After Supernatural season 7 left much to be desired, all eyes were on the longtime series as it makes its way into season 8 – which we now know may lead to season 10. Bringing in former Supernatural writer Jeremy Carver as showrunner, has the series been able to right itself from past mistakes, returning the series to its former, leviathan-less self?
The Supernatural season 8 premiere picks up one year after the events of the season 7 finale, where we find Dean (Jensen Ackles) escaping Purgatory and Sam (Jared Padalecki) in love. This storyline essentially mirrors the season 6 beginning where Dean had found love and Sam escaped from Lucifer's cage, so it's not surprising that more than a few moments feel eerily, then awkwardly, similar to scenes we've seen before, now in reverse.
The entirety of the premiere's intended tale is interesting enough: reuniting the Winchester brothers and slightly revealing a seasonal arc, with perhaps a few candidates for season 8 foe. Still, the episode is not exactly the return to form fans had been waiting for. Instead of a clear, direct focus about what's actually occurring, audiences are met with more of a mish-mash of past season storylines needing to be cleaned up and hints at oddities that happened during the time jump in the series (including Sam's dog).
While the premier should have been focusing on establishing a strong start to a (now) planned three season arc, it spends much of the time attempting to make sense of where season 7 unfortunately left them, quickly slipping in hints of an important artifact - one that references a Hell Gate. Lacking the familiar faces of Castiel (Misha Collins) and Bobby (Jim Beaver), the attempt to return the series to its intimate roots feels all but loss as the inclusion of so many additional characters makes the episode itself feel crowded. The need to create an emotional tie to Kevin (Osric Chau), the Prophet, is necessary, but the teeny-bopper transition the episode took in order to include his former girlfriend in the story felt unnecessary, resulting in some of the episode's weakest scenes. Fortunately the series makes use of its aced sleeve, Crowley (Mark Sheppard), to help smooth over many of the episodes rough spots.
When the episode isn't following the Prophet on the run, we're left with the anticipated reunion of Sam and Dean. Considering Supernatural viewers have gone through enough of these reunions, they all tend to have a similar flow to them, catching everyone up on what important information we need to know about what was missed. However, this reunion largely failed to do that. Given the likelihood that Dean's friend is going to soon become an enemy, too much time was spent on highlighting the hidden communication between the two, instead of cluing audiences in on why we should at all care about this character who didn't exist last season. This would also help reveal more of what happened to Dean in Purgatory – something that this episode lacked.
For the first time Supernatural fans got a glimpse into one of the often talked about settings in the series mythos, seeing exactly what type of hell our favorite characters find themselves in. Aside from a few lines citing terrible things, the only thing we saw of Purgatory was fighting in the woods. Not terribly terrifying or challenging - at least from what we've currently seen - but still something we're supposed to believe drove Castiel to "give up," or to cause Dean to hush up about it upon questioning from Sam. Perhaps something that would have been better sold if we had Castiel present in some fashion. But, alas, not yet.
Right now we've got a Prophet that's likeable at best, Crowley chasing after the Word of God, a friendly Leviathan making secret phone calls, and a "given up" Castiel waiting to make his return (along with someone else). This isn't exactly returning to form. After last season's Leviathan-filled storyline, many were waiting on the producers' promise to return the series to its former self. Instead of epic battles involving every mythical and religious figure, the series was going to create a more emotionally intimate tale with the brothers at its core.
Because there's so much going on in the Supernatural season 7 premiere, often jumping from the past and present, it's difficult to get that familiar sense of an epic adventure waiting to occur. While there's no doubt that Supernatural can still deliver such things, the premiere felt too chaotic to get a real sense about what the future of this season holds, or whether the promise of returning to its roots will be met.
Hopefully the push for a premiere next to the Presidential Debates, leaving episode 2 to follow the highly-anticipate Arrow premiere, is a sign that it's a strong episode the network wants to pair with such a publicized premiere. So, like many Supernatural fans have done as of recent, we'll just have to continue to wait and see.
Supernatural airs Wednesday @9pm on CW
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