Sunday, October 7, 2012

Review of "Supernatural" 8.01: "We Need To Talk About Kevin"

And we’re back! Feel good? Does to me that’s for sure. I never realise how much I miss this show until the first episode of the new season and then I’m all… Ohhhh…ahhhhh…*sigh of relief*.

Let’s start at the beginning shall we? “We Need To Talk About Kevin”. I liked it. I liked this opener. It set up a lot of intriguing questions that can act as excellent starting points for a season long arc and beyond. I’m not just talking about the story of the Word of God and the possibility of locking up all the demons for all time; I’m talking about the character setups. I liked the character stuff. I liked it a lot.

I loved the opening scene in the woods. I love how Dean was reintroduced to the world. He was totally feral. The sprint past the tent. The confrontation with the camping kids. How he grabs their backpack and splits. He’s like an animal. Startled, edgy and trying to survive. 

I completely understand how Dean would find Purgatory “pure”. He’s always struggled with the greys in hunting. Right back to the first time we met Ty Olsson actually, in the season 2 episode “Blood Lust”, when Dean realised not everything was as cut and dried as John Winchester had taught him; “I wish we never took this job, just... jacked everything up…. What if we killed things that didn't deserve killing?” Ever since that point, the line in the sand has blurred. He’s become friends with an Angel, tolerated demons, become an ally with Death, given witches a pass, let a Skinwalker live to be patted another day. Things lost clarity for him. Dean’s world became full of murky greys and I think he struggled with that. In Purgatory, he was back to a world where it was easy to recognise evil. There was no, do they deserve it, should I, or shouldn’t I. There was no one to discuss it with, talk over the morality of the issue at hand. No one to question his motives, no one to question his actions. The choice was kill or be killed. Easy. I totally get why Dean, on some level, would dig Purgatory. He's always said he understands demons and monsters over humans. "Demons I get. People are crazy." I understand why he considered Purgatory “pure.”

Part of me likes where Dean is and part of me doesn’t. Maybe I should clarify that. I very much like whom Dean has come out of Purgatory as. In stark contrast to his season 7 drunk and depressed state, he’s focused, powerful and kickass. This is a Dean I can get onboard with, well technically I’ll get on board with any Dean, but you know what I’m saying. This is a Dean Winchester that feels right. He’s always been an emo and angsty boy, but he’s always been strong and dedicated, someone you could turn to and rely on, but the last couple of years beat him down and he became a shadow of the person he once was. I never loved him any less, but I hurt for him terribly. Purgatory Dean seems.... cleansed. He’s regained his mojo, his Deanness. In fact he’s Dean on steroids, which brings me to the part I don’t like. No that’s wrong, the part that worries me. Dean’s great beauty has always been in his humanity. He may be a hunter but he’s incredibly human. He feels deeply for those lives affected by him or by the things he hunts. He leaps in front of strangers, not because he’s cavalier in the face of death but because he’s a born protector. He worries about who he is, what the life is doing to him and those around him. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s not afraid to show emotion. I don’t want that to change. I don’t want this new Dean to lose any of that. I want his humanity to remain intact. I do think the Purgatory experience will soften as he gets used to the world up top again and he’s forced to remember that in our world, not everything is clear cut. I’m ever so thankful that he’s come out with new purpose and a sharp edge, gosh I'm glad about that, but I just don’t want him to lose his soft centre.

Which brings me to Sam, who is Dean’s soft centre. They keep each other human and it'll be Sam who will help bring the humanity back into Dean.

Poor Sam, I’ve been seeing him getting a bit of sledging since the episode aired, but I’m going to give him a break. I’m ok with Sam and his decision. I get it. I understand. Here’s where my thinking has led me.

Here's a guy who just had every last vestige of family ripped from him. This life, this hunting life has taken every single person he loved. His mother, girlfriend, father, friends, Cass, Bobby and the person he loves most, Dean. Everything, everyone gone. “Nothing says family quite like the whole family being dead. I feel like his reaction was one of shock. He no longer had control over anything. There was nothing he could do about any of it. I think Sam was simply lost. There was nothing left to fight for.

I also think it was very pointed that he said he fixed the car and hit the road. When Dean has been in a similar situation, he fixes the car. When the Impala got totalled and their father died, Dean focused on fixing the car. He didn’t know what else to do, so he fixed the car because that's one thing he could fix and in doing so, it stopped him having to face anything else. When Cass went all vengeful God and Sam’s wall collapsed, Dean fixed the car; “Imma fix this car. Because that's what I can do.”  There’s a level of control in that. It’s like; this is the one thing I still have control over, the one thing I CAN fix. Sam didn’t know what to do, so he fixed the car and then he hit the road. That in itself speaks to me.

Then he ran over that dog.

I think the dog is the impetus to everything that followed and a metaphor for everything that Sam's walked away from, the responsibilities. The way Sam responded to hitting the dog, the way he was screaming and freaking out at that nurse, that wasn’t so much about the dog as far as I’m concerned, that was about everything else. That was Sam’s stressed out reaction to everything. Guilt and fear and grief and loss and loneliness all there, spilling out as this helpless animal lay in his arms. I think this dog probably gave him a focus that he’d not had since everything was torn away from him and he was left standing staring into the space where his brother had once been. It gave him something to care about again. He hits the dog and the woman is thrown into his path and he anchors on to both of them because they’re the first real, tangible thing he’s had to hang onto since Dean disappeared. I get it Sam and I’m cool with it.

Why would he want to continue a life that he never wanted in the first place? He never chose hunting and hunting has destroyed everything it’s touched. Sure, Sam said he was good with it now, he couldn’t go back to his old life and I’m sure he convinced himself of that, until the life forced upon him, evaporated before his eyes. I’d prefer this for Sam than either of the Sams who dealt with losing his brother in the past. Robotic Sam and blood chugging Sam. Sam who drank and never slept and tried to sell himself to the nearest demon to bring his brother back. I don’t want to think of him trudging across the country obsessively searching for something he doesn’t even knows exists to help a brother who he doesn’t even know is alive or dead. I don’t wish that on him no matter how much I love the brothers and their relationship. This new life, to me was a much healthier path to take and I hope he found some happiness in it. I really do. Because he’s not had a lot of happiness since he was 6 months old and he deserves a taste of it. Even if it can’t last, because we know it can’t and won’t. He was right, people die all the time, and they can’t be the sole people on earth whose task it is to save everyone. How can one person do that anyway? It must have been horrifically daunting for him when first faced with this new situation. He didn’t know where anyone was, he didn’t know if they were alive or dead, so Sam chose to live, instead of live a half life in hope of something he couldn’t be sure would ever return. That sits well with me in relation to who Sam is and the journey he's taken. Did he stop thinking about Dean? I bet you he thought of him every damn day. People lose people, they move forward, they move on with life, but they never forget and they never let go and I guarantee you Sam never let go of Dean in his heart. Sam is a damn good person and I never doubt that he loves Dean, ever.

I also think there's more going on with Sam than we know, obviously. I mean, he says the relationship is over, but he was clearly with Amelia at the time Dean reconnected with Sam. Though, that was weird don’t you think, how she just watched him leave. It felt to me like this is something maybe he does, goes off on his own for a while, so she’s used to it? Because it’s not like she said see you later, bye, ring me, she just quietly watched him leave….it was almost like he snuck out and she wasn’t surprised. So there’s something going on there and there’s more to that relationship than he’s giving Dean right now and more to his year. I found Sam just as evasive as Dean.

Which brings me to Sam and Dean. No matter what, no matter what’s going on in Sam’s life, no matter how hurt or abandoned by his brother Dean may feel, nothing will ever keep them apart. They fell back into each other’s lives in a nanosecond. They may be on slightly different pages right now, but they're certainly reading the same book. Sam was watching every move Dean made, every twitch, every stressful look at a vending machine full of choice, he even bought his brother a burger, which Dean was obviously surprised and touched by. He’s watching out for Dean and I don’t think it’s out of guilt. They’re going to be ok, because they’re always ok and for me, that was in evidence here in this episode. It was a start and it felt like a promising one with plenty to work with. It’s going to take time, they’ve been apart for a year after all, there’ll be lots of angsty bumps in the road, but you know that they’ll always have that “...deep abiding love for each other” as Dean said slightly sarcastically.

I really enjoyed their conversation in the motel room when Sam tried to explain what happened with the dog and the girl. I thought that was a fabulous moment. They looked and sounded so grow’d up there, it was a rather grown up connection…until Dean and his lines about not taking a joint from Don and the letting the dog in the car! Did you also note that Dean was on the floor? He would have spent the past year on the ground, lying in the dirt. The bed would have been so foreign to him, the comfort so foreign that he sat on the floor. Damn. That said more about where Dean’s at than practically anything else.

I’m intrigued by the introduction of Benny. So Dean bonded with Benny. I’m sure they went through some crap together to get topside and a friendship was obviously born. It doesn’t bother me. Yeah he’s a vampire, but I guess when faced with a situation like Dean was, you hang on to whatever can get you out of that bad place, kind of like Sam and the dog and the girl. I see parallels between Dean's unlikely friendship with Benny and Sam's relationship with Amelia. Both were born of trauma and need. I like Benny a lot. I know he’s trouble, I’m not sure what kind of trouble yet, except that it’ll be big trouble and Sam’s not going to like it and that’s part of the reason Dean's lying. The rest of the reason is so mysterious! It must be bad. Just the way Dean speaks to Benny in some kind of, let’s not talk about it, what happened in Purgatory stays in Purgatory code. All this keeping your nose clean business. But there’s also softness in how they talk to each other. There’s genuine affection in their tone. I’m intrigued to see that Dean has made another friend. I wonder if one day he might have a human friend (other than Sam of course) and I wonder if he'll eventually have to gank Benny...

I can’t help wonder if whatever happened in Purgatory is something to do with Cass. Dean had Benny’s soul shoved up his arm. Cass can touch souls. What if Cass helped them escape and Dean willingly left him behind. Castiel’s sacrifice for redemption? What if Cass was trying to come too but “let go” and only Dean and Benny got out. What if Dean chose Benny over Cass for some reason? I’m just grasping at all sorts of straws here, but it seems like such a big, nasty secret Dean has, it’s got to be a hum-dinger and I can only think the worst thing he could do in Sam’s eyes is leave Cass behind, especially in favour of a monster, because as far as I can see it, everything else he'd have to do in Purgatory would be about survival, no matter how heinous. But you don't leave one of the family behind.

And speaking of big, nasty, I am totally stoked that Crowley is the big bad this season. This makes everything so personal. He’s screwed the brothers (figuratively speaking), every which way but Sunday over and over. He knows them, knows their signature moves so to speak. They’ve all been balancing this you scratch my back, I’ll rip yours to shreds relationship for so long now, to have them at logger heads is going to be all kinds of fun. Crowley is awesome. Powerful, powerful snarky and joy to see on screen. I’m going to thoroughly enjoy their repartee and their clashes, for however long it lasts into this season and beyond. Though I do wonder, will this finally be the season we see Crowley get his comeuppance?

Plus of course there’s Kevin, we need to talk about him…obviously. I’m enjoying Kevin. I quite liked him at the end of season 7, but he’s really upped his game and I'm pretty happy with how that character played out in this opening episode. He adds a nice dimension to the boy’s relationship and I think he’ll be a good bouncing off point for the brothers to reconnect.

One thing that interested me is that this season is about the Word. It’s about information being given by God and yet it’s also about the information being withheld by the boys. I think it’s really interesting to frame their unspoken secrets and the journey they must take together, up against a quest for the Word of God. They seek out the truth as they hold the truth back. Stark contrasts in motivations between the over all arc and the character arcs.

And I wouldn’t be sweetondean if I didn’t talk about how freakin’ smokin’ hot Purgatory Dean is. Smokin’. SMOKIN’! How can you whack blood and grime on someone and make them better looking? How? It's just insane. That scene where he's just running through the forest chasing the vampire, all fit and strong and fast and... boy oh boy…I may have made a couple of little noises here and there… Imma gonna enjoy Purgatory Dean… oh yes.

Anyhoo, all in all…I think "We Need To Talk About Kevin" was a great start to season 8. It was intrigue upon intrigue upon intrigue. I loved that the brothers got everything out on the table from the get go. There was no "I'm fine." "I'm good." rubbish that these two usually spout. They spoke about their year. Yes they were holding back (we've got 22 more eps to tell the story after all), but they were talking. They weren't saying, I don't want to talk about it. We had their character journeys and individual arcs laid out for us nice and clear. That's what I really loved about "We Need To Talk About Kevin", so much of it was character based. That's what "Supernatural" has always been about. That's what's always made it special. But in the last couple of years the show seemed to move away from the character stuff and more towards the big monster story stuff. But this was all character, all deep and murky and mysterious and it got me so excited to see what happens next. The Winchester brothers were the heart of this episode just as they should be. Thank you Mr Carver.

So until next week people…because I can say that now….NEXT WEEK. Ah, it sure feels good to have my boys back.

What were your thoughts on the opening episode? What do you think is going on with Cass and with Dean and Benny and do you think there’s more to Sam’s situation than meets the eye? Who was standing outside Sam’s house? Let me know, because I need more theories!

Thanks for reading.

sweetondean is a writer and editor for The Winchester Family Business