So Supernatural premiered Friday night, with considerable less fanfare than last year's Twitter Controversy. I'll be honest, despite my excitement over the show's return, I was quite nervous too before the premier. This has a lot to do with me being not exactly happy with how the show ended last season. After watching the episode, I breathed a sigh of relief. There still are parts that I'm conflicted about, but overall I liked it. Really liked it.
The following is my list of the good, the funny, and the not so good parts. First, here are the good:
>> I'm happy to see all of my interpretations of Dean's motivation seem to get validated here. To start of, some of you may remember seeing my comments here and there that I believed Dean only went to live with Lisa because of the promise he made to Sam. I'm a little vexed at hearing people (especially Sam) say that Dean always wanted a family of his own, a white picket fenced house. No, no, no, no! This is what other people wanted for Dean. All Dean ever wanted, like he so forcefully said here, was his brother, alive! That is not to say however, Dean wasn't curious about the kind of life Sam so desired. Hence my interpretation of why during Dean's darkest hours, Lisa came up again and again in Dean's conscious. But he is not in love with her, nor the lifestyle she represents.
>> I really enjoyed seeing Dean trying to live a life so different from what he had known before. The montage clip was well put together, and Jensen Ackles is such a nuanced actor, he was able to portray that although Dean was leading this sunny and peaceful life, there was lingering grief lurking behind his eyes that was never going to go away, only pushed deeper inward. While the colorful frames of Dean's daily routine put a grin on my face, the black and white frames of his past (especially when Sam handing Dean a bottle of beer at a roadside) made me nostalgic for Dean's old life.
>> I had surmised whole summer long, based on my belief Sam is still and always will be Dean's everything, that Dean would want to put suburbia in his rearview mirror the minute Sam came to get him. But that also posed a problem for me because I don't want to see Dean becoming a douche for abandoning Lisa and Ben like yesterday's socks after he practically inserted himself in their lives. I was satisfied to see my guess was correct that Dean did say goodbye to Lisa and was ready to leave with Sam at first. But true to his protector form, after suffering through the Djinn induced nightmare, Dean changed his mind and decided to stay so he could protect Lisa and Ben from harm. Once again, this is in line with what I know of the character -- between what he wants and what he should, Dean always chooses the latter. Also true to form, Dean's decision here showed the deep seated guilt he carries and the responsible person that he is. He saw his association with Lisa and Ben was what put them in danger, thus he naturally took it on as his duty to keep them safe. I'm certain before the season is half over, Dean will be on the road again driving his beloved Impala with Sam, but until then, I'm interested in seeing how the writers are going to get him there, away from that nicely kept green lawn.
>> I'm content with Lisa's characterization so far. I always liked Lisa, and saw her as a level headed capable woman who was doing a fine job of raising her son on her own. I was afraid she would be turned into either a whiny damsel in distress or a sacrificial lamb that gets burned on the ceiling a la Mary and Jessica. Her wish for Dean to stay did not say she could no longer be an adequate parent by herself. As a mother to a young son myself, I totally gets her when she said she wanted Ben to have a role model he could look up to. What she said about Dean being great with Ben affirmed what I suspected of him -- that he is a better man than John ever was, just like Bobby has said.
>> I'm relieved YED wasn't resurrected here. I read the blurb in the summer that Fredric Lehne was returning and I was conflicted. While I liked his portrayal as the sinister YED, I also felt strongly that YED should stay dead after Dean killed him so spectacularly in AHBL II. Turned out I could have my cake and eat it too. I'm more than okay to have the evil SOB turning up in Dean's nightmares. Hmmm, maybe Alastair can join him there too? The Hell's Grand Inquisitor is another villain I don't wish to see gets brought back to life after Sam killed him equally spectacularly in OTHOAP, but if he terrorizes Dean in his dreams, I'm all for it. *evil grin*
>> I never had any reservation about Grandpa Campbell coming back. Mitch Pileggi is a fine actor, and he has a great rapport with Jensen. The reunion scene, coupled with flashbacks and somber music gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes. I also love the hint of a secret agenda Samuel Campbell apparently harbors. I'm not exactly sure he isn't evil, but I'm more inclined to think he is just ruthless, an end justify means type of guy. I'm eagerly awaiting Samuel Campbell's character to unfold.
>> My heart gave a little flutter when Samuel said Dean reminded him of Mary. I maybe wrong here but I think it was only fanon before that Dean took after his mother. Now, it's canon, guys! *g*
>> When I first heard of cousin Campbells popping out of the woodwork all of a sudden, I wasn't too thrilled. But I gotta say I loved the idea of a militia group they formed after watching the episode. I also find this unique combination of natural camaraderie and competition between the Campbells and the Winchesters intriguing. For that, I'll handwave at the unlikelihood of them never heard of each other before given they are all hunters.
>> I really liked Dean's reaction when he first saw Sam again. All summer long I had imagined how Dean would react in that instance, but none of my imaginations could hold candle to Jensen's finely calibrated performance here. There were confusion, disbelieving, mixed in with a longing for it to be true at first. Then it was joy of getting his brother back, followed by rage and hurt at being left out of the truth all this time. When Dean hugged Sam after realizing it was his brother in the flesh in front of him, my heart ached at seeing so much love, relief, along with a hint of lingering doubt shone in Dean's expressive eyes.
>> Lastly but not the least of the goodies, did I mention Dean looked awfully pretty here? Well he did to me. I highly approve of the new stylish jacket he wore in this episode. The hip skimming length accentuated Dean's broad shoulders, slim waist and narrow hips. The color looked good on him too, bringing out his fair complexion and the greenness of his eyes. I'm sure the jacket will be gone as soon as Dean untucks his shirt. Until then, I'll enjoy it while I can.
Now we come to the funny parts. Not a whole lot I'm afraid, but a couple of moments gave me glee:
>> I giggled when cousin Gwen told Dean he has delicate features for a hunter (much to Dean's chagrin). Of course she had to follow it with "...Sam's going on and on." Hehe, Sam, what have you been telling your cousin about Dean?!
>> I also chortled at the looks Sam and Dean exchanged when Sam held up the club and went: "Really? Golf?" Dean of course responded indignantly "It's a sport!" I can't help imagining that was a J2 moment where Jared teased Jensen about playing golf, and Jensen was all exasperated at Jared's ribbing.
At last, here are the parts I'm not too pleased with. I hesitate to say they are bad because I'm not sure what is going on yet. Still, they threw me off somewhat:
>> My biggest iffy is with Sam. He felt entirely too robotic to me. Contrast to Dean who was so layered with deep set emotions, Sam was almost flat. He goes through motions, says what needs to be said without much feeling. The same hug I listed under the good parts above also gave me pause when the camera flipped to focus on Sam. The look on his face I could only interpret as bland, at best. Yeah sure, there was a ghost of a smile, but it didn't reach his eyes. I couldn't detect the joy and relief of having his brother in his arms again from Sam. Instead, it was more like: "Oh here's my hug." I don't know if it's intentional acting, but this 2 dimensional Sam is not doing much for me.
>> With the earnestness Sam always had in the past missing here, his all out beating at the downed Djinn gave me lots of chill and unease. I admit while it was hot seeing all that power unleashed from Sam, the lack of restraint was disturbing to me. Again, I'm not sure if this is a part of character development, but I'm not particularly excited about a story arc in which Sam gradually regains his humanity.
>> I'm kinda upset with Bobby at the moment. I know his motive stemmed from wanting Dean safe from harm. Yet I think he was way too callous in keeping the truth about Sam away from Dean all this time. After went through so much with the boys, Bobby is one of the few remaining souls who truly understood how much Sam meant to Dean; and how deeply Sam's death and suffering hurt Dean. So it's almost cruel he would keep the news of Sam's return away from Dean, letting Dean wallow and flounder unnecessarily in grief. Of course, there is a possibility that Bobby has doubts in regard to Sam. In that case I can understand his silence. But that doesn't say much for my peace of mind.
>> My head boggled a little at the redefining of what familiar monsters do. I was all WTH, weren't Djinns suppose to make people's fondest dreams "come true" so they can drink their blood? Instead, they are bringing on nightmares and poisoning their victims now? I understand this is Supernatural, so the writers can pretty much change the rules at the drop of a hat. But I think it's a little confusing when previously established setups are thrown out of the window.
Now that I've listed all the good, the funny, and the not-so-good parts of the episode, I'm left with a little wishful thinking at the end: I've read the interview in which Jared thinks Sam's sojourn in Hell was much worse than Dean's, whatnot with two archangels raging epic battles around him all the time. Truth is I hope it's not true. For one thing, I'm so done with the lame "epic battle" of Lucifer and Michael in Swan Song that I want no rehashing of it what so ever. Also I think it's an unwise endeavor to make Sam's torturous experience directly comparable to Dean's. Jensen has portrayed post Hell Dean close to perfection, it's almost impossible for Jared to top that in my opinion. So this is what I wish instead, that contrary to what appears, Sam's soul never went into the pit with his body. After all, it was said in Dark Side of the Moon that both Sam and Dean's souls are Heaven bound. Wouldn't it be a cool twist if that's exactly what happened to Sam--his soul was snatched by the angels after he made the jump, only instead of the Heaven he and Dean both saw, he ended up in the same "prison" where Castiel and Anna were sent to be reconditioned. That would actually give me a satisfactory explanation of why Sam is the way he is here, and it would make his experience distinctly different from Dean's so that it would not warrant drawing comparisons between the two.