Supernatural season premiere days are special. There’s so much anticipation and excitement; I swear it must be visible from space! In the early years of the Show, there was a much smaller group of fans who squee together on the internet, but even then we were all so passionate that the feeling was incredible. Now the rest of the world has caught up – now there’s a special issue of Entertainment Weekly, there’s Jensen on Live, there’s Jared on Kimmel, there are interviews and videos and even the network tweets about the show coming back! That excitement that has always been there is magnified, but the sense of shared passion that has always been there too is just the same.
Not every season premiere has been one of my favorite episodes, but this one I loved. The opening montage was excellent, set to the melancholy ‘Nothing Else Matters’ by Metallica as we remember how desolate and alone the Winchesters are as the season begins. The new title card is equally awesome – I actually gasped out loud when I saw it. (I watched with two kids and a dog, all with strict instructions to be totally silent, so they all grumbled every time I made involuntary noises.)
Variety reported that the rating for the premiere held steady averaging a 0.7 rating in adults 18-49 and 2.1 million viewers. That is down only slightly in the key demo but even in total viewers with the Season 12 premiere (0.8, 2.1 million). It is also up compared to the Season 12 average Live+Same Day ratings (0.6, 1.7 million per episode).
We open on Dean standing over Cas’ body, and Sam trying to communicate with Jack. In other words, right where we left off. Which made me very happy indeed. The times when the season premiere has started with a time jump have never sat well with me. I want to see EVERYTHING, Show; I don’t want you to cut things out!
This should be a surprise to no one at this point, but the cinematography was gorgeous. An early shot of the boys racing down the road in the Impala is especially beautiful and probably as complex to film – the camera behind then beside then finally in front of the car. I’m sure that wasn’t easy to pull off, but it really really worked. Sometimes Supernatural looks more like a feature film than a television show on the CW, which is a credit to all the talented crew members who make that magic happen.
The episode was emotional from the get-go, not just with Dean and Sam’s grief over the loss of Cas and their mother, but also with the new character I didn’t know how I was going to feel about. Alex Calvert did an amazing job portraying Jack, as did Andrew Dabb with writing him. The second he looked at Sam hopefully and asked ‘Father?’ my heart did a painful little squeeze. Calvert plays Jack with such innocence, and such hopefulness, that I couldn’t help but be drawn in and start rooting for him. Even when Dean, shoot-first-ask-questions-later-guns-blazing, shoots at him and the boys end up tossed across the room and unconscious.
While Sam and Dean are out, Jack takes off in search of his father – and food – sans clothes, which makes for some amusing moments at the local pirate themed fast food joint. It’s not every day a naked young man steps up to the pirate statue outside and tries to order a father.
Even in such an emotional episode, Supernatural showed its trademark ability to combine humor with seriousness and sadness. The fast food joint has a menu which not-exactly-motivated employee Clark (Rob Raco, who provided some much needed comic relief in this episode) has altered so that ‘butt’ appears in each item. I feel like I should be ashamed to say this amused me greatly. And naked Jack conversing with the pirate statue was pretty priceless too.
Clark calls his mom, who is also the sheriff, and I’m once again reminded that I love Supernatural for so many reasons – including that it populates its world with a whole bunch of kickass female sheriffs. This one can stay too! She shows Jack kindness, and he calms down and opens up a little – in fact, he and Clark end up sharing way too many candy bars that Jack is able to magically zap out of the vending machine.
Jack: I love nougat.
Oh Jack, I’m not going to be able to hate you at all, am I?
Meanwhile, Dean and Sam wake up (in unison, as the Winchesters do everything), Dean from a nightmare about his mother burning. The brothers disagree about how to deal with Jack. Dean, predictably, wants to kill the monster. Sam, predictably, isn’t sure Jack is a monster. This is the dynamic Jensen and Jared told us about at Comic-Con, that Sam and Dean would disagree about how to deal with Jack. Of course, Jared and Jensen made it much more interesting than it sounded. Dean is so full of rage and has no outlet for it other than trying to take down Jack since he can’t take down Lucifer. Jared shows us Sam’s struggle to figure out whether to be angry or afraid or empathic with Jack – Sam, more than anyone, knows what it’s like to be judged by your blood instead of who you are or what you do. He’s been pre-judged a freak or a monster because of his own blood, even by his brother – and he knows just how painful that is. Sam isn’t willing to jump to that sort of conclusion, and Jared lets us see the emotionality in Sam’s struggle. Sam also believes strongly in redemption – his own and anyone else’s, including Jack. He wants Jack to have that chance, at the very least.
The episode shows us how far the Winchesters have come too, because (as Jensen kept assuring me every time I worried about it these past few months), the brothers disagreeing does NOT mean the brothers being angry at each other or any less bonded. They’re talking to each other (mostly), and they’re laying out their opinions on Jack calmly while listening to what the other one is saying too. That’s real progress for Sam and Dean! All this as they’re both nearly overcome with grief over their recent losses. Not too shabby, boys.
The brothers also don’t entirely agree on what happened to their mother. Sam wants to hold onto hope that she’s surviving in the AU; Dean insists there’s no way she’s not dead. He’s learned – and this broke my heart to hear – that good things don’t happen to the Winchesters. They don’t get a break. So he doesn’t expect one. Cas and Crowley and Mary, Dean believes, are dead and gone. The depth of that loss is monumental.
Disagreements aside, Sam and Dean soon have more immediate problems to deal with as they pursue Jack because a trio of really nasty angels is on Jack’s trail too – and they are not at all fans of the Winchesters either. (I was actually glad the drunk girl turned out to be a dick of an angel because the whole character was so grating. I realized part way through that scene that she probably was an angel or a demon, but that was the only thing I really anticipated all night, so I count that as a win). Anyway, the angels are also not fans of Cas and don’t seem to care that he’s dead, so suffice it to say I was really rooting for Jack and the Winchesters when the big fight scene with fake-drunk angel and her colleagues in the jail went down.
But first, Sam manages to tase a freaked out (and thus dangerous) Jack who is overwhelmed by angry angel radio in his head (that the tasing worked was quite a surprise to me and I’m not sure it makes a ton of sense, but whatever). The Winchesters and Jack all get locked up by the competent lady sheriff (well played by Andrea Menard).
The sheriff had already endeared herself to me by admonishing one of her deputies that “there’s no such thing as weird. Everyone is normal in their own way.”
She already realizes Jack’s not entirely your run of the mill guy after his fingerprints turn up wonky (and he can make candy fall out of vending machines), so when Dean tells her the truth about monsters, she doesn’t freak out – she believes him.
Sheriff to Dean: So what, are you some kind of superhero?
Dean: I’m just a guy doin’ a job.
Meanwhile, Sam and Jack are locked up together. Jared played this scene brilliantly. Sam is locked up with Lucifer’s son, and considering all those years of trauma in the cage locked up with Lucifer, this has got to be an incredibly terrifying situation for Sam. You could sense his fear, see it in every subtle movement, every nervous gesture. And yet Sam pushes through his fear, trying to communicate with Jack and not assume the worst of him. Jared Padalecki makes all this thoroughly believable, which is no mean feat for such complicated emotions. Oh Sam, so scared and yet so brave. Sigh.
There’s a provocative close up of Sam framed behind the bars of the jail that took my breath away. You can see so much in his expression, thanks to Padalecki’s acting chops.
Enter the trio of angel dicks, who hold the sheriff’s son hostage and order her to kill Dean if she wants her son to live. Miriam and Dean engage in some verbal sparring first, which turns poignant when she says that Jack can do almost anything. You can see the moment when Dean thinks that might mean bringing people (or angels) back from the dead, because Jensen Ackles can show us that in a split second, and then she brutally quashes it, assuring Dean that Castiel is 100% dead – and that it’s his fault.
Cue a big fight scene, this time with fists and angel blades instead of words. Carlena Britch (fake-drunk-fries-loving angel girl) tweeted that she and Jensen did their own fight scenes, and that it was awesome – even though she fractured her thumb!
You can tell that they did indeed do the fight scenes themselves in some of the screen caps, which capture Dean thrown to the floor, his bowlegs coming in handy (no, he’s not in the middle of busting a dance move though he’s athletic enough to look like it) and even his momentary WTF expression as Miriam breaks a table in the middle of their fight.
Sam and Dean take quite a beating, then Sam shows off his smarts and manages to draw an angel-banishing sigil on the floor with his own blood (OUCH). That takes out two dick angels but not fake-drunk-girl angel.
The sheriff’s son gets stabbed with an angel blade, which made me scream because even in the small amount of time we got with him, Rob Raco made me care about Clark. And the fake-drunk-girl angel finally stabs Jack with an angel blade. Which does absolutely nothing. Woah.
Sam gets to subsequently take her out, which made me jump up and yell YES! GO SAMMY! (Which is a credit to Carlena Britch making me loathe her!)
Goodbye dick angels, and hello to Dean realizing that even if he’s not a Jack fan, the fact that he has so much power might be useful. Or at the very least, they shouldn’t let him just wander around and be a threat to people if he gets scared. So for the time being at least, Sam and Dean agree that they should take Jack with them – “home”. (I get all wibbly every time they talk about their home.)
I found myself emotionally invested in the Jack story line, which was a surprise. But I was even more invested in the other emotional theme of this episode and this season, which is loss. A familiar theme for the Winchesters, who have endured more loss than most people do in ten lifetimes. Both Jared and Jensen were outstanding in their depiction of the emotional trauma the boys have once again endured.
Jensen shows us the depth of Dean’s loss as Sam suggests that before they burn Castiel’s body, they try to get God to bring him back.
“Don’t you think I already tried?” Dean demands, and then we see how he bloodied his knuckles back at the pirate fast food place. He leaves Sam and the Impala and hides out behind the building to make a plaintive, desperate plea to Chuck – or God. I think just about anyone who has been watching this Show all along recognized the similarity of this scene to that iconic scene in ‘Home’ when Dean leaves Sam and goes around the corner of a building to hide so he can call his Dad and beg for some help. He’s lost, he’s scared, and he needs his father – and he gets no answer. This scene, 12 seasons later, brilliantly echoes that heartbreaking moment.
I will never get over the way Ackles shows us the cracks in Dean’s emotional armor and lets us see his pain even as Dean himself fights to keep it hidden. The scene itself is gorgeous; Dean silhouetted in front of a beautiful lake and mountains and sky. At times, when he’s vulnerable like this, Dean Winchester still looks like a little boy, and my heart just breaks for him. You can see the sliver of hope he’s desperately clinging to at first, as he raises his eyes to the heavens.
He demands that God bring them back, bring them all back.
Dean: We’ve lost everything. And now you’re gonna bring ‘em back. Okay? You’re gonna bring back Cas, you’re gonna bring back Mom. You’re gonna bring them all back. All of them. Even Crowley.
That was when I lost it. Dean asking for Crowley to come back, just wanting so much to go back to the way things had been, for some reason that pushed me over the edge. Maybe it’s because I know Sam Smith and Misha are indeed back, and Mark Sheppard is not. That somehow makes the loss of Crowley so much more REAL. We really have, in every sense of the word, lost him. And that’s when I lost it.
Dean, lip wobbling and eyes brimming, punches his fist into the side of the building, wood splintering around his bleeding knuckles. I sat, lip wobbling and eyes brimming, trying not to sob out loud in front of kids and dog.
And when Dean knows that nobody is coming to help – that Mary is really gone and Cas is really dead – his stoic resignation is almost more painful to see than his desperation or his rage. That familiar bowlegged profile, but his head hung low in defeat. I couldn’t even breathe right then, the pain was so acute, seeing Dean Winchester like that. I wanted to shake my fist at Chuck too, demand that he come back right the hell now and fix things for the Winchesters.
That resignation is evident in the closing scenes. The boys and Jack return to the little cabin where it all went down. You can see the trepidation on Dean’s face as they drive up, as he thinks about what he has to face inside that house.
Dean stands over Castiel’s body, pulls down the sheet to look at him once more, then tugs it back up almost angrily, struggling to contain his emotions. He rips down a curtain, tears it in half, and begins the work that he’s done so many times before. Binding the body of someone he loved, carrying them to the pyre he’s split the wood for and built with his own hands. There’s a moment when Dean almost loses it, and the camera is tight on Ackles’ face as he leans over Castiel’s body, just a split second pause and a half-choked back sob, and then he grits his teeth and gets on with his work. My god, that moment nearly broke me. It was so quick and so subtle, but so powerful.
Meanwhile, in the bedroom upstairs, Jack faces his mother’s body. He gingerly touches her foot, sadness, and confusion on his face. She taught him a lot even before he was born, so his loss feels real – as does the loss of Cas for him as well. Because it turns out the father Jack is looking for? Is not Lucifer at all. It’s Castiel. That’s who Kelly wanted to raise her child, and Cas had agreed. It’s Cas who Jack believed would protect him.
That reveal was unexpected, and that made it all the more emotional. In fact, Jack reminds me of early seasons Cas with his naivete and combination of intelligence, power and literal interpretations of pretty much everything. He certainly seems more like Cas than his actual father, Lucifer.
As the boys and Jack watch the pyre burn, I found my heart was still in my throat. The music in this scene was sweeping, epic – like something that you’d hear in a Lord of the Rings film, and yet absolutely perfect. Sam, tears in his eyes, tries to help Jack grieve. Jared shows us so much pain in Sam, just with those few words, just with that look on his face. He’s lost his mother all over again, and his friend.
Sam: You say you’re sorry. You say goodbye.
And Dean stands silent, bruised and battered, his face bloody. But it was his eyes that destroyed me – so chillingly blank. The eyes of someone who has endured too much trauma, too much grief, too many losses. He looked despairing and hopeless, and my breath caught at seeing all that pain on his face. And you can see the moment his training and determination kick in, when he pushes it all down and squares his jaw and forces himself to go on, to do what he has to do. And maybe that is the most painful moment of all.
Damn boys. You are all killing me, and it’s only the first episode of the season. I’m used to Jared and Jensen knocking it out of the park week after week, year after year, but big kudos to the casting wizards for Supernatural – once again, they’ve pulled off a miracle with Alex Calvert. Playing opposite Jared and Jensen really shows how good you are, and Calvert kept pace throughout. He showed Jack’s human side endearingly, especially in his scenes with Rob Raco, let us see his vulnerability and longing for the parents he didn’t get to even meet, and yet keeps us just a little bit nervous with that smirk that sometimes looks way too much like Lucifer’s.
As the episode ends, Dean is grieving both Cas and his mother, but Sam is reluctant to assume that Mary is dead. And in fact, he’s right. We end with Mary and Lucifer in the AU, with her realizing he’s not going to kill her after all. Which could be so much worse.
I feel so lucky, so incredibly grateful, that after watching the premiere of season THIRTEEN of this show I’ve loved for so long that I am still this blown away by it – the quality of everything, from writing to directing to music to cinematography, and the immensely powerful acting of this cast who never ever, no matter how long they’ve been doing this, ever phones it in.
Check out next week’s episode trailer for ‘The Rising Sun’ which we can only hope will bring some light into their world.
Here’s to Lucky Season 13! Don’t forget that Lynn’s bestselling book Family Don’t End with Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives makes the perfect stocking stuffer with the upcoming holiday season!