Season premiere!  Can you believe another season is upon us?  I certainly can, and what a long wait.  I’ll admit, I was a bit spoiled by “Exile on Main Street.”  I had to be since I was there at Comic-Con in the press room listening to all the dish.  I knew that Sam would be coming to this pretty messed up.  I knew Dean would be coming to this feeling out of sorts in his new life.  I knew Grandpa would be coming to this mysteriously alive.  So, going from there, it became about presentation.     
There’s a quandary I face when writing these reviews and that’s bridging the gap between objective critic and rabid fan.  This is one of those episodes that pit the two sides.  Critically “Exile On Main Street” was flawed.  For the fan though that’s excited that the show is back, I couldn’t be more ecstatic.  So, I’m going to force both sides to meet somewhere in the middle.  

Before starting with an analysis of “Exile On Main Street,” the perspective needs to be set.  This is one very different Dean and one very different Sam.  A year has passed and we’re missing the background as to how they’ve gotten to this point.  All we were told is Dean had a rough year of recovery from grief and Sam after his extreme ordeal in the cage in Hell ended up with the less than fuzzy Campbells hunting.  The brothers are disjointed that’s for sure.  That unease in the relationship transfers into the episode and their time together is often uncomfortable to watch.  Chances are that is an intentional choice.  They’re not recognizable to us and in the coming weeks or months we hopefully will learn why.  That’s your setting for the season.  
Beautiful Loser, where you gonna fall?  When you realize you just don’t have it all. 
Instantly we get the message through an opening montage to this great Bob Seger song.  Dean is stuck in the middle between the life he has and the life he had.  The shots going back and forth of him in similar situations now and then got me pretty hard, but then again I was already reeling from the part of the Smallville premiere when Jonathan gives Clark that pep talk.  I was longing for the simpler days when he and Sam were together.  However, this is the new Supernatural and once you lose your brother to Lucifer in a cage in Hell, all bets are off.  

Dean is not living the comfortable life in suburbia, that’s for sure.  He doesn’t look like he’s living in bliss the second he wakes up. The “I’m good” he tells Lisa comes across as an automatic response with not much truth behind it.  He makes breakfast, he goes to his job (in a pickup!), he hands out beer to friends at BBQs now, he comes home and keeps a watchful eye on everything that goes bump in the night.  He climbs into bed with Lisa, the trusty old shotgun and holy water positioned under the bed where he can reach them.  
Dean has found a friend to enjoy beers with and finds that women think he’s more desirable now that he’s unavailable.  He still has his handgun handy though when he thinks he hears screaming in an abandoned building nearby.  He still has his cover story ready when his friend catches him checking out something with said gun waving in front of him (What has Dean karmically done to Yorkies?  Still very funny.).  Every look in his eye tells us this life doesn’t feel right.  Yet he does it out of obligation.  He promised.  
Dean is ready with the “I told you so” when it all goes south.  His encounter with the yellow-eyed demon opens a can of worms he saw coming, yet still gives him more than he bargained for.  Dean would have never in a million years thought that Sam would be back and not tell him.  Jensen’s portrayal of Dean’s overwhelmed reaction to not only Sam and Samuel being alive but that Djinn were endangering his family is gut-wrenching and so well done.  The comment “take me home” gives me chills.  I still can’t get used to the idea he has a home. 
Oh, Dean, how did you end up with such a perfect woman?  Dean seeks refuge at Bobby’s house and Jim Beaver knocks his short time in this episode out of the park.  I was stunned to see Bobby not only be sad to see Dean, Lisa and Ben on his doorstep but that he knew for a year Sam was alive.  His reasons for not sharing Sam’s secret is far more heartfelt than Sam’s earlier plea.  Bobby desperately needed to know that someone could escape the hunting life and be happy.  He desperately wanted that someone to be Dean.  Considering his perspective of a hunter that has grown old alone and constantly facing death, why wouldn’t he want that for someone he considers to be a son?  Why wouldn’t he be upset that Dean has been pulled back into this?    
However, watching Dean describe to Bobby the agony of his year blew me away.  The strong chemistry that comes from Dean and Bobby together is better than ever.  Dean lets both Bobby and Sam know the toll of the past year.  â€œI showed up on their doorstep half out of my head.  God knows why they even let me in.  I drank too much, I had nightmares.  I collected hundreds of books, whatever I could to bust you out.”  Also intriguing in that scene, the way Sam listened.  More on that later though.  
Then there is Dean and Lisa’s heart to heart on the stairs.  Talk about chemistry.  Her patience is incredible!  She knew what she was getting into with Dean and took him in anyway.  â€œYeah, but when a guy who basically saved the world shows up at your door, you expect him to have a couple of issues.”  Despite everything, the struggles, Dean has become the role model she always hoped for Ben.  A Dad.  â€œDo you think it was all bad Dean?  Because it was the best year of my life.”  These two really are amazing together and no wonder Dean can’t easily walk away.  

Beautiful loser, read it on the wall, And realize, you just can’t have it all
The entire Dean hallucination scene reminded us why this is also a great horror show.  It’s been so long since we’ve had a really scary sequence like that and this is perfect because every cut is a major poke at Dean’s worst fear.  â€œYou can’t stop it.”  â€œIt’s all your fault.” Ben drinking demon blood, Lisa on the ceiling.  He’s still clearly traumatized from losing those that he loves.  It’s getting in the way of his true happiness.  
The new title card by no accident is shards of exploded and shattered glass flying in the air.  Sure, that’s meant to show the shattered state of the brotherly relationship, but it also really applies to Sam.  Unlike Dean, he hasn’t had the love of a strong woman to pull him out of his trauma.  He’s coasting on auto pilot and hanging out with the Campbells isn’t doing him any favors.  In other words, under those layers is one giant mess.  
Poor Sam has been broken to the point that he’s uncaring, unfeeling, and unable to relate or connect with anyone, including his own brother.  He spends most of the episode cavalier and matter of fact about everything, even over the fact that he escaped from Hell a year ago and didn’t tell Dean.  The reunion scene is troubling, that’s for sure.  Dean is reeling from the shock, Sam is very casual.  Even later when Dean asks Sam if he remembers the cage, Sam refuses to talk about it.  Sam seems like he’s given up on the idea of finding out why he’s back.  He’s just happy he is, or so he claims to be.  It’s a better alternative to Hell, but his sense of purpose is missing.   
Behind that jerkish facade there are signs that Sam is drowning and not too far gone.  In his hug with Dean, there is that small smile that shows how much he misses his brother.  Then there is the look of sympathy when Dean rushes home and frantically calls out for Ben and Lisa.  There’s the caring Sammy we all know and love!  When he listens to Dean’s story in front of Bobby, that is guilt on his face, I swear!  The cold exterior is a front.