Welcome to the new season, one based on conversations with Executive Producers Andrew Dabb and Robert Singer, is the new character driven season. Smaller stories that are meant to explore the emotional dilemmas of our characters. Going with that blueprint, did “Keep Calm and Carry On” deliver? For the most part yes, although there were a few bumps that made the highly anticipated season premiere a little lackluster. Don’t get me wrong, this episode was a vast improvement over the final three episodes of last season and one that I really enjoyed watching. But what does the episode tell us about the direction of the season? Not a lot, but there’s some potential. Let’s go through it all and see what worked and what didn’t.
There were three separate stories in this episode, all which worked very well together. I didn’t feel disjointed when they bounced from story to story, which is a big strength of this Andrew Dabb script. Part of that feeling is due to the tone which was even throughout. It started with Dean and Mary which was the strongest and most emotionally powerful story of the three. I have to say, for a story line that I had a lot of reservations about (and still do), I was compelled with it from beginning to end. Samantha Smith did an amazing job with her “fish out of water” reaction to coming back from the dead 33 years later. It’s about time after all these years she got a meaty story like this!
I felt with Mary right from the get go. She’s in a strange place in her nightgown and is approached by a strange man (strange to her anyway). Taking him down is such a Winchester/Campbell thing to do because it shows the fierce hunter inside of her has never left. The recollections of her death was stunning, as was her watching her grown son, one who is now strangely older than her, go through her life events and tell her things only family would know. Sitting in the cemetery on the bench, listening to Dean do his best to fill her in on the last 33 years, feeling fondness over learning how John died to save Dean, it was all perfect. The conversation felt so right and a lot of what’s been done on this show lately hasn’t felt right to me. By the way, massive kudos to cinematographer Serge Ladoucer and Director Phil Sgriccia on framing that scene as daybreak hit Dean and Mary on the bench. A truly gorgeous shot!
I’m also very pleased the way Dean was characterized with Mary’s return. Sure, he’s good on filling her in with all the details, but he was just as uneasy as her. He’s glad to see his Mom, but he doesn’t know exactly what to do or say other than give her the facts. That’s the way it should be. He can’t be all hugs and smiles and “Mom’s back!” It’s just not that simple and he knows it. Granted, the complications of Sam’s disappearance also put a damper on her return, so now is not the time to settle in and enjoy life as a family. The ending scene in the Impala said it all. Mary sitting in the back with a forlorn gaze while Dean is up front driving. Dean wants to say something, but he doesn’t know what. Castiel certainly wasn’t in a talking mood! The three of them in awkward silence set the tone perfectly. This isn’t the best…reunion…ever.
I also love Dean jumping into the hunt for Sam. He definitely wasn’t pulling punches, which is classic Dean. Taking a quote from Jensen’s interview with us from Comic Con this summer, I was thrilled to see Dean have his “Taken” moment when he called Toni from the veterinarian’s cell phone. He was so keyed up, he broke it in half! You know he’s going to carry through on that threat and I personally can’t wait to see him do it. Even in her daze though, Mary is also on board with doing what it takes to protect her boys. Sure, we saw it coming a mile away her taking out the bun-headed baddie, but wasn’t it still awesome? No hesitation there. You hurt her boy, you’ve gotta deal with momma. There was however a certain sense of remorse. She did what she had to do, but she was not okay with it. She’s back in the hunting life even though she spent all that time before her death trying to walk away. Dean’s words put it into perspective though, they are hunting because it does good for other people. It’s the best they can do now after everything. That is why Mary is so going back to being a hunter if you ask me.
Then there’s Castiel, who got to join in on the Dean and Mary team up in the search for Sam. How cool was it to finally see what happens when an angel is blasted with the angel banishing sigil? It’s the equivalent of a meteor hitting earth. That explains some meteor sightings! It probably explains alien sightings too if the guy comes out of the hole in a trench coat and does the “two fingers to the forehead” sleep move. Aliens makes more sense than angels if you’re a redneck.
Anyway, Castiel is definitely tired of being kicked around and it’s about time. I really, really hope they stick with his new found attitude consistently all season. There was talk of him and Mary bonding and while the conversation between the two of them was nice, it wasn’t exactly the bonding I was hoping for. I’d like to see that evolve over time. But I loved Castiel’s reaction to seeing that Dean was alive and their bro hug. I’m all about the bro hugs, even if it was more for Castiel’s benefit that Dean’s. Relived angel makes me happy! Mary seeing an angel for the first time, even if it was a trench coated one, made me happy as well. Not exactly fluffy cherubs with wings, are they? Cas did make a convenient attack dog for Dean and I love Castiel in enforcer mode.
The best scene of the episode by far though was Mary’s reunion with the Impala. The whole scene was shot beautifully. Baby was there in the MOL garage all shined up and looking her best. Mary was so blown away to see the car again that I got emotional over her initial reaction. She gazed, we saw every bit of Baby’s beauty inside and out, as if she was welcoming mamma home. It reminded me of the glory shots of Baby in “Two and a Half Men” from season six. However, this was a ripe moment for some humor too and Dabb took full advantage. I loved Dean and Mary both at the same time looking at Baby’s back seat and smiling the same smile. Dean catching that same look on Mary’s face was priceless! Yeah, he doesn’t want to know about that. I read in the comments on this site that it’s now canon that all four of the Winchesters have done the deed in Baby’s back seat. That’s wickedly awesome!
I’m glad to see Crowley was in the opener, and his presence was a good setup for what’s coming in the next few weeks. Sure what he did wasn’t much, but at least it starts the logical progression. He’s on the hunt for Lucifer and Crowley is doing what Crowley does best. The one part of his whole story that ticked me off though was the stupid demons. Ugh, when can that stop? I know it’s been established canon for the last few years but I never have liked it. It’s tiresome. Why waste valuable time on watching two bit stunt demons of the week act dumb before getting an angel blade ripped through them by Crowley? Lame, lame, lame. What happened to the days of demons being feared? I know I’ve asked that question before, but I won’t stop until the stupid demons of stupidity go away.
Okay, let’s talk about the British Men of Letters. I don’t want to discount Sam’s scenes because Jared’s performance was amazing. Sam’s full fledged defiance of the crap that the British Men of Letters gave him was so in character and you couldn’t help but feel proud even though he was in utter agony. He took their punishment head on and didn’t show any signs of caving, which instantly meant that Toni has underestimated the Winchesters. I’d like to know what they were thinking. After all, they shot him, drugged him, healed him, chained him to a chair and threatened horrible torture. That’s not exactly asking for information nicely and it’s a pretty strange tactic if you ask me. Is it because they think he’s the enemy? Their motives aren’t clear, which took away from the believability of the scenes.
(Awesome shot Phil Sgriccia!)
For me, I’m very, very tired of the superficial and stereotypical villains that this show is guilty of portraying, and the British Men of Letters is just the latest in a long line. How many times have we seen Sam tortured for no legitimate purpose? For me, despite Jared’s performance, it all had a “been there done that” sort of feeling. They want to know about the American network of hunters? They know everything there is to know about Sam and Dean but they don’t know that there is no organized network? They do know the American MOL was wiped out in 1958, right?
Forget the perplexity of their motives. Just their attitude alone made me wish for their brutal deaths ASAP. They were not fun to watch by any means. They were smug and way too brash. They were made to look overconfident and stupid, which is again a fallback used by the writers way too frequently (see complaint earlier about demons). What’s wrong with making them look cleverly diabolical yet extremely organized? I didn’t like Toni and I definitely didn’t like her bun-headed cohort.
Having said all that though, Sam’s part of it was stunning. I personally liked (and I’m not sure if anyone caught it) that the way he got himself out of his hallucinogenic daze was to cut the palm of his hand, a la season seven. For those that don’t remember, that’s the way he could tell what was real back then and it worked again here. It’s clever that he also paid attention to the position of the camera, using it as a way to get the upper hand on Toni by pooling the blood at just the perfect angle. There’s our smart Sammy. No, Sam didn’t kill Toni, he just tried to disable her. As much as I wanted the bitch dead, I would have been crying a major foul if Sam did kill her. That would have been very out of character. He kills monsters, not human bad guys. It’s also consistent with his new mantra from last season of saving people as much as possible, even though that kind of got dropped early in the season.
However, I do wish that we could have gotten a glimpse of Sam feeling the grief of Dean’s supposed death. From what I heard over the summer, Sam was going to go through all this believing that Dean wouldn’t come for him. We didn’t see that. Dabb could have had something in the dialogue, like Toni bringing up Dean and Sam getting defensive. Or the bad acid trip that he experienced showing how broken he was over his brother being gone. But yeah, it was just a montage of people he loved dying. I know that worked for some, but I thought it was kind of cheesy overall. I wasn’t feeling the turmoil nor was I really stricken by the experience. Then again, my yard stick for hallucinations is “Hello, Cruel World” from season seven, penned by the most awesome Ben Edlund. That was a freaked out Sammy on the edge!
Speaking of cheesy, magical brass knuckles? Really? That was supposed to wow us? So these British MOLs are all smug and confident because they have the warded brass knuckles? I’ve seen some ridiculous things on this show, but that takes the cake. They need to do better than that, like be smart and one step ahead of everyone else, not beat the crap out of Dean and Castiel because they can be bad ass if they want to be. T-boning Baby was a low blow too, but at least bunhead got what she deserved for that act.
But hey, it’s one episode, let’s see what other writers do with these BMOL morons. I’m glad they did address why the British MOL didn’t get involved into now and there is a higher power in the hierarchy. Maybe that person (or persons) will be the evil mastermind(s) I was hoping for this time around. In the meantime, I’d rather see what’s happening with the new Lucifer. Rick Springfield in the previews looks quite intriguing to me. But that could be from my biased 80’s fan girl perspective.
“Bad Boys” by April Wine? Can’t say I’ve ever heard that one and I know my 80’s rock. It was a rather poor choice for an opener, but the Black Sabbath closer easily made up for that. Excellent choice and it really brought home the somber predicament of everyone.
Anyone notice that Jeremy Carver is still in the credits as Executive Producer? Very interesting, especially since all his efforts are going toward “Frequency” right now. It was my understanding he wasn’t involved in SPN at all right now.
I’m still trying to figure out how a whole family would say yes to Lucifer just to get killed. Is Lucifer jumping bodies without permission or were they all just dumb? You’d think one would say yes and the others would get the message. Perhaps I’m over thinking though.
LOVED the shoutout to visiting the Mystery Spot on the billboard that Castiel crashed through.
Overall grade, a B to B-. It wasn’t an action packed hour for sure, but at least it was consistent. Up next week, Brad and Eugenie’s grand rescue of Sam and we get to see the new Lucifer. I promise to keep an open mind, but then again how open can one’s mind be before your brains fall out? I guess that’s the conundrum I’ll take on next week. :)