There is a certain comfort and frustration when watching your favorite, long-running television show. Like putting on an old sweater, it fits perfectly, provides some warmth, and you already know where will chafe and irritate. I felt such when tuning into "Out Of The Darkness, Into The Fire" and "Form and Void", the first two episodes of "Supernatural's" eleventh season.
Dean (Jensen Ackles) emerges from The Darkness as gorgeous as ever, barking orders and omitting information. Sam trails behind him, hair whipping up in the wind, obediently swallowing his concerns. They wander through a town of poor, mostly dead humans, save the pretty new deputy with the shockingly blue eyes, and prepare to kill their way out of the latest version of the end of days, and fly out of town to save Castiel.
It’s reminiscent of season 2's "Croatoan" or Season 3's "Jus In Bello" or season 5's “Good God, Y’all” or "99 Problems” but peppered with enough one-liners and gore to keep things interesting.
"Supernatural" is an old dog, yet I’m still entertained by the repetitive tricks. Except over the summer, they seemed to have learned new ones.
Instead following Dean's orders against his better judgment, Sam, who had pragmatically observed one of the black-veined rabid humans and knows they die soon after infection, protests against the status quo. And impossibly, Dean listens.
Sam Winchester and his infinite and tragic quest for redemption and reluctance to "kill first and ask questions later" not only saves the day, he may have actually turned the Dean dictatorship into the Winchester partnership we've been promised for years. His doppleganger, Jared Padalecki, tiptoed away with the performance of the premiere episode. Watch this fantastic scene below.
Sam’s plan is a ballsy one, and it stipulates that each of the brothers do what they do best. And in Sam’s warped world, it means Dean saves the girl—hustling the deputy and the baby out—while Sam plays the bait in hopes to trap the Rabids and find a cure.
It also gives “Supernatural” a chance to stretch its horror-suspense muscles as Sam hides in a closet from attacking Rabids only for a mutated face to pounce him from behind, toss him about the room and then squirt blood into his mouth when he slits its throat. And now our beloved Sammy is infected.
For Dean and the baby to come face-to-face with a now completely diseased Mike (guest star Aaron Hill in a scene-stealing guest performance).
For a recovered Crowley to hear warnings that Michael or Lucifer screamed like a “frightened" animal to warn hell about the unleashing for the darkness. What exactly is so bad that it scares the devil himself?
For Castiel to pray to his angelic brethren for help only to be abducted by them.
The premiere, while it lacked in some major exposition (Rowena’s whereabouts, Castiel’s curse, Dean’s uber-gruffness even though he’s Mark-free) and needed one chick-flick moment to cement Dean's recovery, it is successful in setting a slightly redesigned framework for the season.
Or so I thought.
This week's “Form and Void” offers more gruesome action and more feels while somehow seemed to renege on the new operating procedures Sam so passionately invoked in the season opener.
Dean is still playing the part of the hero, continuing on to Grandma’s house with Jenna and baby Amara (It’s a missed opportunity that neither of them are wearing a stitch of red unless the blood on Jenna's pants counts). Jenna’s grandmother is chipper and Godly, and so capable, that I know they’ll both be dead by the end of the hour. And, sadly, I was right. It seems this old dog is still clinging to the "kill all the women" trick.
Dean, who left to head back to Sam, is called back to Jenna’s grandmother’s house when little Amara aka “the giant crazy fart” started throwing a demonic tantrum. It, of course, snowballs from there. Godly Grandma calls an exorcist—a recovered and super-snarky….Father Crowley.
Amara needs to feed, and she sets her sights on poor Jenna. So what does an evil telekinetic baby eat—souls, of course! Jenna’s being her amuse bouche. Jenna, who’s curious about murder like any cop might be, now has no moral compass to stop her from actually committing one. She kills her grandmother, and then attacks Dean. Soulless Jenna is one epic fighter, too. Crowley kills her after he gets “bored” of watching her try to kill Dean. It’s for old time’s sake, because he’s absolutely delighted by the power of The Darkness, and wants it all for himself. And he'll happily go through Dean to get it.
Dean activates his BAMFness and whips out his stashed angel blade, pinning him to the wall crucifixion style. I’m not surprised by Dean’s aggression, especially after endless episodes of the blood-thirsty hunter bearing the Mark of Cain. However, I question where it’s coming from. We already know from what Dean surmises is a vision that because Dean bore the Mark of Cain, he is irrevocably linked to the Darkness. Is Dean protecting an innocent infant from Crowley or is he protecting the Darkness because he has to? Hit me up with your theories.
The undisputed hero of the episode is Sam Winchester. Fans know Sam's mental, emotional and physical power. We also know the tremendous strength of his heart and intelligence. Sam uses every last weapon in his arsenal to survive, to save people. And when he runs out, he makes his own, like the taser he whipped up out of hardware store equipment and uses it to trap a semi-functional rabid. He presumably experiments on it and those fail.
He encounters a new reaper, a black woman (!!!) named Billie with a killer voice and major attitude since he was involved in her boss’s demise. She lays down the gauntlet: if Sam and Dean die again they will get "tossed out into The Empty" and will never return. While I'm trying to decide if "The Empty" sounds terrifying or just like being trapped in a beige marshmallow, Billie has the audacity to tell Sam that he's "unclean in the Biblical sense." Infected and dying, Sam heads to the chapel to pray. "There are people out there, good people, who are going to suffer because of me and I am not asking you to clean up my mess. Hell, I don’t even know if you’re out there. But if you can hear me…We need your help, God. We need to know there’s hope. We need a sign."
Ask and you shall receive! A vision knocks him to his knees it's gruesome, involving a shirtless screaming Sam and EYELID CHAINS. The infection is spreading, black threads encroaching over his gorgeous cheekbones, and he can barely stand up or see straight. But did Billie insult him or did she give him a clue? Sam searches for "biblical purification" and discovers that holy fire (made from igniting holy oil from the bottomless jug) might work. Like any good researcher, he tests himself first. I’m forever thankful and slightly disappointed that Sam doesn’t actually have to singe himself with the purified flame. Just the holy heat is enough to neutralize the infection. Sam then sets out to cure the rest of the town.
Finally, Castiel, who's spent the enitre episode being tortured by angels for Metatron’s whereabouts, is curled up in the mess, pleading for help. Misha Collins truly werked throughout this episode, though it’s unclear how Rowena's spell even works and how he’s able to fight it. It’s also a miracle that he’s still alive because Rowena’s previous attack dog spells fried the victims’ brains within a few hours. This storyline needs to end quickly to make room for those all important broments.
Instead the episode inexplicably ends with Sam and Dean returning to the bunker, site of a bunch of murders, and again no broment, no mention of Sam curing an entire town. It's frustrating that the brothers have yet to even clear the air after everything that happened at the end of last season: Dean trying to kill Sam, Dean slaughtering a bunch of people in the bunker, and after the ugliness of Charlie's death and funeral.
"Form And Void" was entertaining and darkly playful, especially with the religious themes, and yet it took a disappointing step back in the epic reset the premiere seemed to activate. Sam’s prayers mirrored a similar scene in the season 9 premiere. The brothers’ discovering a bloody, wounded Castiel smacked of the tail end of “The Great Escapist.” A creepy, violent little in the body of a little girl reeks of season 4's Lilith. If this continues, it looks like we may have to wear that comfy, albeit aged sweater until it falls apart.
Out Of The Darkness... Grade: B+; "Ford And Void" Grade: B-
What did you think of the episode? Will the image of the growing Amara forever haunt your dreams? Do you think Misha Collins looked particularly fit this? Do you think Dean even knows Sam was infected? Share your thoughts below.
Photo Credits: tvline.com; cwtv.com
Small Screen Girl
I am an unabashed pop culture and TV-aholic with no plans to ever seek treatment. Explore this blog and see just how deep my obsession goes.