and Cas, getting saved by whatever guest is on the show. I realize that they need to show how badass their Mamma is, but it’s still a trend I don’t particularly care for. I even understand why they do this with the female characters now, because part of the fan criticism, was the show wasn’t writing female characters very well. The show has greatly improved on that critique, but I wish they didn’t do it at the expense of the brothers competency, which is what it looks like to me, when the writers do that. I remember when they used to save the guest stars, not the other way around. Also, I wasn’t feeling the emotions of that first episode. (Hey, it could’ve been shock. Idk!) After a second viewing of both episodes, I feel a lot better about it, though.
That’s just what bothered me the most in episode one. In episode two, there was little that nettled , but I could definitely have done without seeing Sam working his mojo with Lady Toni. I realize it was just an illusion, but still. It just feels really weird, when you care about a character so much, and have been identifying with them over several years, to watch them have (even simulated) sex with somebody. It feels voyeuristic, even if it isn’t real on any of its levels. That scene just felt kinda nasty, like walking in on your best friend and their date. It felt even worse to find that it’s Toni manipulating Sam just to ask questions he can’t possibly have answers to. And it also felt just a little rapey. I was just repulsed bybhe whole thing. Ugh!
Although, the organization of the different Hunting societies, of England and America, is fascinating. I wonder how these things are set up globally, and I think it’s an excellent idea to open up this show, not by having bigger and badder monsters, or a bigger crisis, (it’s hard to top God), but by expanding the mythology of the show from a lateral perspective. (In other words, making the Winchesters international.) The disorganization of Hunters in America is a direct result of the destruction of the Men of Letters by Abaddon, so they really have no organization at all,and are completely decentralized. Toni and Mick are also not taking into account that the U.K. is an island nation, America is much more vast, and some of its monsters are organized, especially in the heavily populated cities. I noticed that, as a general rule, Hunters don’t hang out in the cities. There’s so much rural area to protect, (the entire midsection of this country is dotted with mid- sized towns and cities, with vast acreages in between. In some places you can drive for hundreds of miles and barely see any people.) There are too few Hunters and most of it is done through word of mouth, rumor, and phone calls. There are no leaders. No one gives orders. Bobby Singer’s home, (after the bar from first few seasons), was about as centralized as Hunters in America ever got. So just like with humans, monsters would immigrate to America, because there’d be less chance of being caught and killed.
My biggest complaint is not with the writers. I know there’s a reason Toni was written the way she was written. She claims to have read about the Winchesters, but doesn’t know some of the most basic things about them. Her methods at procuring information are simply atrocious. She was just not the person for that job, she was sloppy, and I’m not surprised to find she’d gone out of bounds. She came in waaay too hard, just to ask the kind of innocuous questions she could’ve gotten answers to over a beer, back at the bunker, and there’s a reason for that, I suspect. The brothers would’ve been delighted to tell anything to another member of the MoL. Mick told her they could catch more flies with honey and she ignored that in favor of thoroughly unnecessary torture. I would also not be surprised to find out that she was eager to physically hurt the Winchesters just for her own personal reasons.
On the other hand, I’m not too trusting of Mick either. They basically pulled a kind of bad cop, good cop, Men of Letters version of that routine. And I don’t even want to know who, or what, Mr. Ketch is. If Ketch is their nuclear option, then we are in for some drama in a couple of episodes, I’m guessing. But this is just me speculating, and as we’ve seen, this is not a particular skill I possess. Those durn writers just insist on confounding me, instead of being predictable. It’s almost like they read my reviews and decide to do the exact opposite of what I think will happen.
Now for the stuff I did like: I like that Amara decided to give Dean back what he gave to her: a family, and how her decision was a callback to when she visited the bunker, looked through Dean’s belongings, and saw Mary’s photo. That hug Dean received from Mom at the top of the first episode is very nicely paralleled by the hug Mary gives Sam at the end of the second. Yeah, I think there might’ve been something in my eye right then. It was a beautiful moment, along with Sam’s reaction to her. He’s seen Mary several times but there was always a catch. It was a photo, or she was a ghost, or it was a monster masquerading as her. But she’s right here! And she’s real! And she’s present! And making dinner and offering pie, and he is very obviously fascinated. When he nervously brings her a cup of tea later that evening, that was definitely when I got something in my eye, though. Padalecki has grown so much as an actor. In the first five seasons, he had a tendency to overdo things, but he’s become so nuanced and authentic in his portrayal of Sam. This is an actor who, after 12 years, thoroughly and completely knows his character. His nervousness, reticence, and awe of Mary are palpable.
And it’s obvious that Mary feels the same fascination with Sam, when you see how she approaches him for that hug, she’s not entirely certain if it will be warmly received. This is them feeling out how to be a family again. Trying to find which roles they will play. When Sam gives her John’s journal, my heart just sank though, because there’s so much in that journal she needs to know, but knowing what happened to her men, after she was gone, is going to break her heart. It won’t break her. I think she’s stronger than Dean gives her credit for, but her heart is gonna experience some serious pain.
That’s another thing I liked. Mary breaks up the dynamic and keeps Dean on his toes. Her competency, at being a Hunter, kinda throws Dean a little bit. No, it throws him a lot. He is so terrified that he’s going to lose her again, that he can’t help but try to protect her, keep her safe and out of harm, but Mary ain’t having that. I like how she just blows right past him, puts him in his place, and can throw down with the best of them. (Step aside, son. Mamma’s gonna have to kick some ass.) Sam’s tactic is the exact opposite of Dean. Dean is reveling in being taken care of and coddled, entirely in keeping with someone whose been everyone’s anchor for far too long. I think Sam is looking for an opportunity to do the coddling. I think he will constantly be doing nice things for her all the time, to show his love, because Sam shows his love by doing what he thinks are practical things that a person needs. Dean often shows his love by protecting. (Sam is that brother who rotates your tires and maps out your route to your destination. But Dean is that guy who will drive you there, to make sure you got there safe.)
Another dynamic that I was excited to see, was Dean confiding in Cas the way he used to. You can see, by his initial hesitation, that Cas is at first thrown by this a little bit. It’s been a while since Dean confided any real anxieties to him, especially family concerns. I liked this moment because it feels like the writers way of bringing Castiel more into the family dynamic. Cas is their brother. (Yeah, he’s their weird brother with superpowers , but still.) This is the writers way of showing Dean treating Cas like family instead of just saying he is family. (Show, don’t tell!) And this is the way Dean often treated Bobby, their lost family member, going to him with the cares and worries he can’t share with Sam. (Remember the rules of elder siblinghood, people! Gripes go up the chain of command, not down.)
Toni isn’t a bad fighter either. So far, we’ve had three big setpiece fights between Cas, Dean, and Toni’s henchwoman, Mary and Toni, and Sam and Toni, and they’ve been very well choreographed, capturing the speed, and messiness, of real life fighting. I especially liked the fight between Sam and Toni, which captured their desperation, and their clash of wills. This is Toni’s saving grace for me. I don’t like her, but I don’t hate her. She’s nuanced, and I’m beginning to get a feel for her, after some thought. It’s very obvious that she is terrified of the Winchesters. She’s been saturating herself for years with all the horrific tales of the things the Winchesters have been accused of, (remember her little Wall o’Winchester), or rumored to be a part of, and her fear of Sam is clearly palpable during that fight. She really does believe he will kill her, not knowing, or not understanding, that Sam and Dean try really hard to avoid killing humans.
But Mick is right. Toni blew their chance to gain the Winchesters trust, and for that kind of reasoning, I think of Mick as the more dangerous of the two. No wonder she didn’t want Mick to be part of her operation. It was unsanctioned and against specific orders. But Toni is at least open and direct in her goals. Mick is the kind of charming smartass who sidles up to you, with a smile, and a blade behind his back. A blade named Mr. Ketch, apparently.
As for Rick Springfield… He was awesome as Lucifer. I loved this actor, both as the grieving Vince, and as a slyly menacing Lucifer. The trailer made it seem like this was supposed to be a humorous character, and that was a bit misleading, but he turned out to be every bit as terrifying a Lucifer, as you’d expect. A little background for you young’uns. I am a child of the 80s, when Rick had his heyday, and his hit song “Jessies Girl” was on constant repeat on my cassette player. (Hell, I have it on my digital player, right now.) He also briefly starred in a soap opera around that time. I didn’t watch Soaps, so I don’t know which one, (but I’m sure one of my readers can tell me.) I liked the gravity he brought to this role, because I forgot how good of an actor he was. I expected him to try to be funny, but I was pleasantly surprised by his grimdark humor. Of course, Lucifer always torments his human vessel as some woman that his future host once loved. It’s a consistency that works, and I liked seeing that callback to Lucy’s greatest hits. He did it with his first vessel, then Sam, and now Vince.
The special effects in Crowley’s little spat with Lucifer (technically I couldn’t call it an actual fight) were remarkable, and him shaking off his little facial booboo, went a long way towards establishing Lucifer’s street-cred, for the rest season. I loved the shadow wings effect, when they do it with Cas, so seeing it on Lucy was kinda whew! Why did Crowley think acid would work against an archangel? Did he forget that he was dealing with an archangel? Archangels trump minor crossroad demons,even those who manage to finagle their way into being the King of Hell. Naturally, Crowley would light out and leave Rowena to fend for herself. I’m sure he has the utmost confidence in her survival capabilities. I once called her a slippery little noodle and my description still stands. Rowena will be alright.
I’m still not particularly interested in Crowley’s agenda. I’m not against it, and I understand why he wants to lock Lucifer back up again. He can’t be king if the old king is still on the throne. And hey! Revenge is best served cold! I have no clue what Lucifer’s real agenda is though. It can’t be the Apocalypse. That ship has sailed, and all the parties that would’ve been involved are at sea. He’s reconciled with his father, so I don’t think he still wants to destroy all of humanity. So…? It’s either ruling Heaven or Hell. (I still haven’t given up on my dream of seeing the Winchesters as the joint Kings of either.)
So, I’m not grading these two episodes. Maybe at the end of the season I might do that, but not so early in the season. Every season has at least three standout episodes (sometime more) that I fall in love with, and watch over and over, and I don’t think these two are it. I think we’re gonna be floored by some episode mid season, and that’s what I’m waiting for.