Supernatural Season 10 Premiere: “Black”

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Supernatural fan. In fact, my relationship with Supernatural is remarkably similar to how I feel about Doctor Who. Both shows came to me through the magic of the internet – YouTube for DW, Tumblr for the Winchesters. I fell in love hard and fast, and my life was irrevocably altered.

And, like DW, the last few seasons of Supernatural have been a bit of a bear to get through. Seasons 6 and 7 were stuck trying to work around the brick walls put up by Eric Kripke at the end of season 5, and the last two seasons were faltered attempts to kickstart new mythologies. Fortunately, no matter what ludicrous insanity the writers hurl on the screen, the core of the show – Sam and Dean Winchester, and, to a lesser extent, Castiel and Crowley – are interesting enough to keep the show afloat.

Supernatural is very good at being all over the place in tone and quality. One episode may be the best thing ever and the next might be the definition of insipid. “Black” mostly works. It’s not the strongest premiere, but it isn’t totally disappointing either. Most of the good stuff comes out of Jensen Ackles and Mark Sheppard being awesome rather than any particular glimmers of greatness in the script. The plot is pretty threadbare mostly comprised of a lot of setup with little payoff. The episode didn’t so much end as just kinda stopped when the clock ran out.

Supernatural BlackMuch has happened since we last saw our motley crew. Dean is on a karaoke tour through America’s diviest dive bars with Crowley, as Sam (finally, finally) tries to find him. Dean kicks Crowley to the curb when he discovers the Prince of Lies lied to him: not only did Crowley alert Sam to their whereabouts and send a bunch of Abbadon lovers after him (to keep Dean’s demon bloodlust sated), but he’s also ready to pack it in and go back to Hell to reestablish his kingdom with Demon!Dean at his side. Sam is kidnapped by a dude who really doesn’t like Dean, but even when his brother’s life is on the line Dean makes no apparent moves to rescue him. He hasn’t gone full demon yet, not as long as he “feeds” the Mark of Cain, but he also doesn’t seem to want to be the sad sack he once was. I’d be surprised if it turns out Dean isn’t going after Sam in spite of his dismissal, because no matter how far he runs, no matter how many monsters he kills, he will always love his brother. Hell, he even loved Sam when he became Lucifer. There’s no way he lets him go now.

Season 10 seems to be following the same trend as everything post Kripke, that is, the first few episodes lay the mythology groundwork, then a whole crapton of cases-of-the-week with strands of mythology running through, then wrapping up with mythology overload. It’s odd that in five years they haven’t figured out how to blend the cases with the mythology better. The cases have gotten demonstratively less interesting over the years, while the mythology only gets more convoluted.

That being said, the path they’re headed down this season – Demon!Dean and something about witches – has great potential. The angel stuff? Not so much. Cas and Hannah’s side trip to arrest some rogue angels was practically shoehorned into the ep, with only a hint of a breath of a connection to the Winchesters. Cas is a great character, but he works best when he has Moose and Squirrel to play off of. Hannah is a snooze fest; she’s exactly like every other fanatical angel we’ve met, and I was frankly a little disappointed the fisherangel didn’t kill her when he had the chance.

Supernatural BlackCrowley and Dean’s relationship has never been the healthiest, but both function better when they’re together than apart, or, I’d argue, better than Sam and Dean ever were. Sam and Dean will always be locked into the “troublesome older brother sacrificing everything to save the troubled younger brother” mold, whether they want it or not, thanks to John Winchester, father of the year. Whenever Sam tries to break away, he does so by ditching his brother, what Dean always interprets as rejection. Now that Sam’s gotten a taste of his own medicine, maybe he’ll understand how betrayed and hurt Dean was when Sammy let him think he was dead for a whole summer, and when he abandoned Dean to Purgatory. Dean and Crowley’s brOTP is complex and fascinating. Crowley inspires Dean to be truer to his own nature, to get to know Dean the Man rather than Dean the Brother, while Dean pushes Crowley closer to rediscovering his humanity. They make each other better people all while behaving reprehensibly.

Supernatural BlackFor so long, Sam’s been the one who vacillates back and forth between good guy and bad guy, between angelic hero and demonic villain. Sam’s up and down journey always begins and ends more or less the same way, and each time it happens the results suffer from diminishing returns. Well, now it’s Dean’s turn. I should be annoyed at another rehashed story arc, but Jensen Ackles is so good at playing Demon!Dean that I wish we got this ages ago. And maybe flipping the script will bring in enough freshness to give the final season the jolt it needs to bow out gracefully instead of everyone wishing it would stop before it embarrasses itself even further.

Final Thoughts:

  • “I’m sensing awkwardness.”
  • “He’s my best friend. My partner in crime. They’ll write songs about us. Graphic novels. The Misadventures of Crowley and Squirrel. Dean Winchester completes me, and that’s what makes you lose your chickens.”
  • Drunk Dean wasn’t much fun the first time around, and he’s even less fun now. More like depressing. I just want to hug him and feed him pie.
  • It’s easy to think Dean was mean to the waitress because of his demonic nature, but that’s all human Dean. He hurts her not because he wants to, but because it’s easier that way, severing the connection so she won’t want him anymore. When it comes to relationships, in his mind it’s better to burn it down and salt the earth behind him rather than let emotions tangle everything up. It’s a classic Dean move, and it’s always heartbreaking.
  • This season’s all about witches, according to showrunner Jeremy Carver. The premiere episode would’ve been the most logical time to introduce the Big Bad, but the post-Kripke writers have never been very good at sustaining seasonal arcs.
  • If it’s not obvious by now, I’m Team Dean. I don’t care what anyone says. Sam may be the star of the show, but Dean has always been the (anti)hero. Stuff happens to Sam and he reacts to it or refuses to react to it. Dean chooses to get involved. He throws himself into a situation with little regard to his own well-being. He isn’t always right or good, but at least he acts.
  • I’ll buy the season 10 box set solely for the Jensen Ackles karaoke outtakes.
  • If I recall correctly, Crowley’s mum was a witch. Further, human Crowley was Scottish, and the actor playing her, Ruth Connell, is also Scottish. Given the tenor of the season, perhaps Rowena isn’t a random character after all…
  • I’ll be covering Supernatural sporadically throughout the season. In the meantime, gimme your theories as to what the season may hold.

Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

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